What do I have to consider when assessing an alpine tour?

Follow

Due to different influences and instable conditions on an alpine tour it is complicated to determine a fixed level of difficulty. Several grading systems can be used, but in doing so it proved to be important that the focal point is laid to a larger extent on the seriousness of the tour (length, continuity, requirements, objective assessment of endangerment, exposure, quality of climbing protection, brittleness, etc.) and less on the technical difficulty of the climbing sections. That is the reason why the tours on our portal can be assessed on the basis of the UIAA grading system or the International French Adjectival System (IFAS). Apart from the general assessment of tours (stamina, technique, etc.), the risk potential of an alpine tour is crucial.

UIAA grades of difficulty

First Grade:

Rock: Almost no difficulty – easiest form of climbing over gravel and rocky ridges. Hands are required for balance support. Amateurs are to be secured by a rope. A head for heights is already necessary.

Firn and glacier: easy firn fields and almost no crevasses

Rock: Moderate difficulty – easier climbing sections. This is where true climbing begins and therefore requires that three limbs are attached to the rock.

Firn and glacier: Normally, not very steep slopes, short steeper sections, few crevasses and a retreat is always possible.

Third Grade:

Rock: Medium difficulty – intermediate belays on exposed places are recommended and vertical sections require effort. Trained and experienced climbers can climb the sections of this level of difficulty without being secured by a rope.

Firn and glacier: Steeper slopes, occasionally mid-route belays required, many crevasses, little bergschrund and the retreat might be problematic.

Fourth Grade:

Rock: Big difficulty – This is where the more difficult climbing starts. A lot of climbing experience is necessary and numerous mid-route belays are required. Even trained and experienced climbers cannot get through sections of this level of difficulty without being secured by a rope. Furthermore, a good sense for the route is required.

Firn and glacier: Very steep slopes, mid-route belays are mostly required, a lot of crevasses, high bergschrund. Retreat is almost impossible.

Fifth Grade:

Rock: Great difficulty – An increasing number of mid-route belays is inevitable and there are higher demands to the physical fitness, climbing technique and experience. Long, high-alpine routes of this level of difficulty rank among the big undertakings in and outside of the Alps.

Firn and glacier: Continuingly steep slopes and permanent mid-route belaying

Sixth Grade:

Rock: Extreme difficulty – Climbing on this level requires above-average skills and an excellent level of training. Great exposure came with small mid-route belays. Sections of this difficulty can normally only be done when the conditions are ideal.

Firn and glacier: Very steep and vertical sections require ice climbing.

 

Seventh Grade:

Rock: Outstanding difficulty – This level of difficulty can only be reached by increased training and improved equipment. Even the best climbers need training adjusted to the different types of rocks to be able to manage this level of difficulty close to the risk of falling. Apart from acrobatic climbing skills, it requires sophisticated belaying techniques.

Firn and glacier: Extremely steep and overhanging sections that require ice climbing.

+/- :

These intermediate stages indicate whether a particular route is on the upper (+) or on the lower (-) end of the respective grade of difficulty.

International French Adjectival System (IFAS)

F= facile (easy) ~ I

Straightforward, easy glacial approach. In the rock the grade (UIAA) of difficulty is I: Hands are only used for balance support.

PD = peu difficile (slightly difficult) ~ II

The technical difficulty is about II. The route choice is easy and the experiences amateur can manage the demands to the technique. In case the weather changes suddenly a quick retreat is possible.

AD = assez difficile (fairly difficult) ~ III

The technical difficulty is about III. The route choice requires a well-trained eye. Good rope-handling and belaying skills are inevitable. When the weather changes suddenly the conditions can get pretty difficult.

D = difficile (difficult) ~ IV

The technical difficulty is about IV. The tours are long and demanding. The route choice requires a lot of experience. Many of the great alpine tours belong to that category. The technique must be efficient and requires a lot of routine and certainty from the first rope length on.

TD = très difficile (very difficult) ~ V

The technical difficulty is about V. The choice of route is very difficult and when it is assessed incorrectly a retreat is dangerous or almost impossible. Tours of this kind belong to the very big undertakings in the Alps.

ED = extrêmement difficile (extremely difficult) ~ VI

The technical difficulty is about VI. The routes can be very complex and lack belaying points. A retreat is only possible with great risks. These tours are for a few pros who have experience in all those fields.

ABO/EX = Abominablement/exceptionellement difficile (abominable)

Several of the most modern tours even surpass this grade of difficulty. Those tours are extremely steep, partly oberhanging climbs.

+/- :

These intermediate stages indicate whether a particular route is on the upper (+) or on the lower (-) end of the respective grade of difficulty.

 

Water Ice (WI) numeric scale

On our portal we use the WI numeric scale to measure the steepness and therefore the difficulty of routes on water ice:

Scale   Steepness

WI1      40° - 60°

WI2      60° - 70°

WI3      70° - 80°

WI4      80°

WI5      85° - 90°

WI6      90°

WI7      100° + / overhanging

 

Risk potential

The Arabic numerals from 1 to 6 indicate the risk potential on alpine tours. It is determined by variables such as quality of climbing protection, brittleness, steepness, orientation, danger of avalanches, cornices, cruxes, danger of crevasses and length. The variable with the highest risk classification determines the risk potential. On the wind rose of the exposition the orientation of the slopes that you are on is displayed.

  • Risk potential 1:
  • The tour leads through flat terrain.
  • The course is
  • There is no danger of avalanches.
  • The route has no cruxes.
  • There is no danger of crevasses.
  • There is no danger of cornices breaking off

 

  • Risk potential 2:
  • The tour mostly leads through flat terrain.
  • The course is fairly clear and there are no dangers on the way.
  • There is almost no danger of avalanches.
  • The route has almost no cruxes.
  • On glaciers: There is almost no danger of crevasses.
  • There is almost no danger of cornices breaking off

 

  • Risk potential 3:
  • The tour sometimes leads through steep terrain with up to 30° steepness.
  • The course is not always clear and there are almost no dangers on the way.
  • In parts there is the danger of avalanches.
  • The route has several cruxes.
  • On glaciers: In parts there is the danger of crevasses.
  • In parts there is the danger of cornices breaking off.

 

  • Risk potential 4:
  • The tour leads through steep terrain with up to 34° steepness.
  • The course is not clear and there are several dangers on the way.
  • There is the danger of avalanches.
  • The route has numerous cruxes.
  • On glaciers: There is an elevated danger of crevasses.
  • There the increased danger of cornices breaking off.

 

  • Risk potential 5:
  • The tour sometimes leads through steep terrain between 34° and 40° steepness.
  • The course is hardly clear and there are dangers on the way.
  • There is the great danger of avalanches.
  • The route has a lot of cruxes.
  • On glaciers: There is the great danger of crevasses.
  • There is the great danger of cornices breaking off.

 

  • Risk potential 6:
  • The tour sometimes leads through steep terrain over 40° steepness.
  • The course is hardly clear and there are a lot of dangers on the way.
  • There is the enormous danger of avalanches.
  • The route has a whole lot of cruxes.
  • On glaciers: There is the enormous danger of crevasses.
  • There is the great danger of cornices breaking off.
Have more questions? Submit a request

Comments

Powered by Zendesk