Topo pf north side of Piz Palü and surrounding mountains. Credit: Ari Paulin,  Shot on 2015-09-15 Photo taken in Pontresina, Graubünden, Switzerland.Licensed under: Public Domain.
Topo pf north side of Piz Palü and surrounding mountains. Credit: Ari Paulin, Shot on 2015-09-15 Photo taken in Pontresina, Graubünden, Switzerland.Licensed under: Public Domain.

Climbing world is full of different systems, with which it is possible to evaluate the difficulty and seriousness of a given route. This document aims to ease figuring out how hard is a given grade in a given system. With all those fancy grades, it is quite possible to become grade-obsessed, picking routes primarily because of the grade. This is by no means the purpose of this document and is strongly discouraged. Climbers choosing to do so only have themselves to blame for missing many very enjoyable climbs. No grading system is capable of measuring the quality of climbing or how enjoyable and the climbs are. There are many other more rewarding ways to choose climbs.

In order to keep the size and thus loading time of this document reasonable, I've broken this document in parts; greadings sytems for alpine, rock, ice and alpine climbing are covbered separately. Each part contain information about the foundations of selected grading systems for the form of climbing in question and plenty of examples.

Throughout the document, several routes are listed as examples. For many routes, grades in alternate (or completing) grading systems are given to give hints about the relations between different grading systems. I have climbed only a couple of the routes routes mentioned below and take no responsibility whatsoever corcerning the validity of the grades. Risking your life solely based on information you read from the Internet is just down right stupid.

Different Forms of Climbing

Alpine climbing

Most grading systems used to grade alpine climbs try to combine a bunch of factors affecting the seriousness and difficulty of a climb into one grade. This is a very difficult task as climbs to be found in an alpine setting come in widest range of flavours. To make things even more difficult, conditions can greatly affect the difficulty and/or seriousness of a given route between and within seasons. Thus, technical grade of appropriate type of climbing (or several) are sometimes used together with overall alpine grade to provide climbers with addittional information about the climb. <<more>>.

Ice climbing

As is the case with rock climbing, also ice climbing covers a wide range of sub-genres ranging from short roadside waterfalls to large-scale expeditions. In additions, ice is extremely everchanging medium that highly depending on weather conditions, rating ice climbs is very difficult a task. Thus any ice climbing grade can only give a rough idea of the climb, they are substantially less trustworthy than rock grades. Like is the case with rock grading systems, there are also several different systems to grade ice climbs. <<more>>.

Rock climbing

Rock climbing comes in many forms; there are short, sport climbs on roadside crags equipped with bomp-proof bolts for protection, very long and adventurous alpine rock climbs, and just about everything in between. Given this varsity of climbing, different character of different climbing areas and different historical background and climbing ethics, it is hardly a big surprise that there are numrous different systems to grade rock climbing routes. <<more>>.

Aid climbing

Unlike grading systems of other types of climbing, the same system is used to grade all aid climbs (which is not to say that all techno routes featuring same grade would be equally hard). <<more>>.

Common grading system?

It would be far easier, if there was a truly international grading system for each types of climbing. Visiting climbers could instantly get an idea what is to be expected on a route. Aid climbing is the only form of climbing, where there's a truly worldwide grading systens. At the moment, there seems to be slight tendencies towards this direction in other forms of climbing as well.

On ice, snow and mixed climbing, WI-grading system is spreading quite rapidly, either in its complete form (with commitment grade) or the technical part used alone. It may well replace other ice climbing grading systems.

On rock routes, french system is used increasingly often also on other parts of the world either parallel to existing system or instead of it. This is particularly common on harder sport routes, but occurs every now and then with trad routes as well. For it to be informative on trad climbs (and particularly on onsingt ascents) it could use an overall commitment part (like in ice climbing's WI-grade). Also Yosemite decimal system is used throughout the North America and sometimes in New Zealand and Australia. These two systems translate rather well.

"It's always further than it looks. It's always taller than it looks. And it's always harder than it looks."

- The 3 rules of mountaineering



Links to resources specific to one type of climbing are placed in a section dedicated for each type.