FAQ - Trip Difficulty Ratings

The Alpine Guides trip difficulty scale is a comparative system for our courses and mountain guiding. It considers aspects of technical skill, and physical "toughness" required for each trip.

How hard is the trip? The ratings are not measured against any specific alpine grading system. "How hard " is as much about you, as about the mountain challenge.

Endurance | Your Fitness & Stamina

Difficulty | The Technical Challenge

Aerobic fitness is important for mountaineering , but so is stamina. "Endurance" is about going "the distance", at a measured pace.

Endurance includes concepts like:

  • Aerobic fitness and stamina
  • Hardiness - you may experience some physical discomfort
  • Personal drive and tenacity: a "give it a go" attitude is required to succeed in mountaineering.

"Difficulty" is the comparative technical climbing skill required. It also includes physical coordination, and concentration required for serious objectives.
Difficulty includes concepts like:

  •         Technical rope/anchor aspects
  •         Physical skills: aptitude, coordination, dexterity, concentration required, competency with footwork
  •         The type of mountain terrain you will encounter; for example, glaciated, gently angled, steep, exposed, loose...

Endurance Ratings

Difficulty Ratings

An easier day in the mountains. Non-technical hiking on unmarked routes. Some scrambling, using hands for balance. Some loose scree descents. Little or no exposure. Crampons/ice axe may be used if conditions are icy.

Scrambling over rough ground with hand placement needed. Good foot placement needed. Must be competent moving on uneven terrain. Basic rope skills and knots required. Abseiling possible. Some exposure to heights. May involve sections of glaciers and steep ground (</=40°), where anchor placement/belaying is required. Confident crampon use and self-arrest may be required.

Confident cramponing and footwork needed at all times, with some front-pointing. Technical rope skills and systems used commonly. Exposure to heights likely. Glaciated terrain including crevasses likely. Moderate - steeper (30-50°) slopes common. Some 2-tool climbing likely. Efficient knot tying and rope skills expected, and competence climbing on rock (AU grade 12-15).

A challenge for experienced climbers. A high commitment required with serious consequences for mistakes. Moderate to steep terrain (40-60°) common. Efficient anchor management and fast adjustment of gear expected. High degree of exposure to significant heights. Concentration and focus required at all times. Solid crampon and axe skills expected - able to move efficiently on a variety of terrain. Retreat from routes may be difficult.

A high level of commitment from both guide and participant. Consequences of mistakes may be fatal. High level of exposure to significant heights common. Difficult, long, technical climbing sections common (50-70°). Must be self sufficient in rope and anchor skills, and current in technique. Recent alpine experience required - up to 20 days on crampons within past 2 years. Backing off routes will be difficult.

A walk in the park... Average hiking fitness required. No load carrying, and short duration activity (2-4 hours). Some prior training is always helpful.

Slightly challenging. A good level of aerobic fitness is expected. Suitable for people who exercise and undertake backpack sports regularly. Must be comfortable carrying a moderate backpack (5-6 kg) over 4 - 6 hours on foot. Expect ascents of 300 -700 vertical metres.

Challenging at times. High level of fitness with some aerobic training prior to the trip needed for maximum benefit. Able to carry moderate to heavy backpacks (10-12 kg) over 6-9 hours, if required. Longer days common (up to 12 hours on foot). Vertical ascents 500 - 1,000 metres common. Some discomfort expected due to long days and exposure to elements. Must have a good attitude and be keen to climb.

Tough. Fit people will still need to train prior to undertaking. Early alpine starts are common. Vertical ascents of 1,200 + metres likely. Long days (14+ hours) expected. Able to carry an 8 kg backpack 1,000 vertical metres in 2.5 hours or less. Expect some discomfort due to exposure to elements and long days, plus camping in snow shelters, and potential to get wet. Must be dedicated and used to long days in the mountains.

Gruelling. Alpine starts are regular, with long days on challenging terrain. Expect to carry heavy packs at times, 12-16 kg between bivvys. 1200+ metre ascents likely. Sustained climbing days, 14+ hours common. Bivouac / snow shelter camping and potential to get wet expected. Only hardened warriors need apply.