As of November 10, 2021, all program participants will be required to be fully vaccinated and show proof of vaccination.
Learn More
Pro Guiding Service
Domestic & International Trips & Courses with Certified Mountain Guides

Difficulty Rating System

We are pleased to offer trips and courses for all levels for ski, avalanche education, rock and alpine-based adventures. This page is intended to make the stated difficulty ratings of the various trips and courses more easily understandable. We state an overall difficulty rating, which summarizes the categories of movement skill, fitness level and technical skill.

If you consider all these ratings, you should get a good idea of what you are getting into. Please be aware that ratings for a trip/course are for good conditions in decent weather. Weather and conditions can change rapidly in the mountains and turn a moderate trip into a serious undertaking.

Overall Difficulty Ratings For Our Trips and Courses

Easy
Moderate
Difficult
Very Difficult
Extremely Difficult

Backcountry Skiing Trips or Courses

Skiing Skills

Easy: 30 Degrees or Less
Moderate: 31 to 38 Degrees
Difficult: About 40 Degrees
Very Difficult: About 45 Degrees
Extremely Difficult: Greater Than 45 Degrees

Fitness Level

Not Very Strenuous: Up to 2000 feet of vertical gain; 8 kilometers of distance
Moderately Strenuous: 2500 to 3500 feet of vertical gain; 12 kilometers of distance
Strenuous: 3500 to 4500 feet of vertical gain with a day pack for several days in a row
Very Strenuous: 3500 to 4500 feet of vertical gain with an overnight pack for several days in a row or more than 4000 feet with a day pack at higher altitude for several days in a row
Extremely Strenuous: More than 5000 feet of vertical with an overnight pack for several days in a row

Technical Skills

Low: requires basic ski touring equipment and skills
Moderate: involves technical skinning or easy booting
High: requires complex transitions and easy glacier travel; involves some third-class sections
Very high: makes a strong transition into ski mountaineering that may require the use of an ice ax and crampons; involves some fourth-class sections, rappels, and moderate glacier travel

Rock climbing trips or courses

Rock Climbing Skills

Easy: No prior rock climbing experience required
Moderate: Rock climbing to 5.7 difficulty
Difficult: Rock climbing to 5.9 difficulty
Very difficult: Rock climbing to 5.10 difficulty and above

Fitness Level

Not very strenuous: up to 1000 feet of vertical gain for the approach and only a few pitches of climbing
Moderately strenuous: 2000 to 3000 feet of vertical gain for the approach followed by multiple pitches of climbing
Strenuous: more than 3000 feet of vertical gain for the approach, followed by a multi-pitch route
Very strenuous: more than 3000 feet of vertical gain for the approach, followed by a long multi-pitch route involving sustained climbing difficulty

Technical Skills

Low: requires no prior rock climbing experience
Moderate: some prior rock climbing experience along with knowledge of tying in and belaying High: solid rock climbing experience, along with tying in, belaying, and anchor building skills in a sport climbing setting
Very high: solid rock climbing experience, along with tying in, belaying, gear placement, and anchor building skills in a traditional climbing setting

Rock Climbing Difficulty Rating Comparison

Mountaineering trips or courses

Mountaineering Skills

Easy: No prior rock climbing, glacier travel or ice climbing experience required
Moderate: Rock climbing in exposed 4th class or easy fifth class terrain in mountaineering boots, glacier travel in crevassed terrain
Difficult: Rock climbing in exposed 4th class up to mid fifth class terrain in mountaineering boots. The route could involve substantial time on the front points of the crampons with some moderately steep ice climbing. Some of the movement can be on rock with crampons on in exposed terrain. Some previous ice climbing experience recommended.
Very difficult: Rock climbing in exposed 4th class up to 5.8 class terrain in mountaineering boots. The route could involve substantial time on the front points of the crampons with some steep ice climbing. Some of the movement can be on rock with crampons on in exposed terrain. Prior ice climbing experience highly recommended.

Fitness Level

Moderately strenuous: 2500 to 3500 feet of vertical gain with a one day alpine climbing pack
Strenuous: up to 3500 feet of vertical gain with a one day or overnight alpine climbing pack Very strenuous: 3500 feet or more of vertical gain with a one day or overnight alpine climbing pack
Extremely strenuous: 5000 feet or more of vertical gain with a one day or overnight alpine climbing pack

Technical Skills

Low: requires no prior rock climbing, glacier travel or ice climbing experience
Moderate: some prior rock climbing and or glacier travel experience along with knowledge of tying in and belaying
High: solid rock climbing experience, ice climbing and glacier travel experience, as well as experience with camping in a remote setting
Very high: solid rock climbing experience, along with tying in, belaying, gear placement and anchor building skills in a traditional climbing setting

Alpine Climbing Rating Systems

There are several systems in current use to grade mountain climbs. Alpine mountaineering routes are usually graded based on all of their different aspects, as they can be very diverse. Thus, a mountain route may be graded 5.6 (rock difficulty), A2 (aid difficulty), WI3 (ice climbing difficulty), M5 * (mixed climbing difficulty), 70 degrees (steepness), 4000 ft (length), VI (commitment level), and many other factors.

National Climbing Classification System for Alpine Climbs

Grade I

Normally requires several hours; can be of any difficulty. Short, relatively safe route; little belaying needed; not remote; with an easy descent.

Grade II

Requires half a day; any technical difficulty. About 4-6 hours of climbing; usually some belayed pitches; skill in route finding and hazard recognition required; descent maybe involve rappels or technical climbing; few objective hazards.

Grade III

Requires a day to do the technical portion; any technical difficulty.  A longer route, requiring most of a day; extensive belaying; possibly remote or difficult to retreat from; tricky descent.

Grade IV

Requires a full day for the technical portion; the hardest pitch is usually no less than 5.7 (in the YDS rating). A long day with much technical terrain; requires very good skills, experience, and fitness; complex descent; some objective hazards.

Grade V

Requires a day and a half; the hardest pitch is usually 5.8 or harder. A long, committing route, sustained and often remote; retreat difficult; potential for significant objective hazards.

Grade VI

A multiday excursion with difficult free climbing and/or aid climbing

International French Adjectival System (IFAS)

In contrast to the French numerical system (described earlier), the French adjectival alpine system evaluates the overall difficulty of a route, taking into consideration the length, difficulty, exposure and commitment-level of the route (i.e., how hard it may be to retreat). The overall grade combines altitude; length and difficulty of approach and descent; number of difficult pitches and how sustained they are; exposure; and quality of rock, snow and ice. These are, in increasing order:[19]

F: facile (easy). Straightforward, possibly a glacial approach, snow and ice will often be at an easy angle.
PD: peu difficile (slightly difficult). Routes may be longer at altitude, with snow and ice slopes up to 45 degrees. Glaciers are more complex, scrambling is harder, climbing may require some belaying, descent may involve rappelling. More objective hazards.
AD: assez difficile (fairly difficult). Fairly hard, snow and ice at an angle of 45-65 degrees, rock climbing up to UIAA grade III, but not sustained, belayed climbing in addition to a large amount of exposed but easier terrain. Significant objective hazard.
D: difficile (difficult). Hard, more serious with rock climbing at IV and V, snow and ice slopes at 50-70 degrees. Routes may be long and sustained or harder but shorter. Serious objective hazards.
TD: très difficile (very difficult). Very hard, routes at this grades are serious undertakings with high level of objective danger. Sustained snow and ice at an angle of 65-80 degrees, rock climbing at grade V and VI with possible aid, very long sections of hard climbing.
ED1/2/3/4: extrêmement difficile (extremely difficult). Extremely hard, exceptional objective danger, vertical ice slopes and rock climbing up to VI to VIII, with possible aid pitches.
ABO: Abominablement difficile (abominable) Difficulty and danger at their limit.
Often a + (pronounced Sup for supérieur) or a − (pronounced Inf for inférieur) is placed after the grade to indicate if a particular climb is at the lower or upper end of that grade (e.g., a climb slightly harder than "PD+" might be "AD−").
Newsletter

Get The Latest Updates On Mountaineering News & Upcoming Trips

©2021 Pro Guiding Services