What do Mountaineering Grades mean?

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What do Mountaineering Grades mean?

Mountaineering grades are slightly different to climbing grades but arguably a lot bit simpler to understand.

Because mountaineering is quite a general term, involving a combination of climbing and hiking to get around the mountains, the grading systems can overlap with other categories.

In North America, mountaineering is graded using the National Climbing Classification System (NCCS).

This system uses roman numerals ranging from I to VI and grades the route based on key factors such as technical effort and time taken to complete.

Grade I is the easiest climb (though still more difficult than hiking on flat ground) and Grade VI is far tougher and will stretch over multiple days.

Because it focuses so heavily on the length of route, the NCCS is often combined with a free climbing grade to indicate the difficulty/technicality.

Another mountaineering grade system that is widely used in Europe is the International French Adjectival System (IFAS).

Similar to the British climbing system (the adjectival part at least), the IFAS uses letters to describe the route’s difficulty

  • F (facile / easy), PD (peu difficile / more difficult)
  • AD (assez difficile / fairly difficult)
  • D (difficile / difficult)
  • TD (très difficile / very difficult)
  • ED (extrêmement difficile, or extremely difficult)
  • ABO (abominable / virtually impossible)!

You may also see these IFAS grades with a plus or minus sign alongside them, which broadens their range as each category has an upper and lower option.

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