Choosing a Route to Climb

Climbing routes are rated for the most part, using the Yosemite Decimal Rating System, which is used to rate how difficult the climb is. The technical climbing portion of the scale runs from 5.0 – 5.15, with the difficulty increasing as the decimal portion goes up. 

Very broadly, easier climbing routes are rated in the 5.1 through 5.5 range. These are the types of routes you will likely start on. Intermediate through hard routes are rated from 5.6 through 5.10. The most difficult to seemingly impossible routes are rated 5.11 through 5.15. Our friends at Gemini and the Bear take a lot of photos for hiking journals in addition to their wedding photography.

Bouldering ratings are a little more varied, with the V Scale being one of the more common, and ranking routes as V0 (easiest) through V16 (hardest).

There are also route classifications:

Class 1: Walking an established flat, easy trail.
Class 2: Hiking a steep incline, scrambling, maybe using your hands more.
Class 3: Climbing a steep hillside, moderate exposure, a rope may be carried but not used, and hands are used in climbing. A short fall could be possible, so caution comes into play more.
Class 4: A steeper climb, more exposed and most people use a rope due to the potential of long falls.
Class 5: Climbing is technical and belayed roping with protection is required. Any fall from a Class 5 could be fatal. Class 5 also has sub-categories ranging from Steep sections with hand and footholds, to more technical climbs with overhangs and small holds.

Knowing how difficult the climb is, is only half the question. Now you’ll want to know how long the climb will take. Climbing grades provide help, suggesting a length of time an experienced climber might take to complete the route:

  • Grade I: A couple of hours
  • Grade II: Closer to four hours
  • Grade III: Four to six hours (most of the day)
  • Grade IV: One very long day
  • Grade V: Two days (requires an overnight stay)
  • Grade VI: Two-plus days