Alpine System:
The overall seriousness of the complete route based on all factors of the final approach, ascent and descent including length, altitude, danger, commitment, and technical difficulty. This system originated with UIAA Roman numerals; it is now generally seen with French letters and is increasingly being used worldwide.

F Easy routes with no technical difficulties: The route is obvious, as in the case of a glacier with no steep slopes and few crevasses and a final scramble up an easy scree slope or short ridge with no hard moves. In general, the rope is only used for safety on the glacier (for crevasse rescue)
PD Glacial routes or snow or ice slopes of moderate inclination where the steeper sections are short. Without challenging sections, but requiring proficient crampon technique and the use of an ice axe. Possibly some harder climbing, but that is easy to follow and protect.
AD Moderately steep slopes often requires some belayed climbing. The party will for example have to negotiate a crevassed glacier (but a small bergshrund),  Grade 4 difficulties on rock or more sustained ice or snow slopes up to 40-55°.
D A D route is a serious undertaking which requires proficiency at a wide range of protection techniques and good route-finding skills. Long sections of sustained rock climbing, steep snow or ice slopes (50-70°) or very crevassed glaciers with large bergshrunds.
TD TD routes are very serious undertakings with important difficulties on rock or long and steep snow or ice slopes (up to 65-80°) that require climbing a large number of pitches. Objective dangers can be important at this level of difficulty.


  1. scramble is essentially an exposed walking route, and very popular examples include the north ridge of Tryfan and Crib Goch in Snowdonia.
  2. scrambles will usually include sections where a nervous scrambler would want a rope to protect them, and the person in front (the leader) must feel confident moving over exposed yet relatively easy climbing terrain.
  3. scrambles often appear in climbing guides as ‘Moderately’ graded climbing routes (the easiest climbing grade), and should only be tackled by the confident.

Trail Running:


  • V Difficult terrain, glaciers, rock scrambling, up to class III climbing grade. High mountain knowledge required. Risk for serious injury or death. Need for autonomy in difficult mountain conditions and complete self-reliance in all conditions.
  • IV difficult, steep terrain, rocky, hard snow, some scrambling and use of ropes. High mountain knowledge required. Risk for serious injury or death. Need for autonomy in difficult mountain conditions.
  • III difficult terrain (rocky, potential snow, off-trail) Some easy scrambling required. Good knowledge of risks in middle to high mountain environments. High risk of injury. Need for autonomy in difficult mountain conditions.
  • II easy terrain, no scrambling required. Some rocky or mountainous sections. Some hiking (“randonée”) or low mountain knowledge required. Risk of more serious injuries and need for self-reliance in a low mountain environment (knowledge of evacuation protocols in case of an accident, navigational skills in case of bad weather, knowledge of how to prepare for and deal with bad weather conditions)
  • I easy terrain, no scrambling required. Smooth trails, in the valley (outdoors) or low mountain. low risk or risk of minor injuries.

Rock climbing:


Mixed climbing Grade:

These routes require considerable dry tooling (modern ice tools used on bare rock) and are climbed in crampons; actual ice is optional but some ice is usually involved.

M1-3: Easy. Low angle; usually no tools.
M4: Slabby to vertical with some technical dry tooling.
M5: Some sustained vertical dry tooling.
M6: Vertical to overhanging with difficult dry tooling.
M7: Overhanging; powerful and technical dry tooling; less than 10m of hard climbing.
M8: Some nearly horizontal overhangs requiring very powerful and technical dry tooling; bouldery or longer cruxes than M7.
M9: Either continuously vertical or slightly overhanging with marginal or technical holds, or a juggy roof of 2 to 3 body lengths.
M10: At least 10 meters of horizontal rock or 30 meters of overhanging dry tooling with powerful moves and no rests.
M11: A ropelength of overhanging gymnastic climbing, or up to 15 meters of roof.
M12: M11 with bouldery, dynamic moves and tenuous technical holds.

Ice and Alpine Ice Grades:

Ice climbing ratings are highly variable by region and are still evolving. The following descriptions approximate the average systems. The WI acronym implies seasonal ice; AI is often substituted for year-around Alpine Ice and may be easier than a WI grade with the same number. Canadians often drop the WI symbol and hyphenate the technical grade after the Canadian commitment grade’s Roman numeral (example: II-5).

WI1: Low angle ice; no tools required.
WI2: Consistent 60 degree ice with possible bulges; good protection.
WI3: Sustained 70 degree with possible long bulges of 80-90 degrees; reasonable rests and good stances for placing screws.
WI4: Continuous 80 degree ice fairly long sections of 90 degree ice broken up by occasional rests.
WI5: Long and strenuous, with a ropelength of 85-90 degrees ice offering few good rests; or a shorter pitch of thin or bad ice with protection that’s difficult to place.
WI6: A full ropelength of near-90 degree ice with no rests, or a shorter pitch even more tenuous than WI 5.Highly technical.
WI7: As above, but on thin poorly bonded ice or long, overhanging poorly adhered columns. Protection is impossible or very difficult to place and of dubious quality.
WI8: Under discussion.

Alaska Grade:

An overall grade reflecting the remote, cold, stormy nature of Alaskan climbing. Rarely applied outside Alaska.

1: Easy glacier route.
2: Not technical, but exposed to knife-edged ridges, weather, and altitude.
3:Moderate to hard, including some technical climbing.
4: Hard to difficult.
5: Difficult, with sustained climbing, high commitment, and few bivouac sites.
6: Sustained hard climbing over thousands of vertical feet; high commitment.

Russian Grade:

The overall grade factors in UIAA technical ratings (the Roman numerals).

1B: Some easy roped climbing.
2A: Several pitches of easy roped climbing.
2B: Some II+ and III climbing on a multipitch route.
3A: Contains 1-1.5 pitches of III climbing on a multi-pitch route.
3B: One or two pitches of III+/IV climbing on a full-day route.
4A: A full day route with IV+ climbing.
4B: Several pitches of IV+ or some V+ climbing.
5A: Contains several pitches of V climbing on a 1- to 3-day route.
5B: Two-plus days with some VI+ climbing.
6A and 6B: Multi-day routes with considerable VI or harder climbing.

Steep Skiing:

Example of description: AD, 4.3, E2, 45°/450m
This describes the difficulty of a ski descent. It consists of three separate ratings, such as the required mountaineering capabilities, the ski difficulty and the exposure of the route. Sometimes complemented with the slope angle and the length of the difficulties.

It is the Toponeige rating system,from Volodia Shahshahani.


1.x Beginner alpine skiing terrain. Slope angle up to 30° and less than 800m. Wide, open slopes or sparsely treed areas. Exposure is non-existent and in general the risk of avalanche is low.
2.x Few technical difficulties. Slopes are not that difficult (maximum 35°) that may be longer than 800m. Possibly uneven terrain or mild exposure and objective hazard.
3.x The beginning of the ski-alpinism: technical passages, couloirs, long slopes at 35°, short sections of 40-45°. Fairly thick forests on lower angle slopes and difficult forest roads.
4.x Narrow couloirs or challenging slopes: long slopes at 40°-45° (more than 200m), possibly short passages at 50°. Very uneven glacial terrain. Very dense forests even with moderate slopes.
5.x Very steep terrain: Long and sustained steep couloirs, very long slopes from 45°-50° for more than 300m or possibly over 50° for longer than 100m. Includes slopes above 55° that are rarely in condition.

Grade 5 (“steep skiing”)

5.1 Shorter sections of 50°, long slopes of 45° (500 m), or a section (300 m) with challenging, complex terrain: this grade includes some gnarly chutes as well as large consistent slopes in big alpine terrain.
5.2 Consistent slopes of 50° (200 m long) or very long sections of 45-50°.
5.3 Slopes starting at 48-50° (300 m long). Routes with short but very difficult crux sections fall within this grade.
5.4 Routes considered “extreme” in standard conditions. Pain de Sucre, Aiguille du Midi Mallory
5.5 Col de l’Aiguille Verte direct, Aiguille Verte Nant Blanc


  • Above 30° it is impossible to stop a fall on frozen snow
  • From 40° to 45° it is impossible to stop a fall on compact snow
  • 50° and above: If a fall is not stopped immediately it will be impossible to stop even in deep powder
E1 There are no significant obstacles, apart from the slope itself. A combination of hard snow and a steep incline can however present a potential risk for injury.
E2 The fall line includes some form of cliffs that increases the risk of injury for the skier in case of a fall. If the fall over the cliff is unavoidable, there is no risk hitting another rocky section. Moderately winding couloirs also enter this category.
E3 A fall will likely result in the skier passing over a cliff, but the impact with an obstacle is not absolutely certain. Winding couloirs with the risk of hitting rock fall into this category. Death is highly probable.
E4 High rock faces involving multiple rebounds and impacts in the event of a fall, death is guaranteed.

– an online calculator