Ratings of Difficulty & Classes of Rock Climbing

Rock Climbing Intro

Classes of Rock Climbing

Class I Walking on flat ground or trail.

Class II Small incline to steep uphill trail and intermittent use of the hands required.

Class III Steep slopes and scrambling, the use of hands is required and there is potential of a 5 to 15 foot fall.

Class IV Technical scrambling over rough, blocky, talus terrain. This can also include low angle rock faces. There is a potential for long falls. Sometimes the use of rope is recommended, depending on the severity of the terrain and the potential of fall. This is also dependent upon your party.

Class V Ascending vertical rock terrain that requires the use of all appendages to scale low angle to overhanging rock. This class requires a technical skill set. The fifth class of climbing is further broken down and explained by the Yosemite Decimal system which is featured below.

Free Climb Ratings

Yosemite decimal system is the most common type of rating for free climbs in the United States and it is the system we will focus upon.

  • 5.1 to 5.5 Very Easy terrain, that is not vertical, with large foot and hand holds.
  • 5.6 to 5.8 East to moderate difficulty level, with low angle to vertical terrain. Some technique is required to ascend the harder end of this grouping. Most climbers can reach this level with little experience.
  • 5.9 to 5.10 Difficult climbs usually on steep to overhanging terrain. These climbs require precise techniques, physical aptitude, and experience. 5.10 is known as the plateau for average climbers.
  • 5.11 to 5.12 These are very difficult climbs, requiring precise techniques and training, accompanied by significant experience. This is a level that the above average climbers reach.
  • 5.13 to 5.15 The elite athletes of the sport climb in this realm, enough said! There are a handful of individuals in the world that climb 5.15.

Note: Once the ratings reach 5.10, the difficulty of the climb is sub classified into a,b,c, and d ratings. Each letter grade represents an increase in difficulty from the previous. On some climbs a (+ or -) may be given to substitute for a letter grade. The rating is based upon the hardest move of the climb unlike bouldering.

Bouldering Ratings

  • John Gill was the inventor of the first bouldering rating system.
  • Goes from B1-B3 with B1 being the easiest and B3 being the hardest.
  • This scale has been a sliding scale over the years and is dependent upon the current hardest free climbing of the present. For example, B1 originated as the hardest rope climb of the 1960's and it progressed to a 5.12 in the 1980's.
  • This type of rating originated in hueko tanks and is the main system for bouldering today in the United States.
  • Goes from V0-V16 with V0 being the easiest and V16 being the hardest.

Climbing Grading Systems of the World

The table below shows the unique grading systems throughout the world & compares them.

Australia France UK USA (YDS) Bouldering Scale
4 1 M 5.1 VB
6 2 M 5.2 VB
6 2+ 3a VD 5.3 VB
8 3- 3b VD, 3B HVD 5.4 VB
10 3 3c HVD, 3c S 5.5 VB
12 3+ 4a S, 4a HS 5.6 VB
14 4 4a VS, 4b HS 5.7 VB
14, 16 4+ 4c VS 5.8 VB
16 5 4c HVS 5.9 VB
18 5+ 5b HVS 5.10a VB
19 6a 5a E1 5.10b VB
19,20 6a+ 5b E2 5.10c VB
20,21 6b 6a E2, 5C E3 5.10d V0
21 6b+ 6a E3 5.11a V0
22 6c 6a E4 5.11b V1
23 6c+ 6a E4, 6b E4 5.11c V1
23/24 7a 6b E4, 6a E5 5.11d V2
24 7a+ 6a E5, 6c E5 5.12a V3
25 7b 6c E5 5.12b V4
26 7b+ 6b E6 5.12c V5
27 7c 6c E6 5.12d V6
28 7c+ 6c E7 5.13a V7
29 8a 7a E7 5.13b V8
30 8a+ 6c E8 5.13c V9
31 8b 7a E8 5.13d V10
32 8b+ 7a E9 5.14a V11
33 8c 7b E9 5.14b V12
34 8c+ 7a E10 5.14c V13
35 9a 7b E10 5.14d V14
36 9a+ 7b E10 5.15a V15
37 9a+ 7b E10 5.15b V16

Rock Climbing Intro

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