How we grade our trips: Explanations and more ideas about what to expect
First a word of warning. Grading systems should only ever be taken as a guide. Please bear in mind that is up to you to judge your own fitness, ability, and mental and physical stamina. Please also bear in mind that many of our trips are in medium to high-altitude environments and that the grade can change dramatically depending upon how well you adapt to this. We will always inform you if a particular trip will be entering areas where altitude will be a factor.
Please also bear in mind that treks will always be long and hard and taxing. That is the nature of the beast and as such grades do not take into account the physiological effects that 3 weeks of walking far removed from showers may have on you! That said we do not rush, the experience is what it is about after all and we don’t want to be dashing up and down mountains like some testosteroned cheetah.
1: Gentle – Gentle hiking, level ground, good paths, easy route. Cyber cafes and chocolate cake are within easy reach. Day trips, no roughing it!
2: Easy – Gentle hiking, up and down bits occasionally, good paths, possible overnight stays in basic accommodation. Think hills rather than mountains.
3: Moderate – Multi-day trips, may involve camping in rural areas, with the possibility of rougher paths. This would be a good general trekking grade.
4: Hard – No cybercafes! Unmarked paths, trackless terrain, multi-day in remote areas, steep ascents, and descents. May involve getting very wet! Possibility of easy scrambling.
5: Difficult – Remote areas, changeable, adverse weather conditions (and no this does not mean the occasional drop of rain!) Long multi-day trips and hard trekking. Difficult rescue.
5+: This grade reflects all in Grade 5 but with some added difficulties that may include some or all of the following:-
1. A steep trek to high altitude (5000+) with little time to acclimatize.
2. Sustained trekking and camping at high altitudes.
3. Many high passes to cross with the risk of snow storms.
4. Long haul treks in remote and difficult terrain without roads.
5. Technical trekking routes at altitudes that require ropes and crampons.
6. Trekking and Canyoning combinations in remote terrain with the risk of adverse weather conditions (hot, cold, or wet).
6: Extreme – Requiring technical expertise. Technical canyoning, high altitude ridges. Limits of trekking-mountain routes would require ice axes, crampons, etc. Complete self-reliance. No rescue!! Well, low success rate anyway! Very high level of training required or religious zealots…zzzzzzzzz…
a: You pay for it, you’ll get it. Hiltons where available, private 4×4 transport, etc.
b: General backpacking accommodation, i.e. private room, varied cuisine.
c: Basic accommodation, local buses, local cuisine, permanent sleeping bag use.
NB Trip grades give a rough idea of what you can expect at certain times of your trip. Trekking conditions will only vary occasionally-for example between lodges, tea houses, or tents. These can be taken better as a guide to what is available on non trekking trips or for the city-based parts of your trip. Many areas we go into will not have luxury hotels, restaurants, etc.
There is no official international canyoning grade system, but the Australian Blue Mountain guides have a good system, and the blue space grading system is based loosely on this.
There are a few factors to consider when grading a canyon. Remoteness and nature of the terrain. The difficulty of rescue. Time of year. Flash flood risk. Water flow. The difficulty of exit and escape. The cold. Abseil points or lack of! Length of canyon trip and access. Lack of documented reference. Snakes and general monsters.
Grade 1: Very easy. No abseils, not much thinking involved – just a fun time in a safe fun place.
Grade 2: Easy. Simple access and exit, no risk of flash floods, maybe some basic rope work, may involve fun swims.
Grade 3: Moderate. Abseils, definitely some water, maybe simple, navigation, trekking, and scrambling, could involve a big day out.
Grade 4: Difficult. Maybe remote, more water flow, navigation, and good abseil skills are a must.
Grade 5: Very difficult. Serious undertaking, remote and trackless terrain, maybe multi-day trips, risk of flood and losing ground, maybe eddies, stoppers, underwater ledges, difficult rescue, not a place to get stuck.
Grade 6: Extreme. Exploration, little chance of rescue, variable water levels, remote and trackless terrain, a harsh and demanding environment, and no way out of the canyon in a flood. For experts only.
The rafting trips are graded as follows:
1: Very easy: occasional small rapids, obstacles are rare. Suitable for beginners
2 : Easy: rapids are small, waves regular. Some maneuvering is required, but navigation is easy.
3 : Moderate: rapids with irregular waves and hazards that need avoiding. More difficult maneuvering is needed but routes tend to be obvious. Scouting from shore is sometimes necessary. Thrilling.
4 : Difficult: large rapids requiring careful maneuvering. Hazards. Scouting from shore is often necessary, rescue difficult. Turbulent water and large, irregular waves may turn rafts over. For serious thrill seekers.
5: Very difficult: violent rapids, continuous powerful waters. Scouting is essential, and precise maneuvering is needed. Only for the experienced thrill seekers.
6: Extreme, experts only, you’re on your own with this one!
The blue grade!!! Exploration…and stuff!….our own specialties, so far off the beaten track you’ll never be quite the same again…ask for details! Go on we dare you!