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Grading

NB Many of the walks and scrambles described in Mountain Meanders are difficult and dangerous.  Do not attempt any Grade 3 or higher route unless you are experienced with exposed rock scrambling.

Each route has a table like this giving key statistics
Grade:

The rating is based on the most difficult section, which may be quite short. The star rating is very subjective!

Grade 1= Walk; 2=Easy scramble; 3=Moderate scramble; 4=Difficult scramble; 5=Rock climb  (see below for a full description) 
Height gain: Height gain is from start to highest point.
Time: Time is for a reasonably fit party of 8-10.  May be 50% longer for a bigger, less fit party or 50% faster for a small, very fit party i.e. times are a rough guide! 

 A variety of grading systems are in use in the Cape - and elsewhere in the world. The traditional Mountain Club of South Africa (MCSA) system uses A, B, C, etc, where A is a walking route, B a scramble, C an easy rock climb, etc.  However as Mountain Meanders has a focus more on the scrambling and walking than climbing,  this grading system was felt to be unsuited.  It is also a uniquely South African system not known elsewhere, and, to add to the confusion, other clubs in the Cape use a similar notation, but with different meanings, as depicted below.

"The most difficult way up a mountain, is to climb via a crag or sheer face and this is rock climbing. Walking is the most straight forward way up a mountain. The grey area in between the two is one of the purest and most exciting of all outdoor pursuits which you can enjoy. Scrambling is a very basic and probably the most dangerous form of mountaineering..." http://www.snowdonia-adventures.co.uk

The system used is the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS) which caters for both walking, scrambling and climbing and is widely used in the USA and elsewhere. The grading is summarized below with a rough "equivalence" to other systems - see the foot of this page for a more detailed description. YDS is similar to the UK scrambling grading but appears to be "one notch different".  (Comment from anyone with comparative experience is welcome...)  However, the best way to understand a grade is to walk it!  The next best, is a picture of a typical route - see some examples in the table below.  (More pictures needed please!)   

Yosemite Decimal System for grading walks, scrambles and climbs - the short version

YDS

Equivalence

Description

Examples

MCSA

Meridian

UK

(click for a photo of a typical route)

0

none

A

 

Easy with a good path.

Contour paths, Jeep tracks, Cecelia Forest, Newlands, etc

1

A

B

 

Generally hands are not needed, but may be steep ascent/descent

Platteklip, Nursery Ravine, Kasteels Poort, Corridor

2

A/B

C

1

Easy scrambling with occasional use of hands; may be no path.

Diagonal, Constantia Corner, Cecelia Ridge, Skeleton, LLandudno Ravine

3

B

D

2

Moderate scrambling. Hands and arms frequently used. May be exposed, but generally does not require a rope. A fall likely to result in serious injury.

India Venster, Wood Buttress, Blinkwater, Blind Gully, Mobray Ridge, Left Face BLLandudno Buttress

4

B/C

D/E

3

Difficult scrambling. Has short steep sections where the use of a rope may be advisable. Un-roped falls could be fatal.

Spring Buttress, Els Buttress, Grotto-Fountain

5.1

C

E

4

Rock climbing - climbing equipment is required.

Hout Bay Corner, Kloof Corner, Ledges

5.2

D

"Difficult" rock climbing

Note: Grades above 5.1 are not listed in Mountain Meanders.  Even more confusing is that grades D & E are considered "easy" by modern sport climbing standards! See the full comparison chart for more information.

5.3/5.5

E

"Very difficult" rock climbing 

 UK – http://www.ukscrambles.com/Database/uk-scrambling-grades.html

 
 

Marking of grading on maps:  The following notation is used on the maps to mark the grade in situ.  This will also be visible in a GPS unit unless labels are turned off.


All grading is of course subjective and different climbers will have different perceptions of a grade.  See Wikipedia  for a fuller description of climbing grades or the table below by Mike Scott from the 2003 MCSA Journal.  If you are unfamiliar with the Cape, or with the grading system, try an easier route first and work your way up the grades until you are comfortable with what they mean.  Note that the gradings are mainly intended for walkers/scramblers rather than climbers as experienced rock climbers would not use a rope on class 4 routes or even on easier class 5 routes.

 

 Star rating

The use of a star rating is even more contentious and subjective. Despite these limitations it is still felt to be a useful supplement to the grading system.  The system adopted is that used by Ernest Lotz in his Jonkershoek Guide. But note that the star rating has a bias towards scrambling routes as most walking routes (grades 0 and 1) end up with either no star or a single star!  This does not mean they are not pleasant and enjoyable walking routes. Maybe someone can think up a system of star rating for walking routes...


*

One does such a route usually just once! (Also used for routes that are primarily used as descent or access routes.)

**

Not wonderful, but has its moments. 

***

Most pleasant. Would do it again.

****

Outstanding climbing-experience. Interesting and full of variety. 

 

No star:  Either a foot path, or the route is not known well enough to rate.

 
 Yosemite Decimal System - from www.ii.uib.no/~petter/mountains/Difficulty

YDS

Description


0

Easy and good path


1

This grade is used if the route can be climbed by walking on a trail to the summit. No use of hands shall be needed, however, the trail may be somewhat narrow and somewhat steep. A fall may result in injury but is unlikely unless very careless.


2

This grade is used to classify a climb where the climber must walk off-trail or where a trail requires occasional use of hands for support and balance. The terrain can vary considerably and care may be needed in order to place your feet safely. Still, there is a clear notion of walking. There may be exposure and unpleasant consequences from a fall. The level of attention required is definitely higher than for a class 1 trail. This grade is sometimes qualified as 2+  to characterize a climb that really falls between walking and easy climbing. Easy scrambling falls into this category. Although hands are used more frequently, the "look and feel" is still more walking than climbing.


3

Broadly covers what is often termed scrambling. You do need to use your hands in order to facilitate upward movement, but hand and footholds are quite plentiful. There are often many alternate variations of the route. Short sections of class 3 are usually climbed without the security of a rope, however many people would feel more comfortable having a rope on long, sustained sections as well as passages with significant exposure. Down climbing a class 3 route requires careful moves and considerable attention, this is almost always easier with the assistance of a rope. A fall is likely to result in serious injury.


4

The first level of real climbing. A class 4 pitch requires full focus on the upward movement. There are fewer variations in how a move can be done. While short sections may still be done unroped, longer, or exposed sections are usually done with the security of a rope. Most people would prefer to rapell (abseil) instead of down-climbing a class 4 pitch of more than a few meters. A fall could be fatal.

5.x

This grade, with "x" ranging from 1-14, is used to characterize technical climbing.  Only 5.1 routes are described in Mountain Meanders, and 5 is therefore used unqualified.


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