/ Question about alpine grading

Please Register as a New User in order to reply to this topic.
L TheFasting - on 11:10 Fri

I've been reading a bit about alpine grades, partly because I want to see how the things I can do in my home country compares to what is in the Alps themselves.

From what I've seen, AD is more for UIAA grade III to a few pitches of IV, with snow/ice up to 45 degrees, but not a lot of objective danger and relatively short approaches and easy descents. D is UIAA IV sustained and up to a few pitches of V, longer approaches, snow/ice from 50-70 degrees, objective dangers and maybe a harder descent. Then TD is UIAA V sustained, some pitches of VI, objective dangers for a lot of the route, and ice/snow up to 70-80 degrees, and a challenging descent in its own right.

And then ED is just horrible.

So something like the North Face of Glittertind ( https://peakbook.org/gfx/images/f/e5/senfterberg_foto_gt_nordvegg.jpg/senfterberg_foto_gt_nordvegg-1... ) is one or two pitches of UIAA V, the rest is III, not a lot of objective danger that I'm aware of except maybe a huge cornice over the end of the route in parts of the season, but easy approach and long and easy descent. Then the mere presence of a few V pitches doesn't mean it's a D, when the average is a IV- right? Would it be an AD+`? Length is about 300 meters I think

Another example, the North East couloir of Nordre Soleibotntind ( http://www.randopedia.net/tourimages/nordre_soleibotntind__north_east_colouir_0.jpg ) is a 750 meter route of snow at minimum 50 degrees, maximum 60 degrees. I think there's some rock fall there, but no rock climbing required. Pretty sure there's an easy descent route there somewhere, and the approach is a few hours on a glacier and 6 hours walk in total I think. According to the descriptions I've read the length, steepness and a bit of objective danger means it's a D.

EDIT: I've also searched on the forum btw, but didn't find any answer to this. Basically the question boils down to: How much will the difficulty of the crux rock climbing matter for the overall grade compared to how sustained it is, and how much will other factors like steepness of snow/ice matter? Will it matter how many sections there are of rock followed by ice followed by rock? Do glacial approaches matter if the bergschrund is no problem? How long does an approach need to be before it affects the grade?
Post edited at 11:19
MG - on 11:24 Fri
In reply to TheFasting:

For me, at the end of the day:

F: I have had a good walk in the mountains. Feel exercised
PD: I have had a very good walk in the mountains. Used my hands. Feel exercised
AD: I went mountaineering. I was bit scared at times. Used hands, feet, various bits of metal. Feel very exercised. All over.
D: That was bloody brilliant. Will remember it for a long time. Feel utterly knackered
Stefan Jacobsen - on 11:44 Fri
In reply to TheFasting:

They have an article on alpine grades over at camp to camp:
http://www.camptocamp.org/articles/188413/en/what-is-the-alpine-grade
planetmarshall on 11:47 Fri
In reply to TheFasting:

I wonder if the detailed topos and route descriptions available now don't make traditional Alpine grades a bit redundant.
GarethSL on 12:00 Fri
In reply to TheFasting:

For a lot of the classic mountain routes in Norway, e.g. Romsdalshornet, Snøhetta, Stetind, Innerdalstårnet etc the grade given is the UIAA alpine grade. Norwegians initially used the UIAA grading system as a benchmark for their N grades that is applied to sport/ trad and alpine routes (Although for sport and trad I think they generally follow the french grades now).

Apparently, many alpine climbs in Norway were graded when the UIAA system only went to VI, so subsequently there are a lot of sandbag routes because no one wanted to suggests grades beyond 6, so subsequently anything graded VI or VI+ will probably try and kill you.

The french alpine grades (PD, AD, D etc) don't really come into use in here, you can suggest one but it will be a guesstimate. The system has never been applied. It is a huge challenge comparing Norwegian grades to other systems... remember Norwegians are renowned for not grading things, or even reporting ascents. The spirit of adventure is still regarded quite highly which is amiable but also incredibly tedious.

For Glittertind my instagrade from google suggests it at n4, so UK S-HS. I would imagine then that its alpine grade is IV which puts it in the PD range on the Rockfax chart.

Nordre Soleibotntind sounds like a UK winter II ish so probably in the PD range. I would expect far more technical, committing and steeper climbing for a D. Also it appears people ski down it... sooo...
L TheFasting - on 12:18 Fri
In reply to GarethSL:
I just figured it would be a D given that the north face of Tour Ronde is D and is about as steep and half as long

I think the grade for skiing down it would be one of the harder skiing grades according to the articles I've read. A 750 meter 50 degree couloir is no joke to ski down I'd imagine.
Post edited at 12:27
MG - on 12:18 Fri
In reply to TheFasting:


> EDIT: I've also searched on the forum btw, but didn't find any answer to this. Basically the question boils down to: How much will the difficulty of the crux rock climbing matter for the overall grade compared to how sustained it is, and how much will other factors like steepness of snow/ice matter? Will it matter how many sections there are of rock followed by ice followed by rock? Do glacial approaches matter if the bergschrund is no problem? How long does an approach need to be before it affects the grade?

The serious answer is it is not precisely defined. Alpine grades are intended for routes that will typically have dozens of factors affecting grade. So all the points you mention above might come in to a grade and more. It is very much a "feel" for the route and different authors/books will give different grades. When applied to pure rock climbs alpine grades don't make much sense really.
L TheFasting - on 12:28 Fri
In reply to MG:

Alright, that makes sense
L TheFasting - on 12:34 Fri
In reply to Stefan Jacobsen:

According to that article the North Face of Glittertind would be D- at minimum. Seems a bit silly to me when almost the whole route is just hard scrambling. Still that's the most comprehensive article I've seen so far
GridNorth - on 12:37 Fri
In reply to TheFasting:

IMO it's even more tenuous than UK trad grading.

I found the Tour Ronde very straight forward and a short day. The Frendo Spur on the other hand has pitches of VS and, if you take in the Rognon, arguably E1. It is at best a long day and for most parties involves a bivi, yet both get D. The only reason I can think of is that the descent is by the Midi cable car.

Al
jcw on 12:39 Fri
In reply to TheFasting:

Traditional Alpine grades do not take into account either objective danger nor length of route nor approach. Hence some monsters get a relatively low grading while some potty Micky-mouse route a high one. On the other hand ice route grading now look exaggerated in the light of modern techniques. For Chamonix the bible was, and in its own way it remains unsurpassed, the 4 vol Guide Vallot Ed Lucien Devies. The result is that you really need to consult as many sources as you can when working out what to tackle. I am only speaking about the Alps proper. When you come to the Dolomites you need to switch into the I-VI traditional grading system, which now also has higher grades. How all this applies to the area you are interested in is a matter of research into what the local guide book writers consider relevant.
MG - on 13:24 Fri
In reply to jcw:

> Traditional Alpine grades do not take into account either objective danger nor length of route nor approach.

THat's not right. E.g. http://www.alpinist.com/p/online/grades or the introduction to AC guides

"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. "
rossn - on 14:21 Fri
In reply to TheFasting:

I notice a question like this a few years ago and someone re-posted a comment made by Martin Morran previously. He gave the example of the 4 main Ben Nevis ridges and attributed alpine grades to them to make some sort of comparison. In my case I had climbed and was familiar with the 4 routes so found it quite interesting. If I remember this correctly, and he was talking about the routes in winter, he said:

Castle Ridge (II/III) - AD
Tower Ridge (III some guides say IV) - AD+
North east Buttress (IV) - D-
Observatory Ridge (IV some guides say V) - D

Considering the Alpine grading system is, like the Scottish winter grading, a pretty rough, conditions dependent indication I think he's about right. Perhaps someone else will remember this and be able to quote his comment more precisely.

RN
ianstevens - on 14:47 Fri
In reply to GridNorth:

> IMO it's even more tenuous than UK trad grading.

> I found the Tour Ronde very straight forward and a short day. The Frendo Spur on the other hand has pitches of VS and, if you take in the Rognon, arguably E1. It is at best a long day and for most parties involves a bivi, yet both get D. The only reason I can think of is that the descent is by the Midi cable car.

> Al

That's entirely why the Frendo only gets D (I think its actually D+, but a minor difference) as there are no descending issues and less objective danger as it's only equivalent to half a D without a lift at the top. Probably would get TD- otherwise.
Simon4 - on 15:03 Fri
In reply to MG:
> F: I have had a good walk in the mountains. Feel exercised

> PD: I have had a very good walk in the mountains. Used my hands. Feel exercised

> AD: I went mountaineering. I was bit scared at times. Used hands, feet, various bits of metal. Feel very exercised. All over.

> D: That was bloody brilliant. Will remember it for a long time. Feel utterly knackered

TD : feel completely spent. Will take months to recover. Never want to see another mountain again, ever, as long as I live. I'm applying for residence in Kansas. Or possibly Holland.

At least we came back from that with the same number of toes and fingers that we started with.
Post edited at 15:05
Simon4 - on 15:16 Fri
In reply to rossn:

> Tower Ridge (III some guides say IV) - AD+

> North east Buttress (IV) - D-

> Observatory Ridge (IV some guides say V) - D

Well I'd have upped all of those by at least an Alpine grade to get a closer result.



rocksol - on 15:51 Fri
In reply to TheFasting:
Applying your logic to 38 route on Eiger N in perfect conditions grade 5/5+ with 50 deg ice. Grade D ? Doesn't seem quite right ! Far more scary than many ED 2/3
Regards Frendo did it with girlfriend (her 1st route in Alps) from 1st frique in morn. Incl.. Rognon in 1977. Quite straightforward
Grades are an indicator and vary incredibly, conditions, objective danger, difficulty, situation/descent and most importantly ability and motivation of climbers!!
J
GridNorth - on 16:16 Fri
In reply to rocksol:

I've done the Frendo twice. First time it was my very first alpine route circa 1972 in my mid twenties and fit, despite being with two experienced alpinists we got it all wrong. We bivied at the bottom, carried far too much gear then got caught out just below the Rognon and had a desperate bivi there as well because the experienced alpinists misjudged it. I have to say it was a bit of an epic not helped by the fact that I fell 300 or so feet down the glacier at the base of the route when the snow collapsed under me. It put me off alpine climbing the following year but then I learnt how to do it properly. Many years later, when I was almost 60 and not nearly as fit, like you, I did it in the day simply because I knew what I was doing. Even so I still think it would get TD if were not for the Midi cable car descent.

Al
L TheFasting - on 21:08 Fri
In reply to rocksol:

No the article says it would get at least a D+ if it's f5c (I guess that's 5+). Then objective danger, commitment, length of sustained climbing etc is added on to that. From what I've read it seems like many people find the actual climbing on the Eiger simple enough for the grade, but the conditions and danger can be horrifying.
Stefan Jacobsen - on 10:28 Sat
In reply to TheFasting:

As someone said earlier, the alpine grade is tenuous, which is why some submit a whole bunch of grades for a new climb reflecting the kinds of climbing one will encounter. For example Hypa Zypa Couloir on the Citadel in Alaska is graded 1300 m, VI, 5.10R, A3, AI5+, M6+. VI being the alaskan grade which compares to alpine ED.
http://www.alpinist.com/doc/web13s/newswire-citadel-kichatnas
jcw on 11:27 Sat
In reply to MG:

That may be so now theoretically, but not originally, and the traditional system has only been modified. Lindsay Griffin brought some much needed changes, at least for the British reader, but the fact remains that the Papillons Ridge was graded harder than Route Major, and even now has the same grade I believe. At the time when the original gradings in Vallot were done, alpinists were interested in the big mountains and were perfectly aware that venturing onto the Brenva face was not to be undertaken lightly. Their grading was consequently relative to that kind of climbing. The short rock routes on the Aiguilles etc were technically harder and the favorite outing for guides who could haul a client up and flatter him by saying he'd done a TD, all in perfect safety and back down in the Valley in time for lunch. My warning is that there is an historic lag in the Alpine system and that there are consequently many anomalies. It is by definition, subjective by the very terms used to grade. And unless the route has been regraded by someone experienced who has actually done it these will continue. That is why it is necessary to check as much detail as possible. A line with a series of figures is not enough. Description is necessary also, hence the value of the old Alpine guide books with their preliminary blurb introducing the route.
jon on 11:33 Sat
In reply to MG:

> AD: I went mountaineering. I was bit scared at times.

AD: I went mountaineering. I was VERY scared at times.
kipman725 - on 14:31 Sat
In reply to TheFasting:

Alpine grades weight technical difficulty very highly hence long committing routes tend to feel under graded. As far as I'm aware the approach has no effect on the grade. Furthermore its very conditions dependent. Even low graded routes can take a long time if conditions are poor, for example try doing the Forbes Arete climbing every rock tower because the snow is poor. From experience this takes a while and involves f5+ climbing.

The additional issue is that rock and ice/mixed grading dosen't match up. I would be willing to get on a bolted ED as its just a sport route frequently, but the thought of jumping on the 1938 route is quite terrifying.
Solaris - on 22:46 Sat
In reply to jon:

Well, OK, but given that - I assume - you've climbed ED+, how high does your scaredness scale go? Higher than mine, I'm sure
HeMa on 06:05 Sun
In reply to Solaris:
Scaryness depends in time, conditions and the actual objective hazards, plus what feels scary and what actually is.

So a not too bad romp up (PD) with a big ass serac above would be AD due to the real world objective hazard... very scary... Or soloing a simple nice ice line, and then founding some bad ice half way up... again can be very sketchy or scary.

Then again, Voie Suisse on Gran Cap is supposed to be TD or something. Not scary at all, bomber gear all the way and not too bad descent with simply abseiling off from bomber bolts (on O Sole Mio).


Generally I've been more scared on "easy" climbs than harder ones... easy ones you tend to not rope much hence easy to get in to not so comfortable situations. Harder routes, you tend to play it safe. This is true for pure "rock" routes, but it's even worse for mixed...
Post edited at 06:08
jon on 11:05 Sun
In reply to Solaris:

Well it was more a way of saying that alpine grades should be taken with a (huge) pinch of salt!
Will_he_fall - on 11:50 Sun
In reply to TheFasting:

I don't agree with the easy climbing with a serac at the top is a grade harder line- I don't think that it in practice works like that.
David Rose - on 12:56 Sun
In reply to TheFasting:

It's hard to be precise with most Alpine climb overall grades simply because the difficulty varies so much with conditions. Surely that is obvious.

An example: once I did the Coutourier Couloir on the Verte in winter from the first 'frique. Its grade is D, I think, and it was just an easy 50 - 55 degree romp almost the whole way (650 metres) on good neve until we hit iron hard, dark grey ice (invisible from the bottom) for the last 250 metres. The route was no steeper but now felt utterly desperate, not helped by the fact we only had 4 screws. I have seldom felt so relieved to get to the top in one piece - and although by then it was getting dark, the descent down the Whymper (AD+) was very easy indeed the whole way: just a walk down facing in, in soft but firm snow.
L TheFasting - on 13:02 Sun
In reply to Will_he_fall:

No that's not quite what I meant.

According to the guidebook, it has one single move at n5-, which is equal to a f5a, at the third pitch. Beyond that it's 10-11 pitches of mostly n3 and n4 (so hard scrambling and easy climbing), followed by a snow field that could be 40-50 degrees or could be a huge overhanging cornice.

I just used the north face of Glittertind as a more extreme example. From what I've read, just the presence of f5a means it's a D- minimum ( http://www.camptocamp.org/articles/188413/en/what-is-the-alpine-grade ), but that climb is a rather extreme example I wanted to ask about to see what others would think. Otherwise it would seem more like an AD maybe.

Perhaps all things considering it's AD or AD+?
ads.ukclimbing.com
jcw on 14:49 Sun
In reply to jon:

Hi Jon,
The traverse of the Aiguilles Dorées in mixed conditions was one of my most harassing climbs ever: AD+!
Goucho on 15:21 Sun
In reply to TheFasting:

All grades are a 'guide', but alpine grades even more so. I've done some AD routes which have been long and demanding and made some TD+ and even a couple of ED's feel like a walk in the park in comparison.

I've found one of the trickiest grades of all can be TD's. The standard route on the Dru NF for instance gets TD+ IIRC, yet I reckon it can give a lot of ED1's and a couple of ED2's a run for their money?
wbo - on 15:35 Sun
In reply to TheFasting:
I still find Norwegians grades completely inconsistent let alone alpine grades. I know new routers who grade for the overall route difficulty, and some who grade on the hardest single move
L TheFasting - on 16:41 Sun
In reply to wbo:

Yeah, I think the Norwegian alpine grading is known as one of the least descriptive grades from what I've read online. The guidebook for Jotunheimen doesn't grade the routes, but just has the technical difficulties per passage (sometimes pitches). Makes it a bit hard to know what I can use as a benchmark for when I know I'm ready to go to the Alps and what I can do there. I'd still not jump straight on something horrendous when I did, but it can be nice mentally to have the "I've done this before, just not as long" perspective.

But I'm trying to learn the IFAS grading so that I can grade the first ascents I do in the future myself and maybe start a tradition. I see some guys are already doing it on the Alpine Club webpage registry.
TobyA on 16:53 Sun
In reply to wbo:

The Norwegians don't use a different system for alpine routes from rock routes do they? Never seen that in the north. Although we have seen UK grades and US grades used up there to confuse matters!
Bogwalloper - on 17:01 Sun
In reply to Solaris:

> Well, OK, but given that - I assume - you've climbed ED+, how high does your scaredness scale go? Higher than mine, I'm sure

Well I was on the Cosmic Arete once and the sun went behind a cloud. Nearly shit my pants. Just goes to show it's not all about how hard the climbing is.

Wally

L TheFasting - on 17:05 Sun
In reply to TobyA:

If I've understood correctly the alpine grades are actually just the rock grade applied to the whole route. The closest we can get to a grade for a route I guess.
wbo - on 17:40 Sun
In reply to TobyA and the Fasting. No, it's all the same grading, a kind of ad hoc mixture of overall pitch difficulty and move difficulty. The most alarming thing I found was a steep slab/wall given 5+ with every move 5+ (I guess) and with plenty of broken ankle protection next to a nice , if rounded one move wonder crack also given 5+.

I would be very interested to see alpine grades for a lot of things in Norway


Please Register as a New User in order to reply to this topic.