Mountain climbing with Elite Mountain Guides
Climb Mont Blanc with Elite Mountain Guides
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Mountain climbing with Elite Mountain Guides
Mountain climbing with Elite Mountain Guides
Mont Blanc in summer
Mountain climbing
Ski Chamonix with Elite Mountain Guides
Climb Mont Blanc with Elite Mountain Guides
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Mont Blanc
Mountain climbing with Elite Mountain Guides
Skiing with Elite Mountain Guides
Mountain climbing with Elite Mountain Guides

Climbing Grades

Fitness Required:

  • A
    Good basic fitness, as for mountain walking and scrambling in Scotland or Wales. Average rucksack weight: 6-8 kg.
  • B
    Good cardio-vascular fitness. You probably run or cycle or swim three days a week. Average rucksack weight: 8-12 kg.
  • C
    High level of fitness coupled with physical toughness and the ability to carry a heavy rucksack for long periods. Average rucksack weight: 12-18 kg.
  • D
    As for 'C', but tougher. Climbs of this grade are exceptionally strenuous and some weight loss is inevitable.
  • E
    Hard physical effort at extreme altitude. This encompasses 8,000 metre climbs in the Himalayas and such like. It requires thorough preparation and experience. It may well cause long-term fatigue after the trip.

Technical Difficulty:

  • 1
    Straightforward scrambling on rocks or climbing in snow using crampons and ice axes. Ropes are not usually required. Previous climbing experience is not essential.
  • 2
    Ropes are used principally for glacier travel and low angle snow or ice slopes. Ice axe and crampon experience necessary.
  • 3
    Short, steep sections of snow or ice up to about 50 degrees. Previous snow and ice climbing experience of Scottish III/Alpine PD is essential.
  • 4
    Long, steep snow and ice slopes with short steps of very steep ice or low grade rock climbing. Good all-round climbing ability required to Scottish III/Alpine AD.
  • 5
    Very steep ice (Scottish III/IV or harder) or rock (Hard Severe or harder). Suitable for competent mountaineers who have climbed consistently at these standards.

Alpine Grades
The French Alpine grading system encompasses the technical difficulty, length and level of commitment required for the climb.

  • F
    (Facile/easy) - easy angled snow and ice / glaciated terrain. Ice axe and crampons are normally required, but the ground should not be steeper than approximately 35°.
  • PD
    (Peu difficile/not very difficult) - longer routes, often with more complex glaciated terrain, with scrambling on mixed ground (snow, ice and rock). Snow slopes are not normally steeper than 45°. Short sections of grade 1 and 2 scrambling, though potentially in exposed situations.
  • AD
    (Assez difficile/fairly difficult) - more committing routes with steeper snow and ice up to 55°, though normally just one axe and crampons will be required. Rock sections can be sustained with lots of grade 2 scrambling and short sections of British VDiff or Severe which may be pitched.
  • D
    (Difficile/difficult) - snow and ice up to 75°, requiring the use of an ice axe and hammer. Rock climbing up to British grade Very Severe. Lots of pitching with confidence required moving together on grade 3 scrambling ground in exposed situations.
  • TD
    (Tres difficile/very difficult) - routes of a much more serious undertaking, with sustained sections of ice climbing and difficult rock climbing, possibly including aid climbing.

Scottish Winter Grades
British mountaineers are also familiar with the Scottish Winter grading system.

  • I
    Snow gullies and easy ridges. Not normally steeper than 45° and often used as descent routes. One axe required to ascend these routes.
  • II
    Steeper snow with short sections of ice or 'mixed' ground (rock/ice). Ridge climbs would normally be grade I and II scrambles in summer. One axe is normally adequate, but two may be necessary on some routes or where cornices are likely.
  • III
    More sustained and steeper routes, generally following gullies or buttress (ridge) lines. Two axes required to overcome short, steep technical sections of ice or rock.
  • IV
    Snow and ice routes will have longer sections of steep climbing (60-70°) or short, very steep sections. 'Mixed' or buttress climbs on snowed-up rock will require more advanced techniques, such as torquing the axes into cracks.
  • V
    Sustained steep ice of 80°, or climbing on snowed up rock routes, which would warrant rock climbing grades of Severe - Very Severe in summer.
  • VI
    Long vertical ice, often serious and snowed up rock routes of Very Severe and above.

Rock Grades

Scrambling Grades

  • Grade 1
    Short steps of rock, where you need to use your hands to make upward progress. Ropes not normally used.
  • Grade 2
    More frequent sections of rock, with longer sections requiring the use of hands to climb upwards. A rope might be used to safeguard difficult sections.
  • Grade 3
    and 3s
    Exposed, often with rock climbing 'moves' such as those encountered on routes of British grade Diff - VDiff (see below). Lots of moving together using a shortened rope and short pitches of more difficult sections.

Rock Climbing Grades
The British rock climbing grading system ranges from 'Moderate' to 'Extreme' (with Extreme as an open-ended scale from E1 to, currently, E12). It was invented when people were climbing in hob nailed boots, so what was then difficult is now made comparatively easy, using modern kit. Numerical grades accompany routes of Severe and above to describe the hardest single 'move' (the crux) (these are not included below).

  • Moderate
    A similar standard to grade 3 and 3s scrambles.
  • Diff
  • VDiff
    Very Difficult
  • S
  • VS
    Very Severe
  • HVS
    Hard Very Severe
  • Extreme
    Extreme 1-12

If you are used to a different rock climbing grading system, check out the grade conversion page on the ROCKFAX website.


Phil Ashbyemail here  
+44 (0) 7850 123927
+33 (0) 6 38 85 20 43

Will D'Arcyemail here  
+44 (0) 7775 650217

Mark Thomasemail here  
+44 (0) 1239 623679
+44 (0) 7816 873884

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