Rock Climbing Difficulty Ratings

Yesterday we looked at some basic techniques in rock climbing and the different kinds of rock climbing; today we think it probably necessary to put a little perspective into what it is you are achieving when you start climbing. Lets not forget – you have probably taken an interest in the sport from listening and talking with friends, or watching some expert scale a cliff face and no doubt your next port of call is the internet.

Even so you start your research on where to go and there you see a rock face rated 5.5 – ugh – what does that mean? Below we provide the United States’ standard rating system for describing the difficulty of what it is that you might attempt to climb. It goes without saying that we highly recommend that your ambitions do not overcome your competence – yes it may sound boring but you should start at the bottom and work your way up the scale of difficulty. Rock climbers are a friendly bunch and are always willing to teach, guide and offer their opinions – do not be afraid to ask the question – we all started at sometime.

U.S. difficulty rating schedule for rock climbs

The six grades in the schedule start at grade 1 for walking and move higher for hiking and scrambling before the rock climbing grade starts at grade 5 – grade 6 requires an artificial aid, like a ladder, if it is to be climbed. Withinn grade 5 there are 14 different levels which are sub categorised as follows:

  • 5.0 to 5.4 – beginners level and easy to climg for any able bodied person with little experience;
  • 5.5 to 5.7 – intermediate level which will require more skill but no serious climbing equipment will be required;
  • 5.8 to 5.10 – definitely requires significant experience and some decent climbing shoes and good physical ability;
  • 5.11 to 5.12 – you are definitely getting into the very serious grade of rock climbing here – many years of experience required;
  • 5.13 to 5.15 – if you successfully handle these grades you are a dude, you are what Michael Phelps is to swimming, you are a Spiderman – respect.

Remember this is serious stuff so respect the mountains, respect the grades – one mistake and………. the mountains don’t take no prisoners.

The video below from expertvillage shows Scott, the owner of Climb On Indoor Rock Climbing Gym in Wilmington, North Carolina explaining the strategies for climbing in a gym and how the different routes are marked and graded – this classification is the same in all gyms across the USA and we repeat it is the place to start your love of the mountains.