Yosemite Decimal System: American Climbing Ratings

Benjamin Ring gives a brief explanation of the American system for rating climbs. A Los Angeles law enforcement officer, Benjamin Ring enjoys recreational rock climbing in places like Malibu Creek.

The Yosemite Decimal System is a systematic yet relative way of classifying the difficulty of hiking and climbing terrain. The fifth and hardest class is further divided into decimal points to create a more descriptive breakdown of the technical difficulty of hard climbs. A climb or trail is always rated based on its hardest part, even if it is a very short section.

Class 1:
Hiking or walking along a fairly well established trail for an hour or two.

Class 2:
A cross-country trail that requires route finding skills and some travel through talus or thick brush. Less than half a day required.

Class 3:
Scrambling over rocks and the use of hands for balance, though it has less exposure than fourth or fifth class and does not require technical climbing skills. Average of half a day to climb.

Class 4:
Steep terrain that requires using rope belay, but not placing protection. Climb could take a full day.

Class 5:
Technical climbing where a rope, climbing hardware, and safety skills are required. A fall would likely mean serious injury or death. Climb takes two days.

The fifth class is further broken into a decimal system ranging from 5.0 to 5.15. When the rating reaches 5.10, the ratings are further divided with a letter grade from a-d (5.10a, 5.10b, etc.).

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