Find your challenge

Grades & Fitness

All expeditions promoted on our site are graded easy, intermediate or hard according to their physical and technical difficulty, and they commitment they require. Each speciality area, such as mountaineering or trekking, has its own detailed grading too.

EASY

Little or no experience necessary

INTERMEDIATE

Some experience necessary

HARD

Experience and confidence necessary

It is impossible to precisely gauge the difficulty of your specific expedition or adventure. Due to variables such as changing mountain conditions, weather and individual skill level, everyone’s experience will be unique. Thus a flexible approach is recommended.

Knowing your personal ability and fitness level is key to having a safe and enjoyable time in the mountains. If you have any doubts about your suitability for any given expedition, please contact us. We’ll happily discuss options with you and point to appropriate training programs if necessary.

activity specific info

Mountaineering Grades

Mountain climbing is always difficult. At the advanced level, these expeditions can be exceptional undertakings requiring outstanding skill and endurance. However, the Andes offers mountains for all levels including beginners. Match the numbers and letters below and find the perfect challenge for you. All climbing expeditions have corresponding grades, i.e. 1A, 3E, etc., which you can view on each expedition page.

Technical difficulty:
1. Introductory, non technical, F/PD (see French System below) and rock climbing at beginners level – no mountain experience necessary
2. Non technical or partly technical, AD/D- (see French System below), rocking climbing at 4+ – some mountain experience necessary
3. Partly technical, AD/D (see French System below) – good mountain experience necessary
4. Technical, AD/D+ (see French System below) – significant mountain experience necessary
5. Highly technical, D+ (see French System below) – very significant mountain experience necessary

Physical difficulty:
A. Moderate, 1/2 day single objectives – good health and fitness necessary
B. Moderate/strenuous, 2/3 day single objectives – very good fitness necessary
C. Strenuous/very strenuous, 3/4/5 day single objectives – good level of fitness, strength and endurance necessary
D. Very strenuous, 3/4/5 day single objectives – very good fitness, endurance and strength necessary
E. Exceptionally strenuous, 3/4/5/6 day single objectives – excellent fitness, endurance and strength necessary (as well as mental determination)

French System:
F: facile (easy). Straightforward, possibly a glacial approach, snow and ice will often be at an easy angle.
PD: peu difficile (slightly difficult). Routes may be longer at altitude, with snow and ice slopes up to 45 degrees. Glaciers are more complex, scrambling is harder, climbing may require some belaying, descent may involve rappelling. More objective hazards.
AD: assez difficile (fairly difficult). Fairly hard, snow and ice at an angle of 45-65 degrees, rock climbing up to UIAA grade III, but not sustained, belayed climbing in addition to a large amount of exposed but easier terrain. Significant objective hazard.
D: difficile (difficult). Hard, more serious with rock climbing at IV and V, snow and ice at 50-70 degrees. Routes may be long and sustained. Serious objective hazards.
TD: très difficile (very difficult). Very hard, routes at this grades are serious undertakings with high level of objective danger. Sustained snow and ice at an angle of 65-80 degrees, rock climbing at grade V and VI with possible aid, very long sections of hard climbing.
ED1/2/3/4: extrêmement difficile (extremely difficult). Extremely hard, exceptional objective danger, vertical ice slopes and rock climbing up to VI to VIII, with possible aid pitches.
ABO: Abominablement difficile (abominable) Difficulty and danger at their limit.
+/-: Often a + (pronounced Sup for supérieur) or a − (pronounced Inf for inférieur) is placed after the grade to indicate if a particular climb is at the lower or upper end of that grade (e.g., a climb slightly harder than “PD+” might be “AD−”).

Trekking and Hiking Grades

Trekking grades are dependent on a number of factors. Principally, the difficulty of multi-day, high altitude trekking depends on the following factors: a) the duration of the trek (number of days), b) the distance hiked per day and c) the altitude throughout. The grades below are based around these three factors. However, please bear in mind that all these factors effect people differently (particularly altitude), and thus our grades for trekking are not definitive. These should be considered signposts to help you decide what is right for you.

Overall Trekking Grades:
1. Easier, 1/2 day objectives below 4,000 meters, hiking for between 2 and 4 hours per day – good health and fitness highly beneficial
2. Challenging, 2/3 day objectives below 4,5000 metres, hiking for between 4 and 6 hours per day – good health and fitness necessary
3. 3/4 day objectives below 5,000 meters, hiking for between 6 and 8 hours per day – good, fitness and endurance necessary
4. 4/5/6 day objectives, below 5,000 meters, hiking for between 6 and 10 hours per day – very good fitness and endurance necessary
5. 7+ day objectives, 5,000+ meters, hiking for between 6 and 12 hours per day – high levels of fitness and endurance, and confidence to be in remote mountains for over a week!

Essential Trip Info

Grades & Fitness

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The Andes

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