Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Yosemite Decimal System Thoughts

I was talking to a friend tonight about the rating system used to describe the challenges of climbing a mountain. When we could not agree on the rating of a particular mountain, I decided to do a little research. For general mountaineering it seems as if the YDS is commonly used. It is the one I was introduced to by friends and regional literature. It is as follows:
Class 1: Hiking
Class 2: Simple scrambling, with the possible occasional use of the hands
Class 3: Scrambling; a rope might be carried
Class 4: Simple climbing, often with exposure. A rope is often used. A fall on Class 4 rock could be fatal. Typically, natural protection can be easily found
Class 5: Where rock climbing begins in earnest. Climbing involves the use of a rope, belaying, and protection (natural or artificial) to protect the leader from a long fall. Fifth class is further defined by a decimal and letter system – in increasing and difficulty. The ratings from 5.10-5.15 are subdivided in a, b, c and d levels to more precisely define the difficulty (for example: 5.10a or 5.11d)
5.0-5.7: Easy for experienced climbers; where most novices begin.
5.8-5.9: Where most weekend climbers become comfortable; employs the specific skills of rock climbing, such as jamming, liebacks, and mantels.
5.10: A dedicated weekend climber might attain this level.
5.11-5.15:  The realm of true experts; demands much training and natural ability and, often, repeated working of a route.

I found this information at www.mountainmadness.com

Let's apply this criteria to a popular climbing destination, Diamond Peak, in our area. Diamond Peak is commonly referred to as a class 3 climb. However, depending on one's route finding ability, it is not uncommon to find one's self on the east ridge clinging to a few hand holds thirty feet above solid ground. A fall from such a place may well prove to be fatal or at least very debilitating. In this case the class 3 label is questionable. So is Diamond Peak a class 3 or a class 4 climb? This is exactly the point when the whole rating system becomes subjective. It just depends.

As I plan for some major excursions this summer, I need to remind myself that an initial rating will only get me in the ballpark. Without rope skills, I look for class 3 mountains to ascend. Yet, I know, when I am in the thick of it, that I may find myself in situations that may require a class 4 passage. It is during those times when sane judgment will decide the next move. 

I look forward to to developing new skills this summer and expanding my abilities to enjoy high places.

James Helfrich down climbing a steep pitch on Diamond Peak's east ridge