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Class 3 vs. Class 4 -- What is the difference??

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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Class 3 vs. Class 4 -- What is the difference??

Postby hikerguy0 » Mon Mar 19, 2007 11:46 am

Somone on this forum (thank you!) just told me that class 4 in Colorado is considered class 3 in California. Wow. OK, so this is important because I NEVER NEVER NEVER want to climb above my ability.

So, here's my understanding of the Yosemite Decimal System:
class 1 = legs required only; no use of hands for travel
class 2 = rougher terrain; hands are used for balance
class 3 = steep and rough terrain; hands are used for climbing, hand holds and footholds are obvious; a fall would NOT typically be grave or fatal; some may feel more comfortable roped.
class 4 = steep to vertical; hands are used for climbing; hand holds and footholds are fairly obvious; a fall WOULD typically cause grave or fatal injury; a rope is mandatory.
class 5 = extremely steep to overhung; hands are used for climbing; hand holds and footholds require specialized technical skills; a fall would typically cause grave or fatal injury; a rope is mandatory.

Somebody help me understand if this correponds to the classes discussed at 14ers.com -- please! If not, what are the classes?

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Postby denalibound » Mon Mar 19, 2007 12:02 pm

Try this thread: http://www.14ers.com/bb/viewtopic.php?t=5086

They classes are the same everywhere. The YDS system is pretty subjective, so every person may have a slightly different take, but Class 3 in Colorado should be the same as Class 3 in in California.

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Postby Scott P » Mon Mar 19, 2007 12:09 pm

Class 3 in Colorado should be the same as Class 3 in in California.


It sounds like it should be, but it definately isn't. Not sure why. According to Roach as well, many class 4 routes in Colorado would be Class 3 in California. I'm not sure why the distinction, but there is definately a difference.

class 4 = steep to vertical; hands are used for climbing; hand holds and footholds are fairly obvious; a fall WOULD typically cause grave or fatal injury; a rope is mandatory.


In CO, a rope isn't madatory on class 4 in fact all the standard class 4 14er routes are usually done without a rope.

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Postby hikerguy0 » Mon Mar 19, 2007 12:19 pm

Informative link. I guess there will always be a bit of controversy as to the dividing lines between 2 & 3, 3 & 4, and 4 & 5. The good "take aways" are:
1. That there's always an element of subjectivity to any route rating
2. A route rating is trying to describe multiple aspects (terrain, required skills, consequences of a fall, etc.) and therefore evaluating a route on its numeric rating alone is probably insufficient
3. You better dang well learn as much about a given route BEFORE you set foot on it.

I didn't see this in that particular post on the forum, but I guess I'd add
4. Check the weather: consider the time of year, the days forecast, the start and stop times of your hike. A wet class 3 can become class 4 fairly quickly.

Thanks for the response; it sounds like the classes are relatively the same between CA and CO -- within the context above described.

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Postby gdthomas » Mon Mar 19, 2007 12:30 pm

Your classifications are fairly accurate with a couple of exceptions. First, a rope is not mandatory on class 4 and low class 5 routes. To use or not use a rope in such instances is up to the individual climber. Second, IMO it is somewhat misleading to assign classifications based on the chances of sustaining critical or fatal injuries. Falls on class 3 climbs are fatal more often than one might think. Third, while class 3 and 4 climbs require the use of hands to ascend, you have to think more about what you are holding/stepping on to on a class 4 pitch than on class 3 terrain (I suppose saying foot/handholds are "fairly obvious" vs "obvious" is another way of making this distinction).

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Postby Jack » Mon Mar 19, 2007 12:30 pm

Hi,
I know that most everybody, including myself at times related classes of climbing to potential injury if a fall were to occur. It is very imporatant to include, as you have, the 'typically' in there. for example: I was climbing Blanca via the standard route which is not really more than a class 2 anywhere. Despite this, I watched a woman loose her footing on the fairly narrow Blanca-Ellingwood saddle. Luckily she caught herself with one of her poles, but the other fell over the edge to the east (her head and shoulders were hanging over the edge as well). If she had not caught herself it woulda been 1,000+ vertical feet to la la land. That really scared me and I still kinda get goosebumps thinking about it, even though she was fine in the end. yikes.
I think part of the difference between class three and four for me is that I would feel comfortable downclimbing class three facing away from the slope, while class four would require me to downclimb facing the rock, where having handholds is more a matter of pure support than good balance and stability. Of course just my 2 cents.
-Jack

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Postby CO Native » Mon Mar 19, 2007 12:46 pm

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Last edited by CO Native on Wed Mar 21, 2007 8:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby denalibound » Mon Mar 19, 2007 12:46 pm

I made a futile attempt at removing the rope reference from the class discussion, because it is so unbelievably subjective that it shouldn't be used as criteria for establishing classes. I believe I was alone in that thinking. But people are free soloing El Cap, and it is certainly 5th class climbing. So to say that 5th class climbing requires a rope certainly an overstatement. Use the rope references as suggestions that read more like this, "for your safety a rope woule be highly recomended".

As far as a class 2 fall that could result in death, you should always find the rough exposure rating of a climb as well as the class. Something to the effect of, no exposure, where a fall would result in laughing at youself, light exposure, where you would get scrapes and bruises, moderate exposure, which would probably be painfull with maybe a broken bone, but not death, and extreme exposure, a fall would likely result in serious bodily trauma if not death.

You can up the ante of a class 2 climb, by combining it with extreme exposure. It doesn't make it harder, it just makes the consequences of a mistake that much greater.

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Postby jeffro » Mon Mar 19, 2007 12:51 pm

The use of a rope is a personal decision and varies greatly from one climber to the next. There are a handful of "gifted" climbers out there who climb 5.12 routes without tying in :shock: and there are others who rope up for class 3 :D.

The use of a rope is a matter of personal safety and ability to bear risk and therefore really should not be considered in any objective class rating system.

Jeff

edit: once again, denalibound beat me to the response
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Postby hikerguy0 » Mon Mar 19, 2007 12:55 pm

This discussion is very very helpful. Really, there are so many components (technical difficulty, duration, exposure, navigational difficulty, etc.) that go into making a route decision that a discussion is possibly the best form of rating. :-)

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Postby Jim Davies » Mon Mar 19, 2007 1:25 pm

Roach's newer books (but not the 14er guide) introduced a feature called "Roach Points" which I think are great for estimating the time for a route. It's a combination of distance, elevation and technical difficulty which combined give a good estimate of how long the route takes. It's also a more graduated scale, as most common routes rate about 200 RP's. Hopefully the 3rd edition will give RP ratings for 14er routes, or maybe Bill (or the forum community) could add them to the 14ers.com route pages? Just an idea...

A few examples (from the 13er book):
Mount Sanitas via Dakota Ridge: 26
Grays Peak Trail: 148
Longs Peak Keyhole Route: 376
Pikes Peak via Barr Trail: 418

Exposure and difficulty of the crux is another consideration when choosing a route, obviously, but a lot of times I just want to know how long it's going to take, and RP's are a good estimator.
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Postby hikerguy0 » Mon Mar 19, 2007 2:13 pm

Roach's point system sounds helpful -- perhaps quite an augmentation to the somewhat limited YDS classes.

The examples you cite are helpful; otherwise the points are just "numbers" in the air. Comparing a particular point value to a known route should give one a sense of the difficulty of a given route.

However, :-) since I've only done a few hikes in Colorado (I live in California), are there any general discriptors for ranges of Roach Points?

For example:
000 - 100 = Easy as falling off a Log
...
800 - 900 = Hope your life insurance is paid up

maybe Bill (or the forum community) could add them to the 14ers.com route pages?


A worthy "public service!"

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