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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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Postby Jim Davies » Mon Mar 19, 2007 2:23 pm

The Roach's description says that many hikers average 20 to 25 RP per hour. I find them mostly useful as an estimator of time. Dawson's 14er books give time estimates for routes also, which (obviously) vary a lot from person to person, but do give some means of comparison for different routes. You need to set your own baseline, though.

Living in Colorado Springs, I got to thinking of route lengths in "Cutler Units", a multiplier of the effort of the Mt Cutler Trail (2 miles, 500 feet). By this scale, I figure the Barr trail is about 13 CU's, Grays+Torreys would be about 5 CU's, etc., so I guess one CU is about 25 RP's. I doubt if we need another scale, though, especially one that is incomprehensible to people from Denver. :D
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Postby gdthomas » Mon Mar 19, 2007 3:08 pm

Jim Davies wrote:Living in Colorado Springs, I got to thinking of route lengths in "Cutler Units", a multiplier of the effort of the Mt Cutler Trail (2 miles, 500 feet). By this scale, I figure the Barr trail is about 13 CU's, Grays+Torreys would be about 5 CU's, etc., so I guess one CU is about 25 RP's. I doubt if we need another scale, though, especially one that is incomprehensible to people from Denver. :D


Actually, one CU is 32.153846 RP's (rounded to the nearest millionth) based on the Barr Trail ratings. :D

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Postby CO Native » Mon Mar 19, 2007 3:09 pm

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Postby Jim Davies » Mon Mar 19, 2007 3:19 pm

That's exactly the point; technical difficulty, exposure, and total effort are all separate measures. A roadside boulder might be 5.10 in difficulty, but almost zero in exposure and effort.

Another example: the catwalk on Eolus scares people because of its exposure, but technically it's about as hard as walking the 16th Street Mall. The hike to get there is probably 300 RP's, though, and the real crux of the route comes afterward and is class 3.
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Postby mainpeak » Mon Mar 19, 2007 3:22 pm

I've always agreed that the distinction can be pretty well summed in that you can downclimb class 3 facing forward, class 4 you may have to turn in to face the rock. You may even be better off downclimbing the whole class 4 route turned in. Indeed, you may want to rappel class four on most occasions, especially if there is snow and ice on the route.

It's all about what suits you as an individual. I solo class 4 at the Flatirons here in Boulder every other weekend or so. I am also in my late 30's and have two kids, and in the mountains, I'd just as soon carry a rope and harness on Class 4 and not use it than not have it and take a bad fall.

Something else that I think is worth mentioning, and why one might consider a conservative approach to Class 4 routes. Routefinding is a core skill of the mountaineer. As the distinction gets hazy between class 3 and class 4, so does the distinction between class 4 and 5. On class 3 it is often easy to avoid technical sections. In my experience, for what it is worth, is that it is much easier to get off route on class 4, even a little, and find yourself doing class 5 moves. Next thing you know, you climb over a bulge or around a flake, and now you either face technical climbing without gear, or a scary retreat (depending who is in your group).

Just something to think about...

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Postby hikerguy0 » Mon Mar 19, 2007 3:29 pm

Ah, got it; good distinction. Thanks.

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Postby CO Native » Mon Mar 19, 2007 3:30 pm

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Postby CO Native » Mon Mar 19, 2007 3:36 pm

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Postby hikerguy0 » Mon Mar 19, 2007 3:41 pm

Regarding navigation: Amen. I was high up on Muir Peak (14,015') in 2001, the route up which is not class 5, but a man (not in my party) got off route, and well ... let's just say I watched a helicopter do a body removal. That's kind of why I tend to stick to class 3: the routes usually have a bit more "give" in them. If one follows a class 4 route, a seemingly minor nav error can be really really bad as the aforementioned gentleman so tragically discovered.

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Postby hikerguy0 » Mon Mar 19, 2007 3:53 pm

Micheal Reardon must be part feline -- he clearly has nine lives. OK, now I'm going to get a little philosophical. :!: God bless people with climbing skills and nerves of steel like that. I wonder, though, even with the skills and the nerve, is it worth it? One breaking rock, one muscle spasm, one anything, and you get to play sky diver -- with out a chute. To me that photo speaks of perhaps something not quite right. (Here I go pissing off the whole forum) :-) I mean is that really fair to one's loved ones? Is it really sane to go unroped in that kind of exposure? It almost seems like he doesn't really believe he can die. This kind of climbing, unroped -- something tells me there's something wrong here. (maybe I'm just envious I can't climb like that) :-) Seriously, when one doesn't take the very real possiblity of one's own demise seriously, isn't there something "off?"

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Postby CO Native » Mon Mar 19, 2007 4:04 pm

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Postby CO Native » Mon Mar 19, 2007 4:28 pm

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