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4th Class - Your Definition?

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Re: 4th Class - Your Definition?

Postby smoove » Wed Sep 26, 2012 9:49 pm

dswink wrote:
smoove wrote:That site definitely has a number of flaws! But what do you mean the YDS definition doesn't consider ropes and protection as part of 5th class climbing? Even FOTH (is that a credible enough source for you?) says: "Class 5 . . . involves the use of a rope, belaying, and protection (natural or artificial) . . . ." That's the reason some people refer to free soloing Class 5 as "Class 3ing" it.

I will concede that the FOTH definition does not mention exposure or hazard, but the definition of Class 4 includes, "A fall could be fatal", which is not included in the definition of Class 3. By logical extension, the definition of Class 5 includes, "A fall could be fatal," which clearly encompasses the concepts of exposure and hazard.


So, first consider the challenge of rating the difficulty of climbs:

*if you include exposure then easy but very exposed climbs (see Cathedral Peak pic posted by Barry Raven) will end up rated as very difficult

*if you include exposure then weird discrepancies will occur (see crossfitter's pics, the boulder move would translate to about 5.11, but the exposure is four feet, the walkway is class 1, but the exposure is hundreds of feet)

*exposure is somewhat relative in that some people have move difficulty with heights, plus most of us grow more comfortable with exposure over time

*if you include gear/rope requirements in your difficulty rating then someone like Peter Croft or John Bachar (RIP) would come along and solo it, turning your 5.9 rating into class 3

*if you include consequences in difficulty rating, what would the Narrows on Longs Peak be rated? or the knife edge on Kelso Ridge? or the little tilted slab on Wetterhorn? A fall on any of those class 3 climbs could easily be fatal.

*if you include consequences in difficulty rating, does the rating change if you are top-roping, or have a belay from above? Does class 5 difficulty drop to class 3 if you have a rope above you, since the consequences are minimal?

You see how complicated it gets, no?

Now, ponder how to explain class rating to newbies. You could give dry, succienct definitions in a few words, but most climbing newbies would still have questions. Most writers, including the excellent and much updated FoTH writers, get a bit chatty while trying to give a fuller explanation, and include examples in the definition. They know that the examples are not exactly correct, but they figure including the example details (roped belay, fatal falls, etc) gets the newbie climber a lot closer to understanding, and the new climber will fill in the right definitions in due time.

This is all just my two cents, but I am pretty confident on it. :-D



Oh ho...I edited my post re: exposure before you posted this! ;) You are absolutely correct that it's complicated and the definitions are subjective and subject to much interpretation. But I never claimed that hazard and consequences are the only considerations, only that they are considerations in the classification of a pitch. And yes, in a way, that 5.9 is only Class 3 to Alex Honnold. :)

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Re: 4th Class - Your Definition?

Postby rockdoc53 » Wed Sep 26, 2012 10:36 pm

MountainHiker wrote:This isn’t the real definition, but I’ve found on Colorado fourteeners:

3rd class, you can usually climb different lines, while still basically on route, without getting into trouble.

4th class, if you don’t pick the best line you can get into 5th class or sketchy stuff with increased potential for serious consequences.

I agree with this definition. If I must consider the consequences of my line and the difficulty of the downclimb, then its beyond third class.

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Re: 4th Class - Your Definition?

Postby rickinco123 » Thu Sep 27, 2012 12:54 pm

Brian C wrote:
rickinco123 wrote:...the start of Freeway does not feel 4th class to me...


Then you haven't found the easiest way. Ratings assume perfect route-finding. It's easy to make class 4 routes class 5.

This is a very true statement. There is another popular free solo in the flatirons that everyone swears is 5th but I took it on at its steepest section and found the holds to be all large jugs I could rap my fingers around and put my whole foot on so I call it 4th. I assume everyone else avoided the steep part thinking it would be harder when it is actually easier. I think I am going to go find that class 4 start to Freeway, I have no doubt its there.

Re: 4th Class - Your Definition?

Postby MonGoose » Thu Sep 27, 2012 1:59 pm

Despite the differences in Class ratings, I personally feel that a few of the Class IV fourteeners have been given their ratings due to their overall difficulty and danger instead of the actual moves required to climb them. Many people go off of the assumption that Class II is easier than Class III, and Class III easier than IV; failing to consider exposure and elevation gain. As a result, I think the Class rating is turning into more of an overall difficulty rating instead of pertaining specifically to the moves required to climb (thus the reason we continually discuss this topic).

A few examples:
Pyramid: Is there really a class IV move on Pyramid? You certainly need to be careful and the rock is loose. If you get off route you could be in trouble. While the danger is certainly there, where is the Class IV?
Sunlight Peak: Although the summit block is considered Class IV, this felt to me like a Class III move with big exposure. Take away the exposure from the summit block and it wouldn't be anything.
North Maroon: Legitimate Class IV move to pass through the crux.
Capitol: The knife edge is really Class III but the exposure is extreme making it the most memorable feature. I felt the legitimate Class IV section is just below the summit.
(I have not attempted Wilson or Little Bear)

This is similar to what MountainHiker was saying, it's more of a rating of how likely you are to get yourself into trouble. I also agree with I Man's comment concerning Class Can and Class Cannot. The rating is not designed to tell you what you can and cannot do. Instead it's a way of conveying to you what you should expect. When you are seeing it for yourself, you can decide what you are capable of doing.

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Re: 4th Class - Your Definition?

Postby swadmin » Thu Sep 27, 2012 2:15 pm

my definition:

class 3 - people are still talking
class 4 -everyone shuts up

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Re: 4th Class - Your Definition?

Postby JROSKA » Thu Sep 27, 2012 4:41 pm

swadmin wrote:my definition:

class 4 -everyone shuts up


Really? I once had a hiking partner who requested that of me on a Class 2 talus slope. Maybe he just didn't like me. lol

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Re: 4th Class - Your Definition?

Postby TallGrass » Thu Sep 27, 2012 4:53 pm

MonGoose wrote:Pyramid: Is there really a class IV move on Pyramid?
North Maroon: Legitimate Class IV move to pass through the crux.


Pyramid? Yes, plenty and found them. Just try taking the green wall to the summit and you will too. :)
North Maroon has more than the crux that I also found, and usually in doing so I gained enough elevation to see cairns elsewhere that were not visible from below.

I enjoyed both. Both present lots of options and thereby opportunity for thought and challenge. :-D
Not sure if I'll do more 14ers. The trip reports are too tiring. :wink:

Re: 4th Class - Your Definition?

Postby forbins_mtn » Thu Sep 27, 2012 5:41 pm

i think of 3 and 4 as pretty similar, except with a Class 4 move I'm gonna get pretty injured if i screw up. Class 4 will involve a technical move or two. Class 5 is sustained technical moves to make a "pitch".

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Re: 4th Class - Your Definition?

Postby nyker » Sun Sep 30, 2012 7:42 am

Has anyone seen this definition below?
I think this sums it up nicely:

http://www.14ers.com/classes.html

Keep in mind that for those transition areas say where class 3 enters into class 4, or where difficult class 2 moves merge into class 3, etc; this is inherently a bit subjective. The rocks don't suddenly change color to tell you that now you are on class FOUR terrain, etc. :-) This, coupled with the fact that everyone has a different risk tolerance and comfort level (and ego),will result in a myriad of definitions for the classes. California 14ers provide another good example, as do climbs outside the US where a lot of people in Europe for example don't recognize anything below class 5 as a real climb and just consider them all `hikes` below that.

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Re: 4th Class - Your Definition?

Postby nyker » Sun Sep 30, 2012 8:07 am

This topic reminded me of Cradle Mountain in Tasmania. We were wondering what the route was like and most folks including people in the ranger station characterised it as a `nice little hike` with a bit of scrambling near the top. Sounds easy enough right? Nobody knew what I meant when I asked if it were class 2,3,4 etc.

The lower part of the route was an easy hike through wonderful unique terrain, but the portion above treeline was all rock hopping over boulders and climbing on steep unstable rock and slabs. If you scroll down the trip report, there are some photos of the terrain up higher, which was a good solid 1000 plus feet of climbing and traversing class 3 and in some cases class 4 type terrain, i.e. where you are literally pulling your body up some of the rocks and slabs to surmount using a lot of upper body strength. Not the hardest thing, but clearly was not class 1 trail if that was what someone was expecting. I Didn't include a photo, but there were also Half Dome-like cables on a lower section with some near vertical rock on this `hike`.

This was a fanastic climb with very nice approach hike,... but the route was not a `nice little hike` like I might characterise the walk to Bear Lake in RMNP. So...moral of the story, buyer beware - of different tolerances and risk levels!

http://www.14ers.com/php14ers/tripreport.php?trip=11388&parmuser=nyker&cpgm=tripuser

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Re: 4th Class - Your Definition?

Postby tenpins » Sun Sep 30, 2012 9:06 am

nyker wrote:Has anyone seen this definition below?
I think this sums it up nicely:

http://www.14ers.com/classes.html

Keep in mind that for those transition areas say where class 3 enters into class 4, or where difficult class 2 moves merge into class 3, etc; this is inherently a bit subjective. The rocks don't suddenly change color to tell you that now you are on class FOUR terrain, etc. :-) This, coupled with the fact that everyone has a different risk tolerance and comfort level (and ego),will result in a myriad of definitions for the classes. California 14ers provide another good example, as do climbs outside the US where a lot of people in Europe for example don't recognize anything below class 5 as a real climb and just consider them all `hikes` below that.



my tolerance of risk is assuredly different than yours. And my willingness to accept higher risk - which is the consequence of an action; doing those moves unroped - does not mitigate the consequences of that fall.


When another ironworker at work doesnt tie off while working 10 floors up, it doesnt raise or lower the difficulty of moving around up there. all it does is mean that if they do slip and fall, the result is going to be disastrous. YDS was intended to objectify the terrain we play on, and the real currency in that is what happens when you fall. Go further into the 5th class world and look at the ratings. A 5.9 R/X does not have it's risk lowered by having a 5.14 climber send it. That person gets just as jacked up as someone who is trying to break into 5.9.

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Re: 4th Class - Your Definition?

Postby Above+Beyond » Sun Sep 30, 2012 1:38 pm

I was gonna say it depends on your relationship to your inner mountain goat... but actually I like Rosebrough's succinct, rope-based description in The San Juan Mountains (1986, pg 9), perhaps because I've been using it for a long time:

3. Unroped climbing requiring the use of handholds.
4. Roped climbing where a leader climbs without protection but gives the other climbers a belay.

He goes on to give a paragraph of elaboration on each class, using examples in the SJs as calibration, and saying 4th Class is "the most subjective". With a continuum of varieties of terrain and qualities of rock, trying to place all climbs into a small number of discrete classes is obviously going to create borderline instances.

The key word there IME is leader. A 4th Class route is difficult enough that it almost certainly takes someone with Ormes' "carefully graduated experience" to do it unprotected. Following on such a route can be a different matter: relative novices, or those hikers/climbers used to mostly 2nd Class routes, or those who get rattled easily on any kind of steeper or uncertain slopes, often do much better with a belay on 4th Class terrain, if the look of it alone doesn't stop them.

This take on the situation does pretty much correspond to the common facing in/facing out on descent rule of thumb. (Better yet, use a quick, sport rappel for the diciest parts of 4th Class routes, which beats tedious, exposed downclimbing by a mile.) As well, this angle on things lines up fairly well with the fatal fall possibility rule of thumb also, with whether the exposure/traction ratio is high enough for a fall to be both severe and within the conceivable realm of possibility -- i.e., enough of a concern to detract from the enjoyment of the climb.
And beauty will go savage in the secret mountains. - Robinson Jeffers

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