Alpine climbing

The National Climbing Classification System (NCCS) describes the overall difficulty of a multi-pitch alpine climb in terms of time and technical rock difficulty. It takes the following factors into account: length of climb, number of hard pitches, average pitch difficulty, difficulty of hardest pitch, commitment, routefinding problems, ascent time, rockfall, icefall, and weather problems. The approach and remoteness of an area also influence the grade of a climb, which will be regional and, thus, guidebook-dependent. It should be emphasized that with increasing grade an increasing level of psychological preparation and commitment is necessary. This system assumes a competent party for the level of climbing expected.

Grade I: Normally requires only several hours to do the technical portion; can be of any technical difficulty.

Grade II: Normally requires a half day for the technical portion; can be of any technical difficulty.

Grade III: Normally requires a full day for the technical portion; can be of any technical difficulty.

Grade IV: Expected to take one long hard day of technical climbing (longer on the first ascent); the hardest pitch is usually no less than 5.7.

Grade V: Expected to take an average one-and-a-half days; the hardest pitch is rarely less than 5.8. Grade VI: Usually takes two or more days; generally includes considerably difficult free climbing and/or aid climbing.

The times given do not especially apply to glacier/snow/ice climbs. The type of climb affects which factors are emphasized. It is important to study a route description to understand which factors make it the grade that it is.

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