Climbing grades in the russian system

The classification

The Russian classification system is one of the oldest and also one of the few that takes into account the altitude of the mountains.

Basic qualification factors are:

  • The technical difficulties of the critical sections of the route and also their frequency.
  • The elevation of peak and the critical areas of the route regardless of the degree of difficulty.
  • The length of the route from the base camp to the summit.
  • The average slope of the route and/or traverse exposure.
  • The time required to climb the mountain following this route.

In addition of these there are other parameters for determining the degree of a route:

  • The exposure level.
  • The nature of the terrain.
  • The size, quantity and shape of cracks and other natural elements.
  • The clarity of the route.
  • If special climbing techniques are required.
  • If specific climbing equipment are needed.
  • The objective danger of the route.
  • The possibilities of external support in case of accident.

The grades

  • Grade I (easy) applies to slopes of snow or ice at angles of up to 30° with big rocks where only basic mountaineering equipment is used.
  • Grade II (simple) applies to slopes of snow or ice at angles of up to 30° with rocks that requires moderate climbing skills but where only basic mountaineering equipment is used.
  • Grade III (moderately difficult) applies to slopes of snow or ice at angles from 35° to 45° where there is steep rock with good and numerous grips that do not require artificial aids, the descent is done freely or by abseiling and the required equipment used is for mountaineering plus the normal climbing equipment.
  • Grade IV (difficult) applies to slopes of snow or ice at angles up to 55° with steep rock but suitable for free climbing, where progressing with a backpack is still possible but arduous, the descent is usually performed by abseiling and requires a complete mountaineering and rock climbing equipment.
  • Grade V (very difficul) applies to slopes of snow or ice with angles of more than 50° with steep rock and with a limited number of grips that often need artificial supports, difficult ridges that requires a complete mountaineering and rock climbing equipment.
  • Grade VI (exceptionally difficult) applies to slopes of snow or ice with angles of more than 50° with vertical or collapsed rocks and with few grips, exists cracks and other accidents that require assistance during the climbing and where maximum alpinistic capacity is needed.

The final degree of a route is defined on a scale of 1 to 6, with A and B subdivisions and is as follows:

  • Grade 1A applies to any type of climb that can not be considered nothing more than simple hiking, there is no lower limit of ascent in meters and no specific elevation is required to qualify for this degree.
  • Grade 1B applies to the easy ascent of a peak of between 2,000 and 5,000 meters on rocks or with sections of snow and ice or mixed terrain.
  • Grade 2A applies to the ascent of more than 500 meters of slope on a peak of between 2,000 and 6,000 meters or traverses up to this height on rocks with snow and ice with slopes of up to grade II and/or sections of snow and ice of up to 100 meters of grade II.
  • Grade 2B applies to the ascent of a peak of between 2,000 and 6,000 meters or traverses up to this height on rocks with snow and ice with short sections of grade III where some pythons must to be used to assurance the security under these conditions.
  • Grade 3A applies to the ascent of up to 600 meters of slope on a peak of between 2,500 and 6,500 meters or traverses up to this height on rocks with snow and ice with long passages of grade II.
  • Grade 3B applies to the ascent more than 600 metersof slope on a peak of between 2,500 and 6,500 meters or traverses up to this height on rocks with snow and ice with difficulties that can include fields of rocks of 20 to 30 meters and sections of snow and ice of 200 to 300 meters of grade III or short passages of grade IV.
  • Grade 4A applies to the ascent of more than 600 meters of slope on a peak of between 2,500 and 7,000 meters or traverses up to this height, the route would include fields of rocks of 20 to 50 meters or sections of snow and ice of 200 to 300 meters of grade IV, the duration of the route may be more than 8 hour and pythons are required for the assurance the security under these conditions, routes of this grade combine at least 5 routes of grade 3B or equivalent.
  • Grade 4B applies to the ascent of more than 600 meters of slope on a peak of between 2,500 and 7,000 meters or traverses up to this height, the route would include fields of rocks of 40 to 80 meters or sections of snow and ice of 300 to 400 meters of grade IV or short passages of grade V, the duration of the route can be more than 10 hours and requires the insertion of 8 to 10 pythons for the assurance the security under these conditions, routes of this grade combine at least 2 routes of grade 4A or equivalent.
  • Grade 5A applies to the ascent of more than 600 meters of slope on a peak of between 3,000 and 7,500 meters or traverses up to this height, the route would have long sections of rocks or sections of snow and ice from 300 to 400 meters of grade III or IV with some points of grade V, the duration of the route may be more than 15 hours and requires the insertion of 20 to 40 pythons for the assurance the security under these conditions, routes of this grade combine at least two routes of grade 4B and one route of grade 4A or equivalent.
  • Grade 5B applies to the ascent of more than 700 meters of slope on a peak of between 3,000 and 7,500 meters or traverses up to this height, the route would have long sections of grade III or IV with rock sections up to 50 meters or sections of snow and ice from 600 to 800 meters of grade V and short sections of grade VI, the duration of the route may be of more than 20 hours and requires the insertion of 30 to 50 pythons for the assurance the security under these conditions, routes of this grade combine at least 2 routes of grade 5A or equivalent.
  • Grade 6A applies to the ascent of more than 800 meters of slope on a peak of more than 3,600 meters or traverses of over this height with rocks or mixed terrain with sustained difficulties of grade IV or V and sections with lengths of 20 meters or more of grade VI, the duration of the route may be more than 50 hours and requires the insertion of 100 to 150 pythons for the assurance the security under these conditions, routes of this grade combine at least 3 routes of grade 5B or equivalent.
  • Grade 6B applies to the ascent of more than 1,000 meters of slope on a peak of more than 4,500 meters or traverses of over this height with rocks or mixed terrain with sustained difficulties of grade V and sections with lengths of 20 meters or more of grade VI, the duration of the route may be more than 48 hours and requires the insertion of 250 pythons or more for the assurance the security under these conditions. Usually this grade is reserved for the highest and most difficult peaks or desperate routes at lower peaks. The extremely hard routes in peaks below 4,500 meters can sometimes be graded with grade 6B.