Our Hiking Difficulty Scale is based on the classification of the Swiss Alpine Club. The scale goes from T1 to T6, whereas ‘T’ stands for trekking, and you may find a more detailed breakdown of the type of terrain involved and respective requirements in the chart bellow.
|T1 = Hiking||Hiking trail well cleared. Flat or slightly sloped terrain. If present, exposed areas are well equipped and secured. No risk of falling given normal conduct and regular circumstances.||None. Accessible even with sports shoes. Easy orientation, in general even without a map.|
|T2 = Mountain Hiking||A continuous hiking trail with balanced ascent. Terrain partially steep, possible risk of falling.||Some sure-footedness. Trekking shoes and basic orientation skills recommended.|
|T3 = Demanding Mountain Hiking||Hiking path not necessarily visible along the entire trail. Exposed passages may be secured with ropes and chains. Possible need to use hands for balance. Single exposed passages with risk of falling, scree, pathless grassy slopes and jagged rocks.||Sure-footedness is required. Good trekking shoes and advanced orientation skills recommended. Basic alpine experience.|
|T4 = Alpine Hiking||Hiking trail not necessarily marked and/or visible. The use of hands might be required for advancing in certain passages. Terrain quite exposed, precarious grassy acclivities, pathless steep scree and jagged rock sections, easy firn fields.||Familiarity with exposed terrain. Solid trekking shoes. Some experience in terrain assessment and good orientation skills. Alpine experience.|
|T5 = Demanding Alpine Hiking||Hiking often without trail. Single easy climbing sections. Exposed, demanding terrain, steep grassy acclivities and jagged rocks. Firn fields with risk of slipping.||Climbing boots. Reliable terrain assessment and very good orientation skills. Profound alpine experience. Basic skills in the use of ice axe and rope.|
|T6 = Difficult Alpine Hiking||Generally, hiking without a trail to follow. Climbing sections up to second grade. Terrain often very exposed, very precarious grassy and rocky slopes, glaciers with high risk of slipping and falling. Most often unmarked.||Excellent orientation skills. Advanced alpine experience and familiarity with the use of alpine equipment.|
Practical Application and Interpretation
Each mountain and alpine hiking tour must be evaluated under the assumption of good conditions, i.e. good weather and visibility, dry terrain, appropriate snow and firn cover, etc.
A serious misunderstanding, leading again and again to tricky situations, is the belief that hiking stops where the Alpine Climb Scale begins. In reality, an alpine hike in the upper range of the T5 and T6 difficulty is usually significantly more demanding than for example an ‘F’ rated Alpine Climb. A major difference, as compared to an easy Alpine Climb for example, is that in case of a T5 and T6 hike one can rarely or almost never use protective gear such as a rope or other equipment, meaning that the terrain must be perfectly mastered. Often this requires high technical as well as psychological skills. Typical examples are extremely steep grassy slopes, scree, pathless steep slopes with jagged rocks or very exposed ridges. Due to their different characteristics a typical Alpine Climb and a typical extreme hike can hardly be compared, but one can assume that a T6 hiking route requires a similar set of skills and experience as an Alpine Climb up to WS.