How to Read and Understand Rock Climbing Ratings


There’s no way to pinpoint who first started rock climbing. Historians say 18th-century shepherds had to acquire the skills we associate with modern free-climbing to follow their surefooted goats and sheep into rocky terrain; still others say men climbing rocks appear on Chinese watercolor paintings dating back to 400 B.C.

Maybe that’s why each country has developed its own system for rating the difficulty of a route. Determining this rating is difficult in itself, considering all the nuances of each climb.

Photo: Zakirov Aleksey/Shutterstock

Routes are rated by the hardest move on the climb (the “crux”). In the U.S., the Yosemite Decimal Rating System is the most commonly used rating. Here’s what you should know:

Class 1: Walking on an easy, clear, flat trail.

Class 2: Hiking at a steep incline, maybe using hands for balance and…

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