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RUSSIAN GRADING SYSTEM OF CLIMBING ROUTES

The basic factors determining grading are:
- the technical difficulties of the crucial sections of the route, and their frequency;
- height of the peak and height of the critical areas of the route independent of their grade of difficulty;
- length of the route from the starting bivouac;
- average steepness of the route;
- time required to climb the route by a suitably matched party.

Apart from these basic factors, there are further elements which play a part in determining a route's grade of difficulty: exposure; nature of the terrain; size, quantity and shape of holds, cracks, stances; clarity of the route line; climbing techniques required; application of specific aids; objective danger; support possibilities; most rational, least dangerous and most practicable method of descent.

The main technical grades are as follows:
I (easy) - broad scree or snow ridges, broken rock ridges or snow/ice slopes at angles of up to 30°. Basic alpine equipment only.
II (simple) - snow and ice sections at an angle of up to 30° and rocks requiring moderate climbing skills. Basic alpine equipment only.
III (moderately difficult) - snow and ice sections at an angle of 35°-45°. Steep rock features with good and numerous holds, not requiring artificial aids - descent of such passages being done by free climbing or abseiling. Basic alpine equipment only, plus normal rock climbing gear.
IV (difficult) - with steep rock sections suitable for free climbing. Snow and ice slopes up to an angle of 55°. Climbing with a rucksack is still possible but arduous. Descent of difficulties is usually by abseil. Full alpine and rock equipment required.
V (very difficult) - steep rock with a limited number of holds often needing artificial aids. Snow and ice slopes of more than 50° and difficult corniced ridges. Full alpine and rock equipment required.
VI (exceptionally difficult) - vertical and overhanging rocks or with few holds, cracks, stances etc. requiring mainly aid climbing. Hard mixed climbing or steep ice pitches. Maximum alpine ability required.

The overall grade of a route is defined within a scale of 1 to 6, with subdivisions A and B, as follows:
Grade 1B - easy ascent of a peak between 2000-5000 m over rocks, with sections of snow and ice or mixed ground.
Grade 2A - ascent of more than 500 m on a peak between 2000-6000 m or traverses at this height on rocks, snow or ice with rock pitches of up to II, and/or snow and ice sections of up to 100 m of II.
Grade 2B - ascent of a peak between 2000-6000 m or traverses at this height on rock, snow and ice with short sections of grade III rock or ice. Some pitons for belaying.
Grade 3A - ascent of a peak between 2500-6500 m or traverses at this height on rock, snow and ice. Route length up to 600 m with long passages of II on rock and ice.
Grade 3B - ascent (600 m or longer) on a peak between 2500-6500 m or traverses at this height on rock, snow and ice. Difficulties might include rock pitches of 20-30 m or more and snow and ice sections of 200-300 m of difficulty III, or shorter passages of IV.
Grade 4A - ascent (at least 600 m) on a peak between 2500-7000 m or traverses at this height. The route would include 20-50 m rock pitches of IV, or snow and ice sections of 200-300 m or more of IV. The route might take 6-8 hours or more and require pitons belays. Traverses of this grade would combine at least 5 routes of Grade 3B or combinations equivalent to this.
Grade 4B - ascent (at least 600 m) on a peak between 2500-7000 m or traverses at this height with rock sections of 40-80 m of IV, or short passages of V, and snow and ice sections of 300-400 m or more of IV. The route would normally take 8-10 hours or more and require the insertion of 8-10 pitons or more for belaying. Traverses would include at least 2 routes of Grade 4A.
Grade 5A - ascent (at least 600 m) on a peak between 3000-7500 m or traverses at this height. The route would have long rock sections of III-IV with some pitches of V, or snow and ice sections of 300-400 m or more of V. The route could take 10-15 hours or more and would require the insertion of 20-40 pitons or more for belaying. Traverses combine at least two routes of Grade 4B and 1 route of Grade 4A.
Grade 5B - ascent (at least 700 m) on a peak between 3000-7500 m or traverses at this height. The route would have long sections of III-IV with pitches of up to 50 m of V and short sections of VI, or snow and ice sections of 600-800 m or more of V. The route would take 15-20 hours and require the insertion of 30-50 pitons or more for belaying. Traverses combine at least 2 routes of Grade 5A.
Grade 6A - ascent (at least 800 m) on a peak over 3600 m or traverses at this height on rocks or mixed ground. Sustained difficulty with an average grade of IV-V and pitches of 20 m or more of VI. The route would take 40-50 hours and require the insertion of 100-150 pitons or more for belaying. Traverses combine at least 3 routes of Grade 5B.

APPROXIMATE COMPARISON OF ROUTE GRADES

Russian Grade Alpine Grade UIAA Grade
1B ~ F / PD- ~ I / II
2A ~ PD ~ II
2B ~ PD+ ~ II / III
3A ~ AD ~ III
3B ~ AD+ / D- ~ III / IV
4A ~ D ~ IV
4B ~ D+ / TD- ~ IV / V
5A ~ TD / ED- ~ V
5B ~ TD+ / ED ~ V / VI
6A ~ ED / ED+ ~ VI

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