Over the past month, I’ve had conversations, and exchanged emails, with many club members about the rating system we use to classify the trips on the club’s schedule. That’s the number you see beside the trip name on the schedule, and in the level of difficulty in the trip details (e.g. B1p2, C3p3). Many members are only looking at the first number, and using that to rate the trip, but this is a mistake.
The rating has three components: time/elevation gain, terrain, and pace (you can read the individual descriptions here). Once you are familiar with the rating system, and have completed a few hikes, it’s easy to identify your own number – the rating you are comfortable hiking. Then you can scan the schedule for trips tailored to your needs, and skip the ones that are outside your comfort zone. But how do you get familiar with the rating system?
Although each of the components is easy to understand on its own, understanding the dynamic relationship between the time/elevation gain (A – D) and the Pace (p1-p4) can be complicated. The combination of the two creates a fourth, unwritten component: intensity. It’s highly probable that a short, intense trip may be too strenuous for some members, while a longer trip at a slower pace is easily attainable.
I’ll use a trip from our Fall schedule as an example: the Forbidden Plateau Traverse. This trip is about 25km in length, and gains about 800 metres of elevation across the route. When deciding what to label the trip’s time/elevation gain, the pace needs to be considered. If the trip is posted as a p2, there will be many breaks throughout the day, and the hike will take longer, making the trip rating C2p2. However, if the trip is posted as a p3, the trip will be much faster, and be posted as a B2p3.
A question that arises often is whether the extra time make the trip tougher. A lot of factors come into play to answer that question, but ultimately, individual members must determine that answer for themselves.
Try out a few trips, and learn what your personal number is. It will make reading the schedule easier, and you’ll be more confident choosing trips in the future!
Sample Terrain Types: