I have thought of a system that may be able to reduce the number of MR callouts that are the result of inexperienced walkers biting off more than they can chew.
While some walking guides use a loose form of grading system for their walks, they are massively subjective, often have no relevance outside the scope of the guide, and are not widely adopted. This has in some cases led to walkers being misled by the perceived difficulty of a walk. For example, many describe the ascent of Ben Nevis via the CMD Arete as a walk, yet as such it is one of the most difficult walks in the British Isles and is a trap for the unwary.
The obvious solution is to introduce a universally-accepted grading system, unified with the scrambling grades. This way everyone, from the most seasoned mountaineer to a complete beginner, will have a clear idea of where a particular route fits in the grand scheme of things.
Here is my proposed system:
Class D : easy walks on obvious paths, length not over five miles, to a summit of height no more than 500m.
Class C : similar to D, but possibly involving an easy ridge walk with a longer total distance and a total height of up to 700m. Paths may not be as good.
Class B : routes of up to 12 miles on rough terrain, some of which will be off-path and may feature some scrambling. Summits may be up to 900m in height.
Class A : walks of any length on very rough terrain up to the maximum possible height in this country, possibly entirely off-path and featuring challenging navigation.
Class B and A walks may feature graded scrambles. For example, the Bochlwyd Horseshoe would be graded A(1), as would the Snowdon Horseshoe. The ascent of Tower Ridge would be A(4). Coniston Old Man via Brim Fell Slabs would be B(2).
I think this system, if adopted, has the potential to create better awareness among the walking community of the objective dangers of any walk they might want to attempt. I think it's astonishing that walks have so far escaped a unified grading system when both scrambling and rock climbing have had established grading schemes for years.
Before you go too far seeking to minimise the MRTs' work picking up inexperienced folk, have you asked them if they actually mind doing it?
I can't speak for the MRTs, not being in one, but I do know a few folk that are and I can't really see them wanting anything like you've proposed. They seem to me to like the outdoors at least in part for the freedom and ability to do as one pleases.
Might be some mileage in this although I would say that any grading system is going to be very subjective and the problem with walking is that there are just too many variables to make any grading system foolproof.
As some of you may know, I am a keen caver and have been for more than 20 years. Caves are "graded" from 1 to 5 with 5 being the most severe. Even with the fact that caving requires a minimum of mental and physical fitness, the grading system leaves a lot to be desired. At 53 years of age, I have taken grade 5+ trips in my stride and wondered what the fuss was all about. I have at other times done grade 2 trips and struggled to get out of the cave at the end of the trip.
At least though, with a far more restricted ability baseline, the grading is reasonably accurate.
We don't get as many disabled, elderly or very young people caving as there are walking so where would you set your baseline on walking ability which would have a great baring on the grades?
I know of some 60+ year old walkers who would put people half their age to shame, so how would you arrive at the correct criteria?
These "inexperienced walkers" for whose benefit we are proposing a grading system are the ones who go into the hills in completely unsuitable clothing, without map/compass or the knowledge to use them anyway, and get into trouble or get back safely in spite of their massive ignorance.
What makes you think they would understand or even spot the existence of a grading system?
"These "inexperienced walkers" for whose benefit we are proposing a grading system are the ones who go into the hills in completely unsuitable clothing, without map/compass or the knowledge to use them anyway, and get into trouble or get back safely in spite of their massive ignorance."
I think it's pretty obvious that walkers that inexperienced need educating, or at least a friendly reminder when we bump into them that they are putting themselves in danger, and potentially wasting resources if their inexperience results in an unnecessary callout.
A unified grading system is only half the battle really.
Alex Roddie wrote (see)
I'm sorry Alex, but I don't agree. I think a grading system is a complete irrelevance.
Alex, why don't you depart with your debate to the toilet of outdoor forums, UKC?
You know, where all the pricks hang out. Leave this place for us ramblers, you elitist swine.
In the case of cave grading, the grading is more than just an "information" system. Most of the most "severe" caves in the UK have restricted access anyway, so "inexperienced" cavers (novices) would be unable to gain access anyway, and experienced cavers like me would be idiotic to take novices in places where the grades would suggest otherwise. Therefore the grading system at least has a meaning and would be followed.
It is probably true of scrambling and climbing too. Not many "novices" would take up either discipline without experienced persons to lead them, in which case a grading system makes perfect sense.
One final though, who would be responsible for the "standardisation" of grading and how would they arrive at a consensus given the very broad baselines and variables to overcome?
Frum, I wear my red socks with pride.
And on the subject of grading walks which is harder, the Coast to coast or the west highland way?
Dammit, we've been busted!
The point was made though, I think!
(In all seriousness, I think grading walks is a ridiculous idea, but this highlights the fact that scrambling grades are at best spurious, as are climbing grades in many instances.)
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