The Nova Grading System

The Nova Grading System (NGS) is what I use to measure my climbs.

The system is a personal adaption of the Yosemite Grading System (YDS) that has been around since the 30s and was originally developed by The Sierra Club. More information about the system can be found here.

The NGS takes the basic system of the YDS but offers more tangible ways of determining the class of a pitch. The NGS does NOT attempt to change the values between the two systems, but merely offer a more finite way of determining the class of a pitch.

Class Description
1 Walking an established flat, easy trail. Hands are never required.

Summer: Usually a dirt trail, and usually well maintained. Sometimes paved.

Winter: Compact snow, or plowed trail. Sometimes paved. Well maintained.

2 Hiking a steep incline, scrambling. Hands might be used. Falls will cause injury.

Summer: A clear trail, well maintained. Rock or dirt. Larger boulders in the more Difficult sections.

Winter: A clear trail, well compacted. Snow and dirty snow. Larger boulders, moderate post-hole-ing

3 Technically more difficult than a class 2, and hands are almost always required. Falls will cause serious injury or may be fatal.

Summer: A loosely defined trail, usually with markers. Rock and dirt. Large boulders, and steep exposure.

Winter: Thick snow and difficult to find markers. Most routes are exploratory. Large boulders, and hard ice, or sever post-hole-ing based on location.

4 Technically more difficult than a class 3 usually due to exposure, route finding, exhaustion, or length of the pitch. Ropes are encouraged. Falls are usually fatal.

Summer: Difficult to find trail markers, and expert navigation needed. Steep cliffs, and gullies to scale. High potential of falling rock and rock slides. Possible fatal exposure.

Winter: Proper ice climbing, or snow ascending. Ropes and rope teams are required to prevent fatal falls. Avalanche danger is high. Ideal situations are hard ice with crampons.

5 The most technical route due to exposure. Ropes must be used in order to prevent fatal falls.

Summer: Rock climbing.

Winter: Ice climbing.

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