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midwestern_alpine_hero

european alpine climbing grades

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Firstly, this is a class website, and the message below this one has helped me a lot already. Anyway I am heading to Rainier sometime over the summer, probably in June or July and midweek to avoid the crowds for sure.

I have never done Alpine climbing over here in the states but did some in the Dauphine Alps last summer and was wondering about the grading systems. Over there I trained and was guided on routes rated peu difficile and climbed several facile routes with my buddies.

How do the grades over here match up with european ones? One online reference indicates that the routes are classed in terms of how long it would take as opposed to how technically difficult they are, obviously length of time is extremely important also but I wish to get a better idea of what ability level is required for the grades.

The thread below gives suggestions for people with good experience who have never climbed at Rainier. How about some suggestions for beginners who haven't been to Rainier but who have about 1.5 weeks to spare. For us the ideal would be to be based somewhere with a few different easier routes and one or two at the next level in case things go well and the weather stays good. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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1) Find the bottom of the mountain.2) Climb to the top.3) Return to the bottom of the mountain.4) Don't get killed.

Isn't Alpine climbing fun?

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Disappointment Cleaver - PDLiberty Ridge - D

Or so I heard.

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Rainier is probably most similar to climbing Mt. Blanc without a "real" hut to stay in over night. Instead of taking the teleferique 1/2 way up, you drive to almost 7,000 feet if you use the Paradise parking lot. Persoanlly, I think that whole scene totally detracts from the climb unless you go when the tourists aren't there (but not June or July). I would suggest checking out the approach to Camp Sherman up the interglacier and then up the "corridor". That's the way I guided my 63 year old dad. Also, I suggest approach one day, hang in camp doing crevasse rescue stuff and self arrest practice and then go up and all the way down the 3rd day. This makes for an enjoyable mountain experience and you are far less likely to feel any effects of altitude. If things go well you are in the right area to try the liberty ridge, much more technical and you'll then already know the descent route!

If you are looking for more alp type "alpine" climbs, look beyond the volcanos. We have three Fred Becky books full of them or check out the two volumes of classics by Jim Nelson. You'll probably want to move here!

[ 03-28-2002: Message edited by: David Parker ]

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quote:

Originally posted by Dru:
Disappointment Cleaver - PDLiberty Ridge - D

Or so I heard.

And maybe you should think of doing some smaller, and/or, easier peaks (scrambles) before hitting Rainier? Like Cascadian Couloir on Stuart or Sulphide Gl on Shuksan, or something? why the Rainier fetish?

confused.gif" border="0

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Drive to almost 7,000 ft. David Parker? You must have one good off-road vehicle, because I usually only make it to Paradise, which is at about 5,500 ft.

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quote:

Originally posted by Dru:

why the Rainier fetish?


Because it's the one everyone knows, it's the highest in Washington and one to be proud of if you climb it. If I were from Chicago and coming to the NW for only 1-1/2 weeks, it would be on my list. Why do you think many of us climb it more than once. Yeah, if you live here there are other more remote mountains with cool routes, but Rainier is no mountain to diss. Kinda like going to the Tetons. Everyone wants to climb the Grand even though there are other great peaks. You and I might look beyond, but there's nothing wrong with wanting "the big one!" Good luck Chicago!

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quote:

Originally posted by Colin:
Drive to almost 7,000 ft. David Parker? You must have one good off-road vehicle, because I usually only make it to Paradise, which is at about 5,500 ft.

oops, I stand corrected. Thanks Colin! Is that why I got that ticket driving my 4-runner up the trail?

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Penis envy.

"I climbed Rainier." as if the ability to utter such a phrase somehow lengthens one's main member.

Additionally, as an East Coast transplant, I can say that knowledge of the true nature of the Cascades is not widely held. Rainier has notoriety, but even mentioning "Mt. Baker" would most likely get you some perplexed looks.

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Okay the comments are helpful, Rainier fetish or penis envy, its a place that is easy organise a trip to as there are tonnes of books about it, its close to Seattle, forums like this provide great info etc. and in the end its a big one alright.

Coming all the way from Chicago it would be hard to head to some little known climbing area without wasting valuable holiday time wandering around trying to find a place to park!

So send out the suggestions for other places that would provide good fun for a beginner, some cascade climbs would be cool also, I get the impression that Rainier is a long slog up snow, in france they have long, easy (french 4 and 5) mountain rock routes, any suggestions (up to 5.6 trad or 5.7 bolted) in the region? Which guide books would be best for me?

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quote:

Originally posted by midwestern alpine hero:
Okay the comments are helpful, Rainier fetish or penis envy, its a place that is easy organise a trip to as there are tonnes of books about it, its close to Seattle, forums like this provide great info etc. and in the end its a big one alright.

Coming all the way from Chicago it would be hard to head to some little known climbing area without wasting valuable holiday time wandering around trying to find a place to park!

So send out the suggestions for other places that would provide good fun for a beginner, some cascade climbs would be cool also, I get the impression that Rainier is a long slog up snow, in france they have long, easy (french 4 and 5) mountain rock routes, any suggestions (up to 5.6 trad or 5.7 bolted) in the region? Which guide books would be best for me?

Get the Nelson-Potterfield Cascade Classics guidebooks (Vol 1 and 2), there are loads of long easy alpine routes though not bolted ones wink.gif" border="0 You might want to consider the Liberty Bell area, easy access (1 hr hike from road)and lotsa moderates in the 5.4-5.8 range.

French 5 is up to 5.9 though, not 5.7.

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quote:

Originally posted by Rodchester:
DP:

"you drive to almost 7,000 feet" on Rainier.

Paradise is more like 5500 ft.

Thanks Rod, I'm a little hard of reading!

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quote:

Originally posted by David Parker:[QB]the approach to Camp Sherman [QB]

Camp Schurman dumb ass

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quote:

Originally posted by Dru:
Disappointment Cleaver - PDLiberty Ridge - D

I think the French "peu" means "more", hence "peu dificile" would mean "more difficult". Ergo, LR would be rated PD and DC would be rated D, don't U C? Actually, DC would be rated "facile", or "easy" by that rating system, but my French may be a little rusty, what with battling all those silly English Knnnnnnnniggits.

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"peu" means little or less.F = facile = easyPD = peu difficile = not very difficultAD = assez difficile = fairly difficultD = difficile = difficultED = extremement difficile = extremely difficult

[ 03-29-2002: Message edited by: philfort ]

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translation, for those who might care:

F-facile = easyPD-peu difficile = not too difficultAD-assez difficile = rather difficultD-difficile = difficultTD-tres difficile = very difficultED-extremement difficile = extremely difficult

and even after using it extensively, that euro system makes no sense to me. there are other condsiderations than technical difficulty, and it gets a lot of people into trouble. the ever-popular cosmiques arete on the midi is rated PD+, but involves some very exposed mixed climbing that in some conditions will challenge experienced climbers. people die on it all the time because of that rating. the petite aiguille verte, although short, has exposed mixed terrain that no beginner needs to be negotiating, but it is rated only F+ because its two minutes from a lift station. then a route like the north face of la tour ronde gets a D rating because its kinda committing, but its just a long, 50 degree snow and ice slope. so chicago, my advice is to check out a route, evaluate the difficulties for yourself (you know better than any rating system what your abilities are) and then decide. best of luck!

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Sounds like you just exactly described an commitment grading system, which is what it is used for I think? I dunno, the only place I've seen it used here is in the BC Alpine Select guide, where it's used mainly as a commitment indicator, and paired with a separate technical grade.

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philfort,

yeah, i like the system in that book too - it combines two systems that in combination give a pretty good indication of what can be expected. but i think the idea in france is that the rating AD,D,etc is supposed to be all inclusive, a reflection of commitment and technical difficulty. they only start evaluating specific technical difficulty at routes around TD and up or on alpine rock routes where of course there is usually a topo. basically, i think for the beginning/intermediate climber, who will not be getting on TD's, that french scale leaves a lot to be questioned.

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Originally posted by philfort:"peu" means little or less.F = facile = easyPD = peu difficile = not very difficultAD = assez difficile = fairly difficultD = difficile = difficultED = extremement difficile = extremely difficult

No man stands taller than one who stands corrected. William Saffire

My French sucks, i was really going on my Italian, where "po" means less, and "piu" means more. To me, p-e-u looked closer to p-i-u than it did to p-o, and i now pay the price.

I humbly stand corrected before Dru, philfort, and todd. Please forgive me my transgressions, state my penance, and allow me to once again [big Drink]

[ 03-29-2002: Message edited by: sobo ]

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quote:

Originally posted by sobo:
Originally posted by philfort:[qb]"peu" means little or less.F = facile = easyPD = peu difficile = not very difficultAD = assez difficile = fairly difficultD = difficile = difficultED = extremement difficile = extremely difficult

No man stands taller than one who stands corrected.
William Saffire

I humbly stand corrected before Dru, philfort, and todd. Please forgive me my transgressions, state my penance, and allow me to once again
[big Drink]

[ 03-29-2002: Message edited by: sobo ][/QB]

Sobo, I too stand corrected in this thread so we should all [big Drink] together! Except I don't care to invite iammo for calling be a dumb ass for misspelling camp squirmin.

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Midwestern, Rainier is a great trip, although you'll hit big crowds that time of year. If you're looking for a londer alping route you should do the West Ridge of Mt Stuart, it's a great route on great rock and the camping in the area is beautiful, Ingalls Lake etc. There are countless others but this one is a larger mountain for washington and it is a fairly serious undertaking as far as time committment on the route and routefinding goes, for a newcomer that is. Have fun. Consider Mt. Baker too, further north, a truly beautiful volcano without Rainiers crowds! If you're sticking with Rainier though and you don't want crowds hit the west side of the park, you said you had a week, plenty of time.

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patience please: this is a long post...

alpine grades, eh? interesting this came up: together with kevin mclane for SW BC alpine select and dave jones for the selkirks, i am at work on a guide, the waddington guide (out before this summer, honest!). all of these guides cover primarily glaciated alpine terrain, similar to much of the cascades and especially the western alps, but very dis-similar to most american mtns - the sierras and even the tetons are pretty "dry" places.

when we started to apply grades, we came to the conclusion that the north american system of NCCS overall grade (I to IV) plus the YDS technical grade (5.9 A2, etc) was not adequate for mtn situations. the system works well for rock climbs, even alpine rockclimbs, but the NCCS grade has degenerated pretty much into strictly an indication of time (IV=very long day, etc).

the stuff that really counts in the mtns is much harder to capture in a grade: remoteness, looseness, route finding, difficulty of escape and/or retreat, altitude and height gain, the glacier and ice involved, objective hazard, etc. the alpine grades as used in the valais alps and mont blanc range attempt to "sum up" a combination of ALL these factors, plus consideration of technical difficult, to describe the overall "engagement" or "commitment" for the route.

this grade (AD, etc) is used in combination with YDS technical grades, just as it is in europe - you don't see AGs without an accompanying UIAA difficulty grade (V+ = roughly 5.8, etc) - in fact, good guides grade each pitch and/or section. angle and length of ice climbing is also included (350m ice to 53 degrees, etc). most euro guides also give average times to be expected for the route, in hours. plus height gain in meters. plus approach ht gain and time. they are super-detailed and superb at passing on "factual" info which a climber can then use to judge whether a route is for him or her, or not.

what u get, then, is a view of technical difficulty on rock and ice plus an indication of "how far am i pushing the boat out on this?" that felt exactly right for the selkirks and waddington range, and "fit" OK for most of SW BC, although some of the peaks here are low enough they are essentially alpine rockclimbs.

it'll take time for north american climbers to get in tune with this grading system, for it to start to make sense. like any grading system, it is comparative, not absolute, so there will always be disagreements about this grade or that grade, but in the end concensus prevails, just as with rock or ice technical grades today - just more fuel for the bar-room debates!

i hope you "consumers" of guidebooks find the alpine grades useful - that's the intention, to build a system that "works" better for mountaineers than the current system. the euros have been doing this a lot longer than we have, and while north americans have a sensible "language" for communicating with each other about technical difficulty on rock and/or ice, we don't think we've yet found the right "lexicon" for doing the same for the mtns. hopefully, the alpine grades are that "language".

cheers, don

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