The grading scale

Each trail or route is rated on a scale from 1 - 6 (with 1 being a relatively easy hike and 6 being a strenuous climb). Class 5 is highly subdivided to include all possible free climbing environments; it's what you imagine rock climbing to be.

  • Class 1 is characterized by trail hiking. Just a walk in the woods. No rocks involved. Boring.

  • Class 2 trails may require the use of hands for support. A couple of rocks but still no climbing.

  • Class 3 trails contain some rocks. Inexperienced climbers may wish to use a rope, but it's still fairly easy.

  • Class 4 has more difficult rocks. Many climbers choose to use a rope for safety. Usually, natural protection is easy to find.

  • Class 5 is free climbing. A rope and protection are required. Class 5 is subdivided by the Yosemite Decimal System into fifteen groups from 5.0 to 5.14. Beyond this division, decimals from 5.10 through 5.14 may have an A, B, C or a + or - to further indicate difficulty level. A general guide for the decimal system is as follows:

    • 5.0-5.7: This range is easy for adept climbers. Most beginners start in this range.
    • 5.8-5.9: Most weekend climbers settle in this range. Specific climbing skills are employed.
    • 5.10: A dedicated weekend warrior may achieve this level.
    • 5.11-5.14: This range is for climbing experts. Extensive training and possible reworking of the route is required.
    • Class 6 is characterized by artificial (Aid) climbing. Holds may not be available without the use of equipment.

    The grading scales vary greatly from country to country. Many guidebooks will have a conversion table for your convenience.

    Choose a location

    Wonderful rock climbing locations abound across the country. Contact the location nearest you to find what they offer:

    New Hampshire (The White Mountains)

    • Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing School, Main St., North Conway, NH 03860 (603) 356-5433
    • IMCS, Inc., P.O. Box 1666, North Conway, NH 03860 (603) 356-7064

    New York (The Adirondacks)

    • Alpine Adventures, Inc., Route 73, P.O. Box 179, Keene, NY 12942 (518) 576-9881
    • Diamond Sport, 3 Crispell Lane, New Paltz, NY 12561 (800) 776-2577 (914) 255-4085
    • High Angle Adventures, Inc., 5 River Rd., New Paltz, NY 12561 (800) 777-CLIMB (914) 658-9811
    • Zen Mountain Monastery, P.O. Box 156MR, South Plank Rd., Mt. Tremper, NY 12457 (914) 688-7993

    West Virginia (The Appalachians)

    • Seneca Rocks Climbing School, Inc., P.O. Box 53, Seneca Rocks, WV 26884 (304) 567-2600
    • Hard Rock Climbing Services, 131 S. Court St., P.O. Box 398, Fayetteville, WV 25840 (304) 574-0735


    • Devil's Lake Outdoor Training Center, P.O. Box 44156, Madison, WI 53744 (800) 33CLIMB

    Wyoming (The Tetons)

    • Exum Mountain Guides, Grand Teton National Park, Box 56, Moose, WY 83012 (307) 733-2297
    • Jackson Hole Mountain Guides, Box 7477, Jackson, WY 83001 (307) 733-4979

    South Dakota

    • Sylvan Rocks Climbing School and Guide Service, Box 600, Hill City, SD 57745 (605) 574-2425


    • Fantasy Ride Mountain Guides, P.O. Box 1679, Telluride, CO 81435 (303) 728-3546
    • SouthWest Adventures, P.O. Box 3242, 780 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81302 (303) 259-0370


    • Tower Guides, P.O. Box 3231, Grand Junction, CO 81502 (303) 245-6992


    • Wilderness Connection, P.O. Box 29, Joshua Tree, CA 92252-0029 (619) 3664745
    • Vertical Adventures, P.O. Box 6548, Newport Beach, CA 92658 (714) 854-6250
    • Yosemite Mountaineering School and Guide Service, Yosemite National Park, Yosemite, CA 95389 (209) 372-1244
    • Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides, P.O. Box 301, Bass Lake, CA 93604 (415) 309-3153 Shasta Mountain Guides, 1938 Hill Rd., Mt. Shasta, CA 96067 (916) 926-3117


    • American Alpine Institute, 1515 12th St., Bellingham, WA 98225 (206) 671-1505

    You can find other suggested climbing locales at Gorp.com and GreatOutdoors.com.

    Enroll in a course

    You are not Spiderman. Thusly, you can not climb a rock without good professional instruction. Call your local rock-climbing center to see what is offered in your area. Classes will vary based on:

    • Length
    • Difficulty levels
    • Price
    • Indoors only vs. traveling to an outdoor practice site
    • Size of class (you may even hire a private instructor)
    • If equipment and shoe rentals are covered

    So do some investigative work and call around. Look in the Yellow Pages. Your local sporting goods store may be able to recommend some instruction facilities too. One last way to find a course is to find a climbing gym in your area using these climbing sites: