Trip Grades and Classification

The grades are our own definitions and should not be interpreted in a literal sense. Please call us for friendly and well-informed advice.

Access-Himalaya adventure travel treks and trips are, by definition, adventurous. We have awarded grades to our treks according to our observations over the years as regards clients' average ability and stamina, although it should be borne in mind that what might indeed be described as Moderate at the age of 30 might be a little less so as the 70s approach! Clients need to understand their own strengths and weaknesses, and address these honestly if they are to get the most out of any trek. All treks will be easy sometimes, yet may also be challenging at other times, even though perhaps for just an hour or two: the Himalayas are a unique range of mountains - the highest in the world - and there is no such thing as 'flat' terrain as defined elsewhere, even in the foothills! If you are particularly interested in any trek, and are wondering about your own ability to cope with its demands, please get in touch and we will be happy to discuss the matter with you.

Walking and Trekkign Grades

Gentle Trek :
Typically up to about a week’s trekking, or series of day walks. Around 4 to 6 hours walking per day, on average, at low altitudes, in areas of cultural interest and with opportunities for interaction with local people. Really flat paths are unusual in the Himalayas, and walks normally involve a reasonable amount of ascent and descent. Suitable for anyone who enjoys long weekend hill walks at home, carrying only light day sacs. Gentle treks may be teahouse or camping, and are eminently suitable for those wishing to experience the magnificence of the Himalayas without too much strain.
Moderate Trek :
Usually 7 to 14 days’ trekking with the occasional 6 to 8 hour day in more remote country, at relatively low altitudes, sometimes crossing easy mountain tops of no more  than 4300 metres.Keen hill walkers should be comfortable with this grade, which involves a fair amount of ascending and descending, and sometimes a relatively difficult day.
Challenging Trek :
Normally 14 to 21days’ trekking with up to 7 days consecutive walking, through significantly more demanding terrain and sometimes crossing high, and occasionally snow-covered, passes of up to 5000 metres. Easy walking peaks and glacier travel may be involved, with days of 7 to 8 hours walking and considerable ascents and descents. This grade is suitable for the fit enthusiast.
Vigorous Trek :
Anything from 14 to 30 days’ trekking, and aimed at the fit, experienced enthusiast. Sometimes more than 7 days consecutive walking but with rest days interspersed, and at least one challenging high pass crossing over 5000m. Generally more demanding than the previous grade, together with the possibility of scrambling and glacier travel, and sometimes of optional trekking peaks, thereby justifying the Vigorous grade. Some camping above the snowline; crampons, safety ropes and ice axes may be needed, so experience of these is essential.

River Grades and Classification

International River Classification :
Important notice; One of the problems of international classification is that the majority of white water is class 3 and 4, and in fact there is a vast difference between an easy grade IV and a hard one. Therefore we try to indicate the difference through the use of + and – signs, i.e. Classes I, II, III, III+, IV-. IV, IV+, V-, V and VI. , e.g. River graded as Class IV- means that although there may be long sections of lower difficulty, to raft safely it is necessary to be capable of handling Class IV proper.
Rafting Class I (Easy): Waves small; passages clear; no serious obstacles. (Please see Rafting introduction for further clarification)
Rafting Class II (Medium): Rapids of moderate difficulty with passages clear. Requires experience plus suitable outfit and boat. (Please see Rafting introduction for further clarification)

Rafting Class III (Difficult): Waves numerous, high, irregular; rocks; eddies; rapids with passages clear though narrow, requiring expertise in manoeuvring; scouting usually needed. Requires good operator and boat. (Please see Rafting introduction for further clarification)

Rafting Class IV (Very Difficult): Long rapids; waves high, irregular; dangerous rocks; boiling eddies; best passages difficult to scout; scouting mandatory first time; powerful and precise manoeuvring required. Demands expert boatman and excellent boat and good quality equipment. (Please see Rafting introduction for further clarification)

Rafting Class V (Extremely Difficult): Exceedingly difficult, long and violent rapids, following each other almost without interruption; riverbed extremely obstructed; big drops; violent current; very steep gradient; close study essential but often difficult. Requires best person, boat, and outfit suited to the situation. All possible precautions must be taken as rescue very difficult or impossible. We do not normally offer rafting on this grade of river. (Please see Rafting introduction for further clarification)

Rafting Class VI (Unraftable): This grade of river is pushing towards or beyond the extremes of navigability. (Please see Rafting introduction for further clarification)

Climbing Grades

Himalayan climbs do not easily fit into normal grading systems because the major difficulties are often not so much technical as those associated with acclimatization:  high altitude and/or large vertical intervals (the difference in height between base camp and the summit). That said, it has become most common to use the French Alpine Grading system.

Grade F: Easy scree or gentle snow or short slopes up to 30 degrees

Grade PD: Scrambling ground, slopes maybe 40 degrees

Grade AD: Some pitched climbing on rock, snow/ice 45-50 degrees

Grade D: Sustained pitched climbing on rock, ice up to 50-60 degrees

Grade TD: Serious technical climbing, vertical ice

Grade ED1: Expect sustained vertical or overhanging sections

Grade ED2: The ED series is open ended, and gets harder with each generation

Bike Tours Grading

Easy-Going Biking:
If you can ride a bike and enjoy gentle exercise, then our Easy-going rides are a fine introduction to a biking holiday in the Himalayas. There is little that is flat, so far as routes go, in this terrain, so short climbs and descents are inevitable. Daily height gain is approximately 250m, maximum, and the route will rarely be longer than 50km (32miles), unless previously arranged.
Moderate Biking:
People who enjoy occasional, weekend rides at home should find a moderate bike ride ideal. Reasonable fitness and good health are pre-requisites for this grade of ride, which is ideal for regular weekend riders. Riders of high fitness levels would find Moderate rides very relaxing. No previous off-road experience is needed, and distances covered rarely exceed 70km \43 miles) per day.
Ambitious Biking:
As its title implies, this grade of bike ride requires a high level of fitness, and complete confidence in your own physical capability, and competence. Robustness is important for any rides at this level, as they are equivalent to extended periods of hard cycling at home. Experience of riding mountain bikes is essential for ambitious off-road trips, as some technical riding will be involved.
Rugged Booking:
Previous experience of rough surfaces and challenging cycling styles is crucial as the Rugged routes involve extended cycling days and challenging terrain on all trips, whether on- or off-road. Technical ability is required, as is complete confidence in your personal fitness, in order to cope with steep and/or challenging terrain, irregular surfaces and lengthy routes. Ideal for those who wish to stretch themselves to the limit!
Off-Road Biking:
Dirt roads, paths and trails combine in off road itineraries. Surfaces can be hard-packed and smooth, or steep, rocky, rutted and loose – most are in hilly or mountainous terrain. Some vehicle-width tracks exist, but single-track riding, where possible, is our aim for most of the trips. For Ambitious rides, and above, off-road experience is essential.
Activity level:
If you really want to push yourself, we can provide the challenge, but
most of our cycling holidays are exactly that – holidays. Occasionally we consider that a cycle trip falls somewhere between two grade levels, in which case we will grade them Moderate/Ambitious, Easygoing/Moderate, etc. If in doubt, please get in touch with us for clarification.
Vehicle support:
Most of our cycling trips are accompanied by vehicle support. Vehicles carry tools and spares, refreshments, your luggage and even, occasionally, yourself! Where there is a high level of vehicle support you may confidently book a certain grade in the knowledge that back-up is on hand should you become over-tired. This also means that couples or friends of different fitness levels can still enjoy the same trip together