Hikers degree of difficulty guide – Bret Wirta

Bret Wirta

Bret Wirta

I love being outdoors on the Olympic Peninsula whether it’s a stroll on the Olympic Discovery Trail, wandering along the Dungeness Spit, hiking in the solitude along the Gray Wolf River Valley or toughing it out along the Bailey Range Traverse. I’ve bicycled, canoed, rafted and kayaked, but I’m no expert.

Since celebrating my 50th birthday, I don’t move as fast as I used to, but I’m still not afraid to head out the door for adventures big and small all along the Olympic Peninsula. Don’t worry if I can do it you can too!

Here’s the rating system in the ExploreOlympics.com stories. The class 1-5 rating and description has been commonly used for hiking here the US for years. I added the Class 0 designation because of the bicycling or walking that can be done on the wonderful Olympic Discovery Trail at all times of the year here on the Olympic Peninsula. No matter what time of year, always use extreme caution because the weather can change quickly in the Olympics. Thanks to http://www.14ers.com/classes.html for this information.

Walking Class 0 Walking or bicycling – Path may be paved

Hiking Class 1 Easy hiking – usually on a good trail.
Class 2 More difficult hiking that may be off-trail. You may also have to put your hands down occasionally to keep your balance. May include easy snow climbs or hiking on talus/scree.
Climbing Class 3 Scrambling or un-roped climbing. You must use your hands most of the time to hold the terrain or find your route. This may be caused by a combination of steepness and extreme terrain (large rocks or steep snow). Some Class 3 routes are better done with rope.
Class 4 Climbing. Rope is often used on Class 4 routes because falls can be fatal. The terrain is often steep and dangerous. Some routes can be done without rope because the terrain is stable.
Class 5 Technical climbing. The climbing involves the use of rope and belaying. Rock climbing is Class 5. Note: In the 1950s, the Class 5 portion of this ranking system was expanded to include a decimal at the end of the ranking to further define the difficulties of rock climbing. This is called the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS). The decimal notations range from 5.1 (easiest) to 5.14 (most difficult). Recently, the rankings of 5.10 through 5.14 were expanded to include an "a", "b",
"c" or "d" after the decimal (Example: 5.12a) to provide further details of the ranking. None of the routes described on 14ers.com are Class 5, so I will not go into detail of the expanded decimal system.

Keep in mind that Class 1 through Class 4 rankings are not very descriptive and do not have any further breakdowns like Class 5. Class 2 is very general and includes a wide range of hiking. At times, Class 2 routes may include dangerous terrain (exposure, loose rock, steep scree, etc.). Just because a route is ranked Class 2, does not mean it is safe or easy. The key to Class 3 is that you are almost always using your hands to move up through the steep terrain (snow or rock). In some cases, I may describe a route as “Difficult Class 2”, or “Easy Class 3” to provide more detail.

ExploreOlympics.com, its personnel, and all authors of articles that appear in exploreolympics.com accept no liability for accidents or injuries in connection with articles, trail or road reports published in exploreolympics.com. These articles provide general information of interest to hikers and would be hikers; readers are cautioned to supplement the articles with other sources of information when planning a hiking trip. Additionally, readers should be aware that reported conditions may change, that there may be errors in the articles, and that certain hazards are inherent in backcountry travel. Always carry essential equipment that will aide during emergencies and inclement weather.