Alternative HST "Cross-country Pass/Route" Rating System

Member descriptions, photos, and map locations of Cross Country Passes in the High Sierra. This forum is for information only - discussions should be kept in the appropriate categories.
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oleander
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Re: Alternative HST "Cross-country Pass/Route" Rating System

Post by oleander » Fri Oct 31, 2014 10:37 pm

I like Mav's proposed rating system.

Here's why. 75% of the off-trail passes I'm considering doing in a given area of the Sierra are going to be rated (by Secor or by our community) as Class 2. The problem is that there is WAY TOO WIDE a variation in difficulty and danger between and among various Class 2 passes. To the point where a Class 2 designation is nearly meaningless!

I want it to be further broken down.

Think about it. You see that a pass is rated Class 2-2. If you don't like "loose" - and I sure don't - that shorthand allows me to immediately zone in on which passes to research with extra attention or to reconsider entirely, before I even include them in my planned route. Some examples of notoriously loose Class 2 passes that would definitely qualify as 2-2 regardless of current conditions/presence of snow, etc.:

Snow Tongue Pass,
Ritter Pass,
Kaweah Pass

Frankly, I'd see the Class 2-2 designation and I'd know to re-plan using a different pass. I just don't want to do very loose Class 2 with a full pack, or only rarely and with great care.

Likewise, the breakdown of Class 3-1 vs. Class 3-2 is instantly useful shorthand. Personally, I won't do a Class 3-2 pass with a full pack. I see the Class 3-2 designation and I can just cross it off from consideration. Boom. That just saved me a lot of work.

Here's another public benefit: Safety. Caution. I think the breakdown will discourage not a few people from taking on passes that are actually above their pay grade. "It's just a Class 2; how hard could it be?" - says a relative newbie to cross-country travel, about to do Kaweah Pass. Whereas if that same person manages to see the 2-2 rating, perhaps that alone will be enough to make him/her pause and reconsider.

Forcing a rating does not preclude one from also inserting detailed narration, the kind that helps us understand what the pass really looks like. We don't have to choose between the one and the other. Let's have the narratives AND the better rating system.

- Elizabeth








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sparky
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Re: Alternative HST "Cross-country Pass/Route" Rating System

Post by sparky » Sat Nov 01, 2014 1:05 am

I like the idea of PG, R, X, where it is needed, especially when it comes to traction.

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rlown
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Re: Alternative HST "Cross-country Pass/Route" Rating System

Post by rlown » Sun Nov 02, 2014 8:02 pm

Let's have the narratives AND the better rating system
Let's start with better narratives first on pass/col descriptions. Rate sections as appropriate, as it changes as mentioned a myriad of times.

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sekihiker
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Re: Alternative HST "Cross-country Pass/Route" Rating System

Post by sekihiker » Thu Nov 06, 2014 10:58 am

I think personal fitness is not considered enough when dealing with rating systems. I remember descending, with ease, the north face of Mount Brewer with a full pack, a prospect that terrifies me when I consider it today.

A couple of decades ago, I wrote this "tongue in cheek" take on the rating issue.

The most common system for rating the difficulty of crossing terrain is the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS). I propose an alternate system because it does not seem that there are enough divisions at the lower levels of the YDS. There are five levels of difficulty in my system, Bill's Terrain Rating System (BTRS), that can be used as alternatives for YDS classes 1, 2 and easy 3. When finished crossing B-1 terrain, you don't think at all about its difficulty. After a B-2 ascent or descent, you think about how hard you are breathing. A B-3 crossing will cause you to think about how hard your heart is pounding. During and after a B-4 passage, you will notice how bad your armpits smell. The criterion for determining B-5 terrain is to check the wrappers on the candy in your pocket. If the twists at the ends of the wrappers are puckered especially tightly, then you definitely are talking B-5. If you aren't carrying any wrapped candy, to confirm crossing of B-5 terrain just inspect your shorts instead.

I discussed the above with my wife, who insightfully pointed out that my rating system is based on physiological responses to crossings. Thus, the rating will vary from person to person depending on fitness level, experience, and other factors.

I guess that's the problem with all rating systems. I have crossed some terrain rated YDS Class 3 where I never used my hands or even broke a sweat. Some class 2 crossings I rate as "Never again!"

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Wandering Daisy
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Re: Alternative HST "Cross-country Pass/Route" Rating System

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sat Jan 17, 2015 9:28 am

Here is a novel idea. Do your homework. There is a lot of information out there. The SPS has write-ups of all their trips with a lot of extra discussions. Any rating system will be subjective, change under different conditions, and the physical difficulty can often be mitigated by simply slowing down. Another novel idea - if you get to a pass that is over your head, simply turn around and find a detour.

As some know, I have written an off-trail guidebook for the Wind Rivers. I present route segments, each with a rating. Trails are broken into A,B and C. A is a currently maintained trail. B is a non-maintained trail. Both A and B trails are shown on USGS and/or Forest Service maps. C is a use-trail or well defined game trail where you have to do your own navigation to find the trails which often disappear and reappear. Off trail is broken into G, PG and R. I give descriptions and photographs of typical types of terrain. G is the most common off-trail - relatively easy to navigate, user-friendly talus, not hideously steep, and overall safe and can be done even in foul weather. PG has one or more difficulties - large talus blocks, difficult navigation, bushwhacking, very steep. It is generally terrain that beginning off-trail backpackers have a great deal of difficulty with. On PG terrain, a fall or slip it is more probable that you will break a leg or have a serious injury. On R terrain, talus blocks become large enough that you actually have to scramble or do class 3 moves, steepness becomes exposed to the point where you could die if you fall. The R designation is primarily a safety issue and includes permanent snowfields, glaciers, unstable moraines. R rated terrain is not safe to do in a storm. There are only a handful of R-rated passes that I use and I give LOTS of heads-up, steering those not capable to easier routes. One thing nice about writing a guidebook is that I can be the dictator and use any rating system I want!

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Ikan Mas
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Re: Alternative HST "Cross-country Pass/Route" Rating System

Post by Ikan Mas » Fri Feb 06, 2015 10:32 am

So I propose a trial of the various rating systems on some passes that many know fairly well. I'm curious how the ratings would shake out and what different people's opinions are of some of the Secor 2 passes. What are your ratings for the following under normal summer conditions (snow melted, no rain, etc) following the conventionally held path:

- Pants Pass
- Puppet Pass
- Feather Pass
- Dancing Bear Pass
- Lamark Col

If you want to rate some other common passes, be my guest.

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sekihiker
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Re: Alternative HST "Cross-country Pass/Route" Rating System

Post by sekihiker » Fri Feb 06, 2015 1:01 pm

Ikan Mas wrote:So I propose a trial of the various rating systems on some passes that many know fairly well. I'm curious how the ratings would shake out and what different people's opinions are of some of the Secor 2 passes. What are your ratings for the following under normal summer conditions (snow melted, no rain, etc) following the conventionally held path:
- Pants Pass
- Puppet Pass
- Feather Pass
- Dancing Bear Pass
- Lamark Col
If you want to rate some other common passes, be my guest.
Here's my list: http://sierrahiker.home.comcast.net/~si ... Passes.htm

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austex
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Re: Alternative HST "Cross-country Pass/Route" Rating System

Post by austex » Fri Feb 06, 2015 3:53 pm

Awesome Bill...THANKS very comprehensive.
Half Moon Pass a 2+ into Pioneer Basin

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sekihiker
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Re: Alternative HST "Cross-country Pass/Route" Rating System

Post by sekihiker » Fri Feb 13, 2015 11:11 am

Here is a longer list of passes with ratings.

http://sierrabackpacker.com/sierrapasses-new.htm

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