Event Grade, Safety (イベント等級, 安全)

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Andy OCJ
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Joined: Sun Apr 01, 2007 12:00 am
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Hiking Level: Advanced or high level (上級)

Event Grade, Safety (イベント等級, 安全)

Post by Andy OCJ »

Updated 2022
Technical levels simplified. For higher grades you can split levels into an upper or lower grade depending on difficulty.

All members are responsible for their own safety - not the club, management or the event organizer. This is the main condition of the club when you sign up. Events are based on the principle of a group of friends going together - organizers are ordinary people (not professional guides). Please use your own judgement to decide if an event is suitable for your ability.

A NOTE FOR EVERYONE ON AN EVENT - this does not mean you can leave people behind on the trail or abandon them if they are slow. As a group you look after everyone else. Allowing people on an event without proper gear or an event which is a higher grade than their level is not acceptable either. You have a moral responsibility for safety (to the best of your ability)... even if people legally agree to be responsible for themselves.

All members are strongly urged to get insurance to cover injuries. The club does not have insurance for members.
Helicopter rescue for someone with a broken leg could cost 300,000yen!

Accident Insurance usually costs about 8,000 yen/year for outdoor activities such as hiking and climbing. You can get online or at most outdoor shops. You can also get cheaper short term insurance for a few days online.

Event Grading System (hiking, rock scrambling)
Events are graded for two things; aerobic or fitness level and technical climbing level as mountains come in all shapes and sizes - some are big but easy, others are small but dangerous.

The fitness grade tries to combine the effects of distance travelled and height climbed. You can estimate the time using some techniques but in Japan most hiking maps give the route time for each section of path. Beware - people often overestimate their fitness level.

The technical grade is based on the American Yosemite Decimal System (YDS) of grading routes. It has been adjusted into more levels that match hiking map details and paths in Japan. This should be used to grade your event and give participants an estimate of the difficulties on the route.
Allow for winter by including additional dangers and requirements.

There are some extra details at the bottom about estimating hiking time and altitude change. I have combined time, flat hiking distance, and altitude change to decide a fitness grade.

1. Fitness Grade

Whichever limit is reached first (time, distance, elevation) except for very slow walking pace like sawanobori / stream climbing. In that case use distance or elevation.

Also, if walking on mostly flat easy roads, forest roads, or smooth prepared paths, the time will need adjusting as you can walk faster (6km/hour) than the typical hiking speed of 4km/hour. If flat easy ground mostly then add 50% to the time limit.

Fitness Grade 1 - Easy
Up to 3 hours walking time, or 12km, or 600m altitude climb.

Fitness Grade 2 - Moderate
Up to 5 hours walking time, or 20km, or 1000m altitude climb.

Fitness Grade 3 - Difficult
Up to 7 hours walking time, or 28km, or 1,400m altitude climb.

Fitness Grade 4 - Very Difficult
Up to 9 hours walking time, or 36km, or 1,800m altitude climb.

Fitness Grade 5 - Extreme
Anything over 9 hours, more than 36km, more than 1,800m altitude gain - grade as Extreme!

This is the fitness grade is for 1 day. For overnight backpacking with tent and food add an extra 10-20% map time depending on the terrain conditions before grading. Much slower speeds will be needed for calculating times in deeper snow in winter.

2. Technical Grade (climbing difficulty)

For Technical 1-2 hikes I recommend carrying a 15-20m chord (minimum 650kg limit, usually 6mm diameter). It is used for hand support only (not climbing) to protect people at narrow places (damaged paths are common from water erosion) or on steep slopes. Tie around trees, posts, or rocks etc. Technical grades 3-5 will need a proper climbing rope.

Technical Grade A - EASY - Beginner (初心者)
Walking paths typical of places like parks and tourist areas with wide paths but also with changes of elevation. Easy for walkers to pass in both directions without stopping.
Example; main routes up Takao mountain have wide paths, also unpaved forest roads.
Typical hiking paths on most mountains (passing people often requires one group to stop and wait). Walking along clear, well marked paths. Use of hands, ropes, chains not required. No steep sections that have warnings on hiking map.
Walking with a low chance of injury and a fall unlikely to be fatal.

Technical Grade B - MODERATE - Above Beginner (初級上)
Occasional narrow sections of path with steeper side slopes and a higher risk of falling or slipping.There might be short sections of fixed rope or chain for additional safety of low level hikers but NOT marked as dangerous on maps. Using hands for balance sometimes needed but NOT rock scrambling!
Walking with a higher chance of injury but a fall unlikely to be fatal.

Technical Grade C - DIFFICULT - Intermediate (中級)
Narrow and steeper paths are more frequent. Paths that may not be maintained as much. May be places with rocks, cliffs, river crossings without bridges, negotiating boulders in scree areas of rock falls, or fallen trees, thick brush (yabu), route finding or off path in places. There may be one or two danger signs on the map route (short duration and usually protected with fixed rope or chain).

Japanese hiking maps will have information about dangerous spots '危', loose gravel or slippery, steep paths with exposure, knife ridges, fixed ropes or chains, narrow traverse of cliffs. Other things like dotted line paths that are old or not maintained/could be damaged, 'easily lost' .
Minimal or occasional rock scrambling where hands are needed or there are fixed ropes, chains or ladders - frequent danger signs on the hiking maps. Cliff traverse sections with vertical or very steep drops.
Serious injuries are uncommon and falls are not always fatal.
A climbing rope usually not required.

Technical Grade E - VERY DIFFICULT - Experienced (経験者)
Frequent rock scrambling on steeper slopes with increased exposure. Use of chains, ropes or ladders on rocks essential.
Serious injuries are common but falls are not always fatal.
A climbing rope can be carried but is usually not required.

Technical Grade F - SEVERE - Advanced (上級)
Rock scrambling becoming lower grades of rock climbing.
Can involve short steep sections where the use of a climbing rope is recommended. Un-roped falls could be fatal.
Climbing on steep terrain requiring roped belay.
Mountaineering or rock climbing experience needed.
True rock climbing, predominantly on vertical or near vertical rock, and requires skill and a rope to proceed safely. Un-roped falls would result in severe injury or death. Exposed climbing, requiring skill (the holds are not obvious to a novice, leader places protection along the way)
Mountaineering or rock climbing experience compulsory.

For Those Interested
You can do a comparison with the Japanese hiking map times.
Calculate the total distance and then the time taken if walking at 4km/hour (average for most standard hiking paths). Some routes with longer sections over rock or difficult terrain might be slower at 3 or even 2 km/hour.
Add to that 1 minute for every 10m of altitude gain ( each 10m contour). Steep paths downhill will need additional time.

I used to check the altitude and time with an altimeter. With a heavy multi-day pack (18-20kg) at a comfortable pace, on average it took 1 hour to climb 300m (including rest time). This was on quite steep hiking paths. It varies depending on slope and path condition, straight or zigzag.
A simpler way for sections of steep path is to ignore the distance and add 1 and a 1/2 minutes for each 10m contour. Comparing to the altimeter tests that works out at 45 minutes for 300m ascent. For Japanese alpine mountains and heavy pack with breathing breaks that would be about the same - 1 hour for 300m altitude gain.

You need extra rest time later in the day for people who are not fit. For OCJ calculations I chose about 200m climb/hour with added break time for slower people.
I checked many routes on Japanese hiking maps and using these techniques produced similar hiking times to those shown on maps.

Event Rating System (rock/ sports climbing and boldering) Standard Japanese and US  YDS grading system; 5.5-5.15 with technical grades. Also with general classification of beginner, intermediate and advanced. Top rope or single/multi pitch.
For bouldering the Japanese Dankyu system or other international grading system.
The hiking grade can also be used for travel to climbing areas.
Last edited by Andy OCJ on Tue Feb 06, 2018 4:26 am, edited 1 time in total.
UK Mountain Leader (Mountain Training Association - MTA)Image
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