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There are many different grading systems for via ferratas but the majority focus on the level of difficulty of the hardest passage and base the allocated grade on that. Some scales may include additional ratings on the seriousness of the route to compensate for the severity and length of difficulties. For example, a long route at high altitude with extensive ‘very difficult’ passages will be more enduring than a short, lower route with a singular ‘very difficult’ section. Most guidebooks should offer information about the nature of the route including length, elevation and grade. An outline of a 5 level grading system is below:
A/easy: challenging walking rather than climbing, main requirements are a good head for heights and surefootedness. Plenty of climbing aids, short ladders possible. Straightforward path but possibly exposed in some places.
B/moderate: As above but likely, exposed scrambling. Use of arms with some steeper terrain. Smaller footholds and longer ladders but lots of climbing aids.
C/difficult: Steep and very steep rock. Good fitness and upper body strength required. Adequate climbing aids. Long ladders likely with occasional brief overhangs.
D/very difficult: Very exposed route, mostly very steep and occasionally vertical. Strong arms and hands necessary to climb; limited aids, often just wire rope. May be short overhanging sections although well-aided.
E/extremely difficult: Vertical to overhanging, consistently exposed route. Climbing aids other than the wire unlikely; very small footholds or friction climbing. Easier sections may be unprotected. Sustained arm strength compulsory.