What Do Our Trek Difficulty Ratings Mean?

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What Do Our Trek Difficulty Ratings Mean?

Category On the Trekking Community

By Sandhya UC

2013-08-17

We often get calls from our trekkers asking us how we classify a trek as “easy” or “difficult”.  To be fair, when we say “easy”, we mean “easy in comparison to other Himalayan treks. ” There are certain standards by which you grade a trek.  We will talk about them one by one.

The Trek Difficulty Rating has two parts: Broad category and specific level. 

Broad Category: Easy-Moderate, Moderate, Moderate-Difficult and Difficult.

This indicate the larger challenges of the trek like altitude, availability of water, exit points, temperature. 

Specific levels: Level 1, Level 2, Level 3

A ‘level’ differentiate treks on the basis of gradient and tricky sections. A Level 1 trek has an easier gradient, is less trickier than a Level 3 trek. 

What are Broad Categories?

We often get calls from our trekkers asking us how we classify a trek as “easy” or “difficult”.  To be fair, when we say “easy”, we mean “easy in comparison to other Himalayan treks. ” There are certain standards by which you grade a trek. We will talk about them one by one.

Treks are classified into board categories based on the following criteria:

  • Altitude gained every day of the trek
  • Highest altitude of the trek
  • Temperature during the trek, snow/ice on the trail, camp site locations
  • Availability of water

What do we mean when we say a Himalayan trek is easy-moderate?

On an easy trek, the trails are even and gently laid out. As a pahadi would call it, the trail would be a seedha rasta. They usually run through meadows and forest cover. This means the altitude does not go so high that it hits alpine sections.  These treks are not more than 5-6 days long. Camp sites have good access to water. The trail also has easy exits — should anything go wrong.

If you’re a beginner, these easy-moderate treks will suit you.

Deoriatal-Chandrashila, Kuari Pass treks are easy treks. They are the best Himalayan treks for beginners.

Kuari Pass has short trekking days and not much altitude gain. It is an easy-moderate trek perfect for beginners. When there’s winter snow, it becomes slightly more difficult.

What would you call a moderate trek in the Himalayas?

The trails are generally even but may have steep climbs or descents. The number of trekking hours could last up to 6 hours in a day.  The trail may run into snow or climb above 14,000 ft. Campsites generally have good access to water. There are easy exits possible from some campsites, not all of them.  For example, in Hampta Pass, once you have crossed over the Pass, the exits become extremely difficult.

If you’re confident of high levels of fitness, even if you’re a beginner, these moderate treks will suit you.

So Hampta Pass, Roopkund and Brahmatal would be classified as moderate treks.

Hampta Pass has nearly 6 hours of trekking each day and difficult exits from campsites such as Shea Goru. That makes Hampta Pass a moderate trek. PC: Nikshep Trinetra

What is a moderate-difficult trek in the Himalayas?

The trails could have some rough sections. Prior high altitude trek experience and peak fitness is ideal for treks like these. There could be long sections on snow, moraines and boulders. Steep climbs and descents sometimes over three hours long could be present on some days. One or two sections would require careful navigation. Trek could last 6-7 days. Temperatures at higher camps could dip in minus. Highest altitude gained could be above 15,000 feet (4,500 m). Chances of altitude sickness is very high. Easy exits possible from the initial camps. As you go further into the trek, it becomes difficult.

Here is a list of all our moderate-difficult treks for experienced trekkers.

Pangarchulla, Rupin Pass, Annapurna Base Camp, Kashmir Great Lakes are few treks that would classify as moderate-difficult treks.

Kashmir Great Lakes classifies as a moderate-difficult trek because of the long days and the lack of easy exits once into the trail. PC: Padmanabha Sen

How do you classify a difficult trek in the Himalayas?

Trails could be uneven on some days. Trek days could be long, stretching to 8-9 hours. Highest altitude gained could be above 16,000 feet (5,000 m). There could be some high altitude camps where air is thin and temperature in minus. There usually would be long walks and climb on snow. Glacier/crevasse crossing possible. Chances of altitude sickness high. Weather is generally unpredictable with rain/snow chances any time. Few exit options. 

If you’re a seasoned trekker, with high fitness levels, these difficult treks may suit you.

Pin Parvati, Goechala, Kanamo, Everest Base Camp, Warwan Valley are few of the difficult Himalayan treks.

Pin Parvati Pass is classified as a difficult trek because of rough terrain, incredible altitude gain and the high risk level of the trek. Exit is nowhere in the picture either once trekkers enter the trail. PC: Sandeep

What are Levels?

Categories are sub-divided from Level 1 to Level 3: Easy to Tough

Treks are classified into board categories based on the following criteria:

  • Length of trek each day
  • Gradients during the trek
  • Nature of terrain (grass, even path, gravel, stones, boulders or slippery)

Till now we arranged our treks in four broad categories — easy-moderate, moderate, moderate-difficult and difficult. But these categories only give a vague idea of the trek difficulty. Levels come into play to showcase the day-wise details of a trek. 

“The levels help you plan better, prepare better. You realise that after a Level 1 trek of an Easy-Moderate trek, the natural progression is not to ‘Moderate’. It’s to Level 2,” shares Arjun Majumdar, founder of Indiahikes. 

The infographic below gives a clear idea of how difficulty increases within a category. To get a better idea, we suggest you compare treks of different levels in the same category. You’ll find a difference in the terrain, duration of treks.

What you should do now

1. If you want to see a complete list of Himalayan treks that we run: Head over to our upcoming treks page. You’ll find help in choosing a Himalayan trek in a specific season.

2. If you want to work with us: Head over to our careers page. We have lots of positions open. We also have lots of applications coming in. So the sooner you apply, the better.

3. If you want to see the 13 best treks of India: Then get our free guide here.

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Sandhya UC

Co-Founder & COO

About the author

Sandhya is a founding partner at Indiahikes. Over the past ten years, she has explored and put on the map few of the greatest Himalayan treks in India, including Kashmir Great Lakes and Kedarkantha. She is a TedX Speaker and has been awarded the Women of Worth Award by Outlook Business in 2017. She believes in sustainable living just as she believes in sustainable trekking. Read a feature on Sandhya in Outlook Business Read Sandhya's other articles Read Sandhya's TedX Talk How I Climbed The Mountain Of Entrepreneurship