Avalanche drills at the MCA's Basic Mountaineering School.

Photo by Travis Taylor.

Mt. Michelson summit ridge. Brooks Range, Arctic Refuge. Marcin Ksok and Carrie Wang.

Photo by Wayne Todd.

The Matanuska Glacier as viewed from Mt. Wickersham.

Photo by Wayne Todd.

Looking east at the high Chugach from White Lice. Chugach State Park.

Photo by Wayne Todd.

Trip Classifications

MCA sanctioned trips are classified according to the physical demand and nature of the terrain. Trips that do not require special skills are generally referred to as non-technical. These trips usually involve hiking, scrambling and skiing low angle (avalanche free) terrain. Trips that require special skills are referred to as technical trips. Due to the broad nature of potential trips and the subjectivity of a letter designation system, the MCA no longer uses letter designations to classify trips.

Please note that terrain descriptions do not account for potential hazards such as rock fall, bears, etc. Trip leaders will inform participants of potential hazards either verbally, on the sign-up sheet, or in the trip description on the web site or Scree.

Trip Descriptors

Physical Demand: Simply put this is elevation gain, distance and duration. Please note that terrain can also affect physical demand. For example bushwhacking and scree slogging requires more energy than trail hiking.

Terrain: Terrain may consist of trail hiking; bushwhacking; off-trail hiking on tundra, snow, ice, scree, talus or boulders; exposed hiking on steep slopes covered with snow, ice, slick vegetation, scree, talus or boulders; scrambling; scrambling on loose rock; exposed scrambling; exposed scrambling on loose rock; technical snow, ice, rock and/or mixed climbing; stream crossing; glacier travel on snow, ice and/or scree; etc. Trips are classified as either non-technical or technical depending on the nature of the terrain as follows:

Non-Technical: Non-technical trips generally consist of hiking, scrambling and skiing in low angle, non-avalanche terrain.

Hiking and Scrambling: Trips consisting of hiking and scrambling are classified in accordance with the Sierra Club System described in the Seventh Edition of Mountaineering, The Freedom of the Hills, Appendix A, Rating Systems, as follows:

Class 1: Hiking on or off trail. Hands are not required for upward or downward movement and climbing can be likened to a stairway.

Class 2: Hiking over rough terrain. Hands may be required to steady oneself for movement around or over obstacles. Class 2 includes simple scrambling, with possible occasional use of the hands. Examples include ascending, descending and traversing scree and talus slopes.

Class 3: Scrambling over rock and talus where handholds and footholds are used for balance and upward or downward movement. The terrain is steep and if one were to slip and fall, moderate to serious injury (depending on how you land) may result. In order to be considered non-technical, the exposure must be minimal so that a belay is not required.

Technical: Technical trips, by nature, require specialized equipment, skills and experience. These trips generally involve difficult and hazardous terrain. Technical trips (not classified as training) are only open to qualified members who have the appropriate skills and experience. The trip leader and/or Hiking and Climbing Committee will determine the qualifications required to participate on the trip. Examples include, but are not limited to:

Class 4: Scrambling and simple climbing (usually not requiring strength of grip) on very steep but not completely vertical terrain. Exposure can be severe, and may cause vertigo. A fall could be fatal. Knowledge of belays, anchors and rappels is a prerequisite for a Class 4 route.

Class 5: Fifth class rock climbing. Climbing difficulty varies widely with each trip.

Ice and Mixed Climbing: Climbing ice or mixed rock and ice. Climbing difficulty varies widely with each trip.

Glacier Travel: Trips involving potentially hazardous glacier travel.

Steep Snow Climbing: Climbing steep (exposed) snow slopes or slopes subject to avalanche.

Backcountry Skiing or Snowboarding: Skiing or snowboarding on steep (exposed) slopes or slopes subject to avalanche. Skiing low angle slopes not subject to avalanche is considered non-technical.

Avalanche Terrain: Any trip in avalanche terrain.

Packrafting: Any trip involving packrafting.

Kayaking: Any trip involving river, lake or sea kayaking.

Stream Crossing, Hazardous: Any trip with a potentially hazardous stream crossing.





© 2014 Mountaineering Club of Alaska     Box 243561,  Anchorage, AK 99524-3561     Contact Us

Many thanks to: Wayne Todd, Tim Silvers, Ross Noffsinger, Steve Gruhn, Carrie Wang, Billy Finley and many others who provided information, ideas and photos. And thanks to Willy Hersman who created, managed and hosted the first MCA website, without which this site's development would have been so much more difficult. Current website donated by Couloir Graphics.