SAC hiking scale

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Mountain hiking trail near San Bernardino on the T2 / T3 scale

The SAC hiking scale ( SAC mountain and alpine hiking scale ) is used to evaluate mountain hiking trails and was introduced in 2002 by the Swiss Alpine Club (SAC). It is divided into six different grades: T1 (easiest) to T6 (most difficult), where “T” stands for “trekking”. The new scale replaced the previously used three-part hiking scale (B, BG, EB). The old scale was too coarse and imprecise compared to the other scales (e.g. SAC mountain and alpine tour scale ). In addition, the naming ("Bergsteiger" etc.) was confusing.

Building the new scale

Degree Path / terrain conditions Examples
Well paved way. If available, exposed areas are very well secured. The risk of falling can largely be excluded with normal behavior.
If marked according to SWW standards: yellow.
None, also suitable with sneakers. Orientation is problem-free, usually also possible without a map . Männlichen - Kleine Scheidegg , Hüttenweg Jurahaus, Cabane Mont Raimeux, Strada Alta Leventina .
mountain hiking
Path with a continuous route. Partly steep terrain, risk of falling not excluded.
If marked according to SWW standards: white-red-white.
Some surefootedness . Trekking shoes are recommended. Elementary ability to orientate. Wildhornhütte , Bergseehütte , Täschhütte from Täschalp, Passo Campolungo, Capanna Cristallina from Ossasco.
challenging mountain hiking
Path on the ground not necessarily always visible. Exposed areas can be secured with ropes or chains. You may need your hands for balance. Partly exposed areas with a risk of falling, scree areas , pathless crags .
If marked according to SWW standards: white-red-white.
Good surefootedness. Good trekking shoes. Average orientation skills. Elementary alpine experience. Hohtürli , Sefinenfurgge , Fründenhütte , Grosser Mythen , Pizzo Centrale from the Gotthard Pass .
alpine hiking
Track not necessarily available. At certain points you need your hands to move forward. Terrain already quite exposed, tricky grass slopes, crags, simple firn fields and apere glacier passages .
If marked according to SWW standards: white-blue-white.

Note: Older trails with the difficulty level T4 are still often marked with red-white-red.

Familiarity with exposed terrain. Stable trekking shoes. Certain terrain assessment and good orientation skills. Alpine experience. When the weather changes, it can be difficult to retreat. Fornohütte, Schreckhornhütte , Dossenhütte , Mischabelhütte , transition Voralphütte-Bergseehütte, Vorder Glärnisch , Steghorn (Leiterli), Piz Terri , Pass Casnile Sud.
challenging alpine hiking
Often pathless. Individual easy climbing spots . Exposed, challenging terrain, steep crags. Apere glaciers and firn fields with risk of slipping.
If marked: white-blue-white.
Mountain boots . Reliable assessment of the terrain and very good orientation skills. Good alpine experience in high alpine terrain. Elementary knowledge in handling ice ax and rope . Cabane de la Dent Blanche , Bütlasse, Salbitbiwak, Sustenjoch north face, Bristen , Cacciabella pass .
difficult alpine hiking
Mostly pathless. Climbing points up to II. Often very exposed. Tricky Schrofen terrain. Apere glacier with increased risk of slipping.
Mostly not marked.
Excellent orientation skills. Matured alpine experience and familiarity with handling alpine technical aids. Niesengrat (Fromberghorn Nord), Glärnisch Guppengrat, Via Alta della Verzasca .

Instructions for use and interpretation

The tours in the area of ​​mountain and alpine hiking are assessed under the assumption of favorable conditions, i.e. with good weather and visibility , dry terrain, suitable snow and firn cover , etc. A route does not have to meet all the criteria to be classified accordingly. For example, a T4 route can have a continuous, clearly visible path. For this purpose, the evaluation is based on the most delicate points on the route, the so-called key points . The Planggwand north of Sargans is an example : The longest part of the route is very easy with T1 / T2. However, the approximately 150-meter-long route through the wall leads to the assessment as an alpine hike.

The SAC hiking scale does not take into account how strenuous the tour is, its length, or its seriousness (e.g. the distance that has to be covered to find shelter when the weather changes). The personal skills of an alpinist can also mean that the short climbing section of a T5 route is perceived as easier than the longer grass slope of a T4 route. The hiking scale therefore only partially indicates how “dangerous” or risky a tour is.

The hiking scale understands the following by "walkable" glaciers : glaciers and firn fields which, under normal conditions, are gazed out in the summer to such an extent that any crevasses are clearly recognizable and can be bypassed without the risk of crevasses falling. (This corresponds to the reality on different hut routes). Under these conditions, mountaineering equipment is not required. It goes without saying, however, that basic equipment (rope material, crampons ) and knowledge of how to use them may be required on such tours in unfavorable conditions .

Comparison with the old hiking scale

The new scale can only be compared with the old one to a limited extent, as other criteria were used in some cases for the new one. Roughly, the following assignment can be used as a guide:

Old scale New scale
T1 , hiking
B , mountain hiker
T2 , mountain hiking
T3 , challenging mountain hiking
EB , experienced mountain hiker
T4 , alpine hiking
T5 , challenging alpine hiking
BG , mountaineer
T6 , difficult alpine hiking

Comparison with the alpine tour scale

A serious misunderstanding that often leads to delicate situations is the assumption that hiking stops where the high-speed tour starts. In reality, an alpine hike in the upper difficulty range (T5, T6) is usually significantly more demanding than, for example , an alpine tour with the rating L. A major difference to an easy alpine tour is that on a T5 or T6 route (formerly BG) seldom until it can never be secured with rope or other aids and therefore the corresponding terrain must be absolutely mastered, which requires a high technical and psychological level. Typical examples are extremely steep grass slopes, pathless craggy terrain with poor rock or very exposed ridge passages. Due to the different characteristics of a typical alpine tour and a typical "extreme hike", a comparison can hardly be made, but one can assume that a T6 route has similar requirements as an alpine tour in the area up to WS.

Although the boundary between a mountain hike and an alpine tour is fluid, there is a relatively clear criterion - namely the use of aids such as crampons, ice ax and rope. If the participants are at the same skill level and therefore do not need any of these aids, a tour is considered a mountain or alpine hike. If a participant needs aids due to their lower level of ability, or if poor conditions (e.g. glacier crevasses covered by snow) require the use of aids, the same route should be classified as an alpine tour.

Comparison with other scales

The SAC made a comparison of the various alpine difficulty scales in the club magazine "Die Alpen" (May 2011). The hiking and snowshoe touring scales are congruent, so a T3 corresponds to a WT3 tour with snowshoes. The following comparisons are also permitted:

scale Correspondence
Climbing according to the UIAA scale A T6 corresponds to a climbing tour in grade II, a T5 roughly to a climbing tour in grade I. The easiest climbing tours in grade I correspond to a difficult T4.
SAC high touring scale As described above, a T5 mountain hike roughly corresponds to an easy alpine tour (grade L), and a T6 mountain hike corresponds to a WS high tour. Very easy alpine tours in grade L correspond to a demanding hike in grade T4.
SAC ski touring scale Mountain hikes in grade T2 and T3 correspond to an easy (L) ski or snowboard tour, hikes in the T4 and T5 areas to a less difficult (WS) ski or snowboard tour.

Picture gallery

The following images of hiking trails give you some idea of ​​how a hiking trail is classified. There is no claim to completeness; reference is made to the explanations above.

Trail T1

Well-developed path. Orientation problem-free. In bad weather, such a path can still be walked with sneakers.

Mountain hiking trail T2

Steep, hiking boots recommended. Sneakers only on dry roads.

demanding mountain hiking trail T3

The danger of falling leads to classification as T3. The sensitive area is secured with ropes or chains; the terrain on which one would fall is still relatively benign. Walking shoes are necessary.

Alpine hiking trail T4
challenging T5 alpine hiking trail
very demanding alpine hiking trail T6

See also


  • Marco Volken, Remo Kundert: The safe way. Meter by meter . Ed .: SAC. BDM, Düdingen (brochure).

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. SAC mountain and alpine hiking scale. September 5, 2012, accessed January 21, 2020 .
  2. a b Ueli Mosimann (2011): "Difficult, difficult: the scales in mountain sports partially overlap". THE ALPS, May 2011, page 25