RFC: hiking_technique key (or a better name!) to describe movement on paths by hikers

Same, it’s useful now because it’s in use in OSM and realistically it would need to port over to this.

It’s a fairly popular trail in a national park and that ~2-3m bit is the crux. In YDS it’d be Class 2, which is how I think of T3. The rest of the trail was simpler with 1-2 short sections of larger talus that’d be more clearly hands_for_balance (though I was able to do them in a surefooted_hiking manner,) and the rest more pure walking.

I don’t have any personal experience with trails or routes rated by SAC or BMC though. :slight_smile:

A move further up definitely looks more T3. The fact it’s a 13mm lens also probably makes it seem more vertical than it was in reality.

Footholds were much stronger and simpler than they looked from afar - I was thinking my partner would take a nice YDS 3 photo, and it ended up being more YDS 2 when I got closer and then did it. I would say it’s at the upper end of that, or possibly the very lower end of T4 / YDS 3 which is why I brought it up as an example. I’m sure some people hold onto the rock with their hands.

I think having a node as obstacle or hazard would make more sense than creating a tiny segment of a higher rating.

I’m thinking of bumping use_of_hands down to hands_for_balance which will map it very closely to T3 (which would help get this scale adopted). Short mantles are something that bug me - they are technically T4 / YDS 3 but they’re not really “scrambling” or “simple climbing” so I tried to fit them in there - by their nature they’re short enough they should probably be a node and not a way. They’re not quite a “hazard” so perhaps we also need a node called “obstacles” (or just keep in mind that hazards can be used loosely).

update: I did RFC: hiking_technique key (or a better name!) to describe movement on paths by hikers - #25 by erutan

My partner regularly uses her hands where I don’t, she’s shorter so has less reach and is also more risk averse. If something is wet I’ll sometimes treat T2 like it’s T3, T3 like it’s T4 etc. I think providing multiple examples will help show terrain. I do like how T3 isn’t “you personally had to use your hands” but more “it’s reasonable that someone would”. I’m sure there will still be some disagreement, but hopefully less than there is in the current SAC regime. I personally think it’s fun to do challenges like you did, but hopefully most people capable of doing so can think about it and still realize that even though they can do T4 without using their hands to climb or T3 without using them for balance that the terrain shouldn’t be rated around their outlier experience.

Walking while using your hands for balance still fits into the foot_scale quite nicely I think, more so than trying to fit in short mantles - then we’re just left with scramble as the here be dragons bit.

That’s amusing - there are trails in the western US that take unnecessarily convoluted routes because they had to work for laden stock trains of mules and horses.

I really like this scale. You’ve clearly put a lot of work into this, and it seems to fit terrain around the world much better than sac_scale.

Aside from practical issues - like how to introduce such a tag when sac_scale has been so widely used - I have just a few concerns about the wording.


  1. How would you grade this path: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBum6rjl8yU (You don’t have to watch the whole video - it’s pretty much the same difficulty throughout)

  2. And how would you tag the one in the first video on this site: Scrambling skills: the grades explained (We should probably consider the question separately for the part that starts at 1:35 and the part that starts at 2:37)

I’m asking because I think it will help us refine the wording :slight_smile:

Those wide angle shots betray, some of the BMC footage also has them. They make it really hard to gauge from photo/video. Perhaps they flatter the scrambler?

Glad that this is not just a dialogue: If I may chime in, about the Centennial path - I recently did grade an informal path, that went by deep (50+m) drops in much the same close manner over some stretches not so easily to evade a T3, reasoning that no security measures at all are there, so T1/2 rule out. This is a good sample, as hiking_technique should be satisfied with “attentive” – on the path I graded – the Centennial I consider surefooted applies in sections.

PS: On that path that I took late this summer, there were four or more memorials. It has not been on openstreetmap before, but it may be well known among the locals.

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I prefer shooting with the 24mm equivalent lens, but there wasn’t enough room for my partner to step back and get the obstacle. :slight_smile: I wasn’t trying to show off or give myself a challenge I was ready for YDS3 / T4 and then was like “huh I can just walk up this”. I guess technically there’s a short fall risk so it could be T4 for that aspect, it looks more exposed than the T3 example on the wiki if very short (I’m really guessing on SAC details).

It wasn’t that much harder than the following sequence which I think is clearly YDS 2 and (most likely) T3. In poor weather, or if someone wasn’t confident for whatever reason they could hold onto it with their hands (and should at that point!), but I don’t think it counts as “simple climbing” vs walking up something steep enough that using hands_for_balance is expected.

I think for the most part we can do a direct mapping from SAC, allowing for the “unverified_walking” where T1 is clearly split. I’m sure there will be some inconsistencies (people don’t understand SAC, terrain doesn’t meet some sub-requirement, etc), but those already exist and going forward I’d imagine less of them.

From what I saw (skipping around a few times) I’d put it at attentive_walking there are often obstacles, but I only saw one that couldn’t be avoided and it was a pretty simple step up. Most of the obstacles were low angle and well spaced. I think having sets of examples would help - I have a LOT of off-trail photos that I’ve been saving and cataloging for a separate project (with some overlap with this one). I do agree that having more specific language around obstacle types and frequency would be useful. surefooted_hiking would be more in the vein of the T2 example on the wiki, where you’re basically just walking on medium-high angle obstacles for an extended period of time.

update: was looking for some previous photos in a thread here, found it! the first photo here would be casual_walking (unless we want to specific a surface type for it, sand could be problematic for some?). The next four are attentive_walking, the stream crossing would be surefooted_hiking, then there’s a hands_for_balance that leads into technically a move of scrambling but which should probably be a obstacle=mantle or something instead.

This is one I took recently with this value in mind - the sandy bit of easy trail goes over a piece of uneven slab, but it’s only slightly uneven.

1:35 is a great example of surefooted_hiking - but it should either have a path_fall_risk or an exposure hazard on it! I think that’s a perfect example of disambiguating exposure and technique, as marking that as T5 or something due to exposure would be misleading. It is also very different psychologically from the T2 example on the wiki.

2:30 would be hands_for_balance until he starts to go up the pinnacle itself around 2:40 which is definitely scrambling.

It would be useful to have the trail be hands_for_balance up until the base of the pinnacle - I know some people that would basically go to the base of the pinnacle and call it good enough. How to handle the pinnacle itself gets into the node vs way idea that’s been kicking away. I wouldn’t mind the trail at that point having a little “climbing” icon like at the base of climbing routes of boulder problems to clarify the shift.

Thanks. I agree with your tagging suggestions.

This brings up two problems.

  1. “Hiking” means different things to different people. The trail is advertised on the website of the park it’s in as a “very demanding trail” and rates it as “difficult”. Many people in the Google reviews call it a strenuous hike. (For context, it’s 10K and a total elevation gain of maybe 300m)

@hungerburg pointed out that people misuse sac_scale=hiking to mean it’s a countryside walk. How do we ensure that surefooted_hiking doesn’t meet the same fate?

If two tags are called something_walking and one is something_hiking, won’t people apply their ideas of what is a walk vs what is a hike to the tag?

To avoid this, I would prefer surefooted_walking.

  1. Scrambling means different things to different people. The BMC calls Crib Goch a Grade 1 scramble, but it’s nowhere near the top of the proposed scale, which you propose to call “scrambling”.

If one of the values is called scrambling, won’t people apply their ideas of what is scrambling to it and just tag that walk, and similar ones, as scrambling regardless of the definition, because the BMC says it is?

How about something like hands_for_balance and hands_for_progress for the top two grades?

Thanks for the critical feedback - we’re having some good discussion here. :slight_smile:

I changed surefooted_walking to surefooted_hiking so that if we do an automated port from SAC that the two T1 values casual_walking and attentive_walking could be translated to unverified_walking which means it’d (most likely) be one of those two until someone came in and clarified the distinction (but at least someone knows it’s one of those two).

On the flip side someone could consider attentive_walking terrain hiking and therefore think it’s invalid, but I think that can be clarified by defining it well on the wiki. It is nice having values that speak for themselves for people that don’t check the wiki though.

I’m open to another word, but I feel there’s some utility in not having it be walking and hence in the same bucket as casual and attentive. That said SAC use is enough of a mess maybe we should just convert all T1-T2 into unverified_walking?

That’s fair, the SPS Scrambler Rating actually describe YDS 2-4 as scrambling (T3 to T6) which honestly seems really dumb. If it means everything it means nothing.

Crib Goch a Grade includes proper scrambling if you include the pinnacle/peak but I’m not sure of the details of their system and if the rest of the route takes that into consideration. It is also called 0.5 I think, though that’s informal.

hands_for_progress is… a little odd. Sounds like a strange non-profit organization. :stuck_out_tongue: Someone might also need to use their hands for balance to safely progress.

hands_for_climbing I think is clearer, but then you get into @Hungerburg’s why not just put it in climbing=*. I suppose because YDS 3 / SAC T4 isn’t considered proper climbing by many, and that it makes the conversion process a little simpler.

Secor describes YDS classes the following way:

“Class 1 is walking.”

“Class 2 is defined here as difficult cross-country travel. In the High Sierra this is usually talus hopping, which requires the occasional use of hands for balance.”

“Class 3 is where the climbing begins. Hands and feet are used not just for balance, but to hang onto the rock."

hands_for_hanging sounds even worse.

hands_for_pulling is kind of more accurate, but again sounds kind of dumb.

If we drop hands_for_foobar then…

use_of_handholds - I think this is closer to what we want. How does that sound?

I think a large part of this coming from SAC being a scale used by people in an alpine club, so they have very firm ideas of mountainous terrain etc, to the point of being baked into the value names.

I do think that having some kind of scrambling in between hands_for_balance and proper climbing is useful. Once that is there, people can use the existing climbing:grade:foobar for YDS 3-4, BMC 1-3, SAC T4-T6, etc to add more detail that will be properly understood by local scramblers.

A related issue are mantles, which without either adoption as an obstacle or some kind of scramble value would fall under technical climbing which doesn’t feel correct to me.

If that is solved I’m not completely opposed to just migrating T4-T6 to climbing:grade:sac_scale=* or just keeping them at SAC T4-T6. The nice thing about having them in a sort of generic scramble container is it then makes it simple to append more information with climbing:grade:bmc or climbing:grade:yds or whatever depending where in the world someone is.

I dislike having to use SAC, but I wouldn’t force someone else to use YDS. :slight_smile:

I have a question about the starting point for this proposed scale, apologies if I missed it in the discussion.

Is the scale intended to be used for trails that are in some sense “recreational”, or is it for all highway=footway and highway=path objects in OSM? Let’s say everyone agreed on the basic approach and the transition from sac_scale. Would we start off with every urban footway, maybe even including sidewalks, tagged as unverified, and hope that over time they would be tagged with real values, probably casual_walking for the vast majority? For example would we want StreetComplete to prompt for this tag for every footway and path object? Should mappers consider whether inconveniently placed street furniture shifts the tag from casual to attentive?

Here this is being discussed among recreational walkers and hikers, but most mappers and users of highway=footway objects have no special interest in hiking. I think any proposal would need to be clear about what is expected at the bottom end of the scale.

This was originally created to be for recreational use (hence it originally being named hiking_technique, but I could see it potentially being useful in urban contexts. While in the case of a paved sidewalk smoothness=* is probably sufficient, you can have sidewalks with large cracks or deformations caused by roots, or paths of various surfaces in parks or green spaces between paved sidewalks in urban settings where it could be simpler to just have a foot_scale value that encapsulates the overall experience vs having to parse multiple keys.

I’m only interested in the recreational aspect and had imagined it’d be used similar to sac_scale. I’d leave it up to people that are more involved in the urban space as to whether it should be adopted there as well.

This is probably a translation or regional disconnect, when I think street furniture I’m imagining a sofa someone left on the curb but I assume you mean utility boxes or fire hydrants etc?

Yes, or advertising hoardings, or signs for vehicles that block the path of pedestrians.

Given that there is no clear distinction between a recreational trail and any other kind of footway, I think there might be confusion about the scope of this tag. If a way does not have the tag, does that in itself mean something, e.g. that it is implied to be casual walking, or it is not considered a recreational path?

I ask because I have struggled with this myself with sac_scale which is supposed to be “solely for ways used for hiking”. This seems to assume ways can be divided neatly into “used for hiking” and “not used for hiking”. I don’t always find that distinction easy to make in practice, and have probably erred on the side of applying sac_scale to paths that need a certain amount of attention even if they might not really be “hiking trails”. So I’d like to see a bit more clarity about the scope of any alternative tag. (The tag itself and proposed values make sense to me by the way, I don’t mean to sound unduly negative).

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You are not the only one to feel that way.

I had to look that up in a dictionary; Seems to be a certain move, as seen in the second picture on the linked topic where the person stands with the back to the obstacle. Why would that be technical climbing? No harness, not ropes, no friends, no nothing, just hands.

Sounds great!

No apologies, this a good line of questioning. Most of the people here have far more experience with OSM than myself - I have more experience with hiking than mapping. I’m unhappy with the current use of sac_scale but don’t have a great grasp of the full OSM ecosystem. :slight_smile:

I would hesitate to say that, I’ve come across some very sparsely labeled ways that were vague routes which included technical climbing that were very much “recreational” in some spots with low visitation.

Someone can recreationally walk on an a nice even urban sidewalk, I’ve done this quite a lot.

This comment RFC: hiking_technique key (or a better name!) to describe movement on paths by hikers - #26 by ezekielf reads to me like a vote for the scale to be used more inclusively than one created by an Alpine Club.

There’s a few different ways to mantle - the technical way is to heel-hook, most people will do a variation on the “swimming pool / beached whale” method. It’s used loosely to refer to going over a “mantle” of rock which is higher than hands_for_balance and is in T4 / use_of_hands / use_of_handholds realm but the obstacle itself is less than human height.

More of a “where else would it go” rather than “it belongs there” argument. :slight_smile:

If foot_scale=* stops at hands_for_balance and sac_scale gets deprecated for non Swiss Alpine Club use, then T4+ terrain would get put into climbing=* wouldn’t it?

In some areas it’s not uncommon to have 1-2 mantles on an otherwise attentive_walking path - I personally feel like marking those as nodes makes sense, but barring that coming into existence we’re left with making a 0.3m way that’s sac_scale=t4 (which seems clunky and unintuitive on a global scale). Keeping SAC T4-T6 as a sort of global scrambling scale seems wrong to me. I suppose we could make a scramble_scale=* or something, but IMO that’s overcomplicating things when there’s multiple international systems that people are familiar with.

I actually like collapsing scramble grades into the climbing key, but it’s currently meant for technical climbing. All the grading examples are using technical scales (YDS 5.7, 5.10a, 5.12d, not YDS 3-4).

If repurposing climbing would cause issues, perhaps if there is a foot_scale=use_of_handholds value, it’s then expected to have a use_of_handholds:grade:yds_scale=3 or use_of_handholds:grade:bmc_scale=1 or use_of_handholds:grade:sac_scale=t4 etc depending on where it is?

That idea was prompted by the following dialogue.

Well, the mantling picuturs you linked to not “casual” no way. For foot_scale, how about casual_walking, attentive_walking, surefooted_walking, and then casual_scrambling to top it off?

Anything not in the Swiss Alps is casual. :wink:

With hands_for_balance between surefooted & casual_scrambling? Reverting to surefooted_walking has migration implications. casual_scrambling seems like it’d have to go up to T6 / BMC 3 / YDS 4 unless those quite possibly not casual scrambling levels are still going to be homeless.

I agree they aren’t casual - they fall under T4 terrain, but they are very much a single moment in time. The Buck Tank Draw path (promoted by local agencies) is around 2.25km of walking like the following:

There’s some sandstone slabs as well as seen to the right here (this is actually past the mantle, but it gives the general idea):

Then you get to the first mantle pictured in the other thread (the little foot boost rock was already there):

There’s another mantle further up the trail which has informal bypasses going up either side of it, but it’d odd to make the entire way casual_scrambling. It’d also be easy to miss a 0.2m way in the middle of the path tagged as casual_scrambling.

Having a little icon pop up on the trail with a mantling icon or something for an obstacle or hazard node would seem more appropriate - it makes it clear you can still get 2.25km up without having to use your upper body, and also that someone isn’t scrambling up a steep extended pitch at that point.

Seeing semi-experienced backpackers argue about hands_for_balance and simple_climbing in YDS makes me appreciate these obstacles. A hands_for_balance pass might have a chockstone in a gulley that needs to be mantled in two moves, but no mountaineer would call that climbing so it stays hands_for_balance, then someone less experienced complains they had to use their hands and calls it simple_climbing etc and the original person has no idea what they’re talking about because they didn’t even register it. :slight_smile:

I agree, and that is why I suggested:

I don’t know if simply assuming “casual walking” when the key is absent would be great idea, but in combination with certain other tags this assumption could be reasonable. I’d probably assume “casual walking” for any of these for example:

  • highway=footway + surface=paved
  • highway=cycleway + smoothness=good
  • highway=track + surface=fine_gravel + smoothness=intermediate

I think it is better to have a key that can be used on any way where people walk, rather than trying define what counts as “hiking” or “recreational” paths. However, this doesn’t mean this key needs to be applied to every walkable way. Certainly tagging all paved sidewalks with a foot_scale seems quite unnecessary. However, if “attentive walking” accurately describes a certain sidewalk in significant disrepair, then why not? As always, whether to use the tag on a particular way would be up to the mappers’ discretion and local norms.


That term seems sticky. From point of view of a progression: Walking, Scrambling, Climbing - in my opinion it still beats walking_scale. And hiking_technique too - as it makes the key applicable more widely.

Going this direction, of wider use, I’d suggest to drop Scrambling from the list of values, so surefooted will be top.

Agreed, nodes for obstacles such as the 1½m high step (you call it mantle) in the last picture above make much more sense. Perhaps another topic on which obstacles consumers are urged to consider?

Time to draft a proposal?

Hmm. I consider scrambling to still be travelling “on foot” (vs on a bicycle, or on a horse), despite also using hands. Including scrambling at the top end makes sense to me.

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I am a bit burnt. I was told so often, that scrambling is so hard to decide. Better stay away from this can of worms. :wink: Instead sprinkle some obstacles.

Will be enough to get casual/attentive/surefooted separate nicely. Picture below I’d tag attentive.