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

That seems fairly accurate to me and maps with the current value 4, though like all things in a scale there’s a range of how critical balance and posture is etc. I could see pulling some of that language into the requirements section as it’s more specific and does a good job of conveying the step up from surefooted_walking.

Does anyone in Europe consider T3 terrain scrambling?

That’s a YouTube video with 7 likes that is basically creating a new YDS system. He’s basically recreating the SAC Scale. He is not describing YDS how it used, understood, or how it anything is rated by it.

I agree that for on trail use YDS isn’t particularly useful as it’s lacking a lot of breakdown in the lower end of the scale, but it was created for grading alpine terrain. It was never meant to be used for trailed terrain. People can because it’s what’s out there, but, yeah, it doesn’t work well for it. foot_scale essentially breaks down YDS 1 into three categories which I feel is more useful for describing general / trailed terrain rather than mountaineering.

easy YDS 1 / T1 = WW1 (casual_walking here)
hard YDS 1 / ~T2 = WW2 (attentive and surefooted walking here)
YDS 2 / T3 = WW3 (hands_for_balance)
YDS 3 / T4 = WW4 (use_of_handholds)
YDS 4=5 / T5-6 = WW5 (use_of_handholds)

Nitpicky YDS thoughts, kind of off topic: YDS 4 is a bit of a mess as it overlaps lower Class 5 so merging them isn’t the worst idea, though you do run into places where it’s useful to know something requires more technique than Class 3 but isn’t quite technical climbing (which actually starts around 5.5) sort of like how T6 actually overlaps UAII a bit.

I’ve honestly thought about doing something similar with YDS 1 after reading up on systems for this thread, but the main issue with the WW proposal is it completely breaks all existing YDS ratings. I’d rather create a 1.5 rating in between 1 and 2 than just bump everything up a rating.

I don’t feel that basic_scrambling is very descriptive. To meet in the middle for this discussion:

  • 1 casual_walking
  • 2 attentive_walking
  • 3 surefooted_hiking
  • 4 use_of_hands_for_balance
  • 5 simple_scrambling or non_technical_scrambling

So this would map like the following?

T1 = casual_walking
T1 = attentive_walking
T2 = surefooted_hiking/walking
T3 = use_of_hands_for_balance
T4 = non_technical_scrambling
T5 = climbing:grade:sac_scale=demanding_alpine_hiking
T6 = climbing:grade:sac_scale=difficult_alpine_hiking

Similar semi-technical terrain like YDS 4, BMC, etc also fall under climbing:grade:*

Yeah I have a lot of photos from different terrain types.

One major issue with scrambling is that it’s a very broad term that overlaps both walking/hiking and climbing. If it covers T3 to T6 terrain then using it doesn’t say anything other than “this is harder than normal walking” so having some specific and descriptive is more useful.

  • casual_walking
  • attentive_walking
  • surefooted_walking

I think has value because each those is evocative of what someone is actually doing. The following feels much more vague and handwavey to me.

  • simple_walking
  • walking
  • advanced_walking

I we want to use scrambling (I personally feel like YDS 2 / T3 is a bit overextending the word, but there’s precedent with the SPS Scrambler Rating) something like the following would be clearer:

1 casual_walking
2 attentive_walking
3 surefooted_walking
4 scrambling_hands_for_balance
5 scrambling_hands_for_climbing

One thing to keep in mind is that the “scary” YDS 3 examples all showed considerable exposure. With an obstacle/hazard key or there is some way level means of exposure (the latter seems less likely) there would be a big difference between hands_for_balance that is fatally exposed and hands_for_balance that isn’t exposed.

One issue with capping foot_scale at YDS 3 / SAC T4 / BMC 1 is that people will consider “scrambling” to go above that grade. BMC 2-3 are considered scrambling, YDS 4 is definitely in the range of scrambling (more than Class 2 is, I think most people picture scrambling more as Class 3), and I’d imagine T5 is in Europe as well (and again probably more than T3 is).

Having the lower end of scrambling in foot_scale and the upper end in climbing=* makes some sense to me, but that’ll have to be documented very clearly. It’d also require some changes to the existing climbing=* key in order to include “semi-technical” terrain. This could impact renderers, as T5 grade routes aren’t generally described as climbing routes afaik.

Having a separate scrambling:grade:*=* for BMC 1-3. T4-6, YDS 3-4. and stopping things at hands_for_balance here would be an option.

This is why I’d prefer not to make an OSM scramble rating but rely on localized ones.

Curiously, I’d put that one into surefooted, while this one below into attentive:

Both show use of hands. How to formulate this, so it cannot be mistaken?

PS: Both times people hold onto a steel cable, no via ferratas and specific ferrata set, just hands. Pondering some more, can the difference between attentive walking and surefooted walking be made without looking at the consequences of failing to watch your step?

Scrambling is en vogue, there are dozens of videos for Striding Edge. The BMC instructor calls it a walk, I do not think such a low bar for the term abusing terms well known.

Here is where I did end up on my ramble on that day of picture above. I’d say, this merits scramble, even though also here, a cable is in place. The OSM “path” is tagged T4, I left it at that.

PS: This put me into splendid isolation.

This is a good point. Ladders are common on some hiking trails so I’d say any scrambling/climbing that is no more difficult than climbing a ladder could be in scope for this scale. That probably goes somewhat into the low end of YDS 4.

After reading over the value descriptions again, I agree that value 5 is really the only one I’d call scrambling. I tried to come up with some descriptive phrases for my understanding of values 4 and 5, but I think these are a bit too long to be good tag values:

  • 1 casual_walking
  • 2 attentive_walking
  • 3 surefooted_walking
  • 4 surefooted_walking_with_some_use_of_hands
  • 5 scrambling_with_frequent_use_of_hands

Would you consider a path that alternates between short sections of walking and climbing/scrambling to fit in value 5? Climb up a short obstacle, walk for a bit, climb up another one, etc? Or would value 5 only be for constant scrambling/simple climbing where you are constantly using your hands?

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It’s hard to tell the entire route from one picture, but it looks like possibility of more than attentive walking below where the hiker is. It’s not much simpler than the OSM sample photo for T2.

There’s very few routes with cables in wilderness in the US compared to New Zealand, Canada, and Argentina/Chile (where I’ve hiked) that are more influenced by the European way of building routes. In many of the cases when I came across cables in those countries, they were present as a psychological benefit, to be used with people with limited technique/experience, or to be used in poor weather. The majority of the time I chose to ignore them as it was simpler to progress without them.

Having an optional cable for moral support isn’t something I’m used to, but it probably doesn’t impact the system in this photo vs the other one where the person looked like they had a hand on the cliffside to go up it. It seems more related to exposure than how to move over terrain.

Yes IMO. The rating is just the rating of how someone moves over terrain - the exposure it has is something completely different. Otherwise we get back into issues with SAC etc where someone has T2 terrain with T5 exposure that they choose to rate as T4. Add in a path_exposure=* value, or if that doesn’t pass as is likely have a hazard node for the area marking exposure. I like the idea of having renderers being able to put up little yellow hazard signs or w/e at places on the route that are dangerous.

Exposed attentive walking is very different from exposed hands for balance terrain than exposed scrambling.

That looks like YDS 3 to me disregarding the cable. Large holds, not quite vertical, fairly intuitive but long enough to have some fall risk associated with it. Secor allows for carrying a rope to belay beginners on YDS 3 which would essentially be the cable in that photo.

I like where you’re going with 4 - I think that gives a clearer picture of the difference.

surefooted_with_hands_for_balance or surefooted_and_hands_for_balance isn’t much shorter. surefootedness_with_hands_for_balance is perhaps clearer but muddies wording.

surefooted_hands_for_balance makes no sense.

If we can come up with a good terse name for value 4 I’d like to park it pending minor tweaks to wording etc as more feedback rolls in once this gets a bit more formal.

We’re left with value 5, which I think needs to be named after we decide if it’s only YDS 3 / T4 / BMC 1 (simple_scrambling) or if it’s the full range of YDS 3-4 / T4-6 / BMC 1-3 (scrambling). I actually sort of like lopping off T6 and BMC 3 but then we’re left with a verrrry awkward situation where those scales have one value in climbing or we have a very niche odd scramble key.

If we do keep it at YDS 3 / T4 / BMC 1 then I think cramming the higher grades into climbing:grade:=* makes sense, but someone can propose a scramble_scale=* if they are willing to flesh it out.

I sympathize with that being more friendly to what normal folks would be willing to bite off, and agree the top end of scrambling does overlap into easier technical climbing, but then it’s a weird bifurcation of existing systems known and used in the real world. Maybe that’s worth it - people that care about T5 and YDS 4 etc are probably doing their own research / beta and not relying on OSM lol. Those two proposals would have to pass at the same time as they’re dependent on each other.

That’s something I struggle with - if we had hiking hazard/obstacle nodes and it was literally a few mantles here or there over a few miles like some of the trails in Needles NP I’d rather have it be whatever it is the 99.5% of the time and just have the mantles show up on the route in renderers like staircases in Apple Maps and the hazard signs by the trails agency in Hawaii.

I don’t think NPS considers those commonly used trails scrambles, and I never thought I was scrambling, but they do require some upper body strength when you hit those spots. I bet a lot of tourists do those trails that would not be comfortable scrambling. It’s also useful for someone that isn’t physically or psychologically capable of scrambling to see they can take a path for x miles or kilometers (or not) before they hit a mantle.

Barring any other option, we could make a 1m way which is a scramble. :sob:

I originally wanted to toss those mantles in with hands_for_balance (which makes it more use_of_hands), but that’d potentially mess up porting from SAC (it’d be like T3.5) and is also a departure from YDS 2. I do think having a surefooted or attentive trail with a few mantles in it marked up as a scramble is disingenuous to the actual experience.

Side comments on mantles/short use_of_hands

I’ve started writing those up as 2.5 in the Sierra Nevada - mountaineers will consider it 2, many backpackers will complain it was technically 3 heh. Regardless it’s a very different experience from sustained/proper Class 3. Finger Col is considered a Class 2 pass, but has a chockstone on the Blackcap side that needs 2-3 moves to get over. I think letting people know it’s there is useful, but it’s not a “omg scary Class 3 pass climbing with mah heavy pack on” experience. If you can toss your pack on top of it and go up unencumbered that’s a meaningful difference.

While not directly relevant here (I’m really more focused on XC than trails IRL) this is how I fit “2.5” in between 2 and 3.

You are using your hands to pull your body up, but you’re not quite “climbing”. This would be obstacles thigh to head high that can’t be stepped over but you can get a leg over by your third move (and most often sooner). You never have both feet off the ground for more than a few seconds.

Having to butt scoot down something, mantle onto a rock, drop down a short ledge, awkwardly flop a knee or leg on top of something and pull yourself up, etc falls into 2.5. It is the least photogenic class to ascend or descend! Clambering onto and then off large deadfall would be a non-rock example of 2.5. People very sensitive to heights may find it discomforting while those with more experience might not percieve it as any worse than normal Class 2.

Backpacker Note: Travel with a full pack may be awkward or uncomfortable, but Class 2.5 generally won’t cause someone turn back. It is usually possible to lift your pack over the obstacle and go up unencumbered. While even novices are very unlikely to want to be roped in, carrying a length of ~10ft static rope can be useful for lowering your pack down 2.5 terrain (or pull it up after you) so you can go over it unencumbered.

If I was trying to capture trailed terrain I’d also make an intermediary 1.5 ala the WWYDS Class 2 - I actually mentioned that on High Sierra Topix a few weeks ago when I pointed out some of the OSM related threads here in case people were interested. :slight_smile: In terms of people doing XC peaks and passes I think collapsing casual/attentive/surefooted into YDS 1 is fine - definitely not appropriate for OSM general use!

Some quick ideas for value 4 to riff off of, going more for terseness.





My understanding of the distinction between value 4 and 5 is that 4 is fundamentally still walking (but with some use of hands for assistance) while 5 is no longer walking but scrambling or simple climbing. In value 5 the use of hands is fundamental to the movement technique, while in 4 hands are just for an extra bit of assistance. This assistance may be for balance, but also for a bracing oneself or a small push/pull to help with a big step over an obstacle. So I’d avoid including “balance” in the tag value for 4, and instead specify that it is “walking with some help from your hands” as opposed to value 5 which is not called “walking”.

Some more value ideas for 4: surefooted_walking_with_hands, surefooted_walking_plus_hands, hand_assisted_surefooted_walking, or maybe just hand_assisted_walking although I think “surefooted” may also be a key part.

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I agree that if the path is surefooted walking 99.5% of the time but with a couple short obstacles then mapping those obstacles specifically is preferable to tagging the whole path with value 5. I’m more wondering about a path that is ~40% value 5 sections and ~60% a lower value. Essentially it alternates between between scrambling/simple climbing and walking a number of times. It could be broken up with each short section tagged separately. But if it is not, would the whole thing still be value 5 (since value 5 movement is required for much of it), or would it be lower (since the majority is walking)?

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This one here seems to be the very same location - https://cdn-assets.alltrails.com/uploads/photo/image/65903534/18cb47cda7a9fef686f35a2364eb5aaa.jpg - The cable is new, when I went there most of it laid on the ground, waiting to be fixed. Obviously people like cables, you mentioned some reasons, mostly psychological;, I still have to “like” that post of yours.

But what with Striding Edge, it is a well known scramble in Britain. Even though it is a walk, for you, for erutan, for me, for the BMC instructor, except a 5m “crux”. It is a scramble for lots of people, just look at some youtube footage.

I’d say, the YDS or UIAA meaning of this is not portable to a scale that appeals to the general public. That term will make for lots of confusion.

Locally, some signs say “absolute Trittsicherheit” (absolute surfootedness), but I do not think this is a valid contestant for FS4.

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I watched some videos and it looks to me like much of this would fall under value 4. Some people might not need to use their hands at all, but it seems most people use their hands at least a little bit. Even the people who are using their hands quite a lot still seem to be basically walking, just with assistance of hands. Other sections appear to be value 5 where most people are using their hands constantly and their movements are more climbing than walking. This raises the same question I posed above. What value to use if a route is not micro-mapped by section? Round up I suppose?

Having watched some of those videos, the people scrambling there even lack surfootedness, that is why they scramble!

casual_use_of_hands perhaps?

That is the SAC scale premise. Fine for routes, but really in line with OSM principles?

UPDATE: Here some flatland T2 (acc. to hikr.org grading) images, Baldeneysteig über die Halde: Wanderungen und Rundwege | komoot - The operator says on this section “Nur für Geübte” (Only for the skilled.) I’d term it attentive-walking.

UPDATE2: Here picture of our local mountain-rescue team, that I am a proud sponsor of, but never ever will participate, due various reasons, lack of fitness among, on vacation in a place where they say, this “already” requires surefootedness https://www.bergrettung-innsbruck.at/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/e70a8370-6733-45f8-9d1d-8f813077e505.jpg

Very attractive and helpful for mountineers and backpackers!
I did not read all discutions posted here, but as I understand the matter is about the TECHNIQUES of passing a trail. If so, it must be noted that the hiking technique is not only about height of obstacles and the slope. The firmness of the ground, the local shape of the terrain, etc may affect the hiking technique as well. For example “hiking_technique=scree_run” is a must-have key value for some sloped scree trails. In fact, I was wondering why this feature is missing in OSM yet while there are some mountain trails in OSM which are good for scree running down but are not suitable for ascending and they may mislead hikers.
Some other tags related to local shape of terrain can be:
“hiking_technique=scooting” in some spots on narrow ridgelines;
“hiking_technique=jump” for a stream ford or gap point on a path.
(Just some raw suggestions which need more discution)

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Sorry was away for a while! Holiday + work stuff and a bit of travel.


That’s a good way of thinking of it. I was trying to draw off my experience of how YDS 2 is described, but yeah even on classic YDS 2 terrain that isn’t a full on mantle I’ll have a little force on my hands at times.

This gets into a larger meta issue. :slight_smile: From a practical standpoint I think just marking the entire way as the higher rating makes sense, or at least once it first hits that rating if it’s at the lower one for a significant amount of time.

If a path is 60% YDS 3 and 40% YDS 2 it’d just be called YDS 3. If you can get, say a mile in on Class 2 and then it switches over to alternating between the two I’d have it at surefooted + hands up until that point and then just keep it at a scramble. Someone on the working group mentioned that’s how they deal with alternating difficulty from a user centric perspective and that makes sense to me.

UPDATE: If a BMC 0.5 is value 4 until a crux at the end I’d separate those. If it’s value 4 for a while then switches every few minutes for hours I’d just mark that one shift up a grade and keep it at 5. I suppose if it’s value 4 and there’s two or three sustained sections of scrambling it’d worth breaking those out and making them distinct. At the point where someone is doing a scramble it’s nice to know it alternates between 4 and 5 all the time, but they can probably already see that, are comfortable on 5 anyways, or have done research outside of OSM.

In Yoho there was a path that was casual walking up until a waterfall, then a bit past it went more into attentive. I don’t think it’s worth mapping every flip and flop from casual to attentive, but having that first section to the waterfall as casual and then just saying it’s attentive past that seems worth noting.

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Yeah, there’s been some attempts here to move off of it. Casual scrambling vs scrambling isn’t very meaningful either though.

Funny but true. I’m not sure if I put it in here since I was trying to be concise, but elsewhere I’ve written there’s no shame in using more points of contact than a rating calls for (could be due to weather, bad shoes, lack of experience, injury, tiredness, whatever).

Hah. Yeah it’s useful to point out that it’s not a casual path, but “skilled” seems overkill.

Looks a narrower version of the north ridge of Baxter peak. I’d put that at firmly in surefooted + hands for balance. Depending on how large some of that talus really is (the scale could be deceptive) that could get into the easier side of scrambling.

Yeah, but that’s getting probably overly granular for a tag that is meant to make describing how non-technical terrain is moved over more accessible. :slight_smile:

That’s what I would call “loose” terrain, and tag onto a technique rating. YDS 2 L would be a steep er boot ski / screen run with some obstacles perhaps, YDS 3 L would be climbing up choss, YDS 1 L would be a simple lower angle sandy.

In OSM I guess if you have a high slope path and the surface is sand (no scree atm, but when has that stopped somebody) that’d give it away.

I think just marking a node as ford=paving-stones or something is more descriptive. Then you get into just hopping over rocks in a stream vs jumping over a large gap between vehicle to room sized talus etc heh.

That is a lovely way of phrasing it. If I was to condense it down “assistance” comes to mind.

1 casual_walking
2 attentive_walking
3 surefooted_walking
4 surefooted_walking_assisted_by_hands
5 scrambling

could condense 4 a bit into surefootedness_assisted_by_hands

4 is long as is, but I think it’s a good way of describing it!

Or we do a combo tweaking 4 and 5 leaning on hands and jump up from assistance:

1 casual_walking
2 attentive_walking
3 surefooted_walking
4 using_hands_for_assistance
5 using_hands_for_scrambling

That makes sense to me, but I’m not a flatlander. :slight_smile: I actually don’t think I like it as much as the one above.

To jump off this note a bit - I’d like to nail down wording on 4 and then do a pass on filling in the blanks on the descriptions, put it up for (brief hopefully) comments, then make it a proposal! Would it be overly complex to present two different versions of Grade 5? I personally lean to just keeping non technical climbing all smushed into scrambling but see the value of @Hungerburg’s approach to limiting it to simpler scrambling (and then presumably putting the rest into climbing). I’d personally be fine with either.

What if people could vote yes (either), yes (full scramble), yes (smaller scramble), no? Or add in a prefer one or the other on yes vote in comments? That way we can get some broad feedback on it without running two separate proposals or forcing one based on a relatively small pool of people interacting here.

Every OSM tag I can think of that says something about a path or road has a range of values that covers every possible path or road.

The smoothest paths are smoothness=excellent, the worst ones are impassable. The best tracks are tracktype=grade1, the worst ones are grade5. The highest trail_visibility is excellent, the lowest is no

There’s a path in OSM that goes up Mount Everest. (Yes, really.) It’s tagged as T6 - difficult_alpine_hiking. If we make a proposal for foot_scale and the top value is using_hands_for_scrambling, and foot_scale succeeds in replacing sac_scale, then eventually someone is going to tag the Khumbu Icefall as using_hands_for_scrambling. :sweat_smile:

Now I’m not sure if this should be tagged as a path at all, but my point is a more general one: I don’t think it’s going to work to say foot_scale only covers some of the range of what is currently considered a highway=path in OSM. I think we should have a top value that covers the hardest paths, as long as they are still considered a highway=path.

I know in the mountaineering world it’s not uncommon to have one scale end where another begins, but from what I’ve seen that’s not how OSM works. Instead we tend to have subkeys e.g. the top value could be foot_scale=climbing and then more detail could be added with climbing:grade:uiaa=.

Care should be taken that the proposal doesn’t encourage people to map more climbing routes that aren’t paths as paths.

For the name of the tag, I actually quite liked your suggestion of use_of_handholds.

If we don’t want the hardest paths (that are legitimately mapped as paths) in use_of_handholds, we can tack on a sixth value above it, at the top of the scale.

I also like the idea of having some votes in this thread on key questions, to gauge what most people think.

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