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

Ok. I supposed that “hiking_technique” would deeply go into details about the technique of hikihng for trails. If it is not the case, I think sac_scale + surface + incline are enough for descritption of a path and the new key won’t add much helpfull information.

I’m not a climber, just a hiker. I don’t know wether YDS grading is applicable for non-technical paths. Is there any approved key to add the value for a path? Is there any app for rendering the grade of the routes and showing, for example, “The trail is not suitable for ascending” or “Descending path only”? I think sac_scale + surface + incline are more descriptive for OSM editors and currently are rendered by some map apps (such as Trekarta).

I was thinking that if a rendered path for hikihng_technique shows us the jumping points of the trail, will it be usefull? It does not look so usefull. So, you are right. Tags such as ford=paving_stones or natural=crevasse etc. are more descriptive and enough. The hikihng_technique=jump can be totally neglected.

Had to upload a video, File:Scree Run.webm - Wikimedia Commons - 700 m altitude in 20 min :slight_smile: [Hanwag Yukon Wide boots]

@erutan Meanwhile, I guess this topic shifted from hiking_technique to foot_scale – perhaps time to start a RfC for proposed tag in this forum now, that summarizes the findings from here? So people can join without reading two hours…

A bit earlier (some months ago, in this topic though) I wrote such too, the top level might be “beyond this scale” to mark that something is beyond this scale, much like somothness impassable. I do not consider it wise to make foot_scale include climbing. Scrambling (BMC 1 type, UIAA I) fine, but climbing definitely not.

BTW: I do not see foot_scale replace sac_scale, it is just making the subject matter more accessible, I can see them both merrily combine.

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To me that’s the same thing? It sounds like we agree that the tag at the top of the scale should have its upper limit where highway=path does*, instead of excluding the most difficult paths from being tagged with foot_scale. We can call the top value beyond_this_scale or climbing or use_of_handholds or not_walkable or impassable or no… doesn’t really matter. The point is, it acts as a big red warning sign to the casual hiker to keep away. Mappers who aren’t climbers or mountaineers can just put the tag on the path without having to concern themselves with climbing scales.

*wherever that is; defining that isn’t the job of this scale.

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You’re having a different discussion than what this thread has evolved into, including the key name. :slight_smile:

Actual movement techniques can also vary based on weather, snow coverage, and experience/comfort level. Having to map every section where people sidestep, crab walk, heel brake, boot ski, hop, jump, mantle, etc etc for an entire way would get problematic and/or tedious.

Not offhand, but steep slopes are one of the few times I think the surface tag is meaningful outside of “is this paved / compacted gravel or natural”. If you see a path going up high angle slopes without switchbacks and it’s sandy people can figure that out. Some mapping applications let you select a way and read metadata on it, Caltopo does that.

  1. If I’m reading this right, you’re arguing for the top value (5, use of handholds, scrambling) to either include all scrambling up to YDS 4, SAC T6, BMC 3, etc OR if we didn’t do that we’d need to create a value 6 to cover “hard scrambling”.

That makes sense to me. It’s a good argument against putting T5-T6 into climbing:grade:sac_scale=*. I’d rather just keep it one value at that point.

  1. I don’t think foot_scale needs to include technical climbing. climbing=route seems to be a more appropriate way and is a different mode of transit. IMO anything above non-technical (but still potentially dangerous!) scrambling isn’t appropriate for highway=path. I agree this is a good point to bring up on a documentation page, but I’m not sure I’d add a value 6 that just maps to climbing.

As people are probably sick of hearing, I’m a fan of keeping local systems for additional knowledge. Perhaps creating a scramble:grade:= alongside value 5 is the way to go based heavily on climbing:grade:*=*

Yeah I think it’s consolidated nicely and it’s mostly just details now. Should it be a new forum post for now, a proposal on the wiki, or both?

What would be the best way to do that? I’m not sure there’s built in polling options. I suppose I (and others) could make some comments and people can vote with defined reaction emoji on them? :stuck_out_tongue:

If there’s a new clean RFC foot_scale=* thread, it’d be nice to put some of the lingering questions here as a vote on it.

Agreed. I think keeping sac_scale for use in the Swiss alps or other regions that are used to it makes sense, and it can be part of scramble:grade:sac_scale=t5. etc or more simply to keep it all in key foot_scale:scramble:grade:sac_scale=t5, scramble:grade:yds_scale=4, scramble:grade:bmc_scale=2 etc.

It will however replace sac_scale as the default way to describe highway=path, so in that sense it’s being replaced as the default and just being used where actually appropriate.

I feel like scrambling probably does that already and is within the scale. It’s what I consider the “here be dragons, time to do some actual research” value (even if it’s not all that terrible in mountaineering terms).

That’s essentially what it would be doing though - beyond this scale IS climbing.

If we have a highway=path with foot_scale=no that seems to me like it should be a climbing=route or highway=via_ferrata instead.

I think there is going to need to be some disclaimer around what foot_scale covers. Basically we can say that if ropes are expected to be in use then it’s either climbing=route or highway=via_ferrata. This obviously overlaps a little bit with the higher scramble grades, and there’s people like Alex Hannold that will free solo insane shit, but I think we can come up with a way of describing it similar the difference between YDS 4 > 5 or UIAA 2 > 3 etc. Heck, Secor says beginners should be roped on YDS 3 if they want (~T4) and UIAA 1 says the same (~YDS 4).

UIAA II is described as needing three points of contact, which feels like the upper end of truly non-technical climbing and happens to happily coincide with SAC T6.

@Hungerburg a straightforward pragmatic question. How do we port SAC T6 if it’s not in value 5 of foot_scale?

iirc T6 can go up to UIAA II, which would make it fair game to be ported into climbing:grade:sac_scale=t6. I can’t find the conversion chart I had seen online before. We could then port T4 and T5 into foot_scale=scrambling or foot_scale=use_of_handholds etc.

One issue with just use_of_handholds is that it does seem like it would encapsulate technical climbing as well, I think I’m moving away from that.

When I was researching the international systems to try and find patterns and common ground I do remember that some European countries choose to not map paths for T6. Switzerland does, but Austria doesn’t? If I’m wrong @Hungerburg will correct me heh.

Australia does something similar with it’s most rugged rated paths (those I assume are not traditionally technical, but rough and low visibility with some scrambling here or there).

You can make a poll in the forum! It’s under the cog all the way on the right.

The SAC revised its scale this year. T6 now can contain long and T5 can include short sections of unroped UIAA II scrambling. Under the OSM sac_scale in my reading UIAA II sections are exclusive to T6.

The definition of UIAA II is breathing its age. It is, when climbers start to use three points of contact and beginners should be roped in. It is more about safety than difficulty. In my scramble proposal I put the caption “use of hands for comfort” below the T6 picture.

Never mind that modern routes cannot even be made with three points of contact, as that will not let you advance in places. A leap of faith being the extreme, no points of contact. In the scramble proposal I posted a video of someone doing this free solo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8e0yXMa708Y

So, I’d wager, not an English native speaker, foot_scale=no in analogy to trail_visibility=no, there should be others, as value F6 seems fine to indicate Here be Dragons, as long as the documentation clearly states, that this is only for paths across non walking terrain even with hands like in F5. I am against calling this value climbing. The climbing community has its own tagging that is not based on highway=path. No need to interfere.

Yet, path is so broad in its meaning, we just cannot map all of it into a single scale. This brings up another problem, that @osmuser63783 pointed out: People want to add value to the data, i.e. tag stuff. Unfortunately, there cannot be a default value for foot_scale, i.e. casual_walking? As much as I’d like that, and certainly, most of what is mapped path is casual_walking – the outliers prove us wrong. Never mind that consumers for ever used that default.

UPDATE: One more coincidence for value NO; People mapping new paths, foot_scale=no – much like trail_visibility=no – might be a hint to re-consider mapping a path at all?

Curiously, it is the other way around: The Swiss do not map T6 paths, in case you meant Swisstopo I remember having read that the SAC persuaded them to map T4 routes some ten years ago. In my vicinity, Austria, there are a few routes containing UIAA II (according to local mountain guides assessment) in the national map, e.g Rumerspitze Westgrat, that is shown as a marked trail, which it isn’t (Obviously from below videos, memory did not serve me well.)

I might be misreading this, so apologies if so, but:

The discussion started off in 2022 with the suggestion that paths unsuitable for regular walking could be tagged as highway=scramble, which would mean that unthinking data consumers (like most of them) would not mislead people into walking off mountains.

This proposal has now been dropped in favour of adding an additional tag to existing paths, such as foot_scale:scramble:grade:sac_scale=t5.

Do you have a estimated date for when Mapbox, Facebook, Strava etc. are likely to start parsing this tag?


I didn’t think this discussion here was really a continuation of the highway=scramble discussion: It was never about moving some objects that are currently tagged as paths out of path and into something else.

As I understand it, the rationale for highway=scramble is that data consumers see highway=path and don’t know if it’s a smooth cycle track, a scramble, or a mountaineering route. A version of the problem you described in this ten year old (!) diary entry.

In contrast, the idea for foot_scale started as a side remark (bottom of this post) that sac_scale doesn’t allow us to differentiate between technique and exposure, so (some) mappers found it hard to apply consistently. It also mixes in other things such as slope and footwear requirements. So foot_scale intentionally excludes all that, and just focuses on technique.

Other complaints are that

The root cause of all this is probably that the scale was invented in Switzerland, for the sort of paths and terrain encountered in Switzerland, and never intended to cover paths across the globe.

@Reza_Babri you have been mapping in Iran. Have you encountered any difficulties when applying sac_scale?

As far as I understand, foot_scale is intended to be more fine-grained and more globally applicable than sac_scale. But it’s not going to solve the path problem: data consumers that ignore sac_scale are unlikely to support it. I hope one day we get highway=scramble or similar, I just didn’t think this was it.

As a aside, I don’t see why we should replace sac scale with foot_scale:scramble:grade:sac_scale. It’s just the same thing with a more complicated key name.


I do hope, you are reading this wrong :slight_smile: I at least have no interest in creating the one and only scale that encompasses any imaginable scale on earth as a subclass behind five colons. I alse have not the least interest in replacing sac_scale. Going this way, any proposal is doomed to fail.

sac_scale has its uses in niches. But it will never be a key that meets the needs of a wider class of map data users. Something that openstreetmap needs, and sac_scale needs that too, so it does not get misapplied due to factors already mentioned.

One of the naysayers argument in the scramble vote was, if the national map has a path there, openstreetmap must have a path there too. Here two videos of where our national map has a path.

First one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0O0lWsajN0 starting the trip from Hungerburg :wink: UIAA II foto at 6:45 and a bit of UIAA I at 6:30. Not much impressive, but this is canonical grading.

Second one uncut https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0QqhTJI5OA : As smart people do, up the eastern ridge in order to end the trip with a scree run, video linked some post above. At 29:00 on the summit. Then down the western arete with the short UIAA II sections in between mostly UIAA I and some walking terrain where even a path emerges at times.

UIAA II section not much exposed, so not really challenging. Route in few places exposed a bit. We here say, Es pfeift - It gets airy. But not too much and not in the difficult places. Tagged sac_scale T5 (E) and T6 (W) in OSM. On site, the Western side is called an “Alpine Route” - decidedly telling guidepost readers that there is not path there.

foot_scale=no, in my opinion. highway=scramble in my opinion.


Regarding applications of foot_scale for cycle routing:

  • casual walking - always doable with most anything except dedicated road racers
  • attentive walking - doable with MTB (down), others may have to push
  • surefooted walking - have to haul bike on shoulders

Does that seem plausible?

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UPDATE: A day and some thinking later, I am not certain at all, foot_scale needs a fourth value, e.g. “assisted walking” - as that might encompass e.g this, https://i.ds.at/CwHRdQ/c:3808:2537:fp:0.500:0.500/rs:fill:1600:0/plain/lido-images/2023/11/20/7a872ce5-0fa4-4b33-a3e2-527bd5111ba1.jpeg - a location that @osmuser63783 mentioned; Note that the caravan is following a fixed rope. The terrain there certainly is no more demanding than Rumer Spitz, but some extra hazard=suffocation|freezetodeath or obstacle=lotsofpreparation|bigfinancialsupportnecessary might apply only there.

foot_scale=no and highway=mountaineering in my opinion.

@erutan @ezekielf @osmuser63783 - I created RfC: New Key foot_scale=* to start formalities. It is all about walking, thats what feet are good at, a pedestrian scale, so to say.

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It allows for YDS, BMC, etc as well - agreed it would make no sense if it was only for SAC. It doesn’t have to be in foot_scale, but it’s the exact same syntax that climbing uses to allow for local scales/ Climbing - OpenStreetMap Wiki

I think it’s useful since we are collapsing a decent amount of difficulty into the highest value. Probably 0.01% of people will care about it, which is fine, but for that 0.01% knowing if foot_scale=scramble is T4 or T6, BMC 1 or 3, YDS 3 or 4 is probably helpful.

We could theoretically put the lower grades into climbing (YDS3, SAC T4, BMC 1) but IMO the scale is meant for technical climbing and it will be rendered as such. We could also just create a scramble_grade:yds/bmc/sac=* as well, but keeping it in foot_scale seems simpler.

It’s a bit of a secondary concern, but we need somewhere to stick scramble ratings since they’re in between most foot traffic and proper climbing.

Experienced MTB people will be able to bike down a lot of surefooted terrain, but overall I think that maps well.

I wasn’t under the impression that Facebook had to support tags for them to be implemented on OSM. Scramble ratings as described above are not the main point of this thread.

I also don’t think that rendering support for subvalues really matters. For 99.99% of people just seeing foot_scale=scramble is good enough. What that actually means in YDS, BMC, or SAC is useful metadata for minority of people, multiple mapping clients let you see raw OSM values for a way or node.

So if this tag is added to OSM do you see sac_scale still existing globally as the only way to describe T4 to T6 terrain? I think that’s sub-par for people in the US, UK, and other places that are more familiar with other systems.

Yes. In your words: Local systems rule, where walking ends. Their benchmarks are too much different. Incommensurable at that.

Scales for routes where individual research is a good idea anyhow and years of practice a highly suggested ingredient never can be condensed in a numeric value teachable from an OSM editor pane.

I guess I will have create another foot_scale RfC, looks like I forgot to ask contributors to stay concise in their expression.

For the avoidance of doubt, when you see a “sac_scale” key in OSM, this is NOT the relevant documentation. This is.

So wouldn’t that be a no to keeping sac_scale as a global default for terrain that falls into T4-T6?

What do you propose for values in that range?

That still doesn’t make the distinction between T4 to T6 terrain as intuitive to me as YDS 3 to 4, or BMC 1-3 to the average scrambler from the UK.

I’m unsure of why technical climbing defaults to local scales, but scrambling shouldn’t. Someone in the Swiss Alps doesn’t have to tag a route as YDS 5.10a, just as someone in the Sierra Nevada wouldn’t have to tag an equally challenging route as UIAA 6−.