The Yosemite Dec­i­mal Sys­tem (YDS) is one of the most com­mon­ly used rat­ing sys­tems for rock climb­ing routes. It’s rat­ings are sub­jec­tive to the user and the area, but here for you today are the basics for talk­ing the talk before you rock the rock. The YDS is bro­ken up into five dif­fer­ent class­es. These class­es reflect the amount of expo­sure, dan­ger, and dif­fi­cul­ty one will face at the hard­est part of the route (the crux). The class sys­tems are described as follows:

Class 1
Don’t get too wor­ried about this one. If you are on a Class 1 route that means you might be tak­ing a walk on a slight­ly ele­vat­ed side­walk, or cruis­ing a bike along a green­way. You don’t need any ropes for this class, and if you do, you’re prob­a­bly doing some­thing ter­ri­bly wrong.

Class 1

Class 2
This is where we can intro­duce sim­ple scram­bling. You may sud­den­ly find your­self using your hands a lit­tle more as you hop from boul­der to boul­der or step onto a slip­pery slope. Once again, if you’re on a Class 2 climb, your ele­va­tion change won’t jus­ti­fy using ropes and your dan­ger lev­el will be at a minimum. 

Class 3
Take Class 2 scram­bling and add a lit­tle height to it, and you get some Class 3 action. Ropes are not yet required because routes with a Class 3 rat­ing tend to offer some sol­id foot­ing, but this is where you need to start think­ing about the con­se­quences of falling. Not that falling on a Class 3 would nec­es­sar­i­ly be fatal, but it would dish up a major incon­ve­nience to your day.

5.0 - 5.6

Class 4
Alrighty, here we go. Class 4 climbs are still going to offer some decent foot­ing and you’re not 100% ver­ti­cal, but clip­ping or tying your­self into a rope at this point is not a bad idea. These falls are not extreme­ly like­ly, but if they do occur, there is a chance that they would be fatal. Think of canyoneer­ing and walk­ing along steep canyon walls. 

Class 5
Now we’re talk­ing. Class 5 is the most com­mon Class for gen­uine free-climb­ing (not to be mis­tak­en with free-solo­ing), and is the class most talked about at the crag site. These climbs are ver­ti­cal, and if you’re like most nor­mal human beings, you will require rope and belay­er to attempt these upward adven­tures. The YDS has gone even fur­ther in the Class 5 rat­ing sys­tems and bro­ken up climbs into, well, into decimals:

5.0 - 5.6

5.0 — 5.6
This first group­ing of Class 5  routes is real­ly good for begin­ners. 5.0 — 5.6 routes will typ­i­cal­ly have two footholds and two hand­holds for every move and are often referred to as “lad­ders.” But make no mis­take, just because they are clas­si­fied as begin­ner routes, does­n’t mean every begin­ner will get them.

This sec­tion is for the non-begin­ners. It takes a bit of time to climb smooth­ly at the 5.7 range and a lot of prac­tice to climb flu­id­ly at the 5.10 range. Footholds began to dis­ap­pear and a lot of reliance is put into crimpy hand­holds. This range reflects more tech­nique, bal­ance, and strength than your begin­ner climbs. 


The most claimed yet un-cov­et­ed set of rock climb­ing rat­ings. To climb at these lev­els (more so as the num­bers increase) one must put a lot of time on the rock or be born with some incred­i­ble unfair amount of nat­ur­al tal­ent. Whichev­er way, who needs hand­holds or footholds when you have either.