I've often heard that it is the altitude and exposure that makes Everest most challenging, but technically speaking, it's not a very challenging climb at all. Supposedly, if base camp for Everest were at sea level, then summitting Everest, for the most part, would be a simple walk up to the top.

What would the different sections of Everest be rated using the Yosemite decimal system? (i.e. Trek into base Camp, Khumbu Icefall up to Camp 1, Camp 1 to Camp 2, Lhotse Ice face, Yellow Band, Hillary Step, etc...)

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Note: The accepted answer will preferably do something cool like; list of all the sections of the climb to the summit and their classes, draw a rad doodle with arrows and labels, make a piechart, etc... Links to articles or other posts will only get upvotes.

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    Actually, it's exactly what the YDS is used for. If Everest were in North America, then this is the system that would be used to rate it's difficulty, if it were mostly rock anyways. I recognize that this question won't be very helpful or interesting to anyone outside of Canada or the USA, and I apologize for that, but all hikes and climbs in North America a rated using this system, it's something that experienced climbers here are very familiar with and can relate to.
    – ShemSeger
    Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 18:33
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    related: outdoors.stackexchange.com/q/4674/2169
    – user2169
    Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 2:00
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    I still don't see it. The YDS is for rock climbing. Everest is mostly "ice trekking" at extreme altitude, often using ladders to bypass obstacles and relying heavily on sherpas. You probably barely touch rock for 90% of the technical areas. If you were Uli Steck soloing I could understand it, but even then a winter/ice grading system would make more sense. For the vast majority of people going up this hill, this comparison isn't useful.
    – user2766
    Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 9:32
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    Or as bluntly put by Andy Kirkpatrick: "My stock answer [to journalists asking him about Everest when another death has occurred] is to point out that I’m a climber, and that Everest isn’t a climb, but a walk. This usually gets the person at the other end a bit confused and flustered as they check their notes. “Yes” I usually continue “If you have to step over a dead body half way up then it’s classed as walk. On real climbs the bodies fall to the bottom”."
    – Paul Lydon
    Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 12:27
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    @Liam - This comparison is very useful to me. The YSD is used in North America to grade all hikes. Class 1-3 are walks, climbing a ladder is considered Class 4, vertical rock climbing begins at 5.0. I already apologized to everyone outside of the UK, but this system really communicates to me what a trail is like.
    – ShemSeger
    Commented Nov 28, 2014 at 20:21

1 Answer 1


This post provides a YDS rating for various sections of the Everest climb. Recall that the YDS rating system begins at class 1 for easy trail walking, class 4 is like climbing a ladder, and technical climbing begins at class 5.

Overall, it seems like the climb up Everest is not very technical--it's mainly the altitude and weather that make it so difficult. Here are some sections taken from the article:

The trek to Everest Base Camp is mostly class 1 intermixed with brief class 2 sections.

Some of the route from Camp 2 at the base of theLhotse Face to the South Summit is class 3 but mostly class 2 via the fixed ropes.

I would rate the Khumbu Icefall overall as class 4 due to the crevasse danger and the need to use hands and feet on ladders and climbing over ice formations. However, a large part of the Icefall is on somewhat smooth terrain which would be rated class 2, however at 19,000'.

With the route fixed, almost none of the South Col route meets these definitions [of class 5] even though an axe and crampons are used. However, obviously, there are much more difficult routes on Everest that significantly exceed the South Col and Northeast Ridge difficulty

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    The article you linked to also says that the Hillary Step is class 4. Since YDS ratings are supposed to be defined by the most difficult part of the climb, I think the over-all answer is that the normal route on Everest is class 4.
    – user2169
    Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 1:59
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    That article also says All of this discussion uses the Yosemite Decimal System which was designed primarily for rock climbing. It's a stretch to class going up Everest as rock climbing in it's purest sense.
    – user2766
    Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 9:33
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    @Liam - The question also asks, "if base camp for Everest were at sea level" in which case, climbing Everest would be mostly walking on rock. The YSD is relative at best even for rock climbing. Three people of different heights/climbing styles can climb the same route and each rate it something different. I get that you don't understand the YSD, so I don't expect you to benefit from this question at all.
    – ShemSeger
    Commented Nov 28, 2014 at 20:26
  • I think there is a subtlety here that is being overlooked. As far as I understand, fixing ropes doesn't change the underlying rating of the climb. If a friend of mine climbs a pitch of of 5.12c and lowers me a rope to jumar up to him on a ledge, that does not convert the pitch to class 4. Certainly the clients are shielded from the full difficulty of the climb, but my impression is that the Sherpas who put up the route through the Khumbu ice fall every year end up doing some fairly technical ice climbing. Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 1:55

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