Definition of levels of difficulty pertaining to Club Hikes

These levels of difficulty are based on the system developed by the Rando Quebec (before: FQM) and uses two parameters:

* Distance 

Distance contributes to determining the degree of difficulty of a hike, the longer the length of a trail the greater is it's degree of difficulty. On flat terrain, assuming a walking pace of 3 to 4 km/hr this measure has to be modified based on the ruggedness of the land. A group walks slower than one or two individual hikers and thus the group will tend to conform to the pace of the slowest participant.

*  Elevation

Total elevation also helps to determine the degree of difficulty. Walking uphill tests the cardiovascular fitness of the participant while walking downhill is a test of muscle conditioning and can also be hard on the knees. An undulating trail is more tiring than one on a flat terrain.

In  mountainous terrains the progression of difficulty is measured in terms of positive (downhill) or negative (uphill) altitude and not as a measure of distance. Calculations are made on the basis of hiking 300 m per hour when climbing and 500 m per hour when descending.

There are other elements which affect the level of degree of difficulty;

* The condition of the trail surface

Sand, mud, ice, slush, pebbles, loose rocks etc. all make walking more difficult.

* Sun

Walking east into the sun in the morning or west later in the day .

* Altitude

Altitude above an elevation of 3,000 m elevates the difficulty level. 

* Signage

A lack of adequate signage can add to the difficulty of a trail and may require a greater degree of intrinsic sense of orientation.

* Backpacks 

Heavy backpacks may slow down the pace of a hiker  and can rapidly drain a hiker's energy reserves.

* Weather 

Rain, snow, sleet, fog and very high or low temperatures and other inclement weather can all impact the degree of difficulty of a hike.

Levels of difficulty for each type of activity.

See chart

Beginner level

A trail described as beginners level is accessible to the vast majority of hikers. It requires little or no preparation and a minimal amount of equipment which would include boots and adequate clothing and foul weather protection. These excursions may occasionally be combined with bird watching, interpretive tours or sight seeing.

Intermediate level

Intermediate level trails are accessible to hikers with a fair level of fitness and who are equipped with boots, appropriate clothing, water, sunscreen and insect repellent. Educational activities are generally not featured at this level of events.

Advanced level

Trails at this level of difficulty are offered to hikers with experience and who are in good physical condition. These trails can be in mountainous areas where rock scrambling may be required. The sole purpose of these events is to cover the distance. Other activities during these hikes are rarely, if ever, offered. 

1  Aménagement, évaluation et entretien des sentiers pédestres au Québec, Normes et critères, Fédération québécoise de la marche, septembre 2004.

Translated by Terry Browitt, edited by Barb Gibb