Climbing the sand dunes of Sossusvlei -  Photo: Peter Walton Chilling out on Phewa Lake, Pokhara -  Photo: Timothy Starkey Wildlife viewing in Chobe -  Photo: Peter Walton Hiking along the edge of Karakol Lake, on the Chinese side of the Karakoram Highway. -  Photo: Jarryd Salem Phoksundo Lake, Upper Dolpo, Nepal -  Photo: Bill Quinlan A young Mongolian boy herds Bactrian camels -  Photo: Cam Cope

Trip Gradings

Our adventure grading system

We take great care to ensure that you select an adventure suited to your interests and physical capabilities. The gradings set out on below are a starting point to appreciate what the trip involves and should be consulted in conjunction with our detailed trip notes. We also encourage you to consult with one of our staff. Please remember, the fitter you are, the more you will enjoy your trip, as ‘there is no such thing as an easy trek.’ All of our trips require participants to be active in their daily lives. Trips listed as Grade 3 and above require regular exercise.

Grade 1: Discovery & Cruising

These are our least demanding trips. These journeys of discovery and cruises involve little or no extended activity and are suitable for people with a basic level of fitness and good health. The itinerary may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and may involve long travelling days on various types of transport. Sightseeing may be conducted on foot and all participants should be capable of carrying their own luggage from vehicle to hotel rooms.

Suggested preparation: Once or twice a week, we recommend you walk on undulating terrain for an hour, for at least 2-3 months prior to departure.

Grade 2: Adventure Touring

These adventure tours sometimes may visit remote areas where facilities are often basic. Many of these trips sometimes involve some camping or basic lodging. These adventure tours will often involve long journeys and rough roads. To enjoy these adventures we suggest reasonable fitness and health, a moderately active lifestyle and a positive attitude.

Suggested preparation: Two or three times a week, we recommend you walk on undulating terrain for an hour or more, for at least 3 months prior to departure.

Grade 3: Introductory

These trips involve trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or sea kayaking for up to five or six hours a day at a slow but steady pace. You will need a reasonable level of fitness and good health. Our introductory trips are not ‘easy’ trips and you will need a reasonable level of fitness and good health.

Suggested preparation: We recommend 30 minutes of aerobic type exercise, (fast walking, jogging or cycling) three times a week. For trekking, hill or stair walking with a 5-7kg daypack is also highly recommended at least once a week for leg strengthening and aerobic fitness. Walking in variable weather conditions is advisable. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week for three months prior to departure is recommended. On our adventures which feature paddling, confidence and rhythm are more important than speed.

Grade 4: Introductory to Moderate

These trips involve a combination of what is described in our Introductory and Moderate levels. The emphasis is on introductory activity with several moderate stages.

Suggested preparation: We recommend 45 minutes of aerobic type exercise three times a week, from a minimum of three months period to your departure. This can include swimming, jogging, hard walking or cycling - good cardiovascular exercise. For treks, hill or stair walking with a 7kg daypack is also highly recommended at least once a week. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week for three months prior to departure is advised.

Grade 5: Moderate

These adventures involve trekking, cycling, rafting or sea kayaking for up to 6 or 7 hours a day at a steady pace. You will need a good level of fitness and must be in good health. Treks may involve carrying a full pack around 15kg. Be prepared for potential variable weather conditions.

Suggested preparation: We recommend 45 minutes of aerobic type exercise, three to four times a week. Hill walking with a pack in variable weather conditions, kayaking or road cycling is also recommended depending upon the activity you plan to undertake.

Grade 6: Moderate to Challenging

This trip grading involves a combination of what is described in our MODERATE and CHALLENGING levels. The emphasis is on moderate activity with several challenging stages.

Suggested preparation: We recommend one hour of aerobic type exercise, four times a week. Hill walking with a pack in variable weather conditions, kayaking or road cycling is also recommended depending upon the activity you plan to undertake.

Grade 7: Challenging

These adventures involve trekking, cycling or rafting in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day, possibly more. With remoteness comes potential to encounter variable weather conditions. You will need an excellent level of fitness, be prepared to carry a full pack weighing up to 20kgs (depending on the trip you choose) and be completely comfortable in adverse weather conditions and remote locations where evacuation may be very difficult.

Suggested preparation: One hour of strenuous exercise, four times a week, interspersed with a relatively demanding bushwalk or long distance cycle depending on the activity you plan to undertake.

Trekking: Hill walking with a 5-7kg daypack is also highly recommended at least once a week for leg strengthening and aerobic fitness. The best exercise for trekking is bushwalking involving relatively steep ascents and descents. Hill walking with a 7kg pack in variable weather conditions is a must. Multi day walks are ideal preparation for our challenging adventures.

Cycling: Solid preparation is essential in the months leading up to your departure. Regular biking (four to five times a week) for at least one to four hours, with as many hills as possible, will well prepare you for the trip. It will also allow you to familiarise yourself with your bike, your personal clothing and equipment, and your preferences for fluid and food intake whilst exercising. You can also combine biking with other aerobic exercise such as running, swimming or gym work for variety. Consistency is the key, so that you build aerobic fitness, leg strength and stamina.

Grade 8: Entry Level Mountaineering / Exploratory Treks

These adventures are classed as expeditions. They involve either extreme trekking and or basic mountaineering. Expect remote and poorly defined trails in variable weather conditions for up to 12 hours a day (possibly more subject to weather conditions and altitude). This may include a number of demanding high pass crossings and evacuation may be difficult from remote areas. These adventures are suitable for first time mountaineers wishing to take the step from trekking into the realm of mountaineering. Prior experience trekking at altitude is preferable but not essential and you should be comfortable in adverse weather conditions. Prior technical mountaineering experience is not necessary. Terrain will involve low angle snow slopes. Ropes may be used during treks for glacier travel and steeper sections of ice and snow. When mountaineering, basic mountaineering instruction is given by our mountaineering guides.

Suggested preparation: Physical fitness should be an ongoing thing, which should start from a base at around four to six months prior to departure and increase to build maximum endurance, stamina, flexibility and familiarity with the anticipated routine as much as possible by your trip commencement. Three to five hard sessions of 45 to 60 minutes of physical exercise per week such as running, hill walking, swimming, cycling or gym work will build excellent aerobic capacity and overall endurance and stamina which are so important in trekking and climbing at altitude. Overnight or multi day bushwalks (on rough, loose and rocky terrain) should be incorporated in your training regime; this develops skill and confidence on difficult terrain you will find on expedition. Rest and recovery, whilst at the same time steadily increasing your routine and incorporating variety, are just as important parts of the process if you intend to maintain and enjoy the regime for any duration. Please review the ‘Physical Fitness’ section of the detailed trip notes for each expedition to ensure your fitness and training are sufficient.

Grade 9: Intermediate Mountaineering

Participants should be competent and self sufficient in the outdoors and have experience in multi day trekking at altitude. Prior experience on an entry level mountaineering expedition is highly recommended. The terrain will involve low to moderate angle snow slopes and traveling on crevassed glaciers. Experience using ice axe and crampons is preferred but not essential.

Suggested preparation: Physical fitness should be an ongoing thing, which should start from a base at around four to six months prior to departure and increase to build maximum endurance, stamina, flexibility and familiarity with the anticipated routine as much as possible by your trip commencement. Three to five hard sessions of 45 to 60 minutes of physical exercise per week such as running, hill walking, swimming, cycling or gym work will build excellent aerobic capacity and overall endurance and stamina which are so important in trekking and climbing at altitude. Overnight or multi day bushwalks (on rough, loose and rocky terrain) should be incorporated in your training regime; this develops skill and confidence on difficult terrain you will find on expedition. Rest and recovery, whilst at the same time steadily increasing your routine and incorporating variety, are just as important parts of the process if you intend to maintain and enjoy the regime for any duration. Please review the ‘Physical Fitness’ section of the detailed trip notes for each expedition to ensure your fitness and training are sufficient.

Grade 10: Advanced Mountaineering

These are our most challenging expeditions. Prior mountaineering experience is required. Most are participatory expeditions and involve load carrying, setting up of camps, cooking and campcraft. Altitudes can exceed 6500m. Some expeditions also involve “technical” climbing and are for experienced alpine climbers/mountaineers only. Technical expeditions involve steep climbing at high altitude (including rock climbing). Participation on one of these expeditions is subject to acceptance by one of our high altitude mountaineering guides. They provide a helpful insight into our extraordinary adventures.

Suggested preparation: Physical fitness should be an ongoing thing, which should start from a base at around four to six months prior to departure and increase to build maximum endurance, stamina, flexibility and familiarity with the anticipated routine as much as possible by your trip commencement. Three to five hard sessions of 45 to 60 minutes of physical exercise per week such as running, hill walking, swimming, cycling or gym work will build excellent aerobic capacity and overall endurance and stamina which are so important in trekking and climbing at altitude. Overnight or multi day bushwalks (on rough, loose and rocky terrain) should be incorporated in your training regime; this develops skill and confidence on difficult terrain you will find on expedition. Rest and recovery, whilst at the same time steadily increasing your routine and incorporating variety, are just as important parts of the process if you intend to maintain and enjoy the regime for any duration. Please review the ‘Physical Fitness’ section of the detailed trip notes for each expedition to ensure your fitness and training are sufficient.

Technical Gradings

Below is a guide to our technical gradings for mountaineering trips.

Basic:

The conditions are relatively straightforward and not technically difficult. Expect generally low angled slopes with no prolonged steep or exposed sections and glacier travel where participants are roped together. Abseiling may be required in short sections.

Intermediate:

The conditions are challenging involving steep and exposed snow and ice slopes with sections of rock climbing. Some sections involve abseiling and belaying.

Difficult:

A more serious and technical undertaking involving long and exposed climbing on snow, rock and ice. Competent rope work, efficiency of movement and good technical skills are required.

Extreme:

A more serious and technical undertaking involving long and exposed climbing on snow, rock and ice. Competent rope work, efficiency of movement and good technical skills are required.

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