River grades

December 19, 2006

I’ve been reading a lot about river grades but it has taken a while to scout out the meaning of the grades but here it is  (avaiable at wikipedia)

A Grade I (One) section will have long sections of flat, slow moving water, with minor ripples or waves and a course that is easily navigable. There is little danger to swimmers (other than the usual hazards of water) and self-rescue should be easy.

Class/Grade II
A Grade II (Two) section may have sections of straightforward rapids, some small waves, weirs, small drops or ledges and eddys. There will be a clear route through all features without a need for inspection.

Class/Grade III
A Grade III (Three) section will have numerous rapids, irregular waves and moderate drops, harder eddys that may recirculate and stoppers may form below drops and in waves. The river may have a broken flow that might not always present a clear course. Often these sections have a series of drops creating a steep overall gradient. On the whole, from-the-water inspection should be sufficient, although some harder parts may need inspection from the river bank.

Class/Grade IV
A Grade IV (Four) section will feature long, difficult rapids with highly irregular waves, a steep gradient, a stepped profile with drops up to 3 m in height, difficult eddys and whirlpools. The course of the river may be hard to recognise and powerful but predictable flows require precise handling, with a high risk to swimmers. Off-river inspection is highly advised, as is bank support for some features.

Class/Grade V
A Grade V (Five) section will be similar to a Grade IV, with larger, more violent features and less predictable flows. Often, there will be large, unavoidable dangers such as holes and boiling/recirculating eddys. Courses are difficult to find and will definitely incur a risk to both paddler and equipment. A pre-run inspection from the river bank is VITAL. Rescue is often difficult, and bank support with throw lines is always recommended.

Class/Grade VI
A Grade VI (Six) section is at the pinnacle of technicality and difficulty. Only to be attempted by teams of highly skilled experts, there is a definite risk to a paddler’s life, as many of these sections have either never been (successfully) paddled before, or they have led to deaths. Often a Grade VI will be a single feature within a Grade IV or V section, such as a water fall. Bank support with rescue lines is always required, as is inspection from all possible angles, and luck is often considered an important part of a successful run.


Next thing is to find out about the BCU grades for paddlers…


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