There are 3 specific qualities I will rate. They are views, difficulty, and technicality. My rating system of 1 to 5 is not an evenly distributed rating system. Graphically it can be represented by the following graphics. The point of this scale is to differentiate the top end of the spectrum. The reasoning for this is that the lower end doesn’t matter as much because if the quality of a hike is worse than mediocre, why do it? This is especially true given the ability to explore new places. Of course these are my opinions and are subjective, like all our observations.
The views/experience rating can be taken as an overall rating for the hike. While the main idea is the general aesthetics of the hike, trek, or place, it may also describe other qualities related to the hike such as fun from scrambling or swimming holes you can jump into. Note that the idea of this rating is attempting to be orthogonal to the difficulty or technically rating below.
- 5 – A must see and high priority. Would be on my top X places to go list if I wrote an article for buzzfeed. I would go back to these places in an instant. In the explore or exploit discussion, these places I would return to these places over exploring new places.
- 4 – Very good views and worth the travel and effort. I would revisit these places given the opportunity. In the explore or exploit discussion for these, it would be a toss up in the sense of convenience and affordability.
- 3 – Good views and worth the effort. I would not travel for the sole purpose of revisiting these places and I would choose to explore new areas typically over revisiting these places unless I have additional motivation such as showing friends. If I am in the area already, I’d revisit these places.
- 2 – Mediocre views and some positives. They are worth the effort, but I would not naturally revisit unless additional motivation. I’d chose exploring new places straight up compared to these.
- 1 – Below average to bad. Not worth my time and effort.
The difficulty measure captures the degree of annoyance or painfulness you might need to endure for the hike. Two specific things among others to consider in terms of overcoming difficulties are general personal fitness needed for a hike and the environmental elements that may come your way.
For reference, I have decently in shape, but not trail runner or marathon runner by any means. I love food and booze too much, also have no patience for running unless I’m chasing a plastic disc. My range for hiking happily is under 20 miles depending on the elevation change, while my max is probably around 25. As for full pack backpacking, my happy range is probably under 14 miles with max so far around 20. I haven’t really tested my true max, but I’ve at least hit that 20 mile mark a few times.
I can also withstand typical things Zeus throws. I am no trained survivalist or military.
- 5 – This is where I am dying. I probably won’t do this again because I am in the ground. I must have gotten the equivalent of an orgasm, aesthetically, to want to do this again.
- 4 – This is difficult. It will requires a lot of endurance and must brave the weather or environmental challenges.
- 3 – This is either difficult in term of endurance needed or harsh weather possible.
- 2 – This is moderate. Moderate fitness is probably needed and the weather might be bad.
- 1 – Anyone can do it. Doesn’t mean they won’t sweat.
The technical score captures the specialized skills that may be needed. This includes, but not limited to, scrambling, snow crossing, river crossing, climbing scree or steep inclines, climbing skills, mountaineering skills, off trail bushwacking, or navigation skill.
This score is independent of backpacking, wilderness, and trekking knowledge and skills. For my backpacking and trekking reports, the baseline and general assumption of my reports is that you know what to do in the backcountry or are aware that you need to know what to do in the backcountry even if you don’t have the experience. If you don’t, hopefully you’ll have read up on backpacking skills, principles such as leave no trace, and regulations or found others with experience to teach you about what is needed and lead you into the backcountry to help you gain that experience. Organization like Meetup Groups or REI offer classes and trips that are great into getting you that experience and knowledge should you not know anyone to teach you.
- 5 – I probably can’t do it myself. I would like a professional guide. At this point in my life, this would be full on mountaineering. Though I would like to learn.
- 4 – I can do it by myself, though it’s probably a stupid idea. These are the ones that keep me up worrying before a trip. An example of this would be crossing the Grand Desert Glacier area previous to the official opening of the season on the Walker’s Haute Route.
- 3 – I can do it myself and I have pretty good confidence about it. I’ll even have some fun.
- 2 – Some technical skills might be required. Mostly common sense, some navigation skills, and some general physical activity outside of just walking up and down a hill like scrambling.
- 1 – You are just walking after all.