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Canyon Grades

3 B PG II S / 3A/B / V3 A3 II ★★


Grading canyons involves subjective judgments, as different individuals may have varying levels of experience, skills, and comfort levels. What seems easy to one person might be challenging for another.


Canyons can change dramatically due to weather events, rockfall, or other environmental factors. A canyon rated as easy during one season might become much more difficult after heavy rains or other natural events.


There’s no universally accepted grading system for canyons, so ratings can vary depending on the region or even the individual or group providing the rating. This lack of consistency can lead to confusion, especially for those new to the activity.

Limited Information

Grading systems typically provide only a general overview of the canyon’s difficulty. They may not capture specific hazards or challenges, such as difficult rappels, narrow slots, or potential flash flood danger.

Dynamic Nature

Canyons are dynamic environments that can change over time due to erosion, weathering, and other factors. A canyon rated as moderate today might become more challenging or dangerous in the future as conditions change.

Skill Dependency

The difficulty of a canyon can depend not only on technical skills like rappelling and rope work but also on factors like fitness, route-finding abilities, and group dynamics. A canyon that’s easy for experienced canyoneers might be extremely challenging for beginners.

Safety Considerations

Grading systems may not adequately address safety considerations, such as the need for proper equipment, knowledge of emergency procedures, and understanding of local regulations and conditions.

This post is going to review canyon grades and possibly add some clarity to the confusing world of grading systems. 



Created by the American Canyoneering Association, the grades are a reflection of the typical challenges and environments found in many north American canyons. 


Strongly influenced by the ACA, the UK canyon grading is a simplified system based off of and following a similar structure to the ACA.


Established by the French Federation of Mountaineering and climbing. This system was designed with typical European canyons in mind. 


ACA / FFME comparison

The table below compares the two grades based on the definitions of each value. 

The table shows the problem with using the ACA grades in European canyons, V4 A4 is an achievable grade for a competent canyoneer however V7 A7 would present difficult challenges for the most experienced canyoneer.

Why we have chosen the ACA and FFME grading system

As canyoning continues to grow in the UK, the grading of the canyons needs to be clear and simple to understand for people getting introduced to the sport. The canyons in the UK can be graded accurately using the FFME grading system as many of the European canyon characteristics are similar to the UK canyons. The ACA system is not as useful due to the typical challenges found in the UK canyons are quite different to the US, however as an established grading system which is well recognised and understood, we have chosen to include it in our grading of UK canyons. 

What about the UK CGS?

The decision to not include the UK CGS on Canyon Log was made due to issues with the broadness the system. The FFME system provides a more detailed and accurate grade of UK canyons whilst also recognised by most international canyoneers. Accompanied with the ACA grade, canyoneers with an understanding of the UK CGS will be able to interpret the ACA grade without too much difficulty.