Hillwalking Grades
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Hillwalking Grades

This grading system is set out by Mountaineering Ireland, to provide a national benchmark for anyone who is selecting routes for club walks, gatherings, events, group walks etc.

Please note: Distance is not a reliable measure of the level of difficulty.


May be signposted trails but will still require some basic navigation skills and some hillwalking experience. Mainly on easily identifiable paths, with good underfoot conditions. Can include some open countryside with some rough ground and moderate ascents.

For example: Spinc walk in Glendalough, Diamond Hill in Connemara National Park

Time: 2-5 hours           Height gain: 250-500 metres       Distance: 5-12km


Hillwalking experience and navigational skills in difficult weather conditions are required. Can include more informal paths, rougher, boggy and more uneven terrain with the possibility of rocky, moderately steep ground. 

For example: Derrybawn and Mullacor Loop in Wicklow, Slieve Binnian in the Mournes 

Time: 5-7 hours           Height gain: 500-800 metres           Distance: 10-15km


Good hillwalking experience with capable and proven navigational skills in all weather conditions required. Underfoot conditions could be rough and uneven with the possibility of prolonged rocky and steep sections and mountain terrain without clear paths. An ability to deal with mountain hazards, steep ground and scree is essential. 

For example: Carrauntoohil, Mweelrea, Lugnaquilla 

Time: 6-8 hours         Height gain: 800-1000 metres           Distance: 12-20km


A good level of fitness, hillwalking experience and proven navigational skills in all weather conditions are essential requirements, as is an ability to deal with complex mountain terrain including open moorland, mountain plateau, rocks and cliffs without clear paths. There may be some exposure and a need for some basic scrambling skills. Route finding challenging so close attention to navigation is key.

For example: Eastern Reeks ridge, Coomloughra Horseshoe in the McGillycuddy Reeks

Time: 8-10 hours        Height gain: 1000-1500 metres        Distance: 12-25km


A high level of fitness, hillwalking experience and proven navigational skills in all weather conditions are essential requirements. Extended walking in mountainous and often remote terrain, with the possibility of exposure, may involve steep ascents and descents with some extended scrambling. Potential navigation difficulties so hillwalkers should have confidence in their ability to navigate in all weather conditions, including at night. Fitness, stamina and experience at walking and leading at a strenuous level is a basic requirement. 

For example: Muckish-Errigal Ridge in Donegal, Maumturks traverse in Connemara 

Time: 8-14 hours            Height gain: 1500 metres and above            Distance: 20–30+km


The above grades are all based on the assumption the route can be completed in reasonable weather conditions. Adverse weather and changes in ground conditions may increase the risk and grade of the walk substantially. Time, height gain and distance should be taken into consideration collectively when selecting a route for a particular grade. All the above grades exclude hiking in full winter conditions where very low temperatures and substantial snow and ice may be encountered. In these conditions crampons and ice axe may be required, along with the skills and experience necessary to use them safely.

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