Grading of walks
Note that walks on this web site are graded for relatively experienced bushwalkers. If you have not done much bushwalking before you are strongly advised to start with walks graded E or EM for skill, and with distances and fitness grades well within your capability. As an indication, the Ruined Castle walk is graded E/E by this web site, yet is graded Hard by the NPWS.
Grading of walks is always a contentious issue. An inexperienced navigator may find a trackless cross country jaunt difficult, where an experienced walker may be able to do it in their sleep. A fit person may find a solid hill climb relatively easy when an unfit person will struggle. However, does a walk rated "HARD" mean that it is long and gruelling, or that the navigation is difficult? Many guides attempt to combine all the factors that contribute to the difficulty of a walk into a single number or rating, which is often unhelpful.
The two main components that determine the difficulty of a walk are the level of fitness and skill needed. The length of the walk, the amount of climbing and the quality of the track all determine what level of fitness is required. Difficulty of navigation, route finding, scrambling and water finding contribute to the level of skill required. This site gives a fitness grade and skill grade for each walk.
The following table indicates approximately what the different fitness grades mean. The distances are given in kilometres. They assume relatively flat ground. Climbing or steep descents, and tricky terrain, will increase the kilometre equivalent. A climb of 100-150m is equivalent to about an extra kilometre. Difficult terrain such as scrub bashing or creek walking will also increase the kilometre equivalent. Note that these distances are for overnight pack walks. Day walks can cover longer distances for the same level of difficulty.
Note that these distances are for reasonably fit and moderately experienced walkers - others may find some 'easy' walks relatively hard.
Skill grades are harder to define, as a number of different skills may be required for a given walk. Note that even easy walks assume that you know how to read a map and use a compass. Examples of the sort of walks that would be graded:
Despite all of this, walks obviously can not be captured in a couple of letters. The grading is simply a guide to the level of skill and fitness below which you may have some difficulty completing the walk. For more information, read track notes, look at maps, do some research and talk to people.
Arguably even higher skill grades would be required for some remote wilderness walks. However, in keeping with the spirit of adventure, those sort of walks are not explicitly described on this site, although suggestions may be given. That sort of walk should be judged on its merits. As a result there is nothing graded with more than Hard for both skill and fitness.
The detailed information about walks is approximate only.
Times are based on reasonably fit and moderately experienced walkers. The estimates are without signficant breaks, so you need to factor time for lunch, morning tea etc. As an indication, walkers should be able to walk 4-5km/h on fire trails, 3-4km/h on decent tracks, and climb steep hills at a rate of around 500m/h with a daypack, or around 300m/h with an overnight pack. If this is not the case, then extra time should be factored in. On walks with a skill level of M or higher, walkers should also be competent navigators, able to follow vague tracks and rockhop and scramble at a decent pace, in line with any of those factors mentioned in the track notes. Again, if this is not the case a significant amount of extra time should be allowed.
Distances are based on map wheel distances or GPS, and will generally underestimate actual distance walked by 10%-30%. For walks with skill grades of M or higher, distance is often not the major factor in the length of the walk.
Ascent is the height of the largest climb, plus any other climbs over 100m. This measure of ascent is a simple indication of difficulty, but does not try to include every little up and down. These heights are taken directly from the topographic map, and so are only as accurate as the map. It will underestimate difficulty for walks that have multiple small ascents or descents - for this you should read the walk description and look at the relevant topo maps.