It’s all in the wording

Be Careful…

What does “Careful!!” actually mean? To a Guide it may mean, the rocks are slippery, the edge is crumbling, a rock is tumbling down the hill… In your mind it all makes sense, but what are your clients thinking?

Very often I hear Guides shouting a warning, or telling their clients…


When in fact a slight change in wording will be more beneficial… and understandable.

  • Careful here… could rather be said as “Listen to the rocks rolling under the water, orLook how fast the water is flowing“.
  • Careful here… rather say, “Move your feet quickly over the boulder bed of rocks rather than trying to balance on each rock. The momentum will keep you balanced.
  • Careful here… could be replaced by, “Look at this poisonous plant. Can you see any of the other group members getting too close?
  • Careful here… could mean, “These rocks are slippery.
  • Careful here… it’s better to say, “Try using your hands to balance.
  • Careful of the stove… better said as, “Can you feel the heat coming off the stove? It’s very hot.
  • Careful… “Whats your plan if you cross over that log across the river?
  • Careful… “How will you get down?

What makes sense to you, may be totally misunderstood by your clients. Speak in a way that is understandable to all and cannot be misunderstood.

CUF Scale

Ever heard of the CUF scale?

The CUF scale (conditions under foot) is a guide to the type of conditions under foot one may expect on a walking trip. The CUF has an important effect on our walking efficiency. Not all people use the same grading scale, so investigate what the scale you are using uses. If you are leading your own trips and do not have a scale you use already, then this is a good one to use.

There are many other methods of grading walks, but the CUF Scale shown here was developed after 20 years of professional guiding a variety of groups over very differing terrains and has been found to be extremely useful….

Using the CUF scale

Each level may include all the elements of the previous levels and for a trip to be classified at a level, at least 10% of the trip must involve those conditions.

A Class + trip means that it is the class specified, but there may be small sections (<10%) of the next higher level. E.g. Class 3+

Snow, Rain, Wind, Darkness etc. could increase any level to the level above it.


( 4-5 KM/H AVERAGE )

  • Walking along a clear, well established trail.
  • Could be some erosion to negotiate.
  • May be wet areas with mud.
  • A few rocks or steps in path may be encountered
  • Easy to moderate slopes


( 3-4 KM/H AVERAGE )

  • Walking along a sometimes-obscured trail.
  • Will be some boulder hopping to cross rivers etc.
  • Moderately steep slopes.
  • Easy cross-country travel (bush, climbing over and around fallen trees, and big talus – hands may be used for balance)


( 2-3 KM/H AVERAGE )

  • The trail is either very uneven, intermittent or non-existent and you may need to put your hand down occasionally for balance.
  • Requires use of hands for climbing steep sections
  • Rope is necessary only to provide safety in unusual circumstances


( 1-2 KM/H AVERAGE )

  • Climbing on steep terrain maybe requiring roped belay or rope handrail in sections
  • Scrambling on rocks using hands as well as feet
  • Exposed climbing such as a ladder
  • Rope required to prevent serious injury if a fall occurs
  • Head for heights required in some places.



  • Climbing on steep terrain requiring roped belay
  • Safety rope must be used for exposed sections
  • Thin, exposed areas requiring skill and good balance as well as a head for heights.