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.


Andrew Friedemann

Author: Andrew Friedemann

Andrew holds qualifications in South Africa, Australia and the UK as an Outdoor Recreation Instructor and qualified Mountain Guide and Instructor. Passionate about developing the Adventure Industry in South Africa to make it safer and provide opportunities to a younger generation of adventurers. Represented South Africa on the World Mountaineering Federations (UIAA) International Training Standards Commission for 10 years and has administered the South African Mountaineering Development & Training Trust. A qualified Wilderness EMT and Emergency Care Practitioner. Qualified as an Skills Development Practitioner, he has been intimately involved in the development of Adventure based qualifications particularly with regard the quality management of adventure qualifications. Founder of Adventure Qualifications Network, he was instrumental in the development of National Vocational qualifications for the adventure industry in South Africa, but also worked closely with Australia where he attained the Cert IV in Outdoor Recreation Instruction. Currently resident in the Scottish Highlands - UK, with his wife, Michelle, they travel to many areas of the world gaining information and skills. A keen adventurer, Andrew has participated in mountaineering, skydiving and scuba diving among other activities.

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