The Swiss Alpine Club (SAC) is the umbrella organization for the Swiss mountaineers, founded already 1863, promoting safe and sustainable mountaineering. Part of their scope is to maintain a set of ratings for different mountaineering sports, and we will describe these, starting with the hiking scale.

SAC hiking scale (T1-T6)

SAC hiking scale takes the hiking signalization to next level of details, instead of just yellow/red/blue. The levels are from 1 to 6, 1 being the technically easiest and 6 the hardest. And the T stands for ‘trekking’. The following table is from SAC website, translated to English (please comment below in case translation errors).

GradeRoute/TerrainTrail Marking (if marked)RequirementsExample Tours
T1 – HikingTrail well paved. If available, exposed areas are very well secured. Danger of falling can be largely excluded with normal behaviour.YellowNone, also suitable with sneakers. Orientation without problems, usually also possible without map.Männlichen – Kleine Scheidegg, Hüttenweg Jurahaus, Cabane Mont Raimeux, Strada Alta Leventina.
T2 – Mountain hikingWay with continuous route. Terrain partly steep, danger of falling not excluded.RedA little surefootedness. Trekking shoes are recommended. Elementary orientation skillsWildhornhütte, Bergseehütte, Täschhütte from Täschalp, Passo Campolungo, Capanna Cristallina from Ossasco.
T3 – Challenging mountain hikingPath on the ground not necessarily visible all the time. Exposed areas can be secured with ropes or chains. You may need your hands to keep your balance. Some exposed areas with a danger of falling, scree, or pathless rocks.RedGood surefootedness. Good trekking shoes. By-average orientation skills. Elementalsalpine experience.Hohtürli, Sefinenfurgge, Fründenhütte, Grosser Mythen, Pizzo Centrale from the Gotthard Pass.
T4 – Alpine hikingWaymark not necessarily present. At certain points it needs the hands to move forward. Area can be quite exposed, tricky grassy slopes, rugged terrain, simple firn fields and glacier passages.BlueFamiliarity with exposed terrain. Stable Trekking shoes. Certain terrain assessment and good orientation skills. Alpine experience. A retreat can be difficult in case of a sudden change of weather.Fornohütte, Schreckhornhütte, Dossenhütte, Mischabelhütte, Transition Voralphütte – Bergseehütte, Vorder Glärnisch, Steghorn (Leiterli), Piz Terri, Pass Casnile Sud.
T5 – Challenging alpine hiking Often pathless. Single simple climbing sections. Exposed, demanding terrain, steep rugged terrain. Glaciers and firn fields with danger of slipping.BlueMountain boots. Safe terrain assessment and very good orientation skills. Good alpine experience and in high alpine terrain. Elementary knowledge in handling ice axe and rope.Cabane Dent Blanche, Büttlasse, Salbitbiwak, Sustenjoch North flank, Bristen, Pass Cacciabella.
T6 – Difficult alpine hikingMostly pathless. Climbing sections up to II. Often very exposed. Difficult rocky terrain, glacier with elevated risk of slipping.Mostly not markedExcellent orientation skills. Sophisticated alpine experience and familiarity with alpine technical aids.Niesengrat (Fromberghorn Nord), Glärnisch Guppengrat, Via alta della Verzasca.

The whole route does not need to be of a certain categorization, but the rating is given by the most difficult points of the trail, so called cruxes. Second point worth noting is that the rating does not tell how physically demanding the route is, only the technical difficulty.

Next up: SAC mountain and alpine touring scale