I have often thought about the rigidity and inconsistencies of the river grading system. Many of the rivers I have paddled have had similar grades but posed different amounts of risk. Anyway Mr. Addison has had a few thoughts of his own. See what you think.
Corran Addisons appraisal of the current river grading system – Addison’s Scale (The examination of a static rating system in a dynamic sport by Corran Addison)
The problems lie in the very foundation of the system. With one number, we have attempted to describe the difficulty, element of danger and exposure. Combine this with the fact that the latest breakthroughs in equipment and techniques have allowed us to push the limits of the possible, and that the system has a cap, and we find that the last digit of class five has as wide a range of rapid difficulties as all the proceeding numbers combined.
What the system fails to see, is that the elements of danger and difficulty (the principal concerns) are not the same thing. A rapid can be dangerous, but easy to run (a wave train requiring no boat skills, but with an undercut off to one side). Another can be technically difficult, but with very little danger (a series of waterfalls into deep pools). The third and seemingly less important, though it is not, is exposure: if things go bad, how long will it take to get help? An hour; a day; a week?