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Trip Difficulty Ratings: What Do They Mean?

A little more clarity to help you judge which ONDA volunteer trip is best suited to you!


Trip difficulty ratings were created at the request of our participants.  Ratings are "relative": they allow general comparisons between trips so you can judge which ones are too physically demanding, and which ones are "just physically demanding enough". The scale is one to five: One is the easiest, five is the most demanding.  The system uses the most demanding aspect(s) of the trip as the benchmark by which the trip is judged.  Duration, elevation, temperatures, camping conditions, work demands are all taken into account.  If we can't decide which of two levels a trip should be described as (i.e. is it a "2" or a "3"), we classify it as the highest of the two choices (in this case a "3").

While these ratings provide a useful guide, if you are unfamiliar with ONDA work trips, please just give us a call (541) 330-2638 with your questions or e-mail us: we would love to chat with you! The best person to contact will be the trip leader listed on the trip description.

We always welcome feedback on our ratings: if you have a suggestion we welcome your input.  After all this system is designed to help you have a better experience!

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General Discussion of each difficulty level:


While these are considered our easiest trips, easy is relative and there still could be quite a bit of work involved! For example our planting trips are considered "ones".  While there is quite a bit of hammering with big hammers, dragging bags of sticks around and uneven walking terrain, this is balanced out by the fact that people can pace their work themselves and take breaks, are car-camping, no significant walking distances are required, and the work only lasts one day.


These trips will involve more lifting, longer walks (more than one mile), multiple days of work, may occur during times of year when weather is known to be especially hot or cold, or require working non-traditional hours.


Participants are expected to get regular exercise and have experienced camping in the backcountry.  These trips include our easier backpacking trips but involve multiple days of work on difficult terrain, usually hotter (or colder) weather extremes.


Trips at this level involve pushing oneself physically.  If it is a day-hike it will involve scrambling with hands over big rocks, or longer distances.  If it is a backpacking trip, there will be specific destinations and distances that will need to be achieved.  Work on these trips will be in challenging terrain, involve long hours for multiple days and be physically demanding.


These are our toughest trips.  These multi-day backpacking trips are often exploratory and include extremely difficult routes.  Often trip participants will be asked to contribute their skills to make the trip succeed.  Participant skill and fitness levels need to be relatively high.  They are tough but extremely rewarding.

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Oregon Natural Desert Association
50 SW Bond Street, Suite 4,
Bend, OR 97702
Tel: (541) 330-2638

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