What is the Summits Index?

The Summits Index is a mountain trail rating system that is designed to quantify the relative challenge of climbing different summits by drawing upon the experiences of all kinds of mountaineers (from amateurs to experienced climbers).

Quick Answers: What is the Summits Index?

Summits.com has developed a unique way to communicate climbing difficulty of a summit to help amateur climbers, trekkers, and hikers. We're calling it the Summits Index.

Compared to other climbing difficulty indexes is an amateur-friendly, broad, crowd-sourced, and customisable, and encompasses the physical and technical challenges of the mountain, as well as accessibility and support facilities.

Our ambition is for every summit in the world to be indexed and scored - even that neighborhood hill behind your house - making it easier for everyone to discover experiences that may not be very well known yet.

Why has Summits.com developed the Summits Index?

Summits.com wants to get everyone climbing mountains. Unless we’re talking about people who live in mountains, the average ‘everyone’ is new to hiking. They have maybe climbed a hill or two in their time, but most of them are still in the ‘amateur’ category.

Our research shows that one of the reasons people choose not to hike a mountain is that they’re unsure about whether they can. They might think it’s too physically demanding, that it requires technical climbing skills or equipment they don’t have, or that it takes more time to plan and execute than what they have available.

So how might the average ‘everyone’ decide whether they’re up for the task? Or how can they choose a mountain that is suited to their fitness, skills, and time available? Even for many experienced climbers who might have hiked up 5 or 10 mountains, choosing the next mountain is often an open question.

The standard approach is based on friends’ accounts, blogs and online reports from other climbers, or perhaps itineraries submitted by tour guide companies. But a lot of this information is subjective, which makes it especially difficult to compare multiple mountains and decide which should be the next to negotiate.

That is the problem we are solving by offering a quantifiable score to compare different summits. We cover not just the natural difficulty of the terrain, but also other factors such as weather, ease of access to the site, and support facilities that can make the hike easier.

What makes The Summits Index different from other mountaineering difficulty systems?

There are a range of existing different climbing difficulty rating systems out there (shown in the picture below). Many of these are specific to different types of trails. Additionally, many of them cover advanced bouldering or ice-climbing experiences that may not be relevant to the average amateur mountaineer.

Summits difference

The Summits Index covers trails with a summit or a peak that can be attempted across geographies, weathers, and times of year, irrespective of the nature of the climbing activity/activities required to reach the summit.

It is designed to be consistent with other systems where applicable, but covers a much broader scope to capture the full climbing experience.

Summits qualities

What types of experiences are covered by Summits Index?

The Summits Index covers all types of climbing activities as long as the trail leads to a summit or a peak.

Summits experience

How is The Summits Index calculated?

The Summits Index is a composite numerical score derived from of 9 sub-scores across 4 sub-categories: Height & Distance, Hiking Difficulty, Support Facilities, and Accessibility & Safety.

Summits Index

Height and distance

  • Summit elevation: The height of the summit or peak above sea level
  • Hiking period (proxy for distance): The total time to get to the summit and back for most people

Hiking difficulty

  • Terrain: The difficulty of the terrain
  • Weather: How agreeable the weather would be on the average climbing day
  • Equipment: The amount and technical level of climbing gear needed

Support facilities

  • Rest stops and facilities: The availability of shelter, food, and water along the trail
  • Guides and porters: The availability and ease of sourcing a guide and/or porters

Accessibility and safety

  • Accessibility: The proximity to a transport node, and amount of planning required.
  • Safety: Physical safety (risk of injuries) or personal safety for single or women travelers.

Each of these factors is given a rating from 0 to 10 based on a predetermined scale that is particular to each factor. These are added up to give a score in each subcategory, and an overall score as well.