Rafting: how are degrees of difficulty measured?

Rafting is an adventure activity that provides immense benefits to those who practice it. It is done as a team, and the work of each one is fundamental to descend the rivers in a safe way and having a lot of fun.

In Peru Rafting, before getting on the raft, we give a previous talk about the basic requirements for rafting. In this briefing we teach you how to move the oars, the equipment, or the basic rules on how users should behave. In the same way, we recommend that there is communication between the members of the team and that they use the words front, back, right, left, stop, etc. so that everyone rows in the same direction. The objective is to provide security so that rafting in Urubamba is a really fun sport.

Apart from these tips, rafting is a safe discipline whose rivers adapt to different experiences. In other words, rivers are measured by degrees of difficulty. Experts in this sport know what types of rivers are descending and prepare for it. In the case of beginners, they usually descend by rivers of less difficulty and always advised and helped by a team of experts.

Rafting: how to know the difficulty of the rivers

By means of an international agreement the difficulties of the rivers for rafting are established. The most difficult stretches are marked and taken as a reference. In this way, a series of denominations has been created depending on the difficulty.

In the first place, we have the class 0 or flat water that does not harbor any type of difficulty. This classification is followed by level I which corresponds to a calm but a little more agitated rafting. Level II already faces some turbulence in the water such as small eddies or wells.

Level III is considered more complex and is the first level in the white water category – they are named after the color of the foam when hitting the water. From this level one begins to feel the true adrenaline. Between these three levels is the Rafting in the Urubamba River.

In the most difficult sections we find level IV, aimed at people with experiences in turbulent but predictable waters. They contain wells, parallel currents and eddies and high waves. Level V is the most difficult of all and is exclusive to experts and professionals. It requires great technique and knowledge of the river. We can find waves and wells that do not skimp on eddies and lateral currents. For these two levels an exhaustive knowledge of the riverbed is required.

So, whether you are a beginner or an expert, you can practice rafting adapted to your level and get all the adrenaline out of this adventure activity!

Levels or Classes to classify the river

There are 6 categories that are called “Class” followed by a number and sometimes can be associated with a + or a – depending on whether within the level or class, the fast or the river, is of greater or lesser difficulty, thus representing, for example: class III+ or class III- that would mean, that is a river or fast Class III of high difficulty or Class III of low difficulty.

Class I (easy): These are waters that move quickly, with small or almost non-existent waves and rapids. Few or no obstructions in the course, all of them if any, easily recognizable and obvious. They are easily overcome. The risk if there is a rollover or someone falls into the water is minimal, you can even get out easily and only by swimming, with the help of the life jacket normally.

Class II (beginner): Rapids with wide and clear channels, which are predictable without having done an eye inspection on the ground before descending. Occasionally, during the descent, maneuvers will have to be made, and medium-sized rocks and waves are easily avoided by the guides. If any of the crew members of the vessel fall into the water, they will rarely be injured, and the assistance of the rest will rarely be necessary as well. Within this class, there may be rapids that due to their greater difficulty, are classified as Class II+.

Class III (Intermediate): In this class, the rapids have moderate, irregular waves, which can be difficult to avoid and will easily flood the boat. Here complex maneuvers are required in the rapids, and also to avoid colliding in certain tight passes or with curves or plateaus. There are big waves, but they are easily avoidable. They are characterised by the fact that there can be considerable eddies, especially in large rivers. Seldom is someone injured who falls into the water, self-rescue is generally easy if this happens, but it may be necessary the assistance of the entire group of the boat to prevent the person who has fallen into the water, is dragged a considerable distance. Depending on the difficulty, the rapids can be classified as Class III+ or Class III-.

Class IV (advanced): There are intense and powerful rapids, but they are predictable and require precise handling of the boat. Depending on the character of the river, there may be large, unavoidable waves and eddies or narrow passages with demanding evasive maneuvers, under pressure for the boat guides. Quick turns may also be necessary to initiate such evasive manoeuvres. It is advisable to make a reconnaissance of the stretch before making the first descent. The risk of injury to the crew of the boat if they fall into the water, is moderate to high, and the conditions of the water, could make it difficult to rescue. If a fall into the water occurs, the entire crew will have to collaborate, and there should have been prior instruction from the guides on how to undertake the rescue maneuvers. Eskimo skills are highly recommended. The rapids, depending on their difficulty, can be classified as Class IV+ or Class IV-.

Class V (expert): In this class, rapids are extremely large, obstructed, or very violent, and expose boat components to added risks. They are not predictable, and have very large waves and complex, narrow and demanding passages. You need a certain aptitude to be able to make the descent, as they are rivers with a high level of intensity, ie are very dynamic, there are rapids continuously along the route. It is strongly recommended to inspect the terrain before descending. From this class, included, we can make subclassifications of rapids; class 5.0, 5.1, etc…

Class VI (Unexplored extreme rapids): This type of river has never been attempted, or almost never. If you decide to undertake a descent in a river of this kind, it can have very serious consequences, and rescue may be impossible. The descent of this type of rivers is only carried out by teams of experts, and with favourable water levels, after having carried out a thorough ocular inspection at the foot of the river, and having done an intense preparation and planning of what is going to be done. All precautions will be necessary. If there have been enough descents of a river or stretch of Class VI, its change to the appropriate Class 5.X may be considered.

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