Introducing the Integrated Sneak Climbing Scale (ISC)

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. Its does not encourage people to attempt routes on private property.

In May of 1990, Bill Hauser and the Sneak Peak Section introduced the Sneak Climbing Scale, which was used to rate the difficulty of hiking and climbing routes which passed through private property and assist hikers and climbers through the property. It was originally designed to rate routes mostly in the Diablo Range in California, which was (and still is) considered a sneak climbing hotspot, especially among county highpointers. Since then, the Sneak Climbing Scale has grown in popularity and has been used to rate routes all over the country. But as time went on, hikers and climbers began to see that some parts of the system were impractical. Land ownership laws differed from state to state, types of ownership differed, and some important variables were unaccounted for. A restrictive rating system created specifically for for one mountain range in California was difficult to apply to the rest of the country.

Between 2014-2015, some members of the Sneak Peak Section proposed an improvement to the old rating system, creating the Integrated Sneak Climbing Scale (ISC) to rate routes on a wider and more detailed fashion. The ISC consists of a three-part rating system, which is explained below. Important note: The ISC only applies to routes in the United States, as US land ownership laws are used as a basis to the system. 

An example of an ISC rating may be something like: ISC-F5C8T10

ISC system breakdown

indicates  ISC ratingfeature ratinglikeliness to get caughttime rating

F: the feature rating
The feature rating aims to point out specific features on an ISC route. It is rated on a 1-10 scale, with 1 being the most benign and 10 being the most dangerous. It is basically a modification of the original Sneak Climbing Scale. Whichever feature one may encounter on a route which is contained in the highest number on the F rating scale gets the overall F rating. For example, if a route has active security patrol on duty (F6) but no occupied structures (F4), the route would get an overall F rating of F6. 

1: private property but no fences, ranches, gates, or signs
2: private property but no signs; gates and fences may exist
3: private property sign(s), gates, fences, no occupied structures; deserted structures may exist
4: signs, gates, fences, occupied structures
5: all of the above plus barking dogs, structures have a clear view of the route
6: all of the above plus active security patrol on duty
7: all of the above plus county sheriff and/or park ranger on duty
8: all of the above plus landowners threatening climbers with guns
9: all of the above plus climbers with guns (such as the property of a private hunting club)
10: all of the above plus the possibility of getting bombed (such as military bombing ranges)

C: the likeliness to get caught rating
The likeliness to get caught rating is exactly what it sounds like. This is the most difficult part of the ISC to quantize due to the ever changing nature of land ownership and the luck of the climbers. A key component of the C rating is that it assumes the climber is casually hiking or climbing within the sneak zone, taking no special effort to remain out of detection. Many C ratings will require at most an educated guess, making it the most inaccurate part of the ISC. It is rated on a 0-9 scale, with 1 being the least likely to get caught and 9 being almost a certainty. Any C rating above a C4 will require extreme caution. 

0: The land is unoccupied. Landowners will almost never be present. Less than 1% of climbers will get caught.
1: The land is unoccupied. Landowners will sometimes be present. Roughly 10% of climbers will get caught.
2: The land may or may not be occupied. Landowners will likely be present, but the area is so vast that the chances of an encounter are low. Roughly 20% of climbers will get caught.
3: The land is under surveillance and may or may not be occupied. Multiple landowners may be on the land, or it might be a small chunk of land with a single landowner present. 30% of climbers will get caught.
4: The land is occupied or under surveillance. 40% of climbers will get caught.
5: The land is occupied or under surveillance. 50% of climbers will get caught
6: The land is occupied or under surveillance. 60% of climbers will get caught
7: The land is occupied or under surveillance. 70% of climbers will get caught
8: The land is occupied or under surveillance. 80% of climbers will get caught
9: The land is occupied or under surveillance. The chance of getting caught is almost a certainty,

T: the time rating
The time rating is rated on a 1-20 scale. The time rating was inspired by the grade rating on the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS). The big difference between the T and YDS grade ratings is that while the YDS grade rating runs on an exponential scale, the T rating starts off exponential, but eventually runs on a linear scale. The T rating only rates the time spent on the private land and dosent include any public land on the route. For example, if a route took 2 days but only 2 hours were spent on private land, the overall T rating is a T3. 

1: less than 1 hour
2: around 1 hour
3: 1-3 hours
4: 3-7 hours
5: 7-15 hours
6: 15 hours - 1 day
7:  1-2 days
8: 2-4 days
9: 4-6 days
10: 6-8 days
11: 8-10 days
12: 10-12 days
13: 12-14 days
14: 14-16 days
15: 16-18 days
16: 18-20 days
17: 22-24 days
18: 24-26 days
19: 26-28 days
20: more than 28 days


Pata Peak South via north side (ISC-F5C2T1)
This peak is located in the San Diego countryside. A dirt road leads up to the summit. The only thing indicating private property is a small "no trespassing" sign at the beginning of the road. The road zigzags up an open hillside. Anyone attempting this route will be in clear view from a large home to the north.

Mt. Bross via standard route (ISC-F3C2T3)
Mt. Bross is a popular Colorado 14er located in the Mosquito Range. Due to the large number of abandoned mines on the mountain, the landowners have signed off the area due to liability issues. Despite the signing, thousands of people will still summit each year. The landowners do not seem to mind very much, as what seems to be the pure purpose of the signing is to prevent lawsuits. 

Discovery Peak/Challenger Peak (ISC-F6C3T2)
These peaks, located in the Diablo Range, are popularly done together in a single hike. It requires hikers to hop a few fences with "no trespassing" signs. During the day, there is an active patrol driving around looking for trespassers. Because people usually traverse from Discovery to Challenger via their connecting ridge, they are easily spotted. 

San Jacinto Peak via Snow Creek classic route (ISC-F7C5T3)
The Snow Creek route is a classic American alpine route with over a 100 year climbing history. It is famous for its 10,000 ft snow climb and the stealth required to get through the private property at the base of the route. The original classic route goes through a small section of land owned by the Desert Water Agency, who has several cameras set up throughout the property and a caretaker who resides on the land with two dogs. 

Operation Dark Snake (ISC-F2C3T7)
Operation Dark Snake is one of the most famous sneak climbing routes in the United States. The first ascent of this route was made in October 2003. It aims to climb Culebra Peak, Colorado's southernmost 14er, via a long undeveloped ridge to the north.

Castro Peak (ISC-F7C6T1)
Castro Peak in the Santa Monica Mountains has a reputation of being a sneak climbing hotspot. The very top of the mountain is owned by a rich man who does whatever he can to catch trespassers, including employing a once-homeless hermit to live alone in a shack at the summit to catch trespassers. There is also a tall fence and security camera right below the summit. 

Mt. Lee [Hollywood sign] (ISC-F7C9T1)
Just below the highpoint of Mt. Lee is the Hollywood sign. While the highpoint of Mt. Lee is publicly accessible, the Hollywood sign isn't. The area around the sign is patrolled by sheriff 24 hours a day.

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