CHOOSING THE RIGHT TRAIL RUNNING / FASTPACKING ROUTE
We want you to have the best possible time during your trail running tour in Japan with us, and matching your experience level, and current physical conditioning to an appropriate adventure is the most important part of ensuring you have a truly enjoyable trip. With that said, it is incredibly hard to create a one-size-fits-all system that accurately portrays the difficulty and challenges of each unique trail run or fastpack within the context of its particular environment, trail conditions, technical aspects, distance, duration and elevation gain. Perhaps this is why there is no universal standard for rating trail runs.
For the purposes of assigning a ballpark difficulty rating to the trail run and fastpack adventures we offer, we utilize a rating method based on the 7-level system used by the International Trail Running Association (ITRA) to categorize the effort expenditure necessary for their races. This method utilizes a "kilometer-effort" point metric, that considers the elevation gained over the distance covered. The metric is calculated as:
KM-EFFORT SCORE = (Total Distance in KM) + (Total Elevation Gain in M / 100)
The resulting scores in a particular range are then expressed as a level from XXS to XXL in accordance with the "size" of the effort required. ITRA uses this system to rank races all the way up to multi-day affairs with mind-boggling vertical. Because of that, we chosen to utilize their system, but to scale it down by 40% to make it more appropriate to the kinds of tours we offer.
As with our hikes, we feel that is helpful to also express the technical difficulty of the trail to paint a more complete picture, so in addition to the ITRA effort metric, we utilize an additional 3-number (1 to 3) addendum to rate the trail technicality. Please see the detailed explanation of each system below.
Please note that our trail running and fastpacking tours require a relatively higher fitness level than do our hiking tours, so please carefully review the difficulty rating for the tour you are considering. When choosing a tour, be honest when evaluating yourself - and if you are unsure whether you could realistically handle the demands of a particular trail run or fastpack on offer, just ask! Send us a message or give us a call and we will be happy to talk you through it.
EFFORT LEVELS: XXS through XXL
TECHNICAL LEVELS: 1 to 3
Up to 2,000m
Running/hiking is done entirely on maintained trails that are well-marked and in good condition. Surfaces are largely smooth and stable, but may include occasional roots, small rocks, minor streams or other typical trail obstacles. These trails don't climb above 2,000m and can be walked or run entirely on foot without requiring the use of your hands.
Up to 3,000m
Running/hiking may be done at least partially on unmaintained trails or those that are not well-marked. Trails may be narrow in places, and could include soft and unstable surfaces, with an increased variety and number of larger rocks, roots, simple water crossings and other obstacles. These trails can climb up to 3,000m in elevation, so the effects of altitude may also be felt. This is essentially trail running on mountain climbing routes, and as such you may need to use your hands to ascend or descend boulders or short sections of fixed implements such as ladders and chains.
Up to 3,800m
This is essentially "sky running." Our time will be spent on trails with technical sections of trail that may require scrambling, and have both steep ascents and descents, some of which may occur on unstable terrain in exposed areas. No technical equipment is required, but you can expect to use your hands often and may need to rely on multiple areas of fixes ropes, chains and ladders to safely and slowly navigate extended portions of the trail. These trails will take us up above 3,000m - to some of the highest summits in the country.