Difficulty/Terrain Ratings – What Do They Mean?

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    Avatar photoDartmoor Dave

    I nearly called this Difficulty/Terrain Ratings – Do We Care? – but it is obvious that we do care, especially those who are trying to fill their D/T Rating grid. The reason I ask this question is that I am putting together a new series of caches, each with a different D/T Rating, and I would really like to hear your views.

    Groundspeak ask 6 questions to guide your D/T when you publish a cache, but 5 of these concern Terrain, which should not be too difficult. (However, this is often wrong, IMHO, as many caches are over-rated to try to encourage visitors – the only 5/5 cache I have ever found should not have had a 5 for Terrain!) I am going to concentrate on Difficult in this topic rather than Terrain (but please feel free to comment on either).

    What does the Difficult rating apply to, please consider the following:

    • For traditional caches, is it about finding the cache once at GZ or about signing the log?  For example a cache is placed in a tree 100 feet tall 5 feet from the road and is plainly visible from the ground.  Is this a D/T 1/5 cache, because you can easily find and see it, but you have to climb the tree to sign the log or is it a D/T 5/1 cache because signing the log is very difficult, but it was very easy to get there????
    • For puzzle caches, the difficulty of the puzzle should raise the Difficulty rating?
    • If very explicit hints and spoilers are provided then this should reduce the Difficulty rating to nearly 1?

    Please do post your views on this topic.

    Avatar photoTicTacToeHereWeGo

    A cache 100ft up a tree has to be a Terrain Level 5. Terrain level indicates the degree of physical difficulty, effort and risk to access the log. Difficulty Level indicates how hard it is to find the cache (using a hint if supplied).

    In this case if it were clearly visible from the ground then imho D/T would be 1/5.


    It is only in recent weeks since placing some of my own caches that I have started to think about the D/T rating of a cache. I am still a long way from completing my D/T rating grid and haven’t given completing it much thought, that will of course change as I get closer to completing it.
    When listing the caches that I have recently placed I used the guidelines given to set the difficulty and terrain. Three of my caches have a terrain rating of 3, based on the given guidelines. However I would not consider the terrain on route to these in anyway difficult based on the route that I took to the area when placing them.
    My Erme view cache can easily be reached by following the Two moors way to sharp tor and then a fairly easy walk across open moorland to GZ, in my opinion a terrain rating of at most 2.5. however, should you approach the cache by first coming down the steep slopes of Stalldown Barrow, crossing the river Erme and then coming back up another steep slope with no paths to GZ, then the terrain rating should probably be a 3.5 or 4.
    I recently found the Avon tinners hut cache (GC4263Q) this had a terrain rating of 4, I approached this cache by following the river Avon upstream and the terrain on route was terrible, probably the worse that I have so far seen on Dartmoor. I went on and placed another cache nearby on Nakers hill and gave it a terrain rating of 4. However, if approaching both of these caches from the north, then the terrain is easier and I would have rated the terrain for my cache a 3.
    Most caches on Dartmoor can be reached in many different ways, so the terrain rating is basically just the owner’s opinion, given the route that they took to place the cache.
    The same really applies to the difficult rating, with puzzle caches what may be considered easy or hard for the owner may in fact be the complete opposite for those trying to solve the puzzle. I solved the now archived GC28Q1K with a difficult rating of 5, with very little trouble (I never went on to find the cache, so you will have to take my word for it) but there are other puzzle caches nearby to my location with a difficult rating of 3 and less that remain unsolved by myself.
    If you can’t sign the log then you haven’t found the cache, so in the example given in the previous thread, GZ is 100 foot up in the tree. As specialized equipment or ability is required to reach GZ then the terrain rating should be a 5. Once at GZ (100 foot up the tree) the cache is in plain view and so no hunting for it is required, the difficult rating is therefore a 1 giving a D/T rating of 1/5.
    Looking forward to the new series of caches

    Avatar photoHobo

    This difficulty/terrain discussion has been going on for ages!
    They are not really very useful because of the numerous inaccurate gradings.  A lot of cachers don’t even bother to check them before looking for the cache.
    Some people find puzzles easy and others don’t so should the rating be set low if the cache owner is good at them or should they recognise that others will find them hard.  Similarly caches up trees are easy for some and not for others.  I like climbing trees so would tend to rate them way below 5 but others find them impossible.  Some of our caches have been made easier by finders thus making a mockery of our rating
    However most of us cache in a team of some sort and in most teams there is a good puzzle solver and a competent tree climber.  In some cases the problem solver stays at home while the nutter goes out for the cache.  Other teams even recruit extra members for specific caches.  How can one possibly assess the D/T rating for a cache being sought by a team?
    I have discussed this with Miss and she has over-ruled me but my suggestion was that we should re-rate all our caches at 1/1½.  All our puzzles have at some stage been found after some help from us or by cachers who have been given the puzzle solution by others.  Puzzle solution sharing is rife!  Lots of cachers have claimed finds, and therefore filled in high terrain boxes in the grid, which they could not possibly have reached by themselves.
    The laugh is that if we did that, some empty spaces would appear on some peoples grids!

    Avatar photoGoldenHaystack

    I hesitate to rate another person’s cache but GC28Q1K was well up there and is one of my all time favourite caches. The one “Found it” smiley was worth more than the 105 I earned on my highest find day.

    It’s all down to one’s individual ability. GC28Q1K took a fair time to solve all the seperate puzzle mathmatics and then several trips to the far apart stages all needing special equipment which needed transporting to the stages over not too easy a terrain and I’m on my own.

    May I therefore, respectfully ask the Plymbridge Runner how many of the “easy” puzzles they solved and why they didn’t find the final cache.



    I have emailed GoldenHaystack, but no offence was intended in my previous post to this forum and I apologise if I have caused any offence to anyone. All I was trying to do was highlight the difficulty in grading caches.

    Avatar photoGoldenHaystack

    No offence taken at all and it is I who should apologise to you having given you the impression that I was offended.

    I was first to find a cache last summer in order to fill a gap in my D/T ratings chart. The following day the CO changed the rating!!!

    All’s fair in love and war!

    Before submiting a proposed puzzle cache for review I showed it to an eminent puzzler for her opinion. She replied that the rating was too low. However, this was intentional as I was going to add a couple of hints to the cache page once it had been first found.

    Such is the maze of D/T ratings.    GH.

    Avatar photoHobo

    I’m glad the effects of re-rating were noticed!!!

    The cache  GC28Q1K illustrates my point about teams.  Miss loves puzzles and I do the stupid bits.  Neither of us could have completed the cache without the other.  Incidently I didn’t use any “special equipment” and would not personally have rated each stage at 5 terrain but the rate is certainly justified for the cache overall.


    GH has sent me a bit more information regarding GC28Q1K, and I now realise that there was a lot more to finding the final location of the cache. The only part that I solved was the part that was shown on the cache page. GC28Q1K was not the right example to use in my previous post.

    Avatar photoHobo

    Reading the rules too pedantically can lead to ridiculous ratings.

    We attended a weekend camping event on a nice level site rated 1/5!  This was justified because the site was easy to find but special equipment (a tent) was needed!

    Avatar photoDartmoor Dave

    I think that last reply illustrates my point that ratings are inflated to attract visitors.  I don’t believe that there is anywhere in England, possibly not the UK, where an overnight stay is required to find a cache, in which case a tent is certainly not required!

    Of the replies so far, I do like the very first one from TicTacToeHereWeGo: “Terrain level indicates the degree of physical difficulty, effort and risk to access the log. Difficulty Level indicates how hard it is to find the cache (using a hint if supplied).”  I think that sums it all up very nicely.  It also endorses my view that a cache has to be rated using any hint or spoiler provided.

    My proposed series will not have a 5/5 cache (I still find that extremely hard to justify on Dartmoor) but I do hope to have a 4.5/4.5, but I’m still struggling to envisage where that might be and what it might look like. Of course I have no little helpers to run up and down trees, so I will have to place it!

    Many thanks for all your replies so far, please keep them coming.


    What is the difference between a 4.5/4.5 and a 5/5 rating? Can anyone tell me?

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