In the Alps, routes are classed in the following ways, based on their waymarking, construction and upkeep:
- Footpaths (Fußwege)
- Hiking trails (Wanderwege)
- Mountain trails (Bergwege)
- Alpine routes (Alpine Routen)
- Climbing routes (Kletterrouten) and High Alpine routes (Hochalpine Routen) in combined rock and ice terrain, (UIAA) graded by difficulty
Sometimes the normal route is not the easiest ascent to the summit, but just the one that is most used. There may be technically easier variations. This is especially the case on the Watzmannfrau, the Hochkalter and also Mount Everest. There may be many reasons these easier options are less well-used:
- the simplest route is less well known than the normal route (Watzmannfrau).
- the technically easiest route is more arduous than another (e.g. due to rubble) and is therefore mainly used on the descent (Hochkalter).
- the technically easiest route carries a much higher risk of e.g. rockfalls or avalanche and is therefore avoided in favour of a more difficult route (Watzespitze).
- the technically easier route requires a complicated or long approach march, or all access may be banned via one country (Mount Everest).
The term tourist route may sometimes be applied (irrespective of the level of difficulty of ascent) by those wishing to suggest that other routes up a mountain are somehow more "worthy". This belittling of the "normal route" therefore maintains a distinction between those perceiving themselves as serious mountaineers who disparage the incursion of tourist climbers into their domain (hence the term the "Yak Route" on Mount Everest).
- Stirling, Sarah (2017-08-08). "How to climb the Matterhorn". British Mountaineering Council. Retrieved 2020-12-06.
- Hartemann, Frederic; Hauptman, Robert (2005-06-15). The Mountain Encyclopedia: An A to Z Compendium of Over 2,250 Terms, Concepts, Ideas, and People. Taylor Trade Publishing. ISBN 9781461703310.
- Perkins, Andy (2011-03-07). "BMG Route Card: Voie Normale - Piz Buin". UKClimbing. Retrieved 2020-12-06.
- Musa, Ghazali; Higham, James; Thompson-Carr, Anna (2015-06-05). Mountaineering Tourism. Routledge. p. 52. ISBN 9781317668749.