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MrGecko

Route Grades

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Do you think routes are generally graded for on sight or red pointing? Are sport and gear routes graded differently in this respect? Since most sport lines are rap bolted it would be hard to say that the route setter "on sighted" the route so it would be a red point grade and if so does a route setter bump it up a point or so for an on sight grade?

 

Thoughts?

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I think routes are generally rated based on how they are.

 

 

 

 

Seriously though, the difficulty of the moves doesn't change for onsight/redpoint/toprope/ blah blah blah. That stuff is mental.

 

In my opinion, the pro situation is independent of the climbing. Yeah, you may work harder fiddling with a odd nut placement, but that's not the climbing.

 

My thoughts.

 

Edited by max

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Depends on the person setting the route, the ethics of the particular area, and the era.

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Ratings are highly subjective. Use them as a guide rather than a true measure of anything. How a climb feels can vary depending on height of climber, conditions, proficiency of the climber in the type of climbing, era, area, developer, and on and on. That said, climbs with the same rating, style, and area ought to be consistently graded.

 

You can't easily compare 5.9 cracks at Squamish, 5.9 slabs at Darrington, 5.9 on loose exposed terrain in the alpine, and 5.9 sport climbing at X38, but routes in each group should feel similar in difficulty. People who start in gyms might easily do sport routes but be completely shut down by slabs and cracks because they haven't learned those styles of climbing. That doesn't mean the ratings are wrong. They just need to be internally consistent within a given area.

 

 

 

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If your hardest flash is 11c but your hardest onsight is 10d, for instance, you'll understand the difference that having information about a climb can make.

 

Route grades are nebulously supposed to be "for the onsight". But this seems to lead to soft grades in many cases.

 

The exception, I would think, would be not for sport routes but rather for headpoint style trad routes where the eventual ascent is only ever feasible after a lot of work in order to find and place very specific and unusual removable pro, where the given grade should be for the worked ascent.

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If they are properly graded it would probably be somewhere in between onsight and redpoint. There's probably more difference in ratings by area than in how it's climbed.

 

Another thing that is common nowadays is the harder bolted routes having fixed draws. So how does it affect the rating if it's a pinkpoint?

 

Also many routes have a consensus grade, not just what the route setter thinks but what his friends and the early senders think.

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I think that grading routes for an onsight attempt would make the most sense. So yes, after you have made the FA (lead), it is reasonable to imagine how much harder the moves would have been had you not had the beta. Best to then send a friend up for an onsight second ascent to test your grade, and adjust accordingly.

 

That system seems to work well for rap-bolted sport routes, but gear routes I think are a bit more complicated, and I really don't like the YDS for them, although it is obviously the norm around here. I think an ideal system would account for: the onsight difficulty of the climbing moves, the amount of pro, the "trickiness"/reliability of the pro (both of these factors contribute to the mental difficulty of the climb), and also perhaps objective dangers such as sharp edges and loose blocks. I guess the closest thing to this that exists would be the British grading system???

 

Another thing that I dislike about the YDS (for both sport and trad routes), is that it doesn't take into account how sustained the route is. So a 5.7 pitch with a single 5.10 move is graded the same as a pitch of sustained 5.10. Obviously one is more difficult to climb than the other, and it takes an attached route description to tell us this rather than it being decipherable from the route grade alone.

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Another thing that I dislike about the YDS (for both sport and trad routes), is that it doesn't take into account how sustained the route is. So a 5.7 pitch with a single 5.10 move is graded the same as a pitch of sustained 5.10.

 

You are wrong, and this demonstrates that you don't understand the YDS or how it works.

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all this talk is making grades too complicated.

 

there are only 4 grades

1- easy for me

2- I did it but it was hard

3- too hard for me...for now

4- too hard for me...forever

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You are wrong, and this demonstrates that you don't understand the YDS or how it works.

 

Do you mean how you feel it ought to work, or how it works in practice? My experience has been that it usually refers to the hardest move, which does make for some pretty wonky grades (Assholes of August in Skaha is probably the worst offender I've climbed).

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What about the temporal inconsistency of grades? 10 years ago 5.10 was doable, now 5.8 is barely doable.

 

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My experience has been that it usually refers to the hardest move,

 

Your experience is probably limited. There are plenty of hard routes out there with no hard individual moves. If you want a 5.10 example, think of the Split Pillar or Caboose, both of which have no hard individual moves, but get 5.10 for the pump

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Maybe I am wrong, but (in my limited experience) it seems that most routes are graded on the difficulty of the hardest move. Could you elaborate?

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GZACK IN DA HOUSE!!!

 

George_on_Chimney.jpg

 

WOOT! HOLA G!

 

PS, on another unrelated note: I've sent you a couple emails Tim. PM me with your current one so I can communicate and update you on some things.

 

 

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My experience is (relatively) limited. I've never climbed Split Pillar or Caboose, but I imagine that the last pitch of Ultimate Everything (which I have climbed) is a fair bit easier than Split Pillar. Both are 10b, but Split Pillar is much more sustained.

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Maybe I am wrong, but (in my limited experience) it seems that most routes are graded on the difficulty of the hardest move. Could you elaborate?

 

There are 5.10 routes where none of the individual moves is harder than 5.8, and there are 5.12 routes where none of the individual moves is harder than V0. It's about sustainedness.

 

Rest assured that the YDS rates the overall difficulty of the climb. If the climb is only difficult because of one hard move, the climb is graded for that, unless it's the first move off the ground. If the climb is difficult because it is sustained and strenuous, then the climb is graded for that, not the difficulty of the hardest individual move.

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In the Watts guide to Smith he helpfully grades the individual cruxes. So you can see that To Bolt has six separate cruxes, rated 13-, 13-, 13, 13-, 12 and 11 for a total overall difficulty of 14a. No 14a moves.

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Based on the OP, I would argue that grades should be assigned for the onsight. This can be fairly nuanced.

 

There are 5.10 routes where none of the individual moves is harder than 5.8, and there are 5.12 routes where none of the individual moves is harder than V0. It's about sustainedness.

 

I tend to agree with this statement. I've climbed 10b's where the crux move is 10b, and the rest is 5.7 climbing, and so in my opinion wasn't worthy of the rating. A 5.9 next to it feels much harder, given the sustained nature of the route. Generally, I've found so far that routes graded for how sustained they are tend to be more consistent area to area. A sustained 5.9 at Smoke Bluffs feels like a sustained 5.9 in Red Rocks.

 

There's a lot of subjectivity to the YDS, but no grading system is perfect. In my opinion, routes should be graded for overall difficulty, not individual moves.

 

Edited by maurop

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That system seems to work well for rap-bolted sport routes, but gear routes I think are a bit more complicated, and I really don't like the YDS for them, although it is obviously the norm around here. I think an ideal system would account for: the onsight difficulty of the climbing moves, the amount of pro, the "trickiness"/reliability of the pro (both of these factors contribute to the mental difficulty of the climb), and also perhaps objective dangers such as sharp edges and loose blocks. I guess the closest thing to this that exists would be the British grading system???

 

I like the british system too, but I still think the YDS is perfectly applicable to alpine routes. It's rating the technical difficulty, not necessarily the quality of the rock, protection opportunities, etc. The French alpine grades might make up for this shortfall in the alpine grades though?

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In my opinion, routes should be graded for overall difficulty, not individual moves.

 

While this would probably be more useful 95% of the time, I'm still not sure this is current practice, at least in Squamish. For example, when leading, I often find sustained 5.8's to be more difficult than 5.9's.

 

That said, maybe it's just because I'm a crappy climber, and have absolutely no endurance.

Edited by Alan Trick

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While this would probably be more useful 95% of the time, I'm still not sure this is current practice, at least in Squamish. For example, when leading, I often find sustained 5.8's to be more difficult than 5.9's.

 

Ya, I agree that squamish has some soft grades, which stems from, in my opinion, grading individual cruxes. It also has some solid test pieces that are good examples of what a grade should be. So far, I've found most "Top 100" routes from Bourdon's guide to be graded accurately.

Edited by maurop

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When Jim Bridwell introduced the letters to climbing grades in '73, he picked a number routes that were supposed to be the yard sticks of which other routes are measured by.

For example, Serenity Crack defines the 5.10d thin crack. Is Slow Children harder Serenity?

Lunatic Fringe sets the bar for 5.10c. Is Sagittarius harder than Lunatic Fringe?

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In the Watts guide to Smith he helpfully grades the individual cruxes. So you can see that To Bolt has six separate cruxes, rated 13-, 13-, 13, 13-, 12 and 11 for a total overall difficulty of 14a. No 14a moves.

 

Except his gradings aren't "helpful", nor are they accurate.

 

13- has, by traditional convention, been associated with a V7 bouldering grade, and I don't think the above route has three V7's (and one harder problem, per his notations). I've often heard it mentioned that this route has continual V4 climbing, but I don't know from personal experience.

 

Badman is also given 5.14a (somewhat morpho, but what route isn't), and has perhaps 2 V7 boulder sections, and certainly isn't as sustained as the aforementioned route.

 

BTW, I've never heard of, or given, routes grades based on any notion of "onsite" difficulty. Grades generally tend to settle in after a familiarity with the route, along with consensus.

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I haven't read any climbing literature suggesting how routes should be graded. So I am asking since I'm sure we all have our own approach to how we set a grade. The difference to designating a grade based on an onsight vs. red point can be significant especially if the FA doesn't consider the subtleties of working on a route.

 

Some climbers will put up a route, work and wire it and then assign it a grade. Of course once it has been rehearsed and the climber is more efficient, the route may seem easier. Does that climber decide to grade it based on their most current experience or on the experience of the first time they climbed it. Do they base it on the first time they climbed it clean or just the first ascent? Top rope or leading it? Preplaced gear or fixed quick draws? Although we would like to think that none of these things would affect the grading of a route, they do because it changes our perception and experience of the climb.

 

If you climb a route only once and have to assign it a grade how accurate would that be? You may have missed key holds and your experience would again be different.

 

Rap bolting also lends itself to inspection of a route vs. a ground up ascent. So let's say I rap and drill bolts and then pull my rope and climb the route. Technically I am red pointing the route since I have intimate knowledge of the line from cleaning and bolting. However, the next climber that shows up and does it from the ground up has a different experience with no inspection. Do I grade the route based on my first redpoint go or should I consider what it would have been had I not known all the key hand holds etc?

 

Here is my understanding regarding the other two topics that were coming up in discussion.

 

Single Hardest Move Type Routes - yes routes are often graded for the single hardest move. If you have a pitch with 5.5 climbing and it has a short step with some 5.9 jamming it will be given a 5.9 grade typically. Grading for the pitch is not an averaging of all the moves/terrain and the YDS 5.number system doesn't accommodate explaining a one move wonder pitch any better than it would describe a bunch of 5.9 terrain with a short section of 5.5 climbing. That is what route descriptions capture and is how one could describe it more clearly. A topo also helps by showing the one 5.9 jamming section.

 

Sustained Routes - I have heard climbers say "that 5.10 line doesn't have a move harder than 5.9 but it's sustained 5.9". I get it, 5.10 lines that have stances and rests or big holds are easier than 5.10 lines that have the same sustained move over and over. Again, the YDS isn't designed to convey this information. Technically speaking if each move is 5.9 then the route should be graded 5.9 because the YDS isn't based on an averaging of move difficulty over a distance, it's just a rating of movement difficulty. The length of the 5.9 climbing shouldn't affect the assigned route/pitch grade because if it did then we better consider how to grade the route/pitch if we use a 30m, 50m, 60m or 70m rope. Again, use the description to describe the line as sustained. That said, I have experienced climbs getting bumped up and rated for their sustained nature and as G-Spotter stated some routes got a grade "for the pump".

I should add that at the higher levels of sport climbing routes are getting graded higher because of longer and more sustained moves. A line of 5.12 crimpy moves for 50' definitely gets bumped to 5.13 so in practice do we have a grading system that works differently in the lower grades vs. the upper grades?

 

Grading is a subjective thing and hence the challenge with quantifying it.

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