E is for mEdia

by Jack Geldard - UKC Chief Editor Aug/2008
This article has been read 7,688 times

E is for mEdia

Looking for a grade debate? Read the UKC article: The E Grade. Is it broken? Can it be fixed?


photo
Climb magazine: August 2008
UKC News
© Climb magazine

On the 16th June 2008 the UKClimbing.com news page hit a record 9611 unique views. The news page usually hovers around 5000/6000 unique views per day. In my line of work increasing viewing figures is a very good thing. But is it good for climbing?

  • Climber Magazine: Aug 08 Issue, page 9. A small quarter page photograph shows Sean Villanueva O'Driscoll and Nicolas Favresse fighting their way up The Mad Brown in the back of Wen zawn, Gogarth.
  • Climb Magazine: Aug 08 Issue, pages 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, 26, 27, 28, 29. A full, in-depth piece about Sonnie Trotter and Steve McClure climbing Rhapsody.


Big Numbers Sell Papers (and website pages)


On the 16th June 2008 the UKClimbing.com news page hit a record 9611 unique views. The news page usually hovers around 5000/6000 unique views per day.

So what? Well what did we run on the 16th of June? We ran: E11 is...? (UKC NEWS ITEM)

We had been following Sonnie Trotter's and Steve McClure's progress on Rhapsody; Dave MacLeod's Dumbarton super-route. There had been a lot of speculation on the grade and Steve McClure kindly gave us his thoughts on the route. We had photos and a great 'E11' story. Our viewing figures went through the roof.

Climb magazine had reports on their own website of course, and followed these up with what I thought was one of the best magazine issues for a long time. The media spotlight had honed in on E11: it was big news, and it was covered intensely.

Sonnie Trotter is one of the world's top climbers, he's climbed many amazing routes. He came to the UK and climbed another; Rhapsody. His insightful blog opened a window in to the world of a globe trotting professional climber, and provided a source of news for us at UKClimbing.com.

Around the same time as Sonnie's visit, two other exceptional climbers visited our shores; Sean Villanueva O'Driscoll and Nicolas 'Nico' Favresse. We covered some of their exploits in our news, but as they were operating on routes with lower grades, our coverage of them was less intense.

On the UK stage, O'Driscoll and Favresse's achievements matched Trotter's, they were climbing in a more difficult style and succeeded on so many routes that their efforts were newsworthy, but on a world stage Rhapsody is a much harder route and is a route of world renown. Perhaps the Belgian duo deserved more news space, but I think media coverage was the last thing on their minds.

It is also worth mentioning here that although Nico Favresse has just climbed the Cobra Crack in Canada, a route of comparable difficulty to Rhapsody, he fell on his on-sight attempt of Strawberries, an E6 6b first climbed in 1980, adding further proof of how hard it is to climb E6/7/8 routes on-sight.




photo
Nico Favresse attempting to onsight Strawberries.
alex
© Alex Messenger

Do E grades stand for 'On-Sight'?


E grades at the top end of the sport are suffering a quiet backlash. Top climbers have been discussing the difference between on-sight grades and headpoint grades for quite some time now and wondering how it all fits together.

In 2001 John Arran graded Doctor Dolittle, his new route at Curbar Edge in the Peak District, H9 (H standing for Headpoint). “I was unwilling to guess an onsight grade, I proposed H9”. The route has been recorded in the guidebook as E10, not as H9.

In a recent UKC Article, top UK trad climber Pete Robins said “It would be much better if E-numbers didn't exist for head-points and they were just given a sport grade until they were on-sighted.”

(It's worth noting that Pete didn't say that routes should not be top-roped.)

After his recent head-point ascent of Trauma in the Llanberis Pass, Pete commented that he considered his effort to be F8a and not E8 as he had rehearsed the route. Interestingly, Leo Houlding reportedly first proposed a grade of H9 for this route after his first ascent, but it was recorded as E9.


So, are we leaning toward a new grading system?


Despite the storm and tempest, it is more than likely that we can and will muddle through with our current mish-mash of E grades, sport grades, bouldering grades and (my personal favourite) over-grades. However, what we should – and must – change, is the way our sport is portrayed and spotlighted in the media.

With more media coverage and information available on on-sight climbing, the more inspirational that aspect of climbing could become to younger climbers. This shift in media focus should be through positive appreciation of all aspects of our sport, including head-pointing. But we must acknowledge the fact that achievements at a lower grade, but in a more difficult style, deserve as much print space as high grade red-points.

It is the kind of honesty from the likes of Robins after his Trauma headpoint that keeps in perspective the real level of difficulty and challenge that these routes offer. We now know that an E8/9 like Trauma can feel more like a F8a sport route when it is fully rehearsed.

Want to read more about grading for the on sight? The E Grade. Is it broken? Can it be fixed?


Dave MacLeod's thoughts:

"I think a grading system redesign is a bit of a dead end – it's far too complex. E8 onsight or E8 headpoint is perfectly easy to understand. No one has a problem in sport climbing or any other type of climbing. You don't get bouldering 'flashers' (hmm that sounds weird) telling bouldering 'redpointers' they need a new grading system. It's just V10 a vue or aprθs travail. Simple.

I think the reason Nico & Sean's onsights in Wales got lost behind Sonnie's climbing was because reading Sonnie's daily blogs was genuinely interesting and took the attention. Note took the attention – the attention is always taken, not given. It's down to the climber to tell their own story. There are hundreds of hardcore ascents left right and centre. Which do we read about? The ones where it's more than just a number. Mick Fowler can tell a good ground up story. Write like Mick, but using everything that new media gives you these days, and the front page of UKClimbing.com is yours!"

photo
Neil Dickson - Bank Holiday hang-over
© Jack Geldard

Two different climbers, two fine achievements (UKC NEWS ITEM)


This was a juxtaposition of Neil Dickson's on-sight attempt of Margins of the Mind and Sonnie Trotters red-point ascent of Rhapsody.

The interview with Sonnie Trotter has had 3,257 views as of 30th July, compared to 4,679 for the interview with Neil Dickson, both are extremely popular articles. In their differing ways, both these climbers represent people who are passionate about their sport and are willing to push themselves in the way that they find most rewarding. The viewing figures show that we as a climbing audience/readership are interested in all aspects of our sport and that we like to celebrate success and cherish talent in all of its forms.

Whilst our earlier E11 headline grabbed a record number of views, it did nothing to diminish the achievement of Neil Dickson.

When you look beneath the headline news you realise that many climbers are putting in world class performances, pushing mental and physical boundaries and climbing in the traditional, ground-up style that gives an emotional roller-coaster-experience of adventure that, to many, epitomises what our sport is all about.

Enough then of numbers. Too many Es are bad for you. So forget E11, forget E anything. Climbing isn't about numbers or grades or grading systems, or styles or ethics or any of that. Climbing is about freedom and enjoyment. It's about pushing yourself physically or mentally, and about long days on classic mountain routes. It's about evenings on the grit, and ice-creams at South Stack cafe. And most of all it's about having unforgettable times with great friends.

The climbing media is about that too. UKClimbing.com will bring you E11, but we'll also bring you E1, or F6c+, or Font 8b, or whatever currency you are trading in. We reflect the diversity of climbing culture. We don't dictate styles, but perhaps at some level we do influence fashions. Or do fashions influence the media?

I am inspired by Sonnie Trotter, but I'll leave you with just some routes from the holiday tick-list of Sean Villanueva O'Driscoll, he must have had one hell of an adventure!



Route

Area

Grade

Style

The Cad

Gogarth

E6 6a

On sight

Conan the librarian

Gogarth

E6 6b

On sight Alt Leads with James McHaffie

The Unridable Donkey

Gogarth

E7 6b

On sight Alt Leads with James McHaffie

Mr Softy

Gogarth

E6 6b

On sight Alt Leads with Jack Geldard

The Mad Brown

Gogarth

E7 6b

On sight Alt Leads with Nico Favresse

Ride the Wild Surf

North Wales Slate

E4 6a

On sight

The Rainbow of Recalcitrance

North Wales Slate

E6 6b

On sight

The Quarryman

North Wales Slate

E6 6c

Flash (First pitch only)

Flashdance & Belldance

North Wales Slate

E5 6b

On sight

Gin Palace

North Wales Slate

E6 6b

Flash

Lord of the Flies

Llanberis Pass

E6 6a

On sight

King Wad

Llanberis Pass

E6 6b

On sight

Right Wall

Llanberis Pass

E5 6a

On sight

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Cloggy

E5 6a

On sight (First Pitch)

Tonight at Noon

Lleyn Peninsula

E6 6b

On sight

Byzantium

Lleyn Peninsula

E4 6a

On sight

Noble Savage

Lleyn Peninsula

E5 6b

On sight

New Route (un named)

Lleyn Peninsula

E4 6a

On sight

London Wall

Peak District

E5 6a

On sight

Archangel

Peak District

E3 5b

On sight

White Wand

Peak District

E5 6a

On sight

Edge Lane

Peak District

E5 5c

On sight

My Piano

Nesscliffe

E7/8 6c

After Brief Abseil (thought not E8)

Yukan II

Nesscliffe

E7 6b

Flash

10 o'clock Saturday Morning

Nesscliffe

E7 6b

Flash

The Great White

Pembroke

E6/7 6c

Flash

Killer White

Pembroke

E6 6b

On sight

Fireball XL5

Pembroke

E6 6b

On sight

White Heat

Pembroke

E5 6b

On sight

Hunter Killer

Pembroke

E6 6b

Flash

Souls

Pembroke

E6 6b

1 fall (wet pocket)

Minotaur

Pembroke

E5 6b

On sight

Head Hunter

Pembroke

E5 6a

On sight

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