/ Sub Extreme Climbers Can or Do You Want to Make the E Grade?
From a personal point of view, my climbing is very up and down depending on work and time on the crag. I seem to spend a lot of time around HVS, sometimes VS and less occasional days hitting E1, which I always feel I should strive for but should I bother, do you?
I wonder about this quite a lot. I only started properly around March this year and am no "spring chicken" so it's unlikely that i will rapidly progress. Currently around severe, both leading and seconding. Can't seem to climb anything harder. Would be okay personally to make steady progression.Not sure i'll ever make extreme.
I seem to spend a lot of time around HVS, sometimes VS and less occasional days hitting E1, which I always feel I should strive for but should I bother, do you?
At the risk of seeming repetitive: Read the Rock Warriors Way!
Think about whether you WANT to tackle more challenging climbs, rather than whether you SHOULD be striving for a particular grade.
http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=2648 might be useful.
I did an E1 forty years ago.
Since then I have climbed purely for pleasure, never seeking to do another.
I have had a go at a couple of E1s in the last 5 years, (I'm at my peak you know) but I fell off both so didn't see the point in trying any more.
And that's why I was disgusted when 3PS was upgraded to E1. Its not, its a little HVS which I did about 5 years ago.
Should you bother?
Only if that's what you really want. I was soloing HVS a couple of seasons ago, with aspirations, and expectations, of going into the Es, but got injured with a long lay off and found myself refocusing on why i was climbing. On reflection, i (personally) found that i have no real need to push the grade as hard as possible. If you climb, and you enjoy it, and it's all about the enjoyment, what does the grade matter? if it's a mod, great. If it's a VS, great. If it's an E12, great. But only if you're enjoying what you do.
I Personally think that there's too much emphasis on grades in the past few years, mainly because we watch the Mcleoods of this world pushing boundaries further and further and we all feel that somehow we should all match up.
No. We shouldn't.
If you took up running 100m would you expect to be racing Usain Bolt within the space of a couple of years?
> If you took up running 100m would you expect to be racing Usain Bolt within the space of a couple of years?
It's funny you mention running because I've always found myself more competitive with that sport chasing my own times.
I think having read Fiends article I realise I'd like a similar competitive streak with climbing, maybe chasing the E grades is a good thing, it certainly opens up more routes.
Here we go again :-)
> Should you bother?
> If you took up running 100m would you expect to be racing Usain Bolt within the space of a couple of years?
No, but if I found I could run 100m in 14.5s, I'd wonder if I could break the 14s barrier. When I did that, 13.5, etc. I'm a fairly competitive person though, so I guess it will be like that whatever I do!
If i still had that competitive streak, as i definitely once did btw, i might think likewise. But as to the OPs post, should he bother?
Only if that's what HE (you) wants, and not because it is what he (you) feels is expected.
I'm about where you are myself. Leading mostly VS to HVS with the (very) occasional E1. I know I'm physically capable of climbing E2 and maybe up to E4. The reason I don't is probably because of fear of falling and fear of failing. Sometimes, what is needed is a route that gives you a good kick up the ass and reminds you how hard it felt to lead your first VS (or whatever). I got that feeling on Surform the other week (HVS my ass).
Whatever you decide to do you should do it for the enjoyment of climbing. For me, climbing harder would make some absolute classics available.
Even as a VS bumbly who climbs most weeks there are already more than enough routes for a lifetime without adding all the HVSs and E1s as well!
I've given in chasing grades, I found I was failing more often and hence enjoying myself less. Most of us are never going to get to the cutting edge anyway.
I'm just starting to push into the easy E1/E2's. I find that I enjoy climbing at my limit, I really enjoy that sense of over coming something when very close to failure. The experience is exactly the same on my first HVS as now a bit stronger/better on my first E2. So it naturally seems to slowly increase through the grades as I chase the dragon of my 'limit'.
But i'll also agree that the harder climbing tends to be the better climbing. Which is a motivation for me too. I look at some really inspiring lines and cant help but want to be good enough to climb them.
Is that because it is actually better, or because it's closer to your limit and hence more enjoyable for you? When you're comfortably leading E3 will the E1s seem as good?
" If you climb, and you enjoy it, and it's all about the enjoyment, what does the grade matter?"
I mainly climb indoors, but I tend to find I get more satisfaction from getting through a load of well-set 5+s in an evening than knackering myself out on a couple of 6bs.
Not that I'm not trying to improve my grade - I am, but I'm happy for it to happen slowly over time.
Climb what you enjoy climbing. If you enjoy pushing yourself then you'll progress through the grades. If you just enjoy pottering about on rock you'll eventually settle at a grade where you're comfortable, for most folk this seems to be what happens and they settle somewhere in the HS-E2 region.
Apparently when it comes to traditional climbing I'm happy pottering, I've never managed to progress much beyond comfortable at HVS and I don't seem to much enjoy climbing outside my comfort zone. Summers evening HVS pottering with friends is fun but it's not a challenge which is probably why I'm increasingly moving on to new things which are (redpointing and gliding).
Do I feel I should "Make the E's"? No. Are there some fantastic looking extreme graded routes I'd like to try (in relative comfort)? Hell yes. Will I ever get round to it? Not with this ^ attitude.
I wonder if there are two views on all this - those who enjoy pushing themselves to their limit (be that of physical capability or be that of fear), and those who enjoy a bit of a puzzle that is challenging but not too hard.
I seem to find myself falling (ha!) into the latter a lot of the time, particularly if I'm a bit tired, which when climbing in the evening after either work or more usually a long journey, I mostly am.
> I find that I enjoy climbing at my limit, I really enjoy that sense of over coming something when very close to failure. The experience is exactly the same on my first HVS as now a bit stronger/better on my first E2. So it naturally seems to slowly increase through the grades as I chase the dragon of my 'limit'.
Exactly. I climb for the experience, which isn't necessarily enjoyment. Climbing an E3 now feels pretty much the same as climbing an HVS a few years ago, except that I'm more in control, and I enjoy the moves, run-outs and positions more as these are all amplified on more difficult climbs.
> But i'll also agree that the harder climbing tends to be the better climbing. Which is a motivation for me too. I look at some really inspiring lines and cant help but want to be good enough to climb them.
Absolutely. Yesterday I climbed a route with a photo in the guidebook which when I bought it I thought "bloody hell, that's what you get in the E grades" and never thought I'd climb it. Now I'm looking at routes a notch up from there and thinking "I want to get good enough to climb that, it looks amazing".
It's not that anyone should want to climb harder, it's more just a consequence of climbing a lot that you get better, and so if you enjoy being challenged you naturally try harder routes. I don't climb at my limit that often, I rarely fall off (which is essential if you want to climb well into the E grades I think), have massive fear of falling and of failure, so I'm not really pushing myself that hard. But without the experience of climbing at my limit from time to time, I would get bored of climbing.
Funnily enough when I first started I was very keen to move up the grades, recording my first VS/HVS/E1/E2/E3 etc. Climbing was defined by what grade I was climbing.
As I got older/grew up (delete as appropriate), and got into soloing, I found actually that doing my first E-whatever didn't mean as much, and just getting out on rock was the thing.
Looking back at the last couple of years, the routes that stand out as high points are on-sight soloes of Wall End Slab (VS?) and Flying Buttress (VDiff).
It's still nice to solo an E1, but it has to be a *nice* E1. Yes, it would be nice to push up into the higher extremes, but to do that I'd have to bother to get ropes out and do lots of low-mid extremes, and that appears way too much faff.
I'm aware I'm training myself to climb lower grades - if you spend most of your life climbing routes below 5c you end up getting very good at climbing routes below 5c and little else - but for the moment I'm happy with that. E-whatever isn't the draw it used to be, but some long, wandering VDiff, sans ropes, on a summer's day is heaven.
I have top roped in the past when fairly new climbing to push my grade but would definatly prefer to second to get experience and confidence. I suppose I'd class my self as slightly competitive and would like to be a solid E1 climber, not in competition with anyone else rather than pushing my self to improve.
But as others have said I've really enjoyed some Diffs, even Mods- if a climb looks good and I think i'm capable then I'll give it a go, irrespective of grade. Being able to climb a wide range of grades opens up so more opportunities for really enjoyable climbs. Rocking up at a crag and looking at Servers and under really limits your day!
Also with good route selection, pushing your grade doesnt have to be dangerous. I'm currently breaking into E2's and E3's and am climbing safer than ever.
I mostly lead S with some HS here and there, and the odd VS on a good day. I think I would like to lead VS regularly again, as I used to be able to.
Leading Es would be nice, but I'm mainly in it for fun mountain routes in good locations so I think I would be hitting diminishing returns there.
> Is that because it is actually better, or because it's closer to your limit and hence more enjoyable for you? When you're comfortably leading E3 will the E1s seem as good?
No doubt that's part of it. There's also classics right through the grades, some of the finest climbs i've done have been vdiffs. But I think harder climbs tend to explore more extreme/exposed territory. I also find the harder the climb the purer the climbing becomes and that really appeals to me. For example on a HS, there's usually an infinite number of sequences, you have say 10 possible holds within reach and can make progress by a number of different ways. As the climbing becomes harder it becomes more pure. You'll come across a blank face and one teasing hold stuck in the middle. and if it's a small finger pocket and you can feel your feet cutting loose as you look below and see nothing but the sea and a rope dwindling down to some gear...well it's all the sweeter :)
Being a better climber is important to me. Right now im really trying to focus on being a faster/more efficient climber.
> Is that because it is actually better, or because it's closer to your limit and hence more enjoyable for you?
Often harder climbing is just actually plain better. E.g. you can't climb on some of the best walls in the UK without being at a certain level - for example E1 on the Cromlech, E3/4 for THE wall in Hunstman's leap...
you obviously haven't seen me climb ;-)
Firstly I think your 'average people' cherry pick their VS and HVS climbs, advertantly or not. The real 'pick a route at random and climb it onsight' average lead grade is probably low VS or maybe even HS. If you dont think so go climb everything on say Hen Cloud or Curbar or Cratcliffe or Almscliffe or Crookrise and then tell me I'm wrong. Toreador and his self abasing modesty would outclimb many claiming higher grades.
I think any reasonably fit uninjured regular climber has the capability of leading some extreme routes. Mainly the 'hold back' is in the mind. To climb consistently at extreme or climb the odd harder extreme you need talent or to train and Fiend's article and books like the Rock Warrier's way give good assistance here.
> Often harder climbing is just actually plain better. E.g. you can't climb on some of the best walls in the UK without being at a certain level - for example E1 on the Cromlech, E3/4 for THE wall in Hunstman's leap...
I agree with this. If you climb E1/2 confidently, you can have an amazing time at Lower Sharpnose. Without climbing HVS, you can't go down into Great Zawn at Bosigran. There's basically nothing at Gogarth below VS, but to really have a good time you want to be climbing at least E1. I really want to climb on Pentire Head, but at the moment, I'm not good enough. That's a huge motivating factor for me to continue trying to progress up the grades.
That is so true, when i first started climbing e grades 30 odd years ago the only reason i hadn't done so sooner was that I looked on them as the preserve of the top climbers and never bothered trying them. Once i'd done a couple there was no holding me back.
Every climb I've done on Gogarth (to E1) felt less commiting than a route of the same grade on a hard grit crag. More exposed sure, more care required to escape if you can't climb your route sure, but the danger of the route must be part of the committment. I've never felt 'shit Im in serious trouble here and need to stay calm and think fast' on a VS on Gogarth and have had that experience quite a few times on grit S onsight and even on a Diff.
I think I've always tried to get to the next level whatever my current 'standard' but I admit there's always been something about the 'extreme' cachet that has made me want to climb within it!
I always thought Grit seems like the easy tick option for pushing your grade. Basically because you can asses the whole route from the ground. A longer route has so much more of the unknown because you cant see what's coming, and it's a lot further to fall to hit the ground (which can be a good or bad thing)
With a grit route, you can look at it, work out what's probably the crux, spot rests, where the gear is (what size you'll need too so you can take light racks). So you can finish all your decision making process on the ground and just get on a climb and even then. Worst comes to absolute worst, you're not going to die. Get hurt very possibly but it's not proper scary :)
> I've never felt 'shit Im in serious trouble here and need to stay calm and think fast' on a VS on Gogarth and have had that experience quite a few times on grit S onsight and even on a Diff.
That's because grit's ungradable and often very annoying.
I like to push the boat out, otherwise I get bored. It's not like I relish falling though, but I bloody love it after the event.
I'm not sure if you are serious... Quite a few people have died on the grit, so I'm not sure your attitude is particularly conducive to a long and healthy life.
This is a topic close to my heart as I have set myself some goals around the E-Grade "barrier" this year.
Let's be honest, whatever your motivation is for climbing anything, there is a certain cachet around the E grades. Leading trad E grades certainly does leave me (at least) feeling as though I have gone one step beyond in many ways.
To answer the OP. There is no "should" about it. You climb for your own reasons and have your own motivations to push on if you so desire. Despite my own little obsession with leading into the E-Grades, the vast majority of my climbing is below this and I am just as happy on a 4 metre pleasant boulder problem as I am knocking off an E1 lead. That's because I just love getting out climbing.
I have had magical moments in climbing. And I have been able to lead some Extremes. Sometimes the two have gone together - Cenotaph Corner is a good example, as is Breaking the Barrier and Mean Feat. But one of my most incredible experiences was at VDiff - soloing Hope on a whim.
I guess I do like to make the E-Grade and I am capable, but I also want to enjoy my climbing in a variety of ways.
p.s. Good Luck.
like all my HVS leads, that was an over-graded VS :)
Off the top of my head I can only think of 2 genuine HVSs I've led, and both were graded VS.
> I guess I do like to make the E-Grade and I am capable, but I also want to enjoy my climbing in a variety of ways.
> p.s. Good Luck.
I was thinking about this thread a lot today and making the E grades on the odd occasion I have has been the best feeling and for me personally must be something to strive for.
> This is a topic close to my heart as I have set myself some goals around the E-Grade "barrier" this year.
> Let's be honest, whatever your motivation is for climbing anything, there is a certain cachet around the E grades. Leading trad E grades certainly does leave me (at least) feeling as though I have gone one step beyond in many ways.
> Just one reason for not replacing them with a soulless sport grade combo!
I was at pretty much the same level until I stopped climbing regularly a couple of years ago. Now I'm just happy getting out occasionally, couldn't care less about the grade, its more about getting out of the city and hanging out at the cliff with some other climbers for me.
> like all my HVS leads, that was an over-graded VS :)
Currently a good HVS lead and get one or two E1's (except on Joe brown overhanging hand jams... Dammit Joe! Only HVS that's thrown me recently) but spending the miserable summer at the wall getting strong and intending to get on E1 and E2 hopefully by the end of the year. All the most pretty looking routes seem to be around the E2-E4 grade - I'm looking at you Wellington crack!
It seems most climbers (or most climbers on this forum) want to better their grade. For me, this has mostly been about the pure competition with myself and the exhiliration that comes with pushing oneself. More recently I have started getting more inspired by harder lines in the mountains and sea-cliffs at around E2-4, which also motivate me to try harder, although I think many of the most inspiring lines on grit are around VS to E2.
When I broke into E1, it did not feel like any more of a leap than HS to VS or VS to HVS, but I did get more of a buzz, just from the name perhaps!
I push myself now because climbing at my limit is more fun overall than not. Surely most people feel the same? When it stopped being fun for a while, I concentrated on climbing real quality routes, which incidentally improved my climbing because these tend to be more sustained. If pushing my grade begins to frustrate me again, I will probably do the same.
Should you bother? If it's enjoyable, yes.
A good argument for not pushing my limit - if I get better than all the classic VSs I haven't done yet won't be as good :-)
In my early twenties when I was single and on the dole I was pretty consistent at E2. I did some fantastic routes, and climbing at my limit always felt amazing....
15 years later, with a young family and a career I'm pretty consistent at VS. I do some fantastic routes, and climbing at my limit always feels amazing....
I've never identified with the mindset that a lot of people have that once they felt they had reached their peak in terms of grades, they gave the sport up and turned to something else. To me, the pleasure gained from climbing at my limit is exactly the same no matter what that limit is at the time.
I enjoyed Flying Buttress as much as Left Wall. And Bridges Route as much as Central Pillar. And is Heaven Crack a worse route than Right Unconquerable?
Just do what makes you happy. I've gone through phases of being incredibly grade/progression obsessed to losing my trad head and not wanting to climb anything harder than VS but there's always going to be routes out there at every grade that are worth climbing.
For me, I must admit that the lines I get most inspired by tend to be E1 and above and I find climbing stuff that is physically and mentally challenging to be more satisfying than climbing easier routes. However, the reality is that I mostly bimble along at VS/HVS with the occasional E1/2 when it catches my eye, and haven't actually progressed in about 4 years.
True, but with multi pitch routes (certainly in England and Wales) it's rare to find a harder route that is sustained and inescapable for 5 or 6 pitches, whereas there are loads of major classics at Severe and below that are varied, inescapable and continuously interesting for that kind of length.
Debatable - although I suppose you just about get away with it because "general mid grade" is so poorly defined as to be virtually meaningless.
I would say there's probably far more VS leaders out there aspiring to higher grades than HVS leaders. The ambitious ones may be aspiring to E1 and beyond, but I daresay many would be delighted to break into HVS.
3PS has been E1 since the first edition of the BMC "ON PEAK ROCK" guide was published in 1993.
So when you climbed it 5 years ago it was already E1.
Furthermore if you compare it to it's adjacent neighbour Tody's Wall (HVS) it is both harder and less well protected.
Just because route A is harder than route B graded x, it doesn't mean that the grade of route A is x+1.
The routes you mention are at opposite ends of the same grade.
I didn't say that it means that the grade of route A is x+1.
I was just pointing out that neighbouring routes of HVS (not just TW) are both easier climbing and better protected.
I would say that there are plenty of easier and better protected E1's around though, AND it was originally graded HVS when the pebbles were in place.
I can't understand why some people are so anal about 3PS but don't seem to be bothered about more obviously overgraded routes.
Personally I think it is borderline HVS/E1 but this 15m of grit is really not significant or important.
But that also graded Valkyrie (Roaches) and Great Harry (Lawrencefield) as HVS
You're not quite right there as in the latest definitive 3PS is given E1 if you stay right and pad (but HVS if you sneak off left). Also the grade difference may be as much to do with the fact that TW is low in the grade (a few folk like me think its really a top end VS 5a).
Like Climbing Pixie I bumble around and climb the odd low extreme, with the flow of climbing being generaly better on my harder routes. I sample many more lower grade delights than she does but try and keep interest up on these: often by using a light rack or by onsight soloing. I climb the extremes because Im in good form and they are inspiring at the time or sometimes because they are unlisted and look easier. I think too many people try and force progress and this leads to problems as success is less likely and you get frustrated. Plus on well proteced routes if excessive dogging is involved it damages the gear placements in the rock.
Wolevrine was talking to me on the way to Pleasley yesterday evening about some pillocks taking about 2 hours to dog their way up Knight's Move at Burb North, including talk of practicing lead falls. Frankly, grit classics don't deserve this treatment and quite a few are getting trashed placements as a result. We have already pointed out in the Froggatt guide about the mess on routes like Topsail at Birchen due to inapropriate gear placement. At Pleasley I was talking to one of the local enthusiasts and he pointed out that cam use there by inexperinced climbers makes him cringe sometimes: people don't realise how delicate some of the flakes and smaller blocks are and the extra risks of pushing your limits on such a rock type.
I think we should all be encouraging and educating that pushing grades should be done when it feels right for the leader (not just because they want to climb harder or their partner wants it) and if this is on well protected routes, to try and do this away from the classics so that the extra time and likely falls don't damage the rock and inconvenience others too much.
Both top end VS climbs so hardly a major sin.
Sorry, I'm don't understand you - not quite right about what?
I was just saying that TPS has been E1 in the BMC guide since the 1993 On Peak Rock (unless you escape left - which is only mentioned as an option in the latest comprehensive guide).
Not that it matters at all (wish I'd kept my mouth shut!)
> Furthermore if you compare it to it's adjacent neighbour Tody's Wall (HVS) it is both harder and less well protected.
I would argue that the crux move on Tody's Wall is a shade harder technically than any move on TPS. But, of course, TPS is a lot scarier.
More physical yes but harder? I guess it depends on your strengths and weaknesses. I find it easier but that's prob because I don't climb a lot on grit slabs.
I can't think of a huge number of easier E1's in the peak but there are more elsewhere. More to the point there are lots of adjectivally harder bold HVS climbs on peak grit that I think should be upgraded to match. The adjectival crux of 3PS is of course the 4c padding at the top not the technical crux which is close to gear in the pocket. The padding is not trivial: a mid extreme leader friend of mine slipped off this solo due to not concentrating properlya nd bounced down the crag and the bank below, fortunately with no major damage.
I think the escape left explains why some think its so easy and some of the arguments. It's what I did when I first led it; nice colour topos were not around then to help. Much of the rest of the argument (those thinking the right line is mid HVS or lower) is that some people can't grade properly for seriousness as they are fixated on technicality. This helps ruin our great British trad grading system.
You think thats bad? saw some yoof trying to toprope parthian shot last summer. they didnt get very far, and soon switched to dogging a VS route instead.
Your right that ego sometimes has no bounds. When I was gear sec at my Uni club some members (who'd have stuggled to lead most low extremes) trashed a club rope trying Gaia on TR, needless to say they avoided me afterwards for quite a while and never got any more club gear.
> More physical yes but harder? I guess it depends on your strengths and weaknesses. I find it easier but that's prob because I don't climb a lot on grit slabs.
I think Tody's Wall is a bit harder if you're small (I'm only 5' 7), in that that pull up and rock over is thus a bit bigger. Anyhow, I'd say getting up onto the block on TW is strenuous 5a, and then the crux move up on to the slab is 5b. On TPS the crux is 5a and the top slab is then 4c-5a, depending on the exact line taken ... it never seems quite the same twice :)
I couldn't agree more. I'm often surprised by opinions on grades and have to remind myself that the Trad system is subtle, and you have to live with it for a fair while in order to understand it. Many climbers never get there.
> some people can't grade properly for seriousness as they are fixated on technicality. This helps ruin our great British trad grading system.
I was only ever briefly bothered with pushing my grade, and even at the height of my powers in 2009 I only reached the dizzy heights of leading Hard Severe and seconding V.S...
I've now come round to the contentious view that grades and guidebooks should be abolished ;-)
I wouldn't deny that there's a subjective element to grading, nor would I deny that the "calibration" of grading systems can vary from region to region, or crag to crag; however, these inevitable variations should still lie within the general spirit of the system being employed.
"Proper" application of the UK Trad system means giving due weight to the likelyhood and likely consequenses of a fall as well as the technical difficulty of the climbing, even though opinions often differ as to the exact grade of a particular climb.
I don'[t mind so long as a particular crag is graded consistently. So everything at Hen Cloud is tough for the grade, everything at Reiff is a soft touch, but the relative grading on each is maintained.
Whereas somewhere like Great Whanney is too random for the grades to be of much help.
There are quite a few sandbags at Reiff and even the odd soft touch at Hen Cloud.
I've only seen tongue in cheek and ironic TPS threads so finally I get to wade in!
Yes it's serious. And admittedly I did it on day with near perfect conditions. But I didn't even think there was a 4c move on it. Sustained 4b slab. E1 4b.
yes finally ....ahhh what a rite of passage. Not the climbing...but getting on write about it on ukc :)
> I've only seen tongue in cheek and ironic TPS threads so finally I get to wade in!
> Yes it's serious. And admittedly I did it on day with near perfect conditions. But I didn't even think there was a 4c move on it. Sustained 4b slab. E1 4b.
Well I though it was VDiff!
It also means you can climb at steep crags when it's pissing it down with rain.
It'd be nice to be able to climb up in the E grades, but for me climbing has always been about the big, but easy (i.e. able to be quick on) mountain routes. To that end it would be nice to be a better climber, but more so that I had more skill and confidence in reserve rather than constantly pushing my grade. To get me to a confident E-grade climber would require time cragging that I would far rather spend in the mountains! Maybe if I got out to the Alps more, where there are so many more hard peaks, I'd change my mind...
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