/ NEWS: Quotes For The Great British Grade Debate
To kick off the debate, Matt Heason the festival organiser, has collected quotes from some of the climbers who will be attending...
"...ascents of new hard lines have been taken over by media hype and the modesty in new routing has been lost...."
"How do you put a grade on death?"
To find out who says what - and to watch a video of John Arran...
Read more at http://www.ukclimbing.com/news/item.php?id=46083
I think James Gerald is a morph of Alan James and Jack.
i have been living in spain for the last 5 years or so and i really canīt understand the fuss. itīs really easy to understand the e grading system esecially when it is applied to trad climbing. a relatively simple comparison of e grade and tech grade gives you a pretty accurate approximation of likely difficulties. and then a quick look up a line is all that is needed to see whether a line is safe and sustained or bold/comitting/dangerous.
a lot of this seems to have come from james pearsons recent ascents and the subsequent repeats. but what everyone seems to have forgotten was how totally reasonable the grades seemed orignally (no one questioned e10 for the promise until it was repeated by team usa) given how many had tried and failed and how much time had been invested. if when the piece of gear had failed when it had been tested would it even have been repeated??
seems first acentionists are being punished by others either by the spreading of doubt about ascents or subsequent downgrading by ascentionists who have the advantage of being ABLE TO SEE IN HIGH DEFINTION VIDEO EXACTLY WHAT IS POSSIBLE OR NOT.
Oh God, now look what you've started "James"
>"...ascents of new hard lines have been taken over by media hype
Ooh, the irony.
Interesting account from Mr Arran.
Good work UKC.
> >"...ascents of new hard lines have been taken over by media hype
> Ooh, the irony.
Then there is always, hyped to the media.
It's a daily barrage of emails, reports and press releases.
> i have been living in spain for the last 5 years or so and i really canīt understand the fuss. itīs really easy to understand the e grading system esecially when it is applied to trad climbing. a relatively simple comparison of e grade and tech grade gives you a pretty accurate approximation of likely difficulties. and then a quick look up a line is all that is needed to see whether a line is safe and sustained or bold/comitting/dangerous.
What he said ^^^^^^^
Best grading system in the world.
How about a 3 stage system whereby routes are graded based on:
1) Technical difficulty of the moves.
2) How sustained they are, so routes with a single crux would rank low and those with continuous hard moves proportionally higher. This should be independant of route length, acting simply as a factor to indicate how much of the route corresponds to it's technical grade.
3) Exposure/Danger this being the (as far as possible) objective categorisation of the danger in climbing a route. Highball boulder problems, sport routes with long runouts or groundfall potential and of course trad routes would all get one of these.
By separating out the danger from the other factors of the climb we can remove the diminish the significance of ego and the estimation of how scary a climb is in its overall grading. For example the recent controversy over James Pearsons 'The Walk of Life' would be unlikely to arise using this grading system. First ascentionists climbing routes where the protection has not been tested can then resonably grade the technical and endurance side of a climb and enter a tentative estimation of the danger which can be refined later as the route is repeated and the gear placement or fall consequences determined by experience.
Routes such as the short gritstone problems where the use (or not) of bouldering mats has become an issue in assigning a grade are under this system naturally given 2 different danger grades, one with mats and one without, much as variations like a sit start or a hold breaking change a routes grade currently. The technical and sustained parts of the grade remain unchanged and so the climbers achievement in completing a route is undeminished, yet it is readily apparent from his logbook in which style he climbed the route.
Great idea, why have 2 things when you can say it in 3 ;-)
In the E grades, I don't know what it relates to. It's meant to emphasize danger and yet, everyone seems to let it be influenced by the difficulty of the climbing too. Is it just that there's too many levels of E - instead of just having safe, dodgy, scary, you're-going-to-die.
That's not to say that the American system is best - just a random thought.
Just my two cents.
Neal - Ireland (currently hiding out in NZ)
> In the E grades, I don't know what it relates to. It's meant to emphasize danger and yet, everyone seems to let it be influenced by the difficulty of the climbing too.
arrrrrrrggggggghhhhhhhhh < bangs head on wall for 20th time this week>
"In the E grades, I don't know what it relates to. It's meant to emphasize danger "
No disrespect, but have you tried reading what Adjectival grades actually mean?
The E doesn't emphasize anything except overall difficulty, whether this is a result of hard moves, continuity, scariness, loose rock, exposure, etc. or any combination of these. Other (qualifying) grades (Tech, P, French, V, etc.) may emphasise different aspects of its difficulty to help indicate HOW it gets its E grade, but E most definitely stands for Everything (... or Extremely if you're a pedant!)
> >"...ascents of new hard lines have been taken over by media hype
> Ooh, the irony.
I suspect you're accusing UKC but in my opinion Hot Aches productions ( and maybe climb magazine) are the worst offenders. Releasing a video titled 'E11', does suggest it's all about the grade.
It's very common Al. The reason:, those who don't understand haven't grown up with its evolution and use like you have.
However it is flawed and doesn't apply to certain styles of ascent, which is at the root of the debate.
I'm astounded that you can't understand that (just kidding).
> I suspect you're accusing UKC but in my opinion Hot Aches productions ( and maybe climb magazine) are the worst offenders. Releasing a video titled 'E11', does suggest it's all about the grade.
John touched on this in his video - he called them Ego Grades.
In short some climbers use the E-grade to enhance their climbing CV. I don't blame them its the system we have and why not use it to your advantage.
this grading debate thingie, is it a general grading debate or just discussing the top end bit? If the latter, who really cares, if the former why try to fix something that ain't broke?
The fact that so many people make this mistake is the biggest reason why the adjectival grade should be scrapped.
Once you understand the adj. system, it's obvious that it is capable of accurately describing all the routes that 99.99% of climbers will ever try.
However, the fact that so many people struggle to understand it correctly suggests that it is not a very good system. You can call people thick and stupid until you're blue in the face - but the fact is that other systems (notably the YDS) don't suffer from any such confusion, as far as I'm aware.
But also don't communicate very much about a climb.
This whole debate seems to be about the minuscule number of people climbing E6+. I think they can be left to grade things as they wish and let the rest of us get on with it!
Yes I agree, or use a French Sport and a danger grade until the route has had a ground up, no rehearsal ascent. Adam Wainright and others have suggested this.
However I personally cannot see UK climbers doing away with the hypothetical E-grade for headpointed routes.
It is not in the interest of the top climbers because higher E-grades mean more kudos and recognition, and hopefully sponsorship for top climbers.
Some top climbers recognise this, and all credit to them for wanting to see a change at the top end.
Also the elimination of headpoint E-grades is not in the interest of some climbing media, especially the print climbing media that use high E-grades to sell copies and advertising.
Why not have use H grades (or whatever) to sell stuff instead?
So UKC have got no mileage out of E-grades whatsoever then Mick?
The technical grade isn't necessarily for one single move; it can be for a sequence of moves as well can't it? To say that you can't grade for this would be the same as saying that many boulder problems are ungradeable. The English tech grade is surely a bouldering grade when you look at what it actually means to the route.
I agree though, that there must be a massive issue with the "compression" of it in the higher grades (as has been said by many people before). As an example of this, my best onsight trad onsight is E2 which is 6 or so grades from the highest trad onsight everywhere. However, my best bouldering onsight/flash is english 6a meaning that I am only 3 or 4 grades off the best possible. This highlights a massive discrepancy.
The problem is how on earth to address this. We can't realistically expect all the routes with tech grades of 6c/6c or higher to retrospectively have their grades changed to fit an improved english tech grade.
Oh dear, that's the first time I've commented on one of these grade debates...you always become the thing which you hate don't you?!
>The technical grade isn't necessarily for one single move
That's how its always been presented. As you rightly say boulder problemss are usually (but not always)sequences of moves. This is one reason why the need was felt to use V and Font grade systems rather than UKTech grades...that and UK tech grades inconsistent application and large bandwidth.
> So UKC have got no mileage out of E-grades whatsoever then Mick?
Like many I feel it does get tiresome.
However, many ignore the grade debate. We try to cater for the the broad church that is climbing, see the news page and articles page, and many other parts of the site.
We aren't a one trick pony.
I thought that the tech grade was for the "hardest move or sequence of moves". In my (limited) experience, which one is the case usually becomes obvious once you have done the route. e.g. if it is a bit of a one move wonder then it will be obvious which was the crux move, but if it is more sustained or has a low technical grade then it could appear to be for a few moves, whether that be a sequence of them or a few seperate moves at different points on the route. However, I can imagine that this may become more blurred in the higher grades, especially for very bold/death routes.
A quote from the Rockfax website: "The technical grade - (4a, 4b, 4c,....to 7b). This refers to the difficulty of the hardest single move, or short section, on a route."
I took "short section" to mean a sequence of moves (i'm sure I've read this somewhere but can't think where), but maybe I'm wrong.
P.S. For the record, I think the E grade is fine, it just needs correct use. John Arran seems to have a good solution with his application of H grades.
Thanks for clearing that up by the way. Being someone who doesn't do much bouldering, I've always preferred English tech grades for boulder problems as that is what I understand; I don't really have any idea how hard a Vwhatever or a FontSomething problem will be and don't climb hard enough for grade compression to casue me any issues. When you put it like that though, I can see the need for them (along with the grade compression issue).
> However, the fact that so many people struggle to understand it correctly suggests that it is not a very good system. You can call people thick and stupid until you're blue in the face - but the fact is that other systems (notably the YDS) don't suffer from any such confusion, as far as I'm aware.
I remember at the end of a six week trip to the States and climbing well (up into the 5.11s), looking for a last easy day whilst some of the team did Lucky Streaks (Fairview Dome). I found a 5.9 (PG) somewhere nearby and set off - I have erased the name from my memory! An hour later I arrived at the first stance on the rope stretch, totally harassed - devious route finding, very poor gear, slick rock - I bailed!
Any system can be a useless as any other if it isn't used properly!
Not suggesting you're a one trick pony. Merely that it seems a little rich to chuck stones at the mags for hyping E-grades when you could easily be accused of the same.
e.g. News Headlines.
Katy Whittaker - Braille Trail - E7 6c
Little Women E7 7a - On Sight
James Pearson climbs Devon Project - E12 7a
>"...ascents of new hard lines have been taken over by media hype
Ooh, the irony.
I thought that at first - but re-reading that was a quote from Nic Sellars
We have a fast turn around of news as you know Hugh and what we have achieved is that we are getting a truer reflection of what is happening on the UK climbing scene.
This hasn't really happened before.
However, some are stick in the old ways of elevating some way too far above others.
Also, whilst some focus on hard ascents and almost become obsessed and emotionally involved with them, the majority of climbers and mountaineers don't.
Again this is getting back to the diverse interests of the UK climbing community.
Some are very interested in mountain rescue issues, some alpinism, UK ice climbing, etc etc...
It is our editorial mission to refelect more fairly what is happening on the UK climbing scene, and I believe we are achieving that.
High E-grades are only part of the story - I see you are focussing on them!
> High E-grades are only part of the story - I see you are focussing on them!
Actually, to be fair Mick it was you that focused on E-grades with your criticism of the Mags. I have merely focused upon your focus.
....and I was focussing on somebody elses focus, and used the opportunity to outline our editorial philosophy to those reading this thread.
Thinking about it I wonder whether the english tech grade was more a product and reflection of a time when most people didn't boulder and so singling out the difficulty of the crux move was more useful as this would generally be more of a stopper/barrier of itself to success on a trad routes for climbers then, than climbers today.
> Kind of.
> I thought that was a bit unclear so I typed it into Babelfish, clicked translate Ryan-speak in to English, and got: "Yes, absolutely, all the time, we're just as bad as the mags".
Magazines come out monthly. If you look they have something called a front cover. That front cover is basically an advert for the magazines. It puts emhasis on something each month.
Our front covers are our home page, news page - or indeed any page that people have bookmarked. These pages change quite regularly.
It's not about being bad. They are different.
If you want to carry on email me direct or give me a call to go for a pint and I'll explain the facts of media to you.
Yes, that may be true, although I still think it's very useful today and, due to the way the adjectival grade works, is more useful than having a grade which describes the overall technical difficulty of the route in my opinion.
One thing I've just wandered is whether or not the tech grade is graded for the onsight or not. It is generally accepted that the adjectival grade is for onsight ascents, but is this the case for tech grades as well? Of course, this may be a whole different can of worms!
Aren't grades quite important? I don't know - this is a straight question.
Sometimes I put the grade in the news title - is that bad? (straight question) Would it be better not to lead the report with a grade in the title? Should I give it more thought? What about not having grades in reports at all?
The news reports at 8a.nu are basically lists of grades. Is that also bad? Or not as bad because they're sport routes?
News is definitely more than a grade. Which is why I shy away from things like "E8's are news worthy, E7's are not" or whatever. I think there is so much more to news than a number, but numbers clearly do feature.
It is of course swings and roundabouts too, as when I didn't put any grades in this Trad Article: http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=1529 people complained (if I remember correctly, I don't always!).
I don't think that 'we' and 'they' do too badly at fairly accurate reporting. I certainly try not to blow peoples trumpets too hard, but do try to give due credit to amazing climbs and climbers.
I haven't yet decided whether to bracket online media like UKC and 8a.nu and the monthly mags in the broadsheet (generalistic view of objective reporting) versus the tabloid (sensationalist) approach but my opinion doesn't count so no sleepless nights for you all.
A difficult one for you all to balance and for the onliners more so because of limited time between action and reaction.
Is it possible your post could have been any more patronising?
You constantly portray UKC as a blemish free white knight; so much better than the evil, nasty mags, but you also have a front page with news headlines exploiting the latest climbing achievements, this links to the forums where you can continue to exploit it in a way that the mags could only dream of. And it all increases site traffic which is good for selling advertising.
This current grade debate has done good business for you.
> Aren't grades quite important? I don't know - this is a straight question.
Of course grades are important, I enjoy reading about what's happening at the cutting edge. But there's a double standard here: UKC are happy to report the latest big grade (and the site traffic it generates) but then feign moral outrage when that grade is sometimes questioned (which also generates site traffic). For the site it's a win - win situation, for the people sticking their necks out on the rock (which now pales into insignificance with the balls you need to risk grading something these days) it's a very different matter.
Personally Jack, I have no problem with E-Grades being exploited and plastered wherever. I just really struggled to understand Mick's criticism of the Mags on this issue, and how he considers UKC is any different (I still don't). I also think it's important to point out that this is not an E-grade issue. Big any numbers are always plastered on websites and magazines worldwide (9a+, v15, 5.15B, 34 et al). The reason simply being that people find them fascinating. Those that don't have simply been looking at such stories for too long and have grown tired.
Give em what they want!
Not really Arran. Like I said, it's getting a tad tedious and some ignore it completely.
There's far far more to selling advertising than an increase in site traffic. That is important of course, but if you want to sustain it you have to have a handle on many things. If you want I'll patronise you with a master class on it. Want a job? You seem to have a handle on media.
One important development at UKClimbing.com recently is taking Kevin Avery on as Assistant Editor and his responsibility of getting many and high quality Destination Articles up - we have great plans for that.
That too me is far more important than a grade debate. ..... Where to climb? is one of the pillars of this website, along with Logbooks, News, Articles, Forums, Photo Galleries etc
I get far more excited about that than grade debates.
How about we just don't grade anything shorter than 10m with an E-grade?
I love magazines Hugh, and want them to improve, like many of us and they are. They do have their flaws and they are making positive changes
I think the major development at the moment on that score is stuff like Climb having a digital copy online, also similar to the Deadpoint.
Rock and Ice are undergoing changes, just been in touch with the new guys at Alpinist and Mark at Skram is being as proactive as ever at Climbing mag.
> I'm sure some do, but compare the views this thread has had (1672)with the NZ Bouldering article (334) posted about the same time.
Ah, you judge popularity by forum thread views?
I'd explain the bigger picture if I had time, and will soon, but in an article.
Got a trip to Spain to pack for.
All the best,
Like it ! The marginalisation of the cumbersome E grade continues. Not relevant for sport routes. Not relevant for deep water soloing. Not relevant for highballs. Not relevant for any style except onsight (attempts). Confuses foreigners. Confuses Brits. Not relevant for headpointing.
Anyone notice a trend ? At this rate the only route E graded will be Left Wall - remind me is that E2 or E3 ?
Or Right Wall E5 6a ...... or is it F6C+ with spaced gear?
If it is accepted that routes are graded for the onsight then the crux must surely be graded with the same in mind. You'd think ! JCM (and Chris Craggs) made a distinction that routes are graded for an onsight attempt rather than onsight success. Unfortunately I got lost when all the angels slid off the pin so whether this means that some tech grades are consequently graded for a dogged ascent dependent on the route I'm not sure.
I think the problems arose and are perpetuated by folks who want it to be a science, and it isn't. Basically it is me trying to guess how hard you and 10,000 other folks might find something.
OTOH you could do a customised guide as to how hard I might find it ... just stick 'em all in at 8a ;-)
The problems are largely inherent to the structuring of the grade. The system itself should be judged if it is useful. Part of the usefullness is whether it is understood. After all this time blaming others for misunderstanding it is like getting the tail to wag the dog.
What's wrong with science anyway?. It is our best invention by far. Science tests things and if found wanting it replaces it with something better. I think you are a good and conscientious grader. I don't have an issue with that.
Why not be open to alternative systems that may be easier to understand, are not so entangled with style and that seek to isolate risk from physical difficulty with smaller and more meaningful bandwidths.
I suspect that the only people who don't understand the E-grade system are the ones who don't actually climb trad routes graded by that system. When onsighting British trad routes you will pretty soon get the hang of the differences expressed, for example, by E2 6a, E3 5b and E4 5c if E4 and 6a are close to your limit.
If they don't use the system, then does it matter that they don't understand it?
You suspect wrong. It is a regular occurence that trad climbers post here saying that E is for danger. There are aspects of the system that make no sense. It is hard enough grading the equivalent difficulty of slabs and overhangs. How do you draw an equivalence between that sort of difficulty and risk/danger?. That's just for starters. People have grown up with the the E grade system and because they have used it so extensively are seemingly blinded to its faults and irreconcilable components. If the E grade was so flipping great all the visiting trad climbers would take it home and adopt it in their countries. For one visiting climbers impressions take a look at this http://sonnietrotter.com/2008/11/03/how-hard-is-hard-grit/
Similar systems are used for Alpine in both Russia and the Alps - e.g AD, III, snow to 45 deg will be a very different route to AD, IV+. I think the reason adjectival grades aren't widely used elsewhere is much more to do with the nature of the climbing than not being useful.
What are you on about ? Speaking from personal experience there are plenty of trad climbs like the ones in the UK in the US, Australia, Norway and Spain. I'm sure other countries have them too. Maybe they do have a tendency to add a crucial peg or bolt but also maybe that is because their first acsentionists aren't rewarded by an E(go) boost for foregoing them or should I say don't have our great heritage of serious climbs depending on how you choose to look at it.
I'm prepared to be corrected, but are you sure that the people claiming E is for danger have any significant experience of trad-climbing? I really don't see how they could have whilst clinging to such an erroneous view.
I'm not suggesting the E grade 'is flipping great', and I'm perfectly happy to accept that a sport grade plus a danger estimate is a reasonable way of going about the tricky task of grading variable things. However, I do think that advancing 'difficulty of understanding' as an argument against the E-grade is entirely specious.
> I'm prepared to be corrected, but are you sure that the people claiming E is for danger have any significant experience of trad-climbing? I really don't see how they could have whilst clinging to such an erroneous view.
The vast majority of climbs in my grade range (vs-e2) get an adjective grade above one you would usually associate with the tech grade because the route is poorly protected. The adj grade could stand for something else but it usually reflects the state of the gear for a given grade, in my experience.
So much talking for such trifles... only way to repair it, provided one has ascertained it broke, is to go onsight them routes!!!
Now, my nearest "headline Grabbing" route is Rapshody, would you care in coming to see me attempt an onsight ascent on a much talked about eliminate?
Good climbing moves, enthusiastic crowds and interesting substances might be enough for me to attempt it and substantiate the grade thereby re-establishing the credibility of the system.
Actually, very presumptuous of me, I should not be the only person to attempt it if we want real consensus... so if you decide to come along you also must attempt it.
We should have a wide spectrum of climbers too, from the dwarfish style to the very tall (I'll be amongst the weak lanky with poor technique group). Oh and we'd want both male and female.
Any takers:) ?
joking aside. I have onsighted a fair few E3s. I have attempted to onsight E4s and failed therefore I don't know what it is like to onsight E4.
Supposedly, E grade is for an onsight, if you practice it then you can't give it an onsight grade or award yourself the E points.
Admittedly, I haven't found any guide books clearly stating that "E grade=onsight" in their grade paragraph (just checked 5 or 6 from different UK area, different publisher)
> I'm prepared to be corrected, but are you sure that the people claiming E is for danger have any significant experience of trad-climbing? I really don't see how they could have whilst clinging to such an erroneous view.
E for danger? Those people need go back to primary school and seriously review their spelling :)
(I feel in a very cheeky subversive mood...must be a post interview euphoria).
If the vast majority of climbs aren't graded how you would expect, then your expectations may need revising!
And yes, the Adj grade does 'reflect' the state of the gear, just as it 'reflects' all of the other factors, all rolled into one nice easy number (or confusing string of adjectives!)
That's a fair point. It might be possible to have climbed a lot but only on a particular formation, and come to believe that E was for danger. I could argue that this still represents a limited experience of trad climbing, but it would be wiser for me to consider myself corrected: the E-grade may be a bit confusing, and this can be legitimately advanced as part of the debate.
> If the vast majority of climbs aren't graded how you would expect, then your expectations may need revising!
> And yes, the Adj grade does 'reflect' the state of the gear, just as it 'reflects' all of the other factors, all rolled into one nice easy number (or confusing string of adjectives!)
I didn't say anything about what I expected, as I never expected anything from the system. I've learnt from experience that in the majority of cases, a deviation upwards in the adj grade for a given tech grade means poor protection.
I am a scientist by training and would be happy to accept a 'better' system (presumably one that told you 'more') - but I haven't been convinced yet. I don't really boulder so Font grades don't help me much for starters!
I suspect of you narrow the bandwidths you will generate more bumph - if folks can't decide if (e.g.) Sentinel Crack is E2 or E3, how does having narrower bands really help.
I am currently reviewing the new Sardinia guide, they use a system that has an S grade (S1-S6) for the state/spacing of the bolts, an R grade (R1-RS) for the quality of the user placed gear and an overall grade (I - VII). All them luuverly numbers!
Great word - a bit like another of my faves - verisimilitude. By the same token just because it has the ring of truth doeesnt mean it isn't. Two computer systems equally capable. One is user-friendly and the other isn't. Which is better ? Grades are for using so 'difficulty of understanding' must count against it - amongst other things.
Sounds like they need new bolts not a new grading system.
> Great word - a bit like another of my faves - verisimilitude. By the same token just because it has the ring of truth doeesnt mean it isn't. Two computer systems equally capable. One is user-friendly and the other isn't. Which is better ? Grades are for using so 'difficulty of understanding' must count against it - amongst other things.
I refer you back to John Arran's video earlier in the thread.
Not sure who first said that but it has more than an element of truth to it.
Anyone who uses French, Font or V grades is just trying to impress people - "I've been to France, I'm a boulderer, etc".
This is England/Wales (not Scotland where nothing is harder than VS) and the E grades have developed over many years - if you or anybody else can't be bothered to study them,climb them and learn about them then so what?
Or do we need mollycoddling - if you do then read the description that goes with most climbs - any decent guidebook author will give you more info about a route than any numerical system.
There are those problems you can easily do in a trick fashion (like no handed); those you can easily get up when climbing properly; those where you need to concentrate a bit; those that you need to make an effort to flash; those you need to try several times; those you need to train a bit to be able to work them; those that you might get up one day if you really work very hard on your climbing; ...(etc.) Then you compare this across climbers of differing abilities.
The two grade statement is a very tired cliche and grades exist for good reason.
In reply to above comments directed at me....
@John Arran: No disrespect taken, but yeah I do understand what Adjectival grades actually means (10 years climbing in Ireland would do that to you - that should answer below comments about not using the trad grade myself and not understanding it :). On a side note though, John's 2-3 line description is probably one of the easiest reads of what E is supposedly meant to be that I've seen.
But that is my point (and many seemed to refer to it below) that people don't read it as 'adjectival grading'. A lot of people seem to read it as being 'danger' (as referenced by a few people below). Maybe it is a catch of the mags/websites displaying them prominently (to increase circulation/publicity) but anyone who hasn't climbed the higher grades will see a pic/movie (with no gear for miles) and be lead to emphasize the out-there or danger element of it - not a benchmark of it's difficulty.
I'll always remember the article in the Aussie climbing mag from 2006 after he'd put up a few new routes in UK/Ireland where the guy jokes about the locals not even understanding how the grading system works when they went to help him grade it :)
At the end of the day, for me personally, I'd rather have a good idea of the physical fitness/strength required for a route (ala French, V, etc.) and either a statement/reference to point out it's danger, or else just read the guidebook description (e.g. "loose", "no protection", etc.)! That article that is referenced below on Sonnie Trotter's thoughts would be my thoughts (only better written :).
Stupid/amusing idea of the day (and since I seemed to have wound up a few people earlier - please laugh at this! :), why not just change it around to, e.g. 7a E11 - remove the E bit being at the front and people shouldn't notice it (short attention spans of the kids these days, they'll probably just think it's a easy sports route :)
> joking aside. I have onsighted a fair few E3s. I have attempted to onsight E4s and failed therefore I don't know what it is like to onsight E4.
> Supposedly, E grade is for an onsight, if you practice it then you can't ..... or award yourself the E points.
Of cousre you can. I've you've lead an E4 after practice, then you've still climbed an E4, just not on sight. To claim an onsight would be dishonest, to claim to have "done an E4" is just a statement of fact.
Sport grades (and grades using all the other sytems worldwide)are also "onsight" grades in theory, no-body I know has a problem awarding themselves the grade for sport routes they've redpointed depite this, in fact it's the norm.
E4 is E4. No matter what you do before you lead it the grade of the route doesn't change (unless you chipped it of course :( ) its just our your style of ascent that changes. Why this should need a new system to describe it, rather than just saying, "I did route X, in style X" is beyond me.
> Of cousre you can. I've you've lead an E4 after practice, then you've still climbed an E4, just not on sight.
I partly agree with this, but in truth it doesn't hold up when you look at all the E-grade is meant to encompass. A sport grade doesn't take in to account the danger of the route (because it doesn't need to), so red-pointing just gives the advantage of knowing the moves and sequence etc.
Since the E grade takes in to account the danger of the route as well as the physical difficulty, headpointing can give different levels of advantage for different routes. What I mean is that headpointing a route which has a high E-grade due to danger will give much more of an advantage when it comes to leading the route than headpointing a safe route which has the same E-grade for being sustained. This means that the grade will change by differing amounts after practice so it becomes difficult to tell what the real difficulty of the route is...isn't this how the problem has come about in the first place?!
Top roping the route does not remove the danger element? The consequences of a headpointer falling off the crux of any route are exactly the same as if an onsighter does. It may seem like it is less likely to happen but the seriousness of the route has not changed, only the apparent likelihood of a fall.
Lets pretend we're in America for a moment. If you lead a 5.11c R/X after toproping it, does that mean you haven't climbed an R/X route?
Partially argeed. This is sort of the same in sport climbing anyway. Some sports routes are very easy to "read" onsight (like a steep 7a+ in Kalymnos) whereas on others it is much harder to hit the right sequence on the 1st go, (like a mica schist sport route for instance) or anything at Malham.
Just because one route is more affected than another by knowing beta does not mean that the grading system is broken though. Nor does it mean that the grade of either route has changed because you have extra information. It does mean that some routes are "easy" headpoints, but then some routes are "easy" onsights for the grade too so I'm not sure what the point is here?
Not sure I agree that dangerous routes always make easier headpoints either. I think it depends on the headpointer, some are more suited to switching off on dangerous routes, others will do better on harder stuff where thay have the sequences dialled and can get into "sport mode".
I personally have walked away from a couple of bolder headpoints in favour of harder better protected ones at the same grade where I felt I would enjoy the experience of leading them more.
> How about a 3 stage system whereby routes are graded based on:
> 1) Technical difficulty of the moves.
> 2) How sustained they are, so routes with a single crux would rank low and those with continuous hard moves proportionally higher. This should be independant of route length, acting simply as a factor to indicate how much of the route corresponds to it's technical grade.
Look in the graded lists in the back of the guides, they'll give you which is harder for 2 routes of any given grade, it's all in the order in which they're listed
> 3) Exposure/Danger this being the (as far as possible) objective categorisation of the danger in climbing a route. Highball boulder problems, sport routes with long runouts or groundfall potential and of course trad routes would all get one of these.
> By separating out the danger from the other factors of the climb we can remove the diminish the significance of ego and the estimation of how scary a climb is in its overall grading. For example the recent controversy over James Pearsons 'The Walk of Life' would be unlikely to arise using this grading system. First ascentionists climbing routes where the protection has not been tested can then resonably grade the technical and endurance side of a climb and enter a tentative estimation of the danger which can be refined later as the route is repeated and the gear placement or fall consequences determined by experience.
> Routes such as the short gritstone problems where the use (or not) of bouldering mats has become an issue in assigning a grade are under this system naturally given 2 different danger grades, one with mats and one without, much as variations like a sit start or a hold breaking change a routes grade currently. The technical and sustained parts of the grade remain unchanged and so the climbers achievement in completing a route is undeminished, yet it is readily apparent from his logbook in which style he climbed the route.
Was very good - could have gone on all night - a few memorable moments - Dunny was on form!
yeah, was good, as was Birkett and his sheep :0)
> yeah, was good, as was Birkett and his sheep :0)
It was tempered somewhat & never really kicked off proper...
..Nick did a great job of chairing the debate but I was very dissapointed custard pies were not availible to be thrown - that would have spiced it up somewhat!!
> yeah, was good, as was Birkett and his sheep :0)
Yeah I agree. Shame the debate didn't go on longer; it was starting to develop nicely.
As for Dave Birkett, I was going to go to his talk alone, but once Jude got a whiff of his gnarly mountain man aura she had to come in too. She's now torn between him and Dunne as to who's the growliest bear.
At one point Alan James rightly took umbrage with something John Dunne said (re. Rockfax not providing any history in their guidebooks) and it seemed it might get a bit heated. Jude and I were sat directly behind Al and were both ready to grab him and say "Leave it Al, he's not worth it!"
Fortunately, Al's a gentleman and made his point with words. Otherwise I'd have had a tenner on Dunne.
Yep, that's the grading issue sorted then - it's all Rockfax's fault !
> Yep, that's the grading issue sorted then - it's all Rockfax's fault !
Fortunately Rockfax/UKC are working closely with 8a.nu to sort this out. I read only the other day here: http://www.8a.nu/articles/ShowArticle.aspx?ArticleId=5159 that: "a new grade conversion table has been produced by UKclimbing after comments by 8a.nu" .
Hopefully under Jens' guidance the whole grade issue can be resolved.
Then onto the Middle East...
I reckon the grading system should be a two tier one.
For 99% of us we can retain the tried and tested existing system. At least there you *know* whether you are a VS leader because you can climb most VSs and its reasonable to assume that if you see a VS in a guidebook you have a good chance of climbing it. Compare and contrast with something given 5.9, say - can you climb it or not ?
The second tier can be made up from a vociferous 1% who can go and invent their own system and print their own guidebooks ! I bet they can't agree on *how* to replace the 'broken' UK system, though.
> Top roping the route does not remove the danger element? The consequences of a headpointer falling off the crux of any route are exactly the same as if an onsighter does. It may seem like it is less likely to happen but the seriousness of the route has not changed, only the apparent likelihood of a fall.
Agreed; the consequences of failure are exactly the same whether headpointing or onsighting, but the likelihood (or, more to the point, perceived likelihood) of failure is higher when onsighting, meaning that the route is harder.
> Lets pretend we're in America for a moment. If you lead a 5.11c R/X after toproping it, does that mean you haven't climbed an R/X route?
I guess not, but the point is that the R/X bit will play less of a factor in the difficulty of the ascent when the route has been headpointed than when it is onsighted. The E grade is the overall difficulty of the climb and takes in to account this factor, and this becomes easier when you know that you can do the bold moves on the route, so how could the grade possibly stay the same with this knowledge?
> Just because one route is more affected than another by knowing beta does not mean that the grading system is broken though. Nor does it mean that the grade of either route has changed because you have extra information.
I don't think it is broken at all, it just needs using correctly (i.e. only claimed when an onsight ascent has been made). John Arran's system of using "H" grades seems to be a logical way around this.
Of course the grade of the route changes if you have extra information; having this information makes the climb easier, so the grade surely must change to reflect this (or use a different system when headpointing). The problem is in being able to quantify how much easier the beta has made the climb.
Having said all that, it's probably fine to say that you have climbed an E4-but-with-top-rope-practice-first, but there's no denying that it is easier than having onsighted it - and isn't this how we ended up with the whole debate in the first place?!
I would say (again) that if you top-rope then lead or solo an E4 5b or a 5.10x, you have just led/soloed an E4 5b or a 5.10x after practice.
The grade is given for an on-sight attempt, you chose not to on-sight it! But if you then want to start lowering the grade because of prior knowledge, where will it end - E4 on sight, E3 after abseil inspection, E2 after one t-r, E1 after lapping it?
Exactly the gist of a 2000 Seb Grieve article I was idly scanning on Saturday. Written in true Seb off the wall style, I wasn't sure exactly what his conclusion was in the end !
Why not ? After all it's perfectly possible to have an E2 experience on an E4. It's all about being honest with yourself
I do think the need to pigeonhole is part of the problem - if it's not on-sight you don't get an E grade, if you use a mat then it's a highball boulder problem. It's not a simple as that, climbing has grey areas. How much help is it for me to see someone shorter, lighter and stronger doing a route ? How much help is a single mat when you're 20 ft off the deck ?
I think there's a problem if start saying "you've blown the on-sight, might as well head-point it to death", or "if I'm going to use one mat, I might as well use 10"
> I would say (again) that if you top-rope then lead or solo an E4 5b or a 5.10x, you have just led/soloed an E4 5b or a 5.10x after practice.
I suppose that's true, but isn't this how we've ended up with this problem with the grading system in the first place? Hasn't it come about from cutting-edge ascents being headpointed and given a proposed E-grade, then when these are repeated, the grade is questioned and we end up questioning the system as well. A different system for headpoints would help to reduce this ambiguity in my opinion.
I guess though, if you are talking about routes with well-established grades, then it's probably fine to say that you have simply climbed an E4/5/6 after practice.
Having said all this, I have realised I am a complete hypocrite as I have routes in my logbook which I have repeated and still claimed the same grade for the repeat ascents!
Again agreed. It is harder to onsight a scary (or pumpy, or bouldery etc) route than headpoint it. This is obvious. It does not mean the route changes grade. The E grade (for our trad routes) attempts to describe (I think) the physical difficulty of the moves combined with the seriousness of a fall at any point. Regardless of rehersal or not, the moves are the same, so are the consequences, and so is the grade. The onsight is obviously a "better" and harder achievement but the route remains the same for both climbers.
I think you are confusing how hard a route feels to you on your sucessfull attempt with it's grade. When you try a route several times (as in sport climbing again for instance, where previously "impossible" moves start to feel feel OK) the route does not actually become easier even though it feels it, only your experience of it changes. You have still climbed a route of E4 or 7b or 5.11c or whatever.
All these grades are onsight grades, yet none of the top routes in any system have been onsighted - are all the grading systems broken?
How is saying "I have climbed H6" any different from saying "I have headpointed E6"?
How do you quantify this though. Say for instance one route has a big lock off, dead obvious for its crux. Another a blind slap round an arete for a hidden pocket. Both get the same grade. One is obviously massively more affected than the other by rehersal. If you really wanted a grading system to deal with this, every route (sport, trad, whatever) needs 2 grades an onsight grade and a redpoint grade to reflect the differences.
Really though, if exactly what grades I was ticking was the primary motivator for my climbing I'd have given up long ago. It just all seems to get a bit trainspotterish if all climbing boils down to is trying to collect a bit list of numbers to impress someone (I don't know who though?) with.
> Really though, if exactly what grades I was ticking was the primary motivator for my climbing I'd have given up long ago. It just all seems to get a bit trainspotterish if all climbing boils down to is trying to collect a bit list of numbers to impress someone (I don't know who though?) with.
Couldn't agree with you more on this, and to be honest the grades are fine for the vast majority of routes so why bother...in fact, I've forgotten why this debate came around in the first place! You make a good case for your point by referring to sport grades; I hadn't thought of it like that before so I'll concede your point about it being valid to claim Ewhatever but say that you did it with practice. At the end of the day, each person just needs to be honest with themself and that is all that matters.
John explained this very well in his video. Certain routes would be extremly difficult to onsight because they require odd gear, or a strange counter intuitive sequence of moves. Headpointing them gives you chance to work them out, and so they become (relatively) much easier.
So rather than give a route E10 for a hypothetical but extremely unlikely onsight, he gave it H9 on the grounds that a similar numbers of climbers would be able headpoint more obvious E9
However I think for John's system to work, he should have picked a much lower number, so that we don't just think H9 = E9. John's point was that the E grade should reflect the diminishing number of climbers capable of doing - i.e. if 20 people can do an E8, but only 2 of them can get up the E7 next to it, then clearly the grades are the wrong way round.
Therefore a similar number of people should be able to headpoint H8 as can on-sight E8 - i.e. half a dozen at the moment. Or the ascent just as rare, and difficult.
Which makes Rhapsody H8 ? Maybe Gaia H6...
As I've only headpointed one route, I'm putting in Chalkstorm as H2
I think it was filmed by UKC, whilst most of the locals were apparently oblivious to the privelege of seeing half a dozen of the nations finest on a stage together
I find that a bit of a frustrating comment. The grade debate was part of the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival - a full weekend of events, not just for locals, but for any climbers living in the UK. Numbers wise we were slightly up on last year which is nice, but at the same time disappointing given the programme we had this year which was, I am confident, very very strong. Am intersted what would entice you (and others) along in future years...
It will also be the same reason for few speakers making their way south of the Watford Gap (not including London).
We're so damn far away that these things have to be planned as weekend events (accomodation, food, transport, UKC carbon footprint guys making us feel guilty etc).
I'm sure there are other reasons too.
The event was filmed by UKC and is being edited as we speak. We will have an article up over the next day or two.
>Quotes For The Great British Grade Debate
Ģ100. Ģ90 if you pay cash.
Cool, I look forward to watching that. I was wondering if we would even be getting an article but a video is even better. Good work UKC.
Actually I should more correctly say that the event was filmed by SteepMedia for UKC, the BMC and ShAFF. It will be shown on UKC.
So are you saying that you don't have weekends away climbing because you are too far from anywhere? Where exactly are you?
The idea of organising a weekend festival is that it should be a good reason for people to visit - spend a day in the Peak and a day at the fest, or the day time in the Peak and the evenings at the fest... Am just interested to know what would entice you along...
> It will also be the same reason for few speakers making their way south of the Watford Gap (not including London).
> We're so damn far away that these things have to be planned as weekend events (accomodation, food, transport, UKC carbon footprint guys making us feel guilty etc).
> I'm sure there are other reasons too.
Bloke made it over from Holland dossed at mine - if you wanted to go - you would make the effort I'm sure.
Whatever, those who missed it missed out on some great lectures/interviews (Fawcett, Moffatt, Grimer and Birkett were all great) and some ace fillums.
Rather than hijack this thread, how about a new thread on this subject. After all my opinion is but one and not that important.
I would say that the timing of the Grade Debate made it a no show for me as too late to then start heading South, maybe that stopped a few more people attending.
Fair play to the guy but if you dont want to take holidays off work then maybe getting there would be difficult to make it worth while. I wouldnt drive from aberdeen/inverness to sheffield just for 2 days, but thats down to personal preference, maybe I am not hardcore enough. For me its simple, its just to far to travel for the weekend but I have the fort william festival nearby so its all good.
The fact that the climbers on the panel on the day all use E numbers apart from Ste Mac(who's continental) was amusing somewhat. it seemed more like a debate held by devils advocates for devils advocates.
We all know that people want something 'in between' for the tech grade because it seems there are quite a few grades squeezed into the uk 6b-7a range, but what top climbers would use another system? they'd just ask another ascentionist for the tech by comparing it to another route they've both climbed. As things stand we have for example, soft touch 6b, 6b and hard 6b, all of which could be divided again into harder or softer than say 'soft touch 6b'
i'll say again, the E grade isn't broken and we do have benchmark routes which we use for a comparison, but if there is to be another grade debate then how about some mid (E)grade climbers for the panel?
> Therefore a similar number of people should be able to headpoint H8 as can on-sight E8 - i.e. half a dozen at the moment. Or the ascent just as rare, and difficult.
OK. So can see your point, except that I think having two grades for every trad route seems kind over the top and logically, the same arguement should apply to sport routes and all routes abroad too, with everything getting an onsight grade and a redpoint grade.
I guess I just don't feel the need to be able to number grade every aspect of my climbing with perfect accuracy, just so I can measure my level against everyone else and know who is better or worse than me. I am just not that into competition and comparison of achievement. I can see how you might care more if you were competing for sponsorship (or ego?) and felt your onsight achievements were being undervalued relative to the headpointers around though. I would hope that most climbers were not that competitive or narcissistic though.
Besides, ultimately if I tell someone I headpointed a route which is a notoriously hard onsight they'll know my ascent isn't as "good" anyway. I don't need a lower number to tell me it's easier or how much. The biggest thing I think the adoption of the sort of sysytem you're proposing would do is make headpoints look less impressive in the climbing media by giving them smaller numbers - is it the case that the folk who started this debate are the top onsighters looking (jealously?) for more recognition? I hope not, I would like to think better of folk than that.
There's no problem with sport's routes, since the danger/difficult gear factor is removed.
And of course only there's no need to try and apply this retrospectively to every trad route - in fact it would only be relevant to about 1%. Where it would apply would be new routes done as headpoints - so no hypothethical and ego-boosting claims of E10, E11 and E12 - and to routes which have not been onsighted or flashed.
In your earlier post you said
" Certain routes would be extremly difficult to onsight because they require odd gear, or a strange counter intuitive sequence of moves. Headpointing them gives you chance to work them out, and so they become (relatively) much easier."
This is the same in sport climbing (and all forms of climbing). If the grade of a trad route changes once you know the moves, then so does the grade of a sport climb. The danger level is irrelevant to this, besides lots of headpointed routes aren't even particulary dangerous anyway.
Only 1%? Really? So what a happens when someone headpoints a route which has already been done in better style? What grade have they climbed, for example Katy Whittaker on Masters Edge?
If the only purpose of this new system is to give a lower numeric value to a handfull of first ascents which everyone knows weren't onsighted anyway then why bother. 1st ascents of last great problems are going to get more press than onsight repeats of existing routes, whether graded with E's or not.
The fundemental point is that sports routes are graded for a redpoint, so the grade is a reflection of the FAs experience on the route. As trad routes are (in theory) graded for the on-sight, then factors which the FA didn't have to contend with can get included and can bump the grade up - this is what John Arran was trying to avoid.
Does Masters Edge require 2 grades ? I suspect it still has had more headpoints than onsight/flashes/ground ups and will continue to do so. I've no idea whether it is easier or harder to headpoint than an average E7, or than onsight your average E5. I'm bloody impressed by anyone who can do either !
> The fundemental point is that sports routes are graded for a redpoint, so the grade is a reflection of the FAs experience on the route. As trad routes are (in theory) graded for the on-sight, then factors which the FA didn't have to contend with can get included and can bump the grade up - this is what John Arran was trying to avoid.
OK, so I see using the H thing could act as a warning sign to prospective leaders that the route has never been onsighted. I think I can see benefit in that too. I don't think sport routes are graded "for the redpoint" any more than trad routes are graded "for the onsight" though. Both are graded assuming you find the easiest sequence (and gear for trad) and the difficulty of both types of route are affected heavily by prepractice. Some sport FA's are done on sight you know.
I'll refer you to your earlier comments.
"Certain routes would be extremly difficult to onsight because they require odd gear, or a strange counter intuitive sequence of moves. Headpointing them gives you chance to work them out, and so they become (relatively) much easier."
Which makes Rhapsody H8 ? Maybe Gaia H6...
"As I've only headpointed one route, I'm putting in Chalkstorm as H2"
So, do H grades only apply to (1% of routes??)new routes never onsighted, or to all headpoints? Does every route in Britain need a second grade?
You may not ... but that is the convention (certainly for harder sport routes ... some say that sport routes are graded for the most common style of ascent hence easier ones are graded for the onsight ... but then generally with easier routes beta is less of an issue anyway).
Sport routes are graded for the easiest sequence - Trad routes should be graded for an on-sight ascent therefore blind moves / gear etc should lead to a higher E grade.
Strictly speaking the difficulty of the route does not change only your ability to climb it!
Not sure that's entirely true. It may be the case that sport routes are graded assuming you find the best sequence and that this may be almost impossible to do on the first attempt, but I think that is the same with trad routes.
But do they? Don't think so in practice. I think all that happens is routes get the grade for the easiest sequence and some routes are very hard onsights for the grade as a result.
I have been trying to make exactly this point to various people who were suggesting that routes need more than one grade to describe them.
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