/ Sport performance v trad
I've on-sighted quite a few E3s on grit, limestone and mountain crags and even one E4 (granted all a while ago now) but my sport grade has always hovered around 6a(ish) with the occasional foray to 6b. I don't think I've even managed to top rope a 6c. Yet I've just seen a profile that read trad severe/sport 6b.
I confess I treat sport as bolted trad (no dogging, no practising). I don't redpoint as I find it boring, I'm rubbish on small holds as I am almost 14stone these days and I'm terrified of falling off, despite having soloed up to E2.
So the question is: what am I dong so wrong and, more to the point, what can I do to up my grade - short of spending yonks on some hideous project?
Are the trad and sport of the same type? i.e. are the trad routes slabbier but the sport routes steeper? E3 roughly equates to F6c but that only really applies to well protected trad so E3 6a rather than E3 5c which would probably be F6b if bolted.
The current theory is to spend time falling so get on something at least vertical and without ledges to hit and take some falling practice - they don't have to be big falls, the bolt at shoulder height to begin with will be fine as the slack in the system will let you "drop" a metre or two. As you get used to things move up so the bolt is at waist height then start getting higher again. It does make a difference and you end up climbing better as you are more relaxed and don't overgrip and get pumped so quickly. You also climb more smoothly as again you are more relaxed.
Training can be boring, but its the quickest way to improvement. (Personally, I don't find it boring at all but a lot of people do.) If you want to improve, train. That means different things for different folk - for you, maybe practise falling, get on smaller holds, maybe losing a bit of weight.
My best recommendation is to buy 'The Self Coached Climber' - it's full of great training ideas which will undoubtedly help you. Then '9 out of 10 climbers' which takes things from a slightly different perspective but is equally good.
In reply to Wiley Coyote:
The reason is that sport routes tend to be considerably more sustained whereas trad routes usually have many more rests from which to fiddle in gear. Therefore while the individual moves on say E3 5c may equate to 6b there are usually considerably more of them on a 6b which requires far greater endurance. Incidentally I do not think E36a is anywhere near 6c. Because of this I think that trad vs sport grade comparisons can be very misleading. You definately have to be much fitter to climb sport well!
Sign yourself up for courses. Buy Mick Ward's book. See a sports psychologist. Work routes. Suffer tedium/brain-death. Practise falling (at 14 stone, not everyone would wish to belay you!)
I'm pretty sure you know what to do/not do. Have fun
Without question, the most effective thing you can do is cure that fear of falling. Keep working on it till you're comfortable falling having skipped a clip - as been mentioned, get 9 out of 10 climbers and read the chapter on falling. Do it right, and you'll be climbing several grades harder in a matter of weeks. Everything else you can do to improve your grade will be more effective if you do this simple thing first.
All those things you don't like - falling off, small holds, going for it in the way you don't on trad, all those will help. Without knowing anything else about you it's hard to say much on your weight but if you want to push your limits your power:weight ratio matters.
You've said you were always a thug, which suggests that either working on your thin vertical technique or finding some jug haul sport climbs would help bigger grades on sport feel more achieveable.
I'm used to old-skool climbers having sport and trad grades which effectively match, but I'm still struggling to comprehend how you can lead multiple E3s whilst only climbing 6a - I suspect there's a lot more you could do on sport, either that or you're trying very different types of sport to trad (I could imagine a thug struggling on grey French limestone slabs for example, or a grit slab monkey struggling on steep tufas), or climbing very bold or adventurous routes where you don't really need to be able to pull, just display a lack of imagination :)
Seems like you have answered your own question:
"I confess I treat sport as bolted trad (no dogging, no practising). I don't redpoint as I find it boring, I'm rubbish on small holds as I am almost 14stone these days and I'm terrified of falling off"
Maybe treat sport as sport (rather than bolted trad), practice more, especially on small holds and falling (eg clip and drop) and read up on redpointing tactics.
I think sport and trad fitness and tactics are quite different things and comparing grades is very tricky but really if you can o/s E3 then you should be fine on F7a or harder imo.
I suspect the "terrified of falling off" is a big factor for you and probably common for more trad-oriented climbers.
> I'm pretty sure you know what to do/not do. Have fun
Thanks for all the replies. I suspect HB hit it on the head with the above comment. After 40 years I think I more or less do know but just hoped for that elusive 'magic trick'.
The fear of falling is weird. I recently took a 20footer on bolts (I'd just hauled up a load of rope) and went straight back up to do the move without a qualm. Next route I was just as scared as ever.
Thinking about it, the other possible problem I have on sport is that while I enjoy it, I find it unmemorable. I can get really psyched for a striking line on trad or for a big name hit route whereas much of the sport I do is just lines of bolts - fun moves but a bit 'so what?'-ish. I've noticed that if anyone asks my friends what they've done it tends to be 'the 6c in the corner, then the 6c to the left and finished on the 7a'. Nobody seems to remember names or lines, just grades. God, next thing I know I'll be saying: 'Now in my day....'
Nurse take me outside and give me my pill!
"If you can climb <x> then you can climb <y>" is almost never a valid statement, if you ask me! (I do recognise that you only made it after a string of caveats, so I'm not getting at you here.) Especially because when people say they can onsight E3, they don't mean they can onsight any E3 you'd care to throw them on. If you can onsight any E3 then you probably are onsighting round about F7a/+, but I reckon the OP's grade discrepancy is pretty common for people who focus more on trad than on sport, and consequently spend more time on British trad crags, which are very different to most sport crags in terms of gradient, holds, style...
If you want to get better at something, do more of it. Simples. Then, when that stops working, identify specific areas of weakness (fear of falling, excess weight, poor recovery, finger strength, endurance, technique) and work on them individually in a structured way which allows progress to be measured - all a bit more boring but demonstrably effective.
Consciously we can evaluate the danger of one position and work out if it's similar to as a previous experience, but the subconscious doesn't deal in logic, it just wants evidence. So after the 20 footer, your subconscious accepted that falling from where you were was safe, but not that the next run-out position will be the same. It takes many falls over a sustained period of time to convince it of that. Even then, it needs to be re-inforced quite regularly or you find yourself starting to get scared again.
I wonder with the names if it's a combination of the fact that abroadthe names are often unfamiliar, plus the fact that you don't know the history behind many routes - for example I don't think many sport climbers would refer to Raindogs as "that short 8a at the back of the Catwalk", neither would they think of Chouca as "that steep 8a+ at Bout de Monde" because they're so much more than that. And names only make sense if everyone knows them - you tell someone you did King Kong at Wintours for example and if they arent local or dont know the name youll still end up describing it as "the classic E1 of the crag, 2 long pitches with a steep jamming start"
Also, if you treat them like fast-food that's what they will be - if I had a mileage day on VSs I probably wouldn't remember the names 2 months later, but scrape my way up an onsight by the skin of my teeth on bolts or spent 4 days doing a route that's a new breakthrough for me and I guarantee the name and most of the moves will stick in my brain!
Afraid as a general rule I don't agree with this; at E2 and above you need to be fitter to climb trad well, because if you are not fit you cannot hang around to put gear in. you need strong fingers and power endurance to climb sport well. I on-sighted 7b earlier in the year, but still get massively pumped on steep E3s.
Wiley Coyote if you can climb E3 i would be staggered if you could not climb 7a with a bit of specific training even if you don't want to fall off. But climbing E3 is surely much more impressive than 7a.
> In reply to Wiley Coyote:
> You definately have to be much fitter to climb sport well!
I don't agree with this at all.
If we say onsighting E3 and f6b+/f6c are roughly equivalent (depends on all sorts of things of course)
To redpoint short UK sport routes at that grade you need a bit of power-endurance and some finger strength.
To onsight a steep E3, you need loads of hanging around endurance. Granted, to onsight a bold E3, you need big balls rather than fitness or PE, and to onsight some gritstone monstrosity you might need loads of bouldering power and really bendy legs (or something equally obscure), but for standard pulling-on-holds trad (say Pembroke) you need loads more fitness for trad than sport.
re-read your post and see if you can answer your own question ;-)
I agree with Vince McNally.
Suggests to me that you know what you need to work on, really, you are just deciding whether or not it is worth the effort.
I concede that from the outside, looking in, redpointing can seem really, really dull. And I also concede that long drawn out projects probably are not everyone's cup of tea. But the reason why some people will spend weeks, months, or possibly years on the same route, is because it becomes really, really engaging.
I have a project on the go at the moment - it wouldn't be my hardest ever, but it seems to be taking the longest - but honestly, genuinely, I'm not in any hurry to tick it because it is such a joy to climb. It is the only thing I have been on where I don't mind falling off, because it means I get to keep on climbing it - it's that good a route.
Projecting means you get to climb awesome routes, get to know them really well (that 'anonymous' feeling you get with low graded sport climbing really couldn't be further from the truth) and have the feeling of moving well on them. Projecting is great fun when you get into it, the key is to find routes that make you inspired.
I suspect however that you have already made up your mind about it and are not looking to be convinced otherwise.
are things I completely agree with. Applying a trad mentality to sport means you completely miss the point. The "unmemorable" aspect comes with trying things once, doing or not doing them, then moving on. If you spend a day working out the moves of a single route, the most efficient way of linking them then pulling out a clean lead attempt by the skin of your teeth at the end of the day when you thought you were too tired will provide quite a memorable experience.
I was going through the 7a's I'd done in the UK for a partner who wants one to try as her first one of the grade. I found that I could describe (not only the names) each route (and I've done about 10) in pretty minute detail and remember most of the individual moves and where the bolts were. This is because when I first started concentrating on redpointing it was taking me an entire day to do a single route and they tend to stick in your mind. This experience is multiplied with time spent on a route.
The main problem with sport in this country is that generally (and there are exceptions, Portland for example) the quality of sport routes increases exponetially above 7a with not huge numbers of classic routes below that level.
Agree, don't judge sport climbing on your experience in the UK at F6b, especially not if it was in a quarry. The thing with sport in the UK, is to really get on the inspiring routes and get something out of it you need to do everything you can (train, practice indoors, redpoint, go abroad to learn how it's done) to bootstrap your way to 7a, which is where it really gets going.
I too find extensive redpointing dull and generally try to flash everything but it does work and pays off in your trad climbing - which is how I used to 'justify' it ie thinking of the trad rewards. Nowadays there's a bit of that but just tend to redpoint if I fail on something. However, having taken possession of that excellent tome: How to climb 3 grades harder', I keep telling myself to find me a project but, when you have limited time and interest in them, it can be hard.
If you specialise in one game or the other then there is going to be a disparity in grades, potentially a large one for folk who are highly specialised by choice or new to one of the games.
I treat sport as bolted trad (no dogging, no practising). I don't redpoint as I find it boring, I'm rubbish on small holds as I am almost 14stone these days and I'm terrified of falling off
Address the issues you have already identified. Climb sport routes in a 'sporty' style. Get comfortable on the sport rock, mostly limestone in the uk and unlikely at the grades you mention to have very small holds, I can't crimp for toffee and I cope. Get lighter and fitter if you think it's a problem and this is something you actually want to do. Learn to manage your fear of falling. Spend some time on significant but achievable projects, make sure you get some reward for the work you put in.
> Applying a trad mentality to sport means you completely miss the point. The "unmemorable" aspect comes with trying things once, doing or not doing them, then moving on.
I simply don't think this is true (though obviously there is nothing wrong with redpointing). What I enjoy most about sport is being able to give the onsight absolutely everything I've got. This can be extremely memorable, whatever the outcome. I rarely bother to redpoint a route I have failed to onsight, because anything I can realistically aspire to onsight would be an unmemorable formality to redpoint. I've only ever really properly worked and redpointed 2 routes and if I get around to doing it again it will be something way harder than I could imagine onsighting.
I think you are missing the point of sport unless you sre giving it everything you've got - either onsight or redpoint.
I'm a bit fat and unfit currently but when I was leading HVS more solidly I was getting the odd 6c onsight indoors and did 6b as my best outdoors onsight(didnt try many harder than 5+) yet had a few E2 onsights. I was always heavy and disliked practicing anything other than boulder problems. If you can still onsight E4 you must be able to onsight some 6c sport routes... your just not trying.
Severe/6b is simply about people with low risk thresholds.
The idea that f6c corresponds to well protected trad E3 is enough to make me fall off my chair laughing. Well proteced E3 is way harder, especially on grit. These lower grade equivalences I'm sure come from people cruising on those grades...where they will feel similar.... but add the anxiety and the weight of the rack and Id say for someone pushing at well protected E1 on grit thats about the same as F6c.
Well maybe when you have redpointed more than just a couple of routes, you will have a more accurate understanding of its value?
> The idea that f6c corresponds to well protected trad E3 is enough to make me fall off my chair laughing. Well proteced E3 is way harder, especially on grit. These lower grade equivalences I'm sure come from people cruising on those grades...where they will feel similar.... but add the anxiety and the weight of the rack and Id say for someone pushing at well protected E1 on grit thats about the same as F6c.
Really? As others above have said, it depends on what your background is. But I know people who find onsighting well-protected E3 on grit easier than onsighting limestone 6c.
The OPs grades are exactly what I would expect for a trad climber dabbling at sport climbing.
We're clearly operating at different levels within our own abilities. I've no chance of onsighting the routes that I redpoint, I'm currently working on pushing what I can acheive in a single day and my overall top redpoint grade. There is a huge difference (for me) between those routes and ones I can onsight.
This is mostly how I treat sport because, as discussed before, the quality of routes easily accessible to me is much higher above 7a and I can't onsight 7a yet and there aren't an abundance of routes local to me that I've not done at that level to practice onsighting 7as!
> Well maybe when you have redpointed more than just a couple of routes, you will have a more accurate understanding of its value?
I fully understand its value. It is just that my own prioriities, time available, and where I live conspire against redpointing. I was not knocking redpointing; I was just saying that sport onsighting can be equalkly valid and rewarding.
Yes I agree, I tend to spend about half my time climbing trad, the other half sport.
most of my trad is on-sight, most of my sport is red-point.
If we are going to talk about quality of experience, I agree that onsighting sport at your limit is an art in its own right (as opposed to trad onsighting) and I find the *experience* memorable in a holistic way, but I don't find the *route* memorable, particularly (in the sense of remembering sequences or moves) - sadly, often not even if it is a really good one. I find the state of flow that you need to onsight really at your limit is not conducive to remembering individual moves or sections of climbing. Perhaps this is what people refer to as the 'anonymous' character of particular routes, though I find that a bit of a soulless way of looking at it - I think I accept that if I onsight something, even if it is at my limit, I just won't come away with as clear a memory of how I climbed it, as if I redpointed it.
Spending days or weeks redpointing something at your limit, however, burns the moves and the memory of the climbing into your long term memory in a way that onsighting, for me, never does.
> Spending days or weeks redpointing something at your limit, however, burns the moves and the memory of the climbing into your long term memory in a way that onsighting, for me, never does.
Well if you spend weeks on a route you will remember the moves more readily than if you have just been on the route once!
But no, I meant more than just the memory of the moves and sequences, I meant the memory of actually climbing it in the first place - and the memory of what it was *like* to climb it - what it was like to be on redpoint, what it was like to pull through the crux, what it was like to clip the chains, etc.
I think it's nice to remember these things - and while I find onsighting really rewarding, I don't find it as memorable.
> The idea that f6c corresponds to well protected trad E3 is enough to make me fall off my chair laughing. Well proteced E3 is way harder, especially on grit.
Forget grit. It's not normal. Well protected E3 on grit will probably have an horrific 6b crux off a ledge. The resources required to climb well protected E3 should be roughly equal to f6c - but many people, myself included, find summoning those resources under the pressure of a trad onsight very difficult.
E.g. I backed off a grit E3 the other day which was probably about f6b+ at a guess (it was 5c and had gear). The reason: I wasn't sure I could place the crucial gear, which had to be done in a very committing position. The uncertainty killed my attempt at the route. I had the resources, but couldn't deal mentally with the uncertainty and risk. Anyone who climbs f6c should be merrily onsighting E3, the trouble is that many people can't access their resources because they can't at win the mind games of trad, and instead have to lead well below their limit. Good trad climbers do hatrd moves that they might well fall off, above their gear, when it's safe. Personally, I just don't quite have the balls and have to have a fair bit 'in hand'.
> E.g. I backed off a grit E3 the other day which was probably about f6b+ at a guess (it was 5c and had gear).
A grit E3 route with UK 5c moves and bolted could be as low as f6a e.g. Cave Wall.
> If we are going to talk about quality of experience, I agree that onsighting sport at your limit is an art in its own right (as opposed to trad onsighting) and I find the *experience* memorable in a holistic way, but I don't find the *route* memorable, particularly (in the sense of remembering sequences or moves).
Fair enough - two sorts of memorable. An big onsight attempt can be a memorable experience, but the moves a hazy blur of hopeful, intuitive slaps!
A terrifying, committing onsight trad crux can, on the other hand, be burned indelibly into one's soul.
> A grit E3 route with UK 5c moves and bolted could be as low as f6a e.g. Cave Wall.
Aye, but I'd done enough of this one to know it was about 6b+ish.
I generally lead F6a+ on bolts more cleanly and in control than I second E2 5c I would say as a top rope it's more similar to F6b and then to lead you have to stop and put gear in.
> Aye, but I'd done enough of this one to know it was about 6b+ish.
Go on, tell us the name of the route....
> A grit E3 route with UK 5c moves and bolted could be as low as f6a e.g. Cave Wall.
Chris, I think that there's a bit of a difference between the grade of a particular trad route if it were bolted, and the equivalent difficulty of sport vs trad.
Up to E5 I think these tables
are pretty accurate, if you want to equate the equivalent difficulty - I don't think it's worthwhile to equate redpointing and headpointing (as I still don't quite get headpointing on routes less than E6...) but onsight it seems to stack up.
I wouldn't expect someone who was onsighting F6b+ to be able to onsight Right Wall.
I would expect someone who was onsighting F7a+ to be able to onsight Right Wall
I found the same when onsighting within my abilities; but having recently redpointed a route much harder than I could onsight made it much more interesting, as you have to remember the moves; almost like a gymnast memorises a routine. Not only that, but it definitely improves confidence in general. My trad climbing has only ever improved notably when I've been upping my sport grade; I just need to get more trad done to close the grade gap. Use sport as training and it'll pay off-it seems to be the way for a lot of climbers, both famous and regular. James Pearson's recent run of imprseeive form in Pembroke followed his period of intensive sport climbing in Europe. Get a clipstick! There is no shame in bringing a sport route dwon to your level by working it; that's how everyone does it.
I'm sure you do know these people John (as I do too) but thats the other end of the gamut: usually experienced folk getting a few extra grades as their fitness fades by using their wisdom to choose routes that suit them. I really do think a hard well protected randomly chosen E1 onsight for your average climber is about the same as a F6c onsight, maybe even closer to mid-grade E1 for moorland grit, staffs grit or some parts of yorkshire. A lot of the people I'm climbing with are youngish fit experienced and their best is into the 7s onsight on sport and still huff puff and sometimes slip when they got round to something like The Toy and they are hardly queuing up to lead Sentinel Crack.
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