/ Grade consistency between walls
Following a conversation with a regular user here at The Indy Wall, Anglesey where the grades tend to be hard especially when compared to other walls I am interested to hear how other regular wall users feel about grade inconsistency between walls:
Should we be aiming to have consistency between walls?
If the above is not an issue for you:
Is it an issue if walls grade hard (up to two grades) or easy as long as there is consistency within the wall itself?
For me, as long as there are enough interesting routes that I can climb, I don't give two hoots what grade they call it.
In my experience there is a huge variation in grading between walls (I tend to visit lots of them rather than being a regular at any one wall). To be honest, I think that as long as there is internal consistency, it isn't too bad. However, I say that as someone who has been climbing a long time and will be climbing at the mid-to-higher end of the grade spectrum of most walls, so I know that indoor grades don't count for much and never/rarely compare to anything outdoors. I do understand that grade inconsistency can be a major annoyance for newer climbers who want to measure their progress in a consistent way. It can be very demoralising to be shut down by a 4+ when you have been climbing 6a at another wall, so I can see the argument for some consistency. A major problem is that I doubt any one wall will admit that their grades are not right!
It'd be nice, because knowing what grade you climb can be useful for making training decisions eg if you boulder hard but are crap at climbing routes then you might need to work on stamina (or climbing efficiently). Which is harder to spot if you have to account for the fact that your local wall overgrades boulder problems and undergrades lead routes.
Realistically I'm not sure it'll ever happen.
I do wish people would sort out lower bouldering grades, though - the issue there doesn't seem to be that different route setters have different ideas of what's hard, it's that everyone's decided (for no obvious reason) to use V grades and then realised that done properly they're a bit useless for easy routes since V0 is meant to be approximately UK 5a and therefore comparatively hard, and they've all picked different ways of tweaking the lower grades so beginners actually have some idea of what they're climbing (but get completely confused if they go to the wall down the road and find that they're climbing VB+ instead of V1 or vice versa).
Having been to Indy for the first time last week I'd say that i'm not to bothered about consistency across the different centres but i think consistency within each climbing wall is very important. Once i've been somewhere a few times I know what sort of grades I should be looking for, For example, I know i should be looking at ~6b routes at Manchester but more like ~6c at Stockport.
So I'd say stick with the grades as they are at Indy, just keep them consistent.
However, if you do want my opinion on something about Indy...clean the holds! It was basically impossible to tell the colours apart on the boulder problems, I wouldn't say it spoilt my session last week but it certainly significantly detracted from the experience!
Hope that helps
I enjoy climbing merciless sandbags indoors so whenever I get outdoors I feel like I'm having a blasting day :)
Obviously the ideal is consistency between walls and alos within the same wall. I go to lots of different walls so it does make a difference as you don't want to turn up at a wall and get boxed on your warm ups or waste goes on routes that turn out to be far easier than the given grade. If you visit the same wall over and over then it doesn't matter as you soon learn what's what after a couple fo visits.
One question I do have is that, despite never having visited I'm aware that the Indy wall is out of kilter with everywhere else and it's something you acknowledge here and I've seen written elsewhere. Knowing this to be the case why do you continue to grade that way? You may as well use your own grding system instead of one that mimicks other systems which just leads to confusion
How can you waste a go? It's all mileage!
You're spot on with your concern on low grade problems but real V0 (ie the US grade on which its based) is actually solid 5b; even in the UK climbing guides its normally at the lowest an easy 5b or sustained 5a. The perspective that wall owners need is that V0 is not far off the technical limit of the average climber in the UK (ie V0 and below is the target range for half their potential customer base).
I don't see if a wall uses V grades why they can't switch to UK tech grades for the easier stuff, as more folk understand these (but even for those that do use UK tech grades many 4a and 4b problems are way easier than a typical move on a route at that grade...which is worrying for when you start going outdoors).
I enjoy what the Works do with circuit grade ranges (albeit Font grades) with easy and hard for the range indictated. Nottingham is the wall I most commonly use with Uk tech as standard but their sustained 5b might be V3/F6a+/Uk6a elsewhere at a soft grading wall; I'm Ok with this but it clearly puts others off.
Thank you all for your input so far, it genuinely makes interesting reading for me, as to be honest I've assumed folk just accept that we grade hard, and most seem to quite like it once they know what to expect, as long as it's consistent within the wall.
The issues with regard to training in multiple walls and the difficulty of grading in the lower V grades are points I would like to explore more.
I look forward to more of your experiences and views on this thread.
Interesting about 'we may as well have our own grading system' as folk often refer to 'Indy V3, V5' etc as milestones..
In an ideal world ther would be good grade consistency within walls, across walls and with national crags. That's what grades are for, to allow you to compare one route against another. Deliberately distorting that to create your own local version of the system seems absurd.
That said, the most important of those is consistency within a given wall and over time (making route-at-a-time adjustments into line with local/national standards unpopular). Even then I don't think it's that important but that's my perspective, I don't mind sandbags and the odd gift, I'm happy to redpoint what I fall off and I know full well these things are subject to a lot of variation.
Bouldering wise I like the circuit style that seems to have become popular with problems grouped into bands 2 or 3 V-grades wide.
Yes being two grades out is an issue.
As a low end beginner having a level grading playing field across all the local climbing centres would be a big help. Trying to monitor progress is hard enough without having to make allowances for grades in your head.
That said Indy is not the worse wall for this in the area. Harlech wins that prize. They now grade with easy medium & hard. Easy goes up to V3. They dont have many easy easy routes so most are at the top end of the range. Beginners are going to get spanked on the easy routes & give up. So we almost never boulder when there.
Oh & yes biggest way to improve the Indy would be to sort out the holds. The blue & green are the worst with the various (50) shades of red the next. Sometimes from the ground you can tell which hold is which but half way up the problem & looking down for foot holds they can be impossible to tell apart especially with the low light levels (which I like) & the shade under the steep sections.
Is it possible to use contrasting colours on any routes that are on the same patch of wall?
Small issues like this affect which wall people tend to use. Ok those that are local will use the local wall but lots have to travel a fair distance to the wall & so factor in more things. Just like we dont boulder at Harlech we virtually never do routes on the main wall at Indy. The actual routes never match the colours or grades on the board.
English Tech followed by V grades applied as they are outside would seem to me to be the best way forward... I know nothing of font grades mind.
Marginally off topic but the use of Font grades as used on outdoor sport routes seems more logical than english tech grades to me. A route at the wall is basically an indoor version of an outdoor sport route isn't it ?
I understand an english tech grade to describe the hardest move of a climb described overall by its adjectival grade, whereas an F grade is an attempt to describe the whole route, minus the boldness/risk which shouldn't be such an issue.
Can't honestly say it's ever been a problem - just something you get used to
> Bouldering wise I like the circuit style that seems to have become popular with problems grouped into bands 2 or 3 V-grades wide.
I've got a couple of issues with circuits - firstly, they make it harder to identify whether you're crap at doing something and need to practice it or whether it's just that all the routes that involve that thing happen to be at the tough end of the circuit. Secondly, a lot of the time single colour sets of holds tend to be similar styles of hold as well, so you might end up only able to use a particular hold type on hard routes or whatever. Neither of these problems is insurmountable though (eg at the Biscuit factory they give you an indication of whether a problem is easy middling or hard for the circuit if you can be bothered going and looking...)
Re easy boulder problems, the obvious solutions are i) give UK tech grades as well, ii) use VB-, VB, V0- etc below V0, iii) just use font grades. I don't really understand the problem with iii), particularly given that more Brits go on trips to Font than to Hueco. I can also understand why climbing walls don't really care that they're completely shagging their own grading system for no good reason, and I can live with it if they're internally consistent, but the pedant in me gets wound up no end by it.
That's not an issues with circuits per se though, just poorly thought out circuits. I'm pretty sure at the walls I go to regularly (City Bloc, the Depot and Leeds Wall) the problems on a circuit are all individually graded (or have a hard/average/easy label somewhere) and there seems to be a lot of effort made to cover different types of problem within a circuit.
To the OP - I think the main thing is that the grades are consistent at the wall and it doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things but it does beg the question of why are your problems all hard for grade? If you know they're graded hard compared to everywhere else then surely that seems to indicate that you're doing something wrong. I've never climbed there so I'm just going from what you (and others) have said but knowingly under-grading, whether at a wall or on a 'Northumberland VS' or similar, just seems like pointless macho sandbagging.
> That's not an issues with circuits per se though, just poorly thought out circuits.
No argument there. (Although I suspect that the limited hold types thing might be harder to deal with for smaller walls.)
We were at the Foundry at the weekend and flashing our way up their 6a and 6a+ routes, which is about as good as I'll ever climb due to age / increpidude. we could have climbed the 6b routes too bar general lack of finger/arm strength after a long week of various activities. They felt "easy" to be honest, which means that I've either got a lot better recently or they were a soft touch compared to other walls.
This is not a dig at the Foundry (we had a great time) but I'm genuinely interested in whether I've improved or just climbed generously graded routes
Ah bliss :-)
I used to love going to the Foundry simply because the grades WERE soft. :-)
Can't say it bothers me too much if I get shut down by the odd problem I 'should' be able to do nor do I read too much into flashing something off a 'hard' circuit. I do know what you mean about it being nice to measure progress but in reality all your doing is measuring yourself against the setter's judgement which is often as wonky as your own.
The problem of all the white holds being big slopers, all the blues little crimps etc is an issue where walls have a quite limited set but so long as circuits overlap in difficulty and there is some variety in the holds it's not too big a deal.
There is nothing consistent about low grade Font Ft grades, it's mayhem! That's not to say they can't be used sensibly but that's not what the Bleausards do, they scatter 3s, 4s and 5s about like confetti with seemingly no regard for how hard the problems actually are :)
> I used to love going to the Foundry simply because the grades WERE soft. :-)
Same here for Harrogate - very civilized: nice route setting, softish grades if you can think, good cafe, nice design...if only it were a bit higher
the inconsistencies, such as they are, will balance out and if you go to a few walls you'll know what's what ansd since none of them are like outdoors who cares?
its not just the grading. Its the type of holds. Have a lot of experience on crimpy ones, a fair bit on slopers but then I went to Gravity in Dublin and a large portion of the holds resembled long smears of toothpaste.
These required different techniques and strengths and I was struggling on F5c.
Agreed about sensibly judging lower grades from font being impossible...in fact Uk guidebooks are as good as it gets for consitency in the lower font grades but as they don't always have enough volunteer input from experienced low grade checkers they still have a few discrepancies to iron out.
I'd rather walls didn't grade too soft on the easiest circuits as people getting their ego flattered by 3 grades above mats could store up trouble when they go outside for the first time. I've climbed a few circuits now listed as V0-/V0 to V1/2/3 which were in fact VB- to just about V0.
I thought grades were only guidelines anyway. Whatever you do, people will always complain it's too reachy, too bunched, too crimpy, too slopey etc etc. I for one think it would be a shame if you softened the grades. It would only cause more arguments!! Might be good for my ego though ;)
> I enjoy climbing merciless sandbags indoors
Surely you don't get to do many of them at UCR?
> Can't say it bothers me too much if I get shut down by the odd problem I 'should' be able to do nor do I read too much into flashing something off a 'hard' circuit. I do know what you mean about it being nice to measure progress but in reality all your doing is measuring yourself against the setter's judgement which is often as wonky as your own.
For me it's less about measuring progress than about identifying stuff that you're good or bad at. Eg if I climb two grades harder on steep juggy crank-fests than on crimpy vertical stuff then it's a sign that I should spend less time showing off my guns on the big overhang and more time on finger strength and fiddly technique. It's a bit harder to identify this sort of thing if you don't know the alleged grade of any given route. As people have pointed out, though, this isn't insurmountable: they can always just put up a graded list as well for people who care about that sort of thing.
That's a problem with the way Bleausards grade easy problems rather than an inherent problem with font grades, though. (And isn't the basic problem that they don't bother regrading problems for polish?)
The advantage of font grading is that you can describe easy and hard problems on the same scale without bolting on a grade from an entirely different system or introducing a load of confusing new grades in a different format from the bulk of the system. Although to be honest I wouldn't mind how people did it if they were consistent with each other and with the fact that V0 is about UK 5b...
I don't mind if a wall is inconsistent with other walls, just as climbing areas are inconsistent with other areas. It's not ideal, but it's just the way it is. I do think a wall shouldn't deliberately/be proud of grading 'stiffly'. That's just silly.
Create a good problem/route, try your hardest to give it a grade that approximates outdoors, listen to feedback, job done.
I think it's very important in the lower grades to get things about right though and to think carefully about the size of the holds you're using to create the difficulty, as a wall is a training facility. Littering a route with slippery crimps then calling it a F6a (which is what a lot of regular climbers will use as a first warm up route) causes finger injuries.
nope but at TCA there's a few :) only place i've had to repeatedly work a route over several sessions that at any other wall/crag would be pretty safe on-sight.
Grade changes between walls don't worry me, but what does irritate is where the difficulty between grades is not progressive. For example, if I can climb 6c consistently, I should be able to make a reasonable attempt on 7a and might actually get lucky: I shouldn't be stopped completely by a move or series of moves that is plainly way harder. If I'm failing on a grade harder than my usual best efforts, the message should be 'Try again next week/do some more pulls up/train harder' and not 'Get back down to the shallow end, poppet'.
I can cope with battling at a grade lower than usual - it's only plastic after all.
As far as bouldering grades are concerned, I always thought Sherman's definition of V0 as something that an athletic novice could climb is useful
I think this needs addressing. Most of the walls in the SE do this & it's putting added pressure on the extremely fragile Southern Sandstone.
People are coming out of a wall able to boulder say V2 & thinking this means that it's worth a trip
to try Fb 6Bs whereas the truth is the "V2s" that they've done are 3 or 4s.
The delicate sandstone bouldering simply can't handle the xtra pressure especially as these tend to be relative beginners with no idea of how to treat rock.
I have been to walls in three continents, and they have all (bar one) used the following grading system:
* Up to approx french 6a: Apply completely random grade, but on average:
outdoor 3a -- 4a -> indoor 5a.
outdoor 4b -- 5b -> indoor 5b.
outdoor 5c-6a > indoor 5c.
* From around french 6b to whatever the average max onsight-level of the routestters (ususally 7a/a+):
outdoor 6b -> 6a
outdoor 6c -> 6b
outdoor 7a -> 6c
*From above the average onsight level (e.g. 7a+) of the routesetters :
outdoor 7b -- 8a+ -> indoor 7a+.
outdoor 8b -- 9b+ -> indoor 7b.
This common grading-system makes it hard to use grades to gauge training-level (and that is the only reason I can see for them indoors) unless your ability is within a few grades of the main route setter's ability.
I have always maintained that the best way of grading indoor walls is with grade bands, rather than specific grades (q.v. colours at Mile End wall in London).
I don't buy for a second any argument that there should be consistency between walls. If people get upset because they can't climb V-whatever (an arbitrary number provided by a route-setter) at The Indy Wall then the problem is more with their ego.
That said, a climbing wall is beholden to its customers to a certain extent, as that's how it makes its money. Which is why colours/grade bands are a sensible option - if you fall off, it's almost certainly at the 'hard' end of the band!
One could make a reasonably well-argued point about how indoor grades (specifically bouldering grades) are totally pointless!
> One could make a reasonably well-argued point about how indoor grades (specifically bouldering grades) are totally pointless!
Go on then.
Make sure it addresses the people who want to know what their strengths and weaknesses are and can do so more easily if they have a chance to spot that they consistently climb two grades harder on some sorts of problems than others....
> That said, a climbing wall is beholden to its customers to a certain extent, as that's how it makes its money. Which is why colours/grade bands are a sensible option - if you fall off, it's almost certainly at the 'hard' end of the band!
As opposed to being hard for the grade?
Indoor problems are artificial, join-the-dots link-ups that are highly dependent on reach and strength, and they are graded by the route-setter, according to her/his reach and strength. There is little room for subtlety of foot place and usually only one way to grip a plastic hold. The joy of outdoor bouldering is finding that e.g. placing your foot on an 'invisible' edge 2 cm to the left/right can make the difference between success and failure. Indoor bouldering, almost by definition, lacks such subtletly. There is very rarely any hidden tricks beyond twisting your body weight a little bit.
Grades are meaningless in this situation - you can either can do it or you can't!
> Grades are meaningless in this situation - you can either can do it or you can't!
Eh? I don't care about getting the "I climbed V4" badge or whatever. I'm interested in knowing whether I can't climb it because a) it's the sort of route I'm good at but it's really hard or b) it's actually quite easy but I'm weak on crimps / bad at slabs / can't mantleshelf / pump out quickly on overhangs / whatever...
...it's actually quite easy but I'm weak on crimps,
Care to give a grade that descibes that?! ;-)
Do people really not get this or are you being facetious?
The rest of your paragraph is not consistent with its first sentence. Grades are arbitrary numbers that guide you to let you know whether you have a realistic chance of climbing a route/problem or not. You say "it's the sort of route I'm good at but it's really hard" - really hard for who? Obviously not you! So according to that statement then you obviously do care that you climbed V4 or whatever, because you are interested in the relative difficulty.
But that's beside the point because I'm not arguing against grades - I'm as guilty of grade-chasing as much as the next man. My point is that grades, and especially indoor grades, are so subjective (for reasons of reach, hold orientation etc) that they can only really be used as guides to relative difficulty, and not as a method of judging ability.
I understand that you have to have some sort of guide to the difficulty of a problem, but I don't see the need to judge your performance based on that guide, when the initial assessement of difficulty was so subjective.
I could make the same point back. If you can fly up a V4 slab, but struggle on a V4 juggy overhang, then what use is the general grade "V4" to you? It's meaningless...
> The rest of your paragraph is not consistent with its first sentence. Grades are arbitrary numbers that guide you to let you know whether you have a realistic chance of climbing a route/problem or not. You say "it's the sort of route I'm good at but it's really hard" - really hard for who? Obviously not you! So according to that statement then you obviously do care that you climbed V4 or whatever, because you are interested in the relative difficulty.
I'm interested in whether I climbed V4 or not because if I can climb V4 on juggy overhangs but only climb V2 on less steep walls with smaller holds then I'll probably get more value out of practising the latter than the former.
For me, it's not really an issue if I'm aware of the 'hard' grading at a given wall. But it's a little unfair on newbies/visitors, if they think they're going to walk up a grade X as a warm-up, where in real money it's actually a grade X+2.
Question: if you know your wall is under-graded, why not address the grading anomaly to being it back into line with the consensus? I can't believe you or your setters can't tell the difference between a V3 and a V5 and grade accordingly.
We realised that the V grade is actually dead, or at least dying, it doesn't work so well for easy problems (the V0 grade takes in tech 4b-5b/c) blah blah blah...we also realised that our grades had creeped and having them 'hard' was quite frankly pointless particularly when compared to our 'competition'.
Anyways, our solution...we're now using Font grades (like 9/10 bouldering guides do including the next N.Wales bible) and trying to grade the same as outdoors, so a 7a+ roof problem on our boulder is about the same grade as The Cromlech Roof Crack, also 7a+, and so on...simples! For the easier problems we firsat graded them with a tech grade then converted this to the Font grade which seems to have worked really well despite our trepidation.
We feel this is the way forward and feedback has been really encouraging...Happy days!
Thank you to all on here who have contributed their views and experiences.
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