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Topic - Be wary of grades in Ariege Rockfax

harold walmsley - on 29 May 2013
We recently went on a trip to Ariege. On the basis of the Ariege Rockfax we expected to find plenty to go at in our grade range but when we got there we couldn't get up more than the odd route at many of the better crags we had hoped to climb at. We were left with barely enough to go at (poor weather didn't help). If you usually climb in the range F6a to F6c it would be best to be very wary when using the Rockfax to plan what there is in the area for you to climb. Our party included regular onsight 6c leaders and all had a rest/failure on at least 1 6a+ and struggled to find the occasional 6b they could manage. A couple of 6as could not be toproped and we saw others struggling similarly.

The Rockfax authors note that "the Ariege area has a reputation for rather stiff grading", "perhaps the grades are good value", and "especially true on older slab pitches". This seems to be saying that they know the grades are both wrong (too hard on average) and inconsistent (some styles harsher then others) but they have not sorted them out. This seems a pity as Rockfax has often been refreshingly realistic about sorting out grading anomalies.

In my view, local French (and other) climbers can grade as they wish but an English language guidebook for use primarily by UK climbers should aim to apply grades as near as possible as they are understood by UK climbers not locals. Harsh local grades should therefore be softened for an English selected climbs guide. In the Rockfax there were a small number of reasonably graded routes by UK standards but in our experience the given grades were 0 to 3 grades harsher than those used in the UK. This guide therefore fails to properly adjust grades for a UK readership so beware.
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