No one should ever climb at Tremadog... its TERRIBLE climbing so everyone should stay away. Just don't even think of going there.
...and what actually happened at Tremadoc when the stars were removed: honey potting increased on the most popular routes of all. This was a flawed idea from the CC (well intentioned though it may have been) with low support from non-local climbers interested in the climbing in the area.
Is that a fact!!
Perhaps we underestimated just how sheep like most climbers are.
The previous guide had three star routes that were overgrown so clearly the system wasn't working. You also had queues on routes when there were perfectly decent routes nearby that were empty so the arguments put forward about wasting time finding something to climb if nothing had stars were clearly erroneous since many were happy to sit at the foot of a route with three teams in front of them.
Modern guides have too many stars, they are used to simply mark out decent or even ordinary routes rather than outstanding ones. Only routes explicitly marked out as bad aren't worth doing. (I know Alan disagrees with this but then he is in the business of selling guidebooks)
Yes, its a fact which is why the latest CC definitive guide has the stars reinstated. This debate has been and gone.
The key purpose of a guide is to help climbers select routes and the CC move to delete stars from Tremadoc was retrograde in that respect (as well as failing in its stated intent to spread traffic). It's a bit rude to regard someone as a sheep who wants to be able to choose good routes without reading and memorising a good deal of a guidebook in advance; to cover intended routes and alternatives when the queues are too long or say the route is damp.
Routes given 3 stars which were overgrown probably says more about editorial policy on the very subjective judgements involved: the YMC have a good idea to cover this with hollow stars, which indicate great climbs when clean that get overgrown or dirty more quickly than usual. However, I'd argue no quickly overgrown route should ever be 3 stars, even if I would encourage comment on the brilliance of the climbing when clean.
I think stars are used too liberally and yet turning the clock back is hard. Certainly I've tried to persuade crag authors to be careful with stars and encouraged deletion of stars where appropriate. To me 3 stars is a route/problem that would stand up to national judgement on its qualities; 2 ditto for the area and 1 for the crag. Lots of good routes get no stars. We are moving to a point in some guides where most genuine 3 star routes need 4 or 5 stars to sort the wheat from the chaff.
The Lakes guides of the 1970s had the right idea: a list of recommended routes at the front. I think there were about ten for Langdale! In the 1980(?) guide these became the only three star routes in the guide.
Obviously good new routes get put up between guidebooks so the list isn't static but a lot of guides are over the top in how stars are handed out. Your 3* = national classic system is how it should be implemented not "I'll give it 3* because it's good" that happens all too often. I'll subtract a star from any guidebook description simply to get where things should be.
Removing stars is really no different from overstarring in that the user has to make some personal judgment on what is good. The Tremadog guide didn't get rid of quality assessment as the route description indicated if the route was worthy of attention; a classic or a bag of.
When I wrote my part of the Cwm Silyn guide I was deliberately careful in handing out stars, I forget how many three star routes there are in there but they are worth it and would get three stars anywhere. Even the one star routes are significantly better than many routes that get three stars in other guidebooks. Basically if it's got star(s) against it you are going to get a good route.
Handing out too many stars is counterproductive, as you say, you can't sort the wheat from the chaff.
Personally i think too many routes get 2 or 3 stars and not enough 0 starred routes are given a star.
That guy from UKIP was close, but it's not homosexuals to blame for the flooding, it's Rockfax.
Look at the evidence - before they published their North Wales guide the weather was brilliant and Indian face saw daily ascents, but since then, god has been very angry and the rain has been non-stop.
Bob, surely the logical conclusion of that though is quite a few crags would have no three starred routes at all, some might not get any stars, and all that's been achieved is to remove information. The Russian at Symonds Yat for example, I think is worth 3 stars, for Symonds Yat. But its not nationally significant. Surely quality is necessarily discussed relative to the crag / area you are describing, else we end up having to compare the Yat with Dun Mingulay.
But what's wrong with a nice little symbolic summary?
I Thought route stars were for polish?
0 stars = rock ok
1 star = still pleasant
2 stars = doable with caution
3 stars = Like a skating rink
Or is that just on Limestone :-D
Which is how it should be - not every crag has to have starred routes, certainly not three star routes.
Surely quality is necessarily discussed relative to the crag / area you are describing, else we end up having to compare the Yat with Dun Mingulay.
No! Imagine if every crag had its own grading system or variant on a grading system? A three star route at the Yat should be of similar quality to one elsewhere.
What's wrong with accuracy? :-)
Yet would any of those routes you think are overstarred really meet even the most vague justification for national or area significance. Some authors and first ascentionists clearly get carried away. I also agree that traditionally unstarred routes can often be good enough for a star not just because the climbing is good but because the whole character of the route would be good enough for the choice on a standard classic crag.
There is more to stars than the quality of the moves so in the Symonds Yat example mentioned I would expect the very best routes there to get 3 stars as there must be some line, history, and situation characteristics that would add to the climbing quality to justify the selection
I.also think there are too many stars on harder routes compared to low grade routes...on some crags almost all the hard routes get multiple stars yet often just based on the moves.
Yep, spot on!
It's just information! You make it sound like we're hocking the Crown Jewels.
We all know what the really good routes are, we don't need a pedestal for them and for everything else to disappear into grey mush, we need to know the relative quality of the not so well known stuff. Your objective system, which happily doesn't exist neither has it any chance of ever existing, will only tell us what we already know.
Relative accuracy is still accuracy.
*** = national classic,
** = regional classic
* = local classic
is fine in theory, and was once relevant but I think we can do more with the system.
Really popular crags need more liberal start to spread folks around a bit, and get them away from the major classics.
Less popular crags need a smattering of stars to attract folks and point them at the best bits.
*** = worth traveling many miles for
** = worth seeking out if you are in the area
* = worth doing if you are at the crag
So unstarred routes in Rockfax guides are not worth doing, even if you're stood right under them?
That has a pleasing symmetry with the Michelin Star system:
*** = "Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey" ("Une des meilleures tables, vaut le voyage").
** = "Excellent cooking, worth a detour" ("Table excellente, mérite un détour")
* = "A very good restaurant in its category" ("Une très bonne table dans sa catégorie")
For my money, Rockfax (or certainly Eastern Grit) has too many - or perhaps not enough - one-star routes, though. There are worthwhile routes that get no stars, and I wouldn't normally bother with them because the average quality of an Eastern Grit no star route is pretty low. If there were fewer stars, the average quality would be higher so it'd be worth taking a punt on a no-star route. Particularly if you then had a "crap" symbol for stuff real completists-only stuff.
But it's information that is misleading. No system will ever be accurate across every crag nor should it be.
An analogy would be grading routes such that the hardest route on every crag was E10 because that's the hardest grade.
poor routes are marked as such
Routes with zero are good routes
one star routes are very good
two star routes are better again
three star routes are nationally important
What's happened is that things have shifted by one so that routes with no stars are seen as being poor. If we rebased the system then routes such as Shibboleth wouldn't need to be given four stars just to differentiate them from the so called three star routes.
No - the reverse is true. It is a selective guide, so if you are actually stood at the base of the route is IS worth doing,
I'd tend to agree with that. Really for me the most important consideration is "is the route worth doing?". So by all means give all the routes worth doing at least 1 star. I know "is the route worth doing" is a very subjective judgement, but so are all these judgements, wherever you set the bar.
I know I can read the description to check whether a route is poor or not, but when I'm in a new area, and deciding which crag to visit for the day, a handy table showing the spread of starred routes across the grades is really useful.
How about this for a (personal) take on what the stars should mean:
1 star - worth doing if I'm already at the crag.
2 star - worth travelling to the crag for if I'm already in the area.
3 star - worth travelling from Ipswich just to do this route!
Except that grades and stars have entirely different purposes.
Grades tell me which routes I can do, which is more or less an absolute thing. If the easiest route at a crag is HVS then VDiff bumblies still won't be able to get up it.
Stars tell me which routes I should do first, or not miss, or not bother with or whatever. And if I'm in the Gower, say, I don't really care if there are much better routes in Cornwall or on Skye or Lofoten or Squamish, I'd rather have a system that's useful for where I am now than one that doesn't tell me much beyond "almost all of these routes are fairly average in the grand scheme of things". With no slight intended to South Wales locals, I don't really need to look at stars in a guidebook to know that Sron na Ciche is, on the whole, a more nationally significant crag than Fall Bay.
That's a co-incidence. Chris's response wasn't posted when I drafted mine, but was there when I went back to the thread. Great minds think alike it seems (not plagiarism - honest).
All routes are worth doing unless otherwise stated.
The "miles to travel" idea was done in a NE guide by Steve Crowe but on a crag by crag basis.
Rockfax is hardly very selective though on the main crags of the eastern edges and your one star system as rambling dave points out does seem a bit random at times and is also very different from what other guides use. Where the Rockfax guides are genuinely selective it works better but then they seems stricter to me in awarding the single star than say on Stanage or Burb North.
I don't see how my system is pointing you away from the the three star classics, they will still get three stars. Instead it offers a "you might want to try these instead of joining the queue" option.
Really popular crags need more liberal start to spread folks around a bit, and get them away from the major classics.
I agree. Its fine to give advice in the guide to encourage climbers to consider spreading the load but forcing things by heavily manipulating star ratings is exceeding the remit of the editor and is largely unwanted by the users (who mostly want shorthand information to select the best routes at their grade at the crag given the conditions and queues); this applies to overstarring at one star as well even though its worse when stars are removed altogether. I'd prefer it if Rockfax did a 4 star system to indicate which one star routes (which would then move to 2) would still be equivalent to one star in the standard usage of stars in guides (definitive or selective).
I don't think this has happened though, particularly in Rockfax guides. Three star routes are still three star routes. It is of course subjective, but I don't think there is an example of a sub-standard 3-star route in North Wales Climbs for example, or Eastern Grit. There may be 2 star routes people would argue about but again, it is a minor thing.
Our policy has always been to promote the power of the single star with the criteria as Chris has suggested. So 1 star routes may not be what they were cracked up to be 20 years ago, but the integrity of 2 and 3 star routes has been maintained.
We also tried the crap route 'bag of poo' symbol for a while. Unfortunately the one thing guaranteed to happen when you give a route a bag of poo symbol is someone will write complaining about it asserting that it is actually a good route.
Something else worth considering is the target audience. For example, Eastern Grit had lots of boulder problems and short routes described and many of these wouldn't have stars. Now that we are including them in Peak Bouldering, they are getting stars since they are decent problems for people after that style of climbing.
Not sure about the 'worth travelling miles for' evaluation. If you've got the guidebook then presumably you've already decided to travel to the area so what you need is a relative quality guide to the area.
The Russian is a 3 star route for Symonds Yat but probably would be 2 star if it was on the Cromlech, I think it is most appropriate to give it 3 stars in the Symonds Yat guide.
See your point but equally, following that logic at a cliff full of poor/mediocre routes, you end of giving the least poor 3 stars and a host of cr*p routes 2 and 1 star!
I think "relative to the rest of the area with a slight bias to reflect whether the area is, in general, particularly good" makes more sense than "relative to the rest of the crag" - and I think this is what guidebooks actually use, for the most part.
But that's not how people are seeing things. The perception now is "the route doesn't have any stars therefore it isn't worth doing." whereas before (maybe more than twenty years ago) it was "the guide doesn't mention that it's a bad route so it's worth having a look at.". A selective guide almost by definition is going to consist of the better routes anyway - I know that in some Rockfax guides the selection is for a whole buttress/crag but the point remains valid, I'm referring to definitive guides. The Lakes selective guide doesn't have any stars since they are picked from the three and two star routes from the definitive series so it's a given.
By giving too many routes stars you (guidebook writers) are devaluing the system. The answer isn't to give the very best routes four or five stars but to use "no stars" as the base. I can't see why Rockfax would need to introduce a "poo symbol" in selected guides unless the selection process had gone very wrong! Using a single star to encourage traffic elsewhere while laudable also has the effect of compressing how you indicate the quality routes in to just two levels. The system currently has five levels but there seems to be an insistence that only two or three of these actually get used.
I don't think that there should be a quota since some crags (Scafell, Cromlech, Gogarth, etc) have a much higher concentration of quality routes than others and rightly will have more than their "fair share" of stars. Equally poorer crags may only have a route or two that get a single star though if they were on one of the good crags then it's more than likely that they wouldn't get any as they'd be outshone by their neighbours.
I wonder if this is a side effect of the modern predilection for polarising everything to either "brilliant, amazing, etc" and "awful".
Some good points there Bob. I don't really worry about this too much though. Perhaps I am being selfish, but if a majority of people who will only contemplate 2 and 3 star routes, that leaves busy crag with huge swathes of opportunity for anyone who doesn't have a problem with climbing 0 start routes.
As for unpopular crags - with social media and the internet, no amount of starred routes, action shots and hype in a guidebook is going to make them popular. They are generally unpopular for good reason.
Conversely, certain starred routes are now part of climbing culture as those to be aspired to. Once again, no amount of star removal or negative comments in a guidebook is going to stop or limit people from wanting to climb them. I can't help feel that this whole argument has actually moved beyond the scope of guidebooks alone.
Isn't it? How do you know?
That doesn't really agree with ticks in UKC Logbooks. Very few of the easy routes here - http://www.ukclimbing.com/logbook/crag.php?id=101 - haven't got ticks.
The Rockfax poo symbol was only in the early Rockfax guides where we were essentially filling the void left by the trad guidebooks neglect of sport climbing areas - Yorkshire, Peak, NWL, etc. In these areas we were pretty much comprehensive for sport routes, hence we need to indicate really bad sport routes. The problem was that really bad sport routes usually had someone with a strong opinion who had put the effort to put the bolts in and didn't appreciate their efforts being dismissed in this way.
"but I don't think there is an example of a sub-standard 3-star route in ...Eastern Grit."
Really? How about Bishops Route on Stanage as an example? Frankly a significant minority of grit mid-grade climbs on the Eastern Edges are probably over-rated in a national context, especially given there are lots of other real 3 star routes on the same crags. With a free hand I'd demote at least a quarter and I love grit.
That conclusion came from comments on this and similar threads which may be summarised as "I'll look at the guide and if there aren't routes with stars I won't go". Then there's comments made by yourself and Chris Craggs about starring routes. I realise that you have guidebooks to sell but in my opinion that's clouding your judgment :-)
"Our policy has always been to promote the power of the single star with the criteria as Chris has suggested. So 1 star routes may not be what they were cracked up to be 20 years ago, but the integrity of 2 and 3 star routes has been maintained."
So what's happened to the one star routes from twenty years ago - has their integrity been removed because of the "promotion" of good routes to one star status? You are cramming four levels in to three and it just won't work.
When I worked out the stars for Cwm Silyn and area, I listed all the routes then looked at those routes which were really poor and mentioned them as such in the text (no poo symbol you see). From the remainder I marked those which were "significantly" better than what might be judged as "good" or "decent", these became the one star routes. From that selection I then repeated the process to get the two and then three star routes.
To some extent the decision to remove all stars from the previous Tremadog guide was partly as a result of seeing regular queues of maybe four teams waiting to do The Plum and similar routes. Now The Plum is a good route and I can understand anyone wanting to do it or any honeypot route, but why spend a couple of hours waiting when you could be climbing something that might just surprise you? One of the reasons given for stars is that people need to use their limited leisure time to the full, so why not actually go climbing?
As an experiment I think it's fair to say it failed but I don't believe that increasing the number of routes with stars will increase traffic as it reduces the perceived discrimination between routes. Another reason for removing stars was that there were three star routes at Tremadog that plainly weren't getting traffic so the simple attribution of stars doesn't seem to work either.
Like I said in an earlier post, it shows the sheep mentality of many climbers.
This has flummoxed me too. But then who are we to judge people who are quite happy to queue for hours in order to climb a route? Many a time I have had cracking days at busy parts of Stanage whilst observing the same groups of people walking back and forth from one end of the popular end to the other looking for a 3 star route that doesn't have a queue of people waiting to climb it. Even on the busiest of days, there are plenty of routes to go around yet there is almost a fear of the unknown about climbing an unstarred route which seems to contradict the whole point of climbing to me. But then perhaps climbing is now an activity rather than the pursuit of the unknown and adventure?
One example and the voters seem perfectly happy with 3 stars - http://www.ukclimbing.com/logbook/c.php?i=10328
It is certainly better than the zero stars it got in BMC guidebooks until we gave it 3 in PGE in 2001.
I suppose it depends what the ultimate aim is.
1) Spread the load by highlighting more crags and routes.
2) Maintain the integrity of the star system to give people more confidence in what they are reading.
3) Sell more guidebooks.
I think that our 'power of the single star' system supports 1) and maybe 3). I think it could be argued that 2) would result in more honey potting but I doubt it would have much effect on 3).
No we are opening up one level (1 star) and shoving the best of the level below (0 star) into it to make it a fatter level.
I'll list a load of the other examples (that I pretty clearly alluded to) at VS and HVS if have time tomorrow. The BMC are also guilty at times on 3 stars: we all love our local rock so much we get a bit carried away.
Back on Bishops, before PGE Chris was arguably one of the key BMC guidebook workers on the start of the post '89 Stanage revamp so technically it must have been done first in that unpublished draft. What do you think it has in particular that makes it even possibly 3 stars? The best moves at the start are common with another route, at the top its mean and hard to follow, it's got no clear line, a big ledge, no special history, no special position, no weirdly wonderful holds or particularly memorable moves. I think its a fun climb, previously underrated in quality, probably just about into 2 stars in the old school ratings. As for the other voters: same folk who voted en masse for Inverted V as mid VS I guess.
Interesting. I know you are an enthusiastic recorder of mid-grade climbs in the Peak and I guess these are the things that are in your mind when rating a climb. For me Bishops route is spoiled by the ledge. Only the moves above the ledge have any merit in my book and I would give it 0 - 1 star based on other (better?) none-starred routes at Stanage. I guess it just goes to show how subjective ratings can be and that perhaps a pseudo consistent editorial method of rating climbs based on a list of criteria is going to give a more consistent outcome than the voting system which is flawed on many levels, especially in the low grades arena.
The easiest line up one of the biggest buttresses on the cliff, logical but devious, spectacular finish, good gear and positions - what's not to like?
Comments from the databases:
A magnificent route! Look out for an old railway nut (or similar) jammed in a crack halfway up. Belay at the top is verging on non existant.
Fantastic route, deserves everyone of its stars.
Did harder finish out left. Love this climb!
really good route, top moves were fantastic.
Cracking route at the grade, wish it was twice as high.
Balancy exposed finish. Scary but not too scary that I didn't enjoy it!
A really nice climb :-)
Lovely climb, no great difficulties, loads of gear.
Lovely route, good gear and always a good hold one move after you need it.
Lovely interesting route, smiling all the way :)
.... and it goes on,
My argument is that this is making the one star level in to what used to be the old zero star level. A grading analogy would be to move a grade boundary (vague as they are) down such that the lower grade becomes non-existent.
The key to understanding this is realising (and promoting) the fact that zero star routes are good.
When I see a guidebook littered (and I use that word pointedly) with stars I just think "Emperor's new clothes". Somewhere like Almscliff is particularly bad in this respect.
Its not the easiest line from the ledge: its easier to finish up Straight Crack or to traverse left to Straight Crack above or right to the top of Zagrette. As such the finish seems illogical to me, although I'm still a bit confused about exactly what does constitute the finish having had to climb it about 4 times (as what I experienced failed to match some reports). I'm still not entirely sure who did what in which guide and the topo line must be wrong in at least one guide as well. All I could ever think of is your size and reach makes the top better and more obvious than for ordinary folk but for a slabby gritstone finish on rounded breaks to be spectacular I'm still clearly missing something.
As for the comments who wouldnt say a route falling into the 2nd star rating on Stanage is anything but lovely?
I appreciate the comments from the database, but it is all rather subjective.
There is a growing consensus that when reading the reviews on Trip Advisor you should ignore the top and bottom 10%. I am afraid that a similar principal should be applied to the UKC voting system. I would be much more inclined to take the opinion of Offwidth and his extensive experience climbing sub HVS climbs in the Peak than an average of the UKC votes, many of whom may be putting forward their votes based on having only climbed a handful of climbs at Stanage, or ever or not at all.
Well, it's not completely arbitrary of course, guidebook writers will make judgements about what's significant for the area. And it's hardly revolutionary, this is what happens now.
I've always thought:
3 stars - top class
2 stars - great
1 star - good
0 stars - OK or shit
Plenty 0 star routes are worth doing but naturally folk will go for higher starred stuff first.
I think the star system is a good way of showing folk what the relatively good routes are in a certain area. Although one shouldn't over-egg certain routes if they don't deserve it, the quality will nevertheless differ area to area. For example, take a 3 star route at Dunkeld at put it up on the Ben. While the route may actually be better than before because of the brilliant situation, it might well now only deserve 2 stars as there's no way it will compare to something like the Bat!
There you go - I thought the Bat only worth two stars, devious, unbalanced and miles of rambling once past the crux!
I'd share that view. In fact I'd go further and suggest that we go with something like this:
black spot - not recommended to anyone (for specified reasons), listed to avoid later claims
no stars - route only recommended to those who have done everything else on the crag in their range - nothing positive to say about it but not positively bad (ie not bad enough to be a black spot)
One star: a route which may give you some pleasure if you're not a jaded old curmudgeon or a cynical young blade.
Two & Three stars - quite lot better than 1 star. Maybe even bring in a four star grade for truly exceptional routes.
I believe something like this is the best way to spread folk out on the various routes. No stars at all doesn't work, and fails the guide purchaser. Few stars leads to too much concentration on the starred routes. Lots of stars as suggested above might get the greatest number of different routes frequented.
Yeah, again spot on.
Also some crags that don't get any one stars end up becoming totally overgrown.
For guidebook writing i work on this scale.
No star = nothing special but not necessarily bad.
One star = A route i would recommend to someone.
Two stars = A classic of the crag/area.
Three stars = A classic of the UK/historically important.
I wish i could include black spots!
Black spot - agree (and I've put up one or two that I've given a black spot to!)
0 stars - a good route
1 star - a route worth seeking out
2 stars - a route that you should do
3 stars - a route worth driving to the other end of the country to do.
No need for any more.
It's the expectation that only routes with stars are worthwhile that is wrong, all routes are worth doing unless otherwise stated - the black spot. Simply adding more and more stars isn't the way to go as you aren't adding anything to the information imparted, all that you are doing is moving the base and rather than have 0-3 you then get 1-4 ending up in Spinal Tap territory 9-11.
What is being attempted here is categorisation of opinion. An example that shows the difficulty is Asolo on Dove Crag, about half the people I know who've done it reckon it's three stars, the other half reckon it needs three black spots! There's nothing in between.
If guidebooks were more parsimonious with handing out stars then they'd mean something and the "lack" of them wouldn't be seen as a problem. It's as if the writers are in their own version of Star Wars: "we've got more stars than you!"
Since the OP referred to the old Tremadog guide and Rockfax my 2p is:
The old no stars guide was a PITA - the stars thing was annoying and finding the climbs especially away from Craig Bwlch y Moch was more luck than design.
Generally Rockfax seem a bit generous with their stars - I know the guides are selective but I've climbed routes starred in rockfax guides that were dross - it is a bit like the opposite action but same result as leaving the stars out!
The most conservative guide I have (wrt stars) is an old avon and cheddar guide - virtually no stars in it at all - mind you based on the very small sample of climbers I've done from it it was pretty accurate.
The FRCC, BMC, SMC and CC generally seem to get the star level about right and I find Rockfax a bit generous.
Similarly with stars. If we had 10 stars there would be little agreement that one with 7 stars was higher qualitty than one with 6, whereas most people are likely to agree by and large on maybe 3 to 5 different bands of route quality. Having only 1 star (i.e. a list of recommended routes) would be widely agreed but less useful, so the finer granularity that can be generally agreed the better.
It's true that the stars awarded seem usually to be relative to the other routes on the crag or in the area, and this works ok in general in choosing routes at a crag. Where it doesn't work so well is in choosing the crag in the first place, as the same star distribution may mean quite different things for different crags or in different areas. The way around this of course is to have more stars, such that many routes on Dinas Cromlech would get 5 stars and it would be clear at a glance that the crag was one of the best around. Contrast that with, say, Scimitar Ridge, which may have few if any 5-star routes but still plenty of 3-star ones to stand out and clearly suggest a very good venue, albeit perhaps not one of national importance. This would be achieved at a glance and without having to read any crag intros.
Every poster except Chris Craggs said:
> ** = regional classic
> * = local classic
Chris Craggs said:
> ** = worth seeking out if you are in the area
> * = worth doing if you are at the crag
So the Rockfax definition of a *** route is equivalent to the CC/FRCC/SMC definition of a ** route and a Rockfax ** equates to * in other guides. What do Rockfax give to real *** routes, national classics? They are awarded the coveted [Top50]. Rockfax use a de facto 4 star system.
Easy isn’t it!
Devious, yes. Unbalanced? Dunno, seemed to be a gradual increase in difficulty over the first 5 pitches. After that it tails off but still one of the best routes I've done!
"What do Rockfax give to real *** routes, national classics? They are awarded the coveted [Top50]. Rockfax use a de facto 4 star system."
Not quite this easy - not all routes in the rockfax guide top 50s have *** (maybe I imagined this).
I recall the SMC guide to Skye gave **** or ***** to the winter traverse of the Cuillin but I reckon this could be considered fair abuse of the system.
One way to look at this is to line up all the routes in the UK in terms of quality (obviously a big argument) and the best 10% get *, best 3% get ** and best 1% get *** then there is a rational basis for **** (best 0.3%) or ***** (best 0.1%) (choose your own ratios) - I think this is analysed in detail some guides I've read. This is likely measureable in some UKC stats somewhere...
I'm not sure if I'm imagining it, but new, hard climbs, seem to get lots of *** a lot of the time. Analysis might show the proportion of *** routes graded above (say) >E6 and less than 10 years old might be higher than the norm.
So 90% of routes get no stars???
Well why not?... as it says choose your own ratio - could be 30:10:3:1 or 50:25:12:6:3 etc etc but remember it applies nationally, so some crags (like Stanage) will have a much higher % of stars and some (mention no names) would get none.
The black spot probably applies similarly at the other end, you could have more spots for worse but once something has been declared a pile of crap then people don't seem to care to bad it is (unless it is something esoteric that has other appeal but this then steps out of the mainstream information expressed here and falls back on route description as normal).
I can't remember which guide goes into this in depth but I've seen in written about before - it isn't a magic bullet or exclusive argument, just a simple rationale for rationing the * sensibly.
As this is roughly what the current FRCC starring policy is (and I think you're from up that way!), do you have any idea whether the newer guides are working to spread the load and widen people's choice of routes? Speaking for myself I know they do - I've tried out crags and routes I wouldn't have considered from their write-up in the old guides, so I basically agree with you (and if that makes me a sheep so be it!)
I also agree with whoever it was said that the most important things is to distinguish the good from the not-so-good, and not to put a tiny number of famous routes on a pedestal - we all know about them already, and you can always go to town on the superlatives in the description.
Oh, and as there have been several comments about The Russian at Symonds Yat - that doesn't actually get 3 stars in any guide, but Red Rose Speedway next door to it does! Rightly so (judged against other Wye Valley routes) and whether it meets up to some national standard for quality (which will presumably need its own quango to enforce it... we need an acronym) is something that I really can't get very worked up about.
I like stars, as long as they aren't given out over generously. Provided they are awarded fairly, the two and three star routes should be really good routes which it makes sense to do first before trying other routes. The other routes might still be worth doing but they probably aren't going to be outstanding routes that you will remember. Life is too short for doing forgettable routes when there are better ones to be done at the same crag. If I'm at a crag that I don't visit often, I want to do the best routes first and it's useful to have stars to point the way. Of course it's possible to tell the best lines just by looking at the crag but the best routes aren't always apparent just like that. If it's a crag I've been to a few times, obviously I will explore the one star and no star routes - or with any luck I'll be able to do a three star route of a harder grade than what I could manage last time!
Sounds like you are using stars to narrow your choice.
My starting point is that all routes are good unless otherwise stated. I find that this gives me the widest choice when visiting an area.
It seems that many view all routes as poor unless they are starred. What a negative view.
Sure I'll use stars to assess an area if I'm visiting it for the first time but if chosen routes are wet, busy or look crap then I'll find something else. An example would be (then now banned) Foredale Quarry. The guide had virtually every route with stars and enough three star routes that Malham would be proud of. The reality: a pile of choss, the handful of the better routes deserved a star and no more. One of my companions is a quarry fanatic and his quote was "If the next three star route isn't any better I'm going". If I'd travelled a huge distance I'd have been very pissed off with being misled.
The problem is that with an excess of stars it's becoming increasingly hard to determine what is truly good and what is simply being hyped. Increasing the number of starred routes doesn't do what the proponents claim, it simply adds confusion to decisions.
But this is effectively the same as the Tremadog experiment. Having 90% of routes unstarred would just concentrate all people's attention on the 10% of starred routes.
Adjust those percentages any way you like, but what the Tremadog experiment showed was that, in the absence of stars, people just used other methods of choosing their routes which tended to result in a smaller pool of climbs attempted. They didn't spread themselves thinly across the remaining routes on the crag.
The significant thing about your Foredale example is that is a crag which has never appeared in a published guidebook. When you visited it was totally under the influence of 'first ascensionist enthusiasm' on the Leeds web site. This is a well known phenomenon and something we have corrected on many previous occasions when putting the guide together.
Check our Peak Limestone guide for Horseshoe - 274 routes with almost 200 of them getting 0 stars and only 14 with 2 stars or more and only 1 3-star route. This doesn't indicate rampant over-starring. Interestingly, almost all the routes get plenty of ascents showing that sport routes tend to operate differently when it comes to route selection.
I do realise that the Leeds mafia overegg things somewhat and that it's a habit of theirs (sorry Dave) but Foredale was definitely the worst. No doubt there's some psychological term for it, "my bonny baby syndrome" or such like.
Interesting what you say about sports routes seemingly having a different selection criteria. Maybe it's a protection thing: well travelled trad routes tend to have fairly obvious and worn gear placements whereas on less popular ones you have to work at your gear, obviously on sports routes the gear is consistent and reliable.
Good routes will stand out over time but according lesser routes the same status is counterproductive.
..... and the weight of all these extra Romanians and Bulgarians is causing the south of England to sink, making it worse.
On the stars subject, I started with a 10:20:30 ratio, over the guidebook area rather than nationally (Scotland? UK-wide?), then fiddled with it. With more ascents, I'd change a few of of the ratings, but think the ratio is a fair reflection of what is available.
...and even the "no star" Tremadog guide was better than the previous one, where just about every E4+ route got 2 or 3 stars but there were no 3 star VS's. Stars or for quality, difficulty is irrelevant.
People have a different approach to sport climbing. You go to an area or buttress and virtually anything at your grade is then up for grabs. Also there are things like warm-ups and warm-downs to consider as you aim for your target route(s) of the day. Stars go out of the window for these considerations.
For trad routes, particularly longer trad routes, you go for the route and warming up on a three pitch no-star route to the left isn't such an appealing option since it could end up taking most of the day rather than the 5 minutes it takes at a sport crag.
> Yes, its a fact which is why the latest CC definitive guide has the stars reinstated. This debate has been and gone.
That's what I thought (since I own it I ought to know)
I cant find the list I was looking for but found another: The routes in Rockfax that are 3 star but not so in the BMC and vice versa. Might take a while to retype so is anyone interested?
I've also remembered that Chris's obsession with Bishop' Route led to it being the only eastren edges route of its grade to make the EG top 50 which led to some joker telling me it does your guides a severe diservice ;-)
As I understand it the Top 50 is generated automatically from the votes.
Not always Chris. For example, we didn't have votes for North Wales Climbs.
There is an element of votes in it though where there are enough. However we also choose a grade spread and favour routes that are iconic rather than necessarily brilliant.
It is a sub-category of the third star, not a fourth star. ie. any 3-star route can be as good as a Top50 route.
Except most of the votes didnt exist until you gave it 3 stars. So we are in the realm of chickens and eggs. Even so Balcony Buttress for one looks to top it despite the inevitable bias for not being in the top 50. Find me some more people leading around that grade (actually anyone would do) who thinks its the best Severe in EG and I might start to see it as more than a spoof entry.
I am still interested in exactly how you finish it... presumably up the crack and directly over at the overlap niche as you describe it, as I still don't get this. Your line moves slightly right which I tried as well but the moves seem to force me a good bit further right. It all feels like I'm missing something and I don't get how this could happen on a classic I've climbed several times deliberately and carefully (as it was confusing me and I was trying hard to work out the reason why). Unless there is a hidden hold, I do know the finish as shown or described is a good bit harder for me than the several alternatives, so its hardly the easiest, way up anything. Certainly my reach is good so it cant just be that.
Due to the top 50 spot I've clearly become obsessed as well by proxy.
I don't have any hard evidence about the effects of the F&R policy. They've certainly got some stick from people on UKC, though. Lots of people seem to have the view that three stars is some kind of immutable standard which came down from the mountain on a tablet. It can mean what we want it to mean. And lots of routes which nearly everyone accepts as worth 3* aren't all that good in my not-very-humble opinion.
I agree completely with you, in that I have done lots of routes in the Lakes which I probably wouldn't have done if there were no stars or very few stars. And looking at the new Langdale guide I shall be doing some more this year (if spared).
I'm glad Bob's still flying the flag for being economical with stars, there don't seem many of us left. As one of the authors of the "no star" tremadog guide I agree that the experiment didn't work and was not popular with visiting climbers. Many locals liked the idea but I agree that didn't help the visiting climber in a hurry.
The fact is that with no stars or lots of stars the situation at Tremadog hasn't really changed. Bwlch y Moch is still the most popular crag by far and of the 180 routes there, only about 25(ish) get regular ascents. Parties do queue for 3 star routes, which is beyond my comprehension with so much to go at, but hey ho, I guess they are enjoying themselves or they wouldn't be there. This hasn't changed in the 30 years I've been going there.
It doesn't really bother me these days either way but I do think stars are overused, I just take them with a pinch of salt and deduct at least one (sometimes two) fron the FRCC guides. At the end of the day 90% of the routes at Gogarth are better than anything at Burbage so its all a bit academic really.
Well that's two of us for whom it's had the desired effect - I think that's statistically significant enough to conclude the policy is working! Haven't seen the new Langdale guide. Hmmm, can I justify shelling out another 20-something quid for an area for which I already have the perfectly good previous edition?? - Yes, almost certainly - four shelves-full is never enough...
But in reality, some are good, some are OK, some have nice climbing but a poor line (and vice versa), some are poor but have a couple of good moves, some are heaps of choss and a few could be anything because the guidebook author hadn't managed to check that one - and in a system where 90% of the routes are unstarred they're all in the same category. The point about a generous starring policy is it gives information about the relative quality (i.e. relative to other routes in the guide) of a far greater number of routes, and I can't how that's a bad thing.
But isn't hard - you do exactly what you said in the previous paragraph - nearly everyone on their first visit to an area or crag will try one of the most-starred routes of the grade - if they don't like it, they won't come back, but if they do then they'll probably find it helpful if there's some indication as to which of the other routes are likely to better than others.
The one thing you lose by more generous starring is a distinction (in symbols) between the totally outstanding and the merely very good, but that's what a thesaurus is for when you're writing the book!
Well, I'd definitely recommend the new Langdale guide. Max has done a great job. It's surprising how many new crags/routes there are in it, even at the lowly grades which I can manage. (Modesty should forbid, but I can't resist pointing out that there's even a few new routes of my own.)
Also, the photo-topos are excellent and they do help with finding routes on the smaller and more esoteric crags which never justified a diagram in the old-style guides.
I've not used the new FRCC guides a lot but I did climb in the Duddon on some festival/guidebook meets and I felt the proposed new stars there were spot on (as someone who also worries about over-starring). Gogarth is in my view is one of the best UK crags but its ridiculous to say 90% of the lines there are better than a mixed short-cragging/micro-route/bouldering venue like Burb North with its quality rock and huge variety of moves. Its like comparing wine with the drinks in an average pub that doesn't do wine. Gogarth has a distinct lack of easier lines, little known bouldering, plenty of chossy rock and sometimes identikit routes with very samey moves. If 1 star really does mean a climb which is notable for the crag (and would be so on an average crag), Burbage N is certainly over-starred but not that massively so. Its also got excellent bouldering across the grades, some excellent beginners areas and a good range of climbs below VS, great soloing for mortals and a few genuinely excellent climbs well into the extremes and that's before we look at recent developments like snowballing.
Excellently put Rick, the best sense on this thread so far.
Yet some guides went over to generous starring ages ago. Do you really think Burb North which was accused of being over starred is not? When I climb in the SW, Wales, Lakes, Scotland I often think stars are a bit mean, especially where I nearly always climb at sub extreme but less so in Yorkshire and only on obscure venues in the Peak.
So what do you think of the starring in the latest Northern Highlands guides? I've climbed a few rather indifferent starred routes up that way.
Yes, that's exactly the point I made earlier, but without your clout.
Not done enough to be especially accurate but it looked OK and I've seen things both ways (under and over). You have to account in part for position and lack of traffic in such a remote beautiful place so I'm less sensitive to veg than I would normally be. I did find the NWN really useful when exploring north of Inverpolly and had a great time as a result.
As I said before some Classic Rock ticks are very dubious at 3 star under normal conditions, especially Will-O-the-Wisp.
The punter grades are a bit varied in NWN though very soft in some areas (far NW outcrops) and tough in others (like Ardmair). I also got lost on several bumbly routes on the west side of Stac Polaidh.
Seems fine to me in general. You can maybe pick out specific venues(?) but on the whole don't think there's much wrong.
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