Colorado grades

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Perhaps strange for an American to ask UK climbers for tips on climbing in America, but I started climbing trad here not there, so I lack some local context. Planning a two-week trip to Colorado in September and wondering how the grades compare at RMNP (including the alpine and Lumpy) and Eldo. Is VS more or less 5.8, and HVS more or less 5.9? Would also love to hear any particularly good recommendations in that range (or below for the alpine routes, in the interest of moving quickly). 

Also, as a thoroughly Britishized trad climber, I own 50m half ropes. I understand Americans tend to prefer 60-70m singles and carry an extra rope or cord for abseils, but that sounds very inconvenient and I’d rather not buy more ropes. Have any of you made do there with 50m doubles or did you find yourself limited in route-choice by, e.g., distances between rap stations?

 Rick51 06 Jul 2021
In reply to alex505c:

No idea of how the guidebook sets pitches now but in Eldorado 2 x 50's were ok in 1980. At the time I thought 5.7/easy 5.8 was VS, harder 5.8/ easy 5.9 HVS. Hard 5.9 felt E1, 5.10 ranged from E1 to E2. Fabulous climbing there.

 Martin Bennett 06 Jul 2021
In reply to alex505c:

Hi. I've done a few routes at these grades at Lumpy Ridge and would recommend all of them! In particular Clown Time is Over, J Crack, Cackle Crack and Conad's. At Eldorado our stand out route was Yellow Spur which was in our top 5 objectives for the whole trip and is outstanding and more sustained than the pitch grades would imply, we thought. Also very good are Touch and Go, Anthill Direct and, a bit below you're grade spec, Bastille Crack. 

Also below you're spec but a great way to spend an evening perhaps (we did it before our habitual Dot's Diner breakfast one morning) is Direct E Face on the 1st Flatiron. Or another Flatirons route maybe - I couldn't believe it when I realised how close to town the Flatirons are! 

If you go climbing in Boulder Canyon do go up to Nederland for your post climb beer. At least one great brewery and you can report back and tell me if it's yet reached 1970 there! 

We certainly used half ropes but I can't recall if we had 50m or 60m ones, sorry. I can't advise about Alpine routes in RMNP either - unfortunately we had a very early onset of Winter and tho' had great weather in the valleys, aside of the routine but very brief thunderstorms, our targets up high on Long's and Hallet Peaks were decidedly out of nick.

In all my trips to USA I've generally found 5.9 to be about within my capability and I've generally been a E1 5b climber, (not any more though, regrettably). The few 10a climbs I've done definitely felt E1. Some 5.8s can feel Hard VS - see my comment re sustained nature of Yellow Spur.

Have a great trip.

Post edited at 22:10
 DaveHK 07 Jul 2021
In reply to alex505c:

Half ropes will work fine, it's just that they're less necessary for many routes in the US as they tend to be less wandering than the average UK route.

As for grades it's more of a style thing than a straight equivalence. Many UK climbers find US grades harder than the suggested equivalent just because they're not used to the style of climbing.

 DaveHK 07 Jul 2021
In reply to alex505c:

2nd all Martin's recommendations including Nederland, there's a great campsite there too.

 DaveHK 07 Jul 2021
In reply to alex505c:

Oh and make sure you visit the Mork and Mindy house too.  

 George Frisby 07 Jul 2021
In reply to alex505c:

I use met office for the Peak. Got a 24hr forecast map and current precip radar map to use alongside the location based forecasts. High Neb on the met office gives a good high level forecast for high eastern grit edges, which can be quite different to hathersage in the valley for example. Kinder Low gives a good higher altitude forecast for the western grit edges, which is normally a lot more pessimistic than manchester etc.

In reply to George Frisby:

Has your reply jumped threads, or does the Met Office Peak forecast cover Colorado too!!😕

 George Frisby 07 Jul 2021
In reply to buxtoncoffeelover:

No idea how that happened! 

 David Coley 07 Jul 2021
In reply to alex505c:

Most of the time 50s will be fine. For the odd rap where it is not, learn how to extend the rope using slings.

Part of the reason for US grades not always working for brits is the attempt to convert YDS to adjectival. If one just does YDS to tech I find it all works out well. 

 Offwidth 07 Jul 2021
In reply to David Coley:

Doesn't always work due to skill base difference. I find SW US trad crack at YDS 5.9 is UK tech upper 5a to mainly 5b. In contrast SW US trad slab 5.9 is UK tech 5c. You get more outliers in both directions in Joshua Tree than elsewhere (eg easier on Lost Horse Wall). Red Rocks is the easiest graded on average. Unfortunately I've not climbed in Colorado yet. We always use two 60m ropes on the longer routes and find them very handy on abseil and running easier pitches together.

Post edited at 17:35
 wbo2 07 Jul 2021
In reply to alex505c: Some of the trad 5.9's in Boulder Canyon are going to feel pretty stiff for an HVS leader unless you've been working your crack technique.  In contrast the 5.9 sport face climbing will feel comparatively easy in my experience.

Don't underestimate the effects of living at altitude, rather than day tripping a la Chamonix, especially if you do go stay up at Nederland.  Some people are very affected by staying at 3000m. I won the Nederland 10K and it was blinking tough

 concertina 07 Jul 2021
In reply to alex505c:

Very happy to stumble across this thread.  I'm also from Colorado but been learning trad in Ireland this past year and planning a trip back in September.  Been wondering about Eldo grades - was also considering South Platte, that could be a spot worth checking out for you too.

Maybe see you there!

In reply to concertina:

Great tips, all — thanks! And concertina — glad to see another southwesterner on here. I’m actually from New Mexico originally. Hopefully having grown up at high elevation I won’t find the altitude such a shock after so long at sea level. My partner may suffer a bit more, though…

In reply to David Coley:

> Part of the reason for US grades not always working for brits is the attempt to convert YDS to adjectival. If one just does YDS to tech I find it all works out well. 

The problem is that the YDS is neither a technical nor a "French" grade (at least in practice). It is a sort of fudge between the two and seems to vary from place to place in how close it is to either.

The best interpretation I have heard of it is as a sort of "mini French grade" for the hardest passage between rests, which sort of makes sense. It really only works in conjunction with the R/X protection ratings.

In reply to alex505c:

As others have said, it's worth having a grade or two in hand compared with what the conversion tables would have you believe - at least until you get used to the rock. 

Check out this trip report from a two week tour of some of the best that Colorado has to offer

More details here:

And a specific recommendation for a memorable but amenable day out at around HS/VS in an alpine environment would be

As for ropes, your 50s will be fine. Have a fantastic trip!

Cheers, Dom 

 helix 09 Jul 2021
In reply to dominic o:

Also check out McGregor Slab, we did the Direct Route 5.7

Apparently 700ft but seemed longer, lots and lots of slab!

Climbed this in September, it was already too late for the alpine stuff by then. 

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