Looking at some of the routes at Caley Crags, such as Route 1, Route 2, Route 3 on Sugarloaf. These are traditionally given trad grades and are often climbed as trad routes. However here on UKC I can see that they are now given f grades:
Route 1 = HVS/5a (ukc f4+)
Route 2 = VS/5a (ukc f4)
Route 3 = HS/4c (ukc f3+)
I know they are often bouldered/soloed, but not always, and in any case, many routes are bouldered or soloed, but they are left with their trad grades. Right in the middle of that lot is Myopia E1/5b which could realistically be given a grade of f5/5+, for example. I think it is wrong that these routes have "lost" their trad grades on UKC.
I have just become a mod of Caley and I wanted to get people's view on whether they think this is right that these have f grades and I am just out of date, or if they should be reverted to their trad grades. What's everyone's view?
Incidentally, it would be pretty amazing if you were able to add 2 types of grade to a route - so that Route 3 would be "HS/4c (trad) // f3+ (boulder)" - for example. One for the UKC @wishlist.
I personally think, to use your choice of words, that you're out of date and the vast,vast majority of ascents the routes get are above pads rather than with a rope. I would stick with the font grades.
I'd tend to agree but those three font grades all look a notch too low.
If a rope is pretty useless on lead for a highball with no gear and if you want to avoid broken ankles or worse then bouldering above a mat is the sensible way. If someone just wants to second a bouldering highball, just drop a top rope and the font grade will still mean more than a trad grade.
I'd be quite happy to see "highball grades" adopted in the database.
i.e. Font 4 (VS 5a)
Highballing an old trad route removes some of the danger and the scariness, but doesn't neutralise it entirely - the dual grade recognises that there is a continuum on which the difficulty sits depending on how many pads are used and the particulars of the route.
It also makes it clear how how hard the climbing actually is from a purely physical point of view which the trad grade is generally quite poor at doing - especially in the higher grades. It indicates that it's spicy which isn't always obvious if just presenting Font grades (I once saw some disappointed people at Callerhues who'd turned up thinking that the stuff on the Footpath slab was going to be a few metres high). Dual gradeing also retains a grade for padless ascents which some people may still want to do.
For those Caley examples I'd be inclined to keep them as bouldering grades in lieu of a highball grade. They're not that tall and have perfect landings. What with being at Caley and away from the main trad routes there I don't think they see many lead ascents any more.
I suspect that will be the case; I have soloed all 3 of them myself and on the UKC logs, they show as roughly 75% sent/soloed vs 25% led. The Q was more whether UKC should take the lead in changing the "official" grades, but maybe I'm overthinking things.
Good point and in many cases, I agree - although should Strangeness be given a highball grade now too, for example? I wouldn't know as that's far too hard for me!
In the case of those 3 routes, all 3 have excellent gear that would save you if you fluffed the top.
Very useful reply, thanks. I like the idea of highball grades very much as I think it is fair & reasonable to reflect the tradition of a route - i.e. where it came from with the ethics and mores of the time - to where it is now. It definitely seems to be the case that those 3 especially are soloed/bouldered most of the time, but for those who want to lead them it's useful to know the lead grade. If you just turn up with the gritstone book, that's what you're going to see anyway - and they are great trad routes with good gear.
The application is frustrating too though - Myopia E1/5b - is right in the middle of that wall and is very much a highball/solo and again seems to be mostly that; so why does it still have the trad grade.
Thanks for answering, good to get feedback on this matter!
I couldn't remember the gear in the top break as I bouldered them about a decade back in the midst of a period with a mass of checking... I do remember they feel high on that top-out, even if adding a notch to the UKC logbook grades (it's not-on in my view to have low grade highballs sandbag graded). The only one that got a joint font grade in the YMC guide was Route 3 at f5. Strangeness is nowt but a fantasy for me but I do believe highball height limits should increase slightly with grade... go to other venues abroad and some famous hard boulder problems are huge.
A route like Strangeness is a bit of a hybrid (or HIGH-brid as I wittily call them). It could be climbed as a highball if you bring a load of mates with you and could get ten pads underneath it - your mentality might be that whilst unpleasant and preferably avoided, a fall from the top moves is an acceptable outcome. If you're like me though and have to make to with two pads and no spotters, it definitely feels more like a solo, where a fall from the same moves becomes an unacceptable outcome (moral of the story being I need more mates with more pads).
But I think the logbook system allows for this - if you felt like you climbed it as a highball, you can click 'Sent X' and if you felt like you climbed is as a solo you can click 'Solo RP' (or GU or O/S if you're a brave/mad). I don't think the grade really needs to change, people will understand what you've done and the relative risks involved. One isn't necessarily better than the other, some might think a ground-up highball is more impressive, others might think a headpoint solo is.
> go to other venues abroad and some famous hard boulder problems are huge.
Agree with this though, lots of big highballs in the US/Rocklands would likely get massive E grades if they crash landed in Caley or Burbage.
I think they should have trad grades if it's possible to protect them on lead. That was you can get a genuine lead or solo tick (up to you whether you add that you used mats). I've seconded one of those routes, and it's just bizarre to have to tick a font grade with a 'seconded'.
My view is that if that traditionally trad climbs, have protection, then they should stay as such. They are about 7m high, so not the sort of thing fall off while topping out.
I’ve seen people with gear, soloing and with pads on that wall over the years. Why change it?
For what it's worth I've given Strangeness Font 6C+ (E7 6b) in the new select.
Regarding Myopia, there's no reason it shouldn't have a highball grade, but it's a squeezed in eliminate and not many have done it. You need someone to climb it and suggest a Font grade before you can apply the new grade.
Strangeness is probably getting on for the upper limit of height for ground-up highballing. We had plenty of pads under it - 2 deep across the whole stack with an extra one in the most likely landing area. Warbs fell unexpectedly from just below the ledge - you're pulling on a crystally edge with the right hand and his fingers greased on it. He landed on his feet and was a little alarmed but ultimately fine. Some people might onsight it without pads, some people will headpoint above pads or otherwise, some will do it ground up above pads. All eventualities are covered by the split grade - likewise the dual grade solves all the gripes from those whose egos would be dented by leading a Font 5.
The UKC database probably doesn't allow two separate grades to appear on the same route, well not without adding another field and undertaking a bit of work, so why not just add something in the route description to reflect the history of the previous ascent style (e.g. E1/5b if climbed as Trad route), where appropriate?
Then everyone can see what used to be a trad route and what the grade was if they choose to climb it in this style?
This thread does raise that question of where highball bouldering ends and routes start, but then as we all know there's quite a bit of crossover, especially if things were moved across the pond....
I reckon Gaia turns into a scary as hell V13ish highball if moved from Black Rocks to Bishop, and if moved in the other direction Too Big To Flail turns into what? E10? If there's even the slightest imperfection to get a tiny wire in?
Id be more bothered about angels wall getting font 5, didnt feel like a boulder problem I would want to fall off.
If you're likely to walk away from falling off the last move without any pads - Font grade (assuming the landing is flat). Just because you can take the death-edge off something with a load of pads doesn't mean it should become a boulder problem. If it's borderline then I'd rather the grading err on the side of caution with a trad grade (especially if that's what the FA gave it). Things like Not to be Taken Away are getting pretty high really, and there are loads of trad routes ~10m.
Too Big To Flail is about 20m high. A 15m deck is about the height where the odds of surviving are not in your favour (though that's probably based on statistics weighted towards an urban environment where you're landing on concrete). I would hope that if something similar in the UK was climbed then it would get a trad grade, regardless of whether there is an opportunity to put gear in it.
Archangel, Ulysses' Bow, White Wand, etc. are about 10m (the hard parts), unprotectable and generally done above pads. There's no way they should default to boulder grades. It's really useful to have a comparative boulder or sport grade in the description of routes (to give you a better idea of the climbing) but the trad grade lets you know what you're getting yourself in for and is more important (for self-preservation) than the simple difficulty you will come across.
It's the same with DWS routes as well though. There are lots of DWS routes that have trad grades even though no one is leading them and they're safe to fall off. Why does Freeborn Man get E4? Who's putting gear in on that? What about Olympiad? Originally climbed DWS and given a French grade, now been done on gear and given E10. It's all a bit messy really.
It's a fair point for sure (I'd normally hesitate to get into grade chat). As an old fart the Font grade is the relative newcomer and helps neutralise the prospect of giving something a go. If I look at a Font grade I know where it sits on the spectrum from 'warm up, first go, session (short or years) ...not a chance.'
With Will's Strangeness example, the numbers tell wildly different stories - 6C+ 'aye go on then' - and E7 'do I look mental?'
Another slightly odd example - Frodsham sticks to bouldering grades, including the highballs worth mid E grades elsewhere. The logic there seems to be 'use your common sense' and a nudge towards discouraging leading because of the nature of the rock.
The hybrid/mix solution would be a pile of work for the database monkeys and we do all have eyes to judge for ourselves, but the grades help tell different stories.
> Too Big To Flail is about 20m high. ....I would hope that if something similar in the UK was climbed then it would get a trad grade, regardless of whether there is an opportunity to put gear in it.
Why? For this example I don't see what difference it makes. If you're a decent enough climber to be climbing almost entirely unprotected high E grade trad routes, or 20m + highball boulders, you're good enough climber to assess the risk and decide on your own ascent style regardless of what type of grade it has been assigned. It would make no odds at all to us mere mortals anyway.
For lower grade stuff, where people with less experience may be giving stuff a go I think it may have more of an affect on someone's mindset - if they see a trad grade they'll think it's mostly climbed trad, same for boulder grades and pads.
That said, all climbers need to make their own assessment of risk, and how they're going to climb something, and not make assumptions based grades in a book.
TL: DR It shouldn't matter which system is used but then actually it probably does.
> I'd be quite happy to see "highball grades" adopted in the database.
> i.e. Font 4 (VS 5a)
I like these grades. They can give you an idea of whether the crux is high, or landing bad, etc. The only trouble is when they have gear - is that VS with the gear in and a high crux that you won't deck from but the landing is bad, which would be E1 5a to do with pads; or is it a highball font 4 which is pretty safe with pads?
Doesn't really matter though, you can just have look before you try it and find out.
Because the headgame/danger factor is as important as the physical difficulty at the top end. Otherwise you're not differentiating between an E8 7a and a 7a that you'd die if you dropped the crux.
The American grading system is not really something to aspire to. It's a massive deal when someone climbs TBTF but it's only V10, which gets climbed every day. That tells me that the grade on its own doesn't say enough.
Yeah fair point, but I guess what I meant was that for something like TBTF the only people who are interested in this kind of thing, climbers, can see that it's a way, way bigger deal than all the other V10s that have been climbed that day so is the grade or system that important?
But you are right - the Hueco scale doesn't tell you anything at all about danger etc so it's a less than ideal system.
This is a really excellent conversation about what grades mean to people and clearly there are lots of opinions, rightly so.
I suppose my "big problem" is that these three routes, along with Angel Wall and the other Angel route (I forget what it's called) have been "re-classified" with f grades in a fairly arbitrary fashion. By this I mean that these are legitimate trad climbs with reasonable gear and of a height that you don't really want to fall off without gear or several pads, even if it is a "perfect" landing. I certainly wouldn't like to fall on just one pad from the top...but I am old and brittle now
Looking back over my previous ascents of these routes, they were clearly trad graded at the time I did them, so it was a surprise to come back and find them no longer so. Should that have happened?
I am merely a neophyte crag admin: I've been admin at Baildon Bank for a few years, but I would hesitate to change the grade on an established route, let alone reclassify it. I think that is the right attitude that we admins should take.
My contention is that these routes should all have their trad grades reapplied on UKC, certainly until there is consensus in the guidebooks or on here that these are no longer to be regarded primarily as trad routes.
What do others think about this?
For routes like these that are on the boundary and can be climbed in either way, it would be an advantage to have both trad and bouldering grades so that people coming from either discipline (with little experience of the other discipline) can easily assess whether the difficulty is within their range.
Obviously there are loads of climbers who have sufficient experience of both trad and bouldering to be able to assess the route with either grade, but excluding one of the grades will make it difficult for those coming from the excluded discipline to make such an assessment if they have little experience of the retained grade.
From a personal perspective, I would also find it less motivating to lead a route that only had a bouldering grade but where I felt it was too highball to boulder or that there weren't enough mats - I'd probably just give it a miss without realising that it was commonly led as well.
I wonder how many coming mainly from a trad background would feel similarly, and I also wonder whether the equivalent happens in reverse; i.e. those coming from a bouldering background feeling less motivated if there's only a trad grade.
I can't speak for these three routes but the sort of change you describe has happened in lots of places with routes of this type as the relative popularity of different styles of ascent has changed over time. I don't think there really is any 'official' grade, anywhere. Most places containing routes of this type are now covered by multiple guides including dedicated route and bouldering guides, which will both contain these same hybrid routes and will each tend to grade them consistently with the grading system in the rest of that guide. So if you are the ukc moderator and don't want to rock the boat, how do you decide which grading system is 'right'? There isn't really an answer, so you just have to do something sensible like Will suggested. I don't think there is any arbitrary change going on. Ultimately, when it comes to someone logging their own climbs, if they feel the ukc grade misrepresents their ascent or might in future, they just need to describe their ascent for posterity if they are worried about it.
There is also an anomaly in places on UKC where grades on the crag page are "v" grades but when you go to the actual problem/route pages the grades are Font (and visa versa).
I know there's a logbook option, but for a crag there should be consistency whether you select Font, V or local.
That's actually a reason to support the trad grades as they usually are more to be trusted. Add too much bad grading outdoors in the lower grades and indoor walls turning VB into V0 to keep beginners happy and the f3 that could easily be f4 (which on a highball could be the difference between soloing a Severe and a VS); which for a highly determined indoor climber going outdoors for the first time could be serious if they expect an equivalent bouldering grade for that Severe to be Diff.
One really good thing YMC did was to make an explicit link between a typical boulder problem grade and the UK trad tech grade in the lower grades (f3 is 4a, to f5 is 5b) to make a common understanding between the lower grade trad climber and the low grade font boulderer. They also looked at and tried to resolve blatant contradictions arising from two independant grades for the two different styles.
Some people make doubtful claims for the trad label on 4m lower grade grit lines where most people never tied in. The face climbs between the cracks on Burbage First Walls are a good example. Many people bouldered (ie short soloed) pre mats. Yet the conversion of a trad grade to a boulder grade does need care: the lower grade highballs outdoors are where it's most important to root out sandbags (I think the current UKC font grades for those three lines are sandbags but the trad grades ...in YMC terms....are OK).
Angel's Wall shouldn't be in as a boulder problem. The landing isn't really good enough for it to be considered a highball, even though most ascents will be solo above a pad or two.
If UKC don't update their database to allow for dual highball grades then we're just going to have to accept that the given grade, either trad or Font, won't be a real reflection of the challenge if you climb things as highballs (i.e. a good amount of foam, probably ground-up-ish). I've highballed things up to "E7" but I'd never dream of saying that I'd done an E7; yet there's clearly more to them than their physical difficulty, which for things in the E5 to E6 bracket is generally somewhere between Font 6B+ and 6C+.
To me, it doesn't matter what the number says in the logbook and that wouldn't have any bearing on the style I chose to climb something in - that would be putting the cart before the horse. Some thing like Rewind and Hovis Super Direct are in the database with Font grades. It doesn't matter - I and anybody who knows those routes understands what they're about, and I certainly wouldn't decline a rope and a few cams to protect the top out of Hovis SD if they were available.
Does that not just make your ascent of Hovis Super Direct a hybrid? The attraction is the highball boulder problem but only to the point where it feels more like a route? This is a long-standing sub genre in trad... climbing harder variation starts where the attraction to that was mainly the bouldering.
I guess the point I was making was that bouldering has been around from the beginning of trad and the focus of quite a few routes was the fun of a crux problem section (another easier older example would be the yellow slab on the Pinnacle Rib of Tryfan). In some very early guidebooks they even tell you exactly how to climb an interesting hard bit that if you were just interested in an ascent often could be bypassed (like the yellow slab). The problem solving focus of the line is shared between the route as a whole and a crux boulder problem section.