In the last couple of weeks we have seen some extremely impressive climbing in the UK, Sam Blackwell's new Font 8c at Biblins cave, Mat Wright's 4th ascent of Lexicon and Eder Lomba's repeat of Rainman. all are cutting edge on a global level and all are completely different aspects of the climbing genre. I'm genuinely interested what other climbers consider to be the most impressive of these phenomenal achievements? putting it another way let's say someone had the ability to do all three which one would cause them the most difficulty?
They are surprisingly difficult to compare tho'.... otherwise you would only need one grading systemt to cover the lot
E7 onsight is very dependent on the E7...
> Whilst they're all undoubtedly impressive, I'd hold E7+ onsight in as high, if not higher regard due to the considerably more extensive skillset required.
Anyone who's climbed 8C, 9b or E11 would be able to onsight a (carefully selected) E7 with relatively little work as they've got the physical ability and technique required (assuming they were actually motivated of course!) The mechanics of placing gear isn't really that hard in the grand scheme of things. Becoming a well rounded E7 onsighter would be a different kettle of fish.
I think going from an E7 onsight to any of 8C, 9b or E11 could be a lot more difficult. Just speaking physical requirements, E7s tend to weigh in at around 7b+ to 8a sport which is a long way from 8C, 9b and E11.
Completely agree with what you've written.
I should have articulated better, as well rounded E7+ onsighter of unchalked routes is what I had in my head, emphasis on the "+" ie E8, E9.
It's the massive physical disparity that I was trying to highlight, and that just being fit and strong is not usually enough.
Isn't this a bit like asking "Which is the fruitiest: an apple, an orange or a banana?" It's going to completely depend on individuals' capabilities, skill and motivations. And ultimately how you define 'hardest'. Any definition I can think of pretty much biases the outcome completely towards one of the three.
> Well Matt Wright has climbed 9a, 8C and E11 so you could probably ask him?
Or Dave MacLeod, who has the same as the above as far as I'm aware. Assuming Rhapsody or Lexicon aren't downgraded, you'd think most who've achieved 9b could put either in their sights. But turning it round, of those who've climbed either of those trad routes, who apart from Steve McClure could do 9b? Probably none of them.
> In terms of least number of people capable of climbing at that level I'd go with the 9b.
That's really the only meaningful way of measuring it; otherwise it's going to come down to individual strengths and weaknesses.
> ... But turning it round, of those who've climbed either of those trad routes, who apart from Steve McClure could do 9b? Probably none of them.
Today, you're probably quite right. But if they were motivated to put as much time and effort into just chasing that 9b and nothing else? I'm not so sure it's quite so simple.
> That's really the only meaningful way of measuring it...
That's where the comparison unravel for me. The thing about top end sport climbing is that it seems to require a particular mindset willing to spend months or years on just one project/route. A mindset that doesn't come with trad or bouldering. So it's down to motivation: "What do I *want* to do" as much as "What I *can* do". And in reverse sport climbers may say that the risks - or even the opportunity in many cases - are not worth it. They don't "want to put my life on the line" for what is just a sport. Either is quite understandable and makes the comparison meaningless.
Alex Honnold Gaia at E8 6c back in 2008, yet didn't climb his first 9a till last year.
Granted neither sport or Trad climbing on grit are really his thing, and he's done varying amount of both, so this isn't a fair test, but the 13 year gap ought to indicate something...
Edit: Technically a flash, but point remains...
The only feasable way to compare these, is to assess them based on common ground.
one such methodology is to think of the amount of Person globally practising this particular flavour of climbing. Then see What fraction of precentage has reached that level.
my gut feeling is that 8C might end up being the hardest. While there has been many ascents of that grade, the cumulative amount of climbers doing actively is rather large. Pretty much all rock climbers also boulder, at least semi actively. And there are those that only boulder.
second largest group will be sport climbers. But from the looks of it, very few of them don’t also boulder.
only a tiny fraction of climbers are into british trad… and Most of them in the cutting edge, also actively boulder and clip bolts.
the other way would be to give the routes equal ground. So What is the boulder crux of Lexicon or Rainman? My gut is that in the 8A/B range. So If a person is capable of doing 8C, both are physically in his reach. And mental side can be taken out with enough practice.
if we are to go outside tge original question. Hard and dangerous trad would be harder. Simply because people are not willing to risk their lives or livelyhood for that. Now they might be capable to do it, but they are unwilling to do it.
So another way of looking at this is: "Take the set of E11 climbers, what's the hardest boulder/sport they've done?" Do the same for 'set of 9b' and 'set of 8C'. You then map those figured onto the population distribution, i.e., Which would end up in the highest (e.g., top 2%, top 4%... whatever) of their 'non-preferred' discipline. I really have no idea what the answer would be! Or where to get the data. Or if it would be meaningful in any way. You could end up with E11>9b>8C>E11... (I think).
Yes. For that E11 would most likely triumph. Because it is the smallest subset of climbers.
So we have 4 or 5 persons that have climbed E11. And how many active climbers we have practicing “British trad”… let’s assume 5 million. Now 9b, perhaps 20… but the active amount of bolt clippers. Considerably greater than 5 million. As for 8C, 50?, 30% more than bolt clippers. Note the are not real values. But imho this is the only “common” ground we have.
> The thing about top end sport climbing is that it seems to require a particular mindset willing to spend months or years on just one project/route. A mindset that doesn't come with trad or bouldering.
There may be something in that, even if there are similar examples in trad (MacLeod on Rhapsody) and surely bouldering in terms of days spent on a project.
"And in reverse sport climbers may say that the risks - or even the opportunity in many cases - are not worth it. They don't "want to put my life on the line" for what is just a sport. Either is quite understandable and makes the comparison meaningless."
That's why it's easier to bring in 'sporty' trad examples than talk hypothetically about Laura Ragora or whoever getting on To Hell and Back (E10 6c). Another way as alluded to above is to ask someone who has ticked some of those boxes. Ask Steve McClure which he found harder overall, Lexicon or Rainman, and you can almost guarantee the answer you'll get. And that's not because he's bad at sport climbing
> So we have 4 or 5 persons that have climbed E11.
Must be at least 8 for Lexicon and Rhapsody alone? And that's if we don't give Franco the benefit of the doubt; arguably fair enough until repeats emerge.
> That's why it's easier to bring in 'sporty' trad examples...
But that's somewhat missing the point of 'trad', isn't it? Part of what makes it 'hard'?
> ... Ask Steve McClure which he found harder overall, Lexicon or Rainman, and you can almost guarantee the answer you'll get.
And the answer you'll get is to the question "Which was the hardest for Steve McClure" rather than which is the hardest. Not necessarily the same.
Another complication in this question is that when you explore limits like this, you really need to look at both sides of those limits - i.e., not just what someone has achieved, but also where they have failed - otherwise it's hard to know whether their achievements were really at their limit. This is plausible (in theory) for 9b and 8C (by looking at the performance of people who are solid at 9a+/8B+ but have failed at 9b/8C), but is unrealistic for trad since failure at is somewhat more costly.
Ultimately it also flounder on the definition of 'hard'. Get consensus on that definition and the rest becomes straightforward. It's just a issue of semantics. Like most philosophical questions.
> But that's somewhat missing the point of 'trad', isn't it? Part of what makes it 'hard'?>
Absolutely. But IF one were to have a discussion about the most difficult, the only way to come up with an answer other than that it's apples and oranges, would be to look at evidence in the form of how many have managed which. For the really bold stuff of course, Echo Wall (none) and Immortal (E11 7b) this isn't a lot of use as (for good reason) repeats have been non-existent.
> And the answer you'll get is to the question "Which was the hardest for Steve McClure" rather than which is the hardest. Not necessarily the same.>
True, but most would consider sport climbing his greatest strength.
For the specific routes in question it seems pretty clear to me that Lexicon is 'easier' than Rainman if we can mean anything by 'easier'. Lexicon has been repeated 3 times in the 9 months since it was put up with all repeats being fairly quick. Of those repeats one by Ste who did it is much much less time than it took to do Rainman (and he's 5 years older now), the other 2 also pretty quickly by a great all rounder who has never done harder than 9a and sport climber / boulderer who also hasn't climbed harder than 9a and has only a few months trad experience. Rainman is 5 years old, at the busiest sport crag in the uk and has only now got its first repeat.
On a side note these achievements are towards the top of world standard but not really cutting edge - according to https://www.99boulders.com/hardest-sport-climbs 115 people have now climbed 9b, even more have climbed 8C.
> On a side note these achievements are towards the top of world standard but not really cutting edge - according to https://www.99boulders.com/hardest-sport-climbs 115 people have now climbed 9b, even more have climbed 8C.
I haven't read the full thing, but are you sure that 115 people number isn't 9a+? I maintain this list of ascents of 9b or harder https://climbing-history.org/list/5/hard-sport-ascents (which I think is fairly comprehensive) and there's 39 climbers on there (which is quite a long way from 115). Or maybe that list counts 115 ascents of routes graded 9b or harder? I count 127 of those which which is fairly close.
I was having a look at this list earlier…
Interesting to note that Ali Hulk extension sit start appears on there for a few climbers who haven’t climbed anything else at that grade…
Now I know that might be because it’s a bit of an oddity, not really a sport route at all, but a Boulder problem with some quick draws added on the extension, but this does make me wonder if it’s not really 9b?
Sorry for thread hijack in advance btw!
> I haven't read the full thing, but are you sure that 115 people number isn't 9a+? I maintain this list of ascents of 9b or harder https://climbing-history.org/list/5/hard-sport-ascents (which I think is fairly comprehensive) and there's 39 climbers on there (which is quite a long way from 115). Or maybe that list counts 115 ascents of routes graded 9b or harder? I count 127 of those which which is fairly close.
Yep, my mistake - 115 5.15/9a+, 38 at 5.15b/9b, should read more carefully!
The same site only include 8C/+ (slash grade!) and above in its hard boulder problems since 8C and above would have too many problems / climbers and has (if I read correctly) 50+ people have climbed this hard possibly indicating that 8C may be slightly 'easier' than 9b.
If Ondra's guide for grading short bouldery routes is anything to go by... namely 'three grades up'... an 8C boulder with an easy ending would give a 9a+ route. As someone said above.
Ergo, 9b is the hardest.
E11 is a fair bit easier than both. Mat took 6 sessions on Lexicon. 'Slix' at Cheddar took him a not dissimilar amount of time and that is a bouldery 8b. Hubble took him 60 odd.
You’re asking to compare chalk and cheese. Most high end boulderers will be capable of E10, but obviously can’t do that as they don’t have the mental control. I used to regularly on-sight up to and including E6, but only ever flashed 7A+, the reversal of most people. And now we have courses teaching people to fall off- but, predictably, none on how to land! The climbing world’s gone mad.
Interesting that so many people have climbed 8C but no definite 9A's. Lets hope it isn't he new English tech 6c, or maybe it's a real physiological barrier
There seems a lot more possibility for sport routes to get harder when you consider in theory they could be anything up to 70m single pitches, or big routes with many 9a and above pitches. But there's got to be a limit to how hard a single move can be.
Return to Sleepwalker and Burden of Dreams are imho pretty confirmed. Both took considerable effort from well established climbers. And other top tier climbers have also tried them to no avail.
same can also be said about 9c.
Well.. there's the old joke that climbs are of only two grades: ones you can climb and ones you can't
Huge respect to all of them, but different styles suit different people, so not how people can make this judgement
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