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Grade difficulty jumps

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Howdy, 

Just breaking into E3s and have felt this to be a definite step up from E2s in a way that E1-2 didn't feel that big (this seems to be echoed in libby's grade tour article). I also thought the same about HVS - E1, as to many this can feel like a huge jump.

So even though the scale is meant to be linear I was wondering which grades people felt were the biggest jumps in terms of overall difficulty?

Post edited at 20:49
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In reply to dinodinosaur:

All grades have a range and overlap to some extent. Depending on your strengths, you might sometimes find a route of grade X+1 easier than a route or grade X and that’s not necessarily because the grade X route is a sandbag - you might just be better suited to the grade X+1 route.

Let’s ignore the boldness / seriousness aspect of trad grades and focus on the physical side of things.

I’d say generally a jump in the tech grade is what’s most noticeable. E1 5b to E2 5b is just more 5b moves, perhaps pumpy but still only 5b. E1 5b to E2 5c is a harder crux on top of a 5b section as well (if it was just a harder crux move it would be E1 5c).

So for me the more noticeable jumps are E1 5b to E2 5c; E3 5c to E4 6a; and E5 6a to E6 6b. E2 5c to E3 5c  - not so much, just more sustained. I’m sort of ignoring E3 6a as this grade isn’t actually that common. Then E4 6a to E5 6a is again just more sustained. E5 6a to E6 6b is a big step up but I guess there’s E5 6b to bridge the gap. 

As mentioned above, I’m focusing on the physical. From a head game point of view, E1 5b to E2 5b, E2 5c to E3 5c and E4 6a to E5 6a are the big jumps. 

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In reply to dinodinosaur:

I'm with you on this one, I find I can get up most E2s generally with a bit of cunning, knowing when to rest and when to go, but E3s seem to require stamina/power I really struggle with. Probably similar from moving from vs to hvs 10 years ago witch felt like a step up whereas many e1s and hvs feel kinda similar to me in terms of effort required.

Post edited at 22:23
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In reply to dinodinosaur:

The biggest grade jump is the one that you aren't quite good enough for. This varies with climber and in time.

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In reply to ebdon:

If you lack stamina, E2 5c to E3 5c is indeed a big jump. Get better at finding rests ;-)

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In reply to Misha:

Wise posts from both you and Robert there, I should take note!

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 aln 06 Sep 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

> The biggest grade jump is the one that you aren't quite good enough for. This varies with climber and in time.

Have you watched some Kung Fu films recently? 

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 Blanche DuBois 07 Sep 2020
In reply to dinodinosaur:

 "So even though the scale is meant to be linear" - is that true though (genuine question)?

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In reply to Blanche DuBois:

In theory UK (and other) grades are meant to be linear, but what does that actually mean? I know there's the "same spread of difficulty from easiest to hardest route in the grade" type of statement, but if you think about it, because grading is so subjective, even that kind of statement is almost impossible to determine.

And in practice, grades are distorted by historical "bunching", under/over-grading, and different styles of climbing being in or out of fashion.

It's almost philosophical because it comes down to "what do we mean by a grade" and the best sort of definitions are of the "when most climbers agree that the routes in group X are obviously harder than the routes in group Y" type, meanwhile accepting that the difficulty of routes is a continuum (in multiple dimensions) and the grade boundaries are arbitrary.

Waking up early really does make me spout some drivel 😁

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 DaveHK 07 Sep 2020
In reply to aln:

> Have you watched some Kung Fu films recently? 

Like 'Crouching Start, Hidden Handhold'?  

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In reply to aln:

> Have you watched some Kung Fu films recently? 

No. Never watched one. Why do you ask?

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 C Witter 07 Sep 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

> No. Never watched one. Why do you ask?


I think aln is suggesting you sound a little too zen, like a Kung Fu master instructing their disciple:

"You ask why you cannot do the climb? That is why you fail. A climbing master does not ask the rock permission to climb."

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 HeMa 07 Sep 2020
In reply to Michael Hood:

> In theory UK (and other) grades are meant to be linear...

Actually, for majority of "the others", it's only supposed to be linear if a logarithm scale is used ;)

And I recall that is even the base for UK grading. 

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In reply to HeMa:

> Actually, for majority of "the others", it's only supposed to be linear if a logarithm scale is used ;)

> And I recall that is even the base for UK grading. 

Not quite understanding you here. Do you mean something like "only x% of climbers who climb grade y will also be able to climb grade y+1" regardless of what grade y actually is?

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 HeMa 07 Sep 2020
In reply to Michael Hood:

> Not quite understanding you here. Do you mean something like "only x% of climbers who climb grade y will also be able to climb grade y+1" regardless of what grade y actually is?

In sense...

In linear model each time the amount climbing is up by one increment. In general logarithm scale, the increment is twice the amount (well, it can be something else, but not the same increment.

Your analogy of climbing populace is pretty "spot" on. Generally people are saying, that if 100% can climb VS (not true), then HVS would be 50%, and again E1 would be (half of the original 50% so) 25%, E2 12.5% and so on...

If you plot them with grade in Y and amount of climbers in X, you'd get a steep drop. But switch it to a logarithm scale and then the graph would be linear.

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 aln 07 Sep 2020
In reply to C Witter:

Nail on the head. 😉

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 Offwidth 07 Sep 2020

In reply 

A good grading system is based on equal steps of noticeable differences for a nominal average climber operating at the grades for all climbers across all grades.  Defining the average is tricky as average skills change over time and even for theoretical correct scale, the differences at anyone's limit or above will always feel wider than those below

There are several important factors that apply to UK trad grading.  The history of tweaks and egos involved led to significant distortions from an ideal. Adjectival grades are broadly OK  but VS and HVS are certainly wider than most other grades and maybe some higher extreme grades are as well. The technical grades above 6b are so wide they are almost useless, which damages the utility that is a strength of the system (hence hard climbs often get bouldering and sport grades to help). Then we have localism.. grades are often a bit harder in some parts of the UK than in others.

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 aln 07 Sep 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

> No. Never watched one.

Not even Enter The Dragon? 

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In reply to dinodinosaur:

You've just got on some proper e3s then, rather than the softies that are more like e2, e1, or even hvs (see Reiff)! 

The difference between a soft touch e'x' in your style, and a sandbag e'x' in your antistyle will always feel about 3 grades, or more. 

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 Martin Bennett 07 Sep 2020
In reply to aln:

> Not even Enter The Dragon? 

I'm with Robert - never seen one. Just the name of the genre makes me yawn. Enter The Dragon? Some kind of mythical bestiality is suggested. I wouldn't watch that either.

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In reply to Michael Hood:

> In theory UK (and other) grades are meant to be linear, but what does that actually mean? 

It means that the difficulty increases by the same amount for each grade. So it can only make sense if you have a well defined way of measuring difficulty. I have always argued that grade boundaries are just arbitrary cut off points in an ideal graded list where route B is higher up the list than route A if fewer climbers would succeed in onsighting Route B. So a measure of difficulty of a grade might be the number of climbers who could onsight the median route (or one near it) in the list for that grade. As others have suggested, it seems reasonable that a fixed proportion of climbers capable of onsighting the median route at one grade could onsight the median route at the next grade up. In this case, if we defined difficulty as being proportional to the logarithm of the number of people who can onsight a route, then the relationship between grade and difficulty would be linear.

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 C Witter 07 Sep 2020
In reply to Martin Bennett:

> I'm with Robert - never seen one. Just the name of the genre makes me yawn. Enter The Dragon? Some kind of mythical bestiality is suggested. I wouldn't watch that either.


Ha! Oh dear... I will never be able to see the title of this film now without thinking of your interpretation. Thanks for that!

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 cp123 07 Sep 2020
In reply to dinodinosaur:

Linear by itself is meaningless as linear describes the relationship between two variables. A may be linear with B but not with C.

For example a grading system could be such that the fraction of people who climb at that grade is linear with the scale (lets say the number of people who climb HVS is 2/3rd of those who climb VS and e1 has 2/3rd of those who climb HVS) but that would not be linear with the total number who climb at each grade. (You only have 1/9th the number of people of climb at e1 compared to VS).

And thats without addressing what difficulty means!

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 Cobra_Head 07 Sep 2020
In reply to cp123:

Linear B is very difficult.

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 Martin Hore 07 Sep 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

I think Robert and others have correctly identified that the only objective way of grading for difficulty is to identify the number of climbers who can lead a given grade as a fraction of the number of climbers who can lead the grade below. If this is the same fraction across the whole grade spectrum then the grade scale is logarithmically linear. If there are significant discrepancies (eg. if 30% of climbers who can lead VS can also lead HVS, but 60% of climbers who can lead E4 can also lead E5) then we might want to question whether we'd got the spread of grades correct.

But the problem is how to measure the number of climbers who can lead the various grades. And who do you count - those who regularly lead the grade, or those who've made one or two ascents of climbs at the grade which are known soft touches or suit their style. People have suggested you could count the number of ascents of climbs at each grade that are recorded on UKC logbooks, but that assumes that the spread of ability of logbook posters matches that of climbers as a whole, and it's likely to be skewed by older climbers only recording highlight (ie harder) achievements from their earlier years.

I think in the end we have to accept that the grading system is bound to be subjective.

Martin

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 Michael Gordon 07 Sep 2020
In reply to Martin Hore:

I think you guys are making things too complicated. A grade is just a representation of how difficult a route feels. We have tons of routes in the country of each grade. Those that can onsight, say, E4, know what an E4 feels like. So if the majority of climbers succeeding on a particular route say that the route is E4, then that is the grade which is applied to that particular route. The number of climbers succeeding on various grades in comparison to various other grades seems to me irrelevant to assigning those grades.

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 Michael Gordon 07 Sep 2020
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> You've just got on some proper e3s then, rather than the softies that are more like e2, or e1, (see Reiff)! > 

But there's a difference between 'soft for the grade' (low in the grade) and just plain incorrect!

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 Philb1950 07 Sep 2020
In reply to Misha:

What about notorious gritstone HVS 5c,s. There are lots of E3 6a,s and you’re missing the point about protection or lack of having an immense bearing on the E grade. Edge lane at E5 5c.? Personally I’ve probably led dozens if not hundreds of E 4 and E5,s and quite often can’t tell the difference. Just as an aside a few years ago I led Nettle Wine at Cratcliffe, which I found tough. Les than an hour later we did Kalusa Klein, which I found to be a grade technically easier and OK if the second would commit to jumping off the ledge. I’m 5ft 10, so not overeachy. The grade is very often subjective, but there is mostly consensus over most route grades up to E7, even if I have to ignore the rediculous grade drift.

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In reply to Michael Gordon:

> I think you guys are making things too complicated. A grade is just a representation of how difficult a route feels........... The number of climbers succeeding on various grades in comparison to various other grades seems to me irrelevant to assigning those grades.

But there are actual factors which make a route feel difficult and those factors are what stop some people doing the route. So the number of people who can do the route seems a sensible proxy for difficulty. 

Post edited at 19:54
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 Martin Hore 07 Sep 2020
In reply to Michael Gordon:

I don't really disagree with what you say. But the OP was asking whether there are bigger jumps between adjacent grades at some points in the grade spectrum than others. I think Robert was suggesting a way in which you might attempt to objectively measure this, if you wanted to, which I agreed with. 

As someone who has spent much of my climbing life challenged by the jump from HVS to E1 it would be of some comfort to  know that I wasn't quite as far from E10 as it would appear if the jumps between the higher grades are as large as those in the mid or lower grades. I stand to be put humbly in my place of course (though I would suspect that above, say, E6 or E7, we're not comparing like with like as on-sighting at those grades is rare).

I think one of the reasons actual grade jump might be smaller at the higher grades is that to anyone operating (and setting the grades) at the top level the apparent difference between, say, Severe and Hard Severe, is almost zero, which of course is not how it appears to someone just moving up through those more modest grades. 

Martin

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In reply to Martin Hore:

> I think one of the reasons actual grade jump might be smaller at the higher grades is that to anyone operating (and setting the grades) at the top level the apparent difference between, say, Severe and Hard Severe, is almost zero.

But when these grades were cutting edge and just being established it presumably felt a big step up.

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 Michael Gordon 07 Sep 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

> So the number of people who can do the route seems a sensible proxy for difficulty. 

In general terms, yes. But I'm not sure we can derive a formula for assigning each grade relative to the one below it.

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 Michael Gordon 07 Sep 2020
In reply to Martin Hore:

> I think (...) actual grade jump might be smaller at the higher grades > 

But coming back to my point about grades just being representations of how hard something feels, if the consensus of those who've done a particular hard route is that it feels a full grade harder than another route of given grade, then the rest of us should accept that it most likely is a full grade harder, by definition. 

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In reply to Michael Gordon:

> In general terms, yes. But I'm not sure we can derive a formula for assigning each grade relative to the one below it.

I don't know. it would require some research into the number of people who can climb a sample of routes to find out if there is a pattern which could be formulated.

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 SDM 07 Sep 2020
In reply to Michael Gordon:

> In general terms, yes. But I'm not sure we can derive a formula for assigning each grade relative to the one below it.

I think you could come close to one for sport grades. Something like:

If grade x is a climber's maximum long term project redpoint grade, then they can probably also do the following:

x-1: Redpoint in a session or two

x-2: Do in a few goes, occasionally flash

x-3: Regularly flash/onsight

x-4: Onsight while putting draws in and eating a sandwich

There will be outliers due to people who specialise in a particular style e.g. sieging projects while ignoring onsights and vice versa.

And it wouldn't hold for someone who is rapidly moving up the grades without consolidating but I think it would be close for most people.

It would be hard to come up with something similar for trad because low grade trad climbs are almost exclusively onsighted (often well within the climber's capabilities, with falling never being a realistic probability) and high grade climbs are nearly always headpointed. 

Not many people do a mixture of trad onsights, quick headpoints, and sieges.

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In reply to Blanche DuBois:

I don’t think it’s meant to be or is linear. Grades get wider and grade to grade increases in difficulty get bigger the higher you go up the grades. A V Diff is not exactly much harder than a Diff. And E6 is a lot harder than an E5.

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In reply to Philb1950:

Grit HVS 5cs are anomalies. Possibly some of them should be E1s anyway. I’m not sure what your point is there.

I’m ignoring the boldness factor because I took the OP to refer to the technical / physical aspect of things. Boldness clearly ups the E grade and messes up the comparisons as a result.

I agree that E4 to E5 is not necessarily a massive jump. E3 to E4 generally is. E5 to E6 generally is as well.

There really aren’t that many E3 6as compared to E3 5cs and E4 6as. 

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In reply to Misha:

> I don’t think it’s meant to be or is linear. Grades get wider and grade to grade increases in difficulty get bigger the higher you go up the grades. A V Diff is not exactly much harder than a Diff. And E6 is a lot harder than an E5.

But that is waffle unless you have a measurable scale of difficulty.

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 Michael Gordon 08 Sep 2020
In reply to Misha:

> I don’t think it’s meant to be or is linear. Grades get wider and grade to grade increases in difficulty get bigger the higher you go up the grades. A V Diff is not exactly much harder than a Diff. And E6 is a lot harder than an E5.

So you think E7 is wider than E6 which is wider than E5 which is wider than E4 which is wider than E3 etc? Seems unlikely to me. Surely v-diff is significantly harder than diff; it just doesn't feel all that to most since they're both easy. And you only think E5/6 is a big jump because that's where you're at.

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 Michael Gordon 08 Sep 2020
In reply to SDM:

> If grade x is a climber's maximum long term project redpoint grade, then they can probably also do the following:

> x-1: Redpoint in a session or two

> x-2: Do in a few goes, occasionally flash

> x-3: Regularly flash/onsight>

I'm sure I've read Dave MacLeod talking about adding 4 grades to max trad onsight for a long term project. Presumably his own example was E7 to E11. But then if you do too much of one I guess it may impact on your skills at the other? If MacLeod was super into onsighting as opposed to projecting, you'd think he'd have notched up a good few E8s. 

But yes, no-one really does long term trad projects apart from at the top end.

Post edited at 08:17
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In reply to SDM:

I don’t think your sport grade formula works, certainly not for me.

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In reply to Misha:A VD probably seems much harder than a diff if it’s your lead grade.

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In reply to Michael Gordon:

> So you think E7 is wider than E6 which is wider than E5 which is wider than E4 which is wider than E3 etc? Seems unlikely to me. Surely v-diff is significantly harder than diff; it just doesn't feel all that to most since they're both easy. And you only think E5/6 is a big jump because that's where you're at.

After a bit of thought I'm not so sure. I think we agree that grade X+1 is for climbs where most people agree it's harder than grade X. Which is inline with what you've said.

My doubt comes from "is it easier to tell the difference in difficulty as difficulty increases"; i.e. does that ease of determination of any grade difference have some sort of objective relationship with increasing grade, or is it always subjectively connected to the grade that is near one's limits?

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In reply to Misha:

> A V Diff is not exactly much harder than a Diff. And E6 is a lot harder than an E5.

I think Robert Durran's comment from earlier in the thread ("the biggest grade jump is the one that you aren't quite good enough for") generally stands true, however...

I genuinely think that the jump from E5 to E6 is larger than any other I have personally come across. HVS to E1 was undoubtedly a hurdle for me, as it is for many; E2 to E3 was similar, insofar as it took a while to consistently break through, but none of these compare to the gap between E5 and E6.

Obvioulsy there's anomalies regarding within each and every grade - there are some that are soft, some that are hard, and some that offer a benchmark - but overall the gap is larger than most. The problem is compounded by the fact that there are a lot, lot less people climbing E6 (and also that there are a lot less E6s).

Not only do the routes have the potential to be a lot harder, but they also can also be a lot bolder too. That said, the same could be said of every grade - so what makes E6s any different. Firstly, there's a lot less people doing them - hence a lot less information about the routes themselves. Whilst I've taken the onsight for a whole host of routes across the grades over the years, I - like many others - often know a lot about them before setting off: where they go, where the hard move is, what the gear is like etc... The same cannot be said for a great many of the E6s I've done, where there's a whole lot of doubt compared to almost each and every E5 I've ever set off on.

The next issue revolves around the prevailing ethic of when a great many of them were put up and the fact that the fixed gear that they formerly relied on is no longer reliable. Taking Pembroke as an example, I've climbed the vast majority of E5s within the Leap, but a none of the E6s as a result of the dubious (or none existent) state of the pegs that once adorned their walls. Souls, for instance, was once considered to  be a reasonable, albeit run-out proposition at E6, with a 'superb' in-situ hex and a bomber peg higher up. In their current state it is an extremely serious proposition, yet it still gets E6 (which is an absolute joke given some of the big names who've failed on it in recent years).

Part of the reason I'd argue things are a little different between E6 and E7 is one of style, insofar as very few people to bother headpointing E6s, preferring instead to to focus on E7 and above. Whilst I'm aware this skews things somewhat, as it's far from a level playing field, it further adds to the challenge of climbing an E6 onsight.

Clearly all of the above is subjective, but then again our grading system is far from objective, so all we have is our opinions and the opinions of others. It's far from an exact science and not - rather ironically - set in stone.

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In reply to Rob Greenwood - UKClimbing:

I also saw Rob Durran's comment and thought that probably nailed it. I certainly find that the next grade up for me now feels a big step compared to how it used to when I warmed-up on this 'next grade up'.

However, I think your point about boldness is a good one. I never really broke through into grit E5 in a big way. They either required extensive pre-practice for a quick bold solo, or were unjustifiable from the off. Yet at the same time I was managing E6 on the limestone (including Souls (E6 6b) above the now-missing gear). That also fits into your other point about style. Top-roping a grit E5 to death or ground-upping a limestone E6 with a couple of falls - I know which one gave me more satisfaction. 

So I'd put this one down to a quirk in the British trad system. For example, I don't think the gap between 7b and 7b+ (roughly E5 - E6), or 6c+ and 7a (roughly E4 to E5), is the biggest. There is a debate to be had there at what point a sport grade changes from an onsight grade to a redpoint grade but that needs its own thread.

Alan

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 Martin Hore 08 Sep 2020
In reply to Michael Gordon:

> But coming back to my point about grades just being representations of how hard something feels, if the consensus of those who've done a particular hard route is that it feels a full grade harder than another route of given grade, then the rest of us should accept that it most likely is a full grade harder, by definition. 

I wouldn't disagree with that, provided enough people have done the route to form a reliable consensus. (ie Walk of Life is not E12 just because the one person who's done it at the time says so - no disrespect to James P).

But when we extend that to the easier grades, we need to restrict the consensus to those who find those grades challenging. So the best people to consult on whether a VDiff is a whole grade harder than Diff are those who have never yet led a Severe. Misha's view on this is, with respect, irrelevant, as, probably, is mine, even though E2 is my lifetime best grade.

Martin

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 Michael Gordon 08 Sep 2020
In reply to Misha:

> I’d say generally a jump in the tech grade is what’s most noticeable. 

> So for me the more noticeable jumps are E1 5b to E2 5c; E3 5c to E4 6a; and E5 6a to E6 6b. E2 5c to E3 5c  - not so much, just more sustained. I’m sort of ignoring E3 6a as this grade isn’t actually that common. Then E4 6a to E5 6a is again just more sustained. E5 6a to E6 6b is a big step up but I guess there’s E5 6b to bridge the gap. > 

I sort of see where you're coming from, not so much for climbing a particular grade in general but if we're talking about breaking into a new grade. A reasonably protected but sustained E3 5c is often the choice for first E3, while for E4 technically harder climbing is often going to be required (E4 5c being avoided as either meaning super bold or super pumpy). So E3 is perhaps not too bad to break into, though of course for steep well protected E3 5c it's a step up in fitness terms.    

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In reply to Rob Greenwood - UKClimbing:

> I think Robert Durran's comment from earlier in the thread ("the biggest grade jump is the one that you aren't quite good enough for") generally stands true, however...

> I genuinely think that the jump from E5 to E6 is larger than any other I have personally come across. HVS to E1 was undoubtedly a hurdle for me, as it is for many; E2 to E3 was similar, insofar as it took a while to consistently break through, but none of these compare to the gap between E5 and E6.

I wonder whether the perceived hurdle from HVS to E1 is more a psychological one to break into the Extreme grades.

Are you sure that your big jump from E5 to E6 is not just an example of what I was talking about - getting close to your limit? I have always thought of the jump from E4 to E5 as a major one; on the few occasions I have been steadyish at E4, E5's (even picking ones which played to my strengths) have always felt like the absolute living end with a high failure rate. When more regularly steady at E3, E4's have felt nails.

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In reply to Michael Gordon:

No I really don’t think that objectively V Diff is much harder than Diff. You don’t get many climbers whose limit is Diff, for example.

I’m not saying that each grade is wider than the next but high grades are generally wider than low ones. E3 and E5 are fairly wide. V Diff and HS are not. 

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In reply to Robert Durran:

By the same token you can say all grades are waffle because there is no way to measure them objectively. And yet we have grades and people find them useful. I really don’t thing it’s controversial to say that there is a much wider spread of difficulty within higher grades. 

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In reply to Rob Greenwood - UKClimbing:

Agree. It does feel like a big step up, in the way that E4 to E5 is not. I think E3 to E4 is a similarly big step up. HVS to E1 is as well, mid grade to mid grade, but because there are so many of them it’s possible to build up gradually by first doing soft E1s (then coming back to the nails HVSs once you can cruise E3!). 

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In reply to Misha:

> By the same token you can say all grades are waffle because there is no way to measure them objectively.

We could define them objectively by simply using the fact that route A is harder than route B if fewer people can climb it and then defining cut of points in the proportion of climbers.

> And yet we have grades and people find them useful.

Yes, and I think they are basically defined by cut off points in a rough graded list.

> I really don’t thing it’s controversial to say that there is a much wider spread of difficulty within higher grades.

I am not at all convinced that is true or even meaningful let alone testable.

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In reply to Misha:

> Agree. It does feel like a big step up, in the way that E4 to E5 is not. I think E3 to E4 is a similarly big step up. HVS to E1 is as well.

I strongly suspect that all this just confirms what I said in my first post in this thread! For me the biggest steps definitely feel like E2 to E3 and then E4 to E5, but I wouldn't pretend there is anything definitive in this - it just reflects my own limits and experience.

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 Michael Gordon 08 Sep 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

> it just reflects (our) own limits and experience.

Definitely. If I had to take a stab at it I'd maybe say VS to HVS, then E1 to E2 and then E3 to E4.

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In reply to Robert Durran:

I can see your point. 

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 kingholmesy 08 Sep 2020
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

I would have thought it was more like:

E4 = 6b to 6c+
E5 = 6c to 7a+ (or maybe 7b for some real toughies).

E6 = 7a to 7c.

Which maybe explains why E6 feels hard.  Plus as Rob says there’s generally less info out there on them.

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 Offwidth 09 Sep 2020
In reply to Misha:

I think you are plain wrong on that VD point. Firstly anyone who is at Stanage a lot on busy summer days will see people failing or flailing on non-sandbag Diffs quite a lot and secondly I think if you take out the sub grades (HD and HVD) the actual noticeable differences across the Diff and VD grades are pretty big,  bigger in my view than for E1. Most Diff leaders just call themselves scramblers or mountaineers. If Diffs were so easy and VD only a tad harder than a Mod there would be way more onsight solos on the logbooks. Once you leave the modern gear behind the original meaning of a difficult route hasn't changed so much.

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As a few have mentioned, I think the question is wrong here. If there is a jump between grades then that would imply a gap must exist as well which obviously it doesn't (E0 anyone?). 

In a perfect world, hard E3 should be just a gnat's whisker easier than easy E4. ie. the system should be linear with no 'jumps' as such. In fact, as we all know, it isn't linear and there are E4s that are way easier than some top-end E3s and this exists at every grade barrier. So the jumps can be backwards! Tenet for grades!

What we are talking about is how wide a grade band is. The wider the grade band, the more likely you are to get thoroughly humiliated by the next grade up if you make a random choice of route since the median difficulty level for any grade is further away if the grade band is wide. 

Alan

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 Martin Hore 09 Sep 2020
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

That's an excellent point Alan. We need to consider the gap between the median climb of one grade and the median climb of the next grade up the scale. Not the gap between the hardest climb of one grade and the easiest of the next, which if all climbs were graded accurately (and all climbers were a standard model!) would be close to zero, but is in reality negative.

Martin

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In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

Yes, you've pinpointed the real problem – it's all about grade band width. I think that the trad Mod - Diff - V Diff - Severe - VS - HVS - E1 - E2 is about right (can't speak about higher grades, though I've seconded some E3s and E4s), i.e. each is about the same width. With one exception. Unlike Offwidth, I think Diff and V Diff aren't so different and we could probably just combine them into one grade called V Diff. That's assuming we keep Moderate in its old, rather fierce Ogwen sense. We certainly don't need a separate Hard Severe grade.

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 Martin Hore 09 Sep 2020
In reply to Offwidth in reply to Misha:

>In reply I think you are plain wrong on that VD point.

Absolutely, and I see Misha has now repeated the point several times. Misha makes lots of thoughtful contributions to these forums, but on this point I think he's wrong. I just don't think it's possible for someone climbing at Misha's grades to appreciate how the difference between Diff and VDiff actually feels to someone operating at these lowest grades, unless, like Offwidth, he makes a point of studying climbers operating at the lower grades.

Martin

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 Martin Hore 09 Sep 2020
In reply to dinodinosaur:

One further thought which I don't think has been mentioned (unless I've missed it). 

I think, in one specific respect, there is a clear qualitive difference between easier and harder trad climbs. On easier climbs you can normally place all the gear required to adequately protect the climb from resting positions (not necessarily full hands-off rests, but positions where, by swapping hands and shaking out, you can recover rather than tire). On harder climbs you have to place gear from non-resting positions, unless you're prepared to accept long run-outs and potential ground falls. This places a premium on stamina, as well as strength, and on efficient gear placement. 

I think it's broadly possible to identify the point on the grade spectrum where this transition occurs. I would say that the transition point is somewhere between VS and E1. Any climber moving through the grades who hasn't yet developed the stamina or experience to place gear efficiently from non-resting positions is likely to find VS - HVS and/or HVS - E1 especially large jumps.

There are anomalies of course. For example an easily protected but highly unbalanced climb with one UK 6a move which you can protect well from a good rest is unlikely to be graded less than E1. But, in general I think the above applies quite well.

Martin

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In reply to Martin Hore:

When I first started, and was climbing at Diff and V Diff, I didn't find a big difference between them. I think one reason is that a lot of the Diffs or Hard Diffs were not long afterwards upgraded to V Diff, so it all got very blurred.

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 Michael Gordon 09 Sep 2020
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

> If there is a jump between grades then that would imply a gap must exist as well which obviously it doesn't (E0 anyone?). 

A 'jump' or significant step up in difficulty does not need to imply a gap. If we consider a more measurable sport such as running, long/high jump, weight lifting etc, often there can be a certain time/distance/weight which a strong amateur can get to, but to improve further requires either serious training or serious talent. To apply this to climbing, I've always thought of roughly E2/3 as a level many could get to through mileage and experience alone. However, I'm inclined to agree that there doesn't seem to be an obvious 'cut off' grade separating the men/women from the boys/girls.   

> What we are talking about is how wide a grade band is. The wider the grade band, the more likely you are to get thoroughly humiliated by the next grade up if you make a random choice of route since the median difficulty level for any grade is further away if the grade band is wide. > 

This may be true, but in practice when folk are pushing their limits and trying the next grade up, they tend to pick their routes very carefully! But since you brought it up, what particular grades do you consider 'wide'?

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In reply to Michael Gordon:

> But since you brought it up, what particular grades do you consider 'wide'?

I would say that each grade gets a little bit wider from E1 upwards.

Alan

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 Michael Gordon 09 Sep 2020
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

Interesting; that seems to support what Misha was saying. I've very little experience above E3 but have never considered E1, E2 or E3 any more/less wide than each other. Or do you mean that the Extremes are roughly similar in width but are generally wider than sub-Extremes?

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In reply to Michael Gordon:

> Or do you mean that the Extremes are roughly similar in width but are generally wider than sub-Extremes?

I mean Extreme grades get progressively wider as the number go up. E2 is wider than E1, E3 is wider than E2, etc.

Alan

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In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

> I mean Extreme grades get progressively wider as the number go up. E2 is wider than E1, E3 is wider than E2, etc.

If anything would have said the opposite, but I'm not at all sure it's even possible to determine.

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In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

> In a perfect world, hard E3 should be just a gnat's whisker easier than easy E4. ie. the system should be linear with no 'jumps' as such.

I think you mean continuous, not linear.

> In fact, as we all know, it isn't linear and there are E4s that are way easier than some top-end E3s and this exists at every grade barrier. So the jumps can be backwards! 

This simply means that at least one of the routes is wrongly graded; it is not a feature of the grading system but a misapplication of it.

> What we are talking about is how wide a grade band is. The wider the grade band, the more likely you are to get thoroughly humiliated by the next grade up if you make a random choice of route since the median difficulty level for any grade is further away if the grade band is wide. 

Yes, what is being talked about is the difference in difficulty between median routes in adjacent grades. The width of a grade band would affect the jump between that grade and both neighbouring grades.

Post edited at 22:34
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In reply to Martin Hore:

> I think, in one specific respect, there is a clear qualitive difference between easier and harder trad climbs. On easier climbs you can normally place all the gear required to adequately protect the climb from resting positions.......... On harder climbs you have to place gear from non-resting positions

> I think it's broadly possible to identify the point on the grade spectrum where this transition occurs. I would say that the transition point is somewhere between VS and E1. Any climber moving through the grades who hasn't yet developed the stamina or experience to place gear efficiently from non-resting positions is likely to find VS - HVS and/or HVS - E1 especially large jumps.

I think the difficulty of placing gear is just one factor which contributes to the overall difficulty of a climb, though obviously correlated to the technical difficulty and strenuousness. I don't see why it should have the special position you give it more than any other factor. 

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In reply to Robert Durran:

> Are you sure that your big jump from E5 to E6 is not just an example of what I was talking about - getting close to your limit? I have always thought of the jump from E4 to E5 as a major one; on the few occasions I have been steadyish at E4, E5's (even picking ones which played to my strengths) have always felt like the absolute living end with a high failure rate. When more regularly steady at E3, E4's have felt nails.

I think your original statement does indeed have something to do with it, but with E5 to E6 I'd say there's genuinely something different.

By complete coincidence, Caff touches on this within his recent blog: "I think the E8s and 9s get more headpoint ascents than onsights of E6s (apart from the piss ones) and I guess this is because its safer and sounds better to have led an e8 or e9 than to have had a hard time on an e6". 

It's worth reading the rest, which is written in his usual idiosyncratic style: http://www.jamesmchaffie.com/caffs-blog/pembroke-2020

Post edited at 13:13
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 Mark Stevenson 10 Sep 2020
In reply to dinodinosaur:

> Just breaking into E3s and have felt this to be a definite step up from E2s... 

You're not alone. I've been a super steady E2 leader for nearly two decades but despite climbing relatively hard on bolts and onsighting a couple of E5s (ten years apart), I've never felt entirely comfortable that I've been properly solid at E3 or E4 even when climbing them with some success.

I agree. The jump from E2 to E3 can often feel very substantial. 

As others have mentioned, I do think the grades do tend to get "wider" in the Extremes. In this case, think E3 is "wider", particularly in terms of the range of technical grades encountered compared to E2. 

The move to E4 and then to bottom-end E5 can perhaps feel slightly more reasonable and continuous. There is often less of a vast jump in the difficulty of hardest move, however there can be lots, lots more of them or they are further above gear.

Don't let it get you down. Just crack on and keep trying E3s - some you'll get up, some you won't. 

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 Michael Gordon 10 Sep 2020
In reply to Rob Greenwood - UKClimbing:

> I think your original statement does indeed have something to do with it, but with E5 to E6 I'd say there's genuinely something different.

> By complete coincidence, Caff touches on this within his recent blog: "I think the E8s and 9s get more headpoint ascents than onsights of E6s (apart from the piss ones) and I guess this is because its safer and sounds better to have led an e8 or e9 than to have had a hard time on an e6". 

> It's worth reading the rest, which is written in his usual idiosyncratic style: http://www.jamesmchaffie.com/caffs-blog/pembroke-2020

Entertaining stuff, though I can't see that he's explicitly making a point about the unique difficulty of going from E5 to E6. Couldn't you make the same point about headpointing E7s vs trying to onsight old school E5?

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In reply to Michael Gordon:

> Entertaining stuff, though I can't see that he's explicitly making a point about the unique difficulty of going from E5 to E6. Couldn't you make the same point about headpointing E7s vs trying to onsight old school E5?

To be fair, he's not, but if you read in it light of my previous comments regarding E6 - and the fact there are far fewer people climbing them - it adds a degree of context (i.e. even E9 climbers aren't out there regularly onsighting E6, which doesn't give much hope for those E5 climbers aspiring to do the same!).

Post edited at 15:36
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 Michael Gordon 10 Sep 2020
In reply to Rob Greenwood - UKClimbing:

> even E9 climbers aren't out there regularly onsighting E6, 

I wouldn't like to question Caff, but I do find that hard to believe. I guess it depends what an 'E9 climber' is and how regular is 'regular'.

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In reply to Rob Greenwood - UKClimbing:

> By complete coincidence, Caff touches on this within his recent blog: "I think the E8s and 9s get more headpoint ascents than onsights of E6s (apart from the piss ones) and I guess this is because its safer and sounds better to have led an e8 or e9 than to have had a hard time on an e6". 

> It's worth reading the rest, which is written in his usual idiosyncratic style: http://www.jamesmchaffie.com/caffs-blog/pembroke-2020

I wonder whether you are reading too much into this. Maybe headpointing E8/9 is simply easier in many ways than onsighting E6. But why should that necessarily mean that there is a big step up from E5 to E6? Maybe headpointing E7/8 is easier than onsighting E5 or headpointing E6/7 easier than onsighting E4. I don't know - I've never headpointed (though I'd understood that a three grade gap between onsighting and headpointing grades was pretty standard).

Post edited at 22:54
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 Michael Gordon 11 Sep 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

> Maybe headpointing E7/8 is easier than onsighting E5 or headpointing E6/7 easier than onsighting E4. I don't know - I've never headpointed (though I'd understood that a three grade gap between onsighting and headpointing grades was pretty standard).

It obviously depends which routes you pick to onsight and headpoint. So hard to say. I think onsighting E3 is easier than headpointing E5 - the climbing is so much easier.

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In reply to Michael Gordon:

> It obviously depends which routes you pick to onsight and headpoint. So hard to say. I think onsighting E3 is easier than headpointing E5 - the climbing is so much easier.

Except that most headpointing is of routes which people are too scared to attempt to onsight (ie bold routes) and the climnbing on a bold E5 might not really be much harder than on many E3's and not seem too bad at all for a solid E3 climber once top roped a few times.

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 Offwidth 11 Sep 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

I've toproped unprotected E5s that felt physically easier to me than some boldish E1s I toproped and subsequently led.  When the style suits alongside a good head for boldness grades can seem weirdly arranged until you remember trad grades are for onsights. Forgetting the onsight factor is the reason some idiots claim Sunset Slab at Froggatt is still HS.

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 tlouth7 11 Sep 2020
In reply to dinodinosaur:

To counter the comments that suggest the grades are quite close together at the bottom; it wasn't all that many years ago that I made my first tentative steps onto the rock, and I can very much recall the feelings of climbing certain routes.

For example on one early expedition, I led Right Route (VD) on the Roaches Upper Tier pretty comfortably. I then did Pedestal Route (HVD 4a) and found every part of it terrifying: getting onto the belay, the traverse, the crux move round the corner. It was a year or more before I tried Kelly's Shelf (S 4b) by which time Pedestal Route was a breeze. I then got stuck at HS for several years, before some growing up and change of partners boosted me to HVS.

I think that many people are really VS climbers or better when they start climbing trad, and so they move through the low grades as their confidence rather than ability improves.

Maybe we could find an objective measure of grade difficulty based on the stress levels of climbers. E.g. your stress on a climb two grades below your limit might be 50% lower than on the grade above that. All we need is a bunch of psychologists on abseil with questionnaires, maybe an accelerometer strapped to the climber's calf, or electrodes measuring forehead sweat.

Post edited at 12:26
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 Michael Gordon 11 Sep 2020
In reply to Offwidth:

> I've toproped unprotected E5s that felt physically easier to me than some boldish E1s 

I suspect that's quite an unusual finding! I can only think expectation played a part.

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In reply to Offwidth:

Hi Steve, I'd be fascinated to know what those E5s (in the plural) were! I suppose about the hardest route I ever seconded was Old Friends, E4 – which I'm chuffed to see is now given 6a on UKC ... fairly sure it was 5c when I did it. The moves just before the crux were absolutely on my limit, but the crux not so bad in my memory.

(Separate point: Why is the technical grade on Old Friends greyed out on UKC?)

PS. This all goes to show what a waste of time all these 'grade' discussions are. Because it's so difficult to do in a very accurate way, and so far removed from what climbing is all about – I hope, for most people (Surely people don't climb things just to say they've done a rather imprecise number?) The wisdom of those Edwardian pioneers was awesome. They didn't dare to make it look scientific, they just decided to go for a lot of ever more dramatic sounding superlative adjectives. I think far-ahead of his time OGJ started it. Brilliant.

The most accurate technical grades I ever came across in 40 years of climbing were always those on S E Sandstone. In most other parts of the country they seemed to be absolutely all over the place. 

Post edited at 13:29
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In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> PS. This all goes to show what a waste of time all these 'grade' discussions are.

Of course but why else would we be having this discussion other than to waste time ;-)

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 stp 15 Sep 2020
In reply to dinodinosaur:

There are no jumps between grades. If you listed all routes in terms of difficulty there would only be a very slight difference between each one. The reason for perceived difference is probably psychological or that you haven't done any hard routes in the lower grade and/or not tried any easier routes in the upper grade.

If you were to go out and do a bunch of the hardest E2's you could find, and in a style you were not very good at, and then went to look for easy E3's in your favourite style you probably wouldn't notice much difference. In fact those E3's would probably feel disappointingly easy for you.

The real question is why are you having difficulty with E3 at all? In the other post you mentioned doing sport 7c and I see you've already done that and onsighted 7a+. Sport 7c is equivalent to solid E6 and 7a+ is E5. So that's a big discrepancy there. Maybe you just need to get better at placing gear and feel confident you can fall on to it to climb a lot harder. A typical E3 trad route will have climbing no harder than sport 6c so should be well within your onsight capability.

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In reply to dinodinosaur:

I used to potter around HVS and do the occasional E1 and E2. I realised later that I could have been an E2 leader if I'd focused more but E3 was next level (for me). Once I got established I didn't find it was so but E4...

I guess I'm agreeing with Robert Durran but in longwinded way

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 Chris H 15 Sep 2020
In reply to dinodinosaur:

As someone has no doubt already pointed out, when you are trying the next grade up you will by definition have only done a few routes. If these happen to be in the top half of the graded list you will claim that there is a big jump. As you do more routes there is more likely to be a more even spread across the graded list but the first couple will stick in your mind as 'proof' that grade x to x +1 is a big jump.

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 Offwidth 15 Sep 2020
In reply to Chris H:

Can you think of a single guidebook where the toughest routes of a grade are easier than the easiest routes of the next grade up. A HVS route like Masochism is harder than quite a few easier E2s in the same guide. Some might argue the same for routes iike Desperation at Brimham. How many ascents does Sentinel Cradk at Chatsworth get compared to the easier E4s in the Froggatt guide.

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 HannahC 17 Sep 2020
In reply to stp:

The origin of the question is more to do with his second ability than his own. I rarely struggle to follow him up an E2 but the E3s seem to giving me significantly more bother! 

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