/ How do your solo/lead/second grades compare ?

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Dom Goodwin 04 Jun 2019

I’m interested in the gaps different climbers have between grades they are prepared to solo (if at all), lead or second.

Why? How much is pyschological? How much are you prepared to push according to the risk?

Feel free to share your typical grades and reasons. I wonder how large a gap others have.

I realise I am atypical, but having started the discussion it’s only fair to share mine.

Typically, I solo HVD, lead Severe, second HVS.

(I have done all of these at slightly higher grades and failed at all of them at slightly lower grades, so I’m giving a typical level at which I’m happy to do these things...)

RBonney 04 Jun 2019
In reply to Dom Goodwin:

I find knowledge of the route a bigger difference. For instance I recently solo'd an E2 having had knowledge of it from a friend. But tied in for the nearby HVS because he said that was harder. He was correct. I fell off the HVS 3 times.

To put that into perspective I have done an E3 and one other E2, both flashes. Other than that I've done two E1's and quite a few HVS's onsight. 

Seconding is different. I feel I can push hard on second and could comfortably get up E4"s. Perhaps all this just shows how little I trust me gear. 

ChrisClark1 04 Jun 2019
In reply to Dom Goodwin:

Interesting concept, for me it is route dependent. For example I've soloed a couple VS routes with low cruxes though I'd say my regular solo grade is S to HS

Have led HVS/E1 but feel happy seconding anything within my technical ability as matched by sport climbing (possibly E3/E4 though it'd be very route dependent)

Offwidth 04 Jun 2019
In reply to Dom Goodwin:

My hardest UK trad graded onsight solos were the same grade as my hardest leads (E2). I may have onsighted upto E4 in the US at Joshua Tree as their 5.9 and 5.10 slabs can be scary and very hard technically compared to the grade table equivalents: I've certainly done R rated UK 5c tech slab moves onsight out there. I've cleanly seconded upto E5 single pitch and dogged seconded (done all the moves but not linked them cleanly) a single pitch E6 that used to be an E7, but some now argue is E5 (bonus for guessing the route!). I onsight solo regularly at lower grades on shorter routes and on multipitch occasionally upto VD; I wouldn't advise others to do this without significant experience as being a VS leader (with a low grade grit tick list few leaders of  my standard exceed), I've been lucky to escape unhurt from a few sandbag Diff onsights (notably Straight Ahead) . I say VS leader as my solid lead grade in the UK is VS: the top grade where I succeed on most routes I try. However, I've backed off routes as low as Severe and I've failed on a Mod (as I didnt fit through the hole it took).

petegunn 04 Jun 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

Would that be Narrowing Chimney (VD) ?

oldie 04 Jun 2019
In reply to Dom Goodwin:

I'm a low grade climber. When I was happy leading at VS and occasionally higher I would solo some VDs on sight but was happier at lower grades. On high mountains I would solo up to III on rock but avoided IV. Usually took a couple of nuts and long slings in case of getting into difficulty. Have soloed an HS and couple of VSs but that was exception. Used to solo a few 5a/4b on southern sandstone but knew them well so doesn't really count.

Nowadays weak in arms and occasionally have stepped up using a nut seconding or leading HS and even one VD. So very climb dependent eg can slither down Pedestal Crack at Subluminal but have to solo back up High Street at the same grade. OK soloing D pitches in the Cuillin.

CharlieMack 04 Jun 2019
In reply to Dom Goodwin:

Interesting to see gaps for different people. 

Second E5

Lead E3

Solo VS

These are what I'd climb regularly I'd say. Though have soloed harder where the route is suitable, and there are easier routes I'd never dream of soloing.

gravy 04 Jun 2019

My best leads are way harder than my best seconds - perhaps this is more to do with my climbing partners than anything else.

kylos8048 04 Jun 2019
In reply to Dom Goodwin:

Lead onsight E4

worked E6 - 6a

Hardest second E5 

Hardest solo - E2 There are some vs's I wouldn't dream of soloing though so it's all relative. 

French 7a+/7b

Post edited at 10:21
Tom V 04 Jun 2019
In reply to Dom Goodwin:

The thing about soloing is that there's a massive range of route styles, some suiting one type of climber rather than another. But I think route length is the most important . I was about to say that the hardest route on paper  I ever soloed on sight was Poetry in Motion at Rylstone but now it seems to have been downgraded to a boulder problem, so a few strides away is The White Doe. Just micro routes or extended boulder problems. But as I mentioned elsewhere none of these hold a candle to soloing Christmas Curry/ Micah Finish which I once did on a family holiday. Soloing short routes where you can walk away from a fall or even, illogically, longer single pitch routes where you probably won't be walking  for a long time, if ever, are a whole different game from a  multipitch route in Snowdonia or the Lakes. Very, very few people have ever been as lucky as Cliff Phillips.

Post edited at 10:36
Offwidth 04 Jun 2019
In reply to petegunn:

No but I failed on that as well.

NBR 04 Jun 2019
In reply to Dom Goodwin:

I only got back into climbing properly outside fairly recently and I've only got back to leading VS but last week I happily solo'd at a rout of that grade BUT it was a relativly mild one with nice positive holds for the crux (Topsail at Birchen). There are plenty of slopy or thrutchy severes iI wouldn't want to solo even if they are technically easy.

alan moore 04 Jun 2019
In reply to Dom Goodwin:

As others have said, the route makes more difference than the grade.

I usually do a couple of new E1 5a outcrop routes each year. But I couldn't solo your average HVS. Mountain MVS if conditions are perfect. Moderate if it's at all wet.

Places with a nice flat landing make a psychological difference as well. Last summer I failed on the first move of Pulpit Ridge at Ravenstones...had made a massive effort to get there, had wanted to do it for ages but too lonely, bad landing, too scared, too exposed, too dirty, too hard. I wobbled up Left Monolith (HS) in a state of terror and grovelled up Nasal Buttress (HS) on my knees. In the evening I went to Hobson Moor (no exposure, flat landing) and thought Tighes Arête (E1) was actually about HS! 

As for roped climbing, it's  just as stressful and by the time you have all the gear on I'd guess you lose 2 grades. So maybe VS for leading, but I only go once a year so maybe just out of practice.

Cant ever concentrate when seconding and usually plead for a tight rope on anything harder than VS.

The New NickB 04 Jun 2019
In reply to Dom Goodwin:

In the days when I was climbing a bit more regularly, I was leading up to E2 and seconding the odd E3. I’ve soloed E2, but it wasn’t onsite and whilst a fall would have been unpleasant, it hopefully wouldn’t of been fatal. Quite a few routes at Cow’s Mouth, Troy, Pinfold etc that I had climbed dozens of times I would happily solo. Overlapper at Cow’s Mouth was a favourite (E1 in The currently guide, HVS in the 1999 guide). In terms of onsite, unless under 10 metres and with a good landing, probably vdiff and even then I would be quite cautious.

steveriley 04 Jun 2019
In reply to Dom Goodwin:

Impossible question when you pick stuff carefully. I've backed off soloing Diffs and soloed the odd E2/3 ...but not recently

Dom Goodwin 04 Jun 2019

I agree with what many say that it can be route dependent: Reasonable to solo a route with a hard move off the ground at a grade that you normally wouldn’t lead for example. Length can also make a difference too. And I think prior knowledge is huge. I guess all these factors make it hard to generalise. Though interesting to compare the ‘typical’ gaps if possible.

For me, prior knowledge is more important than length, so I’ve happily soloed a 4 pitch Severe (my current lead grade) with the two crux pitches the first and last. Also, happily soloed 3 consecutive 20ish pitch routes not much below my lead grade last summer.

Whereas, there’s a clearer gap between my lead and second grades (Severe to HVS). I was wondering how unusual this is as it might seem more logical for the larger gap to be between solo and lead grades. But judging by other comments, maybe it’s more usual than I thought.

I think in my case, it’s due to a much greater willingness to take falls seconding (on a tightish rope) than in other circumstances - even though the seriousness of lead and solo falls can obviously be very different. Perhaps it’s partly a bit of a gear trust issue.

But I do also find that soloing with a clear mind to just do the moves without worrying about ropework and less to carry can actually make it easier to do difficult moves.

Tom V 04 Jun 2019
In reply to alan moore:

It's perhaps as well that you failed low down on Pulpit Ridge.

Brown 04 Jun 2019
In reply to Dom Goodwin:

Is it not a total misunderstanding of trad grades to talk about the solo gap and trad grades?

Take E1 - a competent E1 climber can climb E1. This means they can climb California Arete on the slate at E1 which is a solo and lead Fools Gold just across the way.

Personally my onsight solo grade is only marginally below my onsight lead grade whilst my redpoint/headpoint solo grade is on a par with my lead grade.

When I look at the gap between what I've sport climbed and soloed then a gap appears.

1
alan moore 04 Jun 2019
In reply to Tom V:

Lots of horror stories about in the logbooks don't help! Does it belong in the sandbag list?

Like I said, I was too imtimidated to even try. It was in the middle of that massive dry spell and the initial wall was filthy.

Dan Arkle 04 Jun 2019
In reply to Dom Goodwin:

Interesting thread this.


Obviously the route makes a difference, but on safe routes, an experienced climber should aspire to having their onsight lead grade very close to their seconding/toprope grade. If it isn't, then you are being held back by your head and not reaching your full potential.

Regarding soloing - I think this is fundamentally different and it is about appetite for risk. If you were to challenge me with 1000 English 5a moves, I'd happily bet you £500 that I can do them all first go. But would I onsight solo an E1 5a? Almost certainly not. I wouldn't get enough out of the experience for it to be worth the tiny risk of death.

Pursued by a bear 04 Jun 2019
In reply to Dom Goodwin:

Back in the day, I led as hard as I seconded (E1 5b) on all rock types bar gritstone, where my leading topped out at VS 4c but I seconded E1 5b.

Soloing, pretty much V Diff on sight everywhere (grit included) except at Pexhill, where I soloed some short 5c routes just on the left as you go in, and also some longer 5a routes (The Rack springs to mind, though there were some others too).  I think there were some harder (British 5c-type things) at Font too, but that was strange and continental and didn't really count back then.

T.

Jon Stewart 04 Jun 2019
In reply to Dom Goodwin:

Onsight lead E3/4 at best

Second E5 - fall off often (guaranteed if 6b), but unlikely if it was a bold route

I reckon that suggests that I do occasionally push up close to my physical limit on the lead - but it's a drawn out and traumatic procedure so at the moment I prefer to climb up to E2, avoiding the drama (for me) and the boredom (for the belayer).

Soloing - depends what you mean. I have (kind of) soloed E4 with pads, soft touch. Done E3 5b/c grit routes that don't have gear. I regularly solo E1s and E2s that I know well. Have onsight soloed the odd E1 and E2 that do have gear (but this is very unusual - sometimes it will just tickle my fancy). Quite frequently onsight solo up to VS, if I trust the rock and like the look of the route, even multipitch. Obviously I'd never push anywhere near my physical limits on solo, but I do have quite an appetite for risk, i.e. if I think it's extremely unlikely that I'll fall off, I find soloing very rewarding so I don't mind there being consequences of fall = the end.

I think this approach is very helpful on relatively easy run-outs, but unfortunately I tend to climb the same way even when there's good gear: so when it's hard and I might fall off I basically freak out no matter how good the gear is. Hence the trauma of leading at my limit. Yes I know I could improve if I got over the fear of falling, but that's really quite difficult to do when you're not chasing grades, you just want to go out climbing and do some good routes without falling off...which for me is the point of climbing, I'm really not sold on this ground up/headpoint/flash malarky, I've either done a route or I cocked it up. And I have a better time when I don't cock it up.

steveriley 04 Jun 2019
In reply to Pursued by a bear:

I think you can give yourself E1 for The Rack at Pex, I'm having E3 for Bermuda Triangle

RM199 04 Jun 2019
In reply to Dom Goodwin:

Interesting thread, I’ll add to your stats 

Lead E1/2 on a good day

second E2/3

solo Severe/Hard Severe

GrahamD 04 Jun 2019
In reply to Dom Goodwin:

I think for me the hardest lead and hardest second are about 1 adjectival grade apart (discounting seconding silly bold stuff) and about half a technical grade.  Was E2 and E3 respectively (low 5c to high 5c), more like HVS/E1 and E1/2 (5b to low 5c) for me now.

Funnily enough I've about half a grade or so different between (onsight) leading bolted routes and top roping them as well (6a+ to bottom end 6b).

Reach>Talent 04 Jun 2019
In reply to Dom Goodwin:

Hardest on sight solo E2 (ish) on grit.

Hardest on sight trad lead E1, on various rock types.

Hardest route seconded cleanly E1, I very rarely second trad routes.

Currently I have pretty much stopped soloing, I have scrambled up the odd Vdiff though, still getting up HVS and E1 on sight with a rope.

For comparison my hardest sport lead is 6c+ (flashed), I have never really bothered red pointing.

Dom Goodwin 05 Jun 2019
In reply to Brown:

> Is it not a total misunderstanding of trad grades to talk about the solo gap and trad grades?

No, I can see where you are coming from, but I don’t think it is.

> Take E1 - a competent E1 climber can climb E1. This means they can climb California Arete on the slate at E1 which is a solo and lead Fools Gold just across the way.

And a competent E1 soloist can solo both, though they will likely have a much easier time on the one with no gear. 

A similar argument could be made for seconding e.g. some HVS are going to be harder to second than some E2s. But people still tend to use adjectival rather than technical grades when talking about the level they can typically second, so it seems fine to do the same for solo.

You’re probably trying to suggest that leaders should be prepared to lead routes at their lead grade, which have no gear. (And therefore lead and solo grades would logically become identical.) But many would quite rightly refuse to do such routes. I think you have to consider more typical routes rather than taking extreme cases when assessing grades at which someone is generally competent. E.g. in the discussion, someone said they wouldn’t solo stuff at a grade they are pretty certain they would never fall - so they would also presumably not lead routes at their normal adjectival lead grade which had no gear. I don’t think this is an unusual attitude towards avoiding risk.

Also, by using adjectival grades, we know what we are talking about and minimise confusion/ambiguity arising from different technical grading systems if people want to bring sport climbing into the conversation ...

Post edited at 02:39
Dom Goodwin 05 Jun 2019
In reply to Dom Goodwin:

> You’re probably trying to suggest that leaders should be prepared to lead routes at their lead grade, which have no gear. (And therefore lead and solo grades would logically become identical.) 

It’s clearly far too late to be thinking about this! Sorry, just realised the above in brackets is nonsense and too late to edit. Under the (debatable) assumption a leader should be able to lead totally unprotected routes at their claimed lead grade, it only follows that they can solo *some* rather than all routes at their lead grade. So even with this assumption, solo grade can still be lower.

Brown 05 Jun 2019
In reply to Dom Goodwin:

I think you managed to sum up my point really well.

I think a competent E4 leader should be able to climb E4. It follows that their solo grade will be E4 (for example The Brush Off (E4 5c)).

If you cant climb The Brush Off then you cant really say you can climb E4.

I understand that you might have been really asking what is the difference between your top lead grade and the grade you are willing to solo every route of. If this is the case then I'd say when I was climbing at my strongest I'd onsighted E6 and would confidently solo all HVS's.

3
Pero 05 Jun 2019
In reply to Dan Arkle:

> Interesting thread this.

> Obviously the route makes a difference, but on safe routes, an experienced climber should aspire to having their onsight lead grade very close to their seconding/toprope grade. If it isn't, then you are being held back by your head and not reaching your full potential.

There is another way to look at this.  When you are toproping you can concentrate 100% on the climbing and the moves.  This gives you a measure of your maximum ability.

When you are leading you must still be thinking of the next gear, the route etc.  And, you must at least have given some thought to how safe your current situation is.  The question is whether this necessarily distracts you (even if it's not directly an unnecessary fear of falling).

If someone is able, when leading, to totally 100% focus on the moves like it was toprope, then that is a positive thing in terms of climbing potential. But, also, that might not be what lead climbing is all about.  You could see lead climbing as something that requires an element of objectivity and distraction from the moves in order to do it safely.

For example, if I fall on a toprope I just come off and don't do anything.  But, if I take a lead fall I try to fall safely by thinking about where the rope is and, on one occasion, lifting it away from my feet as I fell.  My feeling is that there is always more to think about when leading and not everyhing can be safely neglected.

Kid Spatula 05 Jun 2019
In reply to Dom Goodwin:

Hah my discrepancy is huge!

Lead grade: VS on a good day, Severe happily.

Second grade: Up to around about E2/3. Odd E4.

Solo: Diff

I have led an E3, but that was around 20 years ago and before I cratered.

Post edited at 12:16
Captain Solo 05 Jun 2019
In reply to Dom Goodwin:

Despite the moniker I ain't Alex Honnold!

For me my main limiting factor is physical endurance/ strength.

My stats are: solo up to VS (harder if short routes), lead on a good day E2 5c, second just about E3 6a.

There is very little between my lead/ second grades which suggests (despite many telling me I should be climbing harder!) that its not a head game for me but physical limitations. I physically can't do the moves.

I always enjoy the element of control on a route, something in the tank, which brings enjoyment and knowing I'm doing it in good style. I'd rather not be throwing myself at something too hard for me, getting spat off and logging 'dogged' every weekend, it would be soul destroying. When I get to E3 6a I'm usually scampering up as fast as I can, getting 'encouragement' from a tight rope and have about 3-4 cams dangling from the rope I have quickly removed. I would not have the endurance to lead this grade.

I like the comments Jon Stewart has made, I pretty much onsight everything, when I'm soloing I think long and hard about the route when it gets to VS multipitch or harder single pitch. Rock type, familiarity with similar routes, dryness & conditions, confidence in my ability at the time etc all come in to play. I have found myself if some pretty wacky situations in which I had no right to be there but has been exhilarating knowing deep down I should physically be able to climb 5b and there's always going to be a hold.

Luke90 05 Jun 2019
In reply to Brown:

> If you cant climb The Brush Off then you cant really say you can climb E4.

I don't really buy this part of your argument. If somebody had successfully climbed a wide variety of safer E4s but doesn't enjoy risking their neck on unprotected routes, I would still consider them a competent E4 leader. If you'll only accept somebody's competence level as the grade where they can climb any route in the country in any style then I think you're measuring on a completely different scale to everybody else.

I agree with your basic logic but I think you're overdoing it. To me, it seems like most people on the thread already understood that outlier oddities like California Arete aren't really what's under discussion.

Tom V 05 Jun 2019
In reply to Brown:

> I think a competent E4 leader should be able to climb E4. It follows that their solo grade will be E4 (for example The Brush Off (E4 5c)).

 I think this might apply on gritstone or Northumbrian sandstone. A competent leader on Stanage E4s would , quite rightly, think twice about soloing Lubyanka.

Jon Stewart 05 Jun 2019
In reply to Brown:

> If you cant climb The Brush Off then you cant really say you can climb E4.

You're much more likely to meet people who can climb the brush off, but can't climb e4! 

1
Deadeye 05 Jun 2019
In reply to Dom Goodwin:

Almost all my hardest leads (~E2) have been bold slabs.  I took a rope, but it wouldn't have helped much on most of them.  However, I wouldn't have wanted to set off without it!

In terms of true solos, maybe S for routes of any real length; a couple of short grit VSs.

Seconding, I've never been taken up anything harder than E2.  Just down to who I climb with really.  I don't actually like seconding very much - I climb less well and it all feels more desparate!

Rog Wilko 05 Jun 2019
In reply to Dom Goodwin:

You lead severe but solo HVD! You show a lot of faith in guidebook writers. I'd guess many people would have this gap between what they'd lead and what they'd second but......(shakes head in bewilderment).

Dom Goodwin 05 Jun 2019
In reply to Brown:

I guess it’s an interesting and debatable point whether an E4 leader should be able to lead totally unprotected E4 routes - I think you can look at this either way.

However, your E4 leader happy to solo (Or lead) Brush Off E4 5c probably wouldn’t be happy to solo well protected E4 6b say. So although they can solo one specific unprotected E4, they probably wouldn’t want to solo more typical E4s. Thus their solo grade isn’t really E4 - they can just solo certain extreme case (unprotected E4s).

I think the best way to look at it is to take typical grades that you are mostly happy with, but I think for many people there will be exceptions at the extremes. And also, most people have some bogey route(s). I usually (but not always) cope ok nowadays seconding HVS, sometimes E1, but I always seem to repeatedly fall off Giants Cave Buttress, which is only VS. Does this make me incompetent at seconding VS? I don’t think it does.

Dom Goodwin 05 Jun 2019
In reply to Deadeye:

Haha, I don’t suppose you live anywhere near Avon? I’m struggling to find climbing partners who like leading bold polished HVS slabs.

AJM 05 Jun 2019
In reply to Tom V:

Lubyanka (E3 5c) ?

I don't think anyones saying that a competent E4 leader should be soloing E3s with gear, are they?

The argument is that the theoretical "well rounded E4 leader" should be able to onsight those E4s which get their grade by virtue of being solos (or, on a similar vein, those which whilst they have gear still get the grade for serious danger or deckout potential).

I am not very logical in this respect. I don't really solo at all - in part because the local terrain doesn't give the same degree of confidence that say granite or grit might do. And I don't tend to like routes where I have to place a lot of reliance on a single piece, unless it's obviously beyond concern. But I do the odd slightly bold route, or runouts on the easier sections of harder routes, so in practice 5a or whatever it might be with significant injury potential isn't inconceivable. But I've never soloed HVS. 

Post edited at 20:20
Dom Goodwin 05 Jun 2019
In reply to Rog Wilko:

Sometimes I solo Severe (yup, my lead grade). I’ve onsight led single pitch Severe and I’ve soloed multipitch Severe. (To be fair, I’ve also led the odd HS, though it’s not a grade I’m competent at leading in general.) However, I draw the line at onsight soloing multipitch Severe - that would be asking for trouble! But onsight soloing multipitch V Diff usually seems fair game.

I think I’m a bit bolder than most when it comes to soloing. I just love to be free on the rock untrammelled with gear and rope work. It’s almost like subtracting a technical grade by not having to worry about it - if you’ve got the head for it...

I did have a bit of a struggle the other day soloing Trod Dovera on Glaciated Slab (V Diff in my guide, but I believe Severe in others and felt well worth HS 4b) - partly perhaps due to the unexpected difficulties and partly because groping round an overhang for expected jugs only to find slopers was really worrying and is a type of climbing I struggle with! So it’s certainly a valid point that faith in guide books can be an issue.

Deadeye 05 Jun 2019
In reply to Dom Goodwin:

I *love* Avon. Did much if my early climbing there. But just at the moment I'm 4 weeks post a hip replacement!

pasbury 05 Jun 2019
In reply to Dom Goodwin:

Soloing depends on how far into the death zone you are. Grit 6 m routes are different from multipitch mountain routes with the odd dodgy hold!

DenzelLN 05 Jun 2019
In reply to Dom Goodwin:

For some reason everything is backwards for me, i wonder if my fear of leading is linked with the tying in to the rope.

I can boulder and highball/solo way harder than i can lead - i regularly back of of severes, but have highballed upto E3 on grit.

Top roped and seconded E3 6a, pretty straightforward tbh, until i tie in for the lead!

Looking at a few routes in the lancs quarries to solo, E4 upto 10m, i feel less stressed about that than the idea of leading a VS on the prow!

Dom Goodwin 05 Jun 2019
In reply to Deadeye:

Me too. The Avon Gorge is one of my favourite places to climb. Quite lucky, as it also happens to be the only outdoor climbing within walking distance for me. I'd probably like it even more if I climbed at a higher standard. That's a work in progress... Well, give me a shout if you fancy a climb when you've recovered. I climb most days.

Dom Goodwin 06 Jun 2019

I'm finding the variety of responses interesting. Thanks to all those who have responded so far and look forward to any further input.

Does anyone have the time and energy (or nothing better to do ) to compile a load of stats from all the responses and create some pretty graphs, bar charts etc? Interesting how best to represent such data. I am (was) a mathematician, but certainly not a statistician.

Tom V 06 Jun 2019
In reply to AJM:

My mistake for taking Brown's second and third sentences at face value.

Offwidth 06 Jun 2019
In reply to Tom V:

I thought Brown's point was a good one but made on the wrong route.   The Brush Off has bomber gear half way, in a crack just left of the arete, and the thin breaks above have some microcams and slider placements (not bomber but in combination probably good enough). I think its hard E3 with such modern gear and was always easy for a bold E4.  Many grit routes are effectively solo and such a route low in the graded list is an ideal test. The safest way for the nervous ascentionist on such routes is rather than roped solo them have your partner on belay at the top ready to drop the rope as a rescue.

1
profitofdoom 06 Jun 2019
In reply to Dom Goodwin:

> I’m interested in the gaps different climbers have between grades they are prepared to solo (if at all), lead or second.

Solo up to VS at best (and I prefer no loose rock when solo). Lead E3 at best (E2 5b is my grade really). Second E3 at best - I have conclusively proved that seconding E4, or 5c or 6a, will leave me hanging on the rope and being lowered off

Dave Garnett 06 Jun 2019
In reply to Dom Goodwin:

I've always felt that my leading and seconding grades have been miles apart (which they often are, especially recently!) but actually I've led E4 on sight and seconded E6 cleanly onsight.  Soloed E2 (E1 onsight) but only on grit, which is obviously very different to big pitches or multipitch.  I've soloed HVS onsight on sea cliffs where the style suited me.

Soloing classic multipitch Severes like Tennis Shoe , Crackstone Rib or Poor Man's Peuterey always feels a much bigger deal than some 5c gritstone problem.

Brown 06 Jun 2019
In reply to Luke90:

I have always thought that the biggest strength of trad grades was that the told you how hard it was to actually climb the route.

That for a well rounded climber the difficulty of climbing a really well protected E4 was about the same as climbing a really badly protected E4.

I've found this works really well. At the moment, if its E2 I'm confident I can onsight it. If you can only get up safe E2 then you can't really climb E2 and you must have to spend your time basically sport climbing with a trad rack.

3
Brown 06 Jun 2019
In reply to Dom Goodwin:

I'd agree. I was trying to highlight the absurdity of comparing a trad lead grade and a trad grade at which you are comfortable to solo. Everyone seems to be taking the hardest trade grade they have climbed and then compared it to the solo grade they are confident taking on everything.

It all makes more sense when you look at it using sport grades.

An E4 climber is basically capable of leading about french 6c+/7a plugging in loads and loads of gear at one end of the scale. (Tangerine Dream (E4 6a)

That's about as hard as on sighting a popoffable french 6a with no gear.

1
HeMa 06 Jun 2019
In reply to Dom Goodwin:

I would guess the spans depend greatly on where you live and what kind of rock you have available.


That said, I generally climb on granite, so most of the time what I climb is generally either quite safe (ie. cracks that eat gear) or basically death on a stick (no gear -> solo). Having a family and great bouldering around, I don't do death on a stick and instead go out bouldering. How ever, looking at my log-book...

I have soloed (onsight) up to HVS (or around french 5A or so) single pitch stuff, or some longer mountain stuff at feeble UIAA IV or so (in the alps/Norway). Leading, well I seem to OS reasonably consistently at E1/E2 or so and have had some flukes of E3'ish terrain (grades are a guess, but generally talkinh about Norwegian 6s or french 6a/b kinds of lines... a rare fluke of around french 6c can happen). Seconding, again don't do that much, but have seconded cleanly Norwegian 7s and also french 7a'ish climbs. If we include toproping, then up to french 7b or so. 

Lookin' at the actual amounts, I don't solo much (in summer) and generally well within my comfort zone. I also don't do a lot of skethy climbs with a rope (and if I do, I try to minimize the risks and climb well within my physical capabilities). Instead I try to OS safe routes near my limit (yet rarely do), and often don't really headpoint them (sometimes, but not often). When I tie in, I prefer to climb (either OS something new that I have a good change of getting clean, or climb something I've done in the past to get my confidence levels up/benchmark my performance) and occationally try to OS something harder.

These days (lack of time and easily available good lines I haven't already climbed) I prefer to challenge myself in pebblehugging. And even at that, I prefer to climb stuff either by flashing them or in a session kind of stuff. Sure, I might come back for some really hard and/or classic boulders... but I do prefer not to lay siege on them... I feel enough like Don Quijotte at work, so don't require it at my free time...

Luke90 06 Jun 2019
In reply to Brown:

> I have always thought that the biggest strength of trad grades was that the told you how hard it was to actually climb the route.

> That for a well rounded climber the difficulty of climbing a really well protected E4 was about the same as climbing a really badly protected E4.

Well, yes, if all climbers had identically balanced skillsets but climbers are human and have strengths and weaknesses. I agree with the general thrust of your argument, you can't reasonably claim to be "an E1 leader" if the only E1s you successfully climb are one very specific style of route, but I still think you're taking the point too far. If somebody regularly onsights E1 all over the country on a variety of rock types and in all kinds of styles but takes the frankly very sensible view that California Arete just isn't worth the risk for them, I would still think they were justified in considering themselves a competent E1 leader. Similarly, if they get thoroughly confused by offwidths but can cleanly onsight almost any other route, I wouldn't say their general level of competency was down at the grade of the hardest offwidth they can climb.

> I've found this works really well. At the moment, if its E2 I'm confident I can onsight it.

Likewise, I'm lucky enough to have a fairly typical balance between technical climbing ability and boldness so I also find the adjectival grade works really well for me.

> If you can only get up safe E2 then you can't really climb E2 and you must have to spend your time basically sport climbing with a trad rack.

What nonsense. Trad isn't defined by danger. A trad climb that is well-protected isn't any less trad than a death route. Well-protected routes can often be just as demanding mentally as ones with sparse protection. Yes, they lose one aspect of the head game but they demand other trad-specific skills instead e.g. choosing and placing gear quickly to avoid getting too pumped, judging when to make a placement and when to keep moving.

beardy mike 07 Jun 2019
In reply to Dom Goodwin:

I would come out to play but I've just moved to Italy. For me it's something like, e3 at very best, soft touch 7a at very best, E1 normally and VS at Avon (did Piton Route and Gronk as solo's - Piton Route I found hardest just after the tree as there are some insecure moves straight after the tree that freeked me out. Gronk was pretty much my favourite solo ever. I've given up soloing now as I have a kid...

Brown 07 Jun 2019
In reply to Luke90:

Maybe I'm just lucky like you to see the adjectival grade as being really really useful.

I'd also agree about well protected routes having their mental games. Trying not to unload all my cams into the lower half of routes at Indian Creek was hard. At when you are sport climbing you cant place all your quickdraws at the start as you are scared.

1
PaulJepson 07 Jun 2019
In reply to beardy mike:

>Gronk was pretty much my favourite solo ever. I've given up soloing now as I have a kid...

That mantle on P1 solo? Balls on you, son.

myrddinmuse 07 Jun 2019
In reply to PaulJepson:

This is something I've thought about quite a lot of late. I'm in a place where for the most part I'm happy onsight soloing ground up to 4c. Happy to solo occasionally at 5a, and have repeated routes without practice at 5a or 5b ( Grim Wall Direct (E1 5b) for example, and flashed another 5b in Scabs (E3 5b). This puts me in an unusual position of soloing very close (sometimes even parallel) to my lead grade (comfortable at E1, E2-3 at a push).

I don't feel that my soloing puts me at the edge of my ability or that I'm playing a dangerous game. It's built on years of experience and mileage and I pick my routes carefully. So what I read from it all is that I should stop being such a wimp and lead some harder things. For crimp-pulling context, I'm redpointing around 7a/7a+ on sport. 

Edit: this is all with the caveats of my own personal sphere of comfort.. gritstone, south Wales Limestone, slate quarries, Tremadog. I obviously wouldn't feel the same in an unfamiliar place, or an unfamiliar style.

Post edited at 13:56
French Erick 07 Jun 2019
In reply to Dom Goodwin:

Interesting question indeed.

When I am flying I'll just manage to O/S E4.

The rest of the time I'll lead E3. I'll put up a good fight for most E3 5c. I'll only choose the wildly varying E36a if I feel like it.

I'll probably manage to O/S 6c if it's a classic starred route. I have manage to O/S 7a+ on some occasion.

I have seconded E56b but with a really tight rope... a stuck bit of gear put paid to my efforts to not stop (15min to take the $%&*er out).

As for O/S, I love doing this but limit myself. Happy to O/S to VSish systematically on single crag, not so on multi-pitch...depends on the nature of the rock/cliff. I have soloed some occasional low Es (probably E2) but with very specific attributes. I have soloed at least a couple of E1 6a with crux off the deck or very low.

I had a one week soloing binge last summer but this stopped after getting slightly scared on some route in the Avon Gorge...it was too hot and some folks started to speak to me at the top. It was mainly dictated by a family hols without climbing partner.

I solo to cover a lot of ground in a small amount of time, get fit, when I need to recentre myself a bit or when I REALLY want to climb and cannot find someone to climb with (often I will rather do another activity first).

Ultimately, I prefer climbing with a friend. Climbing has now become my socialising time too.

NB: if I want to solo something long and committing, I'll ask the Captain of this parish first.

Dom Goodwin 07 Jun 2019
In reply to beardy mike:

That’s a shame, well give me a shout if you’re back visiting round here some time...  Gronk and Piton Route are more like seconding territory for me than solo! Found Gronk harder than Piton Route to second, but agree Piton Route would likely be the scarier of the two to solo. I suppose Gronk would be quite a reasonable solo if happy with the hard move up the wall on P1. Found the belay on Piton Route a brilliant place to sunbathe mid afternoon on a recent ascent of Gurgle Girdle.

Dom Goodwin 07 Jun 2019
In reply to French Erick:

Yes, it’s certainly one appealing aspect of soloing that you can get a lot done. As well as being able to still climb with no partner. It’s a good option if I only have a short window. I timed myself on a couple of routes out of interest (not because I was trying to be quick) and took 16 minutes for The Arête + Ordinary Route and 20 mins for Sleepwalk (which think took me about 2 hours to lead) in Avon Gorge.

Climbing speed for me seems to compare as roughly a metre per minute (c 30 mins per pitch) for roped climbing and 6 metres per minute (c 5 mins per pitch) soloing.

beardy mike 07 Jun 2019
In reply to PaulJepson:

Dunno, just not that bad IMO - I always climb to the break, place the gear out right, then step left and up - there's a nice little sequence which is standard open palm avon climbing...

Michael Gordon 08 Jun 2019
In reply to Dom Goodwin:

Tech grades are probably more relevant for soloing. Assuming we're talking onsight, I'm usually around 4c solo, 5c lead and 6a second.

Jon Stewart 08 Jun 2019
In reply to Michael Gordon:

> Tech grades are probably more relevant for soloing.

There's a big difference between soloing a route that starts with a 5c move and one that finishes with one! The best grade for soloing would be an adjusted adjectival grade. So a route like Archangel is E3 to lead and E3 to solo, but The Tippler is E1 to lead but might be E3/4 to solo...strangely many grit E1s also feel E1 on solo, e.g. Kirkus' Corner, Morrison's Redoubt, but that might just be familiarity.

Michael Gordon 08 Jun 2019
In reply to Jon Stewart:

I meant when the moves are at a height where falling is not an option. 

Jon Stewart 08 Jun 2019
In reply to Michael Gordon:

I'd still much rather have an E-grade. One 5c move with time to work it out, or sustained 5c? Completely different difficulties, could be the difference between E3 and E6.

Michael Gordon 08 Jun 2019
In reply to Jon Stewart:

I wouldn't be soloing either!

myrddinmuse 08 Jun 2019
In reply to Jon Stewart:

I agree with that. Well protected routes can in some cases mean that there's scope for secure moves, jams and rests. In my mind at least!

UKB Shark 08 Jun 2019
In reply to Tom V:

>  I think this might apply on gritstone or Northumbrian sandstone. A competent leader on Stanage E4s would , quite rightly, think twice about soloing Lubyanka.

Funnily enough I seriously suggested doing this for PaulWilliams for photos. Madness. Fortunately he said it wasn’t a good idea.


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