This post relates to sport climbing...
I started climbing indoors before venturing outdoors. I quickly found that the 4+ and 5s outside felt considerably harder than the routes at the climbing wall.
As I progressed this seemed to equalise and I’m now getting to the point where outdoor grades may even be easier than those found indoors (around 6b-6c). (And this isn’t Kalymnos grades)
Most climbers I know who climb in the 7s will agree that outdoor routes are easier than routes of equal grade indoors.
Is this a generally accepted phenomenon if so at what grade do most climbers find the tipping point?
I think you're right that 6C (if not then certainly 7a) outdoors is easier than indoors.
I think a contributing factor is indoors the routes are continuously at max difficulty, whereas outdoors it's generally a few hard moves and lots of easy ones.
It varies - I've not noticed a systematic bias that can't be explained by the variation between indoor walls, the setter, the setter's mood, the outdoor crag, specific style and the seasons.
So I say it isn't a generally accepted phenomena...
Usually about 7b.
> I started climbing indoors before venturing outdoors. I quickly found that the 4+ and 5s outside felt considerably harder than the routes at the climbing wall.
I think that's always going to be the case, because for the same degree of steepness and technical difficulty (when climbed by the easiest sequence), 4s and 5s outside will involve all sorts of route-finding and scariness not present at the wall. It takes a lot more skill to climb a 4 or 5 outside, so it's going to seem a lot harder until those skills become second nature.
> As I progressed this seemed to equalise and I’m now getting to the point where outdoor grades may even be easier than those found indoors (around 6b-6c).
It depends so much on the crag and the wall I wouldn't rely on that being the case. At my local shitty limestone sport crag, the 6s are f*cking nails compared to the wall.
> Most climbers I know who climb in the 7s will agree that outdoor routes are easier than routes of equal grade indoors.
Sometimes - because they tend to be less sustained outdoors. But for me, as someone who climbs a couple of times a week indoors in winter around the 6c/7a mark and pretty much just does a euro sport trip once a year and no UK sport, the grades seems about the same to me. On UK sport, the routes always seem really hard and deeply unpleasant, so I've given up on it entirely.
I definitely think outdoor sport grades are easier than indoor after a certain point, and I’d put the tipping point about 6b/c. A 6b+ indoor grade is usually more of a physical fight than an outdoor one, and for me it then gets harder exponentially indoor vs outdoor. So a 6c indoor is quite a bit harder than a 6c indoor, a 6c+ indoor is getting to the max of my physical ability but a 6c+ outdoor is a realistic onsight or second go possibility (assuming somewhat friendly style); 7a indoor might take 10+ attempts if that whereas 7a outdoor goes down second or third go usually; 7a+ indoor standardly feels indoable, whereas I did my only 7a+ outdoors third go.
As far as I can tell it’s because indoor routes are just power endurance fests set for wall wads. That’s not my style - so I do better on outdoor routes when there is more in play than just no-rest power endurance.
I totally agree with you, but I think it's a little more complicated than just harder/easier.
It's partly a question of style - indoor routes tend to be relentlessly pumpy without much by way of good rests, so if (like me) you're better on bouldery things where you have time to stop and ponder what to do, then you're going to do better on real routes.
That, plus by the time most people get into the 7's they're likely to be mainly motivated to put serious effort into the real thing, and not motivated to put as much effort into projecting plastic routes.
Suprised I’m the first to disagree, I almost always onsite 6c indoors, 6c+ and 7a after 2-3 attempts, but only onsite 6b+ half the time outside, and my route reading is quite on point, so I wonder why it’s different in my instance.
I feel like it's both down to what/where you have climbed and style. As people above have said the gyms can feel like power endurance are the main factors. When you are on a 6b outside pre or post crux and hit a picnic ledge suddenly it cuts the route down.
Can't say I've climbed that hard, but I think in the lower grades outdoors there is less of a set beta, where you can force your style to work, potentially that drops off on harder grades?
It’s much easier to read routes indoors. Any technicality is usually obvious.
The thing with routes on rock is that they're so much more featured and so you can specialise the beta so much more than you can on plastic. For every move there's dozens of variations in foot position etc whereas on plastic it's more limited (although there is still movement variation).
I tend to onsight very consistently indoors because the movement is usually far easier to read, and you can climb quickly to maximise power endurance on the hard moves. That said, it's very unlike on plastic that you will 'fluke' a hard onsight, because it's unlikely that the route has one very hard sequence with more moderate terrain around it, which can be the case outside on a regular basis.
In short, you can sort this by improving your power endurance and general conditioning to match your technique level, then the grades will likely balance out.
I've always found grades for all styles easier than the same indoors.
I put it down to outdoor being my favorite and putting more effort in.
Interesting point about more consistent onsighting indoors. I don't know your height or your regular climbing centre but I find being a climber of shorter stature that most of the indoor centres I've been to there will tend to be one "way" to do a crux and I sometimes have to improvise from the intended beta (I know other people who have to do this way more often so it's not a moan) meaning my indoor onsighting is just as consistent as outdoors.
Totally agree. Climbing walls generally suit reasonable height climbers and those with a "gymnastic" style.
To me 6b-6c is the tipping point.
Climbing walls are not really a good guide to what alot of people climb outside( works both ways).
If I had a magic wand, I would wave it and make all gym grades be prefixed with an "i" (for "indoors", obvs) to distinguish them from outdoor grades, because they are just not the same.
That way when I fail repeatedly on the i6c+ I won't feel bad about not climbing 6c+, because they are not the same.
I know this is ridiculous.
But don't worry, I don't have a magic wand.
I've always found outdoors easier than indoors to the extent that I can on sight 7a outdoors but never got up a 6c cleanly indoors. Real rock offers more opportunities to rest, is less intense and rewards good footwork as well as technique and imaginative thinking. I always feel as though indoor climbing is not really much more than pulling from one hold to the next.
> I think a contributing factor is indoors the routes are continuously at max difficulty, whereas outdoors it's generally a few hard moves and lots of easy ones.
I'm not sure if you aren't quite explaining what you mean here or whether you've just climbed poorly graded routes, but that doesn't sound like how French grades (should) work.
Sceptical mind suggests it's more a power issue than a height one unless you're well outside the norm in all honesty. It's always worth having a word with the setter/gym management if you really feel there is a problem but honestly you may well find that with a little more time invested on a steep board that the issue becomes less prevalent - that was my experience at least. From your profile you're knocking around the grade border where things tend to get a lot more physical (7b/c/8aish) and it was around that point that I found some more board training made a huge difference to my perception of 'reachy' moves.
Of course I could be wrong but there's rarely much that can go wrong from getting a bit more power!
> I find being a climber of shorter stature that most of the indoor centres I've been to there will tend to be one "way" to do a crux and I sometimes have to improvise from the intended beta (I know other people who have to do this way more often so it's not a moan) meaning my indoor onsighting is just as consistent as outdoors.
I find the same as a tall person. In fact, if I want to try to flash an indoor route, I often actively avoid watching other people on it, since I so often have to do a sequence differently from how the setting intended for people of average height that am I'm better off thinking for myself rather than having ideas put into my head. But I don't think it generally makes the routes harder - some sequences will be easier for me and some harder - the same will be true for short people.
> Suprised I’m the first to disagree, I almost always onsite 6c indoors, 6c+ and 7a after 2-3 attempts, but only onsite 6b+ half the time outside, and my route reading is quite on point, so I wonder why it’s different in my instance.
Indoor routes have holds you're familiar with, and relatively few of them so you know what's useful and what isn't. Outdoors you have all sorts of weird holds and features that can easily lead you down the wrong sequence.
> Most climbers I know who climb in the 7s will agree that outdoor routes are easier than routes of equal grade indoors.
It obviously depends on which indoor wall you are making the comparison with.
I find that my onsighting grade (usually low 7's) on a bolt clipping trip very closely matches my indoor onsighting grade at my local wall (Ratho). So, if you're talking about redpointing then I think it is almost ceretainly true that outdoor grades are easier in the 7's, since obviously reading an outdoor route is going to be relatively harder on rock than following a line of coloured plastic. I hardly ever redpoint outdoors, but people who know what they are talking about tell me that I should be able to redpoint a full grade harder outdoors that I can at Ratho.
> This post relates to sport climbing...
> I started climbing indoors before venturing outdoors. I quickly found that the 4+ and 5s outside felt considerably harder than the routes at the climbing wall.
I'm a 'Trad' climber (hate that term ) but use indoor walls to stay fit throughout the Winter. Indoors I can lead 6a, well below most of the posts on this thread. Outdoors around HVS 5a/5b. I've found many indoor 5b/5c routes much harder than some indoor 6a/6a+ routes. Bad route setting? I also believe that some walls can be a bit elitist and competitive. "We're an Olympic training centre" etc.
Either way, I find it does help my 'lead head' when back outdoors.
From someone in the Onsighting 7a+ range I think outdoors is generally always feel tougher.
I guess this is a lot to do with never really redpointing. Indoors climbs will be fairly obvious compared to outdoors due to the highlighted colour holds.
People that are not used to climbing outdoors will struggle with footwork and the 3D climbing that comes from real rock as opposed to straight forward face holds indoor climbing lines have.
The biggest variability is off-course indoor grade setting. Most commercial walls set at a 'feel good' easier scale comparatively to outdoor grading.
I think his comments make sense to me. This isn't about the grading, but the nature of the rock.
There are outdoor routes where every move is hard, e.g. Raindogs, but these are rare. Indoors they become the norm and often the last moves are the hardest. I think this kicks in when the routes get steeper and the holds too poor to rest on, whilst outdoor even harder routes often have the odd rest or at least a jug to shake out on.
I am much happier on vertical, technical terrain than juggy overhanging stuff even outdoors because of the options you have for your feet. Indoors, I find everything nails because of the lack of options; there is one way to do a move normally. I think the 'tipping point' is highly subjective but for me, its about 7a/+.
I went to an indoor lead wall for the first time in ages recently and the main crux was clipping all the bolts!
As someone who has done very little outdoor sport and always been put off by the thought that it would be way harder than indoors for the same grade I have found this very encouraging!
My odds are on if I had a bit more power I'd be climbing a grade up outdoors as well so would be negligible in this scenario.
I'm not known as someone who shys away from a board sesh! I agree that more power is no bad thing for your climbing though!
French grades is the overall grade. So generally outdoors-routes have a bunch of easier climbing followed by a nasty crux.
Where as this kind of routes generally don't get a lot of points from the indoor crows (who are there for the training)... So indoor walls often set up routes that are more in the sustained nature.
So what he meant that every move was the maximum difficulty of given grade, instead of lots of easier climbing with a really hard crux.
> French grades is the overall grade. So generally outdoors-routes have a bunch of easier climbing followed by a nasty crux.
Yes thank you for explaining what I've known for at least 20 years. ;)
I guess the original post I replied to meant that indoor routes will have lots of moves at a consistent level of difficulty, whilst outdoor routes tend more to be easier climbing up to a crux and then easier climbing again, but if the crux move on the outdoor route is as hard as lots of moves on the indoor one, then they shouldn't be the same french grade. Reading the post I replied to, I thought the writer was suggesting they were. As an example, lets say that if a route indoors has a load of UK 5b moves on top of each other, it might be 6b, maybe even 6c? Around there anyway, Whilst if an outdoor route has easier climbing up to a 5b crux, then some easier climbing above, it should be a lower grade - 6a probs. Same grade for the moves, different French grade because, as you say, French grades are overall grades.
Has the new Helsinki guide given up on Finnish grades or is it still using them? And if the latter did anyone decide if the Finnish grade was for the hardest move or for the overall feel of the route?
from my experience indoors:
5's and low 6's = easier than outdoors
mid 6's 7's = somewhat similar
7b - 7c indoors = mega hard, could be anything but normally 2 grades harder than outdoors
I was at the Castle recently on a passing visit and tried a 7b+ on the auto belays and couldn't do a single move ! I gave up and went bouldering and still managed to do 4 of their v7's which all felt easier.. I'd say that route was more like 8b+ !!
>... lets say that if a route indoors has a load of UK 5b moves on top of each other, it might be 6b, maybe even 6c?
Beats me, no idea with UK 5b is (ok. in theory I do... it's supposed to be a one move boulder with a grade of fontainebleau 5b ;) ).
The rule of thumb has been that for a sustained route, the grade of the crux in 'bleau grade is around one full number less (so 7a sport route would have the crux sequence as a boulder with a grade of 6A...). So in principle that short of holds true sustained UK 5b ~6b sport route, unless super sustained. For really cruxy routes, this is not really true any more (one such ~7b route I managed to get up had around 6C-7A crux sequence quite high up, granted climbing up to it was a lot easier).
> Has the new Helsinki guide given up on Finnish grades or is it still using them? And if the latter did anyone decide if the Finnish grade was for the hardest move or for the overall feel of the route?
Same here. My take on it is that if you are used to trad you will probably more happily run it out above a bomber bolt than someone who comes straight from an indoor wall. This will allow you to climb more relaxed than some plastic wad who might find two or three meter bolt spacing intimidating. At that 6b to 7a level not wasting more grip power than necessary can easily make a grade or so difference.
do we also want to have the conversation here about how it’s the other way around with bouldering?
V2 in the gym? Warm up. V2 outdoors? Quite possibly seriously hard
V4 in the gym? Decent flash potential, will definitely go in a few attempts. V4 outside? Maybe, but very possibly maybe not.
V6 in the gym? Sometimes. V6 outdoors? Go home
I find a similar correlation to bouldering for me,
5C easier indoor
6A easier indoor
6B ~ Same
6C easier outdoor
7A and above easier outdoor.
This might have something to do with my disdain for "comp style boulders" and volume hugging and my love of the board and more "basic" style problems. (interestingly I can match my indoor to outdoor bouldering at the climbing station in Loughborough, which pride themselves on setting mostly technical/outdoor style boulders rather than the comp stuff).
Also grit bouldering is a law unto itself, and let's not go into the rabbit hole of the grading of grit trad routes vs their "French equivalent"
Ha, maybe I should actually try a V6 outdoors then, rather than assuming that it will be impossibly nails...
i am shit at bouldering though. Just don’t like trying very hard on a couple of moves when I could be chugging along in a lovely flow state instead...
It very much Depends on the gyms. And at least here in HELLsinki, they are pretty much the same (indoors being generally a tad easier) up to 7B+ (Which is my best effort indoors and outdoors). And from What I have heard, it is True also on harder boulders.
Indoor grades were always a lottery. Maybe it's got better since I stopped climbing much but in my experience a huge pinch of salt is needed.
When you're just starting out, climbing the lower grades, I think it's very useful to have the holds pointed out clearly (by being pink, yellow etc), they may be just as good outdoors but it's not so obvious how to use them and there are a few extra techniques needed (cracks etc). As you build experience, assuming you do so in a balanced manner indoors and out you rely less on the obvious coloured sticky out holds, more on good judgement. As things get harder you get better at exploiting the textured and 3d nature of rock for maximally efficient progress and importantly rests (often only partial rests), something that has to be actively planned and built into indoor routes that usually isn't (corners and aretes excepted). I'm not convinced there is a crossover grade we could all agree on, 'harder' (7s for me) indoor routes often seemed more relentless, they demand good fitness/endurance whereas rock climbing rewards good skills and vision.
I think you get a similar phenomenon with bouldering grades.
For example there are a stack of "V1-V2" boulder problems at my local wall that are just jug ladders, and its very rare to find similar problems outside, and if you do they would all be VB grade (or probably just the descent route off the boulder).
Likewise, I can think of 'easy' boulders outside (i.e. V1 to V4) that feel as hard as the "V5/V6" probs at the local wall.
I think this is in part the setting style and 'modern' nature of the wall I'm think of, but i suspect its fairly common.
I suspect as boulder problems get harder inside, it becomes more comparable to outdoor problems.
That is an issue with route setting.
You can create/make problems that ain't jug ladders in the grades of f5's and even low f6s. But it takes skill and time...
In fact, the same applies for routes as well. It certainly is possible, but you don't find such often. Reason being that either the setters aren't good or have enough time to set such. Or the management gets sh*te for such routes from n00bs climbing there ("hey, I just cruised that overhanging 6b, but can't get anywhere on that vertical 5a", said a strong lad that had climbed a few times before...).
> That is an issue with route setting.
> You can create/make problems that ain't jug ladders in the grades of f5's and even low f6s. But it takes skill and time...
> In fact, the same applies for routes as well. It certainly is possible, but you don't find such often. Reason being that either the setters aren't good or have enough time to set such. Or the management gets sh*te for such routes from n00bs climbing there ("hey, I just cruised that overhanging 6b, but can't get anywhere on that vertical 5a", said a strong lad that had climbed a few times before...).
Yeah I agree with that. There a different wall I also climb which is far more 'grass roots' and where grades are often more comparable to outside (i.e. very few jug ladders, smeary technical slabs at F5+ which really test footwork, lots of technical movement rather than just smaller holds and wider spacing, etc).
Like you say, also down to clientele, if there are loads of beginners climbing at a certain wall, you don't want to endlessly shut them down on 'easy' routes/problems as you'll loose customers....
I've noticed the same phenomena for both sport and bouldering. I think the actual difficulty is broadly consistent between indoors and out but I find it's more to do with the styles of climbing and how they relate to my personal strengths.
I'm primarily a boulderer who is tall but heavy, with good upper body and core strength, decent flexibility, and relatively weak fingers. Therefore, I perform well on things like grit compression boulders, roofs requiring lots of core and slabs, but I perform poorly on vertical to overhanging crimp fests.
I'm very close to sending 3 7C boulders outdoors as grit compression problems are plentiful in Yorkshire; however, this style is rare indoors and my current finger strength usually limits me to circa V7 / 7A+
Interestingly, I find the new comp style boulders to be more like the outdoor climbing I tend to favour, which is in contrast to the majority who say it bares no resemblance.
To summarise: your outdoor sport climbing in the UK is likely to be somewhat consistent in style (vertical and cruxy) and you've become adept at this style compared to the steeper juggyer wall climbing. Should you go somewhere steep, sustained and juggy outdoors and you'd likely get similarly spanked!
> Interestingly, I find the new comp style boulders to be more like the outdoor climbing I tend to favour, which is in contrast to the majority who say it bares no resemblance.
Comp style routes refer to the parkour type run-jump-coordination experiments.
Example A, jump & coordination example (which you might still found outside, but not often).
Example B, running parkour stuff... (fun, yes but is it really climbing and can anyone name some *classic* boulders of this style). https://www.instagram.com/p/B6qwfD2omaY/
Example C, running-jumping-coordination piece...
Thus far haven't found many such problems outside (locally or in classic places like 'Bleau or Albarracín).
Example B and C are Instagram friendly style not comp style because he never attains a stable position on the starting holds. Jonny Dawes boulders in this style on rock.
> Comp style routes refer to the parkour type run-jump-coordination experiments.
Sheffield depot has a wall referred to as the comp style wall. I don't actually watch any bouldering comps so I don't know if this is an accurate description.
The problems are different colours to differentiate them from the regular problems throughout the rest of the centre. Lots of volumes, compression, tension, open handed moves, etc. This is what I meant is more like my outdoor experience bouldering on grit.
I know what you mean.
I was making a point, that that parkour problems (the running start example) have made an appearance in boulder comps a bit after those coordination jump things. So during the last 4 years or so (some one more in-tune with comps, correct me on the time).
And generally this is what is often meant as comp style problems.
Granted the feature/box shuffles are also in the scope of comp style problems, and by your description these are the ones you mean. But it's only a sub-set, which indeed resembles more of outdoor climbing (especially compression prows, with no real holds).
Such problems are and have been in real WC and other competitions (but not those ones, because they are Sean McColls practice problems... for Bouldering WC).
They do look nice in instagram though, which is why I assume he posted them. But that doesn't change the fact, that in real comps similar style problems do exist and are being set, hence the need to practice them.
Nick Dixon's Lupino Lane is the only outdoor boulder I know in that style. Curiously it was originally given E2 7b....
To me, it still looks like a normal double dyno to compression. So a bit like comp problem. But such have existed way before they started entering the comps.
strictly speaking (as I wrote above), dynos are not really comp problems. Unless you add the coordination part, in which you dyno to a hold and then continue to the next one. Followed momentum to a third hold.
But yes, I do recall such problems already from the 80s (by Dawes). From the climbing in the 80s film collection. And perhaps on Stonemonkey (or was it indeed part of said collection?).
Personally I’ve climbed 7b outdoors and never harder than 6b+ indoors. Find indoor climbing desperately hard, the lack of texture on the holds and the abundance of pinches and slopers that just don’t exist on rock.
Additionally I struggle when it’s warmer than around 12 degrees which may have more to do with it
I've yet to see an indoor 5 that isn't a jug ladder. Outdoor 5s tends to be far more technical.
Conversely, my max outdoor redpoint is a 7b. Yet the most I've ever managed indoors is 6c. I would need to seriously work on my power endurance and finger strength if I wanted to break into the 7s indoors - at the same time this would probably push my outdoor grade up to 7c/+!
You definitely COULD climb harder than 6b+ indoors if you’ve climbed 7b outdoors!
> I've yet to see an indoor 5 that isn't a jug ladder.
Stop going to shite gyms.
Weird. I find the exact opposite to the majority here. I find outdoors almost always uniquely harder.
Using Costa Blanca sport as my metric - I can have a good shot and onsight indoors usually up to about 7b. Outdoors, I regularly get spanked by 6c+ and have to red-point. Bouldering is different, where I find my indoor and outdoor grades remarkably similar (V6ish is where my ability to onsight breaks down).
Perhaps there's a real element of familiarity with rock and reading outdoors that comes into this? Perhaps I just climb too much on plastic!
> Perhaps there's a real element of familiarity with rock and reading outdoors that comes into this? Perhaps I just climb too much on plastic!
And Spanish limestone (especially easier routes) is hard to read. Pretty much everything is usable hold, on OS you might end up lookin' eons for the really good hold instead of just pressing on. Indoor routes are a lot easier in that regards, as you have a lot more limited selection of holds (clearly marked).
On boulders, the reason is also the fact that unlike on a route, you have a pretty good idea of the holds available (much like indoors).
Using the Costa Blanca again (just back) I onsighted a few7a/7a+'s but rarely flash more than 6c/6c+ indoors!
> Using Costa Blanca sport as my metric - I can have a good shot and onsight indoors usually up to about 7b. Outdoors, I regularly get spanked by 6c+ and have to red-point. Bouldering is different, where I find my indoor and outdoor grades remarkably similar (V6ish is where my ability to onsight breaks down).
Yeah but 6c+ is always nails, them's the rules!
I guess it stems from the "It's hard but I don't climb 7's so 6c+++" mentality. It's a dumping ground grade for rotten sandbags.
Or they're graded by Germans who are proud to have finally made it to VIII-
It's harder to onsite routes outside cause you can't see the holds and it's harder to route read. But when it comes to redpointing outdoors is easier.
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