UKC

Understanding aid pitches abroad.

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 Donotello 09 Sep 2021

I climb in North Central Portugal a lot and there’s some really good granite multi pitch in the areas my family live. 
 

loads of the climbs have a pitch that looks to me like an aid pitch, altho I’ve never come across it in the U.K. so not really sure what to make of it. For example; 

P1 - 5, P2 - 6a, P3 - 6b, P4 - 6c+/A1

What does this mean, that it’s so hard that you definitely need to pull on gear or use an etrier to pass it? Having never Aid climbed I haven’t the feintest idea what I’d be doing. 
 

Some examples can be seen here;

http://climbingportugal.blogspot.com/2013/09/cantaro-magro-serra-da-estrela.html

Post edited at 12:37
In reply to Donotello:

Yep, I would normally take that to mean you need to climb some insitu gear - bolts maybe, it might just be standing in a sling or something easy like that. If the rest is sport climbing I wouldn't expect you need to take any trad/aid gear.

You sometimes see on French topos something like "6a obl. A1 (7a+)" which I think means on the crux pitch you have to climb 6a to get between the bolts and the crux will need to be aid unless you can climb it free which makes the pitch 7a+. Quite a code isn't it?!

 Iamgregp 09 Sep 2021
In reply to Donotello:

I'm not sure, but I think this might be like when they put the "obligatory" grade on multi pitch climbs to show what you'll need to be able to cope with if you can't climb it free.

So for your example there it's given the sport grade of each pitch until the 6c+ (which is a bit more difficult than the previous pitches) so it's given as 6c+/A1 meaning it's a 6c+ if you can climb it free, but if you can't it's a really easy to aid your way through it.  As this is a bolted route and it's A1, I'd guess you can just yank on your quickdraws to get past the cruxes on this pitch.

In Italian guides they sometimes say something like 6b/6a obligatory, which basically means it's a 6b pitch free, but although you can yank on a draw at the crxes where there's a bolt you'll need to be a 6a level climber to make it through this pitch.

Like I said, I think that's what's going on here but I'll let someone else confirm.

EDIT:  Typed as Toby typed his much clearer more concise answer.  Think we're thinking the same though!

Post edited at 12:50
In reply to Donotello:

I would usually take that to mean its 6c+ IF you pull on some gear somewhere, ideally they also give you the grade for freeing it too, but it may be that a fully free ascent hasn't been done yet. I've never found a route where it specified aid but didn't also specify the minimum free grade too (even full aid routes tend to include mimimum free grades in there too)

 Donotello 09 Sep 2021
In reply to Iamgregp:

Thanks this made sense. It’s not a sport grade though theyre trad climbs, they don’t have a seperate grading system for trad in portugal, or many places abroad to be honest, makes me very thankful for our system. 

 Donotello 09 Sep 2021
In reply to willworkforfoodjnr:

yeh that’s the biggest confusion for me, is it a 6c+ pitch that you can cheat, or is it 6c+ when cheating but no ones managed to free it yet.. haha

 duchessofmalfi 09 Sep 2021
In reply to Donotello:

It's 6C+ to climb free or A1 to aid

In reply to Donotello:

Its certainly confusing, I would expect to see something like "6c+ A1 or 7a+" or similar, unless the whole pitch is A1 - if its just a move or 2 of aid you should really be seeing the free grade for the rest of the pitch...

 Iamgregp 09 Sep 2021
In reply to Donotello:

Ah right gotcha!

Agreed - very thankful for our system! 

I was "sport" climbing in Sardinia, where most routes were bolted but it normally said "Nuts" somewhere in the description if gear was required.  Apart from when it didn't, and there followed a tricky reversal!

 mariopulquerio 09 Sep 2021
In reply to Donotello:

> is it 6c+ when cheating but no ones managed to free it yet.. haha

This. It means that pitch has 6c+ free climbing plus A1 for some moves. Probably this pitch has never been freed. 

 AJM 09 Sep 2021
In reply to duchessofmalfi:

My experience is that the / means "and" i.e. that's 6c+ and A1, not 6c+ or A1. Often, when it has been freed, you have one free grade and then grade for a mixed ascent set out as this one has been.

Its certainly a lot safer to assume you need to be able to climb 6c+ than otherwise, as well!

 RBonney 09 Sep 2021
In reply to duchessofmalfi:

> It's 6C+ to climb free or A1 to aid

6C+ is a boulder grade and I don't think many of them get aided  

 C Witter 11 Sep 2021
In reply to Donotello:

My interpretation would be: there's a section on P4 that is harder but it can be avoided by aiding, bringing the route down to 6b.

 Donotello 08:57 Sat
In reply to Iamgregp:

you find that a lot around the world. Using some trad gear on a mostly bolted route (a hybrid) is quite common everywhere I’ve been except the U.K. 

The positive of that is even sport climbers get used to a bit of trad and you get more rounded climbers. A lot of Sport climbers in the U.K. are sh*t scared of trad, and can climb for years without ever need to place a bit of gear.  

 Webster 10:40 Sat
In reply to Donotello:

You seem to be getting two distinct pools of answers here, with drastically different consequences!

Pool A: Its 6c+ free, but you can cheat/aid at A1 to make it easier.

Pool B: It is 6c+ obligatory WITH some pulling on gear at A1, as there is no free grade also listed then it has probably never been freed.

In France the answer is unequivocally answer B! You often get an obligatoir (spelling?) grade which is the minimum standard you need with pulling on gear/bolts and the free grade afterwards i.e. 6a/A0 6c. This tends to be the case on routes which are fairly consistent in grade except 1 pitch, so a bolt/other in situ gear is placed at the crux to bring the grade down in line with the rest of the route. but you will also see it on big alpine routes where it is just assumed that many people will pull on gear at any difficult point (i.e. 'french free' their way up) for the sake of speed, but the free grade is also given for the purists out there.

I would assume that in portugal (indeed europe wide) they use the same system as they are using the french grading system. to do the opposite would just be confusing, not to mention dangerous!

 henwardian 11:30 Sat
In reply to Donotello:

The basic problem you have is that the slash can mean "or" and it can mean "and". The meaning changes depending on how the local area uses it.

So it could mean that pitch 4 involves 6c+ climbing and A1 aiding. Or it could mean that you can free climb it at whatever the overall route grade is (does your guidebook say? 6b?) which is less than 6c+ if you do a little A1 aiding (maybe even only a single move).

A1 in this type of case probably just means pulling on a quickdraw or situ gear or at most standing in a sling clipped to the bolt/situ gear. But this isn't a guarantee, A1 could, in theory, involve placing your own trad gear and pulling on it. Again this is a question of how A1 is used in the local area.

 Iamgregp 11:56 Sat
In reply to Donotello:

Yeah, we’re rather polar in our approach to bolts here. It’s either a fully bolted sport route, and doesn’t need any gear, or it’s fully trad and totally bolt free.

Totally different to other parts of the world where there isn’t the same approach to preserving trad, they’re happy to add a bolt when a route gets difficult to protect.  Do that here and somebody will have muttered “thin end of the wedge” before you’ve finished drilling.

In reply to Iamgregp:

> Yeah, we’re rather polar in our approach to bolts here. It’s either a fully bolted sport route, and doesn’t need any gear, or it’s fully trad and totally bolt free.

> Totally different to other parts of the world where there isn’t the same approach to preserving trad, they’re happy to add a bolt when a route gets difficult to protect.  Do that here and somebody will have muttered “thin end of the wedge” before you’ve finished drilling.


Yeah I cant bloody stand that about the UK. Especially when it is in old quarries. I am currently doing new routes that have a mixture of natural gear and bolts or bolts then a natural belay. People can learn to deal with it. Maybe its because so many climbers here are OCD?

Post edited at 12:24
 Webster 16:22 Sat
In reply to The Pylon King:

plenty of 'mixed pro' or designer danger partly bolted routes in UK quarries! just look at llanberis slate for starters. and its not restricted to slate either. 

 john arran 17:45 Sat
In reply to Webster:

> plenty of 'mixed pro' or designer danger partly bolted routes in UK quarries! 

That 'designer danger' aspect is precisely why I have a problem with such routes. Who's to decide when a bolt is necessary? Or justified? Or are they the same thing?

To me, the challenge should come from the rock's natural (or in some cases, quarried) state, rather than being a (to my mind) artificial challenge created by a particular person.

Such a challenge can equally be either fully bolted, meaning that the 'natural' challenge is purely a physical one, or not bolted at all, the challenge being both physical and emotional. Each has its place. But the hybrid designer compromise, for me, loses the value of both.

Having said that, I do remember doing some memorable minimally-bolted routes on slate!

 Webster 09:37 Sun
In reply to john arran:

in my mind the idea of 'designer danger' routes is that (after clipping the first bolt) a fall shouldnt hit the deck, but you may still take a huge whipper! so in theory there are just enough bolts to make the route a realistic prospect for somebody who opperates at the technical grade of the rock, but it still feels like a 'trad' line where you need to be mentally switched on the whole way. routes such as looning the tube would be pretty shit if fully bolted, but beyond the realms of acceptability to most HVSish climbers with no bolts, its the exposure that makes them thrilling!

In reply to The Pylon King:

> Yeah I cant bloody stand that about the UK. Especially when it is in old quarries. I am currently doing new routes that have a mixture of natural gear and bolts or bolts then a natural belay. People can learn to deal with it. Maybe its because so many climbers here are OCD?

Probably because routes like that are bloody annoying. 

 Donotello 23:07 Mon
In reply to Michael Gordon:

Yeh when you’re staunchly British they are. 

In reply to RBonney:

> 6C+ is a boulder grade and I don't think many of them get aided  

I sometimes ‘accidentally’ start from a stack of two or three pads…. Does that count! 🙂


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