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XS grade

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 Tom V 12 Jan 2020

What is the significance of the XS grade in UKC route descriptions and what criteria are involved in using that grade as opposed to a normal E grade?

 Stuart William 12 Jan 2020
In reply to Tom V:

Read the description of a few of them and you might see a pattern emerging. Generally too loose or downright weird to be gradable on any other system. Generally expect a very healthy dose of choss. I can think of a few XSs where it’s probably safer to solo, as at least then only one of you dies when the cliff collapses. 

Using E grades for these routes might lead someone to mistakenly think a route is just very run out, whereas XS warns you it may in fact be made of soft cheese which might affect your decision to give it a go. 

Post edited at 21:02
 deacondeacon 12 Jan 2020
In reply to Tom V:

Is there a decent ticklist anywhere?  

 Tom V 12 Jan 2020
In reply to deacondeacon:

I don't know. I was just browsing some old stuff and noticed that a route my mate and I put up in North Pembs in the early 80s has been upgraded by UKC from VS 4c to XS 5b yet no-one other than us has recorded an ascent, at least on UKC.

 kingholmesy 12 Jan 2020
In reply to deacondeacon:

There’s quite a few along the north coast of Devon and Cornwall.  Stuff that I’ve done that borders on XS even if it gets an E grade includes:

A Whiter Shade of Shale (E5 5c)

The Tomb (E4 5c)

The Urge (XS 5c)

They are all excellent routes, but require a cool head and a circumspect approach to the rock.

Post edited at 21:43
 Tom V 12 Jan 2020
In reply to kingholmesy:

Not familiar with them, so what differentiates The Tomb from The Urge, grade wise?

 Dave Todd 12 Jan 2020
 kingholmesy 12 Jan 2020
In reply to Tom V:

Not much.  They both have some loose rock and pretty serious positions.  I suppose if pushed I’d say that although loose in places the rock on The Tomb is a bit more conventional, whereas The Urge can be a bit soft and sandy.

For most (all?) XS routes you could give them an equivalent E grade instead, it’s just that using the XS grade spells out to people that they should expect an adventurous route with dubious rock.

Easier routes in this style occasionally get MXS (ie mild XS).

 Tom V 13 Jan 2020
In reply to Dave Todd:

Yes, seen it before, It is the archetypal XS route.

But I was wondering at what point does the grade given by the first ascensionists and used in at least one guide book get replaced by the XS grade and what consensus (for instance, how many ascents) is needed before this is done?

In reply to Tom V:

Subjective, innit?

The Good of Sleep (E1 5a)

I gave this XS 5a, relatively easy but very exposed climbing, rather blind moves, horrendous landing. Called it The God of Sleep. XS seemed to give ample warning of what you were in for; a micro-route which could still kill you.

Now on the database as The Good of Sleep, E1 5a, only recorded repeat by Alex and I doubt he had a hand in the renaming and regrading.

Subjective, innit?

Mick

1
 Max factor 13 Jan 2020
In reply to Dave Todd:

> Just to give you a flavour...

Requisite viewing. I'll never complain about rock quality again.

In reply to Max factor:

I suppose the test of what a wimp one is is how much you'd have to be paid to go on it. I would have to be paid upwards of £10 million ... Actually, no amount of money would get me on that.

P.S. I met Dave Thomas years ago ... I think he'd just soloed Lord of the Flies ...

Post edited at 12:30
In reply to Tom V:

I'd say that generally speaking, if you fall off something that's graded XS all the gear and belays stand a fair chance of ripping. The 'falling off' stands a fair chance of happening in the first place because the 'rock' fails.

 PaulJepson 13 Jan 2020
In reply to Toerag:

XS is a bachelor's grade.

I've seen some horrors on culm that I don't know what would possess someone to attempt. 

 flaneur 13 Jan 2020
In reply to Dave Todd:

Who downgraded It from HXS?!

XS (or HXS) is when the technical difficulty is the least of your worries. Usually roughly translates to E3 5a/E4 5b.

 Tom V 13 Jan 2020
In reply to Toerag:

Ok, but whose decision is it to apply the XS grade.?On UKC, for instance.

In reply to Tom V:

> Ok, but whose decision is it to apply the XS grade.?On UKC, for instance.


Yes, the instances of re-grading mentioned in this thread are disturbing.

 pec 13 Jan 2020
In reply to Tom V:

Mick Fowler used the XS sytem quite a bit, which gives you an idea of what it's all about!

His system was as follows:

Mild XS = If the leader falls he will probably survive

XS = If the leader falls he will probably die

Hard XS = If the leader falls both he and the second will probably die

 Tom V 13 Jan 2020
In reply to pec:

I understand all this. I'm trying to establish who regrades routes with the XS badge when they were given a conventional grade by the first ascensionists?

If someone has a copy of the Quinton North Pembroke guide maybe they could check the grade for me:

Fishguard, Needle Rock area, route name St . Michael.

Post edited at 22:10
 Michael Gordon 14 Jan 2020
In reply to Tom V:

The guidebook author? They are allowed to alter grades, one of the perks of the job!

 Michael Gordon 14 Jan 2020
In reply to Mick Ward:

I think nearly everyone would read XS as meaning loose. From your description an E grade seems more appropriate, and sounds as though it could be anything from E1 to E3?

 Tom V 14 Jan 2020
In reply to Michael Gordon:

No problem with that as long as they have completed the route.

2
In reply to Michael Gordon:

I'll split the difference - E2 5a. Oh, what the hell, let's just stick with E1 5a.  (They were right, all along!)

Maybe I'm just getting crap at grading. Went back to an old solo FA last year. Had given it E1 5b.  Balancy, sequency 5c/6a moves right at the top, no gear if you were leading, rock quality not 100% (rarely is, on Portland). A crimp snapped, half-way up and off I popped, luckily with Mr Shunt, this time. Filled it with bolts; that'll settle its hash (and ensure popularity). 

I've always thought of XS simply as being far more dangerous than you'd normally expect - for whatever reason. But yes, of course, you're right, looseness is almost certainly the most common reason.

Mick

 Michael Gordon 14 Jan 2020
In reply to Mick Ward:

It's easy sometimes for stuff to feel different on the solo. You think "I soloed that, can't be that bad". Then go back years later and barely scrape through on the lead!

 Tom V 14 Jan 2020
In reply to Tom V:

Hmm. I would have thought that climbing the route was a prerequisite of being involved in forming a consensus about its grade. 

 Michael Gordon 14 Jan 2020
In reply to Tom V:

What if a route is top end (E8+), has only had 2 ascents and with differing opinions on grade, and both climbers have a strong track record? 

 profitofdoom 14 Jan 2020
In reply to Stuart William:

> .....Generally expect a very healthy dose of choss. I can think of a few XSs where it’s probably safer to solo, as at least then only one of you dies when the cliff collapses....

That's the perfect route for me (not kidding) - balancing up loose chossy steep slabs, knocking off lumps of cliff which rain down past my second, every runner shaky, hollow flakes, moss, poor belays.... Not kidding

When I see an 'XS' grade I get interested

 Stuart William 14 Jan 2020
In reply to Tom V:

> I don't know. I was just browsing some old stuff and noticed that a route my mate and I put up in North Pembs in the early 80s has been upgraded by UKC from VS 4c to XS 5b yet no-one other than us has recorded an ascent, at least on UKC.

You would hope someone has had a go on it to be about to give an informed opinion on the inflated tech grade. Do you know if there has been any rock fall or similar in the area  that has perhaps affected the character and difficulty of the route?

I don’t know the area well but it’s not impossible that the route has changed in the last 40 years. Especially if it has had next to no traffic to keep it clean. 

 Stuart William 14 Jan 2020
In reply to profitofdoom:

Ha, I always get interested when I see XS too. But then I remember I’m a total wimp and just look at it while loudly making sure everyone knows that I would definitely lead it, but I’ll need to come back with a more technical pair of underwear. Having a belayer willing to join in the panto and loudly refuse to belay me on it even if I did have the right pants on helps keep up the facade, but it’s not essential. 

 stevevans5 14 Jan 2020
In reply to Michael Gordon:

Then I'm sure it would make a good UKC debate, or would it be the track record of the climber(s) that ends up being debated?? 

 Michael Gordon 14 Jan 2020
In reply to stevevans5:

I sometimes wonder what a guidebook author might make of Longhope Direct for example. MacLeod FA (suggested E10/11), McHaffie repeat (suggested E8/9). So track record wouldn't come into it really. I've a feeling the style should be big wall (single push and all pitches led free) rather than a perfect no falls whatsoever. Presumably it will settle at E9 or E10.

 Tom V 14 Jan 2020
In reply to Stuart William:

I know the top pitch is still there because you can see it on the Google Earth Pembrokeshire Coast Path sequence. 

 overdrawnboy 14 Jan 2020
In reply to PaulJepson:

> XS is a bachelor's grade.

> Disagree, you need to be able to handle horrendous situations that you've entered into willingly. Marriage is a great preparation.

 Richard J 14 Jan 2020
In reply to Tom V:

Hmm, I've not done St Michael, but I've done three of the other routes at Needle Rock, and while they were certainly adventurous it didn't seem XS territory to me.  Some of the runners might actually have held.

 Richard J 16 Jan 2020
In reply to Tom V:

I looked St Michael up in the Quinton guide, and indeed it's there at XS (5b), described as "loose, vegetated and not recommended".  Presumably the guidebook writer at least had a close look at it, though it still seems odd that the technical grade would go up so much unless someone had actually climbed it.  

 Tom V 16 Jan 2020
In reply to Richard J:

Thanks for that: you've established where it got the upgrade at least.

 Richard J 16 Jan 2020
In reply to Tom V:

I don't know about that guidebook, it described one of the routes I did on Needle Rock as "a good line marred by loose rock and guano".  Marred?  It's almost as if it thinks those are bad things.  I thought they were the whole point of sea cliff climbing.


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