UKC

/ Are some crags graded harder than others?

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Hi I wanted to see if an observation I've made holds in most climbers opinions.

It's this

Different crag grading seem harder or easier than others.

Now I'm talking very generally I know there will be harder and easier climbs within a grade at all crags. And I also know that climbs vary based on style. Easy but bold. Hard but protected ECT. 

 

What leads me to this is my trips around the peak district which felt roughly as follows.

Stanage popular: Benchmark

Lawrencfield: The same

Millstone: Seemed hard

burbage north: easy 

Burbage South. Insanely hard

Bamford. Seemed easy

Rivilin: Seemed a bit harder.

The strangest was probably stanage. The plantation seems just a bit harder than the popular end and High Neb we tend to consider as half a grade harder. Which is odd as very similar rock type and length.

The roaches: harder

Hen cloud: NAILS!

Castle Naze seemed pretty tough too.

 

Is this just me being lucky or unlucky with my climb choices on certain  crags or is it something that others find?

The reason I ask this is that I live in Kent so I like to get the most satisfaction  on my trips as they are rare and knowing if a venue is generally hard or soft would aid my climb choices.

For example I know I can try HVS at stanage but I tend to stick around HS at the roaches. Ive also heard climbing in north England is harder grades generally.

Please note I'm not asking for crags with loads of VDiffs or only E+ it's about how each grade feels in comparison to other crags.

Also what about limestone. I find it tough and scary except Harborough rocks which felt ok at the grade.

Any opinions welcome. Maybe a difficulty ranking would be good. Thanks

 

 

Misha - on 15 May 2018
In reply to There's Always A Bigger Cam:

No, it’s just that gravity is stronger at certain crags or indeed on certain days of the year (tends to be associated with drinking the night before, now who would have thought Mother Earth would behave that way!). 

5
kristian - on 15 May 2018
In reply to There's Always A Bigger Cam:

Some crags can take on their own grading system and stars for that matter. If let's say the old crag classic is E5 6b *** what goes after will often be based on that as a bench mark. Obviously things can get out of kilter comparing routes on a local level. some crags can be developed by one individual as well so the grades are unlikely to be very balanced.

LakesWinter on 15 May 2018
In reply to There's Always A Bigger Cam:

Well, you can also rank areas and rock types too.....

Peak grit; soft

Peak lime, a bit harder

Yorks grit, 3/4 of a grade harder

Lakes: Normal

North Wales; Soft

 

 

6
Eric9Points - on 15 May 2018
In reply to There's Always A Bigger Cam:

You must  take a trip up to Northumberland some time.

Hardonicus - on 15 May 2018
In reply to There's Always A Bigger Cam:

Take a trip to Chew and report back...

Michael Gordon - on 15 May 2018
In reply to There's Always A Bigger Cam:

> burbage north: easy 

> Burbage South. Insanely hard>

I came to that conclusion without having to try the routes!

Jon Stewart - on 15 May 2018
Andrew Lodge - on 15 May 2018
In reply to Hardonicus:

Having climbed at Standing Stones for the first time in a few years last night I was thinking exactly the same thing!

olddirtydoggy - on 16 May 2018
In reply to There's Always A Bigger Cam:

As a local I'd say the op's observations were pretty accurate.

Gordon Stainforth - on 16 May 2018
In reply to There's Always A Bigger Cam:

Your assessment (and those of Hardonicus and Lakes Winter) seem just about spot on. Which only goes to show that climbing grades are all over the place ... which is one reason that I'm so baffled by some climbers being so obsessed by them, i.e. in achieving a certain 'grade' when it really doesn't mean anything very accurate at all. For example, I'd rate Knight's Move ("HVS") at Burbage as slightly easier and less demanding in every respect than Devil's Kitchen ("V Diff") at Ogwen in its normally slightly wet/slimy condition.

1
Offwidth - on 16 May 2018
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

Maybe thats because Devil's Kitchen is at least Severe 4a  when dry and HVS equivalent when wet and Knights Move is almost benchmark VS 4a into VS 4c, when one obsesses about grades of course ;-)

Hardly anyone gave any thought to lower grade consistency away from the classics until about 20 years ago. So even soft graded areas like N Wales have absolute brutes still like Canopy Climb, D, going on HS 4b. In the Peak we ensured lower grade sensitive climbers tried  pretty much everything, so although subjective arguments will never resolve into objectivity, the BMC Peak grit guides should be as good as things get for consitency for no star routes (with the exceptions of some obscure or banned crags, especially on the Moors). Looking back to skill sets and equipment of the post war period we have returned to an attempt at fair grading on these climbs for the first time since then. 

1
Jon Stewart - on 16 May 2018
In reply to LakesWinter:

> Well, you can also rank areas and rock types too.....

> Lakes: Normal

Perhaps I can see a slight bias in the calibration creeping in here? I think Lakes grades are frequently quite sandbaggy. E2 - which I can often find easy in other areas can be the living end in the Lakes. An E2 5c might have lots of 5c climbing and no gear anywhere near the crux. Or an E1 5b might have a 5c start and a terrible landing. It is very varied though, so a bit of a lottery.

Pembroke grades are well soft. There's no way that being able to climb routes like The Arrow, Manzoku, Rock Idol, etc is going to qualify anyone to get up The Bludgeon (E1 5b)!

Dave Garnett - on 16 May 2018
In reply to There's Always A Bigger Cam:

It's just what you are used to.  When I climbed intensively at the Roaches and Hen Cloud I remember nearly falling off some VS at Stanage because I slapped up for a sloping hold and was shocked when my hand didn't just stick to it.

In reply to There's Always A Bigger Cam:

And if we go international for sport climbing ....

  • Anywhere in France, developed in the 1980s, when and where sport grades were invented
  • Peak Limestone
  • Yorkshire Limestone
  • Mallorca
  • North Wales Limestone
  • Catalunya
  • Dorset (although it is a style thing there)
  • Costa Blanca
  • El Chorro
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  • Chullila
  • Kalymnos

... to get the ball rolling.

Alan

 

1
pebbles - on 16 May 2018
In reply to Dave Garnett:

agree. when I used to climb almost exclusively on grit I used to wonder why people found it hard. you just smeared jammed or laybacked, didnt you? Now I climb on a far wider range of rock and places - and when I get back on grit it perplexes me again ;-D

jkarran - on 16 May 2018
In reply to There's Always A Bigger Cam:

Some crags are stiffer/softer graded than others, that's just the way it goes, many routes have traditional grades long settled upon before climbing was mainstream and meaningful cross comparisons became easy to make, inevitably they don't quite tie up with similar grades in different areas but they form the local benchmarks against which other routes are judged.

I think there is however also a bit of a style thing going on with your list too, the crags you list as hard tend (and it is only  a tendency, there are exceptions to all rules) to have slightly steeper, slightly purer less broken features, the routes following cracks for example have fewer breaks to from which you can pause to compose yourself. The moves may not be harder but they tend to keep coming in bigger chunks before you can get comfortably back into balance on your feet for a breather.

jk

Bulls Crack - on 16 May 2018
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

Montanejos somewhere above France

planetmarshall on 16 May 2018
In reply to Bulls Crack:

> Montanejos somewhere above France

Freyr somewhere above Montanejos...

mrphilipoldham - on 16 May 2018
In reply to Hardonicus:

One HVS, a few VS and a HS at Wimberry last week and I was aching the next day. Do the same at Stanage and you barely break in to a sweat. 

JLS on 16 May 2018
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

>"And if we go international for sport climbing ...."

Presumably though, if we avoid local guides and use your guide books to these areas, we will not notice any difference because you will have aligned your published grades with a set of global RockFax benchmarks.

 

In reply to planetmarshall:

> Freyr somewhere above Montanejos...

Ah yes, although they do claim a different scale in Belgium, or at least they did in the 1980s when everything was deliberately given a full grade less than in other areas. I think this has stuck for some reason.

It might also explain why the Groningen wall is harder than both Freyr and Montanejos, although I think that is 'reverse grade creep syndrome' (won't go into that in this thread though).

In reply to JLS:

> Presumably though, if we avoid local guides and use your guide books to these areas, we will not notice any difference because you will have aligned your published grades with a set of global RockFax benchmarks.

Yes, it would be great if we could do that but sadly it isn't possible. We tried it in a few places but you tend just to leave bigger grade anomalies and annoy all your readers.

As a dedicated member of CAMREG 'the campaign for real grades', I am still fighting a lone battle on one route - Sin tarjeta de presentación (6c+) at  Pena Roja (Lliber) in the Blanca. As you can see from the comments, I am not exactly winning. Myself, and everyone I have been at those crags with on the day we climbed that route (3 times over the last 25 years) think that it is about 6b+ maybe 6c. However it says 7a on the rock so that is what people want when they climb it. Sadly the same applies to grades in guidebooks.

Alan

GrahamD - on 16 May 2018
In reply to There's Always A Bigger Cam:

I agree some crags tend to be a bit tougher than others, but I'd disagree about using grit crags exclusively as 'standards'.  The grading system has to encompass multipitch mountain and sea cliff routes as well as 10m routes

Jon Greengrass on 16 May 2018
In reply to There's Always A Bigger Cam:

Yes absolutely grades are not absolute they are relative, to routes on the same rock type, climbing style, Length, crag sometimes down to the individual buttresses.

My first visit to Millstone taught me that my  jamming technique wasn't any good, once it had improved the grades seemed fair, with the same strength and fitness.

I always find some routes at Burbage North feel either feel easy because they are short or nails because they have very definite cruxes.

I always found Burbage South a good summer venue, the routes feel so much easier when they are dry and its not so cold you can't feel your fingers or your toes.

I found routes at Bamford felt easy because they rock is well featured, there are loads of different methods to do each move, rather than the yarding between breaks typical of Stanage Popular end.

Roaches is just really nice rock.

I've only done Bachelors left hand at Hen Cloud but the grading was fair if you know how to Jam.

 

 

JLS on 16 May 2018
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

>"Yes, it would be great if we could do that but sadly it isn't possible. We tried it in a few places but you tend just to leave bigger grade anomalies and annoy all your readers."

 

A sign of the times. Pragmatism trumps principles.

neuromancer - on 16 May 2018
In reply to There's Always A Bigger Cam:

These threads always make me feel better about the time I had a hissy fit after falling off Great Wall (HVS 5b) and twisting my ankle. I almost gave up climbing.

 

Sodding northumberland.

 

hms - on 16 May 2018
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

Ha. I climbed it a while ago. Got the onsight by the skin of my teeth and thought very firmly 7a. Went back with a strong team a year ago - group who were climbing mid 7s and, in one case, mid 8s. All firmly thought 7a and I won't repeat in polite company the comments of the mid 8s climber about your proposed grading!!!

planetmarshall on 16 May 2018
In reply to Dave Garnett:

> ...I remember nearly falling off some VS at Stanage because I slapped up for a sloping hold and was shocked when my hand didn't just stick to it.

Try that on some moorland grit and you'll be lucky if your hand comes off again.

 

Carless - on 16 May 2018
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

I climbed next to Jean-Claude Droyer at Secret Garden last year

Chatting to him he admitted that Belgian grades being harder than French grades is probably down to him putting up a 6b at Freyr back in the day which none of the Belgians could do

spidermonkey09 - on 16 May 2018
In reply to There's Always A Bigger Cam:

On a more general note, why do climbers seem to think 'benchmark' means 'top of the grade'? It doesn't; it means the very middle of the grade! 

As per the definition: 

'a standard or point of reference against which things may be compared.'

The middle of the grade is the place to compare from, no?

Post edited at 17:05
Chris the Tall - on 16 May 2018
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

> And if we go international for sport climbing ....

> Anywhere in France, developed in the 1980s, when and where sport grades were invented

I've always reckoned on Italy being harder than France (with the possible exception of Buoux, but that his it's own peculiar style). Never got much past 6a in Arco, Finale or the Dolomites. And then there's Val di Mello, but that's another story.  

Nic on 16 May 2018
In reply to Chris the Tall:

>with the possible exception of Buoux, but that has its own peculiar style

Buoux was my first sports climbing trip, in the early 90's. My mate and I thought you could translate from sport to UK by taking off a whole number (i.e. F6a = UK tech 5a so around HVS). To say we got spanked on the 6a slabs is one hell of an understatement...

 

 

 

harold walmsley - on 16 May 2018
In reply to spidermonkey09:

> The middle of the grade is the place to compare from, no?

Superficially it might seem so but I think, as it is at the boundaries where the controversies arise, that it would be better to have the benchmarks at the grade boundaries. Then by majority opinion, harder than a benchmark (for the style) = the grade above, easier = the grade below. Thus Three Pebble Slab would become a quintessential benchmark rather than an anomaly to argue about!

 

1
GrahamD - on 16 May 2018
In reply to spidermonkey09:

> On a more general note, why do climbers seem to think 'benchmark' means 'top of the grade'? It doesn't; it means the very middle of the grade! 

 

And as a consequence, half the routes at the grade should be harder than that benchmark.  They are not 'sandbags' !

 

 

Michael Gordon - on 16 May 2018
In reply to harold walmsley:

> Superficially it might seem so but I think, as it is at the boundaries where the controversies arise, that it would be better to have the benchmarks at the grade boundaries. Then by majority opinion, harder than a benchmark (for the style) = the grade above, easier = the grade below. 

Great, so we now need a list of routes which are, by majority opinion, so close to grade boundaries that it's impossible to decide which grade they are. 

aln - on 16 May 2018
In reply to There's Always A Bigger Cam:

Yes. 

rocksol - on 17 May 2018
In reply to LakesWinter:

Peak grit soft Mmmm How come Lakes and Welsh E5 and E6 to me always felt two grades easier than most Peak grit routes of same grade.

Chris the Tall - on 17 May 2018
In reply to Nic:

Exactly the same experience. But in my case I went back 17 years later, with a dozen 6c's under my belt, and got back on a 6a+ I'd failed on in in 93.

And got spanked yet again !!  

Chris the Tall - on 17 May 2018
In reply to harold walmsley:

> Thus Three Pebble Slab would become a quintessential benchmark rather than an anomaly to argue about!

I've been saying that for years. Use popular routes such as Sunset Slab and TPS as the demarkation points. So if a route is harder than SS and easier than TPS it's an HVS. 

The problem is that it only really applies to bold slabs, and as the average skillset changes (and thanks to climbing walls people become better at steep but well protected routes) so the relative difficulty of a bold slab will increase.

 

harold walmsley - on 18 May 2018
In reply to Michael Gordon:

> Great, so we now need a list of routes which are, by majority opinion, so close to grade boundaries that it's impossible to decide which grade they are. 

Precisely

Michael Gordon - on 18 May 2018
In reply to harold walmsley:

> Precisely

I await with interest!

JimHolmes69 - on 18 May 2018
In reply to GrahamD:

We all think that all bench mark grades are in the Wilton quarries. We all think that all climbing is training for Wilton. Everything is spot on with the grade just hard work and often intimidating. There are only a very few soft  touches and these are often bold. But the climbing is great.

DubyaJamesDubya - on 18 May 2018
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

Slovenia harder than any where else I've climbed (others more well travelled than me agree)

Kid Spatula - on 19 May 2018
In reply to DubyaJamesDubya:

Similarly some of the grading in Croatia is... Interesting. Particularly Paklenica. Some right sandbags at Marjan too.

Ratfeeder - on 20 May 2018
In reply to There's Always A Bigger Cam:

Interesting thread this.

It's often seemed to me that the climbs on some crags are generally harder than climbs of the same grade on other crags. But then, I'll visit a crag which I've convinced myself is 'hard' and be pleasantly surprised, or vice versa. For example, some years ago I had a go at leading Byne's Crack at Burbage South, but gave up before I'd even got established in the crack. It was obviously going to take a significant expenditure of effort, which I didn't associate with a 'mere 4b'. So at that time I would have agreed with you about Burbage South. But just a couple of weeks ago I was dragged almost against my will back to Burbage South (In order to escape the hot sun), and tried Byne's Crack again. Expecting it to be desperate, I found it quite reasonable for a gritstone VS 4b - well protected, good jams etc. This made me think it was more about my own attitude and expectations than the crag/climb itself.

Conversely, I've always considered Black Crag in Borrowdale to be generally 'soft-touch' (Mortician being a notable exception). TP Superdirect is one of the easiest HVS's I know, Raindrop and Jubilee Grooves very reasonable E1's and The Shroud a soft-touch VS - as I remembered it from years ago! But then just yesterday I led an old mate (Karl) up The Shroud, thinking this 'soft-touch' VS would boost his (and my own) confidence at the grade. When I got to the peg under the overhang on the 2nd pitch I began to wonder why I had ever thought this climb was easy for the grade! It took me a lot of tentative to-ing and fro-ing before I worked out the moves and even then it felt harder than 4c. Karl managed to follow but not without falling off - he also thought it harder than 4c. We noted a team below us also struggled on the 2nd pitch and ended up bailing out. Yet the third pitch, also given 4c, seemed a stroll in the park to both of us.

So I think there are lots of issues at play here. First, a lot depends on which particular routes one happens to have experienced on a given crag. Second, one's own subjective attitudes and expectations have a large part to play. And third, the grading system itself is pretty subjective and, dare I say it, inconsistent, not just between different crags, but between different climbs on the same crag and even different pitches on the same climb! There are anomalies all over the place, which makes it very difficult to generalize.

 

DubyaJamesDubya - on 21 May 2018
In reply to Kid Spatula:

> Similarly some of the grading in Croatia is... Interesting. Particularly Paklenica. Some right sandbags at Marjan too.

Definitely not a place to go to for an ego massage!

1
Dom Goodwin - on 21 May 2018
In reply to There's Always A Bigger Cam:

There seem to be regional and crag-specific  variations as well as cases where an individual route seems to have a dissonant grade. I don’t think it’s easy to understand which of these is the case without good local knowledge. Standard advice to cater to this seems to be to drop your standard by a grade when visiting somewhere new. Personal preferences, subjectivity, missing a key hold, skill at placing protection etc are all factors, so grading is complex and accuracy not easy to achieve.

Sometimes, some may suggest that too many climbers are obsessed with grades, and it’s more important to enjoy the route and focus on other things. Personally, I don’t feel some degree of obsession with grades is unreasonable. It’s the best measure of progress on improving (hopefully) ability. Also, good to know that a route you are attempting is reasonable for your ability, or if trying to push your grade that you are doing so gradually. So reasonably accurate grades and understanding regional differences are important.

To give one example, on a recent visit to Plump Hill, I managed 11 routes (mostly top-roping, average grade about VS) without falling off, which I was pleased with as a V Diff leader. By contrast, on a visit to Cleeve Hill, after two short V Diffs (one lead, one second), we went to Castle Rock, where I struggled up one Severe, which I found absolutely desperate, and that finished me off for the day!

Is the grading disparity really so great in this case that VS at Plump Hill is far easier than Severe at Castle Rock? (Protection - or lack thereof - may have some part to play in the difference.) Or is it simply that I am relatively accomplished (for my standard) on slabs, and inept on steeper strenuous walls? I suspect the answer is a mixture of these factors, though complete clarity on such differences is hard to achieve. Though I’m pretty sure that an E1 slab at Ruspidge I found straightforward and a tricky Diff chimney I backed off trying to lead at Bamford were simply both misgraded.

 

Kid Spatula - on 21 May 2018
In reply to DubyaJamesDubya:

My personal favourites were:

A 4b in a popular bit of Paklenica that was; to be fair 4b to the crux, that ended up with a nails move that wouldn't be out of place on a 6b. This was followed by a approximately 5m run out up a desperate corner with a fall onto a ledge if you fluffed it. 

A 4b at Marjan that seems to now have been upgraded to a 6b+. I did wonder after I'd fell off the crux again and again...

Fakey Rocks - on 21 May 2018
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

> And if we go international for sport climbing ....

> Anywhere in France, developed in the 1980s, when and where sport grades were invented

> Peak Limestone

> Yorkshire Limestone

> Mallorca

> North Wales Limestone

> Catalunya

> Dorset (although it is a style thing there)

> Costa Blanca

> El Chorro

> Chullila

> Kalymnos

> ... to get the ball rolling.

> Alan

Where would other SWest sport lime fit in here, eg Cheddar / Brean / Anstey's?

I'd say Malham / Kilnsey feel a full letter grade harder than Cheddar, eg Malham kilnsey 6c = ched 7a ?... would that seem fair? Perhaps hard to judge at the mo unless I reach mid 7's, as compared to Chedd  neither crag has many lower grade sport routes, but how do mid 7s + up compare between Yorks lime + S.west, excluding Dorset?

DubyaJamesDubya - on 22 May 2018
In reply to Kid Spatula:

That sounds horrendous.

I did get to enjoy the 4s and 5s in Slovenia

Kid Spatula - on 22 May 2018
In reply to DubyaJamesDubya:

Oddly other climbs were spot on.  I also climbed a 6b that was about 5, and a 6a that was about 4+ to be fair.


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