/ Grade Disorientation... OR... What is to be done?
Bored recently at the little local climbing wall, a friend started setting himself problems. He sent me a description of the best one, so I could have a go, describing it as: "V6 for the venue, real V4, outdoor V3." "V1 outdoors" was my tongue-in-cheek reply.
But, my friend wasn't joking - just expressing our increasing bewilderment at the lack of coherence between grades in different places.
I've been climbing for some time, and some friends have been climbing longer. We tend to climb at three indoor venues, and find each venue grades differently, but with a lack of consistency even within each venue. One venue seems to be getting ever harder, whilst another seems to be getting ever easier. At one venue, the setters are grades out of synch with each other. At another, I've recently sent my first "V7-V9" that felt like a "V3-V4" (although, what does that even mean?) and a "7a" that was great but felt easier than some "6bs". Consequently, indoors my sense of progression has become completely unmoored from grades - there's little point in taking them into consideration.
Meanwhile, V1s outside in the Lakes often feel tricky; I've buzzed with achievement off an f5+. Meanwhile, I've sent an f6C and an f6B+ with ease in the Forest of Bowland, but found some f5s impossible. There are obviously different skills, styles, features and sometimes tricky bits of beta or lost holds - or perhaps even the odd eliminate where you're not sure what's in and what isn't, but after a few years of bouldering here and there, I've lost rather than found any sense of grade coherence.
Overall, I'm convinced it's not just me, and that the more I climb the more I give up on grades, because people are just using completely different scales.
Do others agree? And, if so, can anything be done about it?
Accept it's like that, and that's the way it is. Run DMC music optional.
But seriously, grades, innit. You know when it's soft, and if you really want to find out where you are go and get on some benchmark test pieces for the grade.
Yeh, I take much the approach that you describe. Nonetheless, given that grades are the currency of the climbing economy and that people put so much effort into accumulating them (if you'll excuse the laboured metaphor), it does seem that at least a rough sense of consistency is desirable... My personal feeling is that there's almost no coherence.
When inside, so long as the grades are consistent within that wall just accept it. The nearby wall may be different but still consistent. Neither will be comparable to outside grades. Some walls grade to build the egos of their indoor devotees, which I find annoying, some grade easier stuff soft, then have a jump to almost normal, usually at about 6b. You don't have to frequent a wall if you don't like what they do.
Outside I find grades reasonably consistent for both trad and sport (except for the odd weird stuff like |Veranda Buttress on Stanage HVD 5b!). There will always be the odd route where holds have dropped off or the style of climbing does not match mine, but overall they are fairly good across the UK, Spain, France and Greece in my experience.
This is about roped climbing. Rarely boulder, indoors or out!
I think partly it's V grades, the grade boundaries are so wide at the lower levels. Gyms have gone down the route of differentiating beginners climbs (VB/V0) and easy climbs V1/V2, when the majority of indoor grades at this level are barely V0 compared to properly graded problems.
The application of a bouldering scale to a jug ladder is ultimately what has led to the indoor grade inflation. I guess if nothing else, the indoor version of V grades are useful relative comparison points, and if you take them for this you wont be disappointed.
I find UK trad climbs tend to be fairly consistent, at least within the modest grades I'm climbing. I've not done much UK sport climbing. It's bouldering where I experience the most profound disorientation!
I think you're spot on with the idea of gyms setting by other standards at the lowest grades. E.g. one gym where I climb doesn't use VB - the grades start at V0. They also have a lot of trade in classes for small children. The "V0" and "V1" jug ladders (which are actually easier to climb than a ladder) are patently there for use with these classes, plus warmups for everyone else. Fair dos, but the grades are distorted by this, with V2s and V3s that are English tech 4a-4c when they should be English tech 5c-6a. When you put it in those terms, it's a massive jump!
But, the distortion continues throughout the grades, as far as I can see... (which isn't that far, admittedly). And significant disparities also apply outside, where accessibility/children/classes are not the driver...
The biggest factor in this I think is we all have different strengths and weaknesses. If you a strong on crimps but weak on slopers.... guess what that 7a sloper problem is going to feel like nails but the crimpy 7a next door is going to feel a soft touch. This doesn't just apply to hold styles, but also if the route is thugg or balanced, overhung, flowy, stop start, high stepping, or just hard to read then theres your performance... when did you last eat? hows your hydration? is it hotter than normal? what's the altitude? have you warmed up properly
Climbers have been moaning about this since the first route was graded
> One venue seems to be getting ever harder, whilst another seems to be getting ever easier.
Not too bothered about a philosophical debate on grades but as a shameless grade chaser based in the same county as you I'm interested in where I need to go for soft grades and where I need to avoid!
I know what you're saying; I've read that book, too! But, as someone who works on different holds, different angles, different rock types, etc., and climbs with a bunch of people - male and female - with different strengths and body shapes, I still think - it's not just a matter of perception!
> I'm interested in where I need to go for soft grades and where I need to avoid!
If pursuing your top grade on trad routes this is especially important - to not get sandbagged into situations your neck isn't long enough for … however with bolts its not such a problem - escape is easier, and there is little satisfaction in bagging a grade you know is too soft; so in the end - you need to know that the given grades are correct, no ?
If you think wall grades are inconsistent , look at various mountain biking and walking guides.
Each author thinks they need to invent a new system.
The best thing to do is keep pointing it out and request change. The Depot are the 'most consistent' offenders for venues with good setters (sad to say as I enjoy the quality of their setting across the different venues) . The grade ranges are pretty steady from set to set and similar across centres, yet way out at the bottom end.
The Depot white circuits should all around fun to V0-, the blue VB to V1, the black V0- to V2 and red V1 to V4
A lot of effort was put into the BMC and YMC guides I worked on and I think their boulder problems are pretty well graded. It can be done. I feel sorry for indoor lower grade boulderers moving outdoors for the first time.... not only do they have to,deal with unusual styles and all the extra hazzards of the outdoors they have to subtract two grades as well!
Does it really matter, is it practicable to change, and are any irregularities just due to style preferences?! One of your bugbears seems to be relative triviality of indoor problems at the Depot cf outdoors. Well, I've not bouldered seriously for years but even when I was regularly doing font7b+/c at Almscliff etc I never, ever managed "yellows" at the Leeds Depot (=>V7/f7a+). The last moderately hard problem I did was Scary Canary at Caley a couple of years ago - f7b+ - did it in a session - but there is a f6c 30yds away I cannot do and will likely never manage (sit start to flapjack groove). Grades are hugely subjective indoors and outdoors and any arguments on them always seem to reflect badly on the protagonists.
Do people really grade walks?! That's... just...
> Grades are hugely subjective indoors and outdoors and any arguments on them always seem to reflect badly on the protagonists.
It's for this reason I don't mention any particular climbing walls or individuals. Perhaps, given the lack of enthusiasm for the debate, it's not really that important. But, it is quite a surreal experience, training inside during the winter with only your own memory and judgement as a marker of any gains! Are you getting better, or are you just going mad?!
There's obviously a case for grading walks but you seem to think it surprising.
No doubt walkers who find it useful to know the difference between a 90 minute stroll round a lake and a 12 hour trip over rough terrain might find the need to grade a few moves on an indoor gym equally puzzling.
Not to you but it does to indoor climbers doing easy reds going outdoors and risking hurting themselves on a f5. Depot grades seem fine on purple and yellow from climbers who climb those grades its just the easier circuits and bottom end of red.. Its an easy fix to make: just move the labels. The Works are OK so why can't the Depot sort it.
Whilst the grade disparity between climbing walls can be frustrating, I've often turned to this article as a pick me up after falling off the easiest of outdoor boulders!
Anyone who can't differentiate between a safe f5 with a flat landing and say, Angels Wall at f5 is risking hurting themselves whatever they do. The Depot's setting does not affect people safety , although I admit it will mean people get shut down outside, a feeling we all have to get used to.
> No doubt walkers who find it useful to know the difference between a 90 minute stroll round a lake and a 12 hour trip over rough terrain
Couldn't they read the description?
Your post seems to suggest this is some sort of new phenomenon?
I always presumed that was what the map was for...
> Not to you but it does to indoor climbers doing easy reds going outdoors and risking hurting themselves on a f5. Depot grades seem fine on purple and yellow from climbers who climb those grades its just the easier circuits and bottom end of red.. Its an easy fix to make: just move the labels. The Works are OK so why can't the Depot sort it.
I'm quite happy for the grades to diverge with outdoor. Indoor needs a system where beginners and people that don't go that often get differentiation across easier climbs. If they define V0, V1, V2 to mean 'ladder', 'wee bit harder', 'fairly hard if you are crap' they are just responding to market demand. Beginners climbing easy circuits don't go out and climb massive highballs with bad landings outdoors, if they go outdoors at all they take one look at stuff like that and say 'f*ck no'.
It would be nice if things were reasonably consistent from wall to wall. If one wall is calling something V5/V6 which would get V3/V4 elsewhere there's a problem.
Thanks for that, Francis. Yes, the graphic is pretty spot on!
Hope NZ is treating you and S well Miss your face.
> But, it is quite a surreal experience, training inside during the winter with only your own memory and judgement as a marker of any gains! Are you getting better, or are you just going mad?!
having benchmark climbs on a fixed board (which can be found at most climbing walls now) along with finger strength benchmarks on a fingerboard are the best way around this I think.
I get what you're saying - indoor walls should definitely take other considerations into account, such as making climbing accessible, fun, safe and rewarding for visitors with a wide range of abilities.
However, my understanding is that our grading systems were originally developed outside - in Hueco, Fontainebleau and UK trad crags. So, outdoor grades are supposed to be the foundation of indoor grades, and the disparity between these is surely one of the factors that has led to the situation where I'm sure that anyone really knows what each grade is supposed to feel like.
To be fair, there is probably a rough consistency across grades at a gym at any one time. But, then a new setter starts and you notice the grades creeping up or down, with sometimes hilarious consequences (like onsighting a "V7" whilst you're still struggling on "V5", or falling off a F6a).
Personally, I'm against blaming setters though; I think that would be completely misplaced, because I really don't think we have sufficient agreement about what grades should be to start criticising any particular individuals.
Perhaps the only lesson to take away is, grades are no measure of training progress or climbing achievement.
Its not the setting. The setting is excellent and consistent and meets customer needs: its just the grade bands that need changing (esp for while , blue and blackl. The whole issue about people going outside for the first time is they don't know much about climbing outside.
Definitely a bad landing but the fact its on UKC as f5 suggests that thats the way its going to get done going forward! In fairness the landing is no worse than many in font. The point was more that if someone was unable to spot the rock and injured themselves on it I would not be rushing to blame the red circuit at the Depot!
You don't need to know anything about climbing outside to see a big rock underneath something, come on. Ludicrous discussion, as in any case replicating the movement on grit on indoor problems is pretty much impossible anyway. Getting spanked is not analogous to safety.
> ... I give up on grades, because people are just using completely different scales.
One solution is to simply use different grading systems indoors and outdoors.
So use V indoors (with gradings much as the Depot does now) and use Font outdoors, and not try to relate the two.
> However, my understanding is that our grading systems were originally developed outside - in Hueco, Fontainebleau and UK trad crags. So, outdoor grades are supposed to be the foundation of indoor grades, and the disparity between these is surely one of the factors that has led to the situation where I'm sure that anyone really knows what each grade is supposed to feel like.
Indoor climbing is now a larger sport than outdoor climbing and if the historic outdoor grading systems don't work for a large section of the indoor customer demographic at the low grades then the indoor centres should tweak the meaning of the lower grades to be something useful for their customers.
If I'm climbing V0 or V1 indoors I'm not worried about whether the V1 grade is exactly what the people who developed the V scale 20 years ago intended it to be. I just want V1 to be a bit harder than V0 and a bit easier than V2. At the higher grades it becomes more important there's a reasonable match.
> the indoor centres should tweak the meaning of the lower grades to be something useful for their customers.
Agreed, that's the other sensible solution. The outdoors guidebook writers should adjust to the gradings used indoors.
Faffing with VB, V0- and such is just silly. The indoor centres, quite rightly, are not going to adopt Offwidth's gradings. If some novices turn up they don't want to have to explain a grading system including VB and V0-, they want a sensible one that goes V0, V1, V2 ...
So, de facto, indoor Depot grades *are* what V grades are nowadays. Guidebook writers should either adopt those, or use something else (such as Brit tech and Font).
I've known a few keen tenacious types who needed to be calmed down first time outdoors; they accepted their own responsibilities and realised they were being a bit silly but having a better idea of what grades meant would help. The UK guidebooks do this well by equating across sytems, include trad tech grades.
Font guidebooks are usually terrible for informing new lower grade boulderers what to expect (with the exception of Jingo Wobbly that at least tried to regrade for consistency ): no one seems to want to admit most of the traditional grades sub f6A in Font are almost meaningless.
I really can't see why people think having roughly equivalent grade labels to easy UK outdoor grading could possibly be a bad thing. No change in setting is required as its already proven consistent; just some numbers (most lower grade bouldering customers won't understand anyway) need changing on the info board.
Good grading allows the boulderer to select the most suitable problems for them in conjunction with the obvious nature of the problem. They will know their own weaknesses and so won't get frustrated if they know crunched up sit starts don't suit them ( so the problems will feel very hard for their grade to them).
Its not the odd problem I'm moaning about indoors at some walls in the lower grades, it's the average being way off (depite ecxellent and consistent setting). The Works are OK in both respects.. . consitent setting and realistic grades.. it can be done.
On Tom's point those labels already exist in VB and V0 - . but I can see that might confuse beginners. Hence a practical solution would be to label the white circuit fun and label blue fun to V1, Black V0 to V2, etc. The current problem is the easiest blues given V1 might be too easy to get VB outdoors in the UK and would be labeled, as such, as fun. The easiest blues would most likely be f1s in Font (and would be f2s in the UK).
I personally feel that the font grades allow more differentiation, and so are more useful than V grades. But, perhaps others disagree for precisely the same reason: namely, that it's pointless trying to differentiate so precisely something that is so subjective.
>Indoor climbing is now a larger sport than outdoor climbing and if the historic outdoor grading systems don't work for a large section of the indoor customer demographic at the low grades then the indoor centres should tweak the meaning of the lower grades to be something useful for their customers.
Or they could use a scale that goes down low enough to differentiate between the different variations of jugs on a slab rather than redefining an existing scale that begins well above the level that people climbing such problems are capable of.
This grading scale could start somewhere logical like 1a, (being a grade that anyone capable of climbing a flight of stairs would be able to get up to avoid hurting beginners' feelings) and it could keep going up all the way to the cutting edge of current bouldering standards. Perhaps we could name this scale after the birthplace of modern bouldering in Europe...
Transition Extreme in Aberdeen used different grades for the vert walls (font grades ) and steep walls (V grades) for a time rather than V grades for everything, presumably due to a different setter as well because I went from flashing V5 to projecting F6b on the vert wall.
Climbing last night I bagged my first 7a onsight!! But didn't feel too awesome as it was easier than some 6bs I have done at the same climbing wall. My climbing partner and I were joking about it, we mentioned it to a few others at the wall and it seems the route is already known for its 'accessibility' despite being just set.
> having benchmark climbs on a fixed board (which can be found at most climbing walls now) along with finger strength benchmarks on a fingerboard are the best way around this I think.
Spot on. A moonboard should be compulsory at every bouldering wall, and someone should invent an easier version as well.
I have yet to encounter anywhere with grades further detached from normal outdoor grades than on a moonboard.
Yep I agree, having climbed all over the world i really think that climbers have done a piss poor job of standardising grades. And absolutely I think its important, Progression and pushing the limits seems to be one of the key enjoyments for many climbers, with grades so different between areas it can be demoralising when you go backwards even though you have improved. I think one of the problems is climbing communities have far to much respect for the first ascentsionists opinion, yes this is useful to start, but after a few ascents go with the consensus. I appreciate different people have different strengths and weaknesses but i really don't think grading accurately is that difficult.
Many of the areas I can think of which have uniformly soft grades are largely holiday climbing areas, thailand, kalymnos, el chorro, costa blanca, maybe there is an economic incentive to keep low grades, because without doubt, soft touches get climbed more than sand bagged routes, if you have a 7b project in kalymnos and its the only 7b you can do maybe you'll fly back for the return visit?
edit, actually i probably don't believe this, but its interesting thought
> Not too bothered about a philosophical debate on grades but as a shameless grade chaser based in the same county as you I'm interested in where I need to go for soft grades and where I need to avoid!
You're only cheating yourself
Outdoor grades are usually pretty consistent, as outdoor problems are graded by the consensus of well rounded climbers over many years. An individual might struggle when moving rock types or styles but generally if you can climb 7A you should be able to do that more or less anywhere all else being equal.
Indoor problems are often all over the place particularly at the lower end. Mainly because real V grades don't account for super easy problems and noone wants to have some contrived negative grade system. So you get a big bunching at the lower end where in a lot f walls half the problems should all be graded V0-1. After that it starts o level out a bit, normally about V6-V8 although I've found some walls who don't seem to want to accept grade go above V8 even when they are super hard.
*edit, Why don't they just use font grades down to 1A if needed???
Personality though I just don't care too much about Indoor grades, I Know more or less what I can climb in real life, indoors it's simply a matter of you can either do it or you can't.
It’s indoor climbing. Consider it training and do not worry about grades.
Benchmark progression when yer climbing outside. Or with tests such as 1-4-7 to 1-5-9 or with stuff like Lattice.
> On Tom's point those labels already exist in VB and V0 - . but I can see that might confuse beginners. Hence a practical solution would be to label the white circuit fun and label blue fun to V1, Black V0 to V2, etc. The current problem is the easiest blues given V1 might be too easy to get VB outdoors in the UK and would be labeled, as such, as fun. The easiest blues would most likely be f1s in Font (and would be f2s in the UK).
I don't see what's so conceptually difficult about there being an 'easy' grade below V0. Do beginners really care what grade something is, as long as the problems are reasonably consistent within the colour of the circuit?
Where there is a big disparity is the grading of cracks on indoor walls, both indoors between cracks and walls of supposedly the same grade, and between indoors and outdoors. But then I'm frequently surprised at how often very strong indoor boulderers are stopped by a straightforward jamming section. Jamming problems are sadly quite rare probably as a consequence, which of course only makes the situation worse. My rough grade translation for indoor cracks is V8 is about VS.
Was it a pink route up the arete on a slab with an overlap, by any chance? For a little while I thought I was going to bag not only my first 7a lead, but a 7b onsight right next door! I'll have to return for that dubious trophy ;p
Good routes, but I think the grades are wrong.
> Outdoor grades are usually pretty consistent, as outdoor problems are graded by the consensus of well rounded climbers over many years.
In general I would say grades outdoors are fine, with the occasional exception. This is down to many ascents over much time forming some kind of consensus as to where the grade approximately lies.
Indoors, grading takes place as the consensus of around two (usually tired, setting is exhausting work) people quickly trying the problem and grading it approximately because they have another 50 problems to test and grade that afternoon and want to make it to the pub afterwards. This results in an understandable ethic of "close enough".
To add to this, these are problems which will be ripped down in a month or two, and of course, they are indoors which means they don't really count anyway.
With this in mind, why on earth does anyone really expect indoor grades to be consistent between different centers with different setters? Everyone knows indoors is soft, the psychology of this has already been discussed, and as long as people are aware of this and there is some consistency within a single center (accounting for the wide variety of styles, which is another potentially confounding factor) then there is no real problem. The only time a problem arrives is when someone wants to be able to say "yeah, I usually climb 7A indoors", and consequently takes to the UKC forums to complain about indoor grade inconsistency undermining such claims.
There are plenty of walls where indoor grades are not soft. Some were the opposite : the old Nottingham Climbing Centre was infamous for tough grading and the use of UK tech grades.. I was dancing for a week when I got my first 6a problem there. No one left that centre and got intimidated by outdoor grades.
Adjust to what indoor V grades Coel? The Depot version or that of most of the other walls who use V grades, usually more accurately on the easier problems.
I'd certainly buy popcorn to watch you try and convince the wall owners already using font grades to change.
> There are plenty of walls where indoor grades are not soft.
That's certainly true overseas. In my random but wide-ranging study my winner for uncompromising grading goes to one of the walls in Eugene, Oregon. I wasn't on peak form but I was going well enough to solo 5.7 on the local crag and struggled on V0+.
> ..... I don't think it applies this far north (Lancs and Cumbria). I might be wrong, but that's my strong impression.
Well that being my stomping ground for the last 8 years, particularly north lakes I can say they are pretty consistent in the 7A - 8A range. There are always going to be outliers, normally in the lower grades and new stuff sometimes takes a while to settle down but most established problems are well graded I'd say.
Me and our little squad have been to most lakes and north lancs venues and we've climbed pretty much the same grade range in all of them.
Yeah there are a number of tougher grading centers around (craggy 2 for example), but in general indoor grades are softer than soft.
I would also note that tech 6a is no pushover, I have climbed plenty of 7's outdoors which I doubt had tech 6a moves in them. If a center is grading using tech nowdays then they are going to be taking the lead from outdoor grades since their is no convention of indoor tech grading, which immediately means they will feel stiffer. This does not happen with font or V grading indoors since the convention is to inflate everything below 7B ish and then stop at 7C.
Any problem given f7A (V6) with only UK tech 6a moves would need to be one mother of a traversing stamina fest or the wrong grade or involve some weird morphology thing like reaching past a hard UK 6b crux. Standard straight up and very sustained 6a would normally be f6B+ (and f6C at the very most) in my book.
I bust my first pulley on an NCC “5a” set by Shauna. Oh, the memories! :-P
>... but with a lack of consistency even within each venue.
Talking specifically about routes, not boulder problems, maybe that's more noticeable if there are a lot of different route setters. Where I climb they put the setters name next to the route grade and you will see at least half a dozen different names at any one time across all the routes. You can notice a pattern, too, in that a setters recent batch of routes will usually have the same perceived shift either side of what you yourself think the grade should be. So setter A may be setting sandbags feeling 2 grades above their labelled grade, for example. I've also noticed that in a case like that, the next time they set they quite often over-compensate, I assume in reaction to the feedback they get, and set a few soft touches. However, over the course of a year they do tend to average out about right, and that does, for me, match what I can climb outside more or less. However, you could have walked in at one point, never having climbed there before, and picked six routes in the sixes and think the place set soft touches, or picked a different six and thought it was all sandbags -- although generally most of the time the majority seem within +/- one grade.
For the grades I climb, I assume it must be very hard for a setter to accurately grade for what to them is only a warm up. So, as long as it averages out okay and the routes are good (which they are), it's no problem.
> Outside I find grades reasonably consistent for both trad and sport (except for the odd weird stuff like |Veranda Buttress on Stanage HVD 5b!).
Veranda buttress is an edge-case as the 5b move is to get off the ground and the climbing is very straightforward after this. The adversarial grade reflects this. This is why Sunset Slab gets HVS 4b (or whatever) The climbing is very straightforward but you REALLY wouldn't want to fall off.
I'd respectfully suggest that if you see these as anomalies rather that extreme but consistent application of the adversarial grading system, then you don't really understand what it's trying to tell you.
The first usage is literally textbook.
VB sure does have an 'adversarial' grade. If the grade wasn't such an obvious climbing joke I'd give it HS 5b (it's not just a move off the ground it's a couple that you might fly off spinning and the landing isn't great being tight on a ledge... it really needs a spotter to spot the spotter. Luckily there is a couple of easier ways to start and the top is a bit tough for HVD so we have it as S 4c on our Offwith site (hard for 4c)
You didn't seriously expect Shauna to be able to feel any difference between 5A and, say, 6C or so did you?
Well, m'Lord, I'm not talking about the 7A-8A range, so we can agree to differ without contradiction.
I'll raise you a...
> I have yet to encounter anywhere with grades further detached from normal outdoor grades than on a moonboard.
I guess my original point was that the given grade of the board problem does not matter, as long as this problem is not changed it remains a physical benchmark for the climber’s ability, much as a specific fingerboard achievement will fulfil the same criteria. This eliminates the requirement to rely on indoor grades in any way when benchmarking oneself. As such the Moonboard ‘6b+’ (actually 7b or whatever) will serve a purpose to the relevant climber.
Not sure if you’ve been on the Depot Leeds Beastmaker board, the grades on there are somewhat harsh, but probably more precise than the Moonboard ones (from what I hear). For example there are many ‘8a’ problems on there substantially harder than the mush lauded Pinky Perky at The School.
That's funny in the context of this discussion. The old NCC grade was supposed to be UK tech 5a and those were often harder than the current easiest Depot V4s. V4 6b is also the BMC definitive guide NTBTA grade.
> V4 6b is also the BMC definitive guide NTBTA grade.
A clear and unfortunate sandbag! Font 6B if you reach or jump past the hard move, maybe.
Hardly a sandbag grade... the grading team was very experienced and pretty much the same as the Vertebrate Peak bouldering guide. Low f6C also arguably overlaps the V4/5 border: only Rockfax have f6C as clearly V5 (and they redefined their own version of V grades for Peak Bouldering, with V1 and V2 a full grade easier). I'd say the difference might be the problem being a tad harder down to wear from traffic of those who failed to start it but I've not tried it in the last decade.
Not slipping on the first move is near enough the technical crux now, obviously I have no idea what it was like 20 years ago.
Maybe I need to go back soon to realign our Offwidth site to the latest polish, but seeing all the damage on the lower grade classics is really depressing. In the meantime some other good problems in the Peak still need more traffic to stay clean.
I really struggle to see NTBTA being given V4 at the Buttermilks, say. Keeping the foot on for the first move is quite tough, and for me I have to pull quite hard to be able to do it - even having done it a few times it's surprisingly unreliable/low percentage. My only experience of climbing on it has been within about the last 4 years, so I have no idea how it felt before that (and could well imagine that it used to feel easier).
Honestly though, I don't mind if it's V2 or font 7A, a John Allen classic and an incredible line, can't ask for much more than that!
I've always wanted to climb as hard as I could wherever I went but, to be honest, grading inconsistencies have never overly bothered me. I just equate them to what I've experienced as the norm. Nowadays, with voting, modern guidebooks etc, there's not that much major variation anyway. People take them too literally!
You used to be able to stand on the dry stone wall that was part of the bivouac shelter.
As someone said many moons ago 'there's only two grades -those you can do and those you can't'.
Agreed... a three star E2 6a in the '89 guide.
I find at our local climbing centre it depends a lot on a number of factors:
- The route setter
- Your strengths and weaknesses (some routes feel easier than others at the same grade)
- How far the route is away from setters normal climing range.
I find at the centre I normally climb at that anything less than F6a is usually far too easy for the grade compared to outdoors. You can get routes at F5a which might only get F3 or VD outdoors.
I have a feeling most route setters can tell the difference between F6b, F6c and F7a okay but outside that band it's too easy for them to know. I don't know about harder than that as I can't climb that hard!
Re: can anything be done about it?
Our local bouldering wall (Colchester Climbing Project) grades the routes as green, yellow orange. red and purple. (Beginner, improving, intermediate etc) instead of f or v grades and I have to say it is odd not to hear grading grumbles from the punters!
I am still waiting to hear “that’s never an orange!” Tho!
I'd rather be thinking "that's a cracking problem they've set in the cave" ...that happens to use a collection of purple holds. Rather than "that's never a purple, mumble, mumble!".
Too steep for a regular purple but don't let the tail colour wag the dog's grade.
> I guess my original point was that the given grade of the board problem does not matter, as long as this problem is not changed it remains a physical benchmark for the climber’s ability, much as a specific fingerboard achievement will fulfil the same criteria. This eliminates the requirement to rely on indoor grades in any way when benchmarking oneself. As such the Moonboard ‘6b+’ (actually 7b or whatever) will serve a purpose to the relevant climber.
Exactly. Moonboard problems are totally standardised thus would sort out grading anomalies between walls if the board problems were taken as benchmarks for other problems at the wall.
LOL! Good lucking benchmarking a tenuous slab or corner against a moonboard problem.
>"Moonboard problems are totally standardised thus would sort out grading anomalies between walls if the board problems were taken as benchmarks for other problems at the wall."
In my admitedly limited experience, I've found Moonboard problems to be fairly inconsistently graded.
Why does anybody care about this?
Well... I didn't specifically ask you to care about it, Mr. Hunt.
I know. In my reply I was expressing my own complete disinterest in the subject (which, as you rightly point out, you did not enquire about), but also questioning why anybody at all would care about this.
I'm particularly dismayed at Offwifth who appears to have been lobotomised. Can somebody check that he's OK?
>I've been climbing for some time
Hmmmm, perhaps a little more reality in your perspective would help. With all due respect, a quick look at your logbook shows that you have little experience in the 6th grade as a boulderer. 2 6C's, one repeated. 4 6B's, one repeated 6 times, another 3 times. I'm not sure where that depth of experience is coming from.
You claim to be training over winter but have no benchmarks? Are you sure you aren't doing lots of volume but no actual specific training? That would explain your outdoor output. It would also explain your attachment to indoor grades. If you have experience, you don't need a grade to reveal your weaknesses or abilities. If you train, many drills offer benchmarking opportunities.
You appear to be upgrading your experience and knowledge without earning the right to do so. Perhaps speak to some of the more experienced people you climb with? Best of luck.
Sad that you would say something so childish in response to genuine concerns about taking grades seriously for lower grade climbers (a view I've held since I started climbing and that has led to real change in many published climbing guidebooks I've worked on).
> Sad that you would say something so childish in response to genuine concerns about taking grades seriously for lower grade climbers (a view I've held since I started climbing and that has led to real change in many published climbing guidebooks I've worked on).
I think that the way in which lower grades have been treated and developed has led to a dislocation in the low grades. I’m not sure that John Sherman envisaged his grading system extending down below V1 his original starting point, and correctly the start of bouldering. At around Font 5 and UK tech 5b this kind of makes sense.
The obvious thing then should have been to call anything easier Blanche/ecole/enfants or whatever and if you really want to, give it a UK tech which is ok down to 3c/4a. Integrating Vb/Va/V0 into the bouldering grade system really pulls and distorts the bottom end because of user demand for progress in numbers which pulls V1 and hence the rest, down. The other problem is that V0 becomes a ladder as soon as you’ve learnt some basic movement and technique.
I don’t think it’s a mystery why the bouldering grades (tend to) make more sense and have a bit more consistency as you move up and away from V0. The sensible thing to do would be re-badge V0 and below to remove the distortion on V1 and up. I don’t think this would be taking beginner grades any less seriously.
Yet there is a logical consistent solution. The ladder circuits can and should be labelled fun and V0 can start at something comparably realistic to current UK outdoor grades. As V0 was originally defined in the US it would be roughly equivalent to easier Depot reds... but I see no great problem for starting them mid Blue and even a move to the bottom end of blue would be a massive improvement.
UK climbers working on UK guidebooks have improved on font grades to make a usable system that can then be applied to make consistent sense for lower grade climbers and provide equivalence with trad tech grades (the idiocy of micro routes being given say E1 5c as a route and f6B as a problem has nearly all gone). In the BMC Peak grit guides we linked V to tech grades to help the transition from lower to mid grade bouldering and provide consitency with trad. People working with Rockfax did the same in the Peak and VP similar good work with font grades. The YMC also did a similar job with font grades in their grit guides. Sure grading is subjective in its nature and we all have our strengths and weaknesses but broad commonality of experience does exist or grades would never have happened in the first place!
Current logbook voting shows that such efforts can lead to broad consensus where previously the lower grading in Peak guidebooks ranged from a bit random to a complete joke (eg the likes of the '89 Diff Straight Ahead (VS 4c) ).
In all of this I still think most people going to walls and buying mixed use guidebooks are normally operating below the f6A grade as it would average out in Font. Saying lower grading doesn't matter is insulting to these people.
Kids circuits are not the same as lower grade circuits in Font or in most walls: they are introductory circuits with suitable hold spacing and less highball in nature to help bring kids into bouldering.
Hmmmm the reply button doesn’t work on my iPad in this brave new world of UKC
its a reply to Offwidth
i just had a trawl back through this thread and I can’t see anyone (including myself) saying that lower grading doesn’t matter.
I was replying with my views, not trying to critisise anything specific that your said.
If it matters, these problems will need support to be resolved (including for any sensible practical solutions). That's what it took to get the guidebook changes that Lynn and I helped achieve, after starting expressing generic and specific lower grade concerns on grit routes and problems about around the turn of the millennium.
I guess we came from a different background to the typical boulderers who arrived after the 'game' became popular ....lower grade short solos and problems were always a common interest for us from the times pre mats. In the early days we graded using UK tech to help others similarly interested. We always knew what middling UK tech 4a was compared to middling 4b. Much later on when YMC sensibly graded their f3 and f3+ problems with those approximate UK tech equivalences we knew immediately when proposed grades were wrong. Lower grades are not just a breif transition to the 6s and 7s some people exist there for long periods and enjoy themselves, others drop to these grades when retiring from pushing harder limits, to retain the fun of movement in rock without the risks.
> Yet there is a logical consistent solution. The ladder circuits can and should be labelled fun and V0 can start at something comparably realistic to current UK outdoor grades.
If I was running a wall there is no way I would define V0 as something which wasn't accessible to fairly unfit people who didn't climb that often. Customers need to see rapid progress when they are starting out or they won't come back. The easiest grade VB needs to be something that unfit people climbing for the first time can usually get to the top of. The next grade needs to be accessible after two or three sessions. Once people get hooked it can get successively harder to go up a grade but the first few steps need to be small ones. I definitely wouldn't use any kind of disparaging name like 'ecole' or 'kids' for the easiest adult circuit. The point is to make people feel good so they give you their money.
Whether the grades match up with outdoors on easy stuff is not a big deal especially in parts of the country where there isn't much outdoor bouldering nearby. Beginners at most walls don't go outdoors and once they are no longer beginners and are strong enough to have fun outdoors they don't care about guidebook grades at the V0 level.
Two grading systems V and Font is one too many. The last thing that is needed is to start talking about UK tech.
Some of your post seems to be very condescendingly elitist even if that wasn't your intent.
There are plenty of worthwhile boulder problems below V1/5b so I don't agree that this is where bouldering should start. The green circuits in the RF guide have only one V1/5b with everything else below that. Are you seriously saying they're not worthwhile for people who operate at those grades.
Similarly, there are plenty of V0s that are not ladders even if you have movement and technique. Obviously if your grade is way above that then they will always feel like ladders.
You may well be right about the downwards distortion of V1. The answer is to introduce extra grades below. Didn't Offwidth have U grades on his website at one stage. Are they still there?
With regard to the OP, I too find the easy grading of "easy" problems at walls compared with outside a bit disappointing. But I understand the reasons and I just know I'll have to drop my grade outside.
"once they are no longer beginners and are strong enough to have fun outdoors they don't care about guidebook grades at the V0 level."
Again, a bit condescendingly elitist, although I presume that wasn't the intention, just you talking from a practitioner of higher grades point of view.
> There are plenty of worthwhile boulder problems below V1/5b
> Again, a bit condescendingly elitist, although I presume that wasn't the intention, just you talking from a practitioner of higher grades point of view.
No, I'm a fairly shit climber, definitely not good enough to be elitist.
It's just what I see around here. It is a bit of a drive to get to any reasonable outdoor bouldering and the people who can be bothered to make the drive are generally climbing far harder than I do.
Even in font what I see is it is people climbing in the high 6s and 7s that are interested in guidebooks. If you are messing about on low grades you can just follow the paint and have a go at whatever looks possible.
Big grade range in each bracket - is that 'useful'? Setters should be able to differentiate between their internal problems to a fairly fine degree and make a approximation at equating them with outside - it's not rocket science
I'm all for getting grades right, and some people view me as having a reputation as being an overzealous downgrader. As it happens, I only get wound up by incorrect grades (Karjala, Longbow etc) and this applies as much to easy climbs as hard ones.
Your assertion, and that of the OP, is that indoor grades and outdoor grades must match and, what's more, there is an imperative that they should in the interests of safety. Which is ludicrous.
Firstly, it might be worth re-familiarising yourself with the BMC's participation statement. I'm sure Lynn will point you in the right direction!
Secondly, indoor and outdoor climbing are separate activities requiring different skills. The fact that the OP suggests that a V4 indoors should probably get V3 outdoors, does not necessarily mean that the grade in either sphere is incorrect, but more likely that he is reasonably strong for the grade but technically less able, so is caught short by gritstone bouldering.
To give you a real example of how we know this is correct, take the difference between limestone and gritstone bouldering. On the grit, I can generally climb up to 7B or maybe 7B+ in a session, and have climbed harder with some work. I can't normally match that on the lime as my lack of power quickly becomes evident. That doesn't mean that those things on the lime aren't 7B though. There's a bloke on UKB who has done Advanced Training at Blackwell Dale (7C/+) but struggles on most 7s on grit.
> Another gym where I occationally climb has solved this conundrum with a different idea. The idea behind it is pretty darn good, but to be honest I'm not sure about how they made it. So the idea is that they only use 4 different colors and each color corresponds to a grade-group (easy -> 5c, 6a-6c, 6c+-7b and 7b-> or something).
My new local wall is a bit like that. Disconcerting initially since the apparent jump between colours can be a bit of a shock. On the other hand it does encourage you to actually look at the problem and think it through before throwing yourself on it. But then I'm not too bothered about 'grades' indoors since I think in practice my specific strengths/weaknesses tend to influence what I can get up more than the idiosyncrasies of the route setters. If there's something I find hard which 'on paper' shouldn't be I take it as a pointer to a weakness to be worked on rather than blaming the setter.
Well, considering they seem to hit the range 90% of the time, it is more handy than more exact grades that just ain't correct.
In practice, it seems that most first timers manage to get something up in the 1st bracket and after a bit of time, also the second bracket is in their reach. the 3rd bracket is keen climbers and the highest ones are already darn effin' hard.
And also when comparing inside boulders to outdoors is, that inside boulders are (almost) always morpho since you can pretty much only use the holds where as outside you might have other smaller holds also available... on mans 6A might be small gals 7A simply due to reach things. So there larger brackets make even more sense when you factor that in... And I know this issue all to well, since my wife and a couple of other females I clim with ain't that tall (around 160cm), and add that I used to coach kids that are even smaller...
BTW. I don't remember the bracket exactly, but they are roughly what I wrote (albeit they might have 5 brackets instead of 4, thus making it a bit tighter).
And while it isn't good for egoboosting, it's better for training and climbing. Plus, as I wrote... it's indoors, so it doesn't really count anyway ;).
>In all of this I still think most people going to walls and buying mixed use guidebooks are normally operating below the f6A grade as it would average out in Font.
I think that is a good and useful observation. A friend I regularly hook up with in Larchant, Font mentioned that apparently 80% of sport climbers operate below the f6a mark. This was gleaned from various databases in Aus, the U.S. and UKC, I was led to understand. If you are familiar with Font, you'll observe a majority of climbers operate below the 6th grade also.
All of which suggests that well defined low end grades are useful and important.
> And while it isn't good for egoboosting, ...
In my experience, climbing is *never* good for egoboosting - and probably shouldn't be. I find it humbling - but in a good way.
My actual view is that grading should be as accurate as reasonably possible but getting it exactly right all the time for busy setters probably isn't reasonable. I'm only really railing against ludicrously soft grading indoors. That happens in some walls due to very bad setting but in the Depot the lower grades circuits usually have excellent and very consistent setting but the label is plain wrong (most of their whites are f2&3s, not V0). I do think this increases risks for SOME inexperienced boulderers going outdoors with ego issues, as I've seen it happen. The extra risk isn't the walls fault it's the individual egos but its something walls should realise and fair or hard grading helps mitigate. I much preferred the NCC indoor apprentiship when outdoor grades came as a pleasant surprise. Oversized egos soon shot off elsewhere when they started to understand grades. Sure the BMC statement applies to all climbing... but it's not a catch all excuse for practices that can increase risk.
All grades depend on the necessary skill sets, for the style required, for success ... I don't think there should be any such thing as indoor, grit or limestone grades. Apparent differences in how hard somethin feels if grades are correct are just due to different styles and how individual skill sets match up to them, as you rightly indicate. It's tiresome to hear how someone can climb x grade in one style and fail on a particular harder depot circuit with a lower grade range...it's perfectly logical that this might be just down to their individual strengths and weaknesses. Depot yellows are often quite similar in style according to my pals who climb all of them. In contrast, by definition, any yellow I can climb is way overgraded.
Average skill sets relating to grades change over the decades, based on climbing fashions. Just like offwidths and chimneys now fairly get graded softer in modern guides, as those average skills have declined compared to other styles, I can see indoor walls and training boards eventually influencing outdoor bouldering grades. Finger strength is certainly going up faster than tedhnical or flexibility improvements.
Those saying we shouldn't have to deal with both font and V grades might as well complain about having night as well as day. It also remains a fact that most experienced climbers who boulder a bit and operate below f6A will be able to distiguish grading differences in UK tech grades better than anything else (its why I like the YMC system ... it glues systems together). We are lucky there are only two main grading systems for bouldering as there is much more international variety in route grading systems. Michael Hood above is right that Lynn and I invented U grades to extend V grades downwards... as part of an improvement of V grades....and linearly related to UK tech (U9 5a, U8 4c, U7 4b, U6 4a etc)
"If I was running a wall there is no way I would define V0 as something which wasn't accessible to fairly unfit people who didn't climb that often. Customers need to see rapid progress when they are starting out or they won't come back. The easiest grade VB needs to be something that unfit people climbing for the first time can usually get to the top of. The next grade needs to be accessible after two or three sessions. Once people get hooked it can get successively harder to go up a grade but the first few steps need to be small ones. I definitely wouldn't use any kind of disparaging name like 'ecole' or 'kids' for the easiest adult circuit. The point is to make people feel good so they give you their money."
Its lucky most walls don't feel that way (grading to boost ego to make money) and in any case you seem to be contradicting yourself, as if you overgrade in the low V grades and roughly OK in the mid range, as you indicate it makes incremental improvements to reach mid range that much harder and so won't so feel good. Those hooked boulderers might be more hooked to the activity than to a particular wall.
> Those hooked boulderers might be more hooked to the activity than to a particular wall.
I suspect the people you're talking about view it as like any other gym membership & would only ever contemplate paying one subscription. Not like established climbers who view it as one of several possible training facilities. I visit half a dozen local walls on a more or less regular basis, but I'm sure there are plenty of people who only ever go to one.
I see your point, but the problem is that V1 actually has a meaning - if perhaps a rather vague one - something like "round about as hard of the crux of the average 5.10". Or at least it originally had. And unless you want to start delving into negative numbers you don't really have much room for subtle distinctions below that.
So what's a poor wall owner to do? Invent your own "V grade" scale that looks American boulder grades but is actually only loosely related to the original? Seems to be what you're arguing for. Use a modified Font scale - a,b,c, all the way down - which offers better definition at the lower end but looks confusingly similar to two other different grade scales? Invent your own entirely from scratch?
I first tried it onsight solo as I'm good at the wide offwidth style and it was only a Diff ..... I mantleled the bulging chock... quickly realised I was off-balance and the expected holds for such a situation were not there ... raised my anxiety levels trying badly to get into a layback .. started to get tired and wondered if I had the strength to reverse mantel... used a head lock in the cleft to gain a half-rest and a think.... calmed down and finished it in good style. It's great fun and very safe as a lead with gear..
I move around quite a lot. We have several fabulous but very different bouldering venues at my grades in the East Midlands.
As a VS it isn't much. As a D it was something else. I did it one day back in the late 70's when I was soloing through all the Diffs in the then current guide. Was a slight bit more unnerving (understatement ) than any of the other Diffs.
It's worth doing as a "wow that was really undergraded" experience. As Offwidth says, fine with some gear.
what grade is it over a stack of pads, though?
> So what's a poor wall owner to do? Invent your own "V grade" scale that looks American boulder grades but is actually only loosely related to the original? Seems to be what you're arguing for. Use a modified Font scale - a,b,c, all the way down - which offers better definition at the lower end but looks confusingly similar to two other different grade scales? Invent your own entirely from scratch?
I don't think it matters at the VB/V0 end whether a wall is slightly inconsistent with outdoor grades in order to give a more useful scale for the customers. Beginners don't know if the grading is consistent and experienced climbers don't care if it is consistent on easy stuff. They would care if the grading was way off at the grade they are operating at.
If you define V0 easier than it would be outdoors at the bottom end and then get consistent at some mid-range grade there will necessarily be an extra large step say between V2 and V3 or V3 and V4 but that's better than putting people off on their first few visits by making V0 next to impossible for beginners.
Exactement..... sent 7b failed 5- within the same 20mins in Fontainbleau. Says more about my climbing than other people’s grading... basically if you can understand this, grades make a little more sense and provide a useful indication of how most folks will find the experience of trying to send the problem most days.
indoors they are similarly a vague guide... that require sensible interpretation.
Or more likely says more about the state of the poffed up polishes 5s in font. We have a bit of a saying every time we go: “that can’t be a 6b, it’s too hard, it’s at least a 4!”
Thank you for the advice, with its somewhat mixed messages, following somewhat creepy snooping, but I'm not sure your interpretation of the data is correct on this occasion.
"Creepy snooping" seems like a rather overstated reaction to somebody clicking once on the link to your (now-deleted) profile that is (was) right next to your message.
What we really need is for the BMC to set up a 'grade police' section. This could employ two full time lead wall grade checkers and two full time boulder wall grade checkers. They should be able to visit every wall in the country about once a month, unannounced, to ensure pure consistent grading standards to try to eliminate arguments. This section could be called; Office For Standards To Eliminate Dissent!
Oooops! Apparently that acronym is already in use!
Now where is my pop-corn!
I did write "somewhat". When someone pores over your logbook as a way of trying to justify patronising and dismissing you and what you've written, I find that more than a little off.
And that's me signing off UKC forums for a while, because I've realised it's not a good idea for me to be engaging in debates in this way. A few good people and interesting topics, but, besides being a way of putting off other things (especially work) it's frustrating and a waste of time to write things that are then misconstrued or dismissed, and I find it leads me to write things I regret, and to get replies I regret reading.
Its a funny if recycled joke John but if Awesome walls suddenly started to call, their easiest sport lines F5+ and eveything else up to the mid 7s was compressed to fit, would you be happy? Thats the equivalent for Depot whites when f2 problems are called f4+.
> The obvious thing then should have been to call anything easier Blanche/ecole/enfants or whatever
I like to call anything easier than V1 'Gerald'. Hope that helps.
> Thank you for the advice, with its somewhat mixed messages, following somewhat creepy snooping, but I'm not sure your interpretation of the data is correct on this occasion.
I understand you being defensive, however I was interested in your comments and gave them sufficient respect to establish where they came from, so I may understand you better and offer some reasonable comment if I had one.
It transpired that your experience was limited when you claimed otherwise and I kindly suggested by acknowledging that, you may gain a perspective that benefits you or makes more sense. The comments regarding your ""training"" were supplied by your good self. I'm on a website used by many men and women with more knowledge and experience than me. I find that valuable and somewhat humbling based on my own experience to date. As such, I don't overstate my worth.
If being interested and giving OP's the respect to look into their comments is 'creepy snooping" (great term btw), then that's me ))
Not arguing with you. Personally I think people take indoor grading too seriously. (often people who only climb indoors!) I regard them as guide grades. There needs to be grades below the 'harder climber' grade. But how it functions and who creates/decides it is up to the walls/customers as far as I'm concerned.
I find that, overall, outdoor grades are good.
Why are we pandering to new indoor climbers? The answer is sadly because that’s where the market/money/risk is – a sad concept in a pursuit such as climbing with such a rich history of adventure. A similarly difficult (and chastening for the climber) conversation needs to be had when taking a wall inducted climber outside for the first time; and having to explain to a ‘Depot V4’ climber a) what a V0+ is and b) why they can’t get up it.
Even by indoor grading standards, the new black circuit at Nottingham Depot (supposedly V2-4) is massively overgraded (generally all indoor V1-2, with a couple of exceptions). More of an issue is that there is almost zero overlap with the adjacent red circuit (graded V3-5 – and generally much more on it, grade-wise). According to the grade of those circuits and assuming an even distribution of problems therein; around 67% of problems should be able to belong in either the black or red circuit. As it is, it’s quite conceivable that someone could climb all of the black problems, and make zero headway into the reds.
Given the efforts towards standardisation across the Depot centres, there’s also a big disparity between centres. Black problems at Leeds for example are generally stiffer and in the right place far more than Nottingham; with sensible overlap with the red circuit.
If I remember rightly, setters at the Depot have been told to reduce the grade range and overlap of all circuits for some reason that makes no sense to me.
Had this problem when helping friends progress, a couple of sets ago the black circuit was trivial and the red circuit was hard. It suited me fine, but there were people who could do the entire black circuit in a session and barely get up two reds, which leaves a difficulty gap.
Personally speaking, I don’t feel the absolute grades being wrong at the low end is particularly problematic, other than the transition to outdoors being a bit traumatic. What is an issue is that there are holes in the range.
Norwegian climber Mari Augusta Salvesen has made the first female ascent of the burly Ray's Roof E7 6c at Baldstones in Staffordshire. First climbed by visiting American Ray Jardine in 1977, the horizontal offwidth crack remains a gritstone testpiece...