/ Hard, very difficult Hard VDiffs
Having finally conquered Verandah Buttress (HVD 5b) , and having fond memories of Swimmer's Chimney (S 4a) and Brown Crack (S 4a) , I'd like to pursue my goal of becoming a fully-competent HVD leader, on the ground that if I could smoothly lead *any* HVD, I might be quite a good climber.
So, hit me with your most evil suggestions.
Note: I will accept routes that have been upgraded to "Severe" in some guidebooks as long as it's clear that they're not really Severes, they're *traditional* HVDs.
You need to do some in pouring rain for a start
Move to Northumberland.
Yep! Done all three of them in the past and have to agree with you.
Keeper's Crack, now HS 4b, at Curbar is 'fun'. Though easy for someone like you who has done Fern Crack at Stanage.
Three pebble slab at frogatt, bit of a sandbag at that grade tho
How about Nursery Crack (VS 5b) at Stanage End? It used to be a Diff! Admittedly the weather was boiling hot, but I got totally shut down on this. The solid E5/6 leader in the team managed a dogged ascent, whilst the World Cup boulderer made the only clean ascent by laybacking after a failed try at stacked jams. Give it a go and report back!
Really? I've led that brute and although a specialist, I'm hardly an offwidth expert (I can just do offwidths at the same grade as the rest of the styles I can lead, as befits the climber rounded in more senses than one), the bouldering team clearly need some help from Tom and Pete.
Some outliers to HVD as a starter:
Crowden Middle Chimney BMC S 4b or Rockfax D
Almscliffe South Chinmey VD 4a
OK a few more:
Slingsbys Chimney, Crookrise
Ordinary Route, Widdop
Swimmers Chimney, Froggatt
Short Climb, Robin Hood's Stride
Prairie Steps, Baildon
President's Progress, Brimham
Question Mark, Dovestones Edge
Starvation Chimney, Wimberry
Purgatory Chimey, Widdop (VD in Rockfax)
Lands End Long Climb, Lands End(VD everywhere)
Top pitch of Milestone Buttress?
If you mean Ivy Chimney on Pulpit Route, thats still a VD and a good call: the route through the hole and exposed pull onto the cannon has got to be the most butt clenchingly airy work on a VD anywhere. Harder still on Milestone Buttress are Canopy Route (D) and Wall Climb, VD (now rightfully upgraded to HS 4b on UKC) and sadnbag status alongside sheer frustration in route-finding The SilvanmTraverse, M (tthe only one Ive not finished). Some beginners crag? ;-)
Robin Hood’s Right Hand Buttress Direct used to be HVD, and still should be.
The same goes for Diamond Crack, Powder Monkey Parade and Sail Buttress.
How about Reades Route ? Or Bowfell (not HS) Butress ?
> Having finally conquered Verandah Buttress (HVD 5b) ,
Okay, slightly off topic but what does HVD 5b really mean, in that if the moves are really 5b how can it just be HVD and not HS, VS or HVS? Does it mean it has one hard move exceptionally well protected and the rest is VD?
Gambit climb comes to mind.....
> Okay, slightly off topic but what does HVD 5b really mean, in that if the moves are really 5b how can it just be HVD and not HS, VS or HVS? Does it mean it has one hard move exceptionally well protected and the rest is VD?
Essentially, yes. The hard move should be off the ground too, not just exceptionally well protected. It doesn't stop it being a pretty meaningless grade since an VD/S climber is not going to be able to manage a 5b move.
HVDHVD? Don't know any climbs at that grade... :-p
Flying buttress to the left of the main overhang. That has one hard move the rest is a path. That's a great climb actually, I lead it and found it easy but I remember thinking that move was harder than I expected.
Oh stop moaning.
In English "Very Difficult" means just that!
What do you expect?
Well that's the logic..............
> Robin Hood’s Right Hand Buttress Direct used to be HVD, and still should be.
But that's a nice route! Whereas I am seeking beasts.
> HVDHVD? Don't know any climbs at that grade... :-p
It's pronounced "Hard V Diff squared." *g*
> Lands End Long Climb, Lands End(VD everywhere)
How would you grade that committing jump? Just needs balls and the ability to jump - no technical grade
> Great Gully (VD)??
I agree with you on that.
Same crag as the other great classic Amphitheatre Buttress, both graded V Diff but in terms of difficulty, ability and commitment like chalk and cheese. The first is a delightful walk in the park, the second is far from it and can be quite a shock to most people who think that V Diff is a singe.
I'm not arguing with the logic, I'm embracing it!
>> Robin Hood’s Right Hand Buttress Direct used to be HVD, and still should be.
> But that's a nice route! Whereas I am seeking beasts.
And correctly graded at HVD.
> How about Reades Route ? Or Bowfell (not HS) Butress ?
Surely Reade's Route has always been (correctly) graded as Severe?
My stand-out suggestion would be The Devil's Kitchen (Idwal). In normal, slimy conditions, far too hard and poorly protected to be V Diff. And poor rock. A perfect example of a Hard Severe. Also, it deserves more than one star - tremendous moody atmosphere, exposed, bold, etc.
I don't think you can technically. As the top wall is HS 4a heading towards VS and the jamming corner below is S 4b it just suits a HS jump more than a VD one. The traverse avoiding the jump is probably also HS but you can cheat and avoid every crux pitch at about VD (rock round left left of corner, down into pit that you jump, corner left of top wall).
Thats a brilliant example. Plus the lower chock must be at least 4b (often aided).
Gambit Climb is also a possible.
Not sure about Fred's list though. Its been a long time since RHRHB was given HVD. The excercise wasnt to invent new sandbags was it? RHRHB and PMP are reasonable at Severe though, Sail Buttress isn't .
> It doesn't stop it being a pretty meaningless grade since an VD/S climber is not going to be able to manage a 5b move.
I have to disagree -- I think it's a very informative grade, because it tells you that the route's a weird anomaly, and gives you an idea of what the anomaly probably is (i.e. a boulder problem move off the ground, into an easy route).
> an VD/S climber is not going to be able to manage a 5b move.
But conversely, someone could have the strength/technique/grovelling capacity to do the start without being a competent VS/HVS leader.
I'm still getting my trad head back on after several months off (owing to illness and weather), and I certainly wouldn't have been trying to lead an HVS on Thursday. Whereas once I'd finally figured out how to get off the ground, Verandah Buttress was an entirely reasonable proposition.
An old guidebook description had the immortal words - 'History records that Helfenstein struggled in vain'.
Paping About is much tighter than Helfensteins though and Helfensteins has an alternative exit for the likes of me who know the tricks but simply don't fit.
Paing About has an alternative exit too, FWIW.
And to be fair, I don't know with 100% certainty that I won't fit through Paping About, just that I definitely won't fit while wearing a harness ...
Solo-ed while wearing slippery lycra -- it might just go. Might.
Attempt the solo wearing a pair of speedos and a generous coating of goose fat. Pictures or it didn't happen.
I wonder if you may be slightly overthinking things? HVD is such a specific grade, and some guidebooks don’t even include it! It does seem (in theory) like a useful way to work from leading V Diff to Severe (about where I usually am), but the reality seems to me that grades aren’t sufficiently reliable for this approach to work. Local grading differences can mean VD at some crags feels like Severe at others. Also, very frequently a HVD in one guide is a VD or a Severe in another. For instance, the HVD I led yesterday felt ok (bold but fairly straightforward) while the VD I led felt a bit desperate - thought I was going to fall off several times, though I managed not to...
So maybe just lead every VD in sight, without worrying too much if it happens to have an H in front or not? Some of them are probably worth Severe anyway...
Some VD routes I’ve enjoyed that sometimes get an H in front: the classics on E face of Tryfan, Charity. Chasm Route feels like 4b at least (usually seems given as just VD but I felt it merits at least Severe) - short desperate crux, though otherwise straightforward - Probably succumbs to combined tactics - or a very high solid nut, plus yelling at your second to haul like ****. (Which doesn’t really feel like leading, but gets you up). Maybe easier for those with less feeble arms? Anyway, when I can lead that cleanly (haven’t tried for a while), I’m sure it’s time to start trying leading Severe again...
Even VS 5b (Direct Route, Dinas Mot) seems a really odd grade. VD 5b is absurd. Even VD 4b seems a bit silly. Being a VD leader means I don’t cope well trying to lead 4b moves...
Though it’s true that VD is a slightly odd grade that sometime seems to encompass “traditional” routes with moves that seem too hard for the grade.
But the grade of VS 5b for Direct Route on the Mot makes perfect sense: boulder problem start to pitch off a very friendly broad grassy ledge/terrace.
> I wonder if you may be slightly overthinking things?
No, I'm delightedly overthinking things! *g*
I'm not trying to work my way up -- not to over-praise my modest abilities, but I've ticked a reasonable number of Severes, HS, VS, and even the occasional HVS on a very good day.
So if I find myself struggling horribly on something that's "only" a HVD, I think I can learn something from that, and hopefully become better as a climber.
Particularly since it often seems to involve the word "traditional" in the description, and hideous thrutching of a sort I'm quite fond of.
Thus my seeking out beasts and anomalies like Verandah Buttress! Because being able to do that (albeit by working out one of the 4c methods) genuinely feels like a marker of improvement. Two years ago I couldn't!
I agree they're not all HVD -- I'm sure there are routes of this sort at all grades.
But I have a feeling they cluster round HVD (particularly, as mentioned, when the word "traditional" is in the description ...). There've been quite a few routes where I've ended up going "No, it's not a Severe, it's a HVD -- it took me three times the effort of the VS I did today, but somehow, it's still a HVD ..."
The British trad grading system makes total sense, really.
HHVDVDD? This is getting ridiculous!
The truth is that horrible slimy thrutches are all given grades ending in D so that people don't feel obligated to climb them.
Verandah Buttress is only given HVD 5b for historical reasons. It's really a sort of in-joke.
It would probably really be worth HS 4c-5b depending on whether you can find the method that's easier than that grovel.
Part of the reason it's kept at HVD is that grading it HS wouldn't give you any extra information. You can so easily see that once you're a few feet up (i.e properly off the ground) then the technical bit is over.
Sounds about right! All 3 of us trying it had small mitts, so it was pretty soon into chicken winging and arm bar territory. Michaela ended up laybacking it, I retired nursing some missing flesh! Good times!
Long Chimney, Almscliff. Only counts if you do it at the end of a long, wet period.
> Essentially, yes. The hard move should be off the ground too, not just exceptionally well protected. It doesn't stop it being a pretty meaningless grade since an VD/S climber is not going to be able to manage a 5b move.
But that's not what the adjectival grade is about. The interplay of the 2 parameters tells you just what to expect in this case: a hard move off the ground!
> And, once there, go to Ravensheugh.
Never been but I'll happily take your word for it. I have had a day at Simonside though and while I managed Vibram Wall/Crack (which I thought was brilliant and only undergraded by one grade) without too much sweating, we backed off at least one V Diff, possibly two and gave up on a severe because we couldn't figure out how to do it.
> also only VS because if you can't do the 5b moves then you can use combined tactics or shimmy up the flakes behind the belay and use tension.
Good point. I think it might have even mentioned that - I mean the combined tactics - in the Don Roscoe guide we were using (it was 1968 - I've never done it since).
Yes, the meaning is clear, but it’s still odd in the sense that expecting a VS leader to do a 5b move is arguably not justifiable. (And it actually looks like a little way - a few moves? - before the flake is reached...) HVS 5b would seem to indicate a route with a technically hard move, but short and safe.
The point I was trying to make is that given VS 5b is clearly unusual/odd (whether or not you think it can be reasonably justified), therefore 5b on VDiff is obviously ridiculous.
Ah, I see. Yes, I think you are right that those sorts of routes may cluster at around (H)VD/S. I suspect it may be a relic of changes in grading system / evolution of grades.
An old article I found “Rock Climbing in the Malvern Hills” by R P Chasmar and H Sutcliffe contains grades such as “Moderately Difficult” and “Just Severe”, but the grades don’t translate in a terribly linear fashion to the modern ones e.g. one of their VDiffs is now HVS!
Yes, easy/common ways to avoid the problem would seem like a good explanation for such anomalies. Ashton guide does seem to contain such a hint. Combined tactics may work well for the leader on this route, but what about the poor second? Maybe they are already at their limit doing normal VS moves - hope they know how to prussik!
Well apart from a very tight rope they can use tricks like tying a loop in the rope just above to pull up on - better if you're on double ropes.
Wall bred climbers may not think of these things but they're part of dealing with multi-pitch climbing when the going gets tough.
HVS 5b would give the wrong idea. Compare Direct Route with Kaisergebirge (spelling?) across the pass for example.
Anomalies like these add to the joys of the UK grading system, stopping it becoming too sterile and helping keep the anarchic spirit of climbing alive.
Having done it yesterday, with the memory still fresh, I would say that Horned Crag Route on Lliwedd (V Diff) is a perfect example of what you are looking for. Five pitches of meandering, steep, but very easy ground lull you into a false sense of security until the slab and horn itself appear. From then on 'desperate' seems the only way to describe the moves necessary to complete the horrible thrutch up the blank corner to the notch in the slab. Remember clinging on using nothing but my whole upper arm wedged behind a block stuck in a small roof, whilst frantically trying to get my feet onto something that resembled a hold way out the right. Would hate do do this in the wet, and would far rather go back and lead the E1 in the slate quarries I ticked off the night before - a much friendlier proposition. V Diff - my arse!
> The point I was trying to make is that given VS 5b is clearly unusual/odd (whether or not you think it can be reasonably justified), therefore 5b on VDiff is obviously ridiculous.
I agree with you. I think it's meant to be a kind of joke grade for something almost ungradeable. My memory of that route is that it's a really awkward, unpleasant puzzle (biggest problem being trying to avoid hurting your goolies), but not too bad when you eventually find a/the method that works.
A more "typical" VS 5b would be The Curse at Burbage North. Lost in France next door at VS 5c is also correctly graded.
And you are right that HVD 5b is ridiculous but that's exactly what that grovel at the start of Verandah Buttress is - ridiculous.
> HVS 5b would give the wrong idea. Compare Direct Route with Kaisergebirge (spelling?) across the pass for example.
I think direct route is 5a, but biggest difference is that unlike Kaiser it's a one/one-and-a-half move wonder.
I think a solid VS leader probably has a fair chance of doing a 5b move off the ground, given that they will from time to time also do 5a moves at height. But yes, I agree it is an unusual grade.
Its more like E1 5c for a granite crack climber. John Cox used to talk it up here, so it had to he done. Its a shortish thrutch really The Vice nearby is way more brutally fun as a jamming route.
I note someone saying you shouldn't expect VS climbers to do 5b moves. Weird: I always used to think you needed 2 tech grades in hand onsighting unless you had the style wired. All those short VS climbs at Burbage North like The Curse seemed like 5c ( V1/ f5 to me)
I would have to say Crack and Corner at Stanage. You have probably done it.
This was my first grit stone climb at the age of 16. I was using my Dad's old Paul Nunn guide book - the source of many an epic. It was given HVD so thought it a good place to start. I failed first attempt, my mate failed after this and siege tatics won through in the end. Absolutely spanked but great fun.
In subsequent years I came to find that some VDs were now VSs and some VSs now E1s....a lesson! It did teach me to look up the route and determine what I thought it was likely to be......good times.
> Having finally conquered Verandah Buttress (HVD 5b) ,
That's more than I ever managed, although I regularly soloed the neighbouring Greengrocer Wall (HVS 5c), which just shows why you can't always trust grades. Long reach definetly an advantage on the latter, suspect long levers a disadvantage on the former, but I've never been showed "the trick"
Interesting idea to tie a loop on the rope. But I don’t think not thinking of this has anything to do with being “wall bred”. I’ve never done much wall or “sport” climbing, just plenty of standard traditional outdoor stuff, and a knot in the rope to pull on would probably not have occurred to me.
It seems unnatural, ungainly and awkward - you need to call for slack, tie and untie rope etc... Also, you’d better be on double ropes! While I can see that this solution may feel “traditional”, using a prussik seems much simpler and potentially safer - a solution I have (very rarely) used when unable to follow.
But perhaps a good fundamental point isthat unusual grades may require unusual solutions - at least for those of us who like to climb close to our limit.
Loops on the rope for when you don't have prussics. This is probably less common nowadays since there is a lot of advice etc to use a prussic when abseiling. That advice wasn't around so much 40 years ago.
Once the loop(s) are in you leave them there until you get to the belay
I led Horned Crag a couple of weeks ago and slightly disagree with this assessment. I wouldn’t personally dismiss the other pitches as easy. Some are e.g. the traverse pitch right (P4?) but others (while undoubtedly easier than the crux section) have the odd awkward move and sometimes very spaced protection (e.g. I found nothing in the quartz wall above the crux) so in places, it felt quite bold.
The crux section is hard, but honest and well protected. As a V Diff leader, I found it a struggle, but managed it. There are several hard moves that are maybe worth 4a, so certainly seems worth HVD perhaps even Severe rather than VDiff given in some guides.
It’s a great route, but think if you only lead around VDiff, you need to be a confident leader for this one...
Prussik also an obvious idea if you happen to be an Alpinist - just borrowing the idea from how you get out of a crevasse... Different ways reach a similar conclusion.
Not everybody leads with a load of grades in hand. Some of us like to be challenged and lead close to our limit - yes, even on long multipitch routes.
Grades like VS 5c are simply unhelpful. VS 5b seems a real stretch, but may be justified for good reasons others have given (expecting there may be a necessity to use unusual tactics). If you genuinely reasonably expect to lead moves of 5c, you probably need to be more like (at least) capable of leading E1.
Giving an adjectival grade on a presumption that the leader has chosen to lead a route where they have several grades in hand makes no sense. Grades should accurately reflect the standard they represent - not some different assumed standard. It is up to the leader to choose how many grades in hand they would like.
I would be surprised if there were any VS 5c that were multipitch. It's only likely on outcrop type routes (that are probably now graded as highball boulder problems )
I think Direct Route may be the only well known mountain VS 5b.
Personally, I consider VS 5c a clear cut anomaly. A good general rule of thumb would seem that one technical grade away from the norm represents short/safe or poorly protected climbing. Two technical grades out seems like an unusual/extreme example. Three technical grades out simply means either the technical or adjectival grade is misleading.
E.g. VS expect 4c; 5a suggests not sustained/safe; 4b poorly protected. 4a/5b unusual, representing extreme circumstances.
VS 5c seems silly as 5c would be a high technical grade even for E1. Translating down a few grades, VS 5c is a bit like VDiff 4c, which is clearly silly. 4c moves would be difficult to justify on a Severe.
The combination of technical and adjectival grades is an excellent system, with extremes like VS 5b indicating something unusual, but trying to stretch it too far is simply unhelpful and misleading and at some point necessarily must become nonsensical. I would argue that this point has certainly occurred once technical grades are 3 away from what is most common to the adjectival grade. If it’s really 5c, I don’t see the problem with calling it E1 (or HVS at the very least), as it’s a more accurate adjectival description of the difficulties that will be encountered.
> I note someone saying you shouldn't expect VS climbers to do 5b moves. Weird: I always used to think you needed 2 tech grades in hand onsighting unless you had the style wired.
VS 5b to me means that the 5b move may be bouldered out over several attempts. However, the climber's true standard will be more like 4c (5a at their onsight limit), so they aren't really doing a typical VS 4c with much in the way of grades in hand at all.
> Three technical grades out simply means either the technical or adjectival grade is misleading.
Why? I would have thought that it's a quite precise way of saying "there is one move on this route which has a technical difficulty which is wildly out of keeping with the overall difficulty of the rest of the route and its demands on the leader."
It's not going to sandbag anyone, because the tech grade is there to alert people that they'll need to be able to do something of that difficulty.
>Translating down a few grades, VS 5c is a bit like VDiff 4c, which is clearly silly.
It's less extreme than HVD 5b, and as bizarre as that is, I'd argue it's entirely accurate as a grade for Verandah Buttress -- it's a bizarre route. Or rather, it's a fiendish boulder problem with a rather lovely VDiff stuck on top of it.
> If it’s really 5c, I don’t see the problem with calling it E1 (or HVS at the very least), as it’s a more accurate adjectival description of the difficulties that will be encountered.
My perspective here is based partly on being a boulderer before I got into trad. Which means I'm relatively good at doing isolated hard moves right off the ground -- and also aware that this correlates rather poorly with my overall ability as a trad leader.
For example, it doesn't endow me with the ability to handle climbing of sustained difficulty at anything near that level, to protect it competently and place gear while in difficult positions, to do moves of that technical difficulty when I'm over my gear, etc. etc. etc..
I don't think I've done a VS 5c yet, but I've picked off a few VS 5bs. If I found a route which began with a 5c move off the ground that happened to suit me and that I could do -- I would still not be an E1 leader!
But this is the nature sometimes of grading small routes which are almost boulder problems.
It would take a very unbalanced route for a multipitch to be VS with a 5c pitch.
> But that's not what the adjectival grade is about. The interplay of the 2 parameters tells you just what to expect in this case: a hard move off the ground!
Well yes, and it would tell you exactly the same thing if it was HS 5b. I guess it depends if people want the adjectival to always be an overall grade (covering everything including the technicality). HVD 5b tells you exactly what the route is like, no question. It also tells you that overall the route is harder than HVD (since it involves a 5b move).
But in that example the rest of the route is diff, so grading it any harder than HVD wouldn't accurately reflect the overall difficulty of getting up the thing!
So a 5b move into a diff gives HVD? Well OK, I can see the logic, though it's not immediately apparent why that's the best grade for it. I could just as well make an argument for Diff ('a bouldery start doesn't count'), or averaging out at, say, HS. But yeah, you've got to give it something and grading is never a exact science.
> Surely Reade's Route has always been (correctly) graded as Severe?
Just checked. It was VD when I did it using a Paul Williams guide.
> Just checked. It was VD when I did it using a Paul Williams guide.
Ah yes, thanks for correcting me. I see in the Pete Crew 'Llanberis South' guide, the one I would have been using at the time, that it was 'Hard Very Difficult'. Whatever these grades really mean ... I think I did it three times, the last time (c. 30 years ago) with Norman Croucher, who did a fantastic job with his two artificial legs. He took it very carefully, one move at a time. I'd always had this hunch that he could get up it and was very happy that he proved me right. Mind you, he had exceptional drive and focus.
Grades should surely reflect overall difficulty, rather than average difficulty. So you want a 20 pitch Diff followed by a final unavoidable pitch with an unprotected 7a move to be graded V Diff?! It should clearly be graded Ewhatever-is-appropriate. Overall difficulty of a route is much more influenced by the hardest moves than by the average difficulty.
OK, maybe that’s a silly example, but hopefully it illustrates the point. There are genuine examples of climbs with disparate pitch standards say a Diff pitch followed by an E2 pitch. Such a climb should be graded E2 rather than some kind of average.
You can’t expect the grade to tell you everything, but it should give an indication of total difficulty and whether a leader at the given standard has a fighting chance of completing the route! Where a climb has pitches of a very disparate nature, such information is usually contained in the description.
Perhaps a good way to look at this debate is that the most important thing is for the grade to make sense for someone who leads at the given adjectival grade. Surely that’s more important than trying to be clever / explain it for people who lead at much higher grades?!
Some seem to be saying HVD 5b makes sense as a grade for a route that’s around VDiff with a single desperate move. Maybe it makes sense if you might be capable of such a move - in which case you are definitely not a HVD leader! The people who argue for this mostly seem to be people who lead far higher than HVD. If I saw this in a guidebook, I’d just assume it was a typo. Much more helpful to call it VS 5b and explain in the description that it’s a one move wonder, and otherwise much easier.
Surely the bottom line is that if a HVD leader isn’t going to lead it in a million years, then it blatantly isn’t HVD!! ;-)
Inclined to agree, these funny grades tend to be very grit specific it seems and I guess date back before we VB, V0, V1 etc.
VS 5c seems a bit silly, there are plenty of people who have climbed 100s of VSs on different rock, multi pitch and single, slabs and overhangs etc. who won't be able to do that "VS" (me probably as an example!) because 5c can be a really tough.
there are plenty of people who have climbed 100s of VSs on different rock, multi pitch and single, slabs and overhangs etc. who won't be able to do that "VS" (me probably as an example!) because 5c can be a really tough.
But why is that a problem? The 5c tells you that. Its the interplay of the two that gives the flexibility and the info...and the occasional 'funny' grade!
Besides Verandah Buttress, are there any other examples of such a grade anomaly?
If yes, then carry on with that line of discussion. If not then I think you should leave HVD 5b out (as the reasons behind VB's grade have been explained by myself and others) as it's completely unique and concentrate your arguments on 2 or 3 tech grades away from the norm like VS 5b/c.
> Surely the bottom line is that if a HVD leader isn’t going to lead it in a million years, then it blatantly isn’t HVD!! ;-)
And now here's me going on about the HVD 5b
I think some HVD leaders would manage VB. It's such a wierd grovel (the obvious!!! way) that those HVD leaders who've done loads of graunchy chimneys etc might actually manage it.
I agree that if they managed it in one of the non-graunchy ways then they're not really a HVD leader.
> Perhaps a good way to look at this debate is that the most important thing is for the grade to make sense for someone who leads at the given adjectival grade. Surely that’s more important than trying to be clever / explain it for people who lead at much higher grades?!
But the tech grade makes it clear what the deal is. It's not going to unfairly entrap someone who can't do a 5b move (or figure out a 4c option).
> If I saw this in a guidebook, I’d just assume it was a typo.
And then you'd get to the bottom of the route and rapidly realize your error ... *g*
Saying that people will just think the tech grade is a typo if it's too far out from what they think is plausible for the adjectival grade isn't a reason for restricting the tech grade -- as people have said, the interplay between the two grades is informative and useful, and it allows room for accurately describing oddballs like Verandah Buttress.
> Surely the bottom line is that if a HVD leader isn’t going to lead it in a million years, then it blatantly isn’t HVD!! ;-)
I think that's the key issue of the argument -- do you think "HVD leader" means you should be able to lead *any* HVD, ever? Or, conversely, that "HVD" means that an average HVD leader should be able to lead this?
I don't think that, personally; there are always going to be weird anomalies, and there are HVDs (not just Verandah Buttress) which have been harder for me than VSs.
Hence my semi-quixotic goal of one day getting to the point of being able to lead *any* HVD smoothly, because if I could do that I'd be a much better climber than I am now, and probably ticking the odd E-grade.
The grade of VB is a deliberate climber's joke of course. It's real grade is about S 4c but most will climb it as a weird HS 5b or power crimp up at VS 5c as they miss the key graceful sequence. Its about HVD once established on the ledge. Odd grades suit grit in my view. The modern definition of an adjectival grade as I see it is the chance of a successful ground up of an average climber with the right skill-set at the grade, so a 5m VS 5c with a very bouldery start is perfectly possible at the very top of the adjectival band, albeit very much an outlier. Most grit VS 5c problems like this I have climbed I would grade as V2/ f5+ or if forced to give a route grade as HVS 5c as they are usually not just a 5c move off the ground. A VS leader who's top technical ability is 5a is a long way from average in these days of popular bouldering and indoor walls. I know self described VS leaders who can normally flash font 7's. I'd be onsighting mid extreme regularly if I were that strong.
Good luck with your Odyssey. I always found such tasks gave me much pleasure in hindsight and really did improve my climbing for what I enjoy most... long trad around HVS when on my US holidays.
> I agree that if they managed it in one of the non-graunchy ways then they're not really a HVD leader.
Having figured out a 4c-ish way (a knee was involved but otherwise relatively little grovelling), part of me feels that one day I need to go back and manage the 5b version, for the sake of true authenticity.
it's worth remembering that in the early days of V Diff climbing parties sometimes resorted to "combined tactics" to overcome a particular problem.
I used to do it the grovel way, then one day I managed the power crimp way (must have been light and strong) which became my preferred way.
Then I heard about the fabled middle way that was only 4c. After much playing about I may have managed that but I'm not sure that was "the way".
I now have some beta from Offwidth and will be going back soon to check it out and see if I'd got it right.
Doing all three ways in one session would be a good target.
No idea. If it’s a one off well known joke grade, maybe that’s fair enough, though whether a joke grade is sensible in the first place is open to debate. However, some appear to be arguing that such grading combinations are reasonable. I’m simply expressing a view that they are not...
> I think some HVD leaders would manage VB.
I have heard tales of someone's friend who flashed the start in trainers, etc.. And if you can get onto the ledge, you don't need to be a S/HS leader in order to finish the route comfortably.
Of course a HVD leader doesn’t expect to be able to climb *every* HVD, but (s)he should have a fighting chance, on the presumption that this is their lead limit. With a 5b move, that’s clearly not the case, other than by nonsensically assuming they can climb at a higher standard. Perhaps part of the problem here is that some are saying it can be done at 4c in a certain way, so it isn’t really 5b at all, but more a problem solving issue that becomes 5b if you don’t figure it out. Thinking a HVD leader might do a 4c move off the ground is still a big ask, but at least thats just about within the bounds of reason.
That's summed it up pretty well exactly right. Of course, too, there was clearly an element of 'tongue in cheek' by the guidebook writers when they first dreamt up this grade for it.
Your “VS leaders” who climb 7s are clearly capable of leading way harder than VS. They simply choose not to. That’s up to them, and maybe is a very reasonable thing - choosing to minimise risk by only leading well within their limit.
However, there are many of us who do not lead with millions of grades in hand, so grading on this basis that everybody does is simply not reasonable. Grading works best when it accurately describes a route for those who will be reasonably (significantly?) challenged i.e. those climbing at or near their limit.
When I go through a guidebook, I expect the climbs to indicate to me whether I have a reasonable chance of doing a route, and how much I will be challenged. A route at the top of my leading grade (which has very little in the way of grades in hand) I will hope to have a fighting chance of struggling up. I realise sometimes I will fail or may resort to combined tactics or whatever. But what I don’t expect is technical moves way beyond me because some clever arse has deemed that those who lead VS should be capable of 5c moves (not my grade, but this was the example given). If they are capable of leading 5c, they could be leading E1. (Which doesn’t necessarily mean they would be happy leading every E1.) 5c after all is atypical even at E1! They’ve just chosen not to.
> The grade of VB is a deliberate climber's joke of course.
I'd argue that it's funny because it's true, though! To me, HVD 5b (unless you find the fabled 4c sequence) gives a more accurate picture of the route and its difficulties than calling it Severe or HS.
If you can get established off the ground, you don't need to be a S/HS leader to finish the route comfortably.
It'd be totally appropriate for some VD/HVD climbers to have a go at the route -- if they're in the mood for a ridiculous grovelly battle and a lot of free entertainment. And some of them might get it.
(You just need someone spotting to make sure no-one hurts themselves falling out of weird horizontal positions.)
> so a 5m VS 5c with a very bouldery start is perfectly possible at the very top of the adjectival band, albeit very much an outlier.
I will happily take recommendations for those as well, should you have any! Bouldery starts play to my strengths, and thus boost my ego enough to counter-balance having it crushed on HVDs.
> Good luck with your Odyssey. I always found such tasks gave me much pleasure in hindsight
Thanks! Fortunately I'm perverse enough that they give me pleasure during, as well. *g*
> Some seem to be saying HVD 5b makes sense as a grade for a route that’s around VDiff with a single desperate move. Maybe it makes sense if you might be capable of such a move - in which case you are definitely not a HVD leader! The people who argue for this mostly seem to be people who lead far higher than HVD. If I saw this in a guidebook, I’d just assume it was a typo. Much more helpful to call it VS 5b and explain in the description that it’s a one move wonder, and otherwise much easier.
> Surely the bottom line is that if a HVD leader isn’t going to lead it in a million years, then it blatantly isn’t HVD!! ;-)
I've always quite liked this sort of grade, but maybe that's because I'm an information theory nerd and I see it as using some otherwise useless areas of the encoding space to incorporate more information, albeit at the cost of a bit of error-correcting ability.
Seriously, though, it's an abuse of the usual meaning of adjectival grades, but it's pretty clear what it actually means - "basically HVD apart from one really tricky move which is both very safe and basically not committing (ie it's probably off the ground or maybe off a big ledge with a cop-out option if you can't do it), check guidebook for further details." Hence it feels like a useful thing to have.
If I thought a grade was a typo, I wouldn’t merrily wander off to do the route with no further thought, having no idea what I was letting myself in for. ???? I’d do some research or choose a different route. The most likely typo for HVD 5b is surely HVS 5b (which would put me off anyway), particularly as HVD often doesn’t get a technical grade.
> Of course a HVD leader doesn’t expect to be able to climb *every* HVD, but (s)he should have a fighting chance, on the presumption that this is their lead limit. With a 5b move, that’s clearly not the case, other than by nonsensically assuming they can climb at a higher standard.
I'm happy that there is still enough room for a little quirkiness in the system. Its not as though HVD 5b is commonly used, is it ?
I don’t disagree that there’s room for some quirkiness, but there are limits too - at some point, it becomes simply unhelpful/nonsensical.
I suspect the chances are that if you find other (even vaguely?) similar grades, they are almost certainly typos. So even if it’s supposedly helpful (which it certainly isn’t for those who lead HVD), it’s likely to be dismissed as a typo anyway, hence a bit pointless.
In this case, the grade (if “accurate” - which by definition it cannot be) tells the leader (at that grade) that they have zero chance of doing the route, so other than a joke, it’s pointless.
I think in this case "route" is stretching it a bit. More a boulder problem with a scramble off. I don't think any route grade is really going to work that well.
Are you still talking about Verandah Buttress, it's a bit more than a scramble off.
Admittedly it's quite unusual to have a boulder problem that can't be easily circumvented leading to some quality easy rock above.
If anyone is that desperate to do the route then they can always use combined tactics as suggested in the 83 guide.
It's a traditional joke
> If they are capable of leading 5c, they could be leading E1.
> They’ve just chosen not to.
But there's so much more to trad leading than simply being physically able to do the hardest move on the route!
I might possibly, if I was having a good day and it suited me, be able to lead a 5c move (if it was off the ground, where it's basically a boulder problem) -- but this absolutely does *not* mean I could be leading E1s and am just wilfully choosing not to.
In fact, me jumping on E1s right now would be a rather bad idea that could well lead to my getting hurt.
I've climbed with people whose top leading grade is lower than mine, but who are much smoother, steadier, more experienced and generally more competent trad leaders than me. I might spend ten minutes dithering and trying to fumble in a bit of gear in a placement where they can slot something in instantly while whistling!
I hope that in due course I can get my overall leading ability up to a point where I can exploit my bouldery abilities fully on trad routes, but it's an ongoing process and I'm far from there yet.
> because some clever arse has deemed that those who lead VS should be capable of 5c moves (not my grade, but this was the example given).
Okay, correct me if I'm wrong here, but I'm getting the sense you feel that a grade like "HVD 5b" or "VS 5c" is something like a nasty joke at the expense of leaders for whom HVD or VS is their top leading grade, but who can't do (or even have a decent shot at) the route in question.
Is that fair as a description of where you're coming from on this?
Originally climbed between 1923 & 1951, there used to be a block on the shelf, presumably this had some handholds that made the first moves ok. I presume the grade at this time was Very Difficult (no abbreviations in those days).
The 2002 guide says that the 1951 guidebook says "block missing from scoop, start now rather hard". Maybe the 51 guide graded it Hard Very Difficult.
Anyway, the 76 green guide probably gave it VD(+) - can't remember and I no longer have this guide - still no tech grades though.
First guide with tech grades would have been the Paul Nunn guide. I can't imagine that he would have given this 5b because he was a tall chap and was not exactly known for overgrading (slight understatement).
The 1983 guide is the first definitive with tech grades, HVD 5b. The description includes "A stubborn start can, as a last resort, be overcome by combined tactics." and "A route that regularly has even the technically proficient grovelling. The grade is not a misprint."
So there's the culprit. Presumably, they thought this HVD's got a bit of a tough start, must be worth at least 5a, probably 5b. Since then, each guidebook team has decided to keep the HVD grade as a "traditional" grade because of the unique quirkiness of the route.
And that's the in joke, everyone knows it's not really HVD. HS 5b would be a more correct grade but not as much fun.
Funnily though, I looked in my (anal ) log and found I'd first done it in 1979, graded it HVD 5b with the comment "At last, with a 5b move!". I can only presume that I'd put the grade in retrospectively because nowhere gave it 5b in 79.
If anyone has got the 51, 63, 76 and Nunn guides it would be interesting to know what they say.
Not quite, but roughly, yes. I wouldn’t say nasty joke, more poorly thought through, likely created by people capable of climbing harder grades, and unhelpful to those who are not.
I think that grades are most useful if you try to focus on helping those who lead at that grade (or thereabouts) as they are the people it’s most important for, rather than trying to explain from a perspective of those who are capable of doing much harder stuff / making assumptions that leaders are capable of moves far harder than the level at which they lead, so therefore it’s somehow ok or sensible. Some can, some cannot.
It sounds to me like you are technically capable of climbing harder stuff than you currently do, due to confidence placing gear etc. That’s fair enough, and likely very sensible. We all make our own choices. But I don’t think guidebook grades should be based on philosophy about what a leader “should” have in hand - that’s personal choice, not for the guidebook writer to decide.
I guess these mismatching adjectival/technical grades feel like they are likely created by those who choose to lead well within their ability, so have plenty in hand. It feels rather patronising / like they are trying to force their choice on others who do not, which seems unreasonable. VS 5c feels like a guidebook writer telling a VS leader they “ought” to be able to do safe/off the ground moves well out of their grade. If I could lead moves of 4c and the odd 5a move at a push (which I can’t), I would be leading VS (of course, with some discretion over route choice). VS 5b would be a helpful informative grade whereas VS 5c just an annoyance.
Grading accuracy is a difficult enough subject in the first place, without wilfully trying to force hard technical moves into an adjectival grade where it is completely uncharacteristic. Doesn’t really make any sense to me to do so... The adjectival/technical grade system is a good one, but there’s no need to deliberately overstretch it. Maybe a lot of the problem is to do with a tendency to reduce adjectival grades for shorter routes? But when you end up with inappropriately and uncharacteristically hard technical moves, this has been overdone.
What’s wrong with the simple idea that an adjectival grade is a suggestion that leaders reasonably comfortable at that grade (but not higher) should have a fighting chance, without making assumptions that they are capable of climbing (much) harder technical moves?!
I guess the real question is how far a technical grade can be above the norm before the adjectival grade needs to be increased. So I’d argue VS 5b is an extreme case which may sometimes be justifiable; 5c is a technical move that is not characteristic of VS climbing, thus an adjectival grade of (at the very least) HVS is to be expected.
I think VS 5c is just annoying for an honest VS leader climbing near there limit. It’s technically completely abnormal to VS. 5c is probably most common on something like E2/E3! Though I’m certainly not qualified to start talking about that stuff...
Yes, I get that there may be the odd “joke” grade, and that you can claim that HVD 5b “perfectly” describes a HVD Route with one 5b move off the ground or similarly Diff 7b, anyone? But it’s not in keeping with other gradings e.g. I’m sure you can find other routes with 1 or 2 hard moves, mostly much easier with grades like S/HS 4c. Such grades make perfect sense, but there’s no need to go over the top.
ok, probably time to shut up. ;-)
A bit of history makes it seem more reasonable and understandable, plus adds an argument to keep a silly grade, given historical context. Good to know it wasn’t just someone thinking they were being “clever”. ;-)
> Not quite, but roughly, yes. I wouldn’t say nasty joke, more poorly thought through, likely created by people capable of climbing harder grades, and unhelpful to those who are not.
I don't see why you think it's unhelpful, though. A "normal" HVD leader looking at the grade for Verandah Buttress (and then the route description, to see what the hell is going on) will know what to expect, and it's their choice whether they want to have a try at a relatively safe move that's likely to be too hard for them and maybe struggle up it after a lot of grunting around (or possibly with a bit of "power-spotting" from their second) or maybe not. (Or someone who's bouldered a fair bit but is still learning to place gear might think it sounds like a great laugh and get straight on it.) Whereas if it was VS or HVS 5b then no HVD leader would even bother looking, so the ones who might enjoy that sort of thing wouldn't even notice it.
76 Green guide gives it VD(+) and says 'The greatest difficulty is ascending into the scoop at the start'. Paul Nunn 1975 & 1990 4th Edition don't list it. On Peak Rock (1st Ed) gives it HVD 5b and says ' The tech grade refers to the start (hopefully)'
Yes, exactly. To me, the "HVD" is informative and useful because it tells you that if (big "if") you can make it onto the ledge, the rest of the route doesn't have any nasty surprises lurking, and could absolutely be done by someone for whom HVD is their maximum trad leading grade.
The start of the route is obviously wildly out of keeping with what you'd expect from an ordinary HVD, but the 5b is there to confirm that.
Not to mention that guidebooks usually comment on the grade and/or have photos of people displaying comedy beta on it.
> What’s wrong with the simple idea that an adjectival grade is a suggestion that leaders reasonably comfortable at that grade (but not higher) should have a fighting chance, without making assumptions that they are capable of climbing (much) harder technical moves?!
Yes, I think this is the basic point where we disagree -- you feel that someone for whom HVD is their maximum comfortable grade should be able to expect to have at least a decent shot at *any* HVD.
And I can see the logic in that, but personally I'm more comfortable with the idea that there are inevitably going to be anomalies and that you can be a "[grade] leader" without being able to do every single route in the world at that grade.
Thus my theory that if I got to a point where I *could* do all the HVDs confidently and smoothly, I'd be a much better climber than I am now!
> VS 5c feels like a guidebook writer telling a VS leader they “ought” to be able to do safe/off the ground moves well out of their grade.
Right, yeah. Whereas to me, it says something more like "if you happen to be able to do a 5c move off the ground, then in all other respects the route doesn't require you to be more than a VS leader." It's not going to be as sustained or challenging overall as an HVS 5c, let alone an E1 or E2 5c.
And that sort of thing's been useful for me in picking routes.
Not that I've tried a VS 5c yet, but I might give it a shot if I was feeling strong and it looked do-able, on the basis that the worst that could happen would be me failing to get off the ground at all and eventually giving up, feeling like a bit of an idiot, and apologizing to my belayer for wasting their time.
Whereas I would not be going near an E2 5c ...
> But when you end up with inappropriately and uncharacteristically hard technical moves, this has been overdone.
The question is how you describe routes that have one or two moves which *are* wildly uncharacteristic of the rest of the route.
The 1951 guide graded Verandah Buttress Difficult, the 1956 revised edition graded it (Hard) Difficult, and the 1963 guide graded it Very Difficult. The 1951 guide makes reference to the block missing from the scoop, although it is present in the adjacent photo of Martello Buttress.
Climbs on Gritstone Vol.2 1951
Verandah Buttress 40 feet Difficult
Prominently scooped near the base. First climb into the scoop, then traverse left and ascend the corner of the buttress, with a final pull on a jammed flake (block missing from scoop, start now rather hard).
It's not really a problem but it eventually leads to the grading system making little sense. IF we have VS 5c, is VS 6c possible? Perhaps a powerful boulder problem over a flat, soft grassy floor, and after that one move you're onto Severe climbing. Somewhere you have to accept that the adjective grade HAS to increase just due to the pure difficulty of the moves otherwise the system breaks down. Maybe that isn't 5c with VS, but is it 6a? Or 6b? etc.
Wasn't Monty Python (Kyloe) VS 6a ? I remember trying it & not getting of the ground at a time I was regularly leading E1 (although admittedly I don't think I ever led a Northumberland E1)
edit to add its still VS 6a (Monty Python's Flying Circus (full route) (VS 6a) )
> Wasn't Monty Python (Kyloe) VS 6a ? I remember trying it & not getting of the ground at a time I was regularly leading E1
This rather makes my point! Northumberland does have a bit of a rep to maintain it seems - although that rep might be just for not understanding the grading system. ;-)
This idea that a HVD leader might suddenly lead 5b moves is frankly from cloud cuckoo land. Someone who has a genuine lead limit around HVD likely needs hauling up 4c - or will be whooping with joy if they manage it cleanly on a fairly tight rope. They’re not going to be leading 5b moves in a million years. (Or if they are, it’s because they have progressed well beyond an HVD leader in the meantime.)
As a one off joke grade, fair enough, but it clearly isn’t sensible.
I don’t think it’s that uncommon to find long routes with one or two hard moves but generally much easier. An extreme mismatch in technical/adjectival grade is not required to describe this situation. E.g. HS 4c describes this. Do you want it to be Diff 4c because apart from a couple of 4c moves it is Diff?! The adjectival grade describes overall difficulty, not average difficulty. The former is surely more helpful in deciding on routes to lead.
"Start now rather hard." Marvellous.
I've climbed with a few folk who have only ever bouldered. 5b technically is a walk in the park to them but placing gear ? woooah !
Ok, perhaps not even a decent shot, but is it too much to expect that I at least have *some* shot at leading a route that is at my normal lead grade?! I certainly don’t expect to be able to lead every HVD. I expect a fighting chance for most. And I expect at least *some* (if minimal) chance for a few. My point is that leading any climb at my lead grade should be at worst a possibility (no matter how minimal), not a known impossibility. Does that make sense?
If there are 4c move(s), my chances as a HVD leader are extremely slim. Leading 5b moves simply isn’t going to happen. A climb that is clearly impossible for any normal leader at the given adjectival grade is surely nonsensical.
There are two parameters in the grading system. That is insufficient to describe every situation, and I’m not sure it’s a good idea to try - grading abuse?! ;-) So maybe it’s better to accept that extreme situations are better described in the text than by distorting the grading system in order to try to incorporate them?
Let’s think further about accepting big adjectival/technical grade disparity: Should a Diff with a 5a move be Diff, Hard Diff or V Diff? Nothing’s really satisfactory. Surely best to call it HS 5a, with a note in the text explaining that it’s mostly easy. HS 5a gets much (if not all) of the message over - a generally easier climb with a much harder crux. All it doesn’t tell you is how much easier. Is that really such an important detail to distort the grading system for rare cases?
Let’s say you’re happy with Diff 5a for the above, so Diff with one safe / off the ground 5a move. What if it has two 5a moves? HD? 3 5a moves? VD? What if it only has 3 moves, so is actually sustained 5a - that would surely get VS, wouldn’t it? So a long Diff with 3 5a moves gets a far lower grade than a short sustained route with 5a moves, though the former is probably more serious.
Do you see what I mean? Two parameters simply don’t allow us to describe all this. Trying to do so simply leads to greater inconsistencies. The grading system already has enough issues. I would say best to keep with technical grade and adjectival grade describing overall (not average) difficulties; unusual situations can be covered in the text.
Sure, but given a bit of practice, they would be able to lead far above HVD, wouldn’t they?
No doubt there are plenty of folk who can do hard technical moves but don’t have traditional skills. There are also those who like to lead traditional climbs close to their limit. Is it not best for traditional climbing grades to (mostly) reflect those who do traditional climbing, rather than those who don’t?
Not sure its a developing problem; just the 'odd' odd route at the extreme ends of the bell curve
I applaud your enthusiasm for this topic!
Thanks, good to at least keep one person entertained. ;-)
> The 1951 guide makes reference to the block missing from the scoop, although it is present in the adjacent photo of Martello Buttress.
Any chance you scanning that photo onto here so we can all get an idea of what VB used to look like.
I want to know what the power crimp way is; my way did feature a bit of a crimp to make up for lack of reach, but definitely wasn't near 5c. And I have not yet mastered the grovel.
I suspect there may be more than one 4c way, too.
... maybe we should organize a gathering/party later in the summer? Open to anyone perverse enough to think this is fun. I can bring cake.
> Sure, but given a bit of practice, they would be able to lead far above HVD, wouldn’t they?
Equally, with a bit of practice, an average VD climber would be capable of bouldering out 5b.
No one seems to have mentioned Clachaig Gully, the only VDiff that I know of that people get benighted in.
Has it now been upgraded to reflect the fact that chalk and sticky rubber gain the modern climber little advantage over their less well equipped predecessors?
Sounds like we’ve returned to cloud cuckoo land.
I think routes Great Gully (probably misgraded at VDiff) and Horned Crag in North Wales are also well known for benightments.
Best not to get me going on the subject of chalk on V Diffs! ;-(
Only from the perspective of someone who started climbing on routes. There are plenty of very strong boulderers who have never lead so the VD part is more daunting than the 5b part. I've climbed with a few this year.
The point is that a strong boulderer can learn to lead at a level several technical grades below their climbing ability if they choose to do so. It may be daunting at first, but technically they have the ability to do so.
A leader climbing close to their limit cannot suddenly magic up 4 extra technical grades just because “it’s bouldering”. They are simply not (currently) capable of it. If they do become capable of it by improving their climbing by such an enormous degree, in the meantime their leading ability will also have improved.
If that isn’t already clear, stretch the grades and it should be. A 7a boulderer might not like the idea of leading a long VS because they are worried about protection, route finding etc. But this is stuff they can learn, and likely would soon find it a walk in the park if they tried, and could almost certainly go on to lead far harder.
By contrast, a Diff leader (by which I mean someone who genuinely leads at this standard, not someone choosing to lead well within their ability) is not going to lead VS any time soon.
Given high technical ability, you have the possibility to learn leading techniques if you choose. Whereas if you know how to lead (place gear etc) but you have little technical ability, you cannot gain a load of technical ability any time soon. You may be able to gain some over a long time with a lot of hard work.
> The point is that a strong boulderer can learn to lead at a level several technical grades below their climbing ability if they choose to do so. It may be daunting at first, but technically they have the ability to do so.
Why does that matter, though? They're looking for a route to climb now, not once they've got more practice at placing gear.
If VB is given HVD 5b then they'll look at it and see a route that they can climb. Someone who's a more traditional novice leader - someone who started out seconding trad but still finds VS 4c pretty gnarly on a toprope - will look at it and see a route that they can't climb (because it's 5b and they aren't stupid) and will find something else to do instead. Someone in the middle will look at it and see a route that might be worth a go, they might get it after a lot of torrid thrashing and it probably won't do them any harm if they can't do it. The grade tells everyone what they need to know.
If you give it VS 5b then the first and third leaders probably won't even read the description. You're giving them less information purely to avoid bending your usual definition of adjectival grades in a few extreme cases.
Everyone knows their strengths and weaknesses but in the trad game they need to be matched carefully to the routes chosen for onsights (by which I mean ground-up for bouldery routes) . The excitement and satisfaction available from climbing adjectivally harder is important to many. If you can onsight lead close to your technical limit you are in a small minority but you get to gain from that, but the downside is bouldery routes below your lead grade might stop you. I'm was very similar in that when I was doing my hardest adjectival onsights.
As people are still taking HVD 5b seriously please please remember its a deliberate joke grade and the text of the route makes its true nature clear. VB is not even that safe as its hard to spot by a single partner as they either stand on the ledge and risk getting knocked off or stand below and make any catch before decking impossible.
In reply to slab_happy
I'd be very much up for a VB party and know a few others who would go as well. The 4c way has a flexible climber and an inflexible climber method (use of knee) and starts right of the ledge. The straightforward 5c method crimps up directly at the edge of the ledge. I've also done numerous 5a - 5c methods with vaying degrees of awkwardness and ridiculaous positions (one of which is here: https://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.php?id=54678 )
The issue is that this bending of grades causes more problems and inconsistencies than it solves. Adjectival grade describes overall difficulty not general or average difficulty. Attempting to switch the adjectival grade to general/average difficulty in some cases because a grading mismatch makes it “obvious” simply doesn’t work and means you’re using the adjectival grade for multiple separate purposes, in itself misleading.
What if there are 2 hard moves? 3 hard moves? Etc... You’re trying to force into the grading system extra descriptive details that don’t belong there. The system is a good one, but already with some problems and inconsistencies. Trying to force extreme routes into a system not designed for it is a bad idea.
A few people seem to think HVD 5b is a clear description, but how do we know the rest of the non-5b climbing is HVD standard, VD standard, or even less? We don’t. That’s a guess. It really doesn’t work. Supporters of the idea are still yet to give a sensible way to grade VD + 2 5b moves. Why distort the grading system to cater for extreme cases, when it just creates further problems with more inconsistencies?
That is surely a grovel variation
I mostly agree, good to get some sensible and balanced comments in this discussion!
To be fair, whether the grade is appropriate or not, if someone doesn't read a description which says 'easy after the first few moves' and assumes otherwise, that is surely their own fault.
> A few people seem to think HVD 5b is a clear description, but how do we know the rest of the non-5b climbing is HVD standard, VD standard, or even less? We don’t. That’s a guess. It really doesn’t work.
Well, you know it won't be harder than HVD. At VS 5b it could be HVD, VD, or even less... or S or HS or even VS. If anything I'm more on your side of the argument, but this type of reasoning gives support the other way.
"Supporters of the idea are still yet to give a sensible way to grade VD + 2 5b moves. Why distort the grading system to cater for extreme cases, when it just creates further problems with more inconsistencies?"
To be fair, there's no great way in any system to grade a route with such hard moves within an otherwise easy pitch. Probably the best way is just 5b and say in the description, 'tricky start then v-diff to the top'.
No, that argument does not give support the other way. It may not be the best argument for why it doesn’t make sense (there are many), rather an aside to point out that even what those supporting the argument are trying to achieve hasn’t actually worked.
All you know is that the adjectival grade gives an upper limit for the rest of the climb, but you don’t know by how much...
Your second response (and I agree that this is more central to the issue), I entirely agree with.
Maybe a sensible grade would be 5b followed by HVD.
There is some sense to that idea, but perhaps also flaws: no overall adjectival grade and what about HVD followed by 5b?! (Now we’re presumably just back to HVS 5b given the high hard move...)
Think I’d stick with relying on the description to describe weird situations.
> To be fair, there's no great way in any system to grade a route with such hard moves within an otherwise easy pitch. Probably the best way is just 5b and say in the description, 'tricky start then v-diff to the top'.
But that's exactly what the grade suggests to me!
Haha, could be tempted - almost feel like I should be seeking out this wretched climb after all this discussion. ;-) Where is it?
Definitely gonna have to find a 4c way of doing it though to have even the slightest chance... Well, at least I’d be back to leading at my normal level in the highly unlikely event I got up the first bit!
Me too. Also, given that it's such an outlier, the text description of the route should be read carefully! At HVD 5b I would fully accept combined tactics / a big pile of rocks at the start as being legitimate, and for the guide to say so.
> But that's exactly what the grade suggests to me!
Well yes, and to me also. As I said earlier, it depends whether you want the adjectival grade to be an overall grade or not. That's the only criticism from the other point of view, but a fairly significant one perhaps. I would say that technically the v-diff ground starts above the 5b start (i.e. you do the latter then continue up the former to the top), it doesn't incorporate it.
For the nth time, the grade is a climbers' joke.
> Where is it?
Left end of Stanage Popular:
Verandah Buttress (HVD 5b) (check out the photos ...)
Not far from much friendlier (and normally-graded) options like Heaven Crack (VD) , should anyone want to get a few other routes in.
> almost feel like I should be seeking out this wretched climb after all this discussion.
It's been a splendid nemesis for me, and now a proud tick!
And I'm serious about the cake. Though I also make good chocolate brownies.
Sunny day, bunch of people, lots of spotters for the start, people who know the mystic 4c solution, could be a very nice day out!
> For the nth time, the grade is a climbers' joke.
And long may it remain so!
I always thought that Marmoset on Crow Chin had the ideal grade. After varying between 'Diff (1920's)' and 'Impossible (1957) ' it then became graded 'V Diff to VS, depends if you can do it or not' now given VS 4c.
> The point is that a strong boulderer can learn to lead at a level several technical grades below their climbing ability if they choose to do so. It may be daunting at first, but technically they have the ability to do so.
> A leader climbing close to their limit cannot suddenly magic up 4 extra technical grades just because “it’s bouldering”.
Here we disagree. A VD climber can learn to boulder just as readily as a boulderer can learn to place gear and be happy with the prospect of heights and increased exposure. In most cases its lack of motivation that stops either from doing it.
You’re obviously not a VD leader and don’t appear to understand that some people have physical limitations. Pushing 4 technical grades beyond what you already find hard enough isn’t happening anytime soon.
This response is patronising and unhelpful. I’ve tried hard at some bouldering problems and in some cases succeeded at things a grade above what I usually lead after many months of trying. Sometimes even 4a boulder problems have taken months to figure out, probably because the particular move is not a style I am suited to or perhaps simply misgraded. I’m not sure if boulder problems have a habit of being undergraded when traditional technical grades are applied, but when I struggle with them at my lead grade, it sometimes feels the case.
If I can ever boulder 5b, I’ll probably be leading VS - or at the least, much closer to it than HVD. The suggestion that someone who finds 4b moves generally too hard to lead thus leads HVD rather than Severe should be able to boulder 5b is total nonsense.
Better make sure there are enough people to form a human pyramid at the start for any HVD leaders around. ;-) Slightly concerned the top bit looks a bit hard, too! ;-(
Its not intended to be patronising. It isn't meant to be. To counter, I would say that despite what you say, there are strong boulderers who have equal difficulty with lead climbing.
> After varying between 'Diff (1920's)' and 'Impossible (1957) ' it then became graded 'V Diff to VS, depends if you can do it or not'
And that's another nemesis I need to get back to ...
I think I'd give it HS 4c, VS might give you delusions of grandeur
Maybe even 5a but it's difficult to be precise because it's a butch move rather than technical.
If you were talking about a typical say 30 year old healthy climber/boulderer then generally you'd be correct (although I think that learning to lead would take less time than training to be strong).
However what i think Dom is saying is that there are loads of HVD leaders who aren't "typical" (e.g. age, disability, illness) and for whom that kind of increase in physical ability is not possible.
I'm sure there are some boulderers who are mentally challenged in some way so that they would be unable to ever learn to lead proficiently, but I'm guessing there are very few of them.
> I'm sure there are some boulderers who are mentally challenged in some way so that they would be unable to ever learn to lead proficiently, but I'm guessing there are very few of them.
I think and Dom Goodwin both underestimate the practice and ability that goes into being able to lead well at your absolute physical limit.
It's not about being "mentally challenged" (at least not in the diagnostic sense), but there are people who are going to get X metres above the ground without a bouldering mat underneath them and find that their brains go OH HELL NO THIS IS NOT FOR ME. Or who will never be comfortable on a trad lead without a hefty margin between what they're trying to lead and their physical limit.
I've been doing trad for about four years now and am not (wholly) clueless, but there's still a major disparity between my strength/technical ability on individual moves and the level I can actually *lead* at.
Just as there are people who aren't going to be able to increase their purely physical climbing ability beyond a certain point, there are also going to be people who can't improve their leading skills beyond a certain point.
And in any case, arguing about how someone "could" or "should" be able to lead at a certain level after enough practice is as irrelevant as saying they "could" or "should" be able to do particular physical moves if they just did enough training -- they can't do them *now*.
Someone who can't lead higher than HVD isn't an E1 leader, regardless of whether they can do a 5b move. Maybe that person could potentially become an E1 leader one day! But they aren't right now.
I was there last Sunday - didn't do Marmoset (seems to have lots of greenery on it currently) but I think it's HS 5a in the lastest Rockfax! Clearly the grade is not settled yet.
This must be one of the downsides to coming into climbing as a boulderer. The mental scars are just too hideous to contemplate
When I were a lad, bouldering wasn't a separated climbing game so we just learnt to man/woman up (or whatever the politically correct LGBTQX++ term is) and get on with traditional leading, blah, blah, blah
> This must be one of the downsides to coming into climbing as a boulderer. The mental scars are just too hideous to contemplate
Really, I deserve sympathy for my unfortunate condition!
More seriously: it has been fascinating for me getting into trad after years as a boulderer; I think trad and bouldering can complement and feed into each other beautifully (and there are some commonalities that are maybe not shared with sport climbing -- the mind games of highball bouldering are not too dissimilar to some mental experiences in trad), but they are very different beasts.
And I'm very conscious that having a few bouldery party tricks doesn't make me a better trad leader.
> Better make sure there are enough people to form a human pyramid at the start
It's called a "power spot". *g*
Anyway, combined tactics are a proud part of the British climbing tradition!
> Maybe even 5a but it's difficult to be precise because it's a butch move rather than technical.
With hindsight, it was possibly not the best choice of route to try at the end of the day ...
(But so much fun!)
> When I were a lad, bouldering wasn't a separated climbing game so we just learnt to man/woman up (or whatever the politically correct LGBTQX++ term is)
I feel "person up" has a certain charm to it, but I recently saw a post from someone whose friend had started shouting "Fortify!" instead, which is genius -- works for all genders, sounds splendidly 19th-century.
The top is OK and protectable, easier than some popular end classic VD climbs. Its a bit airy as an onsight solo.
No doubt it’s possible to find someone who leads HVD and boulders 5b, but this would surely be an extreme example. The vast majority of HVD leaders are simply not capable of 5b moves.
Different people may have differing gaps between how hard they can or will climb at differing styles, depending on boldness and other factors, ranging from not at all to a very large gap as suggested here.
My point is simply that normal technical difficulties on a HVD are a million miles away from 5b.
If you select a random climber who leads and boulders, if they can boulder 5b, in all probability, they can lead HVD, probably rather more. Whereas if you take a random HVD leader, the chances they can boulder 5b are minimal.
> No doubt it’s possible to find someone who leads HVD and boulders 5b, but this would surely be an extreme example. The vast majority of HVD leaders are simply not capable of 5b moves.
The assumption that you are making is that the converse isn't true - you assume that just because you can boulder UK 5b then you must be able to lead VD. It just isn't true. Not detracting from your point that VD 5b is a very extreme case.
Thats simply not true any more as times have changed. I know quite a few strong indoor climbers who moved outdoors who can climb much harder than 5b outdoors but avoid leading and only try the odd easier line (HVD being a bit hard).
Fair enough, I accept that. Posts can easily be interpreted not as intended - from my perspective, it sounded like a good climber telling weaker climbers what they *should* be capable of, and if they weren’t that they hadn’t tried hard enough.
I consider myself a reasonably competent VD/HVD leader (it’s a while since I’ve failed on one). I solo/boulder a couple of times a week, and 5b is honestly completely beyond me. Not even close. So while I may be close to one extreme of a climber leading near their limit, I can equally imagine there are plenty who lead at a similar or slightly harder level than me, who still would not be able to boulder 5b.
I think an argument that a typical climber could boulder slightly harder than they lead may be reasonable - a couple of grades, perhaps? But I just think that 4 technical grades is a world away, so to think anyone would boulder 4 grades above what they lead seems from my perspective very strange. There may be some who do, but surely it’s abnormal (the other extreme). If I could make technical moves around 4c/5a (never mind 5b), I would be leading classic HS stuff like Main Wall, Tophet Wall etc, rather than HVD...
Don’t most climbers want to be challenged when leading? I.e. lead with one or maybe two grades in hand? To lead with 4 grades in hand, there would be little challenge - at least, from a purely technical perspective.
That’s a very extreme view point. I don’t think taking those who have started indoors and are uncomfortable outdoors as a starting point for discussions on traditional outdoor climbing is especially helpful or can be seen in any way as a “norm”. You may be right that such people exist, but to approach the subject from this perspective feels very unbalanced.
Everyone has their technical limit. Learning to lead within this limit - and perhaps, even close to it, for many is possible.
Climbing beyond your technical limit, simply isn’t possible. Yes, you may be able to improve your technical ability, but that’s not a good argument that a traditional leader should be able to climb moves well beyond their adjectival grade - as technical ability increases, they can push up their lead grade correspondingly.
A more balanced basis for a discussion might be an assumption that typical trad climbers may have a grade or two in hand, it’s possible that they may have more, but that should not be assumed.
> For the nth time, the grade is a climbers' joke.
I know, but this thread has also been a theoretical discussion on the appropriateness of various grades.
We need that party
> Don’t most climbers want to be challenged when leading? I.e. lead with one or maybe two grades in hand?
Not always, I can remember enjoying routes that I found 'easy', especially when long & in the mountains. I well remember climbing & enjoying V Diffs such as Cioch Nose (VD) at a time when I was leading HVS/E1.
Its hardly extreme. Its pretty normal if still a minority these days, so forms part of the sample of climbers on which we produce a nominal average . When I started there were hardly any climbers like that. Styles change as well: in the 1950s climbrrs were amazing at wide clefts (tthey provided a safe and secure challenge in comparison to hand cracks) and now climbers are on average crap... things do change over time.
Yes, I have enjoyed many climbs I find easy too. But fundamentally, you need to at least sometimes be challenged, don’t you?
I led something up the Cioch many moons ago. It was great, and seriously challenging , a marvellous experience ;-)
I don’t entirely agree which the you, but give me something I can udge up by sticking my arse in it, and I’ll be more than happy. ;-)
I feel like a total dinosaur talking to (some of) you lot. ;-) Discussions of 5b moves for Hard V Diff leaders are totally weird, but...
Me, I love the feeling of some high arête, doing hard exposed moves just within the limits of my capabilities. It’s exhilarating. And for me, it’s what climbing is about.
If you prefer to climb where you will never take a risk or test your boundaries, then good luck to you. Maybe you’ll live longer. But that’s not for me...
You need to climb Nor Nor buttress on Tryfan east face good value for Diff. Please please remember HVD 5b is a climbers' joke, its not a real grade.
I think the system does have to break down at some point, and it's probably the point where it no longer makes sense to use a route-grading system to describe whatever-it-is, and it makes more sense to say something like "there's this V11 boulder problem, and if you want, once you've done it you've got the option of finishing up this Mod."
To me, that makes more sense than trying to average it out and say "well, V11 plus a Mod makes ... E6? E9? E5-and-a-half? something?"
Prior to that point, grades like "VS 5c" do make sense to describe routes that has a disproportionately hard bit in a very safe context, probably off the ground. The interplay between the adjectival and tech grades is informative.
Something like "HVD 5b" is obviously an extreme anomaly, but it's a weird anomalous route, and, comedy value aside, I think that particular grade does as good a job of any of letting you know what you're in for.
> The top is OK and protectable, easier than some popular end classic VD climbs. Its a bit airy as an onsight solo.
Yes, I may be biased by the golden haze of happiness I was in at having finally made it up the start, but I really did enjoy the rest of the route and thought it was lovely on its own merits.
I remember straightforward protection but a nice feeling of exposure going out onto the nose.
> Fair enough, I accept that. Posts can easily be interpreted not as intended - from my perspective, it sounded like a good climber telling weaker climbers what they *should* be capable of, and if they weren’t that they hadn’t tried hard enough.
The thing is, that's exactly what it sounds like to me when you say that someone who can do 5b moves *should* be capable of leading E1! *g*
And I agree with you that most people who've plateaued with HVD as their leading limit will not be able to do a 5b move.
Someone could be a very solid HVD leader and not remotely be able to do Verandah Buttress, and that would in no way reflect badly on their leading ability. It just means they can't do a bouldery party trick.
However, my argument is that being able to do a bouldery party trick doesn't automatically make someone a *better* leader.
Maybe it means they have the physical strength and technical capability necessary to lead harder routes at some point in the future, but it's not sufficient to make them capable of leading them *now*.
> give me something I can udge up by sticking my arse in it, and I’ll be more than happy.
Ah, a man after my own heart!
I may be one of these new-fangled-wall-bred-indoor-climbing-bouldery types, but I am proud of my commitment to wedging as much of my body as possible inside the rock (at least up to the point where my claustrophobia starts to outvote my desire for security).
I think (almost) everyone got that HVD 5b was a joke grade ages ago. But a few still seem to be arguing that a lot of HVD leaders would/should be capable of 5b moves - that is the point I’m disagreeing with.
Yes, there may be those happy bouldering 5b who don’t lead beyond HVD. But I’d be seriously surprised if such people would think of themselves as HVD leaders. They probably judge their ability based on what they boulder as that’s clearly their focus, rather than by a technically much lower lead standard on a type of climbing where they are (presumably) less familiar hence less comfortable.
Conversely, most who refer to themselves / regard themselves as HVD leaders are probably focused more on traditional climbing, may or may not have a grade or two in hand, but most such people would be extremely unlikely to be able to do 5b moves.
Hopefully, we can agree on that...
Hmmm, I haven’t done Nor Nor Buttress (though I have done the obvious 3 classic V Diffs in Tryfan E face). It doesn’t seem to make it into any of my guides. Sounds “interesting”. ;-)
I think we’re rather arguing at cross purposes here. I certainly would not claim that anyone capable of 5b moves could or should lead E1. People should do what they are happy with.
However, I would certainly contend that a typical traditional climber capable of 5b moves is likely to have the ability to lead much closer to E1 than HVD. That’s not the same as saying it should always be the case or trying to prescribe what people should be able to do.
My argument was more along the lines that if you can do 5b moves, you likely have at least the chance to lead (close to) E1 as you have the technical capability. Whereas the other way round, assuming a HVD leader ought to be able to do 5b moves is surely clearly untrue. Most people who describe themselves as HVD leaders are likely more focused on traditional climbing than bouldering, quite likely try to lead at a level that provides some challenge (we all like a challenge, don’t we?), and are therefore likely to be simply miles away from being able to make moves as technical as 5b. I lead HVD and 4b/c is the sort of level where moves become highly problematic/impossible without maybe a bit of a helpful tug from a tight rope above...
Perhaps it partly comes down to language and expectations of what is meant by “HVD leader”, but I would have thought my interpretation is the (most) usual one.
The whole 'should be able to' argument, as applied to adjectival grades, is a red herring.
You'd have to survey all climbers to see what they can or cannot do on a good day/bad day alternate Wednesday's etc etc
99% + of climbs don't have these 'funny' grades and those that do are either an traditional joke or a very specific circumstance. It's not a problem!
> Others will no doubt disagree,
>...but I'd suggest that "Shangri-La" might be 5b for a couple of moves ...
Surely no more than hard 4c, top-end VS?
> Or maybe I just didn't climb it very well!
I feel at this point we're mostly all just re-stating our positions, and may need to agree to disagree. And meet up at Verandah Buttress to flounder and eat cake!
> But a few still seem to be arguing that a lot of HVD leaders would/should be capable of 5b moves - that is the point I’m disagreeing with.
I would disagree with that too! It's not a "lot".
But there are still a few HVD leaders who will be able to.
> Yes, there may be those happy bouldering 5b who don’t lead beyond HVD. But I’d be seriously surprised if such people would think of themselves as HVD leaders. They probably judge their ability based on what they boulder as that’s clearly their focus, rather than by a technically much lower lead standard on a type of climbing where they are (presumably) less familiar hence less comfortable.
I think you *would* be seriously surprised by some of us! My bouldering high water mark was a V6/Font 7a, after days of projecting (and if I recall correctly that particular problem gets rated as tech 6b).
But when it comes to trad, I consider myself a VS leader (starting to tip my toe into the odd HVS, but I am not "an HVS leader").
People can have multiple focuses, and how I rate myself depends on what discipline I'm in at that moment.
> but most such people would be extremely unlikely to be able to do 5b moves.
> Hopefully, we can agree on that...
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