/ Routes deserving a downgrade

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rachelpearce01 - on 16 May 2019

I was thinking the other day as I was racking up my harness with all of my partners nice bits of gear (micro cams, normal cams, basically cams for every size crack imaginable, micro wires, more cams..etc.) how when the route I was climbing was put up and graded, they definitely didn’t have all this stuff. So surely the route was a lot safer now (an e1), and potentially doesn’t deserve its grade.

But you rarely hear about old routes being downgraded, but often things being upgraded.

So what routes do you think deserve a down grade in our modern world of shiny gear ?

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mrphilipoldham - on 16 May 2019
In reply to rachelpearce01:

Inverted V (VS 4b).. only VS if you forget your big cams. 

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Offwidth - on 16 May 2019
In reply to rachelpearce01:

We downgraded quite a few soft touches in the BMC grit guides. Two grades was the maximum I remember though (mainly VS routes to S). In contrast we upgraded a similar number of routes by at least 4 grades with examples in the range from Diff to HVS (which became VS and  E3 respectively). There was a Moorland VD on Noe Stool which was said to go to E5 but the original line was different (still about HVS).

Post edited at 19:21
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Offwidth - on 16 May 2019
In reply to mrphilipoldham:

I think its borderline VS/HS 4c these days ... getting harder with polish.

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Michael Hood - on 16 May 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

Less of a problem after Brexit?

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nuts and bolts on 16 May 2019
In reply to rachelpearce01:

The Brink of Solarity at Portishead quarry. Couldn't find anything on it to justify HVS. Easy slab climbing and I found good gear all the way up it. Mid VS at best. It's neighbour, Pickpocket, maybe just about gets its grade for a slightly bold bit lower down but only just. 

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Hardonicus - on 16 May 2019
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Gordon Stainforth - on 16 May 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

> I think its borderline VS/HS 4c these days ... getting harder with polish.

Which is roughly what it's always been. I think it was MVS when I first did it in about 1970.

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Pursued by a bear - on 16 May 2019
In reply to rachelpearce01:

> But you rarely hear about old routes being downgraded, but often things being upgraded.

There have been a few, over the years.  The point you're making is really only applicable to routes which can now be protected with shiny new gear, where once they had to be done without.  Guidebooks have, over the years, made mention of where a particular bit of kit becomes vital and it would be a confident or foolhardy soul who set off without them.

But the rock (usually) remains the same, the moves are as difficult as they always were, it's just that you may lie somewhere on a scale from feeling blissfully confident with the protection afforded by the shiny new gear you've just placed to make an exposed move safe to having your body parts collected and brought back from the crag in a rubble sack if you try without the shiny new gear.

T. 

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pasbury on 16 May 2019
In reply to rachelpearce01:

I think sandbags have always outweighed anti-sandbags so maybe it’s just redressing the balance.

A lot of upgrades have been for routes that modern gear can’t touch so the boldness of the old timers is still present.

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d_b on 16 May 2019
In reply to nuts and bolts:

> The Brink of Solarity at Portishead quarry. Couldn't find anything on it to justify HVS. Easy slab climbing and I found good gear all the way up it. Mid VS at best. It's neighbour, Pickpocket, maybe just about gets its grade for a slightly bold bit lower down but only just. 

Brink of solarity has been downgraded to vs in the new north Somerset outcrops guide. Pickpocket stays at hvs and the baldest goes up to e1.

I agree with the downgrade. Not sure about the upgrade, although I have led all three so I will take it ;)

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Eric9Points - on 16 May 2019
In reply to Hardonicus:

I believe it was upgraded to IV because of the number of people who got benighted on it around the Eastern Traverse. A way of getting people to take it a bit more seriously.

Should all the routes on the Etive slabs lose a grade? They were all graded for EBs not sticky rubber.

Post edited at 21:13
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aln - on 16 May 2019
In reply to Michael Hood:

F*ck off f*ck off f*ck off. Seriously, can we stop bringing Brexit into every thread?

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GrahamD - on 16 May 2019
In reply to mrphilipoldham:

> Inverted V (VS 4b).. only VS if you forget your big cams. 

Funny that's one that immediately sprang  to mind.

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aln - on 16 May 2019
In reply to aln:

> F*ck off f*ck off f*ck off. Seriously, can we stop bringing Brexit into every thread?

Three people want to keep bringing Brexit into every thread?

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oldie - on 16 May 2019
In reply to rachelpearce01:

Perhaps the three starred HSs on Bow Shaped Slab in Pembroke? A long time since I've been there but they were well protected, on good holds, straightforward and in balance as I recall.

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pec on 16 May 2019
In reply to Eric9Points:

> I believe it was upgraded to IV because of the number of people who got benighted on it around the Eastern Traverse. A way of getting people to take it a bit more seriously.

Perhaps getting benighted around the Eastern Traverse should make people take winter climbing a bit more seriously? I know I did ;-)

Tower ridge was the benchmark grade III ridge for decades. By upgrading it we're not correcting an historical anomaly, we're just redefining the grades, and possibly delaying that benightment until another route when someone thinks they can climb grade IV, 'cos they did Tower Ridge' but can't really.

Post edited at 22:24
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Sherlock - on 16 May 2019
In reply to Eric9Points:

.

> Should all the routes on the Etive slabs lose a grade? They were all graded for EBs not sticky rubber.

I once heard the argument that sticky rubber only got you into trouble quicker at Etive!

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Cog - on 16 May 2019
In reply to Eric9Points:

> Should all the routes on the Etive slabs lose a grade? They were all graded for EBs not sticky rubber.

They were all graded VS.

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brianjcooper on 16 May 2019
In reply to rachelpearce01:

> So what routes do you think deserve a down grade in our modern world of shiny gear ?

Having led a  looooong 'run out' on an unprotectable Hard Severe, I'd say all of them.

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Michael Hood - on 17 May 2019
In reply to aln:

Sorry about that, just couldn't resist

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DaveHK - on 17 May 2019
In reply to rachelpearce01:

Diabaig Pillar although not really due to modern gear. The 5b moves are easy 5b with excellent gear and rests before and after. County HVS.

Oh and about 50% of routes at Reiff too...

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Jon Greengrass on 17 May 2019
In reply to rachelpearce01:

Pot Black (E2 5b) only E1 with tricams

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nuts and bolts on 17 May 2019
In reply to DaveHK:

Agree with Reiff although I did lead my first E3 there so I will take the points and run.

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PaulJepson - on 17 May 2019
In reply to rachelpearce01:

Every route at Saddle Head.

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d_b on 17 May 2019
In reply to PaulJepson:

I would go with most of saddle head, but the grade for Pink 'Un (VS 5a) seemed spot on when I did it.

"Sea Mist was basically a VDiff so this will be piss!"  er.  Nope.

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subtle on 17 May 2019
In reply to rachelpearce01:

Tower Ridge winter grade needs downgraded

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markfairbank - on 17 May 2019
In reply to rachelpearce01:

Cenotaph Corner HVS 5b? Extremely well protected and not sure there was any 5c on it.

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Gordon Stainforth - on 17 May 2019
In reply to markfairbank:

I think you'll find you're in a minority of about one on that. Of over 250 votes cast on UKC, the verdict is that it's mid to high E1. You could I suppose argue that Cemetery Gates is top end HVS, but again, I don't think many would agree. (Edit: Just looked CG up in the UKC logbooks and see that of nearly 300 votes cast, it's low to mid E1.)

Post edited at 12:45
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shantaram - on 17 May 2019
In reply to rachelpearce01:

I’ve always found the 3 x 3* HVSs at Sergeant Crag Slabs to be very soft. (Or maybe they just suit my style?)

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AlanLittle - on 17 May 2019
In reply to Pursued by a bear:

> But the rock (usually) remains the same, the moves are as difficult as they always were, it's just that you may lie somewhere on a scale from feeling blissfully confident with the protection afforded by the shiny new gear you've just placed to make an exposed move safe to having your body parts collected and brought back from the crag in a rubble sack if you try without the shiny new gear.

But surely distinguishing between those scenarios is the whole point of the uk grading system? E.g. completely blissful 6a could be as low as E1, only needing a small rubble sack could be E6 or more.

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Tom Knowles - on 17 May 2019
In reply to subtle and pec:

> Tower Ridge winter grade needs downgraded

Curious as to what IVs you’ve done that are a grade harder than TR, or the IIIs that are similar?

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Simon Caldwell - on 17 May 2019
In reply to Tom Knowles:

> Curious as to what IVs you’ve done that are a grade harder than TR, or the IIIs that are similar?

I've not done huge amounts of winter climbing, but from my Scottish routes here are a few examples

Harder IVs:

Crowberry Gully (Winter) (IV 4)

Italian Right-Hand (IV 4)

Cirrus (IV 4) - this one was at least a couple of grades harder

Harder IIIs

Long Line (III)

Tunnel Vision (III)

Harder II/IIIs

Curved Ridge (II/III 3)

Squaddie's Climb (II/III)

Similar difficulty

An Teallach Ridge (Winter) (II)

Aonach Eagach Ridge (Winter) (II)

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Michael Hood - on 17 May 2019
In reply to Jon Greengrass:

> Pot Black (E2 5b) only E1 with tricams

Thanks for the useful beta

Which size tricams?

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Michael Hood - on 17 May 2019
In reply to Simon Caldwell:

Surely the issue is that winter grades are very conditions variable, and a route like Tower Ridge covering a large range of altitude is going to suffer from this even more.

Even I as a non winter climber knows this. So winter grades really do require more of a consensus to be "accurate" (which of course they can't really be except for precise conditions).

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DaveHK - on 17 May 2019
In reply to Michael Hood:

> Surely the issue is that winter grades are very conditions variable, and a route like Tower Ridge covering a large range of altitude is going to suffer from this even more.

The IV grade on TR is used a bit like the overall grade in the alps or US, to indicate commitment. This isn't how the Scottish system was designed and I'm not aware of it being used like this for any other route but TR is a bit of a special case.

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Jon Greengrass on 17 May 2019
In reply to Michael Hood:

not the pink one.

It was 15 years ago I can't recall which size was crucial, but I'm pretty sure they were the only gear I took ( Tricam Sizes 1-4)

Whether or not I should have trusted the placements I made in the pockets...

Post edited at 14:17
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subtle on 17 May 2019
In reply to Tom Knowles:

> Curious as to what IVs you’ve done that are a grade harder than TR, or the IIIs that are similar?

Grade IV's one grade harder than TR:

Bens Fault on Ben Ime

Moonwalk on Brenva Face

Grade III's harder than TR

Terminal Buttress in Liathach

Grade III's similar to TR

D Gulley Buttress on Buachaille (done this, and TR a few times, its def harder)

TR should be a bog standard Grade III, only upgraded due to its length and people being benighted. 

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Simon Caldwell - on 17 May 2019
In reply to subtle:

> TR should be a bog standard Grade III, only upgraded due to its length and people being benighted. 

Or even II/III.

The problem with giving it IV, is that people might climb it, find it straightforward, and hop onto other grade IVs expecting something similar. I've no idea if this has ever happened, and as you say, it's a special case.

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DaveHK - on 17 May 2019

In reply to 88Dan:

> This isn't life on mars mate. I see with all the dislikes that comment got we have a lot of James Pearson arse kissers on this forum.

Or maybe just people who thought it was a bit of a tw*ttish thing to say?

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DaveHK - on 17 May 2019
In reply to rachelpearce01:

Oooh, I notice tw*ttish was asterisked. Can we still not say Wastwater either?

Edit: Looks like Wastwater is fine.

Post edited at 17:56
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Bulls Crack - on 17 May 2019
In reply to rachelpearce01:

Just take the points and move on!

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d_b on 17 May 2019
In reply to rachelpearce01:

What a lot of dislikes...

I'm going to go all wooly and reply with a question: What do we want trad grades to mean?

In the hemp rope and big boots era vdiff was very difficult, severe was Severe and vs was not for punters. Now vdiff is easy, vs is average and you need to be in high single digits es to be taken seriously.

If you were serious about downgrading then everything hs or below would be mod and current e9s would be extremely severe.

Accepting that the original descriptive grade names are useless now tends to result in upgrades rather than downgrades because "vdiffs are piss" means that any route that is still run out with modern gear can't be vdiff.

In short, I think it's easier for the meaning of the words to keep changing than to rewrite the books every few years 

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john arran - on 17 May 2019
In reply to d_b:

When the terms were originally employed, pretty much everyone was a beginner, so the whole scale ranged from beginner Easy to Moderate through to Very Difficult or even Severe.

As people became more practiced there became a need to extend the scale to Very Severe and even Hard Very Severe.

Then as people started to train strategically for performance even these terms became insufficient, necessitating the extension into Extremely Severe, which became subdivided into an open-ended E-grade scale.

Were we to try to cram all of these grades into just a few descriptive adjectives it would quickly become necessary to invent all sorts of subtle dividers so as to reintroduce 20 or so grades in a system designed for about 5.

A similar thing was attempted a decade or so ago with aid climbing grades, with a drive to limit the top grade to A5 and continually reassess (i.e. downgrade) all other grades accordingly, albeit for commercial reasons. It resulted in chaos and certainly should never even be considered for repeat in any free climbing situation.

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d_b on 17 May 2019
In reply to john arran:

I wasn't aware of that as I have never been involved in the aid scene, but I agree that open ended grading is vastly preferable to making the bottom half of the grading system useless.

This is not the same as "no downgrading" of course, as tech changes are real and effect routes unevenly.

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L 88Dan - on 17 May 2019
In reply to DaveHK:

It seems like the forum mods are James Pearson fans too. Never mind my response being tw*ttish, what would you call someone greatly over grading routes? E12 for the walk of life which was downgraded to E9 after it's second ascent. that's just a joke and something obviously no one else would get away with.

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rachelpearce01 - on 18 May 2019
In reply to d_b:

I was just curious in terms of routes that would have previously been really hard or impossible to protect before micro wires and micro cams, surely there trad grade should be amended?

But then I guess we love a soft touch ! 

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DaveHK - on 18 May 2019
In reply to 88Dan:

> It seems like the forum mods are James Pearson fans too. 

More likely that they thought calling people arse kissers for disliking your comment was bad form. In case you were unsure, it is bad form.

> E12 for the walk of life which was downgraded to E9 after it's second ascent. that's just a joke and something obviously no one else would get away with.

Surely if he had 'got away with it' it would still be E12 and we wouldn't be having this discussion?

Post edited at 07:25
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GrahamD - on 18 May 2019
In reply to 88Dan:

The first ascenionist's proposed grade simply reflects their experience on the route. If you read JP's account of the first ascent you can see he has less faith in the gear than DB (not known for soft grading himself).  It's a pity because as a style statement the removal of 12 pegs was (IMO) a great move and way superior to the use of new pegs on DB's new route on the same crag.

As for getting away with it, he didn't, did he ? So what other examples do you have ?

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d_b on 18 May 2019
In reply to rachelpearce01:

Well there's always some of that too. And someone will always have a weird bit of gear that only works for that one placement.

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Jezz0r on 18 May 2019
In reply to DaveHK:

Isn't this exactly why the technical grade was introduced? TR is IV,3. The technical climbing is no harder than Castle Ridge at III, but the length and altitude mean it needs a higher grade. Having climbed TR doesn't mean one would be happy on a IV,4 (or IV with no tech grade)

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Trangia on 18 May 2019
In reply to rachelpearce01:

Devil's Slide, Lundy seems overgraded at HS. The majority of it is barely Diff. It's just the top traverse to the left that might warrant V Diff. So downgrade climb to V Diff?

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DaveHK - on 18 May 2019
In reply to Jezz0r:

> Isn't this exactly why the technical grade was introduced? TR is IV,3. The technical climbing is no harder than Castle Ridge at III, but the length and altitude mean it needs a higher grade. Having climbed TR doesn't mean one would be happy on a IV,4 (or IV with no tech grade)

My point was that the grade is being applied in that way on TR but it isn't applied in that way on any other route in Scotland. No individual pitch on TR is worth IV 3 but every other route in Scotland has (or should have!) at least one pitch of the given grade and length / remoteness is not factored in like it has been for TR.

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Cog - on 18 May 2019
In reply to DaveHK:

> My point was that the grade is being applied in that way on TR but it isn't applied in that way on any other route in Scotland.  

If I remember correctly Lochaber MRT asked the SMC to make it grade IV. They were having a lot of rescues because people were underestimating the route.

Post edited at 18:09
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DaveHK - on 18 May 2019
In reply to Cog:

Yes, I have a memory of something like that too. It was certainly a special case, the grading system wasn't designed to be used in that way.

Personally, as an isolated case, it doesn't bother me either way.

Post edited at 17:56
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L 88Dan - on 18 May 2019
In reply to GrahamD:

Give me a break man. If I climbed a new hard trad route and graded it as E12, shortly after it gets a second ascent and is downgraded to E9, I would be called all names under the sun, I would be a laughing stock and the biggest joke/liar the climbing world has ever known. So why shouldn't I voice my opinion on someone else doing just that? Talk about one rule for one.

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Kevster - on 18 May 2019
In reply to rachelpearce01:

Three pebble slab?

Looning the tube?

Lol

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Tom Loughlin - on 18 May 2019
In reply to 88Dan:

Yes, indeed, the big if - if you had ever put up that e9. Guess we’ll never know how you would have graded it. Maybe if you’d also climbed some of the ‘last great problems in the peak’ all round the e8 mark, on sighted e8, had the humility to accept and reflect on why you had overgraded what remains an outstanding route and then gone off to pursue sport/ trad climbs at a very high standard all over the world people would cut you some slack. again, guess we’ll never know...

Post edited at 20:58
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L 88Dan - on 19 May 2019
In reply to Tom Loughlin:

How many E8 E9 last great problems have you climbed? How many high standard (I think you mean high grade) sport and trad climbs all over the world have you done? I guess we will never know.

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deacondeacon - on 19 May 2019
In reply to Jon Greengrass:

> Pot Black (E2 5b) only E1 with tricams

Pot Black is hardly crying out for a downgrade. It's on the cusp of hard E1/soft E2 so either will do.

Now Crumpet Crack at Helsby is an actual gift. E4 on Ukc and E3 in the guidebook. It would get E1 anywhere else! Spent a weekend failing on E1's all weekend but Crumpet Crack was piss.

It's defo worthwhile though, a great route. 

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Tom Loughlin - on 19 May 2019
In reply to 88Dan:

“Standard: level of quality or attainment.”

Pretty sure that’s what I meant. Doesn’t really matter what I have or have not done, I’m not the one who thinks it’s funny to have a pop at someone who is probably pretty sound and is much better than I (or you I would assume) will ever be at climbing. Don’t want to hijack the thread so this is me signing off. 

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L 88Dan - on 19 May 2019
In reply to Tom Loughlin:

You are very good at assuming aren't you? Surely everyone replying to this thread is having a pop at the first person to climb and grade a route.

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Tom Loughlin - on 19 May 2019
In reply to 88Dan:

Not really. The question is whether modern gear means some routes are over graded. 

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DaveHK - on 19 May 2019
In reply to 88Dan:

> You are very good at assuming aren't you? Surely everyone replying to this thread is having a pop at the first person to climb and grade a route.

In lots of cases the guide book grade is not the grade the FA gave. Plus there's a big difference between saying you think something is overgraded and suggesting the first ascencionist is a liar.

Are you really as upset about this as your language suggests? It seems an odd thing to get so worked up about. 

Post edited at 10:27
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Tom V - on 19 May 2019
In reply to 88Dan:

 I would be a laughing stock and the biggest joke/liar the climbing world has ever known. 

Not unless your real name is McCallum.

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Howard J - on 19 May 2019
In reply to rachelpearce01:

The type of descriptions I really dislike (yes, Tremadog 2000 edition, I'm looking at you) are the ones which describe a route as "10 feet left of such-and-such" where such-and-such is described relative to another route, and so on all the way to the end of the crag.  

I agree it can sometimes e frustrating when trying to find a route, and when you get it wrong it can turn out scary, but I am strongly opposed to route markings.  It is true there are some historic ones, which we should accept (and sometimes be grateful for) in the same way as we accept old pegs, but we shouldn't allow any more.

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3 Names - on 19 May 2019
In reply to 88Dan:

> If I climbed a new hard trad route and graded it as E12, shortly after it gets a second ascent and is downgraded to E9, I would be called all names under the sun, I would be a laughing stock and the biggest joke/liar the climbing world has ever known. 

Thats just because you are already all of those things though.

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L 88Dan - on 19 May 2019
In reply to 3 Names:

Well aren't you a big man.

Post edited at 18:25
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Michael Gordon - on 19 May 2019
In reply to Simon Caldwell:

> Similar difficulty

to Tower Ridge?! That is clearly nonsense.

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Offwidth - on 19 May 2019
In reply to Michael Gordon:

I have some sympathy for Simon's later example under some conditions. Tower Ridge was benchmark III to me and was if anything getting easier as the notch edge crumbled.

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Simon Caldwell - on 20 May 2019
In reply to Michael Gordon:

Clearly I can only go by my own experience in the conditions found on the day, but that's how I found them. 

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ianstevens - on 20 May 2019
In reply to Kevster:

> Three pebble slab?

Bit harsh at VS, can stay at HVS

> Looning the tube?

Stiff VS would be fair.

> Lol

;)

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PaulJepson - on 20 May 2019
In reply to DaveHK:

> In lots of cases the guide book grade is not the grade the FA gave. Plus there's a big difference between saying you think something is overgraded and suggesting the first ascencionist is a liar.

Suspension Bridge Arete was originally graded as an E number and downgraded to HVS, according to the Crocker Guide, 'due to the advent of modern climbing equipment like cams'. I thought that was a bit weird, since it's protected almost exclusively with threads. 

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Muttly on 20 May 2019
In reply to 88Dan:

And James received all of that criticism back at the time which was more than ten years ago now. HE reflected on it and having read some of his writing and watched him return to DM's E11 Rhapsody (which he climbed) and talk about his own hubris I am inclined to think that taking pot shots at him from distance is a bit of a sad move. 

The gist of what he says is that he became a bit over specialised and was very limited in his experience (not unusual for a young person). That he was surprised when some of his routes were downgraded and this caused for him to reflect. 

My thoughts are it is easy to get things wonky when climbing is such a subjective experience, some people find some stuff easy and others hard but maybe many people would find it the other way. 

In fairness to James he had climbed confirmed (or at least agreed upon) E10s at the time and had been the first to flash an 8B+ boulder. Seeing what he is doing now is quite interesting.

How lucky for me that the hubris of my youth was a predominantly private or local experience.

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