/ Are big E grades overstated? (on smaller crags)

Mr P Brown - on 12 Apr 2017

In the last few years there's been a few deck-outs from routes that have or are slated to have high E numbers. I'm thinking Julian Lines on Hold Fast, Hold True (E10 7a) or Franco's routes/attempts where he's taken a couple of ground falls.

Historically, people have seemed to think when you get into the E9/E10 range you are talking 'death routes' on smaller crags. Maybe with these falls the relevant people have gotten lucky in some way, but it brings into question what does the E grade mean at this level? Risk of falling on the onsight without decking out? Potential injury level gauged against the difficulty? But then, without wanting to be morbid, if a high percentage of groundfalls don't result in the consequences people might expect, is it time to further drill home the original idea of the 'effort' required for the onsight versus the more psychological factors? You see routes graded E6 7a such as A Little Peculiar (E6 7b) which will probably see far fewer onsights or flashes than, say, Countdown to Disaster (E8 6b)...?

Edit: Wrong forum, please move.
Post edited at 03:06
deacondeacon - on 12 Apr 2017
In reply to Mr P Brown:
The E grade isn't just for the seriousness of the route though is it. It's a culmination of all aspects to the route (difficulty, strenuousness, awkward fiddly gear, danger, how intimidating a route is). All these factors are taken into consideration when it comes to the Grade. There are plenty of HVS's (and lower grade) routes that would mean you're a goner if you fluff the moves, and high E grade routes that you could fall off all day.
Sorry if I've misunderstood your post.
Post edited at 05:29
deacondeacon - on 12 Apr 2017
In reply to Mr P Brown:
Also with the two routes you mention and the number of onsights, is it no wonder that countdown to disaster gets more onsights? You're only going to get on it if the odds of you getting up it are very favourable (ie that you can piss 6b). Whereas I don't know the route 'a little peculiar', from the grade given I can pretty much guarantee it'll be pretty safe but very, very hard.
These variations in trad grade are what make the system so useful.
With the Egrade, the technical grade, and looking up at the route you can gain a massive amount of info compared to just one number.
Michael Gordon - on 12 Apr 2017
In reply to Mr P Brown:

I guess there are a couple of points one could make in response. One is that depending on who you speak to, the E grade may or may not be taken as an onsight-only grade and, if reading it like that, these routes will be very different animals if attempted in this manner. The other is that I might raise an eyebrow too on occasion to climbers falling off 'serious' routes and getting away with it, but that would be uninformed speculation on my part since I would never have anywhere near the ability to get on one of these and find out for myself. So the next best thing is to take what the climber says in good faith and see what repeaters think.
Hardonicus - on 12 Apr 2017
In reply to Mr P Brown:

E10 requires a death fall from the crux or above. If you have fallen from the crux of a route and not tied it cannot be E10. Ergo Hold Fast, Hold True and Franco's new route cannot be E10 or above. Neither can Rhapsody.

Any other questions?
Bulls Crack - on 12 Apr 2017
In reply to Hardonicus:

but the most of the E's for Rhapsody are effort ones despite the unpleasant fall?
Offwidth - on 12 Apr 2017
In reply to Mr P Brown:
You need to remember that these grades may take decades to settle (and knowing how delicate hard grit can be they may be worn out by then anyhow), For what its worth I suspect the gap you have spotted is wrong and will close. Something as technically hard as A Little Peculiar must be at least solid E7 by any sane grading system in comparison with the other routes you name. Adjectival grades are for onsightability modified for ground-up possibilites on hard safe things or crux bouldery starts, but even so.
Post edited at 11:41
ianstevens - on 12 Apr 2017
In reply to Hardonicus:

> E10 requires a death fall from the crux or above. If you have fallen from the crux of a route and not tied it cannot be E10. Ergo Hold Fast, Hold True and Franco's new route cannot be E10 or above. Neither can Rhapsody.Any other questions?

I have one - do you understand the grading system at all?

The adjective grade covers OVERALL difficulty - how scary it is, how safe it is, and how hard it is. If the climbing in isolation is hard enough the risk aspect becomes irrelevant, a route could still get E10 with a nails crux sequence with good kit. It would, however have to be monumentally difficult climbing, and its quite hard to get holds that small and an ability to place decent gear without a bolt - so in practise high E grades TEND to be unsafe, but in theory they don't have to be.

In the past I've seen some cause to question Franco's grades as they're often unrepeated routes - however after Dave Birkett's repeat of Psykovsky's Sequins and his general agreement with the grade, I'd assume Franco knows what he's on about.

One thing that is for certain - given that neither of us are anywhere near this standard (yes, I looked at your logbook) our opinions are somewhat irrelevant until we can get anywhere near climbing these things.
Offwidth - on 12 Apr 2017
In reply to ianstevens:

He was joking.
Shani - on 12 Apr 2017
In reply to Mr P Brown:

Sockpuppet 1/10
Post edited at 12:15
Toerag - on 12 Apr 2017
In reply to Mr P Brown:

Oooo a grading thread, we've not had one for a while!

I think it's time for danger to be extracted from the adjectival grade. It would make more sense to have overall difficulty, tech move difficulty, & danger split out. so Rhapsody could be "E10 6c R" and a grit solo could be "E6 6b X" (stealing R&X suffixes from the yanks). E10 currently means it's either really hard or really dangerous, you won't know which until you look at it and get on it.
ianstevens - on 12 Apr 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

> He was joking.

Winky face required in that case - tone is always tricky to determine and convey in text
Offwidth - on 12 Apr 2017
In reply to ianstevens:

Your right but this is the internet. He is much less cryptic in the flesh.
Niblet on 13 Apr 2017
Lord_ash2000 - on 13 Apr 2017
In reply to Toerag:
So why don't we just have sport grades plus an R or X for boldness level? In that situation the 'E grade' is pretty much useless.

All you really need to know is how hard is it to physically climb the route overall and how much danger am I going to be in while doing it.

The E grade system does this in a convoluted way by measure of how far out the E grade is from the norm for the corresponding tech grade, but its a bit mad really. Also while I'm having my morning vent, UK tech grades are also useless above 6a, they are so broad as to be nothing more than a vague guide to answering the 'how difficult is the climb' question they might as well just go 5c, 6a, really hard, nails, near impossible. and leave it at that.
Post edited at 09:13
Offwidth - on 13 Apr 2017
In reply to Lord_ash2000:
Tradition. Despite being highly invested in UK trad grades and believing the intent is ideal for onsight leading, I find the US system more practical in use onsight, not only as danger is more explicit but also because they have more consistency of use across the grades and smaller grade steps in the elite bands so it's easier to be inspired by improvements. The older I get the more I think UK trad grading is holding back the popularity of hard trad leading in the UK. The US system tends to reward technical improvement, the UK system tends to reward boldness. The UK system sees many locked in at mid grade the US system encourages transition through this. The UK system is elitist (the twin grade is rarely used below Severe adjectivally and even rarer below 4a technically ) the US system isn't. I'd love to see UK tech above 6a completely torn up and replaced by something more sensible (in lists these days font grades for crux sections and sports grades for the route are being widely used to get round the idiocy of the width of the UK 6c and 7a tech grades ... the irony in this is UK tech came directly from Font grades).
Post edited at 09:45
elefantee - on 13 Apr 2017
In reply to ianstevens:

I keep hearing this, but Dave Birkett felt the route was e8, when franco claimed e10. That is a significand downgrading, not a general agreement.
Offwidth - on 13 Apr 2017
In reply to elefantee:

Read what Dave said:

https://www.ukclimbing.com/news/item/68270/birkett_repeats_cooksons_route_and_rescues_sheep

And Franco subsequently.

https://www.ukclimbing.com/news/item/68902/interview_franco_cooksons_new_e9_on_north_york_moors

I must in the sake of openess admit I am probably regarded in some quarters as one of Franco's "pre-pubescent fans" (.... read the comments on the second article) albeit fast approaching retirement. My view of myself of course would be, like most congratulating Franco, I just like seeing people put up classy, hard new routes.
1poundSOCKS - on 13 Apr 2017
In reply to Lord_ash2000:

> All you really need to know is how hard is it to physically climb the route overall and how much danger am I going to be in while doing it.

But that's more a want than a need. It might give you more information, but sometimes less is more. I love the UK trad grading system, and we have the best guidebooks in the UK than any country I've climbed in. Gives trad climbing in the UK a real sense of adventure and character.
Toerag - on 13 Apr 2017
In reply to Lord_ash2000:

> The E grade system does this in a convoluted way by measure of how far out the E grade is from the norm for the corresponding tech grade, but its a bit mad really.

Is E4 5c safe sustained 5c, or two 5c moves and no gear? You don't know. This is where the UK system falls down because the adjectival grade encompasses too many variables. Your suggestion of a sport grade + danger grade is fine, albeit it doesn't tell you about the stopper move. Hence the beauty of the 3 part system I propose - overall difficulty, stopper move, and danger. The first two can still be combined as per the current system.

Mick Ward - on 13 Apr 2017
In reply to Toerag:

> Is E4 5c safe sustained 5c, or two 5c moves and no gear? You don't know.

Until you look at it (usually).

For me, looking at a route is at least as important as anything a guidebook can tell me. (Not that I'm not grateful for modern guidebooks - I am).

Mick
philhilo - on 13 Apr 2017
In reply to Toerag:

Read the guidebook! Agreed it suggests a weakness in the system, but thats the deal.
Toerag - on 13 Apr 2017
In reply to philhilo:

> Read the guidebook! Agreed it suggests a weakness in the system, but thats the deal.

I love reading guidebooks and am good at reading between the lines, but they don't always tell you what you need to know to work things out.
Toerag - on 13 Apr 2017
In reply to Mick Ward:

> Until you look at it (usually).For me, looking at a route is at least as important as anything a guidebook can tell me. (Not that I'm not grateful for modern guidebooks - I am).Mick

That's all well and good, but you can't tell what upper pitches are like, nor can you tell until you're at the crag. Even photo topos aren't good enough.
Offwidth - on 13 Apr 2017
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:
Yet you are way better than me technically and we seem to have the same best onsight grade (as I did some very bold things at close to my limit) If we lived in the US your best would be a good bit harder than mine and I strongly suspect you would be leading harder than E2 in equivalent terms as the small increments in the 5.10 a, b, c and 5.11 a b, c grades encourage that. I suspect my hardest onsight leads ever may even be more than E2 in modern UK terms on Joshua Tree starred 5.9 PGs (E3 6a safeish slab things with bolts near crux moves). I really like the UK system but I'm convinced it holds us back in performance terms.
Post edited at 14:52
Coel Hellier - on 13 Apr 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

> Something as technically hard as A Little Peculiar must be at least solid E7 by any sane grading system ...

We're suffering from the long-standing refusal to extend technical grades beyond 6c/7a, which has destroyed the grading system at the upper end.

Something that is "standard" 7a should be pretty much piss for today's top boulderers. A Little Peculiar is likely around 7c (or what would be 7c if the tech grade system were being used properly), with an appropriate E-grade following on.
Offwidth - on 13 Apr 2017
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Its E7 7b in the Roaches guide. Its assuredly not piss for modern boulderers (ie a good bit harder than f7C/V9).
Coel Hellier - on 13 Apr 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

> Its assuredly not piss for modern boulderers ...

What I meant is that if it were *actually* 7a, then it would be piss for them.
Offwidth - on 13 Apr 2017
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Even thats not true ;-)

UK tech 7a top end might be f8A/V11 and doing that with a rope and some gear isn't piss for anyone.
1poundSOCKS - on 13 Apr 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

> I strongly suspect you would be leading harder than E2

It's difficult to get a picture of somebody's progression from 2 grades, trad and sport. I was leading E1 a few years ago, did sport for a year or two, then started more trad last year, so just did a bunch of routes at E2 and below, and had some great days out, which is the most important thing. But I still failed on an HVS at Stanage when I was getting my confidence and trad skills back. Always takes me a while to adjust.

So this year there's a stack of E1, 2 and 3 I would love to do, and I'm sat in Siurana resting and reading my North Wales guidebooks. So much choice, I'm not in a rush.

> I really like the UK system but I'm convinced it holds us back in performance terms.

I'm not sure I really care whether it's held back UK climbing in general or not, maybe you don't either, but I'm not in competition with other nationalities. I've climbed enough now to know that too much comparsion with others and measuring yourself against them is a fool's game. A lot of the climbers here warm up on what I would consider a redpoint, so I'm not going to be impressing anyone.

And if you want to progress enough, there is always a way, and the UK system might be a convenient excuse.
Coel Hellier - on 13 Apr 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

> UK tech 7a top end might be f8A/V11 ...

You're missing the conditional on my statement: "... if the tech grade system were being used properly", meaning if the 6c and 7a tech grades were the same sort of width as the 5c and 6a tech grades.

If that were the case then 7a would be about V7/V8 but no harder.
John Stainforth - on 13 Apr 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

I am another Brit who prefers the American grading system. It's simpler, but adequate - as long as one realises that R means "really run-out" and X means "really really (potentially lethally) run-out"!
Offwidth - on 13 Apr 2017
In reply to Coel Hellier:

If 7a were used in a true sense of properly it would arguably be around f7A but thats not what we have. Currently 7a stretches from around the f7B+ border with f7C up to f8A in the BMC grade tables. Central 7a is f7C+ on BMC grade tables...in Rockfax tables its f8A.
Offwidth - on 13 Apr 2017
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

Pah! I have regularly failed on Yorkshire VS. UK trad grades may be a convenient excuse for some but numbers do motivate people and in the US system that motivation is way more obvious when you reach the 5.10a grade (anything from UK safe top end HVS cracks to maybe as hard as E6 6a on Joshua Tree 5.10a X on some of those Indian Cove slabs.
Michael Gordon - on 13 Apr 2017
In reply to Toerag:

> That's all well and good, but you can't tell what upper pitches are like, nor can you tell until you're at the crag.

Going to the crag would seem to be necessary though anyway, if you want to go climbing?

Robert Durran - on 13 Apr 2017
In reply to Michael Gordon:

> Going to the crag would seem to be necessary though anyway, if you want to go climbing?

Don't be ridiculous. This is an armchair grading debate; actually going climbing is obviously irrelevant.
Robert Durran - on 13 Apr 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

> I find the US system more practical in use onsight.

Personally I prefer to know where between HVS and E3 a 5.10a route is before travelling half way round the world to try it.

> ......they have more consistency of use across the grades and smaller grade steps.

I have generally found the YDS wildly inconsistent between areas and in the way it is applied. And, while I agree about the smaller grade steps, that problem is easily solved by graded lists or potentially by E2-, E3+ etc; no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater.



Offwidth - on 13 Apr 2017
In reply to Robert Durran:
I've generally found the UK trad system widely inconsistent between areas and the way in which is applied, especially hard in Yorkshire, the Peak moors, the Roaches area and Northumberland, much easier in Pembrooke, and even soft in some areas and tough in others in the same guides in the West of Scotland (eg tough in Ardmair and often easy on far NW gneiss). The US at least has the excuse that guidebook changes are much rarer so some grades could be two decades out of date (if they have a current in print guidebook).

Good try in that grade comparison but if you are as an example looking at the difference between a 5c move and a 5.10a move on granite slabs in the US SW, the relevant differences are between 5.10a X and E5 5c (X) versus 5.10a unrated and safe E1 5c

I'd add if we go from safe hard 4c to hard 5c (three grade steps in the UK) across styles on average we move typically from 5.8 to about 5.10c (4 grade steps). From hard 5c to hard 6c (3 grade steps) we move from 5.10c to 5.13b (8 grade steps). Plus of course any grade inconsistencies show up much more when the steps are smaller.

Finally the US grade slabs hard and Chimneys easy... these style differences are understandable when you are experienced.

The improvements required to improve an already good UK system are simple enough... include tech grades for all routes and dump tech grades above 6a (where very few onsight lead anyway) and use a new system with more notches or font grades.
Post edited at 19:37
wbo - on 13 Apr 2017
In reply to Mr P Brown: I have to say that I agree with Robert here - the YDS is remarkably inconsistent and un informative.

I think the ?U.K. Grading system is extremely good and helpful, if applied properly. All countries have inconsistencies between areas
Michael Hood - on 14 Apr 2017
In reply to Offwidth: Surely the easiest and least disruptive way is to introduce + & - to 6b, 6c, 7a, etc...

Maybe do it to 6a as well (even though I understand from others' comments that it's less necessary) so that the +/- starts from a "neat" grade boundary.

Old guidebooks remain correct, new guidebooks become more accurate and informative.

Offwidth - on 14 Apr 2017
In reply to Michael Hood:
I'd be much happier with that. Currently our system is usually good for mid grade bumblies like me and punters in the lower extreme bands but is completely broken at the top so its simply going to die at some stage if its not fixed. I'm still convinced it motivates boldness too much over performance improvement (in comparison with the US trad grades) and I think that is part of why increasing numbers are moving to sports climbing and bouldering. UK tech grades are way too wide at the top but we also have only 11 E grades to our trad system which must be the lowest equivalent number for that range anywhere, next worst is the Norwegian system.
Post edited at 09:26
Michael Gordon - on 14 Apr 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

> UK tech grades are way too wide at the top but we also have only 11 E grades to our trad system which must be the lowest equivalent number for that range anywhere, next worst is the Norwegian system.

Different systems require different grade widths. Consider Scottish winter climbing where the grades are much wider - only 12 grades in total, and only 8 if you think of roughly equivalent to E grades (Grade V upwards).
Mark Stevenson - on 14 Apr 2017
In reply to various: A consistent feature of UK grading (as identified by the OP) is that it is absolutely NOT a purist onsight grading system.

In reality it is effectively a ground-up grading system - safe, outcrop routes, especially those with short bouldery cruxes with bomber gear (often above you) are consistently under-graded at all grades. This is true throughout the UK but most commonly on the shortest single pitch crags, especially Gritstone, where a ground-up ascent after a failed onsight attempt is logistically simple and straight forward (and where a large minority of ascents, if not the majority will be in that style).

There isn't really much point arguing against it. It's just reality. For some routes, just treat the grade as being equally valid for a ground-up or repeat ascent. In the unlikely event you onsight that sort of route, treat it as a bonus.

On balance I'm fairly relaxed about my repeated failures on a handful of E1 5c and E2 6a/b routes and feel that is a better situation than having them graded E3/4 and loads of climbers claiming that as their lead grade off the back of yoyo-ed ascents.
1poundSOCKS - on 14 Apr 2017
In reply to Mark Stevenson:

> that is a better situation than having them graded E3/4 and loads of climbers claiming that as their lead grade off the back of yoyo-ed ascents.

Are you really that bothered what other people claim that you would rather under grade routes to stop them bragging? Wouldn't it be better to have grades that are used as a guide to how likely you are to onsight the route?
Robert Durran - on 14 Apr 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

> Currently our system is usually good for mid grade bumblies like me and punters in the lower extreme bands, but is completely broken at the top so its simply going to die at some stage if its not fixed.

It is certainly works brilliantly for the grades I've climbed (up to E5) and I've never experienced any issues with the tech grade which works extremely well for me (5b - needs thought, 5c - tricky, 6a - hard, 6b - desperate, 6c - don'y bother). If it doesn't work well for higher grades, then I think it is important that any fix doesn't undermine how good it is up to E5. Using + and - for tech grade or recalibration from 6b upwards seems the obvious answer. Addition of Font and/or French grades as found useful seems sensible.

> I'm still convinced it motivates boldness too much over performance improvement (in comparison with the US trad grades) and I think that is part of why increasing numbers are moving to sports climbing and bouldering.

Given that the adjectival grade is an overall grade, it should equally reward physical difficulty and boldness if used correctly. If you want to reward physical difficulty more, you would have to deflate grades of bold routes, but that would make a mockery of the system with physically hard routes becoming relative soft touches (By reward, I assume you mean the kudos attached to a grade. One of the great strengths of the adjectival grade is that it is a fair reflection of kudos and I think most people would be reluctant to see that lost - though I think you could equally argue that undermining grade chasing would be a good thing, even if a hard sell, and in which case you might as well go over to a French grade (Not YDS!) and a protection grade).

I suspect that another thing which is undermining the UK adjectival system at the top end is it's use for non onsight climbing. It would make a lot of sense for H grades to be universally adopted for worked first ascents and claimed for non onsight (or at least non flashed) repeats.

Robert Durran - on 14 Apr 2017
In reply to Mark Stevenson:

> .............having them graded E3/4 and loads of climbers claiming that as their lead grade off the back of yoyo-ed ascents.

If they are doing that then they are deluding themselves; it is their problem and not a problem with the grading system.

Offwidth - on 14 Apr 2017
In reply to Robert Durran:

It is if the routes are graded a grade or more too hard to allow for yoyo ascents.

Roughly how many grit or English sandstone outcrop routes above E2 have you onsighted as a matter of interest?

I don't want to abandon UK trad, Id rather fix it but its a fact you do get greater grade rewards faster for boldness than for improving technical ability. In the US chasing R and X routes in for you hardest leads would look odd, in the UK its common. You cleally do have a thing about YDS but its the point that counts, not the system... there is a pretty close correlation between YDS and French grades and both suffer from variable grading.
Robert Durran - on 14 Apr 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

> It is if the routes are graded a grade or more too hard to allow for yoyo ascents.

Do you really think they are? Have routes been downgraded on grit to allow for this?

> Roughly how many grit or English sandstone outcrop routes above E2 have you onsighted as a matter of interest?

Very few, but then I only very rarely climb on grit and find the grades tough, but I put his down to a lack of familiarity with the peculiarities of the rock and climbing style rather than to undergrading (occasional visitors to Aredmair might find themselves in a similar situation........ ). Do local Peak climbers find grit grades tough (genuine question?).


> I don't want to abandon UK trad, Id rather fix it but its a fact you do get greater grade rewards faster for boldness than for improving technical ability.

Only if you are bold......... but you have to live with that unless you do abandon it.

> In the US chasing R and X routes in for you hardest leads would look odd, in the UK its common.

The UK adjectival grade clearly encourages that, but do you think it is actually a bad thing? The alternative, taken to it's logical conclusion, would seem to be that we only chase grades on sport and climb trad purely for the experience (horror!).

> .........there is a pretty close correlation between YDS and French grades.

When both are applied to Sport, yes, but earlier in the thread you talked about a 5.10a "move", which pretty much sums up for me why the YDS is such a disastrous muddle (anyway, we've been here before!).

Offwidth - on 14 Apr 2017
In reply to Robert Durran:

Its funny how people use the rock type excuse for grit (and trad English sandstone)... its my 'home' rock and I normally onsight better when away, often on completely new rock styles in Scotland. Safe grit routes in particular are normally nails in the E grades.

I found Ardmair tough for Scotland but well below average compared to steep grit. Try these next time for max humilation, all (in) famous starred routes: Masochism a mere HVS. Teck Crack HVS/E1, The Vice E1, The Toy E1/2, Easy Picking E2, Sential Crack E2/3. If you have not experienced such routes you are just proving my point that you don't know what these UK grades mean (given your best onsight is E5). Frankly I'd be ireally mpressed if you got any of them as an onsight flash.

YDS grades for a sustained crux sequemce so not far from how UK tech feels in reality.
Sam Beaton on 14 Apr 2017
In reply to Robert Durran:

> Do local Peak climbers find grit grades tough (genuine question?)

No. The vast majority of my climbing is on grit and I'm miles better on grit than on anything else.

philhilo - on 14 Apr 2017
In reply to Toerag:

I don't think I have ever felt a modern guidebook didn't let me know a route that was dangerous or particularly bold. If it doesn't say bold/dangerous and its at an extreme - E4 5c lets say, I know it will be sustained. If it does say bold or dangerous then I proceed with caution.
Robert Durran - on 15 Apr 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

> YDS grades for a sustained crux sequemce so not far from how UK tech feels in reality.

But earlier you said it correlates well to a French grade. The fact is that nobody knows how to interpret it ;-)

Greasy Prusiks on 15 Apr 2017
In reply to Mr P Brown:

Everyone knows the correct grading system is a UK adjective grade to describe the seriousness and a French grade to describe the difficulty. Simple.
wbo - on 15 Apr 2017
In reply to Mr P Brown: but that won't tell me as a devils advocate if it's an enduro masterpiece or a one move wonder (blinkers on, common sense disengaged).

Seriously, accepts the UK trad grade as being very good. I live in a country where you get a single grade, inconsistent between areas and crags in the same area and that is variably used to describe the hardest move and the overall difficulty

Michael Gordon - on 15 Apr 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

I don't think hard grades on grit is due to the grading system. Part of it may be rock type but IMO most is due to historically hard grading that now is out of line with pretty much anywhere else in the UK.
Offwidth - on 15 Apr 2017
In reply to Michael Gordon:
Which is precisely my point. Robert complains of the variability of grades in his range in the US and ignores it in the UK. As far as I, can see the two systems have pretty much the same utility for trad leads for punters. Yet the US system isn't a mess at the higher grades (due to ridiculously wide UK tech grades) and not as dumbly elitist in the lowest grades. In the sense he says no one understands YDS, I'd argue you can say the same about UK trad.
Post edited at 10:55
andrewmc - on 15 Apr 2017
In reply to Mr P Brown:

I do wonder how different life would be if we had always said the trad grade in reverse i.e. 5b HVS instead of HVS 5b...

Perhaps people would be chasing the technical difficulty rather than the 'onsightability' (rewarding the bold)?
Perhaps it wouldn't be such a mess at the top end?
Offwidth - on 15 Apr 2017
In reply to wbo:

Yet until pretty recently Stanage the most popular crag in the UK (possibly the world for trad) had some of the biggest sandbags in the UK. So Many Classics HVS to E4, Straight Ahead Diff to VS. Magnetic North HVS to E3, Two Tier Climb VD to VS 5a,..... On the same crag a handful of soft touches have dropped two grades so we had a variability in grading of 6 grades on the most popular crag in the UK, in a system with the widest grade steps in the world.
Robert Durran - on 15 Apr 2017
In reply to Offwidth:
> Which is precisely my point. Robert complains of the variability of grades in his range in the US and ignores it in the UK.

I think you have misunderstood me (or I have failed to make myself clear!). I accept that there are differences in calibration in both the US and the UK. This, in principle can be sorted out and has been in some areas. But that is not what I was talking about. The problem with the YDS is that it is not a measure of onsightability (though the PG rating does, of course, go some way to moderating that problem); as I said, 5.10a can, in my experience be anywhere between HVS and E3 in onsightability, which, on my own current form, means anything between an easy warm up and a lead at my limit.

> As far as I, can see the two systems have pretty much the same utility for trad leads for punters.

Well, I and others disagree with you there!

> Yet the US system isn't a mess at the higher grades.

Yes, it probably works just as well/badly at all grades.

> In the sense he says no one understands YDS, I'd argue you can say the same about UK trad.

You have amply demonstrated the sense in which I mean that by talking about it correlating both to a UK tech grade and to a French grade - it can't possibly do both, because they are very different things. Don't worry, Americans can't give straight answer to what it means either! Except that it does seem to mean one in some places and the other in other places - this is the inconsistency of use I was referring to and which renders it fatally flawed and fundamentally incomprehensible.

On the other hand, understanding the UK adjectival grade is easy - it is simply a measure of onsightability, the higher the grade, the fewer people will be able to onsight a route and a well rounded climber who can onsight a route of a given grade should have a good chance of onsighting any other (and, as I said earlier, if we feel the grade widths are too big for this, subdivision would easily solve the problem - a minor tweak, not an abandonment of a fundamentally sound system is all required).

As for perceived problems with UK grading for harder routes (above E5?), then I think that the further subdivision/extension of the technical or it's replacement with (or addition of) a French grade is the obvious solution. And, as I said earlier, formal use of an E grade should be withheld until the route has been onsighted/flashed (though I imagine those whose sponsorship depends on big numbers supposedly on the same scale as the smaller numbers us punters can relate to might not be happy about that!).
Post edited at 13:58
Offwidth - on 15 Apr 2017
In reply to Robert Durran:
Pot, kettle, black in not listening.

Your E3 and E1 5.10a are easily seperated: one is R rated and one is unrated. UK trad grading only works well with two grades. You say others agree with you, well there are a lot of climbers in the world with varying levels of comparative experience and I'd argue many more agree with me (that both systems usually work fine but both have some problems) who have wide experience of both. The logic for the YDS system is clear enough and although its adjusted a bit for sport its not stretched anything like so horribly as UK trad was in the bad old days it was used for sport climbs and part of the problems could be down to the fact sports climbs are often a bit softer graded at punter levels being generally a lot newer. I see YDS as having two slightly different meanings for trad and sport.. a bit like up font grades and traverse font grades.

I personally prefer UK trad as a system but climb consitently harder in adjectival onsight terms on the YDS system, even in areas like Joshua Tree where grades are not soft by any measure. Plus and minus grades above 6a would work but in practical terms these will inevitably ususally be reverse engineered from opinions of Font grades at the crux, so Im relaxed with use of Font grades as well.

We have already discussed that the UK system isn't strictly about onsightability, so its not as easy as you imply. On a normal basis its often about 'ground-up-ability' and in odd places like Northumbersland sandstone and some less commonly travelled grit crags often ignoring hard unprotected crux starts in that.

We can agree the UK trad system should be tweaked, I'd say its pretty major though, as its admitting UK tech is broken above 6a. I look forward to a brave guidebook editorial team doing this soon.
Post edited at 14:14
Robert Durran - on 15 Apr 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

> Your E3 and E1 5.10a are easily seperated: one R rated and one is unrated.

I disagree with that - one might be much more sustained (depending on the particular interpretation of the YDS being used........ )

> UK trad grading only works well with two grades.

No. The adjectival grade alone gives a fair measure of its onsightability. Any add ons are a bonus. The YDS, without the PG add on, is hopeless as a guide to whether a route is a sensible objective.

> The logic for the YDS system is clear enough.

So why are you persistently avoiding telling me what it actually means then? ;-)
Offwidth - on 15 Apr 2017
In reply to Robert Durran:
Give me some concrete examples that are likely not down to bad grading or differences in the way we grade comparative styles. Pretty much every 5.10a I've done (probably around a hundred now but by far the majority tr or second on bolder climbs PG to X) have been spot on what I expected knowing the areas I climb in well. 5.9 is a bit quirky on more obscure climbs but there is a 'Scottish VS' effect going on there given the glacial turnover in new guides in some areas.

YDS on trad measures the difficulty of a nominal crux sequence (independant of risk or other factors) which can be quite long for a sustained section. On sport its similar but adjusted a bit for route sustainability.

Yes of course adjectival grades on their own are much better than YDS on their own. Do you shut you eyes after reading both and ignore the second piece of information?
Post edited at 14:26
deacondeacon - on 15 Apr 2017
In reply to Offwidth:
I've never been to the states and never used the YDS system. How can you differentiate between a 'bold route' and an 'I'm going to die if I fall of here'.

Robert Durran - on 15 Apr 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

> Give me some concrete examples that are likely not down to bad grading or differences in the way we grade comparative styles.

I have done safe 10a's which have been pushing E3 in various places (eg City of Rocks). Equally well, I have done safe 10a's which have barely been E1.

> YDS on trad measures the difficulty of a nominal crux sequence.

But do you think that is how it is actually used in practice? I understand that the problem is that it has gradually been transitioning from the equivalent of a UK tech grade to the equivalent of a French grade (or it might be the other way round!). It may now, in principle, be meant to mean what you say, but, in my experience, it can mean anything between the two extremes.

> Do you shut you eyes after reading both and ignore the second piece of information?

Of course not! I get all the information I can - preferably, in the US, a UK grade from someone who has done the route........

Offwidth - on 15 Apr 2017
In reply to deacondeacon:
X is probable death, R is very bold (really bad idea to fall), PG13 bold (big falls possible but usually unlikely to result in injury). PG a little runout in places and ungraded or G rated safe as you like (assuming competance) They do get things wrong... as an example the 5.4X pitch on Tunnel Vision in Red Rock NV is 5.6 but fortunately PG13. Often much easier pitches didn't always get rated. So for instance on South Crack on SPD in Tuolumne there is a 5.7 R top (similar to the slab on 3PS but longer) where the R is important as it indicates the adjectival crux by over a grade ... the 5.8 crack below is a joy at sustained top end VS.
Post edited at 15:07
Offwidth - on 15 Apr 2017
In reply to Robert Durran:
Thats probably just bad grading then in the same sense as some grit crack brutes. Safe 5.10a shouldn't be E3 anywhere. It might be E2 given how tough they grade slabs. What style of route was that E3?

I guess YDS might suffer blurring given climbers move from trad to sport and vice versa. We get blurring too at times, some people grade UK tech like trad YDS style (increasing techinical difficulty to account for the move in or out) or forget to put the sutained bit in the adjectival grade (Chequers Crack, HVS???) and people everwhere make mistakes (some on purpose, given black humour in grading).
Post edited at 15:06
deacondeacon - on 15 Apr 2017
In reply to Offwidth:
Those route names mean nothing to me
If you could just humour me a minute (we'll stick to froggatt as you've already mentioned TPS), could you give me some YDS grades for popular routes.
Sunset slab
Great slab
Browns eliminate
Strapadictomy

Also what do the actual letters r,p,g stand for?
Just curious really.
Offwidth - on 15 Apr 2017
In reply to deacondeacon:
Not easy as all have problems in one respect or another ;-). Some seem a bit borderline, I've not done one and I disagree on one of the UK Froggatt trad grades (ironically outvoted) but I'll give it a go on Californian granite grades (cracks are slightly friendlier grade wise than grit but slabs tough graded compared to grit) and add a few:

Sunset Slab 5.5 R/X
Great Slab 5.9 R/X
Brown's Eliminate 5.10a PG13 (I'd always give this E1 5b)
TPS 5.8 (5.7 R/X) by the rh padding finish
Chequer's Crack 5.10a
Hairless Heart 5.10a R/X
Green Gut 5.5
Strapadictomy not done so no idea.
Post edited at 16:37
Coel Hellier - on 15 Apr 2017
In reply to deacondeacon:

> Also what do the actual letters r,p,g stand for?

R = runout
X = death (no idea what it "stands" for unless its an analogy with X-rated movies, adults only).
PG and PG13 = parental guidance (back formation from X-rated movies?)

Michael Gordon - on 15 Apr 2017
In reply to Coel Hellier:

So will a 5.12a PG be suitable for all or just those over 12?
andrewmc - on 15 Apr 2017
In reply to Robert Durran:

> No. The adjectival grade alone gives a fair measure of its onsightability.

Except that at the top end, where British trad grades are claimed to be failing (above E6-8 at a guess?), you get things like a route being downgraded because you can get a 'filed down slider thing' in a hole... (which obviously the onsight leader will carry just in case!)

Since no-one does (many) onsights of trad routes above E8 and (almost) everything is headpointed, is it really about onsightability at that point? Plus it needs to account for extra weight of the vast selection of gear an onsight leader needs to bring up 'just in case', including a full set of sliders, tricams, skyhooks etc...
Michael Gordon - on 16 Apr 2017
In reply to andrewmc:

The simple answer is no, the grades are not generally about onsighting at that point. Whether this is a problem is another matter. You would hope that a mention of specific gear would be given in the description of routes, to at least give future onsighters the option.
Offwidth - on 16 Apr 2017
In reply to andrewmc:
Top end, in the way I mean it, starts way below E6 unless the routes are very bold: its where UK tech is more than 6a, where the UK tech grades are too wide, that is the main problem. There are fewer (adjectival) grades steps than any other system as well, which doesn't help.
Post edited at 10:18
Michael Gordon - on 16 Apr 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

> There are fewer (adjectival) grades steps than any other system as well, which doesn't help.

I've never heard anyone else say this is a problem, and by that I mean those climbing at those grades.
Robert Durran - on 16 Apr 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

> Top end, in the way I mean it, starts way below E6 unless the routes are very bold: its where UK tech is more than 6a.

So that's E5 then, hardly way below E6. What sort of grade did you have in mind? Has always worked fine up to bottom end E5 for me.
Robert Durran - on 16 Apr 2017
In reply to andrewmc:

> Since no-one does (many) onsights of trad routes above E8 and (almost) everything is headpointed, is it really about onsightability at that point?

In principle yes, but, in the meantime, in practice, no? Presumably if standards rise and these routes do start getting onsights, a consensus E grade would emerge. At the moment, it's an informed guess? Perhaps it would be better to withhold a formal E grade in the meantime. But perhaps big numbers on the same scale that us punters can relate to sell......


Offwidth - on 16 Apr 2017
In reply to Robert Durran:

For a man who always understands UK trad grading you obviously need to climb on grit more, we have plenty of routes given grades like E2 6b or E4 6c. There used to be an E1 6c somewhere.
Offwidth - on 16 Apr 2017
In reply to Michael Gordon:

I have. Its not huge but there has been a tendancy to avoid breaking into a new grade that mades the upper E grade bands arguably a bit wide. It's much less of an issue in say sport, Font or V grades.
Robert Durran - on 16 Apr 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

> For a man who always understands UK trad grading you obviously need to climb on grit more, we have plenty of routes given grades like E2 6b or E4 6c. There used to be an E1 6c somewhere.

I understand exactly what to expect from those grades. But they are outliers. Mainstream 6b starts at E5.
paul__in_sheffield - on 16 Apr 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

> For a man who always understands UK trad grading you obviously need to climb on grit more, we have plenty of routes given grades like E2 6b or E4 6c. There used to be an E1 6c somewhere.

Ok, but E5 6a is the de facto median at that grade, you're just pulling out the outliers, which is fine, they still tell you what you need to know.
The UK system works fine, and it looks like you're proposing a solution which is desperately searching for a problem. From memory, London Wall and The Snivelling at Millstone are both that grade, but very different climbs. How did I prepare for very different leads? Well, I read the guide, and then I like, looked up at the crag each time I started out. One seemed to be steep and well protected, and the other seemed to be, well, neither of the above. Quite simple really I'm sure you'll agree (maybe) ;-)
Robert Durran - on 16 Apr 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

> For a man who always understands UK trad grading you obviously need to climb on grit more, we have plenty of routes given grades like E2 6b or E4 6c.

I really don't think anyone needs to know whether the boulder problem start or one move with bomber overhead gear on an E4 6c is easy or hard 6c before trying for the onsight, but I would be well prepared to believe that someone contemplating the onsight of an E9 6c might need to know whether the dangerously run out 6c is easy or hard 6c if, as is apparently the case, there can be a big diference.
Offwidth - on 17 Apr 2017
In reply to paul__in_sheffield:

I guess that defacto medium depends where you are climbing. I'm waiting for Yorkshire to dry this am and just looked through the graded list in the two volumes of YMC grit... the routes we recommend (not mad outliers) the stats speak for themselves. E3 6a is a defacto medium here and E3 6b is common and routes tend to boldness compared to other areas of the UK

Vol1

E5 1x6c 17x6b 7x6a 1x5c
E4 3x6c 8x6b 18x6a 3x5c
E3 9x6b 22x6a 10x5c 1x5b

Vol2

E5 3x6c 31x6b 18x6a 1x5c
E4 1x6c 20x6b 20x6a 6x5c
E3 12x6b 26x6a 26x53 1x5b

Offwidth - on 17 Apr 2017
In reply to Robert Durran:

By the time people onsight E9 regularly my bets are a new system will be in place in terms of what is regarded as allowed grade information (its already avaliable now on things like the grit list). My question is how much does our grading system help inspire high grade adventure and how much does it hinder inspiration and lead to fixed behaviour. I look at the crags and talk to mid extreme onsighting friends and trad at that level is clearly in decline. I think the grades are part of the problem. E5 onsights were more common when I started in the late 80's (if you ignore highball, boulder style ground ups) with worse gear and much smaller technically competent capable climbing population. People wave their E5 'onsight' leads and are not even solid at E1.
paul__in_sheffield - on 17 Apr 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

Couldn't agree more re:on sight. However, isn't the emphasis on onsighting really onsight's greatest enemy? You have to be prepared to fail, rest, work a bunch of routes in order to progress those extreme grades, so giving up those onsights is the currency by which you pay to buy onsighting at the new grade.
I'm guessing what you say about the late '80s was down to an ethos of being prepared to dog routes in order to progress. The aspiration to onsight at that grade was still there. Probably the current view of the holiness of the trad onsight has led to an asphyxiating conservative approach.
Of course, this view might be down to my own lack of talent.
Michael Gordon - on 17 Apr 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

As you say it depends on area. Most of the UK definitely doesn't have that high prevalence of E3 6b routes; generally I would say E3 5b is a much more common grade.
Robert Durran - on 17 Apr 2017
In reply to Offwidth:
> By the time people onsight E9 regularly my bets are a new system will be in place in terms of what is regarded as allowed grade information (its already avaliable now on things like the grit list).

I agree. It is probably already informally in place for the few operating now at that level. It will inevitably find its way into guidebooks if/when standards rise, and it should probably go in now to encourage standards to rise sooner - whatever is useful, say French grades in Pembroke, Font grades on grit. Indeed, French grades in Pembroke would probably encourage even me onto some harder routes I might not otherwise try.

> My question is how much does our grading system help inspire high grade adventure and how much does it hinder inspiration and lead to fixed behaviour. I look at the crags and talk to mid extreme onsighting friends and trad at that level is clearly in decline. I think the grades are part of the problem. E5 onsights were more common when I started in the late 80's.

The decline at E5 (which I anecdotally agree with, though someone with their finger much nearer he pulse than me has suggested to me it might be reversing) cannot be down to the grading system (because it hasn't changed), but is more likely due to a diversion of talent to bouldering and sport. But I do agree that changes to the grading system at the upper end might help reverse it - sport climbers and boulderers can obviously relate to sport and bouldering grades - if you find 7a sport easy then a well protected Pembroke route given E5, French7a might just not seem intimidating.

> People wave their E5 'onsight' leads and are not even solid at E1.

I'm not sue what you mean or are implying by that!
Post edited at 12:00
Robert Durran - on 17 Apr 2017
In reply to paul__in_sheffield:

> However, isn't the emphasis on onsighting really onsight's greatest enemy? .......... Probably the current view of the holiness of the trad onsight has led to an asphyxiating conservative approach.

That is a very astute point. Though I get the impression that there are now two camps - a new generation for whom "ground up" is considered a success and for whom, therefore, there is less incentive to fight for the onsight and old farts like myself for whom anything other than an onsight is outright failure and are possibly held back by fear of that failure (I have to consciously work to overcome this fear to achieve my best onsights, but had no such fear when yoyoing my way through the grades in the eighties).
Offwidth - on 17 Apr 2017
In reply to Robert Durran:
I'm implying best onsight is often a poor measure of ability and sometimes dishonest in that (some people will always chase the number over the truth of the style in which it was,'achieved'). You can't 'con' best boulder or sports grades in the same way (albeit some will still plain lie). The inevitable immature macho grade chasing I'm referring to is about ego not a skilled response to adventure. I'd rather sites like UKC require a current typical onsight grade alongside the choice of including a best onsight as its more informative and plays against such idiocy. I don't think ground up is cheating either, that ethic to me has helped keep adventure going. Cheating is the likes of extensive beta, undisclosed prepractice etc. Even yoyo ascents are fine by me if pulling the rope really makes no difference.

It's funny you suspected it might have been personal.. you seem to be the opposite of that type of immature grade chasing. I'd would like it if your sympathy for UK tech (with all its faults) was applied just as fairly to YDS, in its own faulty context.
Post edited at 12:57
Offwidth - on 17 Apr 2017
In reply to paul__in_sheffield:
I can see the 'cult of the onsight' affecting a lot of HVS/E1 climbers but not so many at the sharp end of the grade spectrum.

I agree about the importance of failing. In those with talent, I've encouraged to improve, occasional failure is important, it's a sign they are trying hard enough.

Indoors I'm surrounded by young climbers breezing f7A and mid 7s sport. For me, replace 7 with 6 and breezing with trying very hard; yet I'm leading as well as most of these young climbers, and that's including only those who even try to lead. The risk of trad has been overblown and is putting way too many of these young talented climbers off.
Post edited at 12:57
paul__in_sheffield - on 17 Apr 2017
In reply to Robert Durran:
> had no such fear when yoyoing my way through the grades in the eighties).

I think I had jet lag after the air time I took on Birch Tree Wall Eliminate at Black Rocks, given E4 6a I was pointed at it, and soon learned that it was 'difficult' if you're under six foot tall. It took me three sessions to get it.
The old boys in the Nottingham club ( some of whom are in the infamous BMC 30 ) used to dismiss us as the 'lobbing lemmings'. Like you, I Yo-Yoed up the grades though, and got some decent onsights along the way.
Funny how things turn out, I could still climb trad, but much prefer bouldering now esp problems which turn into long-term projects. Plus ca change I guess
Post edited at 18:38
Offwidth - on 17 Apr 2017
In reply to paul__in_sheffield:

No one else climbing in Heptonstall quarry today... not even boulderers... in good nick despite the recent rain. Perfect grit day tomorrow lets hope more people make use.
paul__in_sheffield - on 17 Apr 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

> No one else climbing in Heptonstall quarry today... not even boulderers... in good nick despite the recent rain. Perfect grit day tomorrow lets hope more people make use.

I'm certainly going to make the most of it tomorrow ;-)
Robert Durran - on 18 Apr 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

> I'm implying best onsight is often a poor measure of ability................It's funny you suspected it might have been personal.

I didn't in any way suspect it was personal - I just wasn't sure what you were getting at in the context of your post.

> .......... sometimes dishonest............ I'd rather sites like UKC require a current typical onsight grade alongside the choice of including a best onsight as its more informative and plays against such idiocy.

I agree entirely. My best onsight is E5, but I've only done three in the last 10 years (two of those at Ardmair ) and I've never considered myself as "solid" above E3.

> I don't think ground up is cheating either........

Nor do I; it just doesn't appeal to me - I just love the all or nothing thrill of the onsight too much.

> You seem to be the opposite of that type of immature grade chasing.

I assure you I can chase grades as immaturely as anyone - is there any other point to sport climbing ;-)

> I'd would like it if your sympathy for UK tech (with all its faults) was applied just as fairly to YDS, in its own faulty context.

I'm not disagreeing that there are problems with the UK tech grade, but I just don't think they effect the grades I have climbed (up to E5). I've no issue with the problem being fixed, just as long as, in doing so, we don't lose the beauty of the UK grading system where it is not broken. As for the YDS, I do struggle to have sympathy for it simply because it doesn't work for me in that it doesn't tell me at all reliably whether a route is a suitable objective or not. But I shouldn't single out the YDS - French grades for trad are unsatisfactory too and I expect I'll have the same issue with one dimensional SA grades on a trip I'm planning (in fact I'll probably end up posting on here asking for UK grades for routes I'm interested in..........)

AlanLittle - on 18 May 2017
In reply to Lord_ash2000:
I completely agree with you, but there's a certain constituency that (even though they will never go anywhere near it) would be distressed to see The Indian Face listed as a mere "7b+ X"
Post edited at 21:49
AlanLittle - on 18 May 2017
In reply to wbo:

Good point. In the Frankenjura you need to carefully study the topo, the date of the first ascent and who did it to know whether a UIAA "VII" is going to be a 6b clip-up or an E4 5c scare fest.

(Although even on the really old school routes the bolt placement is such that you're rarely going to actually die)