/ Is it time to bin the British Tech Grade?

Please Register as a New User in order to reply to this topic.
mrteale - on 08 Aug 2017
Not a troll but a genuine question regarding our antiquated grading system. What are people's thoughts on sacking off the tech grade (5c, 6a, 6b etc) and replacing it with the french sport grades instead? The 'E' grade part does a good job describing the severity and 'tradness' of a route but the tech grade can be fairly unhelpful at times. For example there are 6a routes with one 6a move and there are 6a routes with several in a row, if using the french system these routes would range from around f6b all the way up to f7a+ish.
Most new hard trad routes are reported by the first ascensionists in French terms as well as British presumably because it gives the average climber a better understanding of the actual difficulty. Why don't we move away from British Tech grade and embrace a new system that is more helpful? If you kept the E grade but introduced the french sport grade for technical difficulty you'd have the best of both worlds in my opinion! e.g E3 6a, E4 6a, E4 6a could instead be described as thus: E3 6b, E4 6c, E4 7a

I look forward to getting downvoted into oblivion by posting this and I can understand people's attachment to history but it is a rather silly way of describing climbs, especially in the mid to harder grades. For those willing to humour me, I'd be interested to hear what grades you'd give classic British trad pitches using this new system!
alx - on 08 Aug 2017
In reply to mrteale:
First you must answer this riddle:-

What is the top rope grade for three pebble slab at Froggatt?
Post edited at 19:17
pasbury on 08 Aug 2017
In reply to mrteale:
I do quite like this idea; there is always going a be a tension between describing overall pitch difficulty and hardest move difficulty. Many people solicit the French grade for a trad pitch before setting off, especially on harder routes.
What would E1 f6a tell you about Cenotaph Corner? Apart from probably being wrong.
Post edited at 19:19
Bulls Crack - on 08 Aug 2017
In reply to mrteale:

Not again

The sport grade is fine as an overall grade for technically homogeneous routes but not so good with (typically British) heterogeneous routes.

Use them both if you must but one or the other just results in the same information loss.

Now P grades.... ;-)
pasbury on 08 Aug 2017
In reply to Bulls Crack:

I think sport grades can deal with cruxy pitches.
springfall2008 - on 08 Aug 2017
In reply to mrteale:

But I thought French grades took into account not just the hardess move but how long/strenous the route is as well? This means they aren't just technical grades and are not a like for like replacement.

e.g. an F6a route could be that grade due to a short techincal sequence or due to a being long and less technical.


CurlyStevo - on 08 Aug 2017
In reply to mrteale:
you may as well sack off the adj grade too as there is duplicated information there with the sport grade. All you really need is the sport grade and about 5 notches of seriousness grade that take in to objective danger and protection.

it would be interesting to see how it effects first ascents at the top end of trad climbing, I'm guessing technical difficulty / sustained climbing would suddenly be seen as better than really bold but easier climbing.
Post edited at 19:28
Jon Stewart - on 08 Aug 2017
In reply to mrteale:

There's a lot of threads on this. As BC says, you can't have it all: the french grade is better for sustained routes, the tech grade better for cruxy ones. Personally, I'd rather know how hard it gets (the tech grade) than some averaged-out french grade, and I'll use the E-grade and description to work out if it's going to be sustained, bold, whatever. Works fine for me.
Michael Gordon - on 08 Aug 2017
In reply to mrteale:

I don't see how E3 f6b+ tells you more than E3 6a. It tells you no more about the protection, nor how difficult the moves are. If well protected, is it a long sustained 5c or is there a desperate move in there? When combined with the trad grade, the tech grade tells me more about my likelihood of doing the route.
Wayne S - on 08 Aug 2017
In reply to mrteale:
Your thinking just doesn't work.....the UK technical grade works in conjuction with the adjectival to imply a feel for the route. Removing the technical grade and replacing it with a Sport grade adds nothing, and it's not like you can't already cross reference. VS 5b and E1 5a tell you a lot about a route, calling them both 5+ tells you nothing useful.

There may be some value in offering a French grade alongside the UK grade for the hardest Trad routes. Though why we never worked our way up to Hard Very Extreme is a mystery!! And if we really got down with the kids we could have used ultra and mega completely negating the need to go open ended on the extreme grade.
Post edited at 20:11
Lusk - on 08 Aug 2017
In reply to mrteale:

Too late fella, we've voted to leave the EU.
ALL grades will be converted to the British system in 2019.
Going to cost you a fortune in guide book re-prints.
bouldery bits - on 08 Aug 2017
In reply to mrteale:
Actually.

Lose the whole thing completely.

Instead, grade every route with a simple three word description.

So rather than, 'HVS 5a,' which doesn't tell you that much, it could be better described with 'not when raining' or 'My toes hurt' or 'elbow scar club'.

Much simpler.

Seeing as every route is unique, each needs a unique grade.
Post edited at 20:57
GridNorth - on 08 Aug 2017
In reply to mrteale:

I always thought it was a mistake to equate French grades with UK technical grades and it seems to make more sense to me to equate them with the adjectival grade. F6a-E1, F6b-E2 etc. They are to all intents and purposes describing the same thing, the overall feel of the route.

Al
deacondeacon - on 08 Aug 2017
In reply to Jon Stewart:

>I'd rather know how hard it gets (the tech grade)
Do you not think the technical grades cover too much of a grade range?
You and I climb similar grades, and iI don't know about you but for me a route that's English 6b could be either a piece of piss or impossible.

Reluctance to break into new grades in the 'olden days' has really messed up what could have been a brilliant system and it's too late to adjust them now.
For E1 and under it's still a better system than any other though.

john arran - on 08 Aug 2017
In reply to mrteale:
In the early days of tech grades there were differing opinions on whether it should describe the cumulative physical difficulty (like sport grades) or the hardest move (whatever that means). Hardest move won the day at the time but I always thought it was the wrong call, and still do. It's true that any second grade can only ever describe one particular subset of the overall difficulty, but I personally think the Sport grade could give a much more useful guide to physical pitch difficulty in most cases than a UK tech grade can. Others no doubt will disagree.

edit: I actually think this change would have been tried already were it not for the potential confusion of having different but identical-looking grades for the same route. If the sport grade was quoted in, e.g., Aus grades (i.e. 24, 25, etc.), it would be far easier to separate the two. But we certainly couldn't be doing that!
Post edited at 21:18
Jon Stewart - on 08 Aug 2017
In reply to deacondeacon:

> >I'd rather know how hard it gets (the tech grade)

> Do you not think the technical grades cover too much of a grade range?

> You and I climb similar grades, and iI don't know about you but for me a route that's English 6b could be either a piece of piss or impossible.

Not that similar since you got better and I got worse! I'd never try a route that was UK 6b - that says to me pretty much guaranteed to fall off first go (even on top rope) but should go in a few attempts. Whereas 6a says should go OK (with luck) and 6c says it won't go. With 5c being should be able to do when pumped, this sounds to me like roughly the right kind of steps. I often notice that 6a *is* only a bit harder than 5c, and similarly 6b is only a bit harder than 6a. I reckon for single "bits" of climbing (I don't think it's possible to grade a "move" - is that one hand move? or complete change of holds?) it's not possible to make the steps smaller.


Michael Hood - on 08 Aug 2017
In reply to deacondeacon:

Not too late to adjust, merely bring in 6b+, 6c+ etc to subdivide the upper tech grades. It can gradually be introduced in new guidebooks. We can then have endless debates about whether 6a needs subdivision and whether "minus" subgrades are also required.
Bulls Crack - on 08 Aug 2017
In reply to pasbury:

Not in my experience
Dell on 08 Aug 2017
In reply to mrteale:

I downvoted you.

You are advocating replacing an overly complicated nonsensical system, with a different but equally overly complicated nonsensical system.
Toerag - on 08 Aug 2017
In reply to mrteale:

The logical solution is to keep the adjectival and tech grades, but add US style danger grades (PG, R,X). That will mean the adjectival grade only reflects the overall difficulty of the route, and in combination with the tech grade you can work out if it's cruxy or sustained. At present you can't work out if a route with low tech grade is sustained or dangerous. Sorting out the top end of the tech grade to match the font grades it was based upon will also help.
birdie num num - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to mrteale:

Antiquated is good.
Anyway, your suggestion is just the thin end of a bolting wedge.
HeMa on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to CurlyStevo:

Nice, actually a few of my friends resorted to the same kind of system at an are they developped.

https://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?depth=1&nv=1&rurl=translate.google.com&a...

And in case that doesn't work, just use Google translate on http://jammi.net/kalliot/tietovakka/varmistettavuus.html

Although they are using the Finnish/Scandinavian grade to tell the physical difficulty of the climbing (which is more or less similar to the french grade, and can be coverted easily to French grades).
Michael Gordon - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to Toerag:

> At present you can't work out if a route with low tech grade is sustained or dangerous.

(except that usually you can)

Big Ger - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to mrteale:

How about we grade all routes "Very Severely Extremely Hard and Difficult" and then no climber would feel they are not as good as others, as we'd be all climbing at the same grade.

End grade discrimination, (gradism,) now!!!
Michael Hood - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to Toerag:
Sustained or dangerous, nearly always obvious from the guidebook description and/or just looking at the route.

Please give an example where after looking at the guidebook and looking at the route from below, you are unable to tell whether a low tech grade route is sustained or bold.
Post edited at 08:51
ads.ukclimbing.com
Offwidth - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to mrteale:

This has been done to death before but you may not have noticed, nor have the posts above been clear about some of the history.

Your basic thesis is right:the UK trad grading system is broken but we broke it. In the beginning we had adjectival grades which actually worked really well if you think about climbs in the equipment of the time with the skill set balances of the time. Climbs got harder and we 'invented' tech grades (by stealing them came directly from Font grades about the time that f6A was the limit) and we invented E number grades to extend the adjectival grading. The E grades bit worked quite well in my view but for tech, where the French carried on dealing with then sensibly, we got all macho about them and wrecked the upper levels. We also stupidly dumped grades below 4A (too easy for a number grade. blah blah) . So modern UK grading works really well for onsight leaders from Severe to the mid Exteremes but is bloody useless on either side. Its easy to fix. At the lower end just add the numbers....some of the latest BMC (eg Birchen) and YMC guides ( eg Brimham and Woodhouse Scar) include an experiment that I and others have been working on for about 20 years for gritstone (and listed on my co-authored webite Ofwidth where all Peak grit low graded routes we have climbed... ie the vast majority... are given tech grades). For the upper end we need to subdivide the 6 grades in some way that avoids confusion with Font grades (oh the irony!) or use other systems... sites, like TheGritlist, detailing the hardest routes, already include sports grade and font grade equivalents for prospective aspirants.

Its a crying shame that we built the best grading system in the world for adventure climbing on rock and then went and messed it up. I think this is part of the reason adventure climbing is in decline.

Jon Stewart - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

> Its a crying shame that we built the best grading system in the world for adventure climbing on rock and then went and messed it up. I think this is part of the reason adventure climbing is in decline.

There are so few people climbing in the high extremes that this a non-issue for climbing in general - and anyway books are giving french grades anyway so there really is no problem at all.

Sorry, I know it's a lifetime's work and everything, but I don't see what the problem is at the lower end. People climbing below VS climb with everything ranging from perfect technique to absolutely no technique at all. I really don't understand how technical grades are meant to be helpful here. All you can do as a guidebook writer is get some sort of ranking of averaged-out over the population perceived difficulty and chop it up into brackets, e.g. mod, diff, v-diff, severe, HS. I'm sorry, I just really don't get it. And I have got no idea why you believe that this has some impact on participation! If people are put off going trad climbing by the grading system, I can't see them dealing with the rest of the perverse and peculiar world of trad!
Offwidth - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to Michael Hood:

I could have listed hundreds on Peak grit before we (a group of obsessives on this subject) cleared out the bold sandbags for the BMC guides on all but obscure venues (and others who broadly copied across those new grades). There are still plenty of death VDs out there that look like they might well be protectable given the rock isn't so compact looking and since its VD so surely must have been checked for that!? This is certainly the case for Peak moorland obscurities, more so for Yorkshire and thats just the areas I've looked at in detail. The most infamous I know currently is the top wall pitch of Land End Long Climb, VD, which needs a strong HS leader with experience on the local rock (or enough fear to make them sensibly back off). That's a major classic in a newish definitive guidebook for one of the most popular climbing regions in the UK. This was a good bit scarier to me than the mega classic HS, Tophet Wall, in the Lakes (with a similar bold wall crux).
Lemony - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

> For the upper end we need to subdivide the 6 grades in some way that avoids confusion with Font grades (oh the irony!) or use other systems..

Why not just embrace the confusion and use Font grades?
Offwidth - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to Jon Stewart:
If it's good enough for you why is it not good enough for low grade climbers. If we removed tech grades for the low extremes and scrambled up the grading I'm sure the complaints would be deafing but at the lowest grades in macho Britian its somehow OK. It's only a small part of my life's work (and the climbs give their own reward.. making a few additional notes is hardly a heavy burden) : I'm an active pain to the pompous and idiotic in other areas as well.

As for higher grades I agree but that is because the replacement is happening, not because the width of 6b UK tech and above is a good idea. Once a climbing game loses the inspiration of its top end I think its already in terminal decline. Since its not, I predict the lower grade limit where such ancilliary info is provided online will drop down to the low extremes in the next decade.
Post edited at 10:58
Offwidth - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to Lemony:

It's a very workable solution... now try and persuade all those UK trad climbers!
Jon Stewart - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

> If it's good enough for you why is it not good enough for low grade climbers.

Because everyone climbing at HVS and above climbs with reasonably good technique, so it's possible say that this move is harder than that move. For example, when you're a beginner but with reasonable strength, laybacking always seems like a great idea because it's brainless and doesn't require finger strength or any subtle technique (and you're usually on a top-rope). So a crack that you can layback seems loads easier than a slab you can pad up hardly using your hands (once you've got some experience). How do you grade them? For the strong beginner, or for the experienced weakling? Beginners might be good at using sharp holds, but terrible on slopers, directional holds, jams (obviously) etc etc. You can't make meaningful comparisons until climbers are going to climb things "properly".

The grades are scrambled anyway - there are loads of HVSs out there that I find harder than soft-touch E3s.

> As for higher grades I agree but that is because the replacement is happening, not because the width of 6b UK tech and above is a good idea. Once a climbing game loses the inspiration of its top end I think its already in terminal decline.

At the top end, trad climbing is pretty niche anyway. There aren't sufficient impressive new routes to be done in the UK for this "inspiration at the top end" to be a motivating factor in people going climbing - and in any case with today's standards it's so far removed from puntering that I can't see the relevance anyway. I can assure you that it has no impact on my climbing whatsoever.
Jon Stewart - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

> It's a very workable solution... now try and persuade all those UK trad climbers!

It's a stupid solution that would only work for cruxy routes. On a sustained route, what use is a font grade?
Ramblin dave - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> How do you grade them? For the strong beginner, or for the experienced weakling? Beginners might be good at using sharp holds, but terrible on slopers, directional holds, jams (obviously) etc etc. You can't make meaningful comparisons until climbers are going to climb things "properly".

Can I stick in my usual observation that this would be a lot easier and the results would arguably be more helpful if we used adjectival plus protection / danger grade instead of adjectival plus tech?
Jon Stewart - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to Ramblin dave:

> Can I stick in my usual observation that this would be a lot easier and the results would arguably be more helpful if we used adjectival plus protection / danger grade instead of adjectival plus tech?

Ah yes, for the lower grades that would probably make sense. But it would be crap in the higher grades where you really want to know how hard the climbing is!
Michael Hood - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to Offwidth:
I agree that below 4a there are loads of routes where you can't tell whether sustained or bold. Extending tech grades downwards would probably sort most of that out. Ironically, one of the first guidebooks to use tech grades (Paul Nunn's Peak guidebook) used them all the way down to Mod (I'm sure you knew that but relative newbies will never have seen the Nunn bumper book of fun and sandbags unless you were well over 6').

One of the problems with wall trained climbers is that they often expect easy stuff to be well protected and it comes as a bit of a shock when they get scared on routes they can technically walk up.
Post edited at 11:17
Lemony - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to Jon Stewart:
> It's a stupid solution that would only work for cruxy routes. On a sustained route, what use is a font grade?

Precisely as much use as a UK tech grade.
Post edited at 11:44
Offwidth - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to Jon Stewart:
Come on Jon, it would distinguish a cruxy from a sustained route in exactly the same way as UK tech grades do. It's obvious say that that Zeus is sustained at E2 5b when you take that combination and look at it without even reading sustained in the description but substituting the font grade for 5b would make no difference (and would improve things at many low and high grades) . I'd prefer we adapted UK tech but font grades would work in pretty much exactly the same say as Uk tech grades do (unsurprising as that's where they came from). I find it odd that I have to regularly put up spirited defences for other grading systems, on UKC, as a big fan of UK grading (with the provisos above). Another system I end up defending is US 'film ratings' for risk, which were used in a similar way experimentally in Yorkshire with P grades (and were recently dropped).
Post edited at 11:48
Jon Stewart - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to Lemony:
> Precisely as much use as a UK tech grade.

It's less specific. A french grade gives some sort of average for the whole route, the tech grade gives the difficulty of the hardest bit and the font grade gives...what exactly? On a sustained route of UK 6a, does that get 5+ or 6c?

Edit: sorry you can't really get font 7a at UK 6a
Post edited at 11:49
Lemony - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> what exactly?

> the difficulty of the hardest bit

Jon Stewart - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to Lemony:

How long is a "bit" when giving a font grade?
Lukem6 - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to mrteale:

I always liked the system of max and overall.... so overall 6b+ max 7a.
so mostly 6b hardest move 7a so 6b+/7a.
starts to look messy on grit though
e4 5+/7a
The Sardinia system works well for trad and sport
tech grade followed by r1- r5 r1 safe r 5 large ground fall potential I believe its s1 -s5 for sport based on distance between bolts.

No more comparing needed. sunset slab = 4+ R5 and London wall 6b+ R2.
mrteale - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

You've convinced me. Let's repair the British Tech Grade and restore its former glory! #make6agreatagain
Fruit on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to mrteale:

No
L The Bronze 1959 - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to mrteale:

Is this not another way of thinking one is climbing better than the reality, !!!!
Leave the British grading system alone.
I'd like to see you attempt to alter the US system, or the Alpine or the Australian.
Its simple E1 5c steady away safe route ( you need to think on these type of routes, the holds aren't coloured )
E1 5a, high deck out potential.
Simple, and tried and tested.
Next we will be having belay anchors, and route names painted on the rock.
Offwidth - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to Jon Stewart:

How long is a bit for UK tech grade? How do we deal with the fact some brits grade for a true isolated move and others take into account the moves in or out of that isolated point. Also does that bit for the UK tech grade always give a better feel for the average crux sequence onsight or does a font grade? Most climbers are way more more likely to fall from Zeus (which is unusually sustained and would get a higher font grade) than a standard HVS 5b move but in most cases for clearer crux sequences the two grades would run parallel. Why would a higher tech grade for more sustained trad like Zeus (or Chequers Crack or numerous harder limestone trad routes) be such a big issue? Thats only as a thought experiment as of course we can't have that as a serious suggestion as it's how the YDS system works and we are British.
Offwidth - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to The Bronze 1959:
Yorkshire has loads of E1 5c 'chop' routes and safe but sustained E1 5a is hadly uncommon at Pembroke.
Post edited at 13:44
DubyaJamesDubya - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to deacondeacon:

> >I'd rather know how hard it gets (the tech grade)

> Do you not think the technical grades cover too much of a grade range?

> You and I climb similar grades, and iI don't know about you but for me a route that's English 6b could be either a piece of piss or impossible.

> Reluctance to break into new grades in the 'olden days' has really messed up what could have been a brilliant system and it's too late to adjust them now.

Quite like the system they use on the newest Langdale guide where you get E1+ or E1- (or just E1) as a range

> For E1 and under it's still a better system than any other though.

L The Bronze 1959 - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

In which case they are graded incorrectly.
E1 5c is a good grade....
E1 5a isn't

I guess E4 5c is okay ????
Its a death grade
DubyaJamesDubya - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to john arran:

> In the early days of tech grades there were differing opinions on whether it should describe the cumulative physical difficulty (like sport grades) or the hardest move (whatever that means). Hardest move won the day at the time but I always thought it was the wrong call, and still do. It's true that any second grade can only ever describe one particular subset of the overall difficulty, but I personally think the Sport grade could give a much more useful guide to physical pitch difficulty in most cases than a UK tech grade can. Others no doubt will disagree.

> edit: I actually think this change would have been tried already were it not for the potential confusion of having different but identical-looking grades for the same route. If the sport grade was quoted in, e.g., Aus grades (i.e. 24, 25, etc.), it would be far easier to separate the two. But we certainly couldn't be doing that!

So London Wall is E5 7b and Autumn Flakes is E5 6b+ ?

ads.ukclimbing.com
Offwidth - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to The Bronze 1959:
E4 5c... can also be sustained and fiddly pro on grit, so safish if you are strong enough... eg Old Friends. If, in a fantasy climb sort of way, I stuck two Sentinal Cracks on top of each other the fair grade in my view might be E4 5c. By saying something like E4 5c is a death grade as a definition you are proving my point that too many British climbers don't understand their own system.
Post edited at 13:55
L The Bronze 1959 - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

Well all grading systems have the odd sandbag, its a good thing.
The Niche on Lower falcon.......standard E2 5c
Eagle Ridge in Winter standard V 5

Martin Haworth on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to mrteale:

I find the UK grading system fine, the combination of E grade, technical grade and a quick scan of the route and guidebook will tell you as much as you need to know, this certainly works up to E3,6a in my experience. Maybe the problem is more pronounced once you are above say E5 where the tech grade ranges seem too broad, and style of ascent seems to move increasingly to head-pointing, pre-placed gear etc. where a sport grade maybe becomes more appropriate.
Jon Stewart - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

> How long is a bit for UK tech grade?

My understanding is that it should be the shortest bit of climbing you can comment on, something like going from one pair of handholds to the next, or going from hands in a break to stood on it, or going about 3ft up a crack.

It isn't particularly clear, my point is only that a font grade is *even less* clear if the route is sustained, because we don't know how long the 'bit' referred to by the font grade is. It's just doing the same job as the UK tech grade (and would work fine really) only slightly less well.
deacondeacon - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to DubyaJamesDubya:

> Quite like the system they use on the newest Langdale guide where you get E1+ or E1- (or just E1) as a range

That's fair enough but in the higher grades the E grade isn't the problem it's the technical grade that's broken.

Truth of the matter is that the grading system isn't accurate at all in the higher grades, and it'll never change.
Short routes tend to be described by their approximate Font grade and longer/sustained routes get described by their French grade.
It's not really a problem but it could have been much better if it was dealt with in the 70s/80's.

Offwidth - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to The Bronze 1959:
A good thing for who? You or the climber who tries it expecting honest grading and doesn't appreciate the joke. I'll happily tolerate safe minor sandbags for the sake of resisting grade creep (and some routes nearly always feel hard for a correct grade because most climbers are too lazy to build the neccesary skills for the grade... like say Tower Chimney) but bold major sandbags in my view are plain irresponsible.
Post edited at 14:00
L The Bronze 1959 - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

Well with experience and a bit of knowledge they can be sussed out.
A Whillans route on grit.........going to be nails.

A Whilliance route in Scotland or the Lakes will be hard, and well graded.

If one has just left the climbing wall having trained to 7a, a Lakeland VS will sort you out.

As I recall in the past, Scottish and English grades maxed out at XS...........ahhhhh the good old days.........Footless Crow XS, Conclusion on Shepherds XS..........that would shock a few....one is 6b the other is 5b
Offwidth - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Well there you go. Most climbers I know, as a reasonably experienced guidebook worker, grade for the shorter end of that range .. something much closer to a single move. In which case using your definition Zeus and Chequers Crack should probably both be 5c and the replacement Font grades would be a much closer match to being parallel to UK tech ;-)
DubyaJamesDubya - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to deacondeacon:

> That's fair enough but in the higher grades the E grade isn't the problem it's the technical grade that's broken.

> Truth of the matter is that the grading system isn't accurate at all in the higher grades, and it'll never change.

> Short routes tend to be described by their approximate Font grade and longer/sustained routes get described by their French grade.

> It's not really a problem but it could have been much better if it was dealt with in the 70s/80's.

From what people say I gather it is true but that it affects the higher grades but I've never got to the point where it would worry me
john arran - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to DubyaJamesDubya:

> So London Wall is E5 7b and Autumn Flakes is E5 6b+ ?

That kind of thing, yes.

If we were introducing tech grades for the first time now, that's almost certainly the way we would use them. It's only because font grades were pretty much the only purely-difficulty grade around at the time that we based our tech grade on those.

Can't expect a lot of people to be happy switching now though, given the inevitable confusion with similar-looking grades, although the more people get used to sport grades from indoor routes and UK sport routes, the more likely it is that the switch will happen.

Looking at it another way, one grade tells you how hard it is to lead, the other how hard to top-rope. Simples!
Offwidth - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to The Bronze 1959:
Eee, them wer't'days.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xe1a1wHxTyo
Post edited at 14:13
Jon Stewart - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

I've been climbing for about 15 years and I still haven't worked out what a "single move" is.
baron - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to mrteale:

We had this discussion a while back.
Including some who still post on this forum.
Interesting to see how opinions have/haven't changed.

https://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?t=61210
john arran - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> I've been climbing for about 15 years and I still haven't worked out what a "single move" is.

Don't worry, Jon. Wait until you've been climbing 35 years, and then ...





... you still won't be any the wiser ;-)
Offwidth - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to Jon Stewart:
You're the one recommending the system and that's what its supposed to do! I've said I'm happy with the warts and all position of UK tech for onsight HS to low Extreme where I climb seriously most, as it usually tells me what I need but I have no idea what a single move is supposed to be either (other than clearly as close to that single move as reasonable) and am aware of how widely it is interpreted. Look at all the differently styled UKC grade posts on UK trad grading over the years compared to the old grade essays in the magazines and the grade ideal can appear to be moving to something as ethereal as a holy grail. Like John Arran I think things will break in the next decades under pressure, partly from indoors. People will propose multiple variation on a theme (of trad systems) online and something will be adapted and most of the rest will wither and die. Font grading also seems inconsistent to me in the length of the sequence that is taken into account and YDS even more so (sport grades in sport through Font style for graded sequencies to almost UK tech like at times on some 5.7/8/9 trad cracks)
Post edited at 14:48
Martin Hore - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to mrteale:

Interesting topic, even though it has been done before a few times of course.

IMO The UK grading system is still reasonably fit for purpose for a fairly numerous and perhaps predominantly middle-aged sub-set of climbers who climb mostly trad between about HS and E2. I suggest it may be largely because this group is influential that it’s not been changed.

It’s not really very good for climbers below HS because the UK technical grade is not widely used (though as Offwidth has said there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be). It’s not good (I’m reliably told) above about E3 because the UK technical grades above 6a have never been properly applied, so nowadays many climbers operating at these grades prefer to use sport grades for technical difficulty anyway. And it’s pretty confusing for today’s newcomers who will almost always have their first encounter with grades at the climbing wall where sport grades are universal.

So yes, although I’m in the “influential” group above, I think it probably is time to consider a change.

Any good trad grading needs to be “multi-dimensional” in the sense that it must cover the difficulty of the hardest “move”, how sustained the route is, and how bold. That’s three dimensions. But the UK system of an adjectival/overall grade plus a numerical/technical grade has only ever acknowledged two separate dimensions by amalgamating two of these three. (For good reasons IMO – a three dimensional grade would be just too complicated).

Originally, as John Arran has said, the UK technical/numerical grade was an amalgamation of the difficulty of the hardest move and how sustained/strenuous the route was. To quote from Alec Sharp’s 1976 Cloggy guide “The numerical grade refers to the difficulty of top-roping the climb and so the strenuousness of the climb is an important factor”. But at some point that changed so that now the technical grade normally just refers to the difficulty of the hardest move with how sustained/strenuous the route is being amalgamated with how bold it is into the adjectival grade (which as others have noted can lead to difficulty distinguishing between, for example, a bold E1 5a and a sustained but adequately protected E1 5a).

So I would suggest a two stage reform for consideration. Stage 1 would be to revert to the original meaning of the technical grade ie how difficult it is to top-rope the climb (an amalgamation of the difficulty of the hardest move and how sustained/strenuous the route is). This then makes Stage 2 relatively straightforward: replace the UK technical grade with the equivalent sport grade. Straightforward because the two grades (UK tech and sport) would then be measuring effectively the same thing.

The adjectival grade would remain unchanged as an indication of the overall challenge of the climb. Boldness/seriousness would be indicated as now by a comparison of the two grades. Curly Stevo referred to 5 notches of seriousness – pretty much what we now have with eg HVS 4b (Sunset Slab) at one end and HVS 5c (Orpheus) at the other. Except we would now have to get used to say Sunset Slab at HVS 4+ and Orpheus at HVS 6b.

If this change were to be made there’d be lots of one off inertia to overcome of course (just like the change to decimal currency or Celsius temperatures) and some details to resolve (eg whether to use 4, 4+, 5, 5+ or 4a,b,c, 5a,b,c) and how to deal with multi-pitch routes (I’d favour a dual grade for each pitch). But if it helps wall climbers progress into trad and solves problems with the higher UK tech grades then it might be worth considering?

Martin

PS: I rather like the idea of amalgamating the “difficulty of the hardest move” with the “sustainedness or strenuousness of the route” by talking about “the difficulty of the hardest sequence between rests”. That does away with the problem of defining what a “move” is and corresponds pretty exactly to the harder sport grades (where there generally aren’t any rests anyway). That might be preferable to talking about the “difficulty of top-roping the climb” though it amounts to much the same thing.
Offwidth - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to baron:

Good to be reminded of my points on grade myth making again. I'd still love to use a time machine and see what really old school climbers would make of modern grades. In particular they were really bold on slabs in plimsols. not many would want to climb the routes they routinely did in the style of the time. Modern training and gear hasn't taken us anything like as far as all those grade numbers make it look. Bumbly grades may even have gone backwards.

Like Bob's OP I think we started somewhere sensible and have got rather lost at the top as time moved on. Also Bob was spot on in his OP, that the primary grade is adjectival and as such technical grades should almost be randomly distributed across any adjectival graded lists but look at the reality even now. It's possible for an E1 5a to be bordeline E2 for boldness or sustainedness and an E1 6a with a bouldery start to be borderline HVS.
Toerag - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to Michael Hood:

> Please give an example where after looking at the guidebook and looking at the route from below, you are unable to tell whether a low tech grade route is sustained or bold.

I can't look at a route in Wales from my living room when planning a trip, nor look at pitch 4 of anything from the ground.
Guidebook descriptions:- there's oodles of them, examples from one of my local crags. Which of these VSes is going to kill you if you come off a 4b move:-
** | Chimp | VS 4b | 100 feet |
The final corner is excellent. A belay can be taken halfway to avoid rope drag. Start at the right hand
end of the ledge, by a rock pool. Climb up through the notch, traverse left then mantleshelf onto a
higher ledge. Follow the corner from the left hand end of the ledge.
Reality | VS 4b | 100 feet |
Start well to the right at the large corner. Climb the corner until it becomes vertical. Traverse left 20
feet and climb bulges to finish up a corner.
Vermicious Knid | VS 4b | 35 feet |
Climb the slabby side of the arête between Mad Dog Rides Again and Dodo

Are these sustained or serious?
The Thinker, Direct Start | E1 5a | 30 feet |
Start in between Think Before You Stink and Blood Lust below the apex of the triangular overhang at
25 feet. Gain the ledge below the overhang, move left and join the finish of The Thinker.
* | Les Bonbons | E2 5b | 55 feet |
Start up and right of The Curtains. Climb a groove to gain an excellent layaway flake. Up this,
finishing leftward.
Inches | E2 5b |
The crack line in the centre of the west face of the small stack
Gneiss Gorilla, Direct Start | E4 5c | 75 feet |
Gain the large hold from the groove below; Friend 1.5 protects.
mrteale - on 09 Aug 2017
Thanks for the replies everyone, makes for some interesting reading. I was slightly baiting people with the suggestion of 'binning' the tech grade but I think its clear that there's a problem. I agree that expanding the tech grade in line with other systems would make for a more descriptive and nuanced approach while still retaining the 'character' of the British trad grades. I like the idea for the addition of '+' & '-'s as a way of perhaps eluding to sustained moves at that grade or whether there are good rests to be had prior to single crux moves etc.
I suppose in reality its best just to concentrate on climbing a route for what it means to you and not what others have ascribed to it with numbers however I'm quite sad and enjoy the politics and emotion involved in this funny old game. I suppose there is a charm to the quirkiness of it all. What other sport or activity has so many idiosyncratic grading systems all over the world? All of which as seen from the outside are pretty odd!
stp - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> So a crack that you can layback seems loads easier than a slab you can pad up hardly using your hands (once you've got some experience). How do you grade them? For the strong beginner, or for the experienced weakling? Beginners might be good at using sharp holds, but terrible on slopers, directional holds, jams (obviously) etc etc.

It's true but I think the problem is pervasive at all levels of climbing. Some experienced climbers are really powerful but still have shite technique. Some people are rubbish on slopers, perhaps because they've had little experience with them. Some world class climbers don't know how to hand jam (something Percy Bishton likes to exploit in the annual Climbing Works comp by putting the odd crucial jam in some of the qualification round problems). We all have strengths and weaknesses.

Personally I think the tech grade can work at lower grades. My first rock climbing was with the scouts on southern sandstone where everything gets a tech grade. I remember noticing a clear jump in the difficulty between a 2a and a 2b climb.

stp - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> It isn't particularly clear, my point is only that a font grade is *even less* clear if the route is sustained, because we don't know how long the 'bit' referred to by the font grade is.

This is good point and on something that is just the same grade of technical difficulty all the way I think you're probably right and the font grade won't be much use. But generally I don't think most rock routes are like that. There tend to be distinct crux sections that everyone recognizes and agrees upon. In describing sport routes many climbers already use font grades informally to describe the hardest bit of climbing. The crux of Rainshadow is said to be font 8A. The crux of La Dura Dura is 8B+. Adam Ondra says the crux section of his ongoing project in Flatanger is 8C.

The fact that climbers are already using font grades to informally describe routes shows they can be useful, at least some of the time.

stp - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to Martin Hore:

> To quote from Alec Sharp’s 1976 Cloggy guide “The numerical grade refers to the difficulty of top-roping the climb and so the strenuousness of the climb is an important factor”.

That's really interesting. I didn't know that - before my time. Perhaps that's why Strawberries was originally graded E5 7a and why people are still confused about the UK grading system today.
john arran - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to stp:

That may well be true, but that's to give extra info over and above the sport grade, which is universally regarded as the most useful guide to physical difiiculty!
Bulls Crack - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to pasbury:


> I think sport grades can deal with cruxy pitches.

Your reasoning?

I apply tech grades whether I'm onsighting trad, redpointing sport or bouldering. Rock moves have a technicality whether you like it/use it or not and to ignore it seems daft
PaulTanton - on 09 Aug 2017
In reply to mrteale:
The British grading system for trad routes is the best in the world. Why do you want to change it? It works fine
ads.ukclimbing.com
mrteale - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to PaulTanton:

Just because it's the best, it doesn't mean we can't make it better ;)
SenzuBean - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to mrteale:

Why not just subdivide the British tech grade? E.g. 5c-, 5c, 5c+, 6a-, 6a

That would solve the stated problem and make it easy to grandfather old grades
DubyaJamesDubya - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to john arran:

> In the early days of tech grades there were differing opinions on whether it should describe the cumulative physical difficulty (like sport grades) or the hardest move (whatever that means). Hardest move won the day at the time but I always thought it was the wrong call, and still do. It's true that any second grade can only ever describe one particular subset of the overall difficulty, but I personally think the Sport grade could give a much more useful guide to physical pitch difficulty in most cases than a UK tech grade can. Others no doubt will disagree.

> edit: I actually think this change would have been tried already were it not for the potential confusion of having different but identical-looking grades for the same route. If the sport grade was quoted in, e.g., Aus grades (i.e. 24, 25, etc.), it would be far easier to separate the two. But we certainly couldn't be doing that!

Just to turn the whole thing around...
When in Spain a few years back I did a route that was only 6a+ but the move just after the first bolt was English 6b followed by 15 metres of 5+. I remember thinking it would have been nice to have a technical grade for the route.
john arran - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to DubyaJamesDubya:

Just goes to show that no simple system will ever be perfect for all routes. But the fact that this is memorable even years later suggests it isn't a common anomoly. Imagine if all sport routes were given only a UK tech grade. You could step onto a 5c route (which typically might be expected to be around F6b?) only to discover that every move was pretty much 5c and the whole thing was F7a!
Mick Ward - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to DubyaJamesDubya:

It's always tricky grading unbalanced stuff (this is a problem that comes up again and again on Portland) but you have to do your level best to be as fair as possible. Surely most people with a reasonable onsight grade of 6a+ (or 6b or 6b+) will be stopped dead by an English 6b move - unless they're boulderers?

Mick
Jon Stewart - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to DubyaJamesDubya:

> Just to turn the whole thing around...

> When in Spain a few years back I did a route that was only 6a+ but the move just after the first bolt was English 6b followed by 15 metres of 5+. I remember thinking it would have been nice to have a technical grade for the route.

Or perhaps just the correct grade: 6c

DubyaJamesDubya - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to john arran:

> Just goes to show that no simple system will ever be perfect for all routes. But the fact that this is memorable even years later suggests it isn't a common anomoly. Imagine if all sport routes were given only a UK tech grade. You could step onto a 5c route (which typically might be expected to be around F6b?) only to discover that every move was pretty much 5c and the whole thing was F7a!

I agree. I wasn't advocating replacing the grade with just a UK tech grade, just that in this case, assuming the overall grade was correct, a supplementary tech grade(Font??) would have been useful.
DubyaJamesDubya - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> Or perhaps just the correct grade: 6c

Possibly so although it does pose the question of whether a single number can accurately define all aspects of difficulty.
Offwidth - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to DubyaJamesDubya:

That grade simply wasn't correct unless you missed a much easier sequence.
john arran - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to DubyaJamesDubya:

> Possibly so although it does pose the question of whether a single number can accurately define all aspects of difficulty.

The answer to that is certainly 'No', but I think the Rockfax approach of supplementing an overall topropeability grade with icons is pretty workable. If you know it's cruxy or sustained, you can interpret the grade much more effectively.
Greasy Prusiks on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to mrteale:

Why don't we just list the tech grade of every single move on the route? Much more straightforward.

Might have to use up arrow notation for some of the stuff on the Ben mind.
Stig - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to stp: Strawberries was given 7a because of multiple 6b moves - so effectively a cumulative difficulty grade - it's all explained in a Crags magazine of the time. I don't know how extensively used this approach was and why it fell out of favour.

I seem to remember this was why Supersonic was given 6c (first 6c route?)
Mick Ward - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to Stig:

> I seem to remember this was why Supersonic was given 6c (first 6c route?)

Supersonic was 'given' 6c by someone with a very good eye for a headline!

Mick

DubyaJamesDubya - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to Mick Ward:

> It's always tricky grading unbalanced stuff (this is a problem that comes up again and again on Portland) but you have to do your level best to be as fair as possible. Surely most people with a reasonable onsight grade of 6a+ (or 6b or 6b+) will be stopped dead by an English 6b move - unless they're boulderers?

> Mick

That's pretty much what happened with this route. The only guy (out of 6 of us) who got up it was an E5 leader. Someone even popped a tendon on it.
Bulls Crack - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to Jon Stewart:

e1/2 6b would have described it better!

I did a retro-bolted E3 6b at Malham recently now 6c+ and E3 6b is the more informative grade even now it's a sport route!
DubyaJamesDubya - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

> That grade simply wasn't correct unless you missed a much easier sequence.

We didn't think so but it would still have been one move followed by a saunter at 6c
DubyaJamesDubya - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

The fact that the route would have been a 5 without the move suggests someone had at least tried to balance the grade.
stp - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to john arran:

> That may well be true, but that's to give extra info over and above the sport grade, which is universally regarded as the most useful guide to physical difiiculty!

Sorry but I don't really get your point here John. What wrong with extra info? Or do mean in terms of onsight attempts: having the extra info would make it easier?
stp - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to DubyaJamesDubya:

I don't think balancing out a grade works though. If a climber can do 6b moves then they can certainly climb much harder than f6a+, where it's only necessary to climb 5b for the vast majority of routes. To climb 6b moves probably requires at least a 6c or even 7a climber.

We could argue that for someone who is just boulderer such a grade might make sense but personally I think sport grades are there for sport climbers and the person with exceptional bouldering skill but can't climb with a rope understands their own limitations.
CurlyStevo - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to DubyaJamesDubya:
> When in Spain a few years back I did a route that was only 6a+ but the move just after the first bolt was English 6b followed by 15 metres of 5+. I remember thinking it would have been nice to have a technical grade for the route.

that sounds plane wrong, I'm guessing either you got the wrong sequence or there was some rockfall on the route or there was a typo in the guide book (this is surprisingly common) or it was just graded badly. It would be highly unusual to get a move of (easy) UK6a on a f6a+ but UK6b somethings up IMO.
Post edited at 10:14
CurlyStevo - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to Mick Ward:

Can you think of any sport route in the UK that's correctly graded F6b or under with a move of UK6b on it? Sounds a wrongun to me.
Ramblin dave - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to DubyaJamesDubya:

> We didn't think so but it would still have been one move followed by a saunter at 6c

Surely that's fine, though? The grade isn't meant to tell you whether it's a quality, well balanced route, just that it'd take a 6c leader to get up it cleanly.
john arran - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to DubyaJamesDubya:

> The fact that the route would have been a 5 without the move suggests someone had at least tried to balance the grade.

It's easy to forget that a route's grade is simply an estimate of what proportion of climbers are likely to get up it. If it's a really bouldery F6b then many typical F6b leaders might not be able to do it, but then some F6a leaders (who happen to be better boulderers) might have more chance. That's where the balancing out comes in.
john arran - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to stp:

> Sorry but I don't really get your point here John. What wrong with extra info? Or do mean in terms of onsight attempts: having the extra info would make it easier?

Maybe I wasn't clear. The discussion is largely that of whether a hardest move or an overall top-rope grade is more useful in describing physical difficulty. Clearly both together would be ideal, but since most routes exist happily with just sport grades, that to me suggests the sport grade is more commonly the better option.
DubyaJamesDubya - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to Ramblin dave:

> Surely that's fine, though? The grade isn't meant to tell you whether it's a quality, well balanced route, just that it'd take a 6c leader to get up it cleanly.

I guess so but still sounds like a good case for the idea that the French grade is no more perfect than the UK Trad system
ads.ukclimbing.com
Offwidth - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to DubyaJamesDubya:
Sport grades are intrinsically broken at the bottom end as most grades are for redpoints (the difficulty of an ascent with the known and prepracticed best sequence) but bumbly grades are supposedly for the flash (and nearly always in my experience in France completly wrong (sandbag graded) even as a redpoint due to historic bad grading and/or polish). More inadvertent elitism. Really all sport grades should be for the redpoint for the condition the route is currently in.
Post edited at 11:34
Offwidth - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to DubyaJamesDubya:

I'd add the French in particular seem reluctant to admit and deal with their inadvertant elitism. There is much blethering about lack of skills or missed easier sequencies from top end climbers when they provide commentary on why bumblies and beginners fail on low grade boulders and sports routes when the truth is many grades are just way wrong. The bouldering in Font is possibly the worst example of plain bad grading (mainly failure to account for changed conditions) for low grades I've seen or heard of anywhere in the world: at its worst you get things like pof polished f6B slab problems masquerading in a given grade of f3A (beware the popular orange circuits!). On average the more popular lower grade circuits are getting on for being a full number grade out. I'd recommend new low grade visitors to buy Jingo Wobbly guides as at least David and his team recognise this and try to regrade accordingly. Font is another place Moff and I have regraded many circuits if any other activists are interested in looking to share notes on grading for the great masses of the technically 'unwashed'.
DubyaJamesDubya - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

Someone on a different thread, the other week, was proclaiming the benefit of the 'French Way' of not changing the grades of established routes (thus no grade creep) but you give a good example of a different kind of grade migration.
Offwidth - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to DubyaJamesDubya:

Until it affects them that is. Why do you think we have endless arguments about grades and next to nothing on popular Font Yellow and Orange circuits or French polished F5 sports horror shows.
Bulls Crack - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to john arran:

Who does the estimating then? Do people after doing a new route think: 'Hmm about 60% of people will get up that' so, after checking UKC's logged ascents graphs and working out the averages you them apportion a grade?

Or do you think 'That felt like E2 5cish?!'
Mick Ward - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to CurlyStevo:

Steve, it was a wrong 'un! Problem is that on the day six folk got on it, five didn't have a great experience and - far worse - one person popped a tendon. Not a good result.

In equipping routes (particularly lower/mid-grade ones) you're trying to design good experiences for people. And I accept that nobody gets it right all the time. I certainly don't.

But surely decent grading is part of the design process?

Mick
Ian Parsons - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to DubyaJamesDubya:

> I agree. I wasn't advocating replacing the grade with just a UK tech grade, just that in this case, assuming the overall grade was correct, a supplementary tech grade(Font??) would have been useful.

Is this the sort of thing that used to be dealt with by the addition of the suffix "bloc" - whereby 6a+(bloc) would indicate a very cruxy route revolving around one move that was considerably harder than one would normally encounter at that grade? I don't know whether the refinement was used much outside France [but where French grades were the norm] or indeed whether it's used at all these days.
john arran - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to DubyaJamesDubya:

> Someone on a different thread, the other week, was proclaiming the benefit of the 'French Way' of not changing the grades of established routes (thus no grade creep) but you give a good example of a different kind of grade migration.

I remember a route in Thailand that had that kind of approach. IIRC the route was graded 8a but in the description it said something like "the grade is probably 7c"!
john arran - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to Bulls Crack:

> Who does the estimating then? Do people after doing a new route think: 'Hmm about 60% of people will get up that' so, after checking UKC's logged ascents graphs and working out the averages you them apportion a grade?

> Or do you think 'That felt like E2 5cish?!'

Very good. The latter, of course. But then, if it's a popular route, the logbooks will soon start to show when their 'felt like' grade is miles out and needs changing, based on the proportion who are failing on it!
TonyB - on 10 Aug 2017
In reply to Ian Parsons:

This is very sensible. I've seen it used in Italy too, although just as (b) after the grade.
JackM92 - on 12 Aug 2017
In reply to mrteale:

Your proposed system would work really well on crags where routes tend to be fairly sustained open wall climbing.

Lower Sharpnose Point a good example of this. Also the wall routes I've climbed on the Cromlech.

Break On Through (E4 5c) UK tech grade of 5c says very little about the difficulty of the climbing, as every move is 5c. However although the overall grade of E4 5c could suggest something that's virtually a solo, it's better protected than most bolted routes! E4 6b+ would IMO work better.
jonnie3430 - on 12 Aug 2017
In reply to mrteale:

I think the system works well up to E2, where each adjectival grade is matched with a tech grade, but think it struggles above. I'd be much keener to get the grades matched above E2 than to switch to French. E11 8c?
1poundSOCKS - on 12 Aug 2017
In reply to JackM92:

> E4 6b+ would IMO work better.

Does well protected 6b+ get you an E4 tick in Lower Sharpnose? I have been, but it was a while ago.
JackM92 - on 16 Aug 2017
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

It's possibly the softest E4 in the country! Gear on demand. The weekend before I could barely get up 6b/6b+ at Chedder and was within a move of onsighting break on through before fluffing it near the top.
1poundSOCKS - on 16 Aug 2017
In reply to JackM92:

> It's possibly the softest E4 in the country! Gear on demand.

My kind of route.

Thanks.
ashtond6 - on 16 Aug 2017
In reply to mrteale:

yep! I only ever refer to routes in French these days & more people are beginning to do this and therefore UK tech will gladly die

No more of this.....
'Its a good E7 6b,'
'Oh yeah... so is that F6c or F8a+?'
Jon Stewart - on 16 Aug 2017
In reply to JackM92:

> Break On Through (E4 5c) UK tech grade of 5c says very little about the difficulty of the climbing, as every move is 5c. However although the overall grade of E4 5c could suggest something that's virtually a solo, it's better protected than most bolted routes! E4 6b+ would IMO work better.

The thing about Break On Through is that it's just the wrong grade, it's E3 5b. And even then, it's easier that lots of E2s because it has no hard moves and isn't scary, so a bit of stamina is all that's needed. I only tickle the soles of E4, and I've climbed the thing damp (the route, not me) and having had not been to bed the night before. E4 it ain't!
1poundSOCKS - on 16 Aug 2017
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> it's E3 5b.

How many HVS stacked on top of each other is that? I like that grading system better.
Jon Stewart - on 16 Aug 2017
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

It's a bit like 2 HVSs on top of each other, but then tilted 5 degrees steeper, and it's a great route. So in this system it's 2HVS(+5d)***
1poundSOCKS - on 16 Aug 2017
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> 2HVS(+5d)***

Brilliant, and end of thread I would guess, unless anyone has a better system.
Michael Gordon - on 16 Aug 2017
In reply to ashtond6:

Is there a single E7 which is F6c? Hard to believe.
flaneur - on 16 Aug 2017
In reply to Michael Gordon:

> Is there a single E7 which is 6c?

Art Brut (Froggat); Monopoly, The Bad And The Beautiful (both Millstone). Source: the grit list.

Probably some of Julian Lines' horror slabs.


In reply to the OP:

Of course the U.K. tech. grade should be dropped for French grades. Every other country in the world uses a cumulative physical difficulty grade for rock climbing. Rockfax will in their forthcoming southern sandstone guide. CC guides do for DWS. The wired Pembroke guides does for >E5. I'd now like to see this extended to more modest grades. I'd like to know if E3 5c means F6a+ (Memory Lane) or F6c (Twikker).


samwillo - on 16 Aug 2017
In reply to Michael Gordon:

On the Rocks at Back Bowden 6c/+?
Marrow Bone Jelly at Caley 6c+/7a?

I'd say quite possible especially if it's the standard techy techy grit leg breaker.
Michael Gordon - on 16 Aug 2017
In reply to flaneur and samwillo:

Thanks. Good point re Jules' slabs - I wonder what the likes of Firestone would get? That said, it's rather meaningless since the challenge is not whether you can do sport 6c but whether you can make a 6b slab move 12m above the ground!

French grades make sense for DWS and Southern Sandstone since E grades don't really apply (so you don't get the overall/tech grade interaction).
petestack - on 16 Aug 2017
In reply to mrteale:

You know some of us more modest climbers who've been around a while and climb little or no sport actually think in terms of UK grades and would have to back-translate French equivalents?
ads.ukclimbing.com
thebigfriendlymoose - on 16 Aug 2017
In reply to stp:

> This is good point and on something that is just the same grade of technical difficulty all the way I think you're probably right and the font grade won't be much use. But generally I don't think most rock routes are like that. There tend to be distinct crux sections that everyone recognizes and agrees upon. In describing sport routes many climbers already use font grades informally to describe the hardest bit of climbing. The crux of Rainshadow is said to be font 8A. The crux of La Dura Dura is 8B+. Adam Ondra says the crux section of his ongoing project in Flatanger is 8C.

> The fact that climbers are already using font grades to informally describe routes shows they can be useful, at least some of the time.

Agree, the structure of the route defines the best combination of grading schemes to describe it, and many routes have distinct enough cruxes to be defined by a widely agreed bouldering grade. Less rarified examples than those you mention: at Malham, the crux of Baboo is usually said to be f7a, Overnite is often said to be font7a+-b / V6-7 into sport F7c+; at Kilnsey,the Bulge and Dead Calm are both often described as sport F7b+ into font 6c+/V5 , Stolen is F8a into a V5-6 into a F7a+.
ashtond6 - on 16 Aug 2017
In reply to flaneur:

> Art Brut (Froggat); Monopoly, The Bad And The Beautiful (both Millstone). Source: the grit list.

> Probably some of Julian Lines' horror slabs.

> In reply to the OP:

> Of course the U.K. tech. grade should be dropped for French grades. Every other country in the world uses a cumulative physical difficulty grade for rock climbing. Rockfax will in their forthcoming southern sandstone guide. CC guides do for DWS. The wired Pembroke guides does for >E5. I'd now like to see this extended to more modest grades. I'd like to know if E3 5c means F6a+ (Memory Lane) or F6c (Twikker).

Thank you

Don't worry, they will be gone within 10-20 years as they are pointless
baron - on 16 Aug 2017
In reply to petestack:
The UK system works well for 95% of routes.
Do the French even have an equivalent for V Diff?
ashtond6 - on 17 Aug 2017
In reply to baron:

In the same way that civilisation moves on with anything.
When computers came along, most older people had to adapt to the new better thing.
VDiff- 3c
Michael Gordon - on 17 Aug 2017
In reply to ashtond6:

3c is about the tech grade (Severe 4a, HS 4b etc)
baron - on 17 Aug 2017
In reply to ashtond6:

Binning a whole grading system because there's a very small minority of climbers who can't agree about a very small number of route grades isn't moving on.
It's throwing the baby out with the bath water.
Robert Durran - on 17 Aug 2017
In reply to baron:

> The UK system works well for 95% of routes.

> Binning a whole grading system because there's a very small minority of climbers who can't agree about a very small number of route grades isn't moving on. It's throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Absolutely. Add a French grade where useful (probably mid E grades upwards), but don't throw away what isn't broken.

Dave Cundy - on 17 Aug 2017
In reply to mrteale:

How can one piece of information (e.g. F6a) be more useful than two pieces of information (e.g. E1 + 5a) ? My experience of the french grading system is that it works because the routes where its used tend to have a more consistent character. Its the monotonic consistency of sport routes that generally makes them so unmemorable. Trad routes are more varied and benefit from additional information. Which makes them more interesting. I know which type of route and grading system I prefer...
Bulls Crack - on 17 Aug 2017
In reply to Dave Cundy:

You're right about the more homogenous nature - less interesting? Depends! (and not really a grading issue - stars yes!)

Swapping one for the other is pointless
flaneur - on 17 Aug 2017
In reply to baron, Robert Durran and Dave Cundy:

No-one on this thread has suggested binning the UK adjectival grade, it works well for trad. climbing.

Keep the adjectival grade and add a French grade where it is not currently used. VDiff leaders will welcome knowing if they are starting up a VDiff 2+ (Arrow Route) or a VDiff 4 (Trafalgar Crack). You could equally use a UK technical grade to achieve this but since 90% of beginners start indoors it makes more sense to use the grade they are most familiar with, the French sport grade.
john arran - on 17 Aug 2017
In reply to flaneur:

Would help a lot higher up the scale too. I find it hard to believe that two long, sustained classics like Right Wall (~F6c) and London Wall (~F7a+), neither with any particularly bouldery individual moves, can both be given E5 6a.

And that's in the range (4c-6a) where the tech grades are supposed to be working well!
Ramblin dave - on 17 Aug 2017
In reply to flaneur:

> No-one on this thread has suggested binning the UK adjectival grade, it works well for trad. climbing.

> Keep the adjectival grade and add a French grade where it is not currently used. VDiff leaders will welcome knowing if they are starting up a VDiff 2+ (Arrow Route) or a VDiff 4 (Trafalgar Crack). You could equally use a UK technical grade to achieve this but since 90% of beginners start indoors it makes more sense to use the grade they are most familiar with, the French sport grade.

Again, at low grades in particular I'd find a protection grade a whole lot more useful than either tech or French. Because physical difficulty is very subjective, particularly at a grade where people may well not have had the experience to start developing a "normal, well rounded skillset", but a gearless slab is a gearless slab. It'd also be easier for a more experienced guidebook author to judge. At the (low-ish) grades that I climb, I find that the rockfax "fluttery heart" symbol has a lot more influence on what routes I choose to get on than the tech grade does.
baron - on 17 Aug 2017
In reply to flaneur:
Or we can stick with the UK system and people can read the description that usually accompanies each route.
Michael Hood - on 17 Aug 2017
In reply to john arran:

Are you playing devil's advocate here John. Are there any moves on either of those that are harder than 6a?

It's obvious that LW is sustained from the E5 6a grade and that it's a protectable crack.

Maybe RW not so obvious but I bet most people who climb that will know something about the route already.
Offwidth - on 17 Aug 2017
In reply to Michael Hood:

London W's supposedly a lot harder in the 6a grade than RW and it's more sustained... not always that easy to protect either as stopping to do that saps stamina. I'm amazed given how few onsights it gets that it's stayed at mid E5 on the logbook votes. Interesting to see Brian Halls comment on the top crack section being E2 given how many onsighters only just made it.
john arran - on 17 Aug 2017
In reply to Michael Hood:

> Are you playing devil's advocate here John. Are there any moves on either of those that are harder than 6a?

Not at all. LW is clearly much harder physically, and I think it's a clear weakness of the tech grade that this isn't clear from the grade. I actually always thought LW should be 6b, but that's because I think the lower section merits that grade, but I accept that there's no one single movement that merits it in its own right. It's actually a very good example of how the lack of definition of 'a move' makes it pretty hard to agree a hardest move grade.

> It's obvious that LW is sustained from the E5 6a grade and that it's a protectable crack.
> Maybe RW not so obvious but I bet most people who climb that will know something about the route already.

Actually I'm pretty sure there are heaps of 5c's - particularly bouldery ones - that have harder single movements than any on RW, but for some reason the same logic doesn't apply in all cases.

ashtond6 - on 17 Aug 2017
In reply to john arran:

> Would help a lot higher up the scale too. I find it hard to believe that two long, sustained classics like Right Wall (~F6c) and London Wall (~F7a+), neither with any particularly bouldery individual moves, can both be given E5 6a.

> And that's in the range (4c-6a) where the tech grades are supposed to be working well!

Great example John. It demonstrates the issue perfectly.
I also think LW is top end of 6b at the bottom and then 6b again up top!

Michael Hood - on 17 Aug 2017
In reply to john arran:

I remember when technical grades came in and big Ron was including the difficulty of "getting there" to the technical grade. Hence why he gave Strawberries 7a (if I remember correctly).

The idea being to give the technical grade taking into account climbing the route (even if on a top rope) rather than being figuratively winched in to just below the hardest move (which is what we have now).

Maybe Ron was right, certainly his way would have produced something closer to the French grade.

Regardless, the biggest failing of technical grades does seem to be the compression that has occurred by leading climbers not claiming or accepting routes in the next grade.

To which the easiest answer is surely + and - subdivisions. Can be gradually and easily applied and will provide (or maybe provoke) endless discussion
ashtond6 - on 17 Aug 2017
In reply to Michael Hood:

you mean Strawberries E7 7c+? ;-)

If anyone would care to look back at the forums, when SteMac onsighted it & some guy claimed Ron didn't do the first ascent... people were discussing it based on its sport grade. Because this gives you more information.

Just saying.

https://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?t=666990
https://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?t=590226
baron - on 17 Aug 2017
In reply to ashtond6:
So we'll change an entire system so that the dozen or so climbers who can get their arse up Strawberries can agree how hard it is?
If there's a problem with grade compression then that's what needs to be sorted.
For most climbers it's not an issue.
Michael Gordon - on 17 Aug 2017
In reply to ashtond6:

> Great example John. It demonstrates the issue perfectly.

> I also think LW is top end of 6b at the bottom and then 6b again up top!

I think what both your and John's posts shows is that it's kind of unfair to use an example to make a point about grades then say actually the grade (6a) is probably wrong!
Michael Hood - on 17 Aug 2017
In reply to ashtond6:

If the overall grade is meant to be for the onsight, and this gives an indication of the proportion of climbers that can get up it, then I would say that the lack of onsights of Strawberries indicates that it's badly graded and should really be E8 6b.

Interesting, E5 7a or E8 6b depending on whether the cumulative effect on the perception of technicality is included in the adjectival grade or the technical grade.
Michael Gordon - on 17 Aug 2017
In reply to john arran:

> Would help a lot higher up the scale too. I find it hard to believe that two long, sustained classics like Right Wall (~F6c) and London Wall (~F7a+), neither with any particularly bouldery individual moves, can both be given E5 6a.
>

I also read this and thought you must be playing devil's advocate. Can't comment on those particular examples (though isn't Right Wall probably low in the grade?) but it's surely much in the same way that an E2 5b / E3 5c wall climb could be quite sustained but with spaced gear, while an E2 5b / E3 5c overhanging crack could also be quite sustained but with more gear. It's just the nature of the beast.
Michael Gordon - on 17 Aug 2017
In reply to Michael Hood:

>
> Interesting, E5 7a or E8 6b depending on whether the cumulative effect on the perception of technicality is included in the adjectival grade or the technical grade.

Well, more like the latter obviously since the tech grade is for hardest move. But it used to be E6 and the main reason it was upgraded to E7 was probably the amount of strong suitors who'd failed on it. Some routes are just hard to read onsight.
Michael Hood - on 17 Aug 2017
In reply to ashtond6:

I don't think the French grade gave more information, but it was likely to be more accurate (since the UK system seems a bit broken up there) so in practice on a route like Strawberries it was more useful to those who were likely to get on it.

I suspect that nearly all top trad climbers do a lot of sport as well, so they find it easier to relate to French grades which are relatively easy to apply to sports routes where a one dimensional system appears to work ok.
ads.ukclimbing.com
john arran - on 17 Aug 2017
In reply to Michael Gordon:

> I think what both your and John's posts shows is that it's kind of unfair to use an example to make a point about grades then say actually the grade (6a) is probably wrong!

I can only speak for myself, but I don't doubt that LW could be said to have a hardest move of 6a. If it were possible somehow to be beamed onto it with gear already in place, I doubt the next hand movement would feel particularly hard for 6a. My point is that it's a pointless and unhelpful metric when applied to most routes, i.e. pretty much all routes where the crux isn't directly off a ledge or a good rest. Several such moves in a row, without even being able to chalk up between, really needs to push it up to 6b. Then you quickly get into describing the pitch-top-rope grade rather than the dogging-the-move grade.

The point of any grade is to indicate how hard you can expect to find it, and if you can only ever expect to find it that hard when magically beamed onto it, the grade really isn't of any use to anyone except the crew of the Starship Enterprise. ;-)
Michael Gordon - on 17 Aug 2017
In reply to john arran:

I know you're making the point re London Wall in the context of sport grades, but bear with me. If for an onsight leader the moves feel like 6b because the moves before it have already been hard then surely it should be given 6b? After all, the tech grade of a route should reflect how it feels in the moment, not while hanging on a rope doing one move at a time.
Robert Durran - on 17 Aug 2017
In reply to Michael Gordon:

> I know you're making the point re London Wall in the context of sport grades, but bear with me. If for an onsight leader the moves feel like 6b because the moves before it have already been hard then surely it should be given 6b? After all, the tech grade of a route should reflect how it feels in the moment, not while hanging on a rope doing one move at a time.

No, the tech grade is how hard the hardest move is in isolation! A 6a move is 6a whether it is to leave the ground or after 50m of sustained pumpy climbing.

Michael Gordon - on 17 Aug 2017
In reply to Robert Durran:

That's the theory but when grading routes folk don't hang on a rope doing one move at a time (well, not usually!).
Robert Durran - on 17 Aug 2017
In reply to Michael Gordon:

> That's the theory but when grading routes folk don't hang on a rope doing one move at a time (well, not usually!).

Yes, I agree that some routes are wrongly graded due to the difficulty of deciding how hard a move would feel in isolation - but it should certainly be aspired to.

Jon Stewart - on 17 Aug 2017
In reply to john arran:

> I can only speak for myself, but I don't doubt that LW could be said to have a hardest move of 6a. If it were possible somehow to be beamed onto it with gear already in place, I doubt the next hand movement would feel particularly hard for 6a. My point is that it's a pointless and unhelpful metric when applied to most routes, i.e. pretty much all routes where the crux isn't directly off a ledge or a good rest. Several such moves in a row, without even being able to chalk up between, really needs to push it up to 6b. Then you quickly get into describing the pitch-top-rope grade rather than the dogging-the-move grade.

> The point of any grade is to indicate how hard you can expect to find it, and if you can only ever expect to find it that hard when magically beamed onto it, the grade really isn't of any use to anyone except the crew of the Starship Enterprise. ;-)

This all sounds completely right, but isn't it the same as saying "sport grade works for sustained routes, tech grade works for cruxy routes". And given that only hard routes can honestly be said to be sustained (in that each move adds significant difficulty, even if they're all the same in isolation), we're back where we started: the tech grade works better at low grades, the sport at high grades. Which is actually the system new guides are using...
ashtond6 - on 17 Aug 2017
In reply to baron:

> So we'll change an entire system so that the dozen or so climbers who can get their arse up Strawberries can agree how hard it is?

Or just change it so it works?

Same applies for E3-E6

Robert Durran - on 17 Aug 2017
In reply to john arran:

> The point of any grade is to indicate how hard you can expect to find it, and if you can only ever expect to find it that hard when magically beamed onto it, the grade really isn't of any use to anyone except the crew of the Starship Enterprise. ;-)

That's why we also have an adjectival grade! And in future maybe a French grade too. Obviously if all you had was a tech grade, you would know a lot less what to expect.

baron - on 17 Aug 2017
In reply to ashtond6:

But it does work.
Except for the bit at the top end. Caused it seems by climbers refusing to grade routes properly.
If you want to use French grades for routes above E3, carry on.
It won't affect me or the other 85% of climbers who don't climb that hard.
Could you use the Australian system instead of the French?
Brexit and all that.
ashtond6 - on 17 Aug 2017
In reply to baron:
Haha ok fair enough.
I do believe some HVSs are harder than some E2/3s... but that's probably just misgrading
Post edited at 22:07
john arran - on 17 Aug 2017
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> This all sounds completely right, but isn't it the same as saying "sport grade works for sustained routes, tech grade works for cruxy routes".

No it isn't the same at all. The harder the crux of a cruxy route, the harder both the tech grade and the sport grade it will get, whereas adding any number of additional moves to a sustained route will quite reasonably raise the sport grade but won't change the tech grade one bit. Tech grades work for cruxy routes. Sport grades work for all routes. Admittedly no one measure can work perfectly for everything.


> And given that only hard routes can honestly be said to be sustained (in that each move adds significant difficulty, even if they're all the same in isolation), we're back where we started: the tech grade works better at low grades, the sport at high grades. Which is actually the system new guides are using...

Interesting point, and quite convincing ... were it not for the huge number of climbers who fail on easier routes because they're too pumped to do the next move, to rest, or to hang around long enough to work it out properly.

You're probably right in relative terms though. When a route has plenty of rests, such as the vast majority of climbs up to about Severe, the two grades are describing one and the same thing so will be functionally identical. A route with harder moves between the rests will get a higher grade in both systems, so neither will seem inappropriate or misleading. It's only when you're faced with a hard move you can't rest before - that's when the sport grade comes into its own as it better reflects the added difficulty of getting up it.
Michael Hood - on 17 Aug 2017
In reply to john arran:
whereas adding any number of additional moves to a sustained route will quite reasonably raise the sport grade but won't change the tech grade one bit.

But surely it would raise the adjectival grade instead of the tech grade, hence E1 5a because of sustained nature of 5a moves, etc.

I think it broke down when the "middle" tech grade stopped having a 1-1 increase with the E grade. So "normal" E3 should have been 6a rather than 5c/6a, etc.

This was partly because climbing went through a phase where it was thought that difficulty would increase mainly by getting longer sequences of hard moves rather than individual moves getting harder. Training for stamina rather than strength. Probably just before Jerry and Ben showed that there was still a long way to go with strength.
Post edited at 23:38
Michael Gordon - on 18 Aug 2017
In reply to Michael Hood:

>
> I think it broke down when the "middle" tech grade stopped having a 1-1 increase with the E grade. So "normal" E3 should have been 6a rather than 5c/6a, etc.
>

This theory gets brought out from time to time. But it's quite untrue. The E grade / tech grade combo works absolutely fine at E3. No real reason why both grades should go up at the same rate. At 5c you're much more likely to be on overhanging ground than say, 4c, so it's important to take this into account as fitness becomes much more important in getting up routes. The big stamina E3 5c routes would just be wrongly graded at E2.
Michael Gordon - on 18 Aug 2017
In reply to john arran:

> No it isn't the same at all. The harder the crux of a cruxy route, the harder both the tech grade and the sport grade it will get, whereas adding any number of additional moves to a sustained route will quite reasonably raise the sport grade but won't change the tech grade one bit. Tech grades work for cruxy routes. Sport grades work for all routes. Admittedly no one measure can work perfectly for everything.
>

But for cruxy routes the tech grade both tells you that the route is cruxy AND just how hard that crux is, while the sport grade tells you neither! The tech grade also works well for sustained routes - E2 5b, E3 5c etc - provided you have a modicum of info about the nature of the route, which you would need with the sport grade anyway.
paul__in_sheffield - on 18 Aug 2017
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> This all sounds completely right, but isn't it the same as saying "sport grade works for sustained routes, tech grade works for cruxy routes". And given that only hard routes can honestly be said to be sustained (in that each move adds significant difficulty, even if they're all the same in isolation), we're back where we started: the tech grade works better at low grades, the sport at high grades. Which is actually the system new guides are using...

Jon, not sure which thread it was, but you had a grading system for yourself along the lines of 'tech 6a I don't fall off, tech 6b I sometimes fall off, tech 6c I always fall off' (sorry if I got it very wrong). This is exactly how it works for me, so it's spot on for cruxy routes. I can train harder and up my French grade for steeper routes, but that 6b/c border has been a hard constraint for the past 37 years! This also exactly translates into the hardest bouldering I can do.
So for me the French grade plus tech grade works really well. I think to some extent the f grade also works so well because so many people are familiar with how they are performing in that context.
So after that ramble, no don't bin the tech grade, just add the French grade to E1 and above? The lower grades seem to work pretty well. As an aside, for bouldering I wouldn't mind a Font plus tech grade as standard for the same reasons as above.
ashtond6 - on 18 Aug 2017
In reply to Michael Gordon:
At e3?

Super crack at lorry park quarry, E3 5c, got bolted at 7a

Welcome to hard times - E3 5c 6b

Both safe routes

6b zero stress, 7a would have to dig deep to onsight. So calling them the same grade seems ridiculous.
Liam Ingram - on 18 Aug 2017
In reply to ashtond6:

> Super crack at lorry park quarry, E3 5c, got bolted at 7a

> Welcome to hard times - E3 5c 6b

> So calling them the same grade seems ridiculous.


As you surely realise the problem was that Super Crack was misgraded rather than the system being broken.

1poundSOCKS - on 18 Aug 2017
In reply to ashtond6:

> Super crack at lorry park quarry, E3 5c, got bolted at 7a

7a sport does sound like a sandbag at E3. You would think solid E4 even with pegs.

> Welcome to hard times - E3 5c 6b

If you mean the Staden Quarry route, it gets E2 on here.
Michael Hood - on 18 Aug 2017
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

Maybe he means the direct finish, but I understand that's quite bold which will up the overall grade (even if only from low to higher within the grade).
1poundSOCKS - on 18 Aug 2017
In reply to Michael Hood:

> Maybe he means the direct finish

Thanks. I don't know either route really, was just interesting in the disparity in the French grade, maybe that partly explains it.
ashtond6 - on 18 Aug 2017
In reply to Liam Ingram:

> As you surely realise the problem was that Super Crack was misgraded rather than the system being broken.

Well on that logic all arguments are off. As you can never discuss the point.


*Just noticed, I mean't 'On the Road', not supercrack
duncan - on 18 Aug 2017

In reply to: everyone

Recent injury so I have time on my hands. I’ve summarised the main benefits and disadvantages of changing to the French sport grade from the UK tech. grade at different levels of difficulty and for different groups of climbers. This assumes we're keeping the adjectival grade (Easy-E11). I’ve followed this with some modest conclusions which I’m sure will be uncontroversial!

Up to Severe:
Benefits: additional information as most guides omit UK tech. grades <4a. Familiar to inexperienced climbers transitioning from walls or sport climbing.
Disadvantages: none.

On balance: better for everyone.

VS to ~E2:
Benefits: clearly differentiates between poorly protected and sustained, well-protected routes. Greater differentiation of physical difficulty within a single UK grade. Familiar to climbers transitioning from walls or sport climbing.
Disadvantages: does not differentiate between safe-and-sustained and safe-and-cruxy routes. Unfamiliar to those who only climb UK trad. (currently rare; predicted extinct by 2027).

On balance: better for trad. novices, different but not worse for experienced trad. climbers.

~E3 and harder:
Benefits: clearly differentiates between poorly protected and sustained well protected routes. Gives much needed greater differentiation of physical difficulty within a single UK grade.
Cons: less good at differentiating between safe-but-sustained and safe-but-cruxy routes.

On balance: better for everyone. De facto in use already at >E4.



The main beneficiaries of such a change will be people transitioning from indoor or sport climbing. They are the future of trad. climbing. If current climbers are interested in maintaining a healthy proportion climbing trad. (and by implication better resisting calls to bolt everything) they are advised to minimise barriers to participation. A familiar grade helps. The other beneficiaries will be advanced and elite climbers. They have made the transition already, in their conversations in cafes and pubs or the virtual equivalents.

The group that perceive a disadvantage from this change are mostly experienced VS to ~E3 climbers. As someone astute said upthread, they are male forum regulars and often guidebook writers, a disproportionately influential group.

The main disadvantage of French over UK tech. grades is in differentiating between endurance and bouldery routes, especially in middle grades: E1 6a+ could be UK 5b or 5c. This is a very valid point but could be addressed by occasional use of the UK technical grade (as the French grade is at present), one extra word in the description (“cruxy”, “sustained”), or a topo symbol. The entire rest of the climbing world seems happy with a cumulative physical difficulty grade and I'm unclear what is exceptional about UK trad.

There is also the ‘if it ain't broke’ argument. The UK tech. grade works well for Severe to ~E2 climbers - they designed it - and few embrace change when there is no perceived need. However, this group nearly always have a good idea of what French grades mean. They may not feel this change helps them but they are not going to be significantly disadvantaged by it.

To this group: even if you don’t like this change, you’ll not be worse off and everyone else will be better off. If you're not feeling altruistic, think of it as making a small sacrifice for the healthy future of UK trad. climbing.


ashtond6 - on 18 Aug 2017
In reply to duncan:

Well written Duncan. Hope the shoulder is healing up.

Interesting point on making uk climbing healthier- our grading system often holds people back imo
john arran - on 18 Aug 2017
In reply to duncan:

Well that's cleared that one up then.
What else can you help us with: Tops-off on TPS? Taking Brexit in hand luggage?

Nice one duncan!
drysori - on 18 Aug 2017
In reply to duncan:

I think that treatise sums it up pretty well.
ads.ukclimbing.com
baron - on 18 Aug 2017
In reply to ashtond6:
I watched a young man try to lead Ribstone Crack in the Pass.
The guidebook description (from the Paul Williams guide) -

A steep exposed and well protected crackline.
Hard for its grade.
110ft 4C Climb the obvious crack.
Sustained with a difficult move near the top.

Said young man took numerous falls before exclaiming very loudly and profanely to his watching audience "why can't I f........g do this?
It's only f.........g 4C!"

Luckily the protection was good and he got nowhere the hard move at the top.

I fear that his indoor experience and obsession with the technical grade did him no favours.
But it wasn't the guidebook grade or description that needed changing.
GrahamD - on 18 Aug 2017
In reply to duncan:

You missed one disadvantage, which I suppose comes into the if it ain't broke category. I'm sitting next to a couple of shelves of my guidebooks right now which, I'm guessing, represents thousands and thousands and thousands of man hours of invested effort which you are proposing to obsolete.

I strongly disagree that replaces a UK unambiguously trad technical grade with a sport (bolts or no bolts ?) grades adds anything at all to the information in grades at least as far as E2 in any case. At those levels, fine append a sport or bouldering grade to the adjectival/technical grade in the cases where it adds more info but there is no case. IMO, to recalibrate every single route in the country with an untried system.
1poundSOCKS - on 18 Aug 2017
In reply to duncan:

> To this group: even if you don’t like this change, you’ll not be worse off and everyone else will be better off. If you're not feeling altruistic, think of it as making a small sacrifice for the healthy future of UK trad. climbing.

I like the current system, but I couldn't even explain why. It does make getting on harder trad routes more difficult, but I don't mind that, it's part of the challenge. Maybe not knowing adds rather than subtracts. Telling me I won't be worse off isn't going to change that. Certainly won't be making excuses I'd be climbing harder if it wasn't for the grading system.

Is there any real evidence the future of UK trad will be 'healthy' if we switch to French, and will be 'unhealthy' if we don't? Whatever that means. You might have a better chance of convincing people who don't like the change, rather than just telling them they're selfish if they resist the change.
Offwidth - on 18 Aug 2017
In reply to baron:
Bad grading was arguably always part of the problem on Ribstone Crack since I first met it in the 90s. I was reasonably experienced and quite good at jamming (was working my way through grit HVS brutes at the time) and found it very tough against welsh classic VS grade markers and since then it's got more polished and more bits have fallen off it. I also normally support holding grades on top-end safe routes unless the route has changed (but this route has). This 'Yorkshire childhoods' attitude to lower and mid grading on classics is doing real damage to the wonderful system of UK trad grading and is leading almost inevitably to its eventual demise, as Duncan intimates. Old timers can rant all they want but once new grading systems become commonplace online (as they have for harder routes) they will soon start to be incorporated in paper guides (as alternatives to the Definitives if they try to hold out). Once E4 and above leaders have this the E3 leaders will want it and so on and it will eventually work down to bumblies.
Post edited at 14:01
baron - on 18 Aug 2017
In reply to Offwidth:
You make some very valid comments.
I feel that the use of topo like guides with little or no written description only adds to the problem.
Offwidth - on 18 Aug 2017
In reply to baron:
In the case of Ribstone Crack its arguably as much the description that's broken. Aspirants chase the stars without the right skills and get spanked. Rockfax is even less useful "A great route that feels tough for the grade. " no shit! Best practice in guidebook descriptions both inform and inspire with appropriate brevity and poetic content to match route quality.
Post edited at 14:51
baron - on 18 Aug 2017
In reply to Offwidth:
My Paul Williams guide has all the detail I need and plenty more.
It's a good read even if I'll never do many of the routes.
Many of my Rockfax and selective guides aren't in the same league.

paul mitchell - on 18 Aug 2017
In reply to baron:

I use French bouldering grades when talking to someone who understands them,Brit trad grades for trad routes and sometimes V grades for bouldering.Occasionally I even use bolt grades for when I let the side down and do a bolted route. Really,all these different grades are just kinds of vocabulary for different people and different types of climbing.

What should be banned are the tossers who debate grades which they will never be able to climb.
baron - on 18 Aug 2017
In reply to paul mitchell:

That's me out of here then!
Offwidth - on 18 Aug 2017
In reply to baron:
Paul's description for Ribstone Crack is also below par for him, being rather matter of fact. Functional rather than fleshed out character. Smal quiz ... who described it as " a well protected but fierce VS"?
Post edited at 16:25
Michael Gordon - on 18 Aug 2017
In reply to ashtond6:

> At e3?

> Super crack at lorry park quarry, E3 5c, got bolted at 7a

> Welcome to hard times - E3 5c 6b

> Both safe routes

> 6b zero stress, 7a would have to dig deep to onsight. So calling them the same grade seems ridiculous.


As others say, an E3 is not going to be 7a. Again it's unfair to use examples of routes when the grade is just wrong! And I also thought the Staden Quarry route was meant to be E2?
Michael Hood - on 18 Aug 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

Always wondered why I found it a bit tough for VS about 10 years ago.
Skipinder - on 18 Aug 2017

Yorkshire VS. Simples!


Failing that just ask Mr Haston to grade routes
Post edited at 20:13
baron - on 18 Aug 2017
In reply to Offwidth:
Sorry don't know the answer to your quiz - yet!
My 1961 guide has the route needing two pitons but doesn't say whether they're for protection or aid!
Post edited at 20:30
Jon Stewart - on 18 Aug 2017
In reply to duncan:

Great post and I totally agree, except for one point. Changing from tech to french grades won't make any difference to anything.
Mick Ward - on 18 Aug 2017
In reply to Michael Gordon:

> As others say, an E3 is not going to be 7a. Again it's unfair to use examples of routes when the grade is just wrong! And I also thought the Staden Quarry route was meant to be E2?

Welcome to Hard Times is E2 5c, physically F6b. The direct finish is E3 5c, physically F6b/+. It would get an extra E grade simply because it's runout. Although I haven't done Supercrack, my understanding is that it was always E4 6b, i.e. (one would expect) F7a.

Hope this helps; don't blame me if it doesn't!

Mick
Gordon Stainforth - on 08:54 Sat
In reply to Michael Hood:
> Always wondered why I found it a bit tough for VS about 10 years ago.

Ribstone Crack was still 'a bit tough for VS' 49 years ago (almost to the day, actually). I think we were going quite well that day – we did Shadow Wall, Erosion Groove and Ribstone Crack in quick succession. Found SW hard and awkward, EG hard and good (hardest thing I'd led to date), then RC (John came on to top form then and just stormed up it with very little fuss) very good and 'nearly as hard' as EG. We had non-sticky 'Masters' boots, a single, rather stiff hawser-laid rope, hemp waistlines, just five nuts (4 hexes and a MOAC) and lots of slings (mostly tape, knotted). And no chalk - and I remember it being a very hot and sweaty day. But we really enjoyed it. Hate to say it, but those really were the days. We were mixing with quite a lot of rather eccentric characters who, like us, were just starting to get in to leading. E.g. Al Rouse.

The point is, as a lot of people have said above (e.g. Jon Stewart, Martin Howarth, Duncan, GrahamD etc), it worked just fine, and if it ain't broke, don't fix it. I've always been of the opinion that climbing's more about climbing than about climbing grades, if you know what I mean.

Hope the smiley doesn't go unnoticed. Some people can get far too serious about such un-serious things, IMHO.

Post edited at 09:09
1poundSOCKS - on 10:24 Sat
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> I've always been of the opinion that climbing's more about climbing than about climbing grades

Climbing is also wonderfully diverse, full of history and idiosyncratic. I'm sure some would like to see a more homogenous world, and will argue in favour of utility, but I think it's wrong to assume we won't lose anything. (not specifically aimed at you Gordon BTW).
ashtond6 - on 10:42 Sat
In reply to paul mitchell:

> What should be banned are the tossers who debate grades which they will never be able to climb.

Well in that case everyone can debate it as anyone can train to climb hard if they put their mind to it

Thanks for your inclusively ;)
Offwidth - on 11:44 Sat
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
In my early years from devouring the then current mags, essays and books and getting on with it, I was very sympathetic for that point of view of an adventure perspective; it certainly seemed worthy. Getting more involved with seriously good climbers (whilst retaining obsession) and initially helping then watching other climbers improve (some to close to wad standard), reading earlier and wider works and having a massive route volume behind me, several things became plain to me. Firstly that the history of the UK onsight ethic was rather polished to a romantic sheen in much the same way victorian popular writers did for feudal chivalry. In that, cheating had always been common (those who didn't cheat often used immense talents). That although the strengths of the UK trad grading system were evident and highly useful (say for fairly indicating boldness), they were too often (and seemingly willfully) unused. That just sticking to onsights was in most cases holding climber improvements back. A quick story on this... one of my main climbing partners, having just won The Edge Bouldering comp and onsighting E5 and trying ground up on the odd E6, was helping me to grade check grit and at times in this was struggling to control terror on many an obscure grit E1. More worrying, we both independently nearly fell off solos of Straight Ahead on Stanage, then a Diff. That infamous grading guidebook debate on the tough grit HVS that none of those who felt it shouldn't be upgraded had actually led was just before this time. It really annoyed me that bad grading clearly wasn't there to start with in the earliest guides (you know the kit of the time and see how hard the routes would be given the slightly different skill sets then). Bad grading had 'happened', mainly into, through and out of the 70s and it had become way more common for beginners and bumblies than for the experienced and elite... so other than quickly putting off those intrinsically unsuitable to a risk sport, this spirit of grading looked like plain bs (or worse, things to put people off visits or sadistic humour). It was really hard to believe the HVS and low extreme sandbags were led onsight.. the style required had 'warning lights flashing' of prepractice, inspection and often crucial cleaning. My main concerns were and remain, not the endless popular arguments like "is TPS E1?", it's stuff like "is the top wall on the VD Lands End Long Climb bold HS?" (harder than the small wall on Tophet Wall). Grades like this on classics could get someone seriously hurt... Terriors Tooth was another local example before it fell down.. It simply wouldn't be accepted that a starred classic E3 would in fact be a bold E5, so why impose this idiocy on beginner routes. I'd add that the trad onsight world hasn't changed in any negative sense after my partners and I helped remove hundreds of grit sandbags previously graded severe and below in the BMC and YMC guides (and quite a few harder ones).

The other big modern factor is that adventure seems less in fashion now and sport and bouldering are way more popular and people get used to their much better consistency (and much more sensible subdivisions for the elite grades) in their grading systems (once you get to punter status at least... Font low grade stuff is the worst graded climbing anywhere and old French sport 4s and 5s are pretty terrible). I travel widely and climb and talk with punters and sometimes even wads (across generations) and there seem to be much fewer climbers onsighting mid extremes than when I started, despite increased numbers of climbers, improvements in gear and massive improvements in technical ability of the best climbers. Cragging is now normally an end in itself rather than the once common step to bigger things. People go on bouldering holidays to the Himalaya. In that modern context I think good grading is not only important to encourage adventure and improvement, it may even be neccesary to keep numbers in the onsight game healthy. It's nothing less to ask than that the best climbers always got.
Post edited at 12:00
stp - on 12:13 Sat
In reply to thebigfriendlymoose:

> at Malham, the crux of Baboo is usually said to be f7a, Overnite is often said to be font7a+-b / V6-7 into sport F7c+; at Kilnsey,the Bulge and Dead Calm are both often described as sport F7b+ into font 6c+/V5 , Stolen is F8a into a V5-6 into a F7a+.

That's a really interesting list and seems like a much better system than we have.

Not sure if onsights would still count with that much info though. Knowing where a crux is, is one of the most helpful bits of info. But for routes too hard to onsight such info is would be great for choosing one's next project.

stp - on 12:36 Sat
In reply to Mick Ward:

> Although I haven't done Supercrack, my understanding is that it was always E4 6b, i.e. (one would expect) F7a.

It's definitely not 6b, possibly not even 6a: more pumpy and sustained than anything. It's a pretty soft 7a too, perhaps 6c+ would be better? That would make it E3. It's probably one of those routes hovering on the border of all grades (E3/4, 5c/6a, 6c+/7a). If you're feeling fit probably find it on the lower side, if not then harder. Great route whatever the grade though.


Please Register as a New User in order to reply to this topic.