/ YDS grades: is this right?

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Dave Kerr - on 12 Sep 2017
Just seen the comment below on a FB discussion about US grades:

"May (sic) people just don't understand how its supposed to work. 11d should be a route with sustained 11 climbing for the most part while a 12a could be a route with just a couple of 12 moves. So a 12a could feel much easier than an 11d."

Is that right? If it is I've had it wrong all these years! I assumed (and my experience tended to suggest) that the grade was an overall grade so any given grade could either be sustained at an easier standard or feature a stopper move. In fact, several Americans told me just that.

Thoughts?

1poundSOCKS - on 12 Sep 2017
In reply to Dave Kerr:

> Thoughts?

I think it has varied historically, sometimes it was used like a UK tech grade, sometimes like a French grade. Although I think contemporary thinking is to use it like a French grade.
Dave Kerr - on 12 Sep 2017
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:
> I think it has varied historically, sometimes it was used like a UK tech grade, sometimes like a French grade. Although I think contemporary thinking is to use it like a French grade.

I remember yanks telling me that it varied across the country as well as historically. It's the idea that the letter acted as an indicator of sustainedness that I'd never heard of before.
Post edited at 20:17
Alan Rubin - on 12 Sep 2017
In reply to Dave Kerr:

While some people's interpretations differ--or even some areas--as seems common for all grading systems, your original information is essentially correct. Obviously if a climber is basically a 'boulderer', he might well find an endurance 11d to seem harder than a cruxy 12a, but that is not how the system is meant to work, though the sustained moves vs hard crux issue on how to grade routes under the US system has never been fully worked out. I doubt if any grading system is able to fully capture all the variables--and those that have attempted to do so have been unworkably complex.
wbo - on 12 Sep 2017
In reply to Dave Kerr: hmmm, I think the information given to the op is wrong. All things being equal an 11b route will be harder than 11a rout be it more sustained, powerful, crux you, whatever. 11does not equal move difficulty.

It does vary like heck crag to crag let alone between areas, at least in Colorado
Dave Kerr - on 12 Sep 2017
In reply to Dave Kerr:

Thinking about it, what the guy on FB suggests might actually be a better system!
AlanLittle - on 12 Sep 2017
In reply to Dave Kerr:

> So a 12a could feel much easier than an 11d

Well clearly, but not for the reason given. Rather for the same reason that gnarly top end HVS feels far harder than soft E1.
pasbury on 12 Sep 2017
In reply to wbo:

That's what I always thought and was borne out by experience. Except for old school 5.9.

The number gives overall pitch difficulty and seriousness gets an R or an X.
Robert Durran - on 13 Sep 2017
In reply to Dave Kerr:
> In fact, several Americans told me just that.

Different Americans will tell you different things, but I've never heard the thing about the letter being sustainedness and the number technical difficulty! Nobody really seems to know what the YDS is meant to be measuring. It's a real mess and wildly inconsistent in my experience. But I think there might be some sense in the idea that it is supposed to be the overall physical difficulty of the hardest passage between good stopping points - a sort of mini French grade for the hardest section. I think it may have generally been evolving from being equivalent to a UK tech grade in the direction of becoming more like a French grade - presumably more so in some places than in others! They really ought to scrap it and start again.
Post edited at 00:17
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SenzuBean - on 13 Sep 2017
In reply to Dave Kerr:

There has been a trend to not include the letter grade (but this trend is often not applied consistently - not even within the same page of the guidebook!) and to instead do e.g.
5.10- : hard 5.9, 5.10a or soft 5.10b
5.10: 5.10b/c
5.10+: 5.10c/d or soft 5.11a

I was under the impression that the 'ideal' was for the grade to reflect the hardest single move, but in practice to be 'bent' slightly depending on how sustained the climb was.

Another reason to bin the YDS system is that (I believe - opinion alert!) it encourages excessive bolting. Many times I've found bolts right next to fiddly gear (often it's not even fiddly and it's a solid cam), or in the middle of safe and short runouts (2-3 metre or so, nothing to hit). This I suspect arises from a belief that a 5.7 graded route should be safe for a 5.7 leader. In the UK, there's no such belief e.g. Sunset Slab (HVS 4b) is technically 5.7 or so, but would not be attempted by a 5.7 leader, more like a 5.9 leader.
The 'R' rating seems to be seldom used (I've not even seen one yet at all - only one 'X' route) - either because it's saved for horrendous runouts only, or because the FA doesn't want their route to be unpopular. So what tends to happen is that a bolt or two is placed to keep the route 'within its grade bracket'. This small effect adds up to there being very few satisfying runouts - at least with the more modern routes.
A 'hack' might be to use a + on the R rating e.g. 5.9R- (mild runout, over in a few moves), 5.9R (sustained runout of multiple metres), 5.9R+ (severe runout, falling nearly the height of the crag possible), 5.9R++ (you're going to deck if you fall at the wrong time). But even still, I think that most people want to 'progress' up the grade ladder, and so they will prioritize a 5.10a over a 5.8R - which will still probably leave those climbs in an awkward place where they don't get climbed as much. The UK system really gives easier but runout climbs their fair place at the table, and the YDS just doesn't IMO.
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AlanLittle - on 13 Sep 2017
In reply to SenzuBean:
Reasonable argument, but you could turn it round by saying the uk system allows the bold but weak to kid themselves about the level they are climbing at.

I say this with experience as somebody who used to be one of the bold but weak. These days I'm just weak.

(I'd love to climb a real E3 one day. The two I've done are a 5b death slab and a quasi sport route)
Post edited at 07:05
HeMa on 13 Sep 2017
In reply to SenzuBean:

> Another reason to bin the YDS system is that (I believe - opinion alert!) it encourages excessive bolting.

Horses for cources... UK grading emphasis on danger and boldness, where majority of other systems value physical aspects more.

Adn the grading reflects that. E9, 6c is considered hard climbing in UK, and most likely will involve high risk of injury or worse, yet the technical & physical difficulty really isn't that cuttin' edge (e.g. If 6 Was 9 F8a+). Where as other hard routes elsewhere in different systems have a big grade (e.g. Meltdown F8?, China doll F8b+) due to the fact that they are hard climbing, yet relatively safe.
1
spidermonkey09 - on 13 Sep 2017
In reply to AlanLittle:
Don't take away my bold and weak ticks, I'll have nothing left!
Alan Rubin - on 13 Sep 2017
In reply to SenzuBean:

I'm surely not going to try to 'defend' the YDS--other than that I grew up using it , so it feels 'comfortable' to me. As I said in my earlier post, I've seen no grading system--and I've used quite a few--that is either consistently interpreted or reasonably accounts for all the variables involved.

However, while I don't know where you've climbed, I don't think your observations are accurate for much of the US. I haven't seen any evidence that the YDS "encourages excessive bolting". Sure some areas have more closely spaced bolting than others, and possibly in some isolated cases, even more so on easier graded routes, but that is more a factor of the individual climbing area--or developers, and not the grading system. I've surely seen some reasonably spicy runouts even on bolted 5.7s. Remember the YDS was developed when all there was is what is now considered trad climbing, and is a reflection of that background. If you primarily climb in sport areas, then it is no surprise that you have encountered few 'R' and 'X' rated routes---there really shouldn't be any such sport routes, however most established trad areas have plenty of both--skim the Eldorado Canyon (Colorado) guidebook for just one example. Given that, I don't think that there is any need for the 'hack' you suggested.

Some areas do prefer to differentiate within grades by using "+" and "-" instead of letters, but those designations seem most common in 'old school' trad areas, and often have their own 'local' implications--for example, New Englanders know to beware of routes with the "5.9+" grade--almost always harder than most 5.10s!!!
Rick Graham on 13 Sep 2017
In reply to Alan Rubin:
I always found the YDS worked quite well in Yosemite
The grades are traditionally harsh but fair.
Later developed areas in the US seemed to have easier grading.

The crack size or slab/face is also a good personal indicator, don't expect to find a 5.9 or whatever hand crack the same as a 5.9 offwidth! abcd definitely just a progression/sub grade.

The only time that grades seemed inconsistent, allowing some soft touches, is where useful holds away from a crack could be used. The locals seemed blinkered into using the crack and not considering the "extra" available.

Regarding grade conversion tables, I don't think they translate "both ways "
eg if 5.9 = hvs in the table. A UK climber will find 5.9 E1. A US climber will find hvs 5.10a/b.

All part of the game. The good thing is that us Brits are on holiday when using the YDS.
Post edited at 17:49
jon on 13 Sep 2017
Dave Kerr - on 13 Sep 2017
In reply to jon:

I think the FB discussion was in response to that piece on the R&I website.
Mark Bannan - on 13 Sep 2017
In reply to AlanLittle:

> Well clearly, but not for the reason given. Rather for the same reason that gnarly top end HVS feels far harder than soft E1.

Why do you think this?

I know no grading system is perfect, but if it was, a climb of low E1 should be harder (albeit probably marginally) than high HVS.

M
dagibbs - on 13 Sep 2017
In reply to Dave Kerr:

My understanding (as someone from North America):

Originally YDS was intended to be single-hardest-move grade.

It has drifted towards being an over-all difficulty of the climb grade over time.

Some people still use/hold-to the older style, considering it the correct way to do things. Some the newer style.

Andy Fielding - on 13 Sep 2017
In reply to SenzuBean:
> The 'R' rating seems to be seldom used (I've not even seen one yet at all - only one 'X' route)

Where have you climbed? Snake Dike on Half Dome is 5.7R
AlanLittle - on 13 Sep 2017
In reply to Mark Bannan:

Partly an in-joke, partly self-evidently true ;-)
Robert Durran - on 13 Sep 2017
In reply to Rick Graham:

> All part of the game. The good thing is that us Brits are on holiday when using the YDS.

When I'm on holiday with limited time in a country or area I want a grading system which allows me to select suitable routes for my ability so that I can make the best use of my time. The YDS is, therefore, far from ideal!

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SenzuBean - on 14 Sep 2017
In reply to Andy Fielding:

Admittedly only in Western Canada. Also Snake Dike is an old route isn’t it? Banana Peel is the equivalent style route here, which retains its runouts - but it’s an old route.
David Coley - on 14 Sep 2017
In reply to Dave Kerr:

As traditionally applied, the YDS must be for a single move / short section because many topos mark the place on the pitch where the move/sequence occurs. Sometimes with several grades being indicated at different points on a single pitch.

However, I believe, the need to match with the French concept of overall difficulty of the pitch for bolted routes seems to have led to a drift to an overall pitch grade in some places. For many trad pitches it comes to the same thing, as The Move still dominates the grade.

I'm not sure if the YDS system does (or does not) encourage bolting of run out sections, but I am convinced that the British system did discourage people for bolting during the 80's and 90's when we were all of a fluster about bolts, in that, bolting would have meant a drop in the grade, and hence less opportunity to puff one's chest out: Always better to FA an E3 5b, than an E1 5b.
blahblahblacksheep on 14 Sep 2017 - 209-6-248-224.s2270.c3-0.wrx-ubr1.sbo-wrx.ma.cable.rcncustomer.com
In reply to Dave Kerr:

Brits discussing yosemite decimal grades is exactly like Americans (or the rest of the world, for that matter) discussing E grades. I am American, started climbing in the US, but have since spent more time in Europe than the US.

The YDS is exactly like the sport climbing grades in the rest of the world, be it French, Norwegian, German, Polish, Australian, or wherever. Sometimes in Europe you find a F7a (around 5.11d) harder than a F7a+ (around 5.12a), or a F6c limestone slab bolted by the legendary Mussatto 30 years prior more engaging than any 7b you've ever done...shocking I know, but most climbers do move on with their lives.

In the US additional letters (G, PG, R, X) are assigned to traditionally protected routes to indicate its level of seriousness in terms of safety of the climber. Hence, a climber who's normally leading 5.10 trad sees a route that's rated 5.10 R (run-out, usually meaning gear is generally good but quite spaced), 5.10 R/X (run-out with serious consequences), or 5.10 X (falling would likely result in very serious injuries or even death) would think twice before committing to the route. On the other hand, a 5.10 G (abundant good gear that's not strenuous to place, think Indian Creek splitter hand cracks) or PG (slightly more mentally engaging than G but still very safe) is much more reassuring to him/her.
Dave Kerr - on 14 Sep 2017
In reply to climbnplay:

I know all that. My question was has anyone heard of the notion that within a numerical grade a=one or 2 difficult moves for the grade and d=sustained with lots of moves of that grade as the guy on FB seemed to be suggesting?

It seems the answer is no.
dagibbs - on 14 Sep 2017
In reply to Dave Kerr:

> I know all that. My question was has anyone heard of the notion that within a numerical grade a=one or 2 difficult moves for the grade and d=sustained with lots of moves of that grade as the guy on FB seemed to be suggesting?

> It seems the answer is no.

For that, I agree, the answer is no. 10b is just one grade harder, for whatever that means, than 10a. Just like 11a is one grade harder than 10d, for whatever that means. There is nothing special within a number grade or across number grades.
1poundSOCKS - on 14 Sep 2017
In reply to climbnplay:

> In the US additional letters (G, PG, R, X) are assigned to traditionally protected routes to indicate its level of seriousness in terms of safety of the climber.

The bit I always struggled to understand; how do you know how hard the run out section is? For example, I believe Snake Dyke is 5.7 R, and the R applies to the 5.5 pitches. So to give an extreme example, could 5.13 X be entirely well protected apart from possible death fall on some 5.4 climbing?
Dave Kerr - on 14 Sep 2017
In reply to dagibbs:

> For that, I agree, the answer is no. 10b is just one grade harder, for whatever that means, than 10a. Just like 11a is one grade harder than 10d, for whatever that means. There is nothing special within a number grade or across number grades.

Cheers, sorry if the 'I know all that' sounded a bit snippy!
Mark Bannan - on 14 Sep 2017
In reply to AlanLittle:

I have certainly heard this from climbers before, but when I have experienced this situation, I personally think the sandbag HVS should be upgrades or the easy E1 downgraded.
Alan Rubin - on 14 Sep 2017
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

Usually the 'commentary' in the route description will tell you this, but the most common situation is that the 'protection' grades will be for the crux section or climbing within a couple of grades of the maximum difficulty of the route. Significantly easier sections, even if very runout, often won't be considered in that calculation. I'm sure that there are plenty of exceptions to this, but that has been my experience.
Jonathan Lagoe - UKC - on 14 Sep 2017
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

In these cases the R rating is usually applied pitch by pitch.

Anyway it's no different to doing an E3 6a in the UK. Is the E3 for the one 6a move off the ground or the following unprotected 50ft of 5a? Long John's Slab at Froggat springs to mind as an analogy.

The main problem with the YDS is that it is used for alpine, trad and sport climbs alike. My one-man campaign to get the Americans to use French grades for sport climbs has not been successful so far..
1poundSOCKS - on 14 Sep 2017
In reply to Jonathan Lagoe - UKC:

> In these cases the R rating is usually applied pitch by pitch.

Wasn't even necessarily thinking specifically pitch by pitch, but the Snake Dyke example is obviously that.

> Anyway it's no different to doing an E3 6a in the UK.

I think it's very different. You know the 6a crux won't be 20m up with no gear. Not sure if this is entirely accurate for E3 (but you get the idea), it could involve serious 5b, run out 5c, or 6a that is well protected or off the ground like you say.
AlanLittle - on 14 Sep 2017
In reply to Mark Bannan:

I fear you may be taking the matter a little too seriously.
blahblahblacksheep on 15 Sep 2017 - 209-6-248-224.s2270.c3-0.wrx-ubr1.sbo-wrx.ma.cable.rcncustomer.com
In reply to Dave Kerr:

> I know all that. My question was has anyone heard of the notion that within a numerical grade a=one or 2 difficult moves for the grade and d=sustained with lots of moves of that grade as the guy on FB seemed to be suggesting?

> It seems the answer is no.

like I said, it is EXACTLY the same as what you are probably familiar with, the French grades - i.e. there are "cruxy" 7a's as well as sustained 7a's. Whoever suggested that "a" exclusively means "cruxy" and "d" means "sustained" in the YDS doesn't know what he/she is talking about.
blahblahblacksheep on 15 Sep 2017 - 209-6-248-224.s2270.c3-0.wrx-ubr1.sbo-wrx.ma.cable.rcncustomer.com
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:
> The bit I always struggled to understand; how do you know how hard the run out section is? For example, I believe Snake Dyke is 5.7 R, and the R applies to the 5.5 pitches. So to give an extreme example, could 5.13 X be entirely well protected apart from possible death fall on some 5.4 climbing?

In the example you give, the route wouldn't be rated at 5.13 X because the likelihood of a 5.13 trad climber falling on the 5.easy bit is very unlikely. Now let's say the route is rated 5.13 PG over-all but with a very very run-out section at 5.10 X (a common scenario if the first 10 meters of the route is unprotected and has a difficulty of 5.10) - generally this would be described as: 5.13 PG (5.10 X).

In multipitch things are (at least should be) a little more detailed. For example, let's say we are looking at a 8-pitch 300m route which has a crux pitch of 5.12 PG and generally well protected with the exception of 2 pitches, respectively at 5.9 R/X and 5.11- R. A good route description would read: 5.12 PG, 8 pitches, 300m (5.11- R, 5.9 R/X).

Hope this helps.
Post edited at 01:38
blahblahblacksheep on 15 Sep 2017 - 209-6-248-224.s2270.c3-0.wrx-ubr1.sbo-wrx.ma.cable.rcncustomer.com
In reply to Jonathan Lagoe - UKC:

> In these cases the R rating is usually applied pitch by pitch.

> Anyway it's no different to doing an E3 6a in the UK. Is the E3 for the one 6a move off the ground or the following unprotected 50ft of 5a? Long John's Slab at Froggat springs to mind as an analogy.

> The main problem with the YDS is that it is used for alpine, trad and sport climbs alike. My one-man campaign to get the Americans to use French grades for sport climbs has not been successful so far..

it has caused no harm in the US, as far as I know. Nobody has gone completely bonkers over the fact that one system is applied to several disciplines of climbing. In fact, it puts things in plain sight of climbers, unlike the E grades, I dare say!
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1poundSOCKS - on 15 Sep 2017
In reply to climbnplay:

> In the example you give, the route wouldn't be rated at 5.13 X because the likelihood of a 5.13 trad climber falling on the 5.easy bit is very unlikely.

Thanks, that's what was explained before and does make sense. Just not something I've heard before, and not included in the usual grading description which just describes R as run out for example.
Robert Durran - on 15 Sep 2017
In reply to Jonathan Lagoe - UKC:

> My one-man campaign to get the Americans to use French grades for sport climbs has not been successful so far..

Nor has my one man campaign to get Americans to use UK grades for trad climbs
AlanLittle - on 15 Sep 2017
In reply to Robert Durran:

Personally I'm for French grades* plus R/X etc for everything.

* or Australian if we want to be *really* sensible
HeMa on 15 Sep 2017
In reply to AlanLittle:
Actually Scandinavian is better. But What ever.
AlanLittle - on 15 Sep 2017
In reply to HeMa:

Nah. Still has the plus/minus nonsense. Mr Ewbank got it right.
DubyaJamesDubya - on 15 Sep 2017
In reply to Robert Durran:

5.13 PG (5.10 X).

This sounds pretty descriptive for a single pitch.
Robert Durran - on 15 Sep 2017
In reply to DubyaJamesDubya:

> 5.13 PG (5.10 X).
> This sounds pretty descriptive for a single pitch.

Yes it is. But it's only any good if the system is used consistently. This was supposed to represent a pitch with a PG 5.13 "bit" and an R 5.10 "bit". The trouble is that there seems to be no agreement over what constitutes a "bit".
French Erick - on 15 Sep 2017
In reply to DubyaJamesDubya:

So the PG rating means you need your parents permission, right? I'll probably stick for the 18 then as my mum thinks nowt should ever be climbed.

I come out of this thread more confused then ever so will apply the confirmation bias and go by what I think is right ;)

Going to the States is always traumatic for the ego as the OP should know: 5.9+ (if I wanted to go f*cking caving I would have gone to f*cking Yorkshire) with flared OW and swinging trees!!!!
Rick Graham on 15 Sep 2017
In reply to Dave Kerr:

What I do not think has been pointed out yet is that YDS developed mainly for climbs on Californian granite.

Protection is pretty obvious, either as much as you can carry on a crack climb, bugger all unless bolted on slabs.
Cruxy pitches are relatively rare.

The originators of the system probably had no reason to think of allowing for sustained/cruxy pitches or protection.

Chris Craggs - on 15 Sep 2017
In reply to Rick Graham:

> What I do not think has been pointed out yet is that YDS developed mainly for climbs on Californian granite.

> Protection is pretty obvious, either as much as you can carry on a crack climb, bugger all unless bolted on slabs.

> Cruxy pitches are relatively rare.

> The originators of the system probably had no reason to think of allowing for sustained/cruxy pitches or protection.

I remember reading years ago that originally the YDS was the equivalent of a UK tech grade. When Crescent Arch was first climbed, there was so much 5.9 on it some folks wanted to grade it 5.10. I guess that's where their problems began.

Personally I have done 5.9 routes that were HVS and others that were E3!

Chris
Rick Graham on 15 Sep 2017
In reply to Chris Craggs:


> Personally I have done 5.9 routes that were HVS and others that were E3!

Both British tech 5b, then ?

DubyaJamesDubya - on 20 Sep 2017
In reply to Chris Craggs:

> I remember reading years ago that originally the YDS was the equivalent of a UK tech grade. When Crescent Arch was first climbed, there was so much 5.9 on it some folks wanted to grade it 5.10. I guess that's where their problems began.

> Personally I have done 5.9 routes that were HVS and others that were E3!

> Chris

You've convinced me that UK grading is best.

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