UKC

/ Scottish winter grading

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tjoliver - on 22 Jan 2018

Did a route the other day that got me thinking on how Scottish winter routes are graded. Take a hypothetical two pitch route that's got one very bold but technically moderate pitch (say VI 5) and a second technically harder but short-lived and well-protected pitch (say V 7). If I were to get out my SMC guidebook, would the route therefore be graded VI 5 even though there are tech 7 moves involved?

Post edited at 13:44
Misha - on 22 Jan 2018
In reply to tjoliver:

I’d say VI 7. Same principle for trad, so a 2 pitch route with E2 5b and E1 5c would be E2 5c overall. The guide book should ideally have a comment about it, eg a bold but easier pitch precedes a short and sharp pitch.

Rick Graham on 22 Jan 2018
In reply to Misha:

Have you two been paying attention?

This gets done to death every winter on here.

Winter grading is really only a guess, be pleased if its only one grade out.

20 years ago it would be IV and a bit of banter about it in the pub

Misha - on 22 Jan 2018
In reply to Rick Graham:

Depends on the route - 20 years a fair few of the currenty existing Scottish winter routes hadn’t been done yet!

Sophie G. - on 22 Jan 2018
In reply to Rick Graham:

Old Scottish IV has the same resonance as Scottish VS, a phrase to make the hairs stand on your neck

 

vscott - on 22 Jan 2018
In reply to tjoliver:

Can think of a few routes like this... generally reckon Roman numeral best suited to overall route (so guess VI if very bold tech 5) + Arabic numeral of hardest tech move (7 in your example) = VI 7 ... but might equally get V 7 with a guidebook comment of a serious easier pitch, pinches of salt all round as per...    

Talking of 'pub banter grades' always enjoyed the personal 5p's scale = piss, pleasant, pushy, possible, (im)possible...

Big Lee - on 22 Jan 2018
In reply to tjoliver:

VI,7 R

A slightly tongue in cheek answer, but to honest the above grade would say it all without breaking down pitches.

Fergal - on 22 Jan 2018
In reply to tjoliver:

So is youre "friend" recieving counciling for the trauma caused by this grade injustice......go on tell us which route this was, if it was graded Vl 5 and you found tech 7 moves it could just be out of condition, some mixed routes are graded for a little ice you know.

PS. or just having a heavy gravity day, have you been on the pies recently! 

Post edited at 17:54
Mark Bannan - on 22 Jan 2018
In reply to Sophie G.:

> Old Scottish IV has the same resonance as Scottish VS, a phrase to make the hairs stand on your neck

Agreed! I got on one of these once (Innuendo on Bidean) and ended up doing my first V by accident!

J Whittaker - on 22 Jan 2018
In reply to Fergal:

tjoliver - are you asking because you're wondering what to grade your potential new route from the other day? Now you're getting the standard UKC hazing about winter grades?

tjoliver - on 22 Jan 2018
In reply to Misha:

Cheers. That probably makes the most sense.

tjoliver - on 22 Jan 2018
In reply to J Whittaker:

Ha, I had a feeling I'd be in for some abuse when I asked! Was actually thinking of another route, though could arguably apply to that route too depending on how techy you think the second pitch is.

Sophie G. - on 22 Jan 2018
In reply to Mark Bannan:

My first tech 5 was The Seam. We only found out after we'd climbed it

TobyA on 22 Jan 2018
In reply to tjoliver:

I think it's probably going to end up with VI,7 but you would hope that the guide book would note that the easier pitch is bold.

I don't think its particularly settled still how the grades are best used. You need to know a bit about the cliff and its reputation in addition to the grades I reckon, to really get some idea of what to expect.

I did a route on Saturday that had two pitches not unlike your hypothetical one - the first was a bit run out, and the runners that there were were often slings over little easy to knock off spikes. It was mainly turf reliant but felt rather like classic IV,4 gully climbing - I don't think the runnouts warranted V,4. Then the second pitch was very well protected mixed, with some burly moves up a vertical wall on excellent hooks - classic IV,5. In the guide book the route gets V,5 - why I'm not really sure!?

Goucho on 22 Jan 2018
In reply to Rick Graham:

> Have you two been paying attention?

> This gets done to death every winter on here.

> Winter grading is really only a guess, be pleased if its only one grade out.

> 20 years ago it would be IV and a bit of banter about it in the pub

Stop trying to wind the younglings up, Rick

Misha - on 23 Jan 2018
In reply to Rick Graham:

Grade IV? You were lucky to have grade IV in t'guide book. It were all grade III in me days and we never even had a guide book. We used to get sent out by our Ma at dusk to scale 'em iced up cliffs in our kecks by the light of a candle to forage for ptarmigan eggs in t'middle o'winter an' all we had were half a yard o'twine an' a six point crampon between the seven of us. Them were the days... Of course we were lucky 'cos there were also them poor buggers that had to live in a snowhole on the Cairngorm plateau all year round, seeing as the snow never melted even on Aviemore high street, and they had to walk twenty mile every day, eight days a week, through ten foot snowdrifts just to get to school. We were happy of course back then, putting up new routes every day with our broken alpenstock on our way to the newsagent which were o'er the hills in Braemar. Passable, this Arc'teryx we got now, very passable. 

Dave Kerr - on 23 Jan 2018
In reply to Misha:

Do you have British citizenship Misha? If not and you were to apply you should include the above paragraph as evidence of your deep understanding of British culture.

J Whittaker - on 23 Jan 2018
In reply to Misha:

This was read in a strong Lancashire accent in my head. Now, best get back t' pit.

Misha - on 23 Jan 2018
In reply to Dave Kerr:

Aye, got that. Citizenship, we were lucky to have any passport in them days...

Robert Durran - on 23 Jan 2018

So does anyone have a definitive answer to the OP's question?  On it's own a grade of VI,5 gives a completely different message from VI,7.

 

Goucho on 23 Jan 2018
In reply to Robert Durran:

> So does anyone have a definitive answer to the OP's question?  On it's own a grade of VI,5 gives a completely different message from VI,7.

Scottish winter grading went downhill when they introduced the tech grade.

It's taken all the fun out of it

HeMa on 23 Jan 2018
In reply to Robert Durran:

 

I though this two-tier system is the best of all things...

And now you seem to think it ain't.


After all, in this case a simple grade of VI is more than enough information... even without any text... 

;p

Robert Durran - on 23 Jan 2018
In reply to HeMa:

> I thought this two-tier system is the best of all things...

> And now you seem to think it ain't.

Not at all.  I'd just like to know how it works in this case.

> After all, in this case a simple grade of VI is more than enough information... even without any text... 

Unless you'd like to know whether you are getting a pitch of VI,5 or a pitch of VI,7 which might well affect your choice of route. Just like E2, 5a and E2, 5c

Though I do agree with Goucho that the introduction of the tech grade took something away from winter climbing.

 

Post edited at 10:07
Goucho on 23 Jan 2018
In reply to Robert Durran:

> Not at all.  I'd just like to know how it works in this case.

> Unless you'd like to know whether you are getting a pitch of VI,5 or a pitch of VI,7 which might well affect your choice of route. Just like E2, 5a and E2, 5c

> Though I do agree with Goucho that the introduction of the tech grade took something away from winter climbing.

To be honest Rob, given the vagueries of Scottish winter conditions, anyone who can tell the difference between a V 4, and a V 5, has got a far more highly tuned technical awareness than me.

I often struggle to tell the difference between V and VI

Sophie G. - on 23 Jan 2018
In reply to Goucho:

V,4 tends to be used as a warning grade, a grade that tells you something pretty specific, like a 3-no-trumps opening bid in bridge. What V,4 says to me is "not that difficult, but really badly run out". Zero Gully, for example.

I'd rather climb a V,5 any day.

 

Post edited at 10:41
Sophie G. - on 23 Jan 2018
In reply to Robert Durran:

>>the introduction of the tech grade took something away from winter climbing.

How could it do that? It's just information. And why not useful information? Maybe even fun information. I climbed a line not long ago in Coire Garbhlach that, if we'd taken the direct finish (we couldn't, we hadn't brought the rope), would probably have merited a II,7 grade. That would have kind of stood out in the next edition of the Cairngorms Guide

 

Post edited at 10:47
Robert Durran - on 23 Jan 2018
In reply to Sophie G.:

> >>the introduction of the tech grade took something away from winter climbing.

> How could it do that? It's just information. 

Precisely. It took away a lack of information ;-)

 

Robert Durran - on 23 Jan 2018
In reply to Sophie G.:

> V,4 tends to be used as a warning grade,

> I'd rather climb a V,5 any day.

I'd rather climb V,6 any day. 

 

HeMa on 23 Jan 2018
In reply to Robert Durran:

Or V,7

Sophie G. - on 23 Jan 2018
In reply to Robert Durran:

> Precisely. It took away a lack of information ;-)

Sure, and my question wasn't purely rhetorical. I suppose if we want to climb without info, we can deliberately avoid the guidebook; or just pick our own line up the crag; or new-route... 

Goucho on 23 Jan 2018
In reply to Sophie G.:

> V,4 tends to be used as a warning grade, a grade that tells you something pretty specific, like a 3-no-trumps opening bid in bridge. What V,4 says to me is "not that difficult, but really badly run out". Zero Gully, for example.

> I'd rather climb a V,5 any day.

I think there's a certain placebo effect going on regarding the tech grading of winter routes. 

I've climbed Point 5 and Zero a number of times, and I can't really tell the difference in 'real terms' in the technical difficulties beyond what condition they were in at the time, and neither could any of the numerous friends who've done them either.

For years the classic Ben Nevis V's were climbed simply as a V. Some had short hard cruxes, others were a bit longer and run out, others were not as hard technically, but more sustained, but on balance they were all V.

We all new that Orion Direct was bigger and more full on than Point 5, and that Minus II was a tough bugger compared to Zero.

There seems to be a need to apply metrics to every aspect of climbing these days. To quantify and apply a numerical calculation, even if that calculation is open to differing interpretations.

Winter grades by their very nature, can only ever be a reasonably well informed approximation, totally dependant on the conditions on the day.

 

Post edited at 11:52
Rick Graham on 23 Jan 2018
In reply to Goucho:

> We all knew that Orion Direct was bigger and more full on than Point 5, and that Minus II was a tough bugger compared to Zero.

I always found Zero the hardest of those four.

A short chimney on the first pitch on the left hand variation.

Must be conditions

IIRC the tech grades came in to better describe mixed and ice routes.

With more attempt at accuracy, the inevitable result is grade creep, but so what, its all relative, hopefully.

Goucho on 23 Jan 2018
In reply to Rick Graham:

> I always found Zero the hardest of those four.

I've a friend who reckons if you catch it in crap enough condition, it's a solid VI

> A short chimney on the first pitch on the left hand variation.

> Must be conditions

> IIRC the tech grades came in to better describe mixed and ice routes.

> With more attempt at accuracy, the inevitable result is grade creep, but so what, its all relative, hopefully.

I reckon trying to be too accurate with Scottish winter grades, is like trying to predict which shop your wife is finally going to buy a dress from?

 

Rick Graham on 23 Jan 2018
In reply to Goucho:

> I've a friend who reckons if you catch it in crap enough condition, it's a solid VI

It was my first "V", so I did not know any better

Doug on 23 Jan 2018
In reply to Goucho:

> We all new that Orion Direct was bigger and more full on than Point 5, and that Minus II was a tough bugger compared to Zero.

Agree for Nevis & Glencoe, but when you went somewhere a little of the beaten track, maybe Torridon back in the days of poor roads, we had no idea if a V in the guidebook was going to be similar to Zero (so possible) or to Minus II (probably too hard for me to have much hope of success).

edit to correct spelling

Post edited at 12:25
Goucho on 23 Jan 2018
In reply to Rick Graham:

> It was my first "V", so I did not know any better

You knarly old sod

I think mine was The Curtain - before it got downgraded!

Rick Graham on 23 Jan 2018
In reply to Goucho:

> You knarly old sod

I was young at the time, we all were once

Thinking about it, only my second Scottish winter lead.

A few days soloing around over the years before and a bit in the Alps.

Felt invincible with a pair of Terrors after using straight axes.

Straight as in not dropped picks, not straight shafts, for our younger viewers

 

 

Goucho on 23 Jan 2018
In reply to Rick Graham:

> I was young at the time, we all were once

> Thinking about it, only my second Scottish winter lead.

> A few days soloing around over the years before and a bit in the Alps.

> Felt invincible with a pair of Terrors after using straight axes.

> Straight as in not dropped picks, not straight shafts, for our younger viewers

Terror's were a revelation weren't they!

I remember the first time I used a pair. At that time I was using an old Curver axe for my left hand, and an old Salewa hammer for my right - in other words just about as shit as you can get this side of an alpenstock

One of my friends bounded up to meet us at the CIC hut like a hyperactive gazelle, with a huge grin on his face, and proceeded to pull a shiny new pair of Terror's out of his sack - complete with the orange lobster basket leashes.

"Get a load of these beauties"

I took one look at those wonderful steeply dropped picks, grabbed them off him, and then grabbed Mike and ran off with them towards Point 5.

Armed with Hamish's wonderful new creation, we literally ran up it. Couldn't believe how much easier they made things.

Bought a pair the minute I got back home, and only stopped using them when Simond bought out the Chacal/Baracuda's - which are still the weapons I use to this day.

Stuart en Écosse - on 23 Jan 2018
In reply to Goucho:

Ha. The first pair of technical tools I had were a Terror hammer (with circulation stopping orange nylon twine strap) and a Chacal, bought expediently because I was skint. They were a revelation compared to the 55cm Mt Tech axe/hammer combo I'd been using. After a quick play with them I think the first thing I did was solo Chaos Chimney followed by the Screen and The Smear. I even had a beard and everything and I was only 25 A Barracuda followed which was significantly better than having mismatched tools, and that huge adze was like a mini deadman for pulling on crud. Mind you, I'll bet Nomics are better still

Misha - on 23 Jan 2018
In reply to Goucho:

Terrors? You were lucky to have Terrors. All we 'ad were a wooden stick which we would chop down in t'forest while we were walking in after a cold night kipping in t'stream and a breakfast bowl of ice cold graupel. But we were 'appy in them days, none o'this grade debate drivel.

Post edited at 19:47
Misha - on 23 Jan 2018
In reply to Stuart en Écosse:

> A Barracuda followed which was significantly better than having mismatched tools, and that huge adze was like a mini deadman for pulling on crud. Mind you, I'll bet Nomics are better still

Depends if you need an adze to pull on crud... Nomics not the best for that!

Interested to see what this new Nomic will be like. May be it won't have the wobbly head issue...

Sophie G. - on 23 Jan 2018
In reply to Misha:

a breakfast bowl of ice cold graupel

 

A bowl? You got a BOWL?

Misha - on 23 Jan 2018
In reply to Sophie G.:

Well, it were a bowl found at t'rubbish tip as we were scavenging for food, as we did every night, and it were a cracked bowl at that.

iceox - on 23 Jan 2018
In reply to Rick Graham:

> Have you two been paying attention?

> This gets done to death every winter on here.

> Winter grading is really only a guess, be pleased if its only one grade out.

> 20 years ago it would be IV and a bit of banter about it in the pub

Scottish winter grades were done for a reason.
4 was ok.
5 Could be dangerous.
6 demanded judgment.
In a short period of time it went to routes like 'the Secret 9',almost
anyone can dogg and frigg.
Since downgraded..all good.
They were in my opinion changed by egos/cocks.
Now you have mobiles,gps,amazing light kit and people on the hill.
The Norries are like cragging, in terms of overall danger.
Do a 4 hour walk in and out or more into more remote areas,not the same.

Lamb - on 23 Jan 2018
In reply to tjoliver:

My understanding would be that it would be given VI,7 overall with the idea being that a competent grade VI leader would comfortably be able to deal with bold tech 5 climbing, essentially having at least one full tech grade in hand. The climber knows that there is tech 7 climbing to handle, so he/she should at least be fully competent pulling tech 6 moves. The overall grade provides the climber with an idea of the prerequisite skills, ability and experience required in order to safely complete the route.

I stand to be corrected however.

Imo I would prefer guidebook descriptions to provide tech grades for each pitch if possible, similar to most summer guidebook descriptions. I know some would find this excessive, but it would be particularly useful when climbing with less experienced but competent partners, where you can then better plan out leads.

Mark Bannan - on 25 Jan 2018
In reply to Sophie G.:

I guess  I was better informed before I got on the Seam - I knew it was IV,5 and knew I really wanted to lead the excellent top pitch. Great route - superb gear on top pitch removed fear factor.

 

M


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