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Winter Grade Conversion

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 LouisKennedy 15 Nov 2020

Hi All,

I have recently been doing a little bit of dry tooling and have been trying to find some information on how M(X) grades compare to Scottish winter tech grades. Does anyone have any information on this?

I have had little experience with M grades and was just interested to see a rough conversion scale, but it seems to be a niche thing to look for! 

Thanks in Advance,

Louis

Post edited at 00:02
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In reply to LouisKennedy:

Firstly, welcome to the wonderful world of tooling, you have started on your path to true enlightenment and have changed your life forever! As a very rough comparison you add one, so M7 would be equivalent to Scottish 8, but it would only apply to the technical/physical aspect of the route. In many ways it makes sense to use the continental D grades rather than M grades for bolted tooling routes, but that's another conversation.

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 HeMa 15 Nov 2020
In reply to climber34neil:

The few lines I climbed in Scottland were VI 7 (perhaps on the softer side of things. Cutlass (VI 7)Central Buttress (Winter) (VI 7), and Para Andy (VI 7)), and AFAIK the tech 7 felt like the local M4s in a similar style (vertical to vertical, snowed up rock).

Perhaps the to local grading is rather harsh or the three main lines I climbed in Scotland were uber soft. But from my experience the add one if far from the truth... more like add 2 or 3 ;).

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In reply to HeMa:

Yeah I guess it's hard to compare a steep tooling route to something more traditional as the styles are totally different, thinking about it something like savage slit probably feels about M3/4 ish , and if course it's easier to be brave with a line of bolts and for things to feel easier than on a mixed route

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 Pina 15 Nov 2020
In reply to LouisKennedy:

Always difficult to compare a pure tooling route to a mixed route but if comparing to snowed up rock routes I've found it tends to be about a +2 to the tech grade in the lower grades. So a V,6 can feel like a D4 or so with the obvious added issue of placing trad gear, digging for gear, conditions...etc

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 HeMa 15 Nov 2020
In reply to climber34neil:

well, to be honest the stuff as I was comparing locally was actually with trad gear, no bolts. So for once, comparing apples to apples (x86 vs ARM ;) ).

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 Big Lee 15 Nov 2020
In reply to HeMa:

Worth bearing in mind though that Scottish stuff can vary by a full grade depending on the conditions. I see you did those ascents in 2014. That was a really f*cked up season, even by Scottish standards! A lot of stuff that climbed that season at least was technically easier than normal because of the crazy amount of snow, although very hard to protect because all the gear placements were buried.

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 HeMa 15 Nov 2020
In reply to Big Lee:

Well. To be honest, all the stuff I did was mostly scratching on rock. The exceptions being the first pitch of Cutlass and Para Andy (IIRC), which were casual steep snow plods. So for those routes, I think the snow might have made more difficult. It was not load bearing and covered all the possible holds as well. 

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 DaveHK 15 Nov 2020
In reply to HeMa:

Para Andy is probably middling VI 7 definitely not VII and definitely not V. Can't speak for the others.

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 HeMa 15 Nov 2020
In reply to DaveHK:

I was mostly thinking in terms of Tech, not the overall grade.

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 Webster 15 Nov 2020
In reply to HeMa:

most continental dry tooling (alpine at least, cant comment on scandi), tend to be overhanging, with big moves between positive drilled hooks, so hard to compare to scottish mixed. But the M/D 4s at newtyle, which are slabby with at least some natural hooks, are a fair comparison and work with the generalised conversion of +1 grade, i.e. the corner crack M4 feels similar to a scottish V 5.

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 HeMa 15 Nov 2020
In reply to Webster:

The mixed we have tends to only get overhanging at M7 or so. And pretty much Nothing overhangs below M5, at least without hudge holds. But it’s predominantly natural granite here. So often off vertical, delicate and presise. 
 

Drytoolin on limestone tends to be more overhanging/roofs.

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 French Erick 17 Nov 2020
In reply to HeMa:

Interestingly, for those of us that have done a fair bit of winter climbing in Scotland, the tech grade is never particularly relevant WITHOUT the overall grade. 

If someone tells me they pulled tech 7 moves at the weekend, I have almost no idea what they are saying without the addition of the overall grade and the conditions (as the increasingly ubiquitous 'good early season nick' or 'blootered'). V,7 and VIII,7 won't have the same impact on my risk assessment and bowel control! If the V,7 is verglassed or buried it is already another kettle of fish. I can only  imagine finding myself by accident on a VIII,7. I would not willingly choose to undertake one.

I haven't got much experience of the M grade apart from 2/3 sessions at Birnam. It felt physically hard and mentally chilled. Some of the m6-m7 moves I would never dream of pulling on a winter route because I am both weak and a woose!

I have no doubt that a dry-tooler with a strong head could absolutely rampage the hard Scottish classics. Tons of physical ability and stamina in the bag and a willingness to pull hard above gear would make you a merciless weapon! However, would they have the patience to tick those classics so that aren't dry tools.... harder to predict. ;)

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 HeMa 17 Nov 2020
In reply to French Erick:

Well, like you pointed out. Them Elite drytoolers are putting up incredible feats when they do visit Scotland.

my short visit was as said just a scrach of the surface. Being both weak in the hands and also the head. but the stuff I climbed wasn’t that scary (perhaps cause the climbing wasn’t per se that hard, just ankward). But it’s the same with e-grades on rock. I just don’t get it. Too many variables. The nice, ballsy, deadly and how hard physically part I can just about grasp. Which is why I tend to think about the physical aspect (you won’t find me on ballsy or deadly routes), and one aspect is also how sketchy/thin the moves feel.

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In reply to LouisKennedy:

I think it's almost impossible to compare. It's like comparing sport and trad, except the differences are even greater. In terms of individual moves, it might be just about comparable - add one or perhaps two to get to the Scottish winter equivalent. However, as French Eric points out, tech grades in winter don't mean very much on their own. It's all about the conditions on the day (which can make a mixed route feel a grade easier or harder), how sketchy the moves are, how sustained the moves are, what the gear is like - all of which can depend on the conditions.

Besides, tooling routes tend to be redpointed (at least at the harder grades), so you're comparing redpointing vs onsighting. There's a world of difference between doing a hard sequence of moves where you know exactly what to do and doing a much easier sequence of moves where you need to figure out what to do, especially if you're having to clear snow/verglas to get to the holds and the gear, all the while worrying about that last piece of gear some way below your feet as you get pummelled by spindrift, buffeted by the wind and weighed down by your rack, knowing that you've got a few more pitches of this to contend with...

One thing is for sure, having strength and fitness from tooling will certainly help with your confidence when winter climbing. It's good to know that you can do a hard move if you really have to, even though you'll be using all your cunning to avoid doing moves which are harder than they need to be. It's even better to know that you have reserves of fitness to draw upon because fitness is what you really need for winter climbing - being able to hang on while you search for placements or gear is invaluable. It's may be different at the top grades, where the moves actually get hard(er), but at the VI-VII level I tend to climb at it's never about how hard the individual moves are, it's about being able to get from one rest to another without getting terminally pumped.

Put it this way, I'd much prefer to pull harder, overhanging moves on positive hooks than scratch around on tenuous holds where the moves are easier but you have to spend forever clearing placements and psyching up for the next tentative motion.

A better question to ask might be, for a given climber, what tooling vs winter grades they climb. Even this won't be conclusive as it depends what people do more of / are better at. There will be many winter warriors who are solid on VII or VIII and do hardly any tooling. There will also be many toolers who are into double digit M grades but don't do much winter (perhaps because they don't want to or they don't have the time) and hence only climb V or VII. In recent years (not this year...) I've done a fair bit of tooling in autumn / winter up to M11 redpoint (British grading - as Neil says above, our tooling routes should really get D grades, which I think are meant to be 1 lower than M grades but I might be wrong on this; I've not done much tooling in the Alps but the stuff I've done has tended to be comparable at the same number grade, i.e. D9 there about the same as M9 here). This has felt like the physical limit for me, at least without doing specific training. I've also done a reasonable amount of Scottish and Welsh winter up to VII 8. This hasn't felt like the limit for me but I've been careful not to push it too much. I wouldn't dream of leading Scottish X but I should be able to do VIII.

Another comparison, just to give you an idea of the relative difficulty of winter climbing grades, is trad vs winter grades. Again, different people will give you different answers, depending on what they're better at. I do more rock climbing, so my view will be influenced by that. For mixed, assuming reasonable winter conditions and mid grade vs mid grade (ignoring safe but hard or bold but easy outliers), I would suggest V = E1/2, VI = E3, VII = E4 and I imagine VIII = E5 (I've done E5 but not VIII). I know someone who does lost more winter and probably less rock, who would tell you VII = E2. There is no exact answer, even before you factor in the variability of winter conditions. However IV is certainly not E4 and VII is certainly not VS...

I don't know if this answers your question but it's probably impossible to answer it anyway... hope this helps a bit though.

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 DaveHK 18 Nov 2020
In reply to Misha:

> I know someone who does lost more winter and probably less rock, who would tell you VII = E2. 

I'd agree with that but muddy the waters further by saying that there aren't many E2s that feel like VIIs!

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 Webster 18 Nov 2020
In reply to Misha:

> I would suggest V = E1/2, VI = E3, VII = E4 and I imagine VIII = E5 

Iv always felt IV to be comparable physically and psychologically to be about VS, and V to be the HVS benchmark, and thats certainly what i have seen published somewhere. cant remember where though but was either a guidebook or UKC article. Iv only done a handfull of routes above V, and same above E1 so cant comment on how that extends further up the scale.

i certainly dont think V ever comes anywhere near to E2, on a good day i can feel quite confident on a V, but cant even contemplate getting up most E2s. 

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 HeMa 18 Nov 2020
In reply to Webster:

I recall Misha being quite strong on trad. 
 

For What it’s worth, to me the few lines I climbed felt like around f6a/b trad. Safe, but ankward. I guess that puts them in the E1/2 range (for V/VI). Or M4 (that is less than vertical with or without bolts), or WI4+ on crap ice. 

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 Myr 18 Nov 2020
In reply to LouisKennedy:

I've done hardly any dry-tooling on graded routes but I remember the M4s and M5s at Newtyle feeling like tech 5 or hard tech 6 respectively. But as mentioned above, there should be a slightly vague relationship between M-grade and winter tech grade because the M-grade takes in sustainedness as well as the difficulty of the hardest move (like sport grades).

It should be possible to work out a given winter route's M-grade for if it was completely black. That'll scale fairly well with how hard it would be to climb in average winter conditions. 

I also think some people have trouble moving from dry-tooling to mixed. I've watched someone brag about climbing M10 and then have a real nightmare leading a IV 5 in good nick. Dry-tooling (in the UK at least) tackles quite a limited type of ground compared to mixed. It's rare to see someone dry-tooling a teetery slab or an offwidth. I think that being good at the type of dry-tooling done in the UK really only makes you good at steep positive winter routes. 

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In reply to Webster:

Yes, I think Andy K has equated V to HVS. It comes back to how much rock you do compared to winter. Bear in mind that Andy K isn't a great rock climber!

For me, VS is a doddle, whereas IV is not hard but I need to think about what I'm doing. HVS is pretty straightforward but required some thought, so more like a IV. E1 is steady but can be a bit tricky and I need to pay it due respect. E2 is not hard but the crux could definitely be tricky and it's generally a bit more physical. Depending on conditions and whether it's V 5 or V 6, a V will feel around E1 or E2 to me. In easy conditions it could feel more like HVS but that's rare. Conversely, in difficult conditions it can feel like full on E3.

So if you find a V about the same as an HVS, in reality you probably find a V about as difficult as I do. It's just that your rock equivalent grade is lower because you find that rock grade harder than I do. In other words, you find HVS about as hard as I find an E1 or an E2 (you would expect that if your top grade is E2 whereas mine is E5). This is why these comparisons will always be a bit meaningless for different people but good fun to discuss.  

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 Michael Gordon 18 Nov 2020
In reply to Misha:

> For mixed, assuming reasonable winter conditions and mid grade vs mid grade (ignoring safe but hard or bold but easy outliers), I would suggest V = E1/2, VI = E3, VII = E4 >

I sort of agree with the above. I think often those suggesting easier are talking about ice and are themselves relatively good at ice compared to rock/mixed. A straightforward V,4 ice route doesn't feel as hard as E1 (more like an HVS 4c?), but then that's relatively easy V anyway.

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In reply to Michael Gordon:

I was talking about mixed. Scottish ice is pretty easy really - it's far less sustained and physical than Euro ice.

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 Michael Gordon 19 Nov 2020
In reply to Misha:

Keeping it to mixed then, I think the width of winter grades could have a bit to do with differing opinions. IV,4 does often feel like VS to me, while most IV,5 or IV,6 definitely has a more HVS feel for effort and technicality.

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 gravy 19 Nov 2020
In reply to Michael Gordon:

I find it hard to think that any amount of dry tooling will adequately prepare you for the wonderful misery that Scottish winter climbing involves. 

I think if you are experienced with and hardened to Scottish winter conditions then dry tooling will like make you climb harder and better and shift you up then a formula for grades such as M7~W8 might make some sense.  

However, if you've not got this experience then your dry tooling grade is practically irrelevant to what you might reasonably be able to survive on the average Scottish day out.

One way of reading the OP is "I've never done any Scottish winter climbing but I dry tool at Mx what winter grade might I reasonably start with?", to which the only sensible answer is, "start (very) low and take a more experienced friend".

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 Webster 19 Nov 2020
In reply to Misha:

> So if you find a V about the same as an HVS, in reality you probably find a V about as difficult as I do. It's just that your rock equivalent grade is lower because you find that rock grade harder than I do. In other words, you find HVS about as hard as I find an E1 or an E2 (you would expect that if your top grade is E2 whereas mine is E5). This is why these comparisons will always be a bit meaningless for different people but good fun to discuss.  

whilst i think that is a fair and reasonable way of viewing things, i still think it should be possible to give a fairly objective grade comparison (conditions variability aside). It requires a quantifiable amount of physical effort to do a given move in both forms of climbing. likewise, distance of runouts and groundfall potential are quantifiable for the psychological side. Of course skill levels can vary,which will provide the error margin/overlap in any conversion, but as an example, i dont think there are any moves on any grade V which i am physically not strong/fit/flexible enough to do (even on a V 7), granted i may not have the balls/psych to do it on a given day. There are however plenty of E2s where i am simply not strong/flexible enough to do the crux clean even on a top rope.

so i think we should objectively be able to say that V is a fair HVS benchmark, with the caveat that very strong rock climbers who dont use axes very often, will of course find rock routes comparatively easier. the reverse doesnt really matter, as i dont think there are any climbers who climb almost exclusively winter due to the fact that winter doesnt last very long! I was probably as close as it gets to an exclusively winter climber when i lived in glasgow, but even then it was probably a 60-40% split, definitely not the 90-10% split which most climbers will have in favor of rock! 

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 Myr 19 Nov 2020
In reply to Webster:

If you want to work out how equivalent trad and winter grades are for you, you could do it like this. Imagine you're seconding a dry trad route, or a mixed route in good nick. You go to make the crux move.

Highest grade at which you would never fail the crux move - tech 4/5 / English 4c

Grade at which you would have a 50% chance of making the crux move - hard tech 7 / hard English 5c

Lowest grade at which you would never succeed on the crux move - tech ? / English 6b

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In reply to Webster:

> So i think we should objectively be able to say that V is a fair HVS benchmark, with the caveat that very strong rock climbers who dont use axes very often, will of course find rock routes comparatively easier. 

Even when I was doing lots of both I thought of HVS as being quite easy but mixed V as quite hard. I would say V equates to about E2 +/-.  I have always been baffled by HVS climbers who climb VI (which always felt quite near my limit), but maybe I am just crap at winter climbing!

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 Michael Gordon 19 Nov 2020
In reply to Webster:

Thinking about it, I probably put the grade comparisons about halfway between you and Misha. Excluding ice:

IV - VS/HVS, V - E1, VI - E2/3

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 Michael Gordon 19 Nov 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

> I have always been baffled by HVS climbers who climb VI 

I can only conclude they're either ice specialists or they never push their grade on rock!

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 Pina 19 Nov 2020
In reply to Michael Gordon:

It's also a matter of comfort on a given medium. I'd tend to agree Webster's grade conversion above for myself. I'd call myself a HVS summer climber but would happily jump on a V,6 off the couch or VI, 7 if going well. Maybe I'm just not pushing myself in summer....

The reality for some winter routes (mixed in particular) is that a lot of lines will have a significantly lower summer grade and thus exposure. Can think of a number of V's which are summer Severes or even V Diffs!

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 rogerwebb 19 Nov 2020
In reply to Webster:

> w

>  as i dont think there are any climbers who climb almost exclusively winter due to the fact that winter doesnt last very long! 

More than you may think. It is sometimes part of a 'family deal' . It is easier to go winter climbing when others just want to stay in than summer climbing when there are lots of other options. Some of us just prefer winter. I am probably 85% winter. I do a bit of rock, trad and sport but I am never pushing myself much in either whereas winter puts a smile on my face.

Winter can also last a suprisingly long time. Usually five months often 6. November (sometimes October) to April (sometimes May) although I always feel its not proper winter once the clocks change. Too much daylight is cheating.

Back to the OP, I have no clear idea how to compare the grades but will try anyway. Dry tooling will make a winter climber better in many but not all situations. It won't necessarily provide a short cut to being good at the game except regarding a limited subset of (quite hard) snowed up rock routes, if that is what you enjoy excellent go for it but there are many equally entertaining facets. As a well known winter climber once said 'you really have to understand vegetation' this is not a dry tooling skill. Even on snowed up rock If it feels like dry tooling you may not be winter climbing but climbing in winter.

I would be very surprised from my limited dry tooling experience if M grades weren't in the order of at least two harder than Scottish ones if you stripped off all the crud. If you have clean dry rock under powder then a strong dry tooler will be laughing..

Post edited at 16:26
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 HeMa 19 Nov 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

> I have always been baffled by HVS climbers who climb VI (which always felt quite near my limit), but maybe I am just crap at winter climbing!

I think you haven't put much effort in it (so a nice way of saying yer crap ;) ).

My gut is that HVS - VI climber id most likely some one that doesn't really climb on rock much. And doesn't even push themselves on rock. They don't really train for rock, so have weak fingers. Ergo can't even due the 5C moves for simply lack of finger power. How ever, hanging from a tool handle... that's easy.

Obviously it depends on the routes, some snow/ice routes will have very little gear at V/VI (from what I've understood perhaps like Orion Face Direct (V 5)) thus technically easy, just "scary". Plus some of the snowed up rock routes will have smaller holds, but still at least from my highly limited experience, yet positive. So provided you find them, you'll be hanging from a gigantic jug (icetool grip).

Actually I have such a friend. He pretty much never climbs harder than about VS on rock. But still get's up WI5s and I recall continental (or rather Nordic) mixed up to M7 or so.

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In reply to HeMa:

> I think you haven't put much effort in it (so a nice way of saying yer crap ;) ).

Well actually I've spent 35 or so years of my life obsessed with winter climbing, organising my life round it as best I can every winter and for a good bit of that time putting my skills to use on alpine mixed too. So not lack of effort. Maybe just crap.

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In reply to Michael Gordon:

> I can only conclude they're either ice specialists or they never push their grade on rock!

I was climbing V,6 and even managed one that subsequently went to VI,6 while only just starting to lead HVS on single pitch crags - I hadn't climbed that hard on multipitch routes at the time.

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 Michael Gordon 19 Nov 2020
In reply to HeMa:

Orion is never steep and in good conditions is probably low V (I think V,4 would be appropriate). 

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 HeMa 19 Nov 2020
In reply to Michael Gordon:

What about when it’s unconsidolated snow ;)

and as said I do not have really any experience, so I was mostly going ny What I’ve heard and seen. 
 

after all, my track record is a whopping 5 routes. Something on buried Pot of Message (perhaps more or less Haston line to Hidden Chimney). Lamp with the harder start. And the three routes I’ve listed above. 

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In reply to Webster:

I sort of agree but this assumes that your technique is equally good on rock and in winter. After all, if you don't do moves in the easiest way possible (which is how routes are generally graded), you'll find them harder than they should be. There's also specificity of training. For example, if you have poor finger strength you can be fine in winter but struggle in summer. So it depends on your relative strengths and weaknesses.

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In reply to Myr:

That's a good way of looking at the difficulty of individual moves but of course the overall grade is about a lot more than the hardest individual move. The other factor is that I've no idea what my top tech grade might be in winter as I've never seconded harder than I've led and I've never pushed it in winter to the level where I can't do an individual move.

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 Webster 19 Nov 2020
In reply to HeMa:

> My gut is that HVS - VI climber id most likely some one that doesn't really climb on rock much. And doesn't even push themselves on rock. They don't really train for rock, so have weak fingers. Ergo can't even due the 5C moves for simply lack of finger power. How ever, hanging from a tool handle... that's easy.

i guess you have partly summed me up there. i dont train at all for rock, and while i dont train specificaly for winter either, all the pull ups and push ups that i do is inadvertently 'training for pulling on ice tools'! so my fingers are comparartively week compared to my biceps. but that is partly the point. in ice/winter you have a whopping great handle to hold onto after every move, so even someone who is the opposite (super strong fingers) has the same 'jugs' to hang onto, so they should find it even easier!

for what its worth, i dont even consider myself a HVS climber, im a solid VS climber who occasionally jumps on an E1. Whereas i consider myself a solid V winter climber and have lead a VI and seconded a VII 8 (all be it dogged). im confident that if i still lived in scotland i would have ticked a few more VI's, but i still wouldnt be much more than a solid VS climber. 

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 Big Lee 20 Nov 2020
In reply to Webster:

I used to be solid HVS and solid winter V when I lived in the UK. I used to be much better on rock that was slabby or off-vertical, with good rests, and that's typically what I got in Scotland during winter. My conditioning for climbing looking back was pretty poor but that didn't matter so much during winter as it was more about technique, patience, general fitness and being able to suffer when needed. I'd say winter grade vs rock grade on off-vertical is maybe a better comparison, at least for me it is. 

Think how much effort one puts in is definitely the key factor though. I have friends that can crank up early season WI5s for example but only manage typically around HVS/E1 on rock.

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 Ronbo 24 Nov 2020
In reply to LouisKennedy:

I'm not very good on rock, so I find the below to be a reflection of grades.

VI is around VS / HVS

V is HS or VS

IV is Severe

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