UKC

Difficulty, trad and sport

When we climb and give a grade, we try to say something about how difficult the climb is. Now... difficulty is, well... difficult to define. What do we mean? Are we to simply measure the physical difficulty? Should we take mental aspects into account? Does the placing of gear make a route more difficult to climb? If so, does the route have a different grade on top-rope or, in deed, free solo or with pre-placed gear? The answer might seem obvious, at least to me: We should try to grade the difficulty of the actual climbing, nothing else. Of course it's easier to climb a route on top-rope, it goes without saying, and no one in their right mind would say placing gear doesn't make a route more difficult to climb. Whether this should be reflected in the grade is a different matter. I don't think it should.
So, what about crashpads then? Yes, what about them?
Well, in the UK some actually think the use of crashpads changes the grade. Instead of simply stating that, it's not as dangerous or, if you like, good style, to climb a, say E8 7a, with a couple of pads, the grade changes to E6 or something. I think it's strange...
Which leads me to trad climbing. Some people, no names, are saying the hardest trad routes in the world needs to be upgraded. Why? Well, because very good climbers invest a lot of time and effort to be able to climb these routes, but they're still "only" 8c or 8c+. I don't find this strange at all, given that there's a lot more risk taking involved in trad climbing. 9a+ climbing above marginal gear anyone?
I don't think we need to upgrade anything. Most people understand 8c trad deserves at least as much respect as 9a sport.


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