It's less than two weeks until the 'Great British Grade Debate' at the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival. Several top climbers and one not-so-top climber (me) will battle it out on stage for the greater good of the World climbing community... or perhaps we'll just all have a chat about climbing! Personally I can't wait and I'm hoping for a very informal and light-hearted discussion about the beauty of our E grade system. Sure, it's not perfect, but how can you really give a number to a piece of rock?
Trad master John Arran can't make the debate, but has passed on some thoughts via video. You can watch John on the video below.
To kick off the debate, Matt Heason the festival organiser, has collected quotes from some of the climbers who will be attending.
Matt requested: "Nothing too lengthy, just a few good sound bites that will get people salivating...".
You can get more information on the grade debate at the ShAFF website: Shaff.co.uk
Tickets for the festival are on sale now. There is a great film line up, plus Chris Sharma, Ron Fawcett and a host of other lecturers.
You can submit your questions for the grade debate in this UKC Premier Post
Listen to John Arran's thoughts on this video:
Below are quotes from John Arran, Steve McClure, James Pearson, Nic Sellers and myself.
"The E grade is a trad grade for onsight trad leads. There are better grades for highball problems and sport routes. Maybe it's better to have a separate grade for headpoint ascents too."
"The British Technical grade has been abused above 6a for a long time, maybe irretrievably. Hardly surprising really as it purports to assess the hardest move and nobody can even agree on what constitutes a move! It's no wonder people are starting to use Sport & Boulder grades instead to describe the technical difficulties."
"Also, I'd like to get the real trad climbers operating at the top to talk about grade compression and the fact that our advances are tiny. We had UK 7a about 20 years ago and people still won't give anything 7b now, and everything is E8 or E9 maximum, also ancient. Have we not progressed at all? Maybe we haven't!"
1. It has too much emphasis put on it when in reality it should just be another guide – one of the many things to take into account when choosing a route.
2. Different people apply it in different ways, for different styles of ascents. To have any sort of validity, there needs to be a universally accepted definition.
Obviously there are other issues that need addressing, but once these two have been rectified, I feel everything else will be a little less murky."
"Does the current climate of sponsorship and professional climbers encourage overgrading?"
"Is using our UK system for all styles of ascent encouraging overgrading?"
"If you had asked me what I thought of E grades one year ago, I would have said they were great. Now I'm not so sure. If, on the very hardest headpoint routes, you first have to think of the bouldering grade or sport grade, then 'work out' what the E grade is - what's the point of the E grade? They do seem to work well on big trad routes up to E8 though - perhaps that's where they belong?"
"An E grade to me encompasses all aspects of the route - the physical difficulty, the reliability of the gear, the overall seriousness, the pumpiness, the looseness, the length, the accessibility, everything. That's why I like it."
"How do you put a grade on death?"