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Anyone climb harder trad than sport?
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By alpinista83
From San Francisco, CA
Jun 8, 2011
Levitating

Color me dumb, but I am mystified by how most climbers are able to climb at least three grades harder in sport than in trad.

I've been randomly checking out a few climber profiles and have yet to run across one that posts numbers that would support my argument: face climbing is really hard.

When crack climbing, more often than not, I can protect where I believe protection is needed. For me, it makes a huge difference when I'm in control of the pro and the frequency in which I place gear.

Anyone else in this strange minority? You see a much greater percentage of climbers able to send 5.7 and progress to 5.11 sport in a year's time than you do for pure, or almost pure, crack climbing.

Enlighten me. I am in an epically long conference call and in dire need of a healthy distraction. I know how polarizing these sport vs. trad wars can be. Here's to hoping that this will turn into a constructive thread.

I don't think trad is better or more respectable than sport climbing. I just think it's easier. And note, I'm climbing 5.fun, so this is a gumby's perspective. I can't comment on hard trad lines and how they differ from sport routes at the same grade.


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By Jeremy Bauman
From Lakewood, CO
Jun 8, 2011
Climbing the headwall of Second Comming

I do. But that's probably just because I don't climb much sport anymore. I could probably climb a bit harder sport if it tried, but I agree with you. I can push myself harder if I know I can protect the pitch whenever I want to, not whenever the bolt shows up.


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By Ryan Williams
Administrator
From London (sort of)
Jun 8, 2011
El Chorro

People climb 3 grades harder on bolts because they are scared of falling on gear. It's that simple. As for the rest...

Well you've already partially answered your own question. You climb much better when you can place pro any time (it's nice to have that crack in front of you all the time). Well, with sport climbing, it's even easier... all you have to do is clip the bolts. This allows you to focus solely on the climbing.

A year is quite a long time to build strength and technique. If you were to put someone on a running or weightlifting program for a year, they would make great strides. Sport climbing SHOULD be the same. The first year, you should progress from wherever you start to about the 5.11 level. If you don't, you are doing something wrong. Usually that something is a fear of falling/failing combined with a lack of discipline. In order to climb well, you need to do more than just climb. You must practice climbing. Most climbers can't do that. We see every chance we get to climb as a performance day, when we really should consider half of those days to be training/practice.

Of course there are all different types of sport climbers with many different combinations of problems that hold them back.

Example A: Climber who is reasonably fit, understands the safety system, is not afraid to fall, gives 110% every time, but has failed to grasp the concept of technique. He doesn't train/practice, and probably doesn't warm up or cool down properly. He tries to on-sight/flash everything he gets on. This climber will probably climb 5.10 after a year simply because he is so psyched. He has poor technique, but then to burl your way up a 5.10, all you really have to do is power through the holds until you can't hold on any longer.

Example B: Climber who is reasonably fit, may or may not climb with better technique than climber A, probably understands the warm up and cool down thing, but just can't pull the trigger. By that I mean that he/she is probably afraid of falling and/or failing. The latter meaning that they know they won't get hurt if they fall, but to them falling equals failing, so they always climb with a bit of caution to avoid falling/failing. They don't understand the concept that in order to get stronger, you must push yourself to failure. This climber will also probably climb some 5.10's because they know how to climb a bit, they just don't like approaching their physical limit.

Example C: Climber gets the concepts of technique and pushing oneself to failure. They haven't mastered anything yet, but they are on the way. They will probably climb 5.11 in a year. Not solid 5.11 or all 5.11's, but some.


But I get the feeling that when you say "face climbing" you mean traditionally protected face routes. Sure these are harder for you if you are a crack climber. For one, there is the protection thing. Once you get above a piece, you have to commit to climbing until you get to the next placement. That is an unknown that is not present in crack climbing. Perhaps even more important is the fact that you don't have near the finger strength as someone who regularly climbs face routes (trad or sport). Crack climbing will get you into shape, but it doesn't do much to help you hold onto crimps or even what most people call jugs.

As for why people don't progress in crack climbing as fast as they do in sport... it's because it's fucking hard. All of the routes are sustained, they are usually long pitches, and you have to understand how to jam in like 10 different styles. With face climbing, you are just pulling on holds. Body position has a lot to do with it and for many people, that is an easier concept to understand than say a ring-lock.

Take "Rock Lobster" at Indian Creek for example. That climb has wide hands all the way down to fingers. Let's call you a woman since your name is "alpinista." The beginning will be fists for you, then wide hands, then good hands, then THIN hands, then RING LOCKS, then rattly fingers, then good fingers, then tips! Not to mention that once you get past the thin hands there is nowhere to put your feet! There are so many different techniques used for that climb, and we haven't even brought up OW yet! And don't forget, "good hands" and "good fingers" feel horibly insecure to a lot of people who probably would rather be pulling down on a crimp or jug.

Sure if you took any of those sport climbers I was talking about above and made them crack climb for a year, they would probably progress. But most of them would want to quit because crack climbing is painful, frustrating, and sometimes it just downright sucks. Sport climbing is nearly always fun, because it's not painful, and you can see progression nearly every day. Most people don't have enough patience for crack climbing.

On top of all that, it takes some people months or even years to be comfortable climbing hard above gear. That element is simply not there in sport. Even in a perfect hand crack, placing the right piece and trusting it to catch you is hard for beginners. It is not until a climber understands the gear systems that he/she can truly progress in terms of climbing ability.

Trad climbing is easier for you because you do it more often. Sport climbing takes being able to pull on tiny holds and do gymnastic moves. You probably don't know how to do that as well as you know how to jam a crack. But in a general sense, sport climbing is "easy" compared to any other type of climbing. Not physically easier and when you are trying to red-point hard routes it's not even mentally easier. But in the beginning, in the first few years, sport is easier and less stressful for most climbers because the element of danger is simply not there.


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By Ryan Tuleja
Jun 8, 2011
standing on the summit

Let me start by saying that I am a puss. i dont climb hard, I dont train, and every spring/summer I have to regain some of the last years ground because I dont climb in the winter, except for the occasional trip indoors. I am probably the typical weekend warrior/overworked family guy.

I climb a grade or two lower in trad than sport, and I think the previous post covered some of it, but missed one important part. When climbing trad, one must select the correct piece. I dont know about everyone else, but it has taken me years to get to a point where most of my gear selections are right on the first try. Then add the issue of adding/subtracting pieces from your rack and using other peoples gear and you have a constantly changing list of equipment.

Now on a nice, casual route, taking your time to select the correct piece and using a good runner for optimum rope drag is an easy process because your not really working on the climbing. However, that same process is a bit different when your pumped, looking at a fall on a quickly placed piece or your rack becomes a tangled mess....


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By Ryan Williams
Administrator
From London (sort of)
Jun 8, 2011
El Chorro

Ryan Tuleja wrote:
Let me start by saying that I am a puss. i dont climb hard, I dont train, and every spring/summer I have to regain some of the last years ground because I dont climb in the winter, except for the occasional trip indoors. I am probably the typical weekend warrior/overworked family guy. I climb a grade or two lower in trad than sport, and I think the previous post covered some of it, but missed one important part. When climbing trad, one must select the correct piece. I dont know about everyone else, but it has taken me years to get to a point where most of my gear selections are right on the first try. Then add the issue of adding/subtracting pieces from your rack and using other peoples gear and you have a constantly changing list of equipment. Now on a nice, casual route, taking your time to select the correct piece and using a good runner for optimum rope drag is an easy process because your not really working on the climbing. However, that same process is a bit different when your pumped, looking at a fall on a quickly placed piece or your rack becomes a tangled mess....


I know the feeling well. It takes a lot of leads to get better, and on the most desperate pitches you'll still feel pumped, tangled and scared.

Over the past few years I've grown solid at a grade only to push my leading to the next grade. Then I'm back to square one it seems, grabbing the wrong nut or forgetting the side on which I racked the green Alien. It's a vicious cycle!


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By Scott Bennett
Jun 8, 2011
photo by Forest Woodward

Only in Indian Creek.

But wait, is that sport or trad?


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By chris_vultaggio
Jun 8, 2011
Chris Vultaggio leads the title route at Five and Dime in Yosemite. <br /> <br />Photo by Bill Roehrich

I have cleanly led harder trad than sport, but have gotten on harder sport routes to flail around. Being a gunks local I think the harder grades come with better chance to get hurt - I'd rather swing around on hard 12s on bolts than on thin wires.

Coincidentally my top redpoint grade in the gunks has been the highest rated grade I have climbed cleanly, on TR, second, or lead.


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By JohnnyG
Jun 8, 2011

yep


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By Julius Beres
From Boulder, CO
Jun 8, 2011
Rewritten

alpinista83 wrote:
Color me dumb, but I am mystified by how most climbers are able to climb at least three grades harder in sport than in trad.


Well, first it depends on what you mean by three grades... three letter grades? That seems completely reasonable to me.

First, even if the climbs were exactly the same with protection in exactly the same locations, sport would be easier because you don't have the weight of the rack nor do you spend much energy placing gear (clipping a bolt is much easier than placing a tricky nut). Also, most sport is single pitch, while on trad you might have to carry water and extra gear. I think that explains a letter grade or two right there. If I added a 10 lb belt while sport climbing, it would probably drop my climbing a letter grade.

Second, people are more willing to fall on sport. Now this isn't true for places like Indian Creek where you can stitch a climb up and all the falls are clean. But many trad areas have runouts and ledges (particularly the moderate climbs) where falling is not an option, so naturally people push themselves harder on sport.

Third, most people get more practice in "sport" style climbing. Climbing gyms do a much better job at mimicking most sport climbs. Someone that can climb a 5.12 route in the gym might cruise a 5.11 sport line outside, but be completely shut down by a 5.7 offwidth.

Finally, in my opinion, the grades are off, at least in the Boulder, CO area. If you get on a 5.8 or 5.9 in Eldo/Lumpy, you might encounter a reasonably difficult move. Furthermore, it might be a move that if you blow, you can deck on a ledge. If you go to most of the sport areas in Boulder Canyon/Shelf/etc., anything below 5.10 tends to just be a straightforward bucket haul. I think the gym climbing mentality, where everything below 5.10 is easy, has lead to really soft sport climbs in the mid range. Now, I imagine 5.13 sport and trad are pretty similar (since I can't climb either, I am only imagining)... as the grades near the limit there is less room for divergence, but especially in the middle range (5.7-5.10), there seems to be a large discrepancy between sport and trad ratings.
This for me explains part of the reason my trad/sport claimed climbing ability differs. For this site, I list what in general I am willing to climb "around here" in case someone is looking for a partner. So, I would list as my top trad leading what I would lead on a reasonably protected climb in Eldo... at Indian Creek for example, I might lead a full number grade harder. The same thing goes for sport. I think some of the ratings around here are soft compared to other parts of the country. I seem to remember Rumney being more challenging for the same grade than Boulder Canyon... so while I list a certain grade for sport, I may not be able to climb that hard if I go to a different part of the country where the grades are stiffer.


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By Erik W
From Bay Area, CA
Jun 8, 2011
North face of Ama Dablam - taken on approach to Kongma La.

alpinista83 wrote:
... face climbing is really hard.


I'm right there with you, at least when it comes to just the stripped down movements. So on TR, with no worry of decking, protection failing or bolts being wherever, I certainly climb harder on cracks than on face lines.

Put me on lead, however, and things change based on how protectable the line is. When I lived out in CA and climbed at Tahquitz, Jtree and Yosemite regularly, my trad leading ability was higher than my sport ability because A) I was climbing cracks (which as mentioned I'm better at than face), and B) as you mentioned, pro is readily available where you want it in the cracks out there. Moving out to CO and calling Eldo my home crag has thrown that whole reality for a loop. While most of the lines I do here are trad protected, I'd say the vast majority of the cruxes I come up against require face climbing skills to get through. Additionally, the pro is many times few and far between, or in crappy rock, and there tends to be a ledge under most every crux. So trad climbing here, at least eldo, is face cruxes, no readily available pro, and often w/ ledge-fall potential... consequently my trad level has decreased relative to my sport level and now both are about even.


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By slim
Administrator
Jun 8, 2011
tomato, tomotto, kill mike amato.

my wife climbs a lot harder on gear (crack climbing) than she does on sport. she has some sort of mental block about it. i'm pretty even between gear and bolts.


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By Dom
Administrator
From New Brunswick Canada
Jun 8, 2011
Moby dick 5.11-

alpinista83 wrote:
Color me dumb, but I am mystified by how most climbers are able to climb at least three grades harder in sport than in trad. I've been randomly checking out a few climber profiles and have yet to run across one that posts numbers that would support my argument: face climbing is really hard. When crack climbing, more often than not, I can protect where I believe protection is needed.


An orange is a fruit, but a fruit is more than just an orange. I say this because you seem to use trad climbing and crack climbing as synonym. Although a crack climb is 99% of the time a trad climb, a trad climb is not necessarily a crack climb.


The area where I climb is predominantly a trad area with about 300 trad routes on beautiful pink granite. There are very little continuous cracks. Most of the time you climb these discontinuous little cracks separated by blank walls. As a result you can't put pro wherever you want. This makes the onsight particularly hard, and definitely harder than clipping bolts.


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By alpinista83
From San Francisco, CA
Jun 8, 2011
Levitating

Thanks for all the thoughtful and now more obvious responses. So it looks like I have been colored a bit dumb.

I think your climbing can become myopic if you only focus on one discipline. I didn't even take into consideration the added difficulty of gear decisions or the weight of the rack. It just feels innate.

We had escaped Yosemite's Juneuary rain. I fearfully down climbed a sport climb five letter grades lower than my hardest trad onsight and then grabbed the draw. The woman below looked at me as if I had just strangled a puppy. Now, if I were getting pumped on a trad climb and french free'd a move, (I'm not advocating that it's ethical), but I don't think I'd get the puppy killer look as often.

I can't climb 5.10 sport, but can free solo the hollow flake. It's a little messed up. I guess I have to expand my horizons and like Ryan said... train.

Thanks everyone for the input! Oh yeah, and Indian Creek <5.13- is totally sport climbing. After giving the bolt clipping thing a run for its money last weekend, it has my respect. It might be "just" body positioning and pulling/crimping on holds, but I think it really does stand as its own sport.


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By slim
Administrator
Jun 8, 2011
tomato, tomotto, kill mike amato.

for me, i have difficulty "switching gears" sometimes. when i get dialed on desert climbing, my sport face climbing goes into the tank. when i get dialed slab climbing, my crack climbing goes into the tank. some people don't really have this problem. the differences in the nuances of the rock, protection available, etc doesn't seem to phase them.

these people are blessed!


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By David Appelhans
From Lafayette
Jun 8, 2011
Imaginate

Julius Beres wrote:
Finally, in my opinion, the grades are off, at least in the Boulder, CO area. If you get on a 5.8 or 5.9 in Eldo/Lumpy, you might encounter a reasonably difficult move. ... For this site, I list what in general I am willing to climb "around here" in case someone is looking for a partner. ... I think some of the ratings around here are soft compared to other parts of the country. I seem to remember Rumney being more challenging for the same grade than Boulder Canyon...


Pretty much sums it up for me. I think the sport climbing consensus is about three letter grades (or more) inflated compared to ratings at traditional areas. In my profile I list climbing harder sport than trad because the sport ratings are inflated. I am climbing the same difficulty of moves in trad and sport, but the sport climbing consensus is that the moves are 5.11 while they would be rated 5.10 at Lumpy or Eldo.


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By alpinista83
From San Francisco, CA
Jun 8, 2011
Levitating

Dom Caron wrote:
An orange is a fruit, but a fruit is more than just an orange.


Dom, absolutely. I didn't mean any offense by the generalized notion that trad only means crack climbing. I meant it in the sense of the trad climbing that I am used to (again, 5.fun) at the crags that I frequent.

I've visited areas like Eldo where the climbing is more heads up, cracks discontinuous and the climbing more face like. I got absolutely smattered on "easy G-rated" routes. The PG13 routes felt run out to me. Here, my original argument is lost even on myself. In this scenario or in an alpine 5.9 cruiser but mandatory no-fall setting, sport climbing can be considered way easier, indeed.

I tried to make it clear by saying 'mostly pure crack climbing' and yes, while heavily associated with trad climbing, it is not its sole definition.


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By Chris Plesko
From Westminster, CO
Jun 8, 2011
OMG, I winz!!!

I red pointed my first trad 11 before my first sport 11 but I just don't climb enough sport to really make it a fair comparison. If we're going to count the gym then i've red pointed half a dozen mid 12s or so which is a solid number grade over my best trad lead.


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By Monomaniac
Administrator
From Morrison, CO
Jun 8, 2011
Insurrection, 5.14c.  Photo Adam Sanders.

Ryan Williams wrote:
People climb 3 grades harder on bolts because they are scared of falling on gear. It's that simple.


Its not necessarily that simple. At some grade levels, there just aren't any trad lines that are anywhere near as cool, fun, or inspiring as the sport lines. Why is that you ask? Because as Alan Watts said, "There are no hard cracks".

Who is Alan Watts you ask? Probably the greatest American crack climber in history.


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By Derek W
Jun 8, 2011
First summit of First Flatiron

alpinista83 wrote:
face climbing is really hard.

You guys are crazy! I can face climb probably 3 grades harder than I can climb crack. I love trad lines that don't follow a prominent crack or use the crack for protection but you can get out on the face to progress. Crack climbing is like a Chinese puzzle game or something.


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By chuck claude
From Flagstaff, Az
Jun 8, 2011
First climb after knee surgery <br />

slim wrote:
for me, i have difficulty "switching gears" sometimes. when i get dialed on desert climbing, my sport face climbing goes into the tank. when i get dialed slab climbing, my crack climbing goes into the tank. some people don't really have this problem. the differences in the nuances of the rock, protection available, etc doesn't seem to phase them. these people are blessed!



I'm with you on this one.

I climb harder on gear then sport. For me its just that I get more psych'ed for a hard trad line then a hard sports line (unless its a beautiful sports line in a great location (ie: malloraca, sardinia....)


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By Tony B
From Around Boulder, CO
Jun 8, 2011
Got Milk? How about forearm pump? Tony leads "Alan Nelson's Bulging Belly" (5.10, X) on the Lost and Found Flatiron. Belayer is Mark Ruocco. Photo by Bill Wright, 10/06.

Hmmm... Joseffa has been known to flash 12- crack climbs, but has trouble on high-contact-strength 5.10 lines (trad or sport). It can be body type dependent. For my own part, I climb about the same on both trad and sport, with the exception of inflated-grade "new wave" sport routes, in which case I still climb about hte same grade, but someone is tacking on extra letters and numbers onto a climb to make it seem otherwise.
Perhaps Eldo is an area where the two styles blend, because the lines, sport and trad, are so similar in style- very few are actually crack climbing, so the grades and style are more consistent. This leads to a similarity in accomplishments on the two, if you trust the gear. But when I go to Bocan and get on a pre-80's trad climb in Bocan and compare it to a Y2K+ sport line, I find a strong difference. Compare Left Wing to just about anything at The Nursing Home and tell me what is actually harder! Sometimes it's a grading difference, sometimes it is your personal style or physical ability, and sometimes it's all in your head.


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By Fat Dad
From Los Angeles, CA
Jun 8, 2011

I'm really surprised by some of the answers here. My original response would have been that no one climbs harder trad than sport, how silly to even ask. It just doesn't seem possible--the difficulties of stopping and placing solid gear, the burlier nature of some crack/trad climbs, etc.--but I guess some of the responses have convinced me otherwise.

I can kind of relate to Tony's and CClaude's response. I've had my trad and sport onsight skills be pretty equal at times, but that's mostly because forearm endurance has always been something I had to work at. Plus, I really focus ALOT more on trad, whereas sport mostly feels like a casual mental exercise. Having said that, I don't get the ability to onsight a .12- crack and flail on a .10 sport route. I guess if you're really buff from the elbows up and really wimpy from the elbows down (no offense), then maybe. That's just real unusual.


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By Brian in SLC
Jun 8, 2011
Climbing in Smuggler's Notch

I climb with a gal who's much more comfy leading trad type crack lines than a sport route. She likes the thought of being able to drop in pro anywhere she wants, versus having to use someone's preplaced bolts that are sometimes at weird distances for her.

I'd say she climbs maybe a touch harder on sport, but, not three letter grades even. She much more likely to "take" on a sport route than on a trad route. Funny.


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By Greg Barnes
Jun 8, 2011
Hanging out with Karin on the summit of Warlock Needle. Photo by Josh Janes.

I climb harder trad than sport. But I know WAY too much about bolts...so it's hard to trust them!


(actually I tend to pull finger tendons on face climbs and not cracks...)


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By Ryan Williams
Administrator
From London (sort of)
Jun 8, 2011
El Chorro

johnL wrote:
In the time I lived in Denver I climbed harder trad than sport. When I moved to somewhere with only sport, my sport got better. When I bolted even harder projects there, my sport got even better. My trad game hasn't suffered though and my climbing is way better overall than it was when I was a trad only climber. I can't complain.


I was going to reference John in my first post because when we briefly met a few years ago he had sent trad routes that were at least a number grade harder than his hardest sport sends. In fact I remember him wondering about it! Then over the past few years I've known that he has been living in a sport only area and bolting new routes. I've noticed that his sport grade has crept up to equal his trad grade.


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By Ryan Williams
Administrator
From London (sort of)
Jun 8, 2011
El Chorro

Monomaniac wrote:
Its not necessarily that simple. At some grade levels, there just aren't any trad lines that are anywhere near as cool, fun, or inspiring as the sport lines. Why is that you ask? Because as Alan Watts said, "There are no hard cracks". Who is Alan Watts you ask? Probably the greatest American crack climber in history.


I get your point... but I don't think I'll ever EVER agree with Mr. Watts. Greens.... ahhhhhh!


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