Thought Experiment: Objective Grading System


Original Post
Cryptic C62 · · Lawton, OK · Joined May 2014 · Points: 1,062
Assumptions:
  • Every person can pinpoint the month and year that they began climbing
  • Every person has been climbing fairly regularly, without long breaks, since the day they started

Right off the bat, it's clear that at least one of these assumptions will fail for a lot of people. So I freely admit this is impractical. It is simply a thought experiment.

Method:
Consider the set of all climbers who have sent a particular route/pitch/problem. Determine the length of time that each of them had been climbing on the day that they completed the send. From this set of days/months/years, take the minimum value. That is the grade.

Example:
A group of friends discover a new boulder together. Each of them climbs it on the same day. Their names and experience levels are: Anja (6 years), Beppo (4 years, 3 months), Caleph (2 years, 6 months), Depak (3 years). The grade is now 2 years, 6 months -- perhaps 2.6 for brevity.

Eliandra (2 years, 8 months) climbs the boulder later on. The grade does not change.

Frederico (2 years, 1 month) climbs it next. The grade is now 2.1.

Flash Grade:
A natural extension of this system would be to assign a separate grade based on the experience levels of those climbers who were able to flash a line. In the above example, suppose Anja was the only climber who flashed the boulder. The flash grade would be 6.0. Later, Giuseppe (4 years, 11 months) flashes the boulder. The climb grade remains 2.1, but the flash grade moves down to 4.11.
Ken Noyce · · Layton, UT · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 2,037
Cryptic C62 wrote:Assumptions: * Every person can pinpoint the month and year that they began climbing * Every person has been climbing fairly regularly, without long breaks, since the day they started Right off the bat, it's clear that at least one of these assumptions will fail for a lot of people. So I freely admit this is impractical. It is simply a thought experiment. Method: Consider the set of all climbers who have sent a particular route/pitch/problem. Determine the length of time that each of them had been climbing on the day that they completed the send. From this set of days/months/years, take the minimum value. That is the grade. Example: A group of friends discover a new boulder together. Each of them climbs it on the same day. Their names and experience levels are: Anja (6 years), Beppo (4 years, 3 months), Caleph (2 years, 6 months), Depak (3 years). The grade is now 2 years, 6 months -- perhaps 2.6 for brevity. Eliandra (2 years, 8 months) climbs the boulder later on. The grade does not change. Frederico (2 years, 1 month) climbs it next. The grade is now 2.1. Flash Grade: A natural extension of this system would be to assign a separate grade based on the experience levels of those climbers who were able to flash a line. In the above example, suppose Anja was the only climber who flashed the boulder. The flash grade would be 6.0. Later, Giuseppe (4 years, 11 months) flashes the boulder. The climb grade remains 2.1, but the flash grade moves down to 4.11.
Sounds like a great way to make grades completely meaningless and useless. Since the grade would depend completely on who has climbed the route you would have no way to make comparisons between routes unless you knew the complete history of the route, it's ascents, and information and history of the person who created the latest grade for the route. This doesn't even get into where you would have a database to track the latest ascent.
Brent Apgar · · Out of the Loop · Joined Oct 2007 · Points: 35

I like the out of the box objectivity of the system.

One thing that I feel has always made grades so subjective is that different physical attributes will make routes feel easier or harder for different climbers.

And so we've got our current system of sandbagging, shit talking, down grading, and thus some vague notion of consensus on what a route is like.

David Coley · · UK · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 0

Isn't this really just the same as the current system?

If you take a large list of climbers of different grades and find how long they have been climbing and take the mean you might get:

5.8 = 1 year
5.9 = 1.5 year
5.10 = 2 years
etc.

Then any 5.10 can be called a 2-year.

I think the numbers on the right are the same as your numbers. And gives I think a far easier way of generating your numbers.

I can see a lot of depressed people. i.e. Those still climbing 5.9 ten years after starting, when the new grade says this is grade for those with 18 months of experience. :)

amarius · · Nowhere, OK · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 0

A real objective system should account for anthropometrics.
CIP - my friend, orders of magnitude stronger climber than I, will not be able to do a problem on a blank section if she can not reach the hold.

Currently 8a.nu has the usual wank-fest of tall guys downgrading boulder problems. IIRC, Adam Ondra flashed some V14/15 that a shorter strong climber had a really difficult time with.

Matt Stroebel · · Lakewood, OH · Joined Apr 2011 · Points: 40

Some people improve quicker than other people. Ashima Shiraishi climbed V10 after 2 years of climbing, V12 after 3 years, and V13 after 4 years.

V10 is roughly equivalent to 5.13a.

1. The best up and coming climbers will be constantly skewing your results. Most mere mortals will never climb 5.13. Which means that everything that Ashima and future pros like her climb will be horribly sandbagged for the common man.

2. Since the person with the lowest time score makes the grade, it would be a game for the best up and coming hopefuls to climb things and downgrade them so they could slap their name to the ascent. This worsens the sandbag problem.

3. We'd be buying new guidebooks constantly. We'd all go broke.

Nathan Self · · Louisiana · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 20

Know of any 22.5 routes that go at about 5.8-5.10?

(I'm looking for easier stuff that you can't climb until you're older/experienced.)

ViperScale · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 165

What does the number of years have anything to do with how strong of a climber you are? I know people who have climbed for 6 years who can't climb 5.9 and I know people who started yesterday who can climb a 5.10.

Everyone is different height, ape index, physical shape. Even if you take 2 people in good shape they have different personality and one is more likely to let go before the other.

You than also have climbing style and fear factor. I know people who can climb 5.11 and can't lead a 5.8 slab.

mountainhick · · Black Hawk, CO · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 60

I see no consistency in the method.

If I send 5.11 in my second month as a beginner, where does that leave Moe who is struggling on 5.8 at one year, or Josephine who sent 5.12a after three weeks?

David Gibbs · · Ottawa, ON · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 6

Not stated, but incredibly important assumption:

Everyone progresses (gets better) linearly at the same rate from the same grade as they climb.

This is NOT a valid assumption. As many others have pointed out.

When I saw the thread title, I thought you were going to come up with something interesting like measuring climb steepness, length, hold-size, variety of holds, distance between holds, crack depth, etc -- and that would give an "objective" grading system. Oh well.

And, while this will not actually be a subjective number -- this system will provide an almost completely useless number.

e.g., if I have a crag where everyone who climbs there has been climbing at least 20 years, then all the climbs will be graded at least 20.x, whether the climb is 5.0 or 5.14. Whereas, if I have a crag that Ashima visited after climbing for a year, and she flashed all the climbs, they'd all have a grade of 1.x, whether they were 5.0 or 5.12 (or whatever she was sending after a year).

So, this gives you an objective, but useless system of grading. Vs the current system of subjective, but generally useful, grading system.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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