Subjective nature of climbing grades


Original Post
Daniel H. Bryant · · Colorado Springs, CO · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 275

It's hard for me to put an exact number/grade on a climbs difficulty. When I look at the grade assigned in a guide book, I take it with a +/- full grade mentality, it might be harder or easier.

In running, there is distance and time, strength there is weight and reps.

I wonder was the climbing grading system developed around a specific body size and strength?

A tall person and a short person are going to grade the same climb a little differently.
Sustained difficulty versus short bursts of strength.
No standard to pitch length, most I've climbed are around 25-30m and some were a full 50-60m....which can make judging endurance and energy budgeting a little tricky.

Due to the subjective nature of the grading system, is it safe to put climbers into a class range, like boxing has weight classes? Just tossing some ideas around.

Kyle Tarry · · Portland, OR · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 162

You're overthinking it. Climbing grades are meant to be a general indicator of the difficulty. Of course it will vary by the type of route, type of climber, size of climber, location, local history, type of rock, strengths and weaknesses, etc. There's no reason why we need further classifications.

Seth Jones · · New Lenox, IL · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 25

Yes, ratings are subjective. No, we should not consider complicating them more than they already are.

amarius · · Nowhere, OK · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 20

Yes, there is such things as subjective grades, even top climbers acknowledge that.
In order to see that in action, go to Red River Gorge Route Guide and do a bit of browsing. Quite a few routes have user grades showing nice bell shape distribution. Some comments will indicate what the grade feels like for shorter or taller person.

Guy Keesee · · Moorpark, CA · Joined Mar 2008 · Points: 310
J Marsella wrote:No, Seth, OP is right. Each YDS number(letter) grade should have a handicapping adjustment that will be calculated at the time of the (+/- attempted) ascent. This adjustment should consider height, weight, age, sex genotype, BMI, bone density, current VO2max, 80%HRmax, and shoe size. Also involving a constant with an exponent would help make the equation really pop.
J Marsella..... You left out some other variables...

Temp + Humidity

Wind Velocity and direction

Distance from Road

any potential sexual partners looking on

Drug Alcohol use
Russ Keane · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 140

Sanbagged 5.8 is the same as 5.9

doligo · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2008 · Points: 277
Daniel H. Bryant wrote:Sustained difficulty versus short bursts of strength. No standard to pitch length, most I've climbed are around 25-30m and some were a full 50-60m....which can make judging endurance and energy budgeting a little tricky.
I think climbing grades (outside) already reflect those points. There are many climbs that are given a higher grade due to length/sustained nature of climbing, eventhough individual moves are easier.
Jack Servedio · · Raleigh,NC · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 30
Russ Keane wrote:Sanbagged 5.8 is the same as 5.9
Unless you're in DL or the Gunks - than it's 5.10b. At least we have a fairly clear system - not four grades (or 5 if you have a good marketing team) like skiing and snowboarding until you are hucking yourself off cliffs and call yourself extreme.
Chase Bowman · · Baton Rouge/Durango · Joined Jan 2014 · Points: 550

think about your hand size in a place like indian creek.. I'm not to familiar with it but I heard a rule once saying that any crack the size of your hand is 5.9. That same "5.9" might be a 5.11 for the 98 pound sexual partner whose 3 beers in belaying you.

Brian L. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 90

YDS is subjective, based originally on 10 climbs at Tahquitz Rock. I would guess, but am not sure, that it was consensus ranked by the Sierra Club members who developed it. If you haven't climbed those, technically you don't really know what a 5.0-5.9 is. You make interpretations based on other's interpretations, based on... for all the routes in those ranges you HAVE climbed.

I'd guess its that mentality that has lead to the "old school" vs "new school" ratings. Basically old school ratings seem harder, because the opinion of the person who put it up was less diluted. As the opinion get's diluted, and as we expand the grade range, we stop thinking of "moderately difficult" as 5.5, and start thinking of that range as "easy". So that "easy" climb we just FA'd becomes a 5.5, instead of a 5.3. Ego probably plays a role too.

Chase Bowman · · Baton Rouge/Durango · Joined Jan 2014 · Points: 550

Speaking of routes in the 5.3 range.. the damn Michael Banks proposal route is assumed to be 5.3 new school.. However felt more like 5.12. But i don't live in California, so theres that.

Chase Bowman · · Baton Rouge/Durango · Joined Jan 2014 · Points: 550

yeah the guide book says to take crack beforehand, MP said Meth.. so I went with the guide book. Lesson learned.

Seth Jones · · New Lenox, IL · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 25
Guy Keesee wrote: J Marsella..... You left out some other variables... Temp + Humidity Wind Velocity and direction Distance from Road any potential sexual partners looking on Drug Alcohol use
And lets not forget that drugs and alcohol can help you lead a scary route by increasing confidence and quieting the voices in your head but too much starts to mess with coordination, making it harder to climb. So for example, 1-2 drinks might bring the grade down but 5-6 would obviously bring the grade up. Of course, then we have to figure in the tolerance of the climber to said drugs and alcohol. This is gonna get hairy.
Aleks Zebastian · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 175

climbing friend,

if the route it feels difficult, it means you are quite weak and must continue sculpting your guns, developing your neck meat, and practicing your technical and mental.

proper style your forearms shall be refreshed at crux during bold flash

Mike Mu. · · hagerstown · Joined Feb 2007 · Points: 65
Brian L. wrote:YDS is subjective, based originally on 10 climbs at Tahquitz Rock. I would guess, but am not sure, that it was consensus ranked by the Sierra Club members who developed it. If you haven't climbed those, technically you don't really know what a 5.0-5.9 is. .
what are those 10 climbs? I know the Trough was the 5.0 and the Open Book was the 5.9. Does anyone know what the others are?
Guy Keesee · · Moorpark, CA · Joined Mar 2008 · Points: 310
Mike Mu. wrote: what are those 10 climbs? I know the Trough was the 5.0 and the Open Book was the 5.9. Does anyone know what the others are?
I think Angeles Fright is the 5.6

Mechanics Route is the 5.8

Open Book is the 5.9
ViperScale · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 230

Don't forget about high gravity days, it can make some days so hard.

I have climbed dozens of V5s and that one stupid V2 at HP40 I have never been able to do and none of my friends have either.

Daniel H. Bryant · · Colorado Springs, CO · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 275
ViperScale wrote:Don't forget about high gravity days, it can make some days so hard.
Kinda far out, but not impossible:
gravity anomaly
Chase Bowman · · Baton Rouge/Durango · Joined Jan 2014 · Points: 550
Seth Jones wrote: And lets not forget that drugs and alcohol can help you lead a scary route by increasing confidence and quieting the voices in your head but too much starts to mess with coordination, making it harder to climb. So for example, 1-2 drinks might bring the grade down but 5-6 would obviously bring the grade up. Of course, then we have to figure in the tolerance of the climber to said drugs and alcohol. This is gonna get hairy.
Are you being serious?
nathanael · · Riverside, CA · Joined May 2011 · Points: 307

5.0 - The trough, FA 1936 (.4)

5.1 - Fingertip traverse, FA 1936 (.4)

5.2 - Frightful variation of the trough, FA 1944 (.2)

5.3 - East lark, FA 1950 (.5)

5.4 - Angel's fright, FA 1936 (.6)

5.5 - Ski Tracks (left .6, right .9), FA 1947, 1957

5.6 - Sahara terror (.7), FA 1942

5.7 - Fingertrip (.7), FA 1946

5.8 - Mechanic's route (.8 R), FA 1937

5.9 - Open book (.9), FFA 1952 (aided previously)

Marc801 C · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 65
Chase Bowman wrote: Are you being serious?
It's Seth. Need you ask more?
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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