Devil's Lake Grade Conversion


Original Post
Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 45

Hey everyone,

So, we all know that Devil's Lake ratings are stiff...reportedly stiffer than anywhere else in the country, to the point of basically being their own rating system far removed from regular YDS or especially gym grades. I mean, is there anywhere else that a climb like Upper D would be a 5.9, or Coatimundi a 5.6? So, I thought it would be a fun exercise to work out a grade conversion chart for DL, both as a warning to climbers new to the lake and for S&G. Feel free to include exposure/boldness, pro/danger factors, etc; basically, "a __ at Devil's Lake feels like a ___" somewhere else...

My experience has usually been that you should add 1-3 grades to DL grades over other outdoor areas, with old school trad areas being closer and new school sport areas further. A 5.6 at Devil's Lake feels like a 5.7 at Eldo and a 5.8 at the Red, for example, but at somewhere like Red Rock it could go as a 5.9 or 10. Compared to gyms, I'd say 3-4 grades, depending on the gym. 5.6s feel like 5.9 or 10a at First Ascent to me.

5.0-5.3- this is the only grade range that truly feels easy. Scramble.
5.4-5.5: this can feel anywhere from easy and breezy (Queen's Throne, Cleo's Needle) to awkward and sandbagged (Double Overhang, Pedestal).
5.6: 5.8 outdoor, 5.10a gym
5.7: 5.9 outdoor, 5.10b gym
5.8: 5.10 outdoor, 5.10c gym
5.9: 5.10 b/c, 5.10d/11a
5.10a: 5.10c/d, 11a/b
10b: 10d, 11b
10c: 11a, 11c
10d: 11b, 11d
11a: 11c, 12a
Haven't climbed harder than that :p

Redyns · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2011 · Points: 0

ok, so?

Eli Helmuth · · Ciales, PR · Joined Aug 2001 · Points: 1,201

I just climbed there for the first time this summer while training AMGA guides and found the ratings to be consistent with all of the trad areas I've climbed at over the last 30 years including the Gunks, New River, Yosemite, Joshua Tree, Eldo, RMNP and the list goes on. Now being at such a low elevation you do have more gravity on top of you plus midwesterners have a bit more around the belt (fried cheese curds anyone?) than the average. Maybe the local gyms from Chicago to Milwaukee are overrating their routes so much that it's throwing folks off? I would recommend a different rating system for gyms so that we don't compare these two completely different styles of climbing (indoors and outside). Spend your time training instead of changing rating systems perhaps?

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 45

Haha, not sure that's how gravity works, but you might have a point about the cheese curds.

ARonchetti · · Mundelein, IL · Joined May 2011 · Points: 10

It's an interesting idea and I've tried this a few times with people when we're just sitting at the wall. I just don't think you can make a general grade conversion though. Mostly just because the smooth nature of quartzite. It's almost like it plays by it's own rules. A Geological James Dean if you will. I once tried Roger's Roof on a 90 degree day and the crux move felt more mid 11 than hard 10. Why not just try to get DLGS (Devil's Lake Grading System) into the climbing Lexicon? :)

Just my 2 cents. I don't feel like I've climbing in enough other areas in the country to remark on the broader accuracy.

ARonchetti · · Mundelein, IL · Joined May 2011 · Points: 10
Eli Helmuth wrote:I just climbed there for the first time this summer while training AMGA guides and found the ratings to be consistent with all of the trad areas I've climbed at over the last 30 years including the Gunks, New River, Yosemite, Joshua Tree, Eldo, RMNP and the list goes on. Now being at such a low elevation you do have more gravity on top of you plus midwesterners have a bit more around the belt (fried cheese curds anyone?) than the average. Maybe the local gyms from Chicago to Milwaukee are overrating their routes so much that it's throwing folks off? I would recommend a different rating system for gyms so that we don't compare these two completely different styles of climbing (indoors and outside). Spend your time training instead of changing rating systems perhaps?
Having access to copious amount of beer probably doesn't help either.
Eli Helmuth · · Ciales, PR · Joined Aug 2001 · Points: 1,201
Ted Pinson wrote:Haha, not sure that's how gravity works, but you might have a point about the cheese curds.
It actually is how gravity works plus some other planet-wide variables: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravi...
According to this graph, we should be able to send much harder in the Caribbean? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravi...
Bradley Gorsline · · Pasadena, California · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 265

Agreed that Devil's Lake grades are consistent with other trad areas (Gunks, Josh, Tahquitz/Suicide, etc.)

Seth Jones · · New Lenox, IL · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 5
TheRonch wrote: Having access to copious amount of beer probably doesn't help either.
Yep, that's my biggest excuse for not sending hard.

It's so good, once it hits your lips, it's so good!

Back to the topic at hand, a DL 5.8 feels like a 5.8 at DL to me! I don't get out much.
Woodchuck ATC · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 550
TheRonch wrote:It's an interesting idea and I've tried this a few times with people when we're just sitting at the wall. I just don't think you can make a general grade conversion though. Mostly just because the smooth nature of quartzite. It's almost like it plays by it's own rules. A Geological James Dean if you will. I once tried Roger's Roof on a 90 degree day and the crux move felt more mid 11 than hard 10. Why not just try to get DLGS (Devil's Lake Grading System) into the climbing Lexicon? :) Just my 2 cents. I don't feel like I've climbing in enough other areas in the country to remark on the broader accuracy.
?? Rogers Roof,the crack roof move?// a 5.8 in book. Now a 10 that feels like an 11? I'm confused. Agree on a hot humid day it's tough to keep that jam painfully in place on the back of your wrist, and you can slide out of it easily in the heat. But never thought it felt like a 10, that's for sure. DL has no friction for shoes on that slick quartzite, thus the climbs are tougher without any friction moves you can just toss in to help out. It's find the key holds or dont' expect to make it up the route..there is no forgiveness and no intermediate' hold to use to make up a route.
Eli Helmuth · · Ciales, PR · Joined Aug 2001 · Points: 1,201

It was cool spring weather when I climbed there so stickier conditions. Climbing shoe rubber sticks best to freezing rock, the warmer it is the less friction. The darker the rock the more energy it absorbs so DL in the summer is slicker than a pile of banana peels I'm sure. That however doesn't change the rating, just the conditions which likely suck most of the hot months.

ARonchetti · · Mundelein, IL · Joined May 2011 · Points: 10
Woodchuck ATC wrote: ?? Rogers Roof,the crack roof move?// a 5.8 in book. Now a 10 that feels like an 11? I'm confused. Agree on a hot humid day it's tough to keep that jam painfully in place on the back of your wrist, and you can slide out of it easily in the heat. But never thought it felt like a 10, that's for sure. DL has no friction for shoes on that slick quartzite, thus the climbs are tougher without any friction moves you can just toss in to help out. It's find the key holds or dont' expect to make it up the route..there is no forgiveness and no intermediate' hold to use to make up a route.
It's the excuse I'm going with. That was also like 3 years ago when I was just getting into 11s and I'm 6'1". I can come up with all kind's of excuses :).

I just need to make better use of my time to get stronger.
ARonchetti · · Mundelein, IL · Joined May 2011 · Points: 10

That being said I LOVED the climb and should really get back on it at some point. I just seem to always end up at other walls.

Colin R · · Ottawa, ON · Joined Sep 2007 · Points: 760

Adirondack grades are the hardest grades I have encountered personally. Poke-O and Spiders Web readily come to mind.

I remember climbing at Devil's Lake on TR once and felt the routes there were pretty sandbagged but within the range of old school trade grades elsewhere. I haven't been to Seneca Rocks though and I've heard that place is heinous sandbagged...

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 45
Eli Helmuth wrote:It was cool spring weather when I climbed there so stickier conditions. Climbing shoe rubber sticks best to freezing rock, the warmer it is the less friction. The darker the rock the more energy it absorbs so DL in the summer is slicker than a pile of banana peels I'm sure. That however doesn't change the rating, just the conditions which likely suck most of the hot months.
Aha! No wonder. Yes, DL quartzite actually develops rather nice friction in cold weather...I've even gotten some pretty good smears. In the summer on a hot and humid day, it is slick as a marble countertop. I agree that it doesn't traditionally change the rating (although that is honestly bs IMO), but this thread is about perceived difficulty, not actual difficulty. ;) The unforgiving nature of the rock makes many of the routes very beta intensive, even in the low grades.

Never thought about the darkness of the rock being a factor...interesting point.
Mike Robinson · · Boulder, CO · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 160
Eli Helmuth wrote: It actually is how gravity works plus some other planet-wide variables: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravi... According to this graph, we should be able to send much harder in the Caribbean? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravi...
very pertinent comment Eli. What if DL was on the moon?

Well just for conversation sake, let's do some math!

g_earth ~ 9.81 m/s^2

g_moon ~ 1.62 m/s^2

DL grade conversion factor for the moon:

r_moon = g_earth/g_moon = 6.01

So if DL was on the moon, routes would be 6x easier! I could finally get up my sick proj. BUT ONLY if the temps and humidity were just right. We'll talk about climbing in a space suite at a later date.

MR
Eli Helmuth · · Ciales, PR · Joined Aug 2001 · Points: 1,201
Mike Robinson wrote: So if DL was on the moon, routes would be 6x easier! I could finally get up my sick proj. BUT ONLY if the temps and humidity were just right. We'll talk about climbing in a space suite at a later date. MR
That's the reason we go to school and why math and physics are so important.

Along those lines, I've been working on the helium pack design for some years. IT would make backpacking as effortless as a walk through the park but more importantly, climbers could use the changeable weight loss to have a climbing "handicap". For example I fill the pack with helium to 150# I would be climbing as a 40# person and that's how I'll be able to climb 5.15. Maybe only a 90# handicap for 5.14 and I can probably send more 13's with just a 50# handicap. Wouldn't that make climbing much more interesting to discuss online?
Joel Allen · · La Crosse, WI · Joined Mar 2014 · Points: 230

I've never climbed a route at DL that I thought was off by more than 1 grade.

Chris treggE · · Madison, WI · Joined May 2007 · Points: 8,590

Some routes might be sandbagged but IMO definitely not the majority.  

Joel Allen · · La Crosse, WI · Joined Mar 2014 · Points: 230

Eggert!!! What are you doing here? I thought you'd be out warming up on my projects! :p

Fehim Hasecic · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 40

OP, let go of the ego and just climb. DL is no different than any other climbing area grade wise. Grades in Midwest aren't stiffer, it's just the majority of the climbers aren't as experienced as they think they are.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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