Grading Route Quality


Original Post
Mike Engle · · Pocatello, Idaho · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 5,544

Question - when grading route quality on MP, do you give star ratings compared to other routes you've done at all climbing areas (they all can't be The Nose) or do you give the star rating based on comparison to other routes in the same area (similar to how a lot of guidebooks do quality ratings)?

Greg Barnes · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,748

Within the area. Bastille Crack is 4-star for Eldo, but it'd be 2-star in Red Rocks or Yosemite.

Lena chita · · Cleveland, OH · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 240

Within the area makes sense to me.

If you were visiting this area for the first time, should you get on this route, or is this route more of a "meh, do it only if you've done everything else here"? First case gets high rating, the second case gets lower rating.

You can take a random mediocre route from the RRG, put it at a small OH crag, and it would skyrocket to 5 stars. :)

AndrewArroz · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10

It's really a little of both. Obviously the average route quality in the Yosemite Valley or Tahquitz is going to be higher than your local roadside crag. So you have to rate your local crag based on the relative quality of routes there, not against world class. But that also doesn't mean the best route at some local spot merits a 4 star rating just because it's the "best" thing there.


S. Neoh · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2009 · Points: 0
Mike Engle wrote:

Question - when grading route quality on MP, do you give star ratings compared to other routes you've done at all climbing areas ..... ?

For better or worse, I rate quality based on all routes I have done of approximately the same level of difficulty.  

S. Neoh · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2009 · Points: 0
Lena chita wrote:

You can take a random mediocre route from the RRG, put it at a small OH crag, and it would skyrocket to 5 stars. :)

True, NRG and RRG routes have spoiled my ratings of MA and NH sport routes.  A recent visit to CO did not help to correct matters either :)

slim · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2004 · Points: 1,005

it depends.  if the guidebook proclaims that the area is "world class climbing" (like they all do...), then i compare them against world class routes at world class areas.  if it is a podunk little area i am more lenient.

Zane Winter · · Kansas City, MO · Joined Dec 2016 · Points: 113

A combination of the two.

For example, our metropolitan crag in KC, Cliff Drive, is not particularly good in a lot of ways. Rock is slippery and chossy and the routes are short. That said, Under Fire gets 3 stars from me because it's one of the best at the crag but is pretty bad compared to, you know, anything else that's climbable. 

edit: a word

Lena chita · · Cleveland, OH · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 240
AndrewArroz wrote:

It's really a little of both. Obviously the average route quality in the Yosemite Valley or Tahquitz is going to be higher than your local roadside crag. So you have to rate your local crag based on the relative quality of routes there. But that also doesn't mean the best route at some local spot merits a 4 star rating just because it's the "best" thing there.


 I guess I'm doing a bit of both, too, now that i think of it.
I feel that a 4-star rating is only reserved for routes that would be considered a stellar route anywhere, at any crag.

The very best route at a mediocre crag wouldn't get a 4 star, even if it is the best route there. But it might get 3 stars at the mediocre area, because it is the best thing there, whereas the same route would get only 2 stars at a spectacularly good area.

Jeff Luton · · Ventucky Ca · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 0

Well a lot goes into this for me

1. Cool movement, I've given 5.7's 3-4 stars based on a few moves that were just a lot of fun to make

2. Rock quality, was I fearing for my belayer the whole time? If it's a new route I'm more lenient as most new routes need cleaning 

3. Was I hungover? Did I actually enjoy myself to the fullest or was I dying the whole time hitting the anchor and begging to get off?

4. Did I get back to the ground and want to do it again? This has only happened a handful of times. I make a send and immediately want to go back up to just repeat it and have the experience all over. I'm not one for taking laps for training, I don't really care about that stuff.

Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 265

The local area is what I would go by. My reasoning is that a climbing destination, like City of Rocks, is already a group consensus on the ratings. Therefore, four star stands up.

If it was a new route, that would still apply. 

If it was a whole new area, then similar rock type, especially if the same sort of rock/climbing is in the region. All of the ratings should be even more of a YMMV situation, though, and climber beware.

Unless you are soloing a route, there are always at least two opinions!

Best, OLH

Edit to add: more than once, amusingly, I have noticed the lowest rating on a climb is by the same person who thinks it's harder than everyone else gives it! "Take that, you stupid route I can't climb!"

s.price · · PS,CO · Joined Dec 2010 · Points: 1,348

Area specific to me. When I am trying to get a sense of what routes are best by consensus at an area I only care about the context of that area. How it compares to another crag is not relevant to me. 

Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 265
s.price wrote:

Area specific to me. When I am trying to get a sense of what routes are best by consensus at an area I only care about the context of that area. How it compares to another crag is not relevant to me. 

I know you put up new routes.

Have you had any that were unique enough to question how to rate them? A new route on a new crag, perhaps? 

Best, OLH

LLubchenco · · Lander, wy · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 25

Keep it simple, and to answer the original question: Both. 

1 Star= Worth climbing

2 Star= classic for the area

3 star= Classic anywhere 

Things get real fuzzy once you start using a 5 star system and it makes everything look good. 

s.price · · PS,CO · Joined Dec 2010 · Points: 1,348
Old lady H wrote:

I know you put up new routes.

Have you had any that were unique enough to question how to rate them? A new route on a new crag, perhaps? 

Best, OLH

My latest route really has nothing else I know of in the area to compare it to. The fact that it is the only route I know of on this backcountry cliff makes it impossible to throw stars at without comparing it to similar routes I have done elsewhere. I would give it a classic status due to location and the need to be very well rounded as a climber to send it. But to consider it a classic compared to say Astroman? Couldn't do that.

Starring your own routes is tough as a developer. It is for me. Routes become very personal when you have put in the time, money, sweat, etc... so approaching them in terms of quality without the necessary sense of detachment is difficult at first. I am comfortable assigning a difficulty rating right after I send a new route but typically take my time to assign a quality rating. Quality is a tough one. Just ask Robert Pirsig. That's what makes consensus stand out when dealing with something so subjective.  

S. Neoh · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2009 · Points: 0

If every user on mp.com were to rate the quality of a climb on a local/relative scale, how is a user looking to make a roadtrip or visit going to decide between Destination A and Destination B if both places have approx the same ratio of 4-star and 3-star routes?  As several posts have mentioned, one area's 2-star route could very well be another area's 4-star if rated on a relative scale.  Of course, rating to an absolute scale has its issues as well, not the least of which is most climbers including myself do not have enough time nor resources to visit and climb at even 10% of all destinations that attract our interest, if one considers destinations outside the US.

To keep things in proper perspective, this question, while a lot of fun to ponder and banter over, belongs in the realm of "first world problems".  At the end of the day, if you got a lot of enjoyment out of a climb, then it is a 3- or 4-star route to you, regardless what is given on mp.com or in any guide book.  Climb, crank (or not), and savor the moment.

Jaren Watson · · Boise, Idaho · Joined May 2010 · Points: 1,205

It makes the most sense to me to rate based on local scale. Destination areas are known as such. Likewise, for local crags. If I rate on a general scale, then essentially every local route will get a bomb or one star. Maybe two stars if it's atypically stellar. Rating generally doesn't allow enough options to distinguish between good local climbs and lousy local climbs.

I'll second the difficulty faced rating a climb you cleaned and bolted. You hope others will find it worthwhile, but it's pretty hard not to be blinded by all the effort you spent readying the rig. Sometimes that work makes you think it's brilliant. Other cleaning efforts are so diabolical you just want to be rid of the damn thing. So other climbers are better at judging the line's quality.

I think overall, one's involvement in the maintenance and upkeep of the local crag tends to raise one's estimate of that crag. We get rather fond of the rock we're most on, after all. Maybe when traveling can we only give a true appraisal.

Zane Winter · · Kansas City, MO · Joined Dec 2016 · Points: 113
S. Neoh wrote:

If every user on mp.com were to rate the quality of a climb on a local/relative scale, how is a user looking to make a roadtrip or visit going to decide between Destination A and Destination B if both places have approx the same ratio of 4-star and 3-star routes?  

I totally see where you're coming from here. At the same time, most MP sites have a good description of general rock quality.

Jay Morse · · Hooksett, New Hampshire · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 30

I rate routes for others that will be looking at the route's rating when researching the area in the future.  If I give something 4 stars, I'm telling someone the climb is worth going out of your way for.  If I give it 3 stars, I'm saying definitely do it if you're at the crag or looking for a quality route in the grade.  If I give it 2 stars, that means it's worth getting on if you're already at the crag or really starving for something at the grade.  1-star means it isn't terrible, but is probably for local completionists only.  And the bomb is for the rare occasion I recommend against getting on a climb at all.  I think the way I do it is in line with most other people - I haven't been let down by a 3+ star route on MP with a reasonable number of votes yet in ~7 years of climbing.  

The only exception is that I rate boulder problems on their own scale, since I would personally rather climb a 2-star trad route than a 4-star boulder problem usually, but it seems unfair to the boulderers to do it any differently.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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