Mountain Project Logo

"+" and "-" Grades


Original Post
Danny Androos · · Austin, TX · Joined Oct 2017 · Points: 228

As I understand it, a +/- after a sport climb rating indicates a higher or lower level of sustain in a route. However, things get muddled when you get into the 5.10-5.15 range because of the letter qualifiers. It seems many people believe a 5.10- is a 5.10a/b and a 5.10+ is a 5.10c/d, while I would take it to mean that it is simply a less or more sustained route somewhere in the 5.10 range. Which of these interpretations is correct?

Sam Miller · · Bend, OR · Joined Oct 2017 · Points: 0

5.10- = 10a/b , 5.10 = 10b/c , 5.10+ = 10c/d 

5.9+ = 10b 


C. Williams · · the Climber Cave · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 1,145

Sam Miller wrote:

5.9+ = 10b 


Area dependent 5.9+ = 5.10b - 5.11d 

climber pat · · Las Cruces, NM · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 215

Some people like to think + and - apply to trad routes and letters to sport routes. 

Gunkiemike · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 2,785

climber pat wrote:

Some people like to think + and - apply to trad routes and letters to sport routes. 

Until you get to Europe, no?

Bill Lawry · · New Mexico · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,554

Grading a route is like naming colors.  I really didn't know what green was until every time I saw it, I was told it was green.  And then, through careful measurement, we discover that my green is not your green.

"+" or "-" are a slight nod to that fun fact - history not withstanding.

Cheers!

Peter Lewis · · Bridgton, Maine · Joined Oct 2009 · Points: 160

In many of the "old school" areas here in the Northeast, the "+" designation means total sandbag. In the Adirondacks, I'd feel much less trepidation trying a .11a rather than a .9+ (although I probably couldn't do either one of them).

Alan Emery · · Lebanon, NH · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 257

Climbing grades are subjective for the most part.  I like seeing the "+" and "-" more than the a, b, c or d ratings.  A "-" means it is easier for the grade while a "+" means it is hard for the grade.  That is sure a lot simplier than trying to decide what letter grade to give it.  

Roy Suggett · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 6,565

I agree with Sam Miller above ^^^, and I really like it that way.  Here is why, I often set a route with a much taller or much shorter partner.  On many occasions the line will have a height dependent move some where along way.  What 1/2 the team can do with relative ease, the other 1/2 struggles with.  So now you can rate the line with a wider spectrum to account for the move and the shorter...sometimes taller, climber.  You get less shit on MP when rating this way too.


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

Alan Emery wrote:

Climbing grades are subjective for the most part.  

From my limited experience consensus settles on a/b/c/d ratings, while FAs suggest -/+ grade. 

Perfect example - look at this discussion regarding "The Preacher's Daughter", at RRG/PMRP/Gallery. There is also grade voting histogram.

https://www.redriverclimbing.com/RRCGuide/?type=route&id=2488

Pnelson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 345

climber pat wrote:

Some people like to think + and - apply to trad routes and letters to sport routes. 

I prefer to use -, +, and "solid" grades for trad; particularly for cracks in which hand or finger size makes grades a bit more subjective and open than strict letter grades.  

Alan Emery · · Lebanon, NH · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 257

amarius wrote:

From my limited experience consensus settles on a/b/c/d ratings, while FAs suggest -/+ grade. 

Perfect example - look at this discussion regarding "The Preacher's Daughter", at RRG/PMRP/Gallery. There is also grade voting histogram.

https://www.redriverclimbing.com/RRCGuide/?type=route&id=2488

I see this more in the light of either someone does not want to over rate a climb, so they call it a 10d and not a 11a.  There are also those who want the higher grades, so they choose the 11a over the 10d.  Then there is also the fact that the same climb may be harder for a shorter or taller person, making it either easier or harder than the letter grade.  It seems like there is just too much calculating going on in order to decide what level the climb should be rated, which is why I usually like the plus/minus grade, or even something as simple as a solid 5.10.  Perhaps it is much easier to remember this way?

mountainhick · · Black Hawk, CO · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 120

+ means harder than the grade it is attached to. There are not many of the old 5.9+ that haven't been regraded, but back in the day...


And, + and - historically preceded a/b/c/d

Franck Vee · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2017 · Points: 30

mountainhick wrote:

+ means harder than the grade it is attached to. There are not many of the old 5.9+ that haven't been regraded, but back in the day...


And, + and - historically preceded a/b/c/d

Interesting - that's not necessarily how I used it nor how I interpreted it. I always took it as a/b or c/d or just generally "easy 10" or "hard 11".

I do agree that a number of 5.9+ though fall really more in line with you interpretation. However, given this topic, it seems that the uses & interpretations are now all over the place....

To be honest, I'm not even that sure I'm really able to grade a route down to the letter. I think I can fairly accurately call easy/hard 10/11/12, however what really is the difference between say 11b and 11c? Seems that how I'm feeling that day, whether I climbed it early/late in the day, how it suits my strength/weaknesses and even when in the season I climbed it all factor in and cause so much uncertainty...

Idaho Bob · · McCall, ID · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 58

I've found that 5.9+ usually means that there are one or two moves in a long pitch that are harder than 5.9, but that the majority of the route is 5.9.  But I've found little consistency with use of "-" below 5.10.  For example, 5.8-.   5.10- is 5.10a/b most place I climb.

Danny Androos · · Austin, TX · Joined Oct 2017 · Points: 228

Thanks for the feedback. This is exactly the way I've seen people use +/- in sport grades. However, this seems to conflict with the Yosemite Decimal System, which suggests that +/- should be used to indicate level of sustain, not to indicate what letter-grade range a climb is in (e.g. 5.10+ = 5.10c/d). It also seems strange that the letter is stripped from the grade when using +/-. Why can't I rate a climb as 5.10b+, meaning it is a 5.10b climbed, but is quite sustained?

I think this is another indication that we should ditch the overly-complex YDS in favor of the Australian system. :P

GabeO · · New Haven, CT · Joined May 2006 · Points: 306

Danny Androos wrote:

Thanks for the feedback. This is exactly the way I've seen people use +/- in sport grades. However, this seems to conflict with the Yosemite Decimal System, which suggests that +/- should be used to indicate level of sustain, not to indicate what letter-grade range a climb is in (e.g. 5.10+ = 5.10c/d). It also seems strange that the letter is stripped from the grade when using +/-. Why can't I rate a climb as 5.10b+, meaning it is a 5.10b climbed, but is quite sustained?

I think this is another indication that we should ditch the overly-complex YDS in favor of the Australian system. :P

You got the feedback that explains it, you just ignored it.  +/- has nothing to do with "sustained".  It is a shorthand for "easier or harder end of the grade".  That's it.  Letter grades a through d simply are a finer level of detail, but denote exactly the same thing.

mountainhick · · Black Hawk, CO · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 120

GabeO wrote:

You got the feedback that explains it, you just ignored it.  +/- has nothing to do with "sustained".  It is a shorthand for "easier or harder end of the grade".  That's it.  Letter grades a through d simply are a finer level of detail, but denote exactly the same thing.

Sustained nature of a pitch can factor into the determined grade, but I agree, +/- has nothing to do with whether it is sustained or not. 

There are heaps of 5.9+ routes that have a single crux move at that difficulty.

There are heaps of 5.10- routes that are sustained at that level.



Roy Suggett · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 6,565

amarius wrote:

From my limited experience consensus settles on a/b/c/d ratings, while FAs suggest -/+ grade. 

Perfect example - look at this discussion regarding "The Preacher's Daughter", at RRG/PMRP/Gallery. There is also grade voting histogram.

https://www.redriverclimbing.com/RRCGuide/?type=route&id=2488

Right, FAs suggest.  But in my experience (most) do their best to get close to what those who follow, tall, short, experienced, newby, gumby, etc might experience.  Thereby giving those that follow some semblance of insight  before launching off on an adventure that often has no chalk trail or other beta to lead them in the right direction and also often has some looseness missed by the FA.  

Xan Calonne · · Joshua Tree, Ca · Joined Mar 2010 · Points: 35

I agree with Alan Emery's perspective regarding the subjectivity of grades. I feel that the letter grades imply far more precision of difficulty than can reasonably be shared in a simple grade, especially when you factor in slashed letter grades (5.11a/b). That would give you 9 different grade choices from 5.9/10a-10d/11a, which is absurd, and still doesn't effectively address the key issue which is really why the climb is hard (is it bouldery, sustained, etc.).

I think the +/- system is effective in sharing the key information, which is 1) here's the grade (5.10), and 2) here's how hard of a 5.10 it is (easy, medium, hard). Beyond that, a grade is useless in conveying pertinent information, and a written or verbal description of why the climb is hard is necessary, so why bother with the pseudo-specificity of the letter grades?

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

Danny Androos wrote:

Thanks for the feedback. This is exactly the way I've seen people use +/- in sport grades. However, this seems to conflict with the Yosemite Decimal System, which suggests that +/- should be used to indicate level of sustain, not to indicate what letter-grade range a climb is in (e.g. 5.10+ = 5.10c/d). It also seems strange that the letter is stripped from the grade when using +/-. Why can't I rate a climb as 5.10b+, meaning it is a 5.10b climbed, but is quite sustained?

I think this is another indication that we should ditch the overly-complex YDS in favor of the Australian system. :P

REI is not an authoritative source for definitions in climbing.  

Further, that definition (and your original post here) is the first time I've ever seen it suggested that +/- represents sustainedness, rather than easier/harder within a difficulty range. It is, also, not sport trad relevant.

Why do we often see 5.5+ or 5.11-, but not 5.10a-?  Because the letter grading system is already precise enough, and some will argue (quite reasonably) too precise, so there is little-to-no need to further qualify the grade.


Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Post a Reply to ""+" and "-" Grades"
in the Sport Climbing

Log In to Reply