/ Font grades instead of UK tech grades?

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Mike505 27 Jan 2020

Don't shoot me! I'm genuinely interested to see if this would be of benefit.

Is there sense and justification in using font bouldering grades rather than British tech grades for UK routes? 

The 6b - 7a tech grades cover a vast range of grades and it seems that having a few more grades in the system would allow routes to be more accurately described.

So E1 5b becomes E1 4+/5

VS 4c becomes VS 3

E6 6b becomes E6 6b/6b+/6c/6c+/7a

At the lower end of the grade spectrum it wouldn't help much, however routes with that are 6b UK tech or above it would surely be much more useful? It keeps our grading system looking roughly the same and doesn't require the use of sport grading.

Maybe too big of an undertaking, maybe not practical?

Cheers

Michael

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pasbury 27 Jan 2020
In reply to Mike505:

It already is widely used for routes with a boulder crux. I can't see the point for non cruxy routes.

It's a case of using whatever sort of grading system can reveal a little more about the route I guess.

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Mike505 27 Jan 2020
In reply to pasbury:

But even non crux routes still generally have a crux of some description, failing that it would still work with the adjective grade to denote a bold or we'll protected but sustained route. I suppose it would be of greater use the higher into the grading system you got.

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Simon Caldwell 27 Jan 2020
In reply to Mike505:

I don't think it could apply to easy routes. Either I don't understand font grades (which is my assumption), or anything below about 4+ is graded using a random number generator.

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Mike505 27 Jan 2020
In reply to Simon Caldwell:

Low grades would probably just be a direct translation. Guide books could probably print the original grade alongside the new equivalent.

3c to f0

4a to f1 

4b to f2 

4c to f3

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Bulls Crack 27 Jan 2020
In reply to Mike505:

What would be the advantage though? If it s a direct translation of the the tech garde ie applying the font grade to the single hardest moves , it would k=just be changing the like for like. If there's an overall element in the font grade you're then left with the same question: is it techy or sustained?. Is more useful for harder tech routes though

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Mike505 27 Jan 2020
In reply to Bulls Crack:

My musing was mainly aimed at the mid to high E grades to be honest I understand that it would be of little use below E4/E5. I was mainly trying to see if it could be used to improve the description of routes with a crux of 6b or harder. 

As for Tech or sustained that would come down to the route descriptions I guess. Also looking at the route, The Strand is E2 5b but I can tell by looking at it that it's well protected and sustained rather than bold with a 5b crux.

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deacondeacon 27 Jan 2020
In reply to Mike505:on mid to high E grades people tend to add either a Font grade (for short, punchy routes) or a French grade (for longer stamina routes). This works very well and I'm pretty sure we'll start to see it in guidebooks more often in the future.

I'm sure I'll get some dislikes for this but trad grades are broken once you get to English 6B. The grades are just too wide to be of use. For me personally an English 6B could be something I might flash or something harder than I've ever climbed before. that doesn't help me at all in route selection.

6C (if I ever get there), will be even worse! 

Post edited at 18:42
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Mike505 27 Jan 2020
In reply to deacondeacon:

I think we're thinking along similar lines, it might be nice a more permanent fix to the UK tech grade system at some point though. I've climbed 6b that felt closer to 5c and then some 6b which felt like the living end (got the scars to prove it!).

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Al Randall 27 Jan 2020
In reply to Mike505:

I can see some sense in supplementing the UK Technical grade, especially at the higher grades (E5 and above) with a French grade.  I can't comment on Font grades but I see absolutely no point in just replacing one 2 tier system with another 2 tier system when the original system has served us so well for so long.

Al

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deacondeacon 27 Jan 2020
In reply to Al Randall:

> I can see some sense in supplementing the UK Technical grade, especially at the higher grades (E5 and above) with a French grade.  I can't comment on Font grades but I see absolutely no point in just replacing one 2 tier system with another 2 tier system when the original system has served us so well for so long.

> Al

It doesn't serve well at E5 and above though, where the British tech grade is too vague. 

English 6B could be anything from f7a to f7c. So 6B spans 5 grades (and that's not including things which are misgraded). So for me covers everything from 'I've got a good chance of doing first time' to 'there's no point in trying because it'll take me a years solid training to get up'.

As for English 6C? That covers f7c (limestone weekend warrior) all the way to at least 8c (pretty damn close to elite).

When you're talking about trad, where you're talking about having a reasonable chance of scraping up it if the shit hits the fan these grades are next to useless. 

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Iamgregp 27 Jan 2020
In reply to deacondeacon:

Did I read somewhere that all the grades got squished because of elite climbers in the 80’s? Something to do with them under grading everything?

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Mike505 27 Jan 2020
In reply to Iamgregp:

Rather than just using new grades? Maybe just wanting to burn each other off?

"That's never 6b, felt bloody desperate!"

"Course it is, you're just weak" / "First Time in Yorkshire?"

Post edited at 20:50
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Iamgregp 27 Jan 2020
In reply to Mike505:

Yep, that’s pretty much what I heard...

I think the same was happening in sport climbing. Nobody wanted call their routes 8a because Jerry f’ing Moffat would turn up, climb the thing, downgrade it then give it the big one about how it wasn’t even that hard.  

Post edited at 20:51
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Andy Hardy 27 Jan 2020
In reply to Iamgregp:

And prior to that, "joke" grades were a thing. Propeller Wall at Ilkley was given VS by John Syrett for example.

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Fishmate 27 Jan 2020
In reply to Simon Caldwell:

> I don't think it could apply to easy routes. Either I don't understand font grades (which is my assumption), or anything below about 4+ is graded using a random number generator.


If you climb enough in Font, sub F4+ pretty much ties up. You may see variance between sectors developed 20-30 years apart, i.e. old school grading, but not worth discussing.

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Mike505 27 Jan 2020
In reply to Andy Hardy:

That's just cruel, did Joe Brown once say he thought Brown's Eliminate was only VS?

Post edited at 21:35
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John Stainforth 27 Jan 2020
In reply to Andy Hardy:

John would not have been joking when he graded this VS. I don't think he really new what grades his new routes were (particularly when he walked up them) and he certainly didn't care. He was not a grades-oriented climber.

Today's UK climbers are obsessed with grading systems, so if a seventh one were invented they would probably love that too!

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Andy Hardy 27 Jan 2020
In reply to John Stainforth:

I'm sure you're right, "joke" was maybe not the most accurate descriptor, although he must have known it wasn't VS! maybe the expectation of the FA back then was that whoever did the second ascent would make their own minds up as to the likely difficulty from the ground (certainly for a single pitch in a quarry)

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John Stainforth 27 Jan 2020
In reply to Andy Hardy:

What we *did* know, even at that time, was that the "Yorkshire VS" grade had itself become a bit of a joke. The YMC  were *opposed* to grading anything harder than VS or maybe HVS, even though some of the routes were way harder, e.g., they would not accept Livesey's Extremes. So perhaps Syrett *was* taking the piss (out of the YMC etc)! I don't know, I'm speculating. John had no motives around grading; I think he felt that grading itself was a bit of a (subjective) joke.

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TobyA 27 Jan 2020
In reply to Mike505:

> 3c to f0

> 4a to f1 

> 4b to f2 

> 4c to f3

I'm trying to think, but where do you actually see Font grades below 5? Maybe in Font - don't know, haven't been - but do Rockfax for example even use any Font grades below 5+?

You would just have people who have always used UK technical grades converting back from some list.

I don't climbing much harder than UK 5a these days, at least on routes it seems, so am a life long lower grade punter, but I don't think I really have much idea how UK tech grades work below 4, and 4a and 4b are a bit fuzzy to me! It would be a nightmare to add in another grading system for similar difficulties of moves which are probably more about whether you see the right way to do it rather than actual difficulty.

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C Witter 27 Jan 2020
In reply to Mike505:

I'm not quite sure why you'd use Font bouldering grades instead of French grades or Yosemite (or whichever); is there a reason you prefer font grades? My understanding is that Font grades are for the hardest move; some boulder problems are only one hard move. Does this give you very much information relevant to a route, where you're doing move after move? Why not French grades, that also take into account how sustained something is?

But, the real fly in the ointment is, whilst UK tech grades might span a wide range of difficulty on paper, Font and French grades (in fact, probably all grades) span a wide range of difficulty in reality. I boulder only in the lower grades, but lots of places in the UK, if you convert a font grade into a UK tech grade, you'll realise the font grades are being used very softly. You get font 5 pluses that are UK 4b/4c and font 6As that are UK 5a. I've done font 6Cs that were about UK 5b.

So, I don't think changing the grading system would avoid confusion! You'd get UK 5b boulder problems given the same font grade as E5 6b trad climbs, and we'd be in the same mess.

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Robert Durran 27 Jan 2020
In reply to C Witter:

> I'm not quite sure why you'd use Font bouldering grades instead of French grades or Yosemite (or whichever); is there a reason you prefer font grades? My understanding is that Font grades are for the hardest move; some boulder problems are only one hard move. Does this give you very much information relevant to a route, where you're doing move after move? Why not French grades, that also take into account how sustained something is?

Because the idea is to replace the UK tech grade for telling you how hard the hardest move or sequence is, not the overall grade.

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PaulJepson 27 Jan 2020
In reply to Mike505:

It makes more sense to pair the overall UK grade with a french-style sport grade. 

For a real full picture, you'd need an overall trad grade, a 'hardest move' grade, and also an overall technical (or 'french-style' grade). There's still a bit of ambiguity with the trad grade as you sometimes don't know if it's run-out and loose or sustained. 

You don't want to destroy all the mystery though! I quite like how it is. 

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Michael Hood 28 Jan 2020
In reply to Robert Durran et al:

Personally I'd like to see the UK tech grade fixed in the higher regions by shrinking each grade to a similar "size". What's really being done now, 8a? Higher?

You'd need at least a guidebook area to work out "new UK tech" grades for all routes above 6a and maybe some of the 6a's as well. Should be one tech grade step for every E grade increase, E3 6a, E4 6b, E5 6c, etc should be the midpoints. This might require a bit of E grade tinkering as well.

This would then have to spread to other areas.

But then there would be interminable debate on places like UKC about what the correct grade was for so many routes, not just TPS. (Hold on a minute, maybe that's a good enough reason to do all that 😁).

In reality it's not going to happen, the broken high grades have been supplanted by other systems. Best solution IMO is to leave everything alone up to (and including) 5c, and above that supplement the tech grade (or maybe replace it as you go even higher) with either sport or bouldering grade, whichever's more appropriate to the style of route, or even both where necessary.

Rockfax have already done this in their Peak bouldering guide. I haven't heard people grumbling that it didn't work.

All academic to me, I never got into 6b and it's unlikely to happen now.

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deacondeacon 28 Jan 2020
In reply to C Witter:

> I'm not quite sure why you'd use Font bouldering grades instead of French grades or Yosemite (or whichever)

Font grades work better on short, bouldery 'one move wonders' often found on grit. 

I've done font 6Cs that were about UK 5b.

Come on then, where? 

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Doug 28 Jan 2020
In reply to TobyA:

> I'm trying to think, but where do you actually see Font grades below 5? Maybe in Font - don't know, haven't been - but do Rockfax for example even use any Font grades below 5+?

Plenty of problems graded 4 or less in la forêt (although often the grade is 'traditional' rather than correct) & I think on southern English sandstone (never climbed there). I suspect that many of us first saw 'tech grades' in Paul Nunn's Peak guidebook & I think that went down to 1 or 2.

And it should be remembered that British tech grades were based on sandstone grades which in turn came from Fontainebleau, just that over time they diverged

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Offwidth 28 Jan 2020
In reply to Mike505:

The irony of this discussion is that when UK tech grades were first used in the UK they were originally font grades. Unfortunately above UK tech 6a they are now all but useless as the grade ranges grew too large due to elite ego driven grade deflation...which started before the 80s. Every other system in the world seems to have a bunch  of gradations to denote noticeable differences in the harder tech grades for one UK tech grade step.

At the lower end of the scale Simon Caldwell is right:  sub f6A, font grades in font are 'all over the place', due to polish and wear and a reluctance of the locals over the decades to shift grades as the problems changed. This is a big issue for lower grade boulderers as font grades have become the prime grading system for outdoor bouldering. Indoor V grades on the easiest circuits undergraded by 3 or more grades at the lower end don't help either.  Back to Fontainbleau: in quiet places, with little polish, grades often feel easy. In more popular areas, as a rough average for easier problems you can add a whole number to the font grade to convert to UK tech. However, in font the range is huge...those quiet unpolished problems may be close to the UK tech grade and others on pof polished friction slabs may be over a number harder again... Hence, Simon's 'randomness' spreads over at least 2 font number grades (eg a f3C in font might be normally around UK tech 4c but could on specific problems be anything from UK tech 4a to UK tech 6a ... generally hardest of all on pof polished friction slabs). Imagine that poor Font virgin, used to flashing V3s indoors (that should be V0), facing a pof polished f4+ (translate on tables to V0) highball slab that in reality is more like f6B+/ V4; oh the ego crash for some when even the yellows can feel scary.

Quite a lot of UK guidebook workers have tried to sort out the lower font grade mess. In the UK we are less precious about the history of such grades and would prefer them to match the difficulty of the problems our users will encounter. The YMC gritstone table is my standard on this and works pretty for the easier problems, but still, font grades were sense checked by back comparing them to approximate UK tech grades (eg f3 ~ UK tech 4a;  F3+ ~ UK tech 4b; F4~ UK tech 4c; f4+~ UK tech 5a... etc)

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Simon Caldwell 28 Jan 2020
In reply to TobyA:

> I'm trying to think, but where do you actually see Font grades below 5?

There are lots in the online guides at https://unknownstones.com/

The problem is, I have succeeded on problems graded up to 4+ (always onsight, I don't have the patience to work things), and failed on problems as low as 2, and there often seems to be no constant relation between grade and difficulty even on adjacent problems. Which is why I've always assumed there's an additional element to the grading that I'm unaware of. But perhaps the grades are just wrong.

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johncook 28 Jan 2020
In reply to Mike505:

Surely it should be the other way round, with UK tech grades used for Font boulders, so we, the great bouldering nation, can go there and achieve greatness on our own terms!

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johncook 28 Jan 2020
In reply to PaulJepson:

Didn't Drummond do something like this in the early 70's, with a list of numbers to cover, hardest move, quality of gear, solidity of rock etc etc. It didn't last and settled down to adjective and Uk tech number grade.

Post edited at 14:23
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Martin Hore 28 Jan 2020
In reply to Mike505:

There have been many similar threads over the years. So I may be repeating myself (I am).

One fundamental problem is that there are three (at least) dimensions that need to be reflected in the grade of a trad pitch. These are boldness, sustainedness, and the difficulty of the hardest move. All three contribute to assessing whether I can climb it. Some grading systems (US decimal, Aussie) try to reflect all three dimensions in one grade. The UK system tries to do it in two grades. A few guidebooks have experimented with a three dimensional system but it's never caught on. To complicate matters (but we've all got used to it) the UK "E" grade is a composite overall grade while the UK tech grade gives one dimension only (the difficulty of the hardest move). We mentally subtract (eg E1 5b = 0, E1 5a = 1, E1 5c = -1) to get a measure of boldness and/or sustainedness (but we don't know which without reading the description or looking at the route!) 

I've argued before for replacing the UK tech grade with a sport grade. The sport grade combines sustainedness with the difficulty of the hardest move. So for "E1 6a" read "sport 6a climbing with average boldness." For "E1 5+" read "sport 5+ climbing with less adequate protection". It doesn't tell us whether it's cruxy or sustained - for that we would have to read the description or look at the route, but for me that distinction is less important than knowing how bold it is. This would have the advantage of bringing UK grades more in line with most of the rest of Europe (ironic that) and in line with what newcomers are used to on indoor walls. At the the same time it solves the issue of "broken" UK tech grades above UK 6a. 

The OP's suggestion would in my mind just replace one measure of the difficulty of the hardest move (apparently broken above UK 6a - I wouldn't know) with another measure of the same thing - the Font grade - which other commentators have indicated is similarly broken at the lower end.  I don't think newcomers would find it very useful as they are less likely to equate outdoor trad climbing with indoor bouldering than they are with indoor routes. (And many indoor walls I use have V grades for bouldering anyway).

Most grading systems have a transition point where a historical adaptation has been introduced to cope with the progression of standards. US decimal breaks into a, b, c, d at 5.10. French Sport grades break into 6a, 6a+ etc from 5, 5+ (or 5a, 5b. 5c). UK adjectival grades start E1, E2 etc at a similar point (replacing the redundant XS). So one solution for the UK tech grade above 6a would be to introduce + and/or - divisions. (eg E4 6b-, E5 6b and E6 6b+ for averagely protected routes). But personally I'd prefer replacing UK tech grades with Sport grades as suggested above.

Martin

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Mike505 28 Jan 2020
In reply to Martin Hore:

A sport grade would be another way of doing it but would at time fail to show of it was sustained or cruxy. A three tier system would work as you say but probably wont catch on.

Maybe the ideal solution would be to use UK adjective as we do now / to give a clue as to how bold it is and Font grading to describe the crux then on harder routes a little bracketed sport grade (like in the recent Wired Pembroke guide)

But as mentioned above I doubt anything will be done. Too many different opinions, loads of work, it would require all guide book editors to use a uniform system and online resources like UKC give an idea of what the route is like through logbooks.

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David Coley 28 Jan 2020
In reply to Mike505:

Sorry if this has already been suggested, as I haven't read all of the above, but might a first step be for UK guidebook writers to subdivide UK tech grades above 5c? We would then have 6a-, 6a, 6a+, 6b-.... or something of the sort. Thereby solving the grade compression in a stroke. This might be less controversial than switching to Font grades and it would preserve the tech grade as is for most climbers (whom I'm guessing climb less than 6a), your favourite 6b, would still be 6b (albeit possibly with a - or + suffix).

Maybe UKC could lead the way with a few added subdivisions in the tech grades settings on the logbook pages, please.

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deacondeacon 28 Jan 2020
In reply to Mike505:

> Maybe the ideal solution would be to use UK adjective as we do now / to give a clue as to how bold it is

That's not what the adjective grade does! 

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Mike505 28 Jan 2020
In reply to deacondeacon:

Well I was referring to continue using it how we do, or changing its purpose slightly in a modified system.

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Michael Gordon 28 Jan 2020
In reply to David Coley:

An excellent, fairly non-controversial and surprisingly simple solution to the problem!

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Al Randall 28 Jan 2020
In reply to deacondeacon:

> It doesn't serve well at E5 and above though, where the British tech grade is too vague. 

I know, I said as much.  Keep up

Al

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Mike505 28 Jan 2020
In reply to David Coley:

That'd do it, haven't FRCC done something similar in some of there guides except using the adjective grade e.g HVS - ?

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David Coley 28 Jan 2020
In reply to Michael Gordon:

> An excellent, fairly non-controversial and surprisingly simple solution to the problem!

Just need to persuade the powers at UKC to run with it! 

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deacondeacon 28 Jan 2020
In reply to Al Randall:

> I know, I said as much.  Keep up

> Al

Lol. Fair point  

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Michael Hood 28 Jan 2020
In reply to Mike505:

Yes in the Lakes there's been MVS+ and VS- to ponder 😁

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Mick Ward 28 Jan 2020
In reply to Michael Hood:

And long before, in Wales...

'Just Mild Very Severe, on one move only.' (Menlove Edwards)

Mick

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bpmclimb 28 Jan 2020
In reply to David Coley:

>  but might a first step be for UK guidebook writers to subdivide UK tech grades above 5c? We would then have 6a-, 6a, 6a+, 6b-.... or something of the sort. 

+1

Not just a neat solution, but probably the only sort of solution which stands a chance of being implemented within a reasonable time-span, because it remains compatible with the current system.

The fundamental problem with all the other "solutions" mentioned; i.e. ones which substitute a different system, is not that they lack merit, but that climbers won't agree on which to use (if any), so trying to implement any of them would lead to a non-standardised mess.

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David Coley 29 Jan 2020
In reply to bpmclimb:

> +1

> Not just a neat solution, but probably the only sort of solution which stands a chance of being implemented within a reasonable time-span, because it remains compatible with the current system.

> The fundamental problem with all the other "solutions" mentioned; i.e. ones which substitute a different system, is not that they lack merit, but that climbers won't agree on which to use (if any), so trying to implement any of them would lead to a non-standardised mess.

Let's do it! 

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Michael Gordon 29 Jan 2020
In reply to bpmclimb:

> The fundamental problem with all the other "solutions" mentioned; i.e. ones which substitute a different system, is not that they lack merit, but that climbers won't agree on which to use (if any), so trying to implement any of them would lead to a non-standardised mess.

The other problem is that they would effectively mean using two different systems below and above a certain cut-off grade, since there's absolutely no issue with the tech grade up to 5c/6a. 

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Mike505 29 Jan 2020
In reply to Michael Gordon:

That probably wouldn't be a problem though as even font grading does that in a fashion.

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climbercool 29 Jan 2020
In reply to Mike505:  I haven't read the thread, but I just want to use this opportunity to shoehorn in my opinion that English Grades are the absolute worst,  they make minimal sense at the best of times and mostly end up being utterly useless.  Any change away from current grading would be improvement.

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Robert Durran 29 Jan 2020
In reply to climbercool:

> I haven't read the thread, but I just want to use this opportunity to shoehorn in my opinion that English Grades are the absolute worst,  they make minimal sense at the best of times and mostly end up being utterly useless.  Any change away from current grading would be improvement.

If by "English Grades", you mean UK tech grades, they have always worked perfectly well for me on routes up to E4/5. I therefore imagine they work perfectly well for the vast majority of climbers. If they don't work for harder routes, the obvious thing would be to extend/subdivide from 6b upwards or supplement with a bouldering or French grade. No need to throw the baby out with the bath water!

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Offwidth 29 Jan 2020
In reply to TobyA:

The YMC grit guides have hundreds of problems font graded below f5. Some venues are almost exclusively in that range... like Buckstones below the road....you would love this.

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Offwidth 29 Jan 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

Given the almost anal obsession of UK grading from bumblies to punters I'd argue UK trad grades are up with the most consistent and well understood by its practioners of any grading system at these grades in the world.... ie up to the low extremes (including trad technical grades from 4a to 6a).

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climbercool 29 Jan 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

The tech grades on their own can work,  but i think they are a little too broad even in the lower grades, and why use a different grade to our sport routes what is the advantage.  My main problem is when trying to combine the adjective grade with the E grade to get an idea of the safety,  this makes no sense to me.  Why would you not just give a grade for the difficulty and a separate grade for the danger level (i.efrom 1-5).  Of course I know how the combination of the two is meant to give you an idea of the safety but again and again it fails to do this. 

I feel it is climbers ego that has perpetuated this system, people like to say they have climbed big e numbers. There are heaps of high E grade routes out there which are safe for on sight attempts and have bomber gear, there are also hundreds of VS's out there that should only be attempted by people who are dam bloody sure they are not going to fall, this does not seem useful.  

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GrahamD 29 Jan 2020
In reply to climbercool:

The 'difficulty' of a climb is not just determined by the hardest move.  Other things like how sustained (or how many) technical moves are there ? are those particular moves safe ?  For that the adjectival system is (to me) perfect.

From an adjectival grade I know how big an undertaking any climb is and therefore whether I have a chance of doing it.

By all means append with UK tech / Font / French Sport grade as appropriate to give the best overall picture.

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Robert Durran 29 Jan 2020
In reply to climbercool:

> The tech grades on their own can work,  but i think they are a little too broad even in the lower grades, and why use a different grade to our sport routes what is the advantage. 

They are measuring different things! One is an overall grade, one is a hardest move/sequence grade.

> My main problem is when trying to combine the adjective grade with  the E grade..........

Eh? The E grade is the adjective grade!

No wonder you're struggling with the system.........

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climbercool 29 Jan 2020
In reply to GrahamD:

> The 'difficulty' of a climb is not just determined by the hardest move. 

Of course, that's my point, i never said it was, the idea of grading a route for it's one hardest move is absolute madness, a pumpy 8a could have nothing harder than english 6a

>Other things like how sustained (or how many) technical moves are there ? are those particular moves safe ?  For that the adjectival system is (to me) perfect.  

But the adjectival grade does not tell you this at all!  The current system relies on taking a combination of the adjectival and technical grades together to then calculate an idea on the type of climbing.

> From an adjectival grade I know how big an undertaking any climb is and therefore whether I have a chance of doing it. 

not really some e4 can be no harder than 6b+ others can be 7a+,  maybe I have a 90% chance of climbing 6b+ onsight and a 20% chance of climbing 7a+, doesn't really tell me that much. 

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climbercool 29 Jan 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

ok well what is it? the hardest move or the hardest sequence, these are completely different and the idea that you can put them in a sentence as interchangeable should give you an idea of how crazy the uk system can be.  This is probably part of the reason uk grading has gone so wrong, if someone grades the route based on the hardest single move and the next guy comes along and grades the same route based on the hardest sequence then likely they will give a totally different grade.

Has anyone got any possible reason why climbers thought it a good idea to base a tech grade on the hardest single move, only in the U.K!  i feel that is a core problem with uk grades.

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TobyA 29 Jan 2020
In reply to climbercool:

> I feel it is climbers ego that has perpetuated this system, people like to say they have climbed big e numbers. There are heaps of high E grade routes out there which are safe for on sight attempts and have bomber gear, there are also hundreds of VS's out there that should only be attempted by people who are dam bloody sure they are not going to fall, this does not seem useful.  

I'm not sure if you just don't get how UK grades work or you are not quite explaining what you do mean, but I don't climb E5 but I can easily see that there are safe E5s and dangerous E5s just like I've climbed safe VSs and dangerous VSs. What's the problem with that?

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climbercool 29 Jan 2020
In reply to TobyA:

the problem is, whats the point of the adjectival grade if it doesn't tell you if its safe or dangerous.  That is what it should do.  Why is not better in every way to have a grade to telly you the difficulty of the climbing and a grade to tell you the degree of danger to expect.  Why anybody thought it a good idea to combine these and make the e grades i really don't know.

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GrahamD 29 Jan 2020
In reply to climbercool:

The whole point of the adjectival is to tell you whether you would have a reasonable chance of climbing it, ALL things considered. It appears you want to prioritise protection above other aspects of overall difficulty. 

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Offwidth 29 Jan 2020
In reply to climbercool:

You need to climb trad in the US. Their YDS sytem with 'film' ratings does just what you ask.  In my view for California trad granite grading Froggatt's Sunset Slab might be 5.5 R/X and  Chequers Crack 5.9 G.... both HVS (4b and 5b) in UK terms.

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Robert Durran 29 Jan 2020
In reply to climbercool:

> ok well what is it? the hardest move or the hardest sequence, these are completely different and the idea that you can put them in a sentence as interchangeable should give you an idea of how crazy the uk system can be. 

Maybe I wasn't clear. I meant that you could perfectly well argue for repacing one with the other which is what OP was suggesting. But both are very different from any overall grade for the whole pitch.

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Robert Durran 29 Jan 2020
In reply to Offwidth:

> You need to climb trad in the US. Their YDS sytem with 'film' ratings does just what you ask.............

And it would probably help them appreciate just how good the UK syatem is in comparison!

Post edited at 15:06
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bpmclimb 29 Jan 2020
In reply to climbercool:

> English Grades are the absolute worst,  they make minimal sense at the best of times and mostly end up being utterly useless.

UK trad grades have been in general use for a long time, and large numbers of climbers, including many of considerable ablility and experience, are of the opinion that they tell you a lot about a route, and really like them. To say all those people are plain wrong, in such a black-and-white way, and put it all down to ego, just sounds foolish, frankly. It would be far more reasonable to assume that there must be something in it, but that the subtleties of the system have escaped you, due to lack of familiarity - and perhaps also because you have come to such an entrenched negative view that it's difficult for you to see anything else? 

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John Stainforth 29 Jan 2020
In reply to climbercool:

> Has anyone got any possible reason why climbers thought it a good idea to base a tech grade on the hardest single move, only in the U.K!  i feel that is a core problem with uk grades.

I think this was probably because old UK trad routes tended to be very "cruxy" with most of the difficulty concentrated in just one or two moves. Whereas on long trad routes elsewhere (e.g. Californian granite) there are often very long sequences of moves that are all of about the same difficulty making it difficult to pinpoint a "crux".

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Chris Craggs Global Crag Moderator29 Jan 2020
In reply to climbercool:

> some e4 can be no harder than 6b+ others can be 7a+,  maybe I have a 90% chance of climbing 6b+ onsight and a 20% chance of climbing 7a+, doesn't really tell me that much. 

E4 5c vs E4 6b presumably?

Chris

Post edited at 15:10
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TobyA 29 Jan 2020
In reply to climbercool:

> the problem is, whats the point of the adjectival grade if it doesn't tell you if its safe or dangerous.  That is what it should do.

It's what it could do I suppose, but it's not what it should do. It should give you an overall impression of how good a climber you need to be to get up a route. As I'm sure you know from primary, adjectives are describing words. An adjective grade should describe much more about the climb than just whether it is hard or not!

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climbercool 29 Jan 2020
In reply to TobyA:

>  An adjective grade should describe much more about the climb than just whether it is hard or not!

this is nonsense, what is this much more the e grade should be describing?

there are only two things that a grade can tell you about a route, 1.how hard it is 2.how dangerous is it.  that is it.  Unfortunately the e grade on its own doesn't describe danger at all, only by using it in combination with the tech grade can you get an idea of the danger,  what a daft way to make grading the route even more complex.  People are already terrible at coming to a consensus on grades when you start bringing in a system where you have to contrast two grades against each other your just going to make things worse.

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springfall2008 29 Jan 2020
In reply to Mike505:

Personally I know nothing about Font bouldering grades as I don't boulder.

Adding a French sport grade to the Trad grades would be helpful however.

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Robert Durran 29 Jan 2020
In reply to springfall2008:

> Personally I know nothing about Font bouldering grades as I don't boulder.

That wouldn't matter. You'd soon get used to the scale. Nobody has a feel for UK tech grades either when they start climbing.

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Robert Durran 29 Jan 2020
In reply to climbercool:

> there are only two things that a grade can tell you about a route, 1.how hard it is 2.how dangerous is it.  that is it. 

 There are different aspects of physical hardness that different grades tell you.

> the grade on its own doesn't describe danger at all, only by using it in combination with the tech grade can you get an idea of the danger,  what a daft way to make grading the route even more complex. 

Any two tier grading system will leave you to have to infer further information that affects the overall difficulty of a climb. If you switch to a protection grade then you lose certainty about other aspects. You can perfectly well argue for doing this, but you would be wrong to claim it would give you more information overall.

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climbercool 29 Jan 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

>  There are different aspects of physical hardness that different grades tell you. 

Please do elaborate! what other aspects of hardness does the british system describe other than physical difficulty and danger?

> . If you switch to a protection grade then you lose certainty about other aspects. 

no you dont, what other aspects?

"You can perfectly well argue for doing this, but you would be wrong to claim it would give you more information overall."  Robert said

I've never said it would give you more information, just that it would be much easier to use and therefore more likely to be accurate.

Post edited at 18:08
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Robert Durran 29 Jan 2020
In reply to climbercool:

> Please do elaborate! what other aspects of hardness does the british system describe other than physical difficulty and danger?

Hardest move.

> no you dont, what other aspects?

Hardest move.

> I've never said it would give you more information, just that it would be much easier to use and therefore more likely to be accurate.

That is entirely a matter of personal preference. Most people seem happy with an overall adjectival grade.

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Robert Durran 29 Jan 2020
In reply to climbercool:

One thing I do agree with you about is that the overall UK adjectival is partly about ego. Only an overall grade allows someone to say "I climb better than you because I climb higher grades than you".

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climbercool 29 Jan 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

Really! you think it is appropriate to judge a route on its hardest single move, as i said earlier there are lots of 8as that don't have single moves that would be harder than Uk 6a. if you judge a route on the single hardest move you are going to have routes with levels of difficulty miles and miles apart at the same grade. 

I think what is sensible is to judge  uk trad climb  exactly the same as you would a sport climb i.e based on the hardest sequence, taking into account all moves ( including the hardest) that are done without a rest in between.  just focusing on one move makes no sense to me.

I

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Michael Gordon 29 Jan 2020
In reply to climbercool:

As has been pointed out, the overall difficulty of the route is indicated in the overall grade. The tech grade gives you valuable additional information. 

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TobyA 29 Jan 2020
In reply to climbercool:

Sorry, I was using talk to type and it missed a bit which I didn't notice before posting. I meant to say "hard to protect or not", or as you say "dangerous".

The adjective grade has always been about how hard the climb is overall, with that including how hard the moves are and how dangerous it is or isn't.

Post edited at 19:10
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teh_mark 29 Jan 2020
In reply to climbercool:

What does '5.9 R' give you that 'E1 5a' doesn't?

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Robert Durran 29 Jan 2020
In reply to climbercool:

> Really! you think it is appropriate to judge a route on its hardest single move, as i said earlier there are lots of 8as that don't have single moves that would be harder than Uk 6a. 

No. You reaslly don't get it do you? Nobody is suggesting a single tier system consisting of the hardest move!

> I think what is sensible is to judge  uk trad climb  exactly the same as you would a sport climb i.e based on the hardest sequence, taking into account all moves ( including the hardest) that are done without a rest in between.  

I believe that is in principle what the YDS is supposed to do, though it's usage seems so varied from place to place (anything from equivalent to a French grade to a UK tech grade that it is a real minefield for visiting climbers.

Anyway, do you really think that a trad or sport climb with several sections separated by rests (and how good do the rests need to be?) might not get a higher overall grade than the hardest individual section would in isolation? Off the top of my head I can think of one E5 I've done that could be described as an E4 6b and an E4 5c with a really good rest in between.

Post edited at 20:04
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Robert Durran 29 Jan 2020
In reply to teh_mark:

> What does '5.9 R' give you that 'E1 5a' doesn't?

Well it tells you for definite that it's runout! 

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teh_mark 29 Jan 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

There can't be that many routes in the UK where one can't use Mk1 Eyeballs ('cor, that blank face looks runout' versus 'look at that 20m layback!'), nor does the guidebook description proffer any useful hints ('smear delicately up the blank slab'), nor are you the slightest bit aware of the reputation of the route before setting off up it ('Sunset Slab? That's that slab at Froggatt with no runners, isn't it?').

There will be exceptions to prove the rule, of course, but I can't say I've ever been in a situation where I've not been able to work out the meaning of an incongruent tech grade by looking at the route or the guidebook.

Post edited at 20:19
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Robert Durran 29 Jan 2020
In reply to teh_mark:

> There will be exceptions to prove the rule, of course, but I can't say I've ever been in a situation where I've not been able to work out the meaning of an incongruent tech grade by looking at the route or the guidebook.

Yes, I think most people familiar with the grading system would agree,

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Michael Gordon 29 Jan 2020
In reply to teh_mark:

> There will be exceptions to prove the rule, of course, but I can't say I've ever been in a situation where I've not been able to work out the meaning of an incongruent tech grade by looking at the route or the guidebook.

I suspect the exceptions will usually be multi-pitch (and not just because you might not know which pitch is the crux, but just that you can't see the thing from below).

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Misha 29 Jan 2020
In reply to climbercool:

A bit of history:

The E grade system evolved from the original British grading system which only went to HVS and beyond that everything was ‘Exceptionally Severe’. In fact at one stage VS was the top grade.

Moreover, there were no technical grades at all.

Technical grades came over from Southern Sandstone. The routes there were (and are) either top roped or soloed as the rock is too soft to take gear. The routes there are also relatively short. So I guess it made sense to grade them based on the hardest single move.

Guide book writers then borrowed the technical grade to supplement the adjectival grade for trad routes. Not sure when but I think it was in the 1960s. Some early guide books listed the technical grades in an appendix!

The subdivision of XS routes into separate E grades then happened on the 1970s. There was a thread on here about that a while back.

If you wanted to invent a new trad grading system, you would probably come up with something more sensible like a sport grade plus a gear/danger rating and perhaps a bouldering grade for the hardest sequence/section for harder routes. But we are where we are.

Accounts of hard trad first ascents or repeats often include sport and/or bouldering grades to supplement the ‘standard’ E and technical grades. Some guide books also include the sport grade for hard routes (haven’t seen bouldering grades included but I suspect some guide books do that as well). The FRCC Borrowdale guide book from about 15 years ago was possibly the first guide book to consistently include sport grades for routes at E7ish and above but a lot of guide books still don’t do this. It may be helpful if they did, for suitable routes (wouldn’t work for short grit routes for example, though a bouldering grade could work there instead). You can often find this information online though - UKC logbooks and so on.

I don’t think this additional information is necessary below about E6 because the E grades aren’t that wide at that level. As long as you have a decent grasp of how the E system works, at that level you broadly know what to expect in terms of difficulty and seriousness by looking at the grade, the graded list (most guide books have one), the route description, the topo and the actual route.

So to your point, an E4 could be 6b+ but pretty bold or 7a+ but safe (at least on the crux). As Chris pointed out, that’s E4 5c vs E4 6b. You get a pretty good idea which end of the physical difficulty level you are looking at. Of course an E4 5c could also be sustained but well protected 5c moves and that could be 6c or 6c+. But you can tell that by looking at the route description (it will usually say something like sustained or pumpy) and the actual route (if it’s got lots of gear, it’s going to be at the safe but sustained end of the grade). Sometimes the route name alone gives it away - Arms Race in Avon Gorge, E4 5c, you expect E for effort on that one!

You seem to imply that the system grades difficulty based on the hardest single move. Apologies if I have misunderstood. That is only partially correct. The technical grade does that. The adjectival grade is a combination of seriousness and overall difficulty. In combination with the technical grade and the other info I’ve mentioned, you get a pretty good idea of what the physical and technical difficulty and the seriousness will be.

Your other example of a pumpy f8a with no single move harder than 6a is a good one. There simply aren’t many (any?) trad routes like that in the UK. Let’s assume it’s well protected. I guess you’d be looking at E7 or even E8 6a. I’m not aware of any E8 6as and there are very few E7 6a (usually very serious, loose routes with one or more 6a moves but more like f7a than f8a). Someone might correct me here but I just don’t think what you describe exists in British trad! You could look up the trad grades formerly (1980s and early 1990s) given to what are now 8a sport routes, eg Raindogs.

Whilst the system we use is not what you would come up with if starting from scratch, it does work once you have sufficient experience of using it, particularly when supplemented with further info at higher grades. I don’t think it needs changing. That would just lead to more confusion and it would take away some of our trad heritage. Besides, it would make grading a lot less interesting!

Post edited at 21:55
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Misha 29 Jan 2020
In reply to David Coley:

We already have hard/easy for the tech grade voting in the logbooks, so no real need to add plus/minus to the official grade. 

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Robert Durran 29 Jan 2020
In reply to Misha:

> Whilst the system we use is not what you would come up with if starting from scratch, it does work once you have sufficient experience of using it, particularly when supplemented with further info at higher grades. I don’t think it needs changing. That would just lead to more confusion and it would take away some of our trad heritage. Besides, it would make grading a lot less interesting!

And I wouldn't underestimate our attachment to the adjectival grade's associated bragging rights. "I just did my first 6b that was sustained, pumpy and a bit run out" doesn't have the same ring to it as "I just did my first E3 "

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Misha 30 Jan 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

You'd get the same to some extent even if we were to switch to 'sport grades plus whatever extra info is provided' but, as you say, it wouldn't have the same ring to it.

This goes back to the point made above that the E grade reflects the overall difficulty of the route - hardest move, hardest sequence, how sustained/pumpy, what the gear is like and the overall commitment (big sea cliff etc), it all gets thrown into the mix to determine the E grade.

Sure, there are many different 'types' of E3s and some will be harder than others, which could vary from person to person depending on their relative strengths and weaknesses. However there is a general sense of difficulty (of whatever nature) which on the whole amounts to an E3 trad route and trad climbers with reasonable experience at the grade would have a decent idea of what that is. 

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DubyaJamesDubya 30 Jan 2020
In reply to Martin Hore:

I'm quite happy with the E grade for sustainedness and boldness (London Wall at E5 6a makes perfect sense to me) but the issue that has been raised on this thread is purely the accuracy of the Tech Grade above 6a. If using the Font Grade for 6b and above solves this then it seems a simple solution. It could be added to existing grades too for comparison.

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Michael Gordon 30 Jan 2020
In reply to Misha:

> We already have hard/easy for the tech grade voting in the logbooks, so no real need to add plus/minus to the official grade. 

So you wouldn't find it useful in guidebooks? I thought it might have been, but then you have more experience in the harder grades.

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DubyaJamesDubya 30 Jan 2020
In reply to David Coley:

> Sorry if this has already been suggested, as I haven't read all of the above, but might a first step be for UK guidebook writers to subdivide UK tech grades above 5c? We would then have 6a-, 6a, 6a+, 6b-.... or something of the sort. Thereby solving the grade compression in a stroke. This might be less controversial than switching to Font grades and it would preserve the tech grade as is for most climbers (whom I'm guessing climb less than 6a), your favourite 6b, would still be 6b (albeit possibly with a - or + suffix).

> Maybe UKC could lead the way with a few added subdivisions in the tech grades settings on the logbook pages, please.

Not sure anyone has suggested it before but it sounds like a very elegant solution. The Lakes guides did something similar with E1+/-  but perhaps they should have focused on the Tech grade rather than the overall

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Robert Durran 30 Jan 2020
In reply to Misha:

> You'd get the same to some extent even if we were to switch to 'sport grades plus whatever extra info is provided' but, as you say, it wouldn't have the same ring to it.

But I don't think anything else could even in principle replace the UK adjectival grade for bragging rights, because nothing else is a measure of how few people are capable (in principle) of doing the route.

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Offwidth 30 Jan 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

I completely disagree that incongruity of UK trad grades and visual inspection from the base of a climb can't lead to problems. It can happen even on short single pitch climbs let alone the issues on multipitch. It's one reason the YMC experimented with P grades to measure prang potential (similar to YDS film ratings). I've climbed plenty of routes where the grade and appearance were deceptive (most often on Yorkshire grit) due to flared cracks and breaks looking OK from below but not taking good gear when you reach them. I agree good guidebook editors should indicate such issues in the description but its easy to overlook this at lower grades on obscurities.

Post edited at 10:07
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Bulls Crack 30 Jan 2020
In reply to Offwidth:

I thought P grades worked personally but they didn;t catch on it seems

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David Coley 30 Jan 2020
In reply to Misha:

> We already have hard/easy for the tech grade voting in the logbooks, so no real need to add plus/minus to the official grade. 

and no real reason not to!

It is not like I'm suggesting something that costs money or effort. Making it "official" is I suggest the best way to see if climbers like it. If they don't then it can be killed.

Given the responses above, it would however seem a popular idea, and with fewer issues (no issues?) or potential feather ruffling  than the other solutions.

I'm trying to come up with a reason not to do it, and failing.

Post edited at 16:44
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Michael Hood 30 Jan 2020
In reply to David Coley:

You just need to persuade your local guidebook writer/team.

Go for it 😁

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Robert Durran 30 Jan 2020
In reply to Offwidth:

> I completely disagree that incongruity of UK trad grades and visual inspection from the base of a climb can't lead to problems. 

It can, but I think it is very much the exception that it is not covered in the guidebook text. Not that I would have anything against something like P grades.

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Misha 30 Jan 2020
In reply to Michael Gordon:

Including + or - for the tech grade in a guide book would provide useful information but I think a graded list would be more useful as it would reflect overall difficulty (or rather the guide book team's view of overall difficulty). If I'm about to jump on a route at the top of my grade, I'm mostly interested in what the gear is like and what the overall difficulty is, rather than whether it's easy/hard 6a or 6b on the crux move.

One hard 6b move after a decent rest with a load of 5c and 6a climbing below is one thing, several easy 6b moves straight after a load of 5c and 6a climbing is another thing - the latter is likely to be harder overall. Yet potentially both could be E5. So the E5 6b+ would be easier overall than the E5 6b-. You'd have to put + or - on the E grade as well, so E5- 6b+ and E5+ 6b-. Useful or confusing?

I'd say that if the guide book and the route in front of you don't provide sufficient info, have a look at the UKC logbook comments and votes (albeit might need to do that beforehand if there's no reception at the crag. 21st century climbing...

If there is a real 'stopper move', i.e. very hard for the tech grade or reach dependent etc, usually the guide book mentions it anyway.

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Misha 30 Jan 2020
In reply to David Coley:

It would be more work for the guide book team and a departure from tradition, so you either have to find a friendly guide book author/editor and persuade them to do this or publish you own guide book

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Michael Gordon 31 Jan 2020
In reply to Misha:

> One hard 6b move after a decent rest with a load of 5c and 6a climbing below is one thing, several easy 6b moves straight after a load of 5c and 6a climbing is another thing - the latter is likely to be harder overall. Yet potentially both could be E5. So the E5 6b+ would be easier overall than the E5 6b-. >

Good point. Hmmm, I can't come up with a solution for that. Other than climbers recognising that the difficulty of the tech grade only has a partial bearing on the difficulty of the route as a whole.

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Michael Gordon 31 Jan 2020
In reply to Misha:

> It would be more work for the guide book team and a departure from tradition, so you either have to find a friendly guide book author/editor and persuade them to do this or publish you own guide book

Yes, it clearly would require effort.

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Michael Hood 31 Jan 2020
In reply to Misha:

Basically you're saying that finer granularity with any grading system will help.

The problem (as I'm sure you're aware) is that grading is subjective and varies across people due to their strengths and weaknesses relative to every style of climbing. So there comes a point where that finer granularity is drowned out by the "noise" of individual variability.

At that point, the finer grading granularity becomes useless.

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Robert Durran 31 Jan 2020
In reply to Misha:

> One hard 6b move after a decent rest with a load of 5c and 6a climbing below is one thing, several easy 6b moves straight after a load of 5c and 6a climbing is another thing - the latter is likely to be harder overall. Yet potentially both could be E5. So the E5 6b+ would be easier overall than the E5 6b-. You'd have to put + or - on the E grade as well, so E5- 6b+ and E5+ 6b-. Useful or confusing?

This is no different to saying E5 6a could be physically harder overall than E5 6b. Subdividing the tech grade only gives more precision about the difficulty of the hardest move; it doesn't somehow magically turn it in to a French grade!

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Offwidth 31 Jan 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

Well I'm an experienced and prolific climber and have had way too common experiences of such "exceptions" and quite a few away from grit. One of my original motivations for guidebook work was that, as a solid VS leader who had onsighted as hard as E2 and cleanly seconded routes to E5, I was occasionally having 'fun' on routes as low as mod and had a close shave onsight solo on a 5m Diff on soft graded Stanage  (Straight Ahead..... when having mantled a chock, and got rather stuck off balance in a strenuous position, I thought of the name and improvised a head jam to recover and prevent a fall.... now given VS 4c). I gave up onsighting grades like VS 5a on some Yorkshire crags as the boldness of a grade normally associated with bouldery but safe was mentally gruelling  (one of those VS 5a routes is now E1 and quite a few HVS).

I really like UK grades, time after time they guide me to the climbing experience with the physical and mental challenge that I desire, as shared by good friends; yet for holidays, US trad with YDS is a good bit more relaxing and I can climb harder classics (in UK adjectival terms) in new venues for me, as I know their nature better from the grade. The best way to help kill UK trad is to take its grading (something already ambiguous in terms of onsight prang potential) and continue to misuse it on routes where it is obviously wrong or the route text doesn't have crucial supplementary information. 

On this general subject, the plus and minus solution for UK tech above 6a has been a solution available for decades to help preserve the future of UK onsight trad, so seems to me a no brainer. As it is I see fewer climbers onsighting E5 on my local grit crags than when I started in the late 1980s, despite all the improvements in standards and gear and beta resources like the grit list.

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Offwidth 31 Jan 2020
In reply to Michael Hood:

I can assure you that the climbers who know these hard routes can subdivide the tech grades, just as they can bouldering grades. Most of the noise is on lower grade routes as there are more inexperienced climbers, guidebook workers operating well below their lead grades have less sensitivity, and the odd reactionary moron who still thinks Sunset Slab should be HS. 

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Michael Hood 31 Jan 2020
In reply to Offwidth:

Not disputing that, just saying that theoretically there's a limit to how much you can sub-divide.

Bit like how small you can go (electronics) before quantum effects become significant.

Basically, if most climbers (say 80%, maybe 90%, whatever) think route A is harder than route B then they shouldn't be the same grade. This "hardness" applies to every grading measure and system.

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Robert Durran 31 Jan 2020
In reply to Michael Hood:

> Basically, if most climbers (say 80%, maybe 90%, whatever) think route A is harder than route B then they shouldn't be the same grade. This "hardness" applies to every grading measure and system.

Why? There have to be routes at the bottom and top end of every grade. Far fewer will agree that route P at the bottom of (say) E2 is harder than route Q at the top of E1. 

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Michael Hood 31 Jan 2020
In reply to Robert Durran:

Fair point, I wasn't being clear enough. I really meant with respect to "as fine as possible" granularity. Should have phrased it as...

If most climbers can agree on climb A being harder than climb B then they could be different grades.

That fine level of granularity might not be very useful and even less likely to be worth the effort.

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Misha 31 Jan 2020
In reply to Michael Hood:

Indeed, finer granularity in grading can be of limited use as it would be more subjective, particularly when it comes to grading a single move as opposed to a section of climbing. Bouldering grades are more finely graded than trad tech grades but generally boulder problems involve more than one meaningful move, so it's easier to grade them. Imagine grading a single move - one person's 6b- is another's 6a+ or 6b. This is where having wide trad tech grades arguably helps matters. There will still be subjectivity at the edges of the grades but on the whole an average 6a move will be a lot easier than an average 6b move. Hence I'm not convinced by the idea of subdividing the tech grades. As I've said, subdividing the E grades (aka a graded list) would be more useful and I suspect less subjective (clearly it would still be fairly subjective, as with all grading!).

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Misha 31 Jan 2020
In reply to Offwidth:

To be fair, your examples were just plain old sandbags. They could still have been sandbags even if a different grading system had been used. If the trad grade had been appropriate as opposed to a sandbag, you probably won't have gone for those solos or at least would have known what to expect. So the issue was incorrect grading as opposed to an inadequate grading system.

I very much doubt that the trad grading system bears much responsibility for the current state of hard trad climbing (which is not in a bad state, perhaps it's just that hard grit has gone out of fashion a bit). There are plenty of reasons why lots of people don't do trad or don't even climb outdoors in the first place but the trad grading system is fairly low down on that list!

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Offwidth 31 Jan 2020
In reply to Michael Hood:

The UK tech 6c grade range covers nearly the same difference as 4 Font grades and more than 4 sports grades. This isn't quantum, it's giants steps.

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Offwidth 31 Jan 2020
In reply to Misha:

They were not all sandbags... more often very bold 4b at the upper limit of VS as an unexpected surprise from the route grade and inspection from below (on the less well travelled Yorkshire grit that can be serious as routes may be graded when clean ... as such I'm really appreciative of the YMC hollow star system for good roites that may need pre-inspection and cleaning). Only a small fraction were actually upgraded.

I never claimed the proposed change would fix the trend away from hard onsights  but it would help those interested in that game and maybe add some encouragement for others... fashions often go in cycles. Plus not every UK climbing area has the equivalent of a grit list.

Post edited at 18:24
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Misha 31 Jan 2020
In reply to Offwidth:

VS 4b is normally bold 4b (in theory could be very sustained 4b but that's rare and you'd be able to tell that from the ground) so no sure anything else is really needed for the grade. If it's very bold as in you'd deck from the crux and it is not close to the ground, HVS would be more appropriate, in which case VS would be a sandbag. Not trying to tell you things you already know, just trying to show that the grade is sufficient (plus guide book description, topo and looking at the route).

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Offwidth 01 Feb 2020
In reply to Misha:

In the end it should have been sufficient for decades but for various reasons too often wasn't for an experienced guidebook worker, even on some crags covered by new guides.  I think some experienced climbers climbing in the extreme grades need to have a change in mindset and consider the averege users below E1 who purchase most guidebooks. The majority of good editors and crag authors are doing this already but too many are still not.

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Andy Hardy 01 Feb 2020
In reply to Offwidth:

> The UK tech 6c grade range covers nearly the same difference as 4 Font grades and more than 4 sports grades. This isn't quantum, it's giants steps.

Genuine question: how would the first ascensionist of a route at a new tech grade know to add another grade? When E grades were adopted there was enough data to assign a tech grade to all existing routes.

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Offwidth 01 Feb 2020
In reply to Andy Hardy:

By comparing back to bouldering grades for starters (which extend well past the hardest move on any trad route)

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Martin Hore 01 Feb 2020
In reply to climbercool:

> not really some e4 can be no harder than 6b+ others can be 7a+,  maybe I have a 90% chance of climbing 6b+ onsight and a 20% chance of climbing 7a+, doesn't really tell me that much. 

When combined with a technical grade, it tells you quite a lot. If your ability is as you describe then on an E4 6b  you have an 80% chance of a forced retreat from good gear with your ego a bit bruised, while on an E4 5c you stand a 10% chance of death or serious injury. Quite a difference I think.

Martin

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Misha 01 Feb 2020
In reply to Offwidth:

Sorry, not sure I understand what you are suggesting. I think most people agree that sandbags have no place in guide books but inevitably there will be some around. That’s insufficient guide book checking. Also I agree that it’s hard to accurately grade something many grades below your average grade but that’s a matter of getting together a diverse guide book team, which isn’t always possible. These are all guide book issues but not trad grade issues.

VS 4b will generally be bold and a fall could hurt. HVS 4b will definitely be very bold and a fall will hurt a lot. The guide book description might add that’s it’s a bold route. Not sure any more information is really needed, beyond a route description, as long as the give grade is appropriate. And if the route is dirty, it just needs a clean - that will make it feel harder but doesn’t change the grade. Unless it’s always green and dirty etc, in which case the grade might reflect that. 

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TobyA 02 Feb 2020
In reply to Misha:

The system does struggle between big long pitches or multipitches, and mini routes - at least at the grades you discuss here. On grit you get a route that might only be 6 mtrs high, and have no protection, but gets a grade like VS 5a. Perhaps the 5a bit is down near the ground but falling 5 mtrs (possibly onto boulders or rough ground) because you mess up a 4c move isn't great. But should it be HVS 5a or even E1 5a? Probably not.

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Offwidth 02 Feb 2020
In reply to TobyA:

For a 4c move with a potential 5m ground fall from a difficult to reverse or escape or rest position on a current VS 5a, I'd say that should certainly be be HVS, even above flat ground, possibly E1 above pointy rocks. This is a strength of the UK system that gets ignored too often, to its detriment. Keeping such routes at VS means we accept grading for use of mats. At the other end of the grading scale in the early 90's , when lower grade sandbags were probably at their peak, E grades could sometimes even inflated..... The Nosferato crux is the best example I know... a crux lower than 5m , which was then an E7 6b move for the terrible landing (more sensibly E6 these days).

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bpmclimb 02 Feb 2020
In reply to Misha:

>  Also I agree that it’s hard to accurately grade something many grades below your average grade but that’s a matter of getting together a diverse guide book team, which isn’t always possible. These are all guide book issues but not trad grade issues.

I tend to think the ideal guidebook team is a conscientious one. I don't think it's necessary to have someone who only operates in the lower grades to assess lower grade routes; but you do need someone who's not bored by them, willing to take the time actually to lead them (placing the gear rather than a quick solo), and prepared to exercise a little imagination.

The reverse problem holds, though - I have had to call on help in assessing routes too hard for me. There's no point my trying to tell the difference between, say, E6 6b and E7 6c

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Offwidth 02 Feb 2020
In reply to bpmclimb:

Really? .. it's hardly like a team would lack any volunteers if they asked publicly and you need to pretty amazingly conscientious as a team to grade a thousand plus routes well below your lead grade. My experience of such conscientious graders is they too often over-account for safe struggles and too easily overlook boldness. Certainly the teams that predated my period of guidebook input didn't lack that conscientious characteristic but by having a change to a good proportion of lower grade leaders like me around, I'm guessing we we ended up changing grades on Peak grit for about a quarter of routes sub HVS (most were upgrades and most of them for no star routes, so it wasn't grade drift... including a few well established routes that moved from Diff to VS and one from S to E3). I don't think I've ever climbed anywhere in the UK where some obvious no star sandbagging wasn't present and even in 2020 there are some big classics like the VD Land End Long Climb that are bold and sandbag graded (the top wall pitch is at least HS 4a)

The teams I worked with graded for some experience at lower grades (you have to or grading becomes pointless), but without experience some styles of route will feel a lot harder. So another factor I'd like editors to consider more is how things feel for new trad climbers, so that trad climbing continues to thrive. Guidebooks need most care at the lower grades and I think need a standard minimum of advice on how to approach trad grades for those new to them; lest we put too many new trad climbers off the game.

You are a much more able climber than I and I knew Nosferatu wasn't hard 6b or E7 when almost dogging it on second.

Post edited at 11:41
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Michael Gordon 02 Feb 2020
In reply to Andy Hardy:

> Genuine question: how would the first ascensionist of a route at a new tech grade know to add another grade? 

The same way they might decide to suggest a new overall grade - they compare to existing routes and if they feel there's a substantial difference, then they may stick their neck out. And so they should, if they think it genuinely is a step up.

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Andy Hardy 02 Feb 2020
In reply to Michael Gordon:

> The same way they might decide to suggest a new overall grade - they compare to existing routes and if they feel there's a substantial difference, then they may stick their neck out. And so they should, if they think it genuinely is a step up.

But we end up with the ego trip that is the downgrade on the 2nd ascent, or the FA may be genuinely modest / don't think it is a step up. Perhaps the way forward is for the editorial team on each guidebook to re-grade every route above 6a? 

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Misha 02 Feb 2020
In reply to TobyA:

Sure, a grade can ‘mask’ a bold easier section after a well protected crux. But for it to be bold, the tech grade on the bold bit should be two notches below the crux. Eg VS 5a into VS 4b. At no point is it HVS (I’m referring to ‘reasonably’ bold - as Offwidth says, ground fall from a 4c move at 5m should really be HVS). Is the grading system at fault? Not really. It’s fair cop to have run out 4b moves on a VS 4c or 5a. The issue is some relatively inexperienced people might not realise this, so the guide book would do well to mention a bold finish. Most of the time you’d be able to see it anyway. Anyway, someone having a crack at 5a should be able to take 4b in their stride - at least in theory...

Post edited at 22:09
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TobyA 02 Feb 2020
In reply to Misha:

I think it's more to do with how short some routes on grit are and still get a route grade. Look at the left end of Burbage North for example, use the main guide and everything is Severe, HS, VS, HVS and so on. Do exactly the same routes again with the bouldering guide and you're doing VB, V0, V1 etc.! You're just asking the grading system to do something very different from describing a 40 mtr pitch in Pembroke or 120 metres in Scotland.

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Michael Hood 03 Feb 2020
In reply to TobyA:

Left end of Burbage North is just at that height where many will feel comfortable to boulder/solo the routes with a couple of mats.

But without mats, many won't feel confident enough to solo them and would want a rope and some pro.

Borderline, but then the obvious solution is to give both lead and boulder grades. Maybe would be helpful to have both grades in one guide though.

Ideally the bouldering guide should mention lead grades where appropriate and visa versa.

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Michael Gordon 03 Feb 2020
In reply to Andy Hardy:

> But we end up with the ego trip that is the downgrade on the 2nd ascent, or the FA may be genuinely modest / don't think it is a step up. Perhaps the way forward is for the editorial team on each guidebook to re-grade every route above 6a? 

Well for starters, a second ascent shouldn't really result in a downgrade since there's just 2 different opinions; another repeat would help. But generally people only suggest downgrades because they think it actually isn't as hard as originally suggested. If the FA doesn't think it's a step up, then fair enough, they can't suggest a new grade without some justification. Modesty, or should I say false modesty, shouldn't come into it but is perhaps one of the main reasons for this specific issue arising.

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David Coley 03 Feb 2020
In reply to Offwidth:

> .....the plus and minus solution for UK tech above 6a has been a solution available for decades to help preserve the future of UK onsight trad, so seems to me a no brainer.

So let's make it happen!

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David Coley 03 Feb 2020
In reply to Misha:

>One hard 6b move after a decent rest with a load of 5c and 6a climbing below is one thing, several easy 6b moves straight after a load of 5c and 6a climbing is another thing - the latter is likely to be harder overall. Yet potentially both could be E5. So the E5 6b+ would be easier overall than the E5 6b-. You'd have to put + or - on the E grade as well, so E5- 6b+ and E5+ 6b-. Useful or confusing?

No I don't think you would have to. If you plot a graph of adjectival and tech grade with data from a range of routes from a range of guidebooks (you can find this on multipitchclimbing.com) you see that for easier routes there is an elegant progression with each step in tech grade giving one step up in adjectival (I'm talking means here). Mean S=4a, mean HS=4b, mean VS=4c, mean HVS=5a, mean E1=5b. mean E2=5c. This however falls apart around 6a. If the mean for E2 is 5c, then if the sequence was to continue (as it does at lower grades) we would have the following means: E3(6a), E4(6b), E5(6c), E6(7a). However this far from the truth, and shows that just as the OP said, there is compression in the tech grade at the top end. 

Using my suggestion the means might look like:

E3(6a), E4(6a+), E5(6b), E6(6b+), E7(6c)

There would of course still be lots of E4(5c) on the North Cornwall coast, this is just the means.

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Michael Gordon 03 Feb 2020
In reply to David Coley:

Are you seriously suggesting that the 'mean' tech grade for E11 should be British 8c? Clearly nonsense. The reason why tech and overall grades don't go up in a linear fashion is that as the moves get harder and the ground steeper, physical difficulty (the sport grade) has a lot of chance to increase without much difference in the hardest move. A little vs a lot of 4b in a pitch doesn't make a great difference to the physical difficulty. A little vs a lot of overhanging 6b is going to be a different story in influencing the overall grade, and that's even before you consider the issue of good vs crap/no protection. 

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Michael Gordon 03 Feb 2020
In reply to David Coley:

Unless you upgraded a lot of 5c routes to 6a, the 'mean' grade for E3 would never be 6a, and the mean for E4 would never be hard 6a.

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David Coley 03 Feb 2020
In reply to Michael Gordon:

> Are you seriously suggesting that the 'mean' tech grade for E11 should be British 8c? 

Clearly at some point they diverge, the question is when, and whether in the range 6a to 6b the tech grade is a bit squashed. The list I set out was to demonstrate the idea of adding a + wasn't mad and wasn't over graining it compared to lower grades.

Maybe I just need to get strong. 6a seems OK, 6b impossible.

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Misha 04 Feb 2020
In reply to Michael Gordon:

Agree with your last two posts. I can see the merit in the + / - approach, though as I mentioned above it’s not really necessary. But David’s mean grades are half a grade off.

Post edited at 00:30
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Michael Hood 04 Feb 2020
In reply to Michael Gordon:

> Are you seriously suggesting that the 'mean' tech grade for E11 should be British 8c?

Clearly you can't continue sequences 😁

Continuing David's sequence E7 (6c), E8(6c+), E9(7a), E10(7a+), E11(7b)

Not so unreasonable looking now.

Your other point about a long sequence of difficult moves having more influence on the overall adjectival grade at higher technical grades is arguable. Someone who's limit is 4b might argue that a long sequence of those moves have a great impact on the overall difficulty. I could also argue that you only consider a long sequence of difficult (say 6b) moves on steep ground as having a huge impact on overall grade because your endurance isn't good enough; c.f. Ben Moon's comment "when 6b is approaching a rest...".

Others points about the mean grades being off is exactly what caused this failure in the grading system to start with; i.e. not increasing the technical grade correctly.

Anyway, David's proposal certainly has some neatness and elegance. It would be nice to see it tried somewhere, I don't see how it would be a retrograde step.

Post edited at 08:14
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David Coley 04 Feb 2020
In reply to Misha:

> But David’s mean grades are half a grade off.

Half a grade in climbing circles is what we call unanimous! 

 

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Michael Gordon 04 Feb 2020
In reply to Michael Hood:

> Clearly you can't continue sequences 😁

> Continuing David's sequence E7 (6c), E8(6c+), E9(7a), E10(7a+), E11(7b)>

He was suggesting that grades should continue in a linear fashion and that the ONLY reason they don't do that is wide tech grades. But does anyone think that without wide tech grades the likely means would have been E4 6b, E5 6c, E6 7a etc? It seems blindingly obvious that the reason they don't go up in a linear fashion is that there is a lot more factors to make routes harder overall than simply adding a tech grade. The reason your sequence above looks fairly legit is that quite likely it demonstrates the real grade increase pattern above a certain point, i.e. one tech grade every two overall grades.

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Michael Hood 04 Feb 2020
In reply to Michael Gordon:

But that (to me) just means that the overall grade (as well as the tech grade) was abused. The system should basically have fixed the relationship as "an increase in tech grade, all other factors being equal, will produce a corresponding increase in overall grade".

We'd have then had a:

+1 tech grade => cruxy, well protected, +2 tech grade => even more so

-1 tech grade => bold or sustained, -2 tech grade => even more so

throughout the grade range and (potentially) a much better system.

The flaw was people not grading routes as being in the next grade because they were "scared". Look what happened to James Pearson and Franco when they graded something higher because they thought it was harder.

Post edited at 18:37
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David Coley 05 Feb 2020
In reply to Michael Gordon:

>He was suggesting that grades should continue in a linear fashion and that the ONLY reason they don't do that is wide tech grades. 

I'm not sure the ONLY is quite true. I only mentioned one reason, but I'm not sure I really implied it was the only reason. There might be others, but I do think it one reason.

However this link between A and T grades, was only supporting logic.

The original question was about whether T grades were wider at the top end, and then if narrowing them might be useful, and then if a sensible, easy and non-controversial way might be found to narrow them.

As climbing grades are not based on a rational, but rather a relative, scale, this is all hard to answer. The only way I can think of doing it would be to examine the % of climbers who can climb 4a, 4b...5c and see if there is a natural drop off rate. i.e. half the number of climbers can top rope 5b as 5a and see if this continues into 6a-6c. And whatever the result, it might still be true that narrowing grades in the 6a-6c range might be useful, or not.

However, we do have supporting hints:

1. some people have a feeling it is too narrow

2. bouldering in this range of difficulty does seem to be more narrowly graded

We now know: 

1. that some people seem to think it would be useful to nuance the grades

2. we have a suggestion for a system which doesn't seem controversial, is common in climbing (e.g. F6a+), doesn't bugger around with the lower grades, forms a natural extension, allows an E5(6b) to still be 6b, albeit with the possibility of it having a + symbol added to the b, could easily be dropped with hardly a ripple if no one liked/used it.

What's not to like?

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Michael Gordon 05 Feb 2020
In reply to David Coley:

I agree with all that

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Michael Gordon 05 Feb 2020
In reply to Michael Hood:

I'm not saying the system wasn't abused, just that wide tech grades are almost certainly not the only factor in divergence from overall grades. 

I think it's fair to say that Pearson's grading reflected his lack of experience on longer stamina pitches (as opposed to techy grit testpieces). In fairness to Franco, I don't think he has been proved wrong yet, but then most of his harder routes haven't been repeated.

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David Coley 08 Feb 2020
In reply to Michael Gordon:

So, anyone know anyone who is writing a UK guide book at the moment and might be willing to trial the idea of the plus symbol? 

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Michael Gordon 08 Feb 2020
In reply to David Coley:

In my experience, guidebooks are continually being 'written', just that there is frequently no evidence of progress! No doubt the SMC, BMC, Rockfax and FRCC are working on guidebooks.

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