Loading Notifications...

Is grade drift upwards inevitable; are we soft?

Please Register as a New User in order to reply to this topic.
 neuromancer 14 Sep 2020

Yesterday I was climbing in  Ilkley (Rocky Valley). Nothing hard, but I hopped on a climb and thought 'this is stiff!'. I didn't think 'this is a complete sandbag', and after a bit of thinking continued up.

My second had a bit of a mare also, and got upset because she thought it had a move or two on it that was noticeably harder than she expected. 

When I logged it (climb not linked intentionally, but it wasn't high e's) I found that the majority of votes graded it a whole adjective grade harder (something like 80-90% of votes). This isn't the first time this has happened. I did consider reporting it, but stopped myself and thought I'd ask the forum.

My question is: are we getting softer, or are there a lot of climbs that aren't well graded or whose grade 'hasnt caught up' in some sense. If so - caught up with what? Is this more prevelant in some places? Or just a product of certain crags having a specific style of climbing that takes adaptation?

Should I have reported it for a grade upgrade or would I just become part of the problem?

Report
 galpinos 14 Sep 2020
In reply to neuromancer:

I had a mare on the first pitch of Knightsbridge this weekend, the "5b" pitch, having lead Suspense the weekend before and finding HVS/E1 on grit pretty comfy.

I don't think it's undergraded, it's just a style of climbing that I'm poor at. It was pumpy and very awkward and I mentally lost it. I was cross with myself, but the speed with which my partner came up it made me realise it wasn't that hard, just hard for me!

I think spotting under/overgraded climbs is hard for those of us who spend a lot of time indoors midweek and not enough time outdoors. We are "de-skilling" for traditional climbs while increasing strength on small holds and it puts us out of kilter with the skill set of previous generations.

Whether grades should re-align with what people are good at now is another, bigger question!

Post edited at 07:58
Report
 MischaHY 14 Sep 2020
In reply to neuromancer:

I think as more and more people get into the climbing there is an inevitable shift - I actually think this has less to do with people being soft but more to do with people doing first ascents in the past being far stronger than the grade as we perceive it today. 

An example of this where I live in Germany is the local climbing in Bad Urach. It was developed by a small group of local climbers who never went outside the local area, so they just graded things however felt right. It was a group of young guys as well so as you can imagine, an element of one-uppery and sandbagging played a role in the grading. At some point, a few of these locals went to Frankenjura and found themselves doing 8a second go or flash, whereas back in Urach they'd be projecting 8a for months. 

This situation has smoothed out somewhat in recent years but you can still expect a spanking. I've got some stuff in the 7a-7c range there that I've tried unsuccessfully whilst onsighting regularly in that grade range elsewhere. 

Of course, there is also certainly people coming straight from the climbing gym, being told HVS is the equivalent of 5+ and getting a bit pissed off when it's not an absolute jug ladder - this has less to do with the route and more to do with the climbing gyms who for the most part see no need to add any technicality or subtlety in the lower grades (exceptions excepted, obviously - some do a great job). 

I think it's good to be cautious and personally I try not to offer opinions on grades until I've got a fair few of them under my belt and am very confident that I know how it should 'feel' and that there is no element of pride involved anymore. I know other people who are serial downgraders, insisting that everything they do is soft or even a half grade below - even when it is a first for the grade, which I find just as odd as claiming something is hard - if you haven't got the experience, you just don't know. 

Post edited at 07:57
Report
In reply to galpinos:

We are "de-skilling" for traditional climbs while increasing strength on small holds and it puts us out of kilter with the skill set of previous generations.

Best succinct description of this "issue" that I've seen.

Report
In reply to neuromancer:

> My question is: are we getting softer, or are there a lot of climbs that aren't well graded or whose grade 'hasnt caught up' in some sense. If so - caught up with what? Is this more prevelant in some places? Or just a product of certain crags having a specific style of climbing that takes adaptation?

Obviously grades for particular routes were in the past - and the past could be anywhere from yesterday to, say 1886 (Napes Needle). But an awful lot of well trodden trad routes will have had their first ascents - and grades - many, many decades ago. Sure, those grades may have been altered by subsequent guidebook writers but they'll still have operated from the original grades.

Those first ascentionists of yore - and the early repeaters - were people who made little (if any) use of climbing walls, which were few and far between. Virtually all of their climbing was outside. They tended to climb on most common rock types and they climbed most rock features. Because protection was generally poor, steadiness was prized above all else. You simply couldn't shout, "Take!" and lob onto a micro-cam.

If your skill set is wide, you'll be good on cracks, slabs, aretes, etc. If your skill set is wide, you'll be good on grit, lime, granite, sandstone, etc. If your skill set is wide, you'll manage on dirty, mossy, greasy, even wet rock. You may not like it - but you'll manage.

If your skill set isn't wide, if you haven't climbed on many rock features in many situations (e.g. outcrops, sea cliffs, mountain crags), then some things will stump you. Those things will seem significantly undergraded. And yes, some of them actually are!

Mick

Report
 GrahamD 14 Sep 2020
In reply to neuromancer:

I think its human nature to record things you find hard as being f*cking hard, whereas things you have no problem with are correctly graded.

Its why I think that guidebook grades should be set by people experienced at doing so, rather than on votes.

Report
 1poundSOCKS 14 Sep 2020
In reply to neuromancer:

> Should I have reported it for a grade upgrade or would I just become part of the problem?

If you thought it was a grade harder maybe you should. Otherwise how do you get consensus?

I tend to have a stronger opinion of grading at local crags where I climb frequently. For example if you don't climb on grit, or avoid cracks, then voting on the grade of a grit crack would inevitably end up with the route being overgraded. 

Report
 Jamie Wakeham 14 Sep 2020
In reply to neuromancer:

There's an awful lot going on here.  I'm involved in a project that's going to need to compare different routes across different areas, and that's always going to be difficult.  For one thing, we're trying to use a single system to compare an 8m grit route, a 40m limestone sea cliff, and the fifth pitch of a rhyolite mountain route.  Is Anvil Chorus the same difficulty as High Neb Buttress?

There are variations overall between areas; Yorkshire grit is probably undergraded more or less globally (se also: Scottish VS).  These are historical differences that are slowly getting ironed out but short of a grand project of starting out again and regrading everything, it'll take generations!

As Mick and galpinos point out, there's also a skill shift happening within the current population of climbers.  How to get up the HVD chimney is becoming a forgotten art (good riddance, some might say...) and outdoor routes that feel a bit more 'indoors-y' are being found easier.  

New equipment also changes how routes might be perceived.  Hargreave's Route was more or less a solo before cams existed; now it can be well and truly laced up, but it's still given VS.  

And individuals have very strong preferences.  I know I always undergrade slabs, because I don't mind moving above gear, and overgrade steep cracks, because I'm not terribly good at jamming and I'm weak.  This weekend I sacked off a Sev crack and did the VS next door because it was 'easier'... 

To answer your question - this all contributes to grade creep, because on average people want to upgrade the thing they find hard, not downgrade the thing they find easy!  Typically the 'currently undergraded' routes, such as Yorks grit, always get upgraded to match the softer areas.  There's also more inertia to maintain the grades of more popular areas, because they get climbed more and therefore become the benchmarks in most people's minds.  So, no-one will try to downgrade Stanage classics to bring them into line with Ilkley!

Report
In reply to Jamie Wakeham:

> To answer your question - this all contributes to grade creep, because on average people want to upgrade the thing they find hard, not downgrade the thing they find easy!  Typically the 'currently undergraded' routes, such as Yorks grit, always get upgraded to match the softer areas.  There's also more inertia to maintain the grades of more popular areas, because they get climbed more and therefore become the benchmarks in most people's minds.  So, no-one will try to downgrade Stanage classics to bring them into line with Ilkley!

There is a lot in this but on the flip side, I agree with what Misha says...

> An example of this where I live in Germany is the local climbing in Bad Urach. It was developed by a small group of local climbers who never went outside the local area, so they just graded things however felt right. It was a group of young guys as well so as you can imagine, an element of one-uppery and sandbagging played a role in the grading. At some point, a few of these locals went to Frankenjura and found themselves doing 8a second go or flash, whereas back in Urach they'd be projecting 8a for months. 

Local groups have traditionally graded hard and that has got something to do with one-upmanship and egos of a competative group of locals. 

As guidebook writers we have to work with interpretting these two competiting effects. Is it a long-standing sandbag, or are inexperienced climbers just struggling on an unfamiliar rock type and climbing stlye?

It is for this reason that we make changing grades hard on the UKC logbook system. A concensus needs to be achieved, not just a couple of climbers who had a hard time. Grades should change very infrequently, or ideally never - that is our aim.

Alan

Report
 neuromancer 14 Sep 2020
In reply to neuromancer:

Climbing isn't the only sport to quantify or qualify difficulty. 

Ski slopes are coloured, as are mountain bike slopes.

Do you think that it would be possible to objectively clarify people what they should expect on a certain grade? 

For example: On a Red trail a rider should meet no obstacles that cannot be ridden without the wheels leaving the ground. 

E.g. Severe: At no point will the route require a leader to move more than 2 meters above gear. 

All gear will be placable at a point where a leader can recover or rest.

Post edited at 10:13
Report
 neuromancer 14 Sep 2020
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

Hi Alan, thanks for posting here.

My response to this, separate, is to ask - and only in curiosity and not accusation - what level of responsibility or liability do you feel towards the climbing community when you act as the custodian of grades. 

If someone buys a guidebook from you and gets on a route that is thoroughly mis-graded and gets hurt, do you (or other guidebook writers)  still feel comfortable with your ethical basepoint that 'we should make grade adjustments very hard because tradition'? 

Fwiw, I am aware your policy is 66% iot change, which I think is generally sensible. 

Post edited at 10:29
Report
In reply to neuromancer:

Climbing is a game in which risk is always a part.  When you go climbing, you accept that. I can't see that a guidebook author has any responsibility, moral or otherwise, if someone climbing a route has a bad time, gets hurt or anything else.

Guidebooks are just that; guides, indicators of where a climb goes and at what sort of grade.  They aren't holy writ.  You go climbing, you accept that risk plays a part and that's your choice and your responsibility, no-one else's.

T.

Post edited at 10:33
Report
 neuromancer 14 Sep 2020
In reply to Pursued by a bear:

If your (imaginary?) daughter dropped into a green ski run and it turned out to have 30 degree moguls on, and she broke her leg - would you make the same argument? If not - what is it that makes climbing different? 

Report
In reply to neuromancer:

Yes, I would.  

Any children of mine are imaginary but even so, if they chose to ski down something or climb up something and got hurt well, no-one forced them to do that and sometimes when you do something like that, you get your arse kicked.  That's a risk you accept when you choose to do something like skiing, climbing and many other things.

T.

Report
 galpinos 14 Sep 2020
In reply to neuromancer:

> Climbing isn't the only sport to quantify or qualify difficulty. 

> Ski slopes are coloured, as are mountain bike slopes.

And ski slope "difficulty" varies massively from resort to resort. You even get arguments on ski forums as to whether a particular run should be red or blue. With mountain biking, at my pretty poor skill level I know I find " red runs" at certain trail centres harder, especially if they are rockier. This equates well with the difficulties in climbing being hard to quantify across rock types for the unfamiliar.

> Do you think that it would be possible to objectively clarify people what they should expect on a certain grade?

No.

> For example: On a Red trail a rider should meet no obstacles that cannot be ridden without the wheels leaving the ground. 

> E.g. Severe: At no point will the route require a leader to move more than 2 meters above gear. 

No. It's very unlikely, but there could be a situation with a very simple but gear less slab to the top of a severe that shouldn't change the grade.

> All gear will be placable at a point where a leader can recover or rest.

Depends on how good the climber is at recovering. There have been times that half an hour sat on a ledge wouldn't help my arms recover!

Grades are a best guess reached at by broad consensus but are still subjective. If I set off up an HVS I expect to climb it onsight, but that doesn't mean it's a forgone conclusion, that's half the fun!

Report
In reply to neuromancer:

> If someone buys a guidebook from you and gets on a route that is thoroughly mis-graded and gets hurt, do you still feel comfortable with your ethical basepoint that 'we should make grade adjustments very hard because tradition'?

That isn't quite what I said. We make changing grades difficult because the default assumption is that they are correct until proven otherwise. It isn't because we think that the old dudes got it right so we should stick with what they decided for as long as possible for old time's sake.

Most areas/books have been through substantial revisions in the last 20 years and glaring mistakes should have been ironed out. I am aware that they haven't all been ironed out but taking a bit more time in arriving at a consensus before changing a grade I think is good practice.

> I note that I'm not implying legal, but moral responsibility. I'm also not pointing a finger but asking what conclusion you came to when you had that conversation? 

As for moral responsibility, I think your question is unfairly loaded towards an extreme hypothetical situation. I am far more comfortable with our policy in grade changes than if we allowed grades changes to be done by users on a whim. To turn your situation around - allowing soft-touches through could easily give someone a false sense of ability which could then go horribly wrong when they encountered a route that really is that grade. It cuts both ways which is why caution and prudence are important and this is what our system engenders.

Alan

Report
 kylos8048 14 Sep 2020
In reply to neuromancer:

I think more traditional styles like offwitdhs, chimneys, corners and cracks get upgraded  as more people do mostly gym climbing which doesn't prepare them for such styles.

I think most gym climbers don't understand that a lot of the skills and strength they develop indoors doesn't carry over so well. Experience, crafty moves and smart endurance tends to get you a lot further in British/Irish trad than the ability to hang on crimps. 

Report
 neuromancer 14 Sep 2020
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

Thanks Alan. 

Of course it's loaded - it's at the extremes of situations that one's assumptions are most challenged - so it's not designed to imply absurd situations are the norm.

Sorry to push again - but I'm not sure I asked the question correctly. 

As we've already discussed, grades are a hodgepodge of tradition, consensus and the influence of publishing. I don't disagree with your policy of making it harder to change than not - but do you ever discuss whether or not the issue of being a publisher of grades makes you in any way responsible for ensuring grades are reflective of difficulty or danger?

And as you say - this could be through both under or over grading. 

Post edited at 10:41
Report
In reply to kylos8048:

> I think most gym climbers don't understand that a lot of the skills and strength they develop indoors doesn't carry over so well. Experience, crafty moves and smart endurance tends to get you a lot further in British/Irish trad than the ability to hang on crimps. 

That's probably true, I did a fairly straightforward jamming move on the wall recently that my son's very strong and flexible cohort of friends thought was sorcery.  However, I also think that such young indoor climbers often have an over-cautious attitude to climbing outdoors and really are rather intimidated by it. 

Report
 john arran 14 Sep 2020
In reply to neuromancer:

Grades of routes reflect the hypothetical proportion of climbers likely to be able to succeed on them, the smaller the proportion, the higher the grade. So far so good.

The difficulty comes in assessing the population from which such a proportion is to be drawn, as the skills and experience of those very local may be notably different to those further afield.

For example, a pure crack climb in Yosemite would be climbable by a higher proportion of local climbers than would the same climb in Spain, so justifiably may be given a lower grade in Yosemite than in Spain.

Another complicating factor is that skills among the population change over time. People nowadays have, on average, much stronger fingers than was the case 30 years ago, even those operating around similar grade ranges. But conversely there are skills, such as maybe jamming, thrutching, coping with loose rock or runouts, that may be less common now. Such relative skill aptitudes inevitably will affect the likely success proportions for routes featuring such climbing, and therefore the grades.

The difficult part, for Alan and for other guidebook writers, is assessing the intended population for that information. Is it climbers who live in or around the guidebook area? Is it all UK climbers? Is it climbers who are likely to visit the area from anywhere in the world? All of these may have different proportional skillsets due to different levels of specific familiarity, and as such the grades to be applied would be different in each case.

It's complicated, and it's a long way from being purely objective.

Report
 Jamie Wakeham 14 Sep 2020
In reply to neuromancer:

> Severe: At no point will the route require a leader to move more than 2 meters above gear. 

> All gear will be placable at a point where a leader can recover or rest.

It can't possibly be as simple as this.  Again, just this weekend, I've climbed Severe cracks that could probably have taken a runner every 50cm, had I the strength to hang on for that long (and to lift that much gear off the ground).  And I've also climbed Severe slabs that have an awful lot more than 2m between runners.  Both are, correctly, Severe.

Report
In reply to neuromancer:

> but do you ever discuss whether or not the issue of being a publisher of grades makes you in any way responsible for ensuring grades are reflective of difficulty or danger?

As you pose the question, no we have never discussed this.

However, I would say it is blatantly obvious that we assess grades based on difficulty and danger and we judge them according to our experience, other factors like online votes and comments, and other publications. That is the responsibility of anyone producing a guide - look at all available sources and improve and enhance the record of information including the assessment of grades. 

So, in that sense, yes, I acknowledge the 'responsibility' however I am not 100% sure that is what you mean by responsibility.

Alan

Report
 Garethza 14 Sep 2020
In reply to neuromancer:

> E.g. Severe: At no point will the route require a leader to move more than 2 meters above gear. 

You have clearly not done a Severe on the Buachaille! 

Report
 Cobra_Head 14 Sep 2020
In reply to neuromancer:

Don't forget, that many more people had manual jobs 20-30+ years ago, they may well have been physically stronger, and have had more stamina, than us modern weaklings.

Report
 Chris Craggs Global Crag Moderator UKH Supporter 14 Sep 2020
In reply to neuromancer:

> E.g. Severe: At no point will the route require a leader to move more than 2 meters above gear. 

> All gear will be placable at a point where a leader can recover or rest.

That appears to show a complete misunderstanding of how grades work - easy routes safe/hard routes dangerous is a nonsense!

Chris

Report
 Rod_Vortex 14 Sep 2020
In reply to neuromancer:

With modern gear, some routes will go/have gone the other direction as well. 

I guess a lot of stuff graded severe back in the day meant exactly that. Now you can smash cams in a lot of places. Grades go a little weird at that point as you may have 2 climbs at the same grade that were both equally unprotectable at the time of grading but then a new invention makes one safe whilst the other stays desperate. 

Some things are really hard to grade. What is the technical grade of the sideways bit on Inner Space at Mother Careys? I have no idea but I was sweating profusely. 

I think you have to go on the overall consensus, as 6a jamming for a jammer may be easier for them than 5a face climbing. A 4b move might be 5b if the person climbing it is an inch too short. 

Report
 Furry Goose 14 Sep 2020
In reply to neuromancer:

I think the problem lies more in the misperception of the purpose of a grade. It seems these days that people will climb routes "because" they are a certain grade. However, you should want to climb a route for the aesthetic/line/historical standing/known quality and should use the grade as an indicator of your chances of success/mortal peril.

It states at the start of all* guides that 'Users must rely on their own ability and experience to gauge the difficulty and seriousness of a climb.' Which contrasts sharply with the indoor scene where the wall/setter is accountable for difficulty and there should be little seriousness. This leads to the generic climber feeling that grades should be accurate/fitting and results in upset when that isn't the case giving rise to grade creep as described.

Personally I quite enjoy getting spanked by routes that I should (gradewise) find straight forward and I think the climbing world would be lacking without the good old fashioned sandbag.

*I've yet to see a guide without a disclaimer similar to this one part-quoted from Yorkshire grit V2,

*** Important note*** The above applies only to trad and (I assume) winter, Sport is difficulty focused so "correct" grades matter more.

Report
 stp 14 Sep 2020
In reply to neuromancer:

Good topic.

In answer to your questions:

1. Yes grades are getting softer.

2. No there are not a lot of climbs badly graded.

3. I don't think it's a product of specific crags or areas. It happens all over the country and in other parts of the world too.

There are multiple reasons for this but chief among them are a simple cognitive bias. Routes we find hard have more impact on us than things we find easy. Do you think you would be writing this about a route you found easier than expected?

Other reasons are:

Covid grades: people are unfit and climbing poorly after lockdown and don't want to admit it to themselves.

Pensioner grades: People don't want to admit they're getting older and can't climb as well as when they were younger so they want the grading scale shifted to compensate.

UKC grades: voted by anonymous people some who have no clue and may never even climbed the routes. For instance Northern Lights has had 14 votes on its grade yet only 3 people have even done it (and none of them use UKC).

Commercial grades: guidebooks these days are made for commercial interests and (sadly) soft grades sell guides which, when your in it for the money, is what you want.

I also don't think many climbers appreciate there is a full grade difference between the bottom of a grade and the top. So it's possible for a route to be just about a full grade harder than another route and still be the same grade.

I think if your not sure don't say anything. Otherwise, like you suggest, you'll just become part of the problem. (maybe speak out against overgraded routes instead to compensate for that cognitive bias).

Post edited at 20:51
Report
 neuromancer 14 Sep 2020
In reply to Garethza:

Christ almighty. I wasn't actually proposing that as a meaningful epithet to tie to the grade severe.

I was merely suggesting that there might be a form of objective statement one might make about a grade and giving a few random examples. 

Report
 john arran 14 Sep 2020
In reply to neuromancer:

What amazes me is how often I read something to the effect of 'grade x must be death on a stick' or ' grade y can't be dangerous'. Each grade may have precisely the same relative profile of technicality, physicality and risk, except that the physical difficultly will be reduced in routes of lower grades. The character of the routes may well cover the same range.

Report
 Johnlenham 15 Sep 2020
In reply to stp:

"In answer to your questions:

1. Yes grades are getting softer."

Can you actually back that up in any way?  curious to hear what makes you think that.

I would argue most of the stuff ive touched in my limited experience would actually be easier when it was new had foothold not been polished to a glimmering shine, crucial holds broken off and so on. 

Conversely there are also routes across SW Wales that people know as "soft" so youd think they would just be regraded accordingly via ukc voting or something. 

Post edited at 10:21
Report
 Offwidth 15 Sep 2020
In reply to Johnlenham:

It's a clear historic fact and by far the majority of the change occured in the 60s, 70s and 80s, as gear improved but instead of downgrading routes as they became safer, the editors upgraded the still bold lines. You can test it easily enough. Get the oldest guidebooks and climb the routes with an approximation of the gear at the time. Very Severe grades back then climbed with gear of the time feel pretty much the same now as they did then....about E1 in modern terms...  once you factor in that skillsets have changed... the pioneers were bloody amazing at clefts and with plimsoles on balance routes.

Another difference between the earliest guides and those of the 80s that I started with was in those very early guidebooks every route grade seemed to be treated with equal care. In my first guidebooks, written in the 70s to late 80s, it was obvious that many lower grade climbs had a grade that made no sense at all. By the time I knew people who knew how guidebooks were produced it was clear that there was a lack of attention to this; partly as those checking routes had no feel at those grades but also because there was  sometimes too much respect for FAs who blatantly sandbagged. If you look at the current grit definitives and selectives, modern input from lower grade climbers has clearly taken seriously but there may still be a lot of obscure lower grade climbs that are still sandbags (Id guess hundreds in obscure venues).

Another factor is routes have to be graded for normal cleanish conditions. It's why I so strongly favour the hollow star system used by the YMC, as some routes may need a prior clean, especially important if they are bold.

Post edited at 12:51
Report
In reply to Johnlenham:

> Can you actually back that up in any way?  curious to hear what makes you think that.

2 quick examples, Goliath's Groove (HVS 5a) and Saul's Crack (HVS 5a) both used to be given VS. I don't remember them being thought of as top of the grade when they were VS but of course information flow was much less in those days; they certainly weren't sandbags at VS.

Report
 Kemics 15 Sep 2020
In reply to Michael Hood:

Goliath's Groove at VS is madness. Looking through my logbooks ive climbed 175 hvs routes and fell off less than 5. I would consider myself a solid hvs climber. 

Goliath's groove is the hardest HVS ive done for sure. 

Report
In reply to Kemics:

In 1970, when Goliath's Groove was VS, I made the comment "GG is a fine climb, up to Almscliff standard"!

Report
 Kemics 15 Sep 2020
In reply to John Stainforth:

Well then you yes, you and your peers were dick slinging heroes and everyone today is comparatively far softer! 

If GG was VS then that's slam dunk proof as far as im concerned

Report
 193 15 Sep 2020
In reply to neuromancer:

the old question  ' how do I climb E3 "

answer                   ' climb HVS and wait "

Post edited at 19:19
Report
In reply to Kemics:

Can you jam?

If you can then GG is pretty straightforward. If not then it's a bit of a mare.

Although I can see it being valid at HVS, there's no way it's high in the grade. So (without knowing your HVS route profile) I'm guessing it's just not your style.

Report
In reply to Kemics:

If you feel GG is hard at HVS, try Jeepers Creepers. :-P

Report
In reply to John Stainforth:

> In 1970, when Goliath's Groove was VS, I made the comment "GG is a fine climb, up to Almscliff standard"!

I've done the Stanage and Almscliffe VS challenges and the difference in standard between the two crags is impressive, really. Even though the latter features 16 fewer climbs it is *miles* harder.

Report
 193 15 Sep 2020
In reply to Kemics:

Goliath Groove has become more polished in the years since I first climbed it 40 years since . 

not sure how Long Johns Slab managed to gain 4 grades tho

Report
In reply to 193:

Maybe it's graded for the onsight with no mats, just a rucksac stuffed on the boulder.

Report
 193 15 Sep 2020
In reply to neuromancer:

just as it was done when  it was HVS , 

the use/ availability of mats makes it even more bewildering 

Post edited at 19:57
Report
 Jamie Wakeham 15 Sep 2020
In reply to topic:

I think Hargreaves' route is actually quite an interesting example.  I've just re-read the entry in Classic Rock - in the 1970s this was thought of as an unprotectable solo, and graded HS.  

Now it's regularly laced up - there's a recent comment in the logbooks about placing nine runners in the space of 18m - but it's been given VS (certainly by the time the 1989 Stanage definitive came out), and is in fact pretty much a benchmark for what a VS slab feels like.

Post edited at 20:04
Report
In reply to Kemics:

It's a weird thing isn't it, you are clearly much more solid on HVS than I am having done that many but of natural grit HVSs (quarried ones often feel easier to me) Goliath's Groove was one of the easiest I reckon. It is probably the easiest I've done on Stanage. Have you done Tower Crack not too far from it? I totally failed on that one. Unless I was missing something it just felt nails hard! GG was a stroll in comparison for me! 

Report
 Michael Gordon 15 Sep 2020
In reply to neuromancer:

Good questions.

Is grade creep upwards inevitable? Well, history would tell us "yes", but only up to a point. Basically what has happened / is happening is re-calibration of what each grade means. There was a time when VS was climbed in big boots with no gear and required great skill and boldness - VS back then was hard! With modern footwear and protection the same routes are easy by comparison and the grade achievable by many, so our notion of what VS means has changed. 

Have we become soft? Only in an ego sense. Changing grades doesn't affect the standard we climb at - the routes remain the same. So we haven't got any worse at climbing.

Report
In reply to Jamie Wakeham:

I don't think I'd describe Hargreaves' as a slab. It is slabby but it's essentially climbing between horizontal breaks.

Also, it was (and no doubt still is) protectable with hexes in the 70s although not laceable in the way that can be done with cams.

Report
 1poundSOCKS 16 Sep 2020
In reply to Michael Hood:

> I don't think I'd describe Hargreaves' as a slab. It is slabby

What makes something a slab then? 

Report
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

Angle wise it's a slab, but the moves aren't particularly slabby - say compared with Sunset Slab which is technically similar sort of grade.

Comes the Dervish is on a slab - would it be described as a slab route?

Just semantics really.

Report
 1poundSOCKS 16 Sep 2020
In reply to Michael Hood:

> Comes the Dervish is on a slab - would it be described as a slab route?

Now you've lost me. Obviously it's a slab if it's on a slab. 

Report
 john arran 16 Sep 2020
In reply to Michael Hood:

I think you may be confusing 'slabby' with 'smeary'. They're very different things.

Report
 Jamie Wakeham 16 Sep 2020
In reply to Michael Hood:

> I don't think I'd describe Hargreaves' as a slab. It is slabby but it's essentially climbing between horizontal breaks.

OK, so I was being a little lazy -it's not a pure slab, but it is absolutely archetypical of that distinctive gritstone break-to-break friction move style of climbing.  As you say, semantics.

> Also, it was (and no doubt still is) protectable with hexes in the 70s although not laceable in the way that can be done with cams.

"Technically it is no harder than its grade - a goodish Severe - but in every other respect it will test you.  Approach it with respect for in those 60ft you will find no runner... Your peril is obvious: you must not miss these moves... for the ground would be your landing.  There is no place here for a hexentric or a chouinard..." it appears Ken Wilson and Jim Perrin disagree!  Perrin is exaggerating a little for dramatic effect, of course - I remember a decent nut placement, though it's quite high up and past the major difficulties, so he's justified in neglecting it.  I wouldn'tt fancy balancing hexes in those breaks and then testing them.

This is all slightly besides the point, of course, which is that it's gone from HS to VS whilst the possibilities of protecting it have gone up tenfold.

Report
 HeMa 16 Sep 2020
In reply to Michael Hood:

Indeed, and if you read the topos for rock routes in the alps, you might even see sentences like:

"climb the overhanging slab via small holds"

So it all boils down to what use do you primary understand the terms.

For me, slab, vertical and roof are mostly about the angle.

Then the hold types (crimps, crack, jugs, smears) together with the angle tell me about the climb I'm excepting.

As per your "definition" of slab, for me would be slab with small crimps and smears. Perhaps I might even like to add something to describe the kind of climbing (technical, so lots of highsteps and lots of intermediate holds and so on) to the mix.

So just like the trad grades... I often require THREE variables to define the kind of climbing, not just one... Even two variables (like on the Uk trad grade) is simply not enough ;)

Report
In reply to stp:

"UKC grades: voted by anonymous people some who have no clue and may never even climbed the routes. For instance Northern Lights has had 14 votes on its grade yet only 3 people have even done it (and none of them use UKC)."

Kinda what I was thinking - I could go on and say x route should be graded harder, but until the last week or so I had never lead a climb outside. My opinion on the grade would be worthless, yet that is not accounted for. I won't start ticking that box until I am a better climber and have done many routes and feel I can give a fair assessment.
Report
 HeMa 16 Sep 2020
In reply to neuromancer:

Yes, people are getting softer and grade creep is bound to happen.

But it really boils down to what kind people the "general" climbing populace is going to be.

I've seem my fair share of performance oriented indoor climbers ticking outside. Since they are "performing", the like to get an impressive tick-list, so are very unlikely to suggest downgrades. And often, when breakin' into new grade-range, they pick the soft ones (my first 7A and so on) and as it is their first, not many downgrades on it. They might suggest and upgrade, if they feel the line is harder than what they expected on (on a level they often operate). This might be, 'cause they don't have the (technical) skillz needed for said line (e.g. comp climbers and cracks a few years back at the bouldering world cup round). Or simply because the particular line just happens to be a sandbag or incase of boulders morpho in some way.

I'm not super tall (174), my wife is short and a lot of the people I climb with are also short. But a lot of the classic boulder problems where I live have been put up by mainly 180cm or taller lads. So some of the problems are reachy or really reachy. It does't mean that they are graded wrong, it's just the case that they are morpho (easier for the tall, short, skinny, fat, whatever and harder for the rest). In such cases , I often note in my open logbook that the problem is morpho (and what kind of morpho), but really don't vote on the grade (up or down), might how ever mention in the comments that for me personally it felt like grade xxx. What should be noted, that when climbing with a rope, morpho routes tend to be less of an issue (more options, longer line etc. so things balance out more), can it happen, yes but its less evident than on problems.

Personally I often suggest downgrades (easier than given grade), unless it is clearly such a line that suits my body and not others (so morpho). In the latter case I note that in the comments. I even suggest downgrades  when I do my best flash or break a new grade, if it was too easy. But I'm also the same kind of person that is not really all that performance focused, I care more about climbing good lines with nice moves (and preferably with good holds) and evolving as a climber. I also generally only give out positive thumbs up or 4 or 5 stars for the stellar pics.

So if a lot of people are like me, the creep won't happen that much. But looking at the climbers where I live, well a lot aren't.

Oh and as edited note. Some people have been performance oriented long before indoor climbing gyms existed. And also some that started indoors will never be performance focused. The person is the one that matters. But with climbing gyms now readily available, a certain portion will be performance oriented. This was somewhat evident last year, when I decided to see how strong I was (middle age crisis and all that crap). So I did the extensive Lattice Remote Assessment. Turns out, I'm not strong... in fact I'm super weak, rigid and so on... infact I recall that my best feature was pistols squats (I used to telemark a lot, some eons ago), but when compare those doing skiing or just working out the results were still shite. Oh, and being pretty equally crap at almost all the other physical variables the assessment measures. Oddly enough, my log book disagrees with the given results (I'm weak, but have good technique and enough skillz to pic the lines that suit me). Naturally at non pro-levels, getting that kind of assessment will naturally have a strong bias (you won't shell out dough to get assessed, unless you are at least a bit performance focused... or having a midlife crisis and not enough dough for a sports car or motorcycle).

The finger strength calculator floating around in the interw3b is also another prime example of this bias... or that it is actually given values for a "trad climber" mindset. So when asked, "what grade do you climb?", my answer would be VS (even if my headpoint grade is E4/5 and my best OS have been E3s with consistantly OS E1/2s) as that is the grade I'm 99.9% certain of OS.


And Edit two... same kinds of people (performance focused) are also more likely to even use logbooks and give feedback. Those that are only enjoying the climbing, will prolly still have a nice leather cover small book, where they might write the lines they climbed at any given day... or that they'd scribble something on their old and battered paper guidebook.

The performance oriented will tick and suggest grades via their mobile phone in a minute or two of sending it... post a quick Pentagram Story and quick edit video... followed by a proper send video linked to what ever social media sites they happen to use these days...

Post edited at 10:43
Report
In reply to john arran:

> I think you may be confusing 'slabby' with 'smeary'. They're very different things.

Yes I think you're probably right, as I said it's semantics. If we talked about slabby climbing, I think we'd be thinking about smearing and thin moves like that, rather than break-to-break moves on slabs.

Report
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

> > Comes the Dervish is on a slab - would it be described as a slab route?

> Now you've lost me. Obviously it's a slab if it's on a slab. 

CtD is a crack on a slab - so is it crack style climbing or slabby type climbing (combination no doubt 😁) - see my answer to John's post just above - semantics.

Report
 Michael Gordon 16 Sep 2020
In reply to Michael Hood:

We've had a thread on this before. It's the difference between 'slabby' and 'slab climbing'. An off-vertical wall climbed on small holds could be described as slabby. Proper slab climbing is when you don't have the luxury of holds.

Report
 Al Randall 16 Sep 2020
In reply to neuromancer:

I learnt to climb on grit when there was virtually no gear. Then I went to Wales and found it, grade for grade, easier.  As I gained more experience on a variety of rock types the grades seemed to even out somewhat.  I was climbing up to and including E4. At this time an E2 on grit felt like an E2 in North Wales etc. just different. When I moved south for work reasons I didn't climb on it for several years as a) I had done a hell of a lot of it and don't like repeating and b) it was less convenient to get to.  When I went back I initially found it desperate until I got back "into the zone" During this time I had done a lot of sport climbing which in the main does not lend itself to grit techniques.

Al

Report
 AlanLittle 16 Sep 2020
In reply to Michael Gordon:

No, that's just friction slab climbing, which is one form and no more "proper" than any other.

Report
In reply to stp:

> I also don't think many climbers appreciate there is a full grade difference between the bottom of a grade and the top. So it's possible for a route to be just about a full grade harder than another route and still be the same grade.

Another point - might just be me this, but I think not - it only becomes apparent that the technical grade of some routes is correct when you can climb rather harder than that grade.  For example, Protein (VS 5a).  I tried to do this when I'd just broken into leading HVS, thought an attractive-looking line should have been easily within my abilities and got my arse kicked for my troubles; couldn't do it.

I went back some time later, when I was leading E1, and did it without issue.  It is correctly graded at VS 4c but the truth of that technical grade only became apparent (to me) when I could lead routes of rather greater technical difficulty and had more experience on those harder grades.  Just because I could lead above the grade that climb was given didn't mean I could climb it; it wasn't incorrectly graded, VS 4c is spot on, the problem was me assuming I could do it.  Lesson learned. (Looking at logbook comments about the route suggests I'm not the only one to have had assumptions about this climb). 

So as well as a grade encompassing the whole range of difficulty from 'easy for the grade' to 'a bit stiff', sometimes we set off with assumptions.  The problem isn't the climb, or the grade, it's the climber and the assumptions they make about a route beforehand and they may provide an obstacle more difficult to overcome than anything the correctly-graded route contains.

T.

Edit: I see that the database now has the route in question given a 5a grade.  Unless there's been a material change since I did it, which is always possible because it's a seacliff and I climbed it over thirty years ago (flippin' 'eck, where did that go?), I think that's generous.  However, I shan't be going back to check.

Post edited at 18:42
Report
 Michael Gordon 16 Sep 2020
In reply to AlanLittle:

We'll have to agree to disagree.

Report
In reply to Pursued by a bear:

I presume you're saying "just because you're a <grade> climber, doesn't mean you can climb every <grade> climb"

And, "even if you think you can climb any <grade> climb, there will be days when you can't"

Report
In reply to Michael Hood:

There's a structure and logic to that post that suggest you've either a degree in mathematics or a job in computing, or both.

But yes, that's an elegant distillation of my point.

T.

Report
 Blanche DuBois 17 Sep 2020
In reply to Pursued by a bear:

> There's a structure and logic to that post that suggest you've either a degree in mathematics or a job in computing, or both.

Nah - too many unclosed XML tags.

Report
In reply to Pursued by a bear:

Guilty as charged on both counts m'lud 😁

Although the maths degree was many decades ago. For 25 years I was a software developer. Then an auditor for 11 years. Nowadays although my job title is Billing Manager, I actually spend most of my time "playing" with data in Excel and solving problems.

Is it any wonder that I can be so pedantic and anal at times 😁

Report
In reply to Blanche DuBois:

Never really got to using XML and similar, too recent. Most of my IT years were spent on what you'd nowadays call legacy applications.

(even IT was a term that came into existence after I started doing computing)

Report
 Jonas Wiklund 17 Sep 2020
In reply to neuromancer:

I dunno really. I flipped through the first Céüse guidebook from the mid 80s this summer and was surprised that many of the routes in that topo have been downgraded since then, while increasing polish surely have made them harder to climb. (On some routes i have noticed a big degradation just the last five-six years)

Post edited at 09:45
Report
 1poundSOCKS 17 Sep 2020
In reply to Michael Hood:

> CtD is a crack on a slab - so is it crack style climbing or slabby type climbing

I haven't done it. But it would be better to ask does it involve jamming. Being slate I doubt there's much smearing. Which I think means you're saying there aren't any slate slabs?

Routes can involve jamming, or rock overs, on smears or edges. That's the style of climbing. Slab/wall/overhang/roof just refers to the angle. You can smear on overhangs, rock over on walls, jam on whatever. 

Using the same phrase to refer to the angle and the style of climbing is just confusing.

​​​

Report
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

It involves finger locks and is slabbing enough that you can be off your arms much of the time. So it's a crack on a slab. :-P

Report

Please Register as a New User in order to reply to this topic.