/ What is a ‘good’ climbing grade?
Apologies if there is a previous discussion on this.
What would people consider ‘average’, ‘advanced’ or ‘elite’ grades people climb? Obviously there’s the best elite climbers doing E10s and 9a+ but where does elite start? Can you consider you’re advanced if you climb an E1? Have you left being a beginner once you can climb f6a?
For info I’m more around the HS/6c region.
Did you mean 5c? If you climb 6c sport then I'd suggest you could be climbing a lot harder than HS.
No. I meant 6c. My head isn’t fantastic for trad
In that case E1 would be quite an advance for you even if others thought differently.
If anyone tries to give you a straight answer to this question, don't believe them. It's all relative.
A good grade is one which corresponds to a level of difficulty that leaves you feeling satisfied with your effort.
That's not just glibness, it's true.
But if you must have a number we can all agree on, 9c+ is definitely good.
Ok so you're technically strong if you are climbing 6c. Is that leading 6c BTW? If so then the 'head' aspect of trad can definitely be worked on and improved (assuming you have the wish to improve your trad grade). As for what makes a good grade I agree with AndyMoles that a straight answer is impossible. Also depends on style of lead. For example, on trad I've headpointed two E grades above my best onsight.
E8 6c or 8c+ or V11.
Everything else is nonsense.
I reckon, and I’m more than happy to be called out on this....
Trad has a natural “middle marker” where the E grades come in, so E1 is a really easy / lazy definition of denoting someone who’s half decent.
Sport maybe a bit trickier but I’d go with 7a and above being “advanced”, same with bouldering maybe.
VS/HVS, sport 6a/+, proper font 6a is achievable after a few goes generally as being a competent climber - normally takes time and commitment to get to this level and normally beginner isnt the correct term. (I dont mean that lower grade climbers are without skill/ competence in a functional way)
In your post I'm assuming you mean regularly on sight of these grades. I'd agree thats about where I perceive being better than average/ the start of "harder climbing" as being.
E4, high sport 7s, bouldering in font 7s comfortably I'd put as being a proper "hard" climber, and normally time served.
And anything with 8s or above as being a local face/ star of the crag/ local scene up to mega star/ crazy.
> And anything with 8s or above as being a local face/ star of the crag/ local scene up to mega star/ crazy.
I’ve climbed a couple of 8a’s, but living in North Wales still feel like a right punter, surrounded as I am by mega wads!
Can't believe no-one's yet said this but: "a grade or two above what I climb"
Always thought E3/4 and above was good climber territory, mid 7 sport. V6/7?
After lots of years regular but not hardcore, I'm indoor toprope 7a on rare occasions, indoor lead 6c/+ on a good day, outside sport 6b ish but often spat off at that grad (or easier....did a 5+ in Mallorca that I fell off before getting! Passed two maillons on the way up, so not just me?). Did "project" a sport climb this summer for first time ever so eventuslly led it at 7a. Trad E1 best grade and best onsight, recently out of practice so best was HVS an crapping it a bit. Age 52, skinny but maybe a bit lazy, not super-driven.
A good grade is one you can climb with effort and enjoy! Unless you are into indoor competition climbing! There are so many enjoyable routes at all levels, focussing on the grade can be restrictive. I have friends who will only climb routes on a three star tick list (a creation of someone else's enjoyment,) some who will only climb above a certain grade, others who have different priorities. I go out to climb for enjoyment. Some days only lower grades, some days routes at my absolute limit. As long as I am still smiling at the end of the day that is all that matters. I compete with me and not what others think! Enjoy your climbing.
Just thought I would say that HS and sport F6c is a pretty normal balance unless you are a trad specialist. UKC has significant climbs of the week post and UKB has male and female wad lists, where you can look at cut-off grades.
Most of the weekend warriors I mix in are climbing around HVS / E1 and above that your getting bold. Hard to say as that's the circles I mix in but ask a group climbing at a higher lever and you'll probably get a differing opinion.
There are plenty of people that have led E5 that would have a less than 50% chance of onsighting a random E1 picked from a grit guide.
Beginners can climb anywhere up to 6b/6c ish if they are reasonably athletic and coordinated
6c - 7b intermediate
7b+ - 8a+ advanced
8b - 8c+ expert
9a - 9c elite
Of course this is all complete nonsense made up myself
It's only getting bold because they are not really solid leaders at those grades. If you can't climb a typical safe route at the grade on several rock types you can't claim you are solid at the grade.
I would guess that 80% of climbers climb VS or less ? Nothing wrong with that...I agree with whoever said 'the best climber is the one having the most fun'...
A long time ago I was an expert, now I'm a punter. My grade hasn't changed much but that of the general climbing population has
Wish I'd known that back in the day ;)
I was told by a quite a few people, that the average grade in the UK was around VS for trad and 6a/b for sport. It used to be HVS but has come down. not sure its 100% true but seams believable.
For advanced or elite I guess you really need to know the percentage of climbers that can climb at that grade, Would elite be top 10% or 5%? I would be curious to know for example what percentage of climbers can climb high 7's or 8's or 9's for example, but don't really think there is a way to find out.
As for linking beginner to a grade that's hard, I have had beginners on VS and 6's very early in their climbing, because they have take to it really well. But they are still beginners in terms of rope work and over all knowledge of climbing. I have meet people who have been climbing for years and years and are sound safe climbers but don't climb that hard?
At the end of the day we are all still learning no mater where we are on the scale (or should be).
Lots of really interesting opinions.
I suppose I’ve always felt f6a and above is where climbs get interesting and, to an extent, the higher grade you can climb, the more interesting climbs are available to you.
I’m planning on working on training and leading this winter with a view to getting my trad grade more in line with what it could be next year. Maybe E1...
It would be great if there was a way to see what percentage of climbers were at what grades. I did try and look round ukc but to no avail.
> VS/HVS, sport 6a/+, proper font 6a is achievable after a few goes generally as being a competent climber..
With you on most of this and the rest of the replies on this thread. But proper font 6a equating to VS/HVS, sport 6a/+?? If these were your top grades doing trad and sport I don't think you'd touch 6a in Font! Unless I've misunderstood?
The old phrase was "sports climbing didn't start till the 7's" not sure thats 100% right, and there are classic at nearly every grade, but I agree the more options you have grade wise opens up a lot more of the crags.
If your climbing 6c regularly then E1 should be well within you physical limit, I know that doesn't make it easy and many people like a comfort blanket of strength on trad routes, but for your training this winter try to focus on working the head game not just strength. Some times strength just means you can hang on longer, getting scared for longer which is not positive for the head in the long run.
I work in France as a climbing coach/instructor and it really common to see people who struggle with the head game, even on bolts. there is quite a lot you can do to help with this small exercises that can help refocus the brain, and calm the nerves. I like the double breath technique, but there are loads out there to try.
Good luck this winter and remember is should be fun.
> But proper font 6a equating to VS/HVS, sport 6a/+?? If these were your top grades doing trad and sport I don't think you'd touch 6a in Font! Unless I've misunderstood?
Depends what you have a natural affinity for no? I sport climbed for years up to 7b ish, then after bouldering for less than 6 months my font grade is an equal f7B (in a session). I must naturally suck at being fit!
You can look at UKC logbook stats and see that average trad leads are indeed HS and much to my surprise sports grades are F6a+. That's all logbook climbers though and most climbing in the outdoors in the UK are climbing trad (which will pull down the average sports grade).
Thanks for the link, its a nifty page.
I was told by a few guys that are involved with the BMC, so I thought they must be close, I was surprised by the 6a+ thought it might be a bit higher. That said I have heard that the average grade in France is 6b/c and there is better access to sports crags and better weather.
Do you know if there any way to find the grade range of say the top 10% of climber on here?
I'm not quite sure about the categories. I think perhaps the idea of being 'competent' should come in somewhere. There's a lot of difference between struggling up a climb of whatever nominal grade, with poor gear, looking like you might come off, and being able to turn up and do your thing in a smooth, controlled and safe manner, with the skills and flexibility to adapt to the situation. Whatever grade you climb at, being competent is not something to underestimate.
Average grade of route logged, not average lead grade, mind you. Depends what question you want to answer...
Won’t comment on trad, but for sport f6s are climbing, f7s are sport climbing and f8 upwards mean that you’ll need to be good (@ climbing or @ training). f9 is the superstar grade.
> Just thought I would say that HS and sport F6c is a pretty normal balance unless you are a trad specialist.
E4 and 6c is also quite normal!
I would say HS is 'beginner level' (if you don't like this term, please replace with 'low level' or similar), while 6c is intermediate level, perhaps similar to E2/3 for those with plenty trad experience. If we're talking onsight, then 'advanced' around E5, elite E7+?
Exactly!! hs and f6c seems well out of balance. Admittedly everyone has there different strengths and weaknesses but if you can climb f6c you should have no trouble with safe E2's (and that's accounting for not having much of a head for trad).
Bat out of Hell at Higgar is about f6c and as safe as they come and you get E5 for it!
E7 on site/ basic pre-inspection rather than relentless head pointing?
Exactly what I said...
I would say a Good grade is top end HVS on site on any UK crag. There’s a surprising number of 7a sport climbers who can’t pass this test
It's relative, not absolute. It completely depends on where you climb and who with.
If you're a Malham or Ravens Tor regular, f8b is probably a good grade and if you only climb f7c then you're definitely a bit of a punter.
If you're a member of a fairly traditional mountaineering club in a mid-size town, E2 trad is probably a good grade.
If you're a teenager regularly climbing at an established London bouldering wall and have done for years, V8/9 is probably a good grade.
If you're at Stanage on a May Bank Holiday, HVS probably feels fairly good. Equally, if you're down the road at Horseshoe, f6c very probably puts you in the good bracket.
We live in self-selecting groups. The harder you climb, the more hard climbers you are likely to meet. Paradoxically, that means that in many cases the harder you climb, the less likely you will be to consider yourself genuinely good...
All that is true but we can still make general categories across the whole climbing population. Clearly, 8b is elite and HVS is neither beginner nor advanced level.
Here‘s an idea for comparison across disciplines: how long ago was the grade cutting edge?
So for Rebecca: HS 1890s, 6c 1960s, big disparity
> I was told by a quite a few people, that the average grade in the UK was around VS for trad and 6a/b for sport. It used to be HVS but has come down. not sure its 100% true but seams believable.
On the face of it it seems like a fairly straightforward question, but it becomes more complicated the more you think about it. What does it mean to say someone climbs VS? That the hardest route they climbed was VS? Or, given a VS route selected at random in the UK, that they have a better than 50% chance of onsighting it? The latter sounds like a more robust metric - but how would you go about determining the number of people that fit into that category, without some controlled polling (that I'm pretty sure no one has ever done).
I think anyone who tells you that they know what the 'average' grade in the UK is is just hand-waving, based on anecdotal experience of what they've seen down their local crag or wall. Take it with a pinch of salt.
On the face of it (I’ve done none of the routes I found by quickly inspecting, so am reliant on the grades given) routes on southern sandstone that the Rockfax gives Fr6c were done in the 40s, with 7a in the 50s (and 7a soloed in the late 60s, according to this https://www.ukhillwalking.com/forums/rock_talk/first_route_of_each_grade_trad_and_sport-711901?v=1#x9076285 ). Toproping, not leading, but unless the clips are awkward the difference is more mental than physical...
I don't disagree for some experienced trad climbers. Yet in that case for the sport 6c bit they are not training or trying hard enough. Different strokes n'all. These days there seem to an increasing proportion of strong mainly indoor climbers with surprisingly low typical trad grades.... Ive met genuine occasional f7 and low ro mid F7 ability climbers worried about leading VS!?
Absolutely yes. That said I climb probably slightly lower on Limestone due to not climbing on it often. It was great meeting you at the Kendal fest by the way. I was the guy you spoke with about Wharncliffe on the Sat night. See you around no doubt.
The grade doesn’t matter as long it’s harder than what your mates climb.;)
> Beginners can climb anywhere up to 6b/6c ish if they are reasonably athletic and coordinated
I've introduced a fair few people and the best I've seen a beginner get to in their first few sessions is 6a(+), and that was when they were basically ideal climber build - not too short, skinny and strong - from other activities. Mostly 5a/5b is as high as they get for a while.
And that's talking indoors - knock that down at least a grade for outdoor sport.
Beyond the first few sessions they aren't really a beginner.
Obviously things like that are taken with a pinch of salt, no one can know 100% for sure and there are quite a few varables to factor in.
I remember one of the guys who told me it was around VS was work for the BMC and it was based round one of their surveys, but not every climber is a member of the BMC or did the survey so you right it's a rough guess, but as I said it seams a believable shout. I cant see it being that far out for a UK average of what people claim as their onsight grade.
But I haven't been in the UK for a while so could all have changed
Maybe depends on approach/style etc. - I'm not into 'working' a route, tend to only lead o/s, second o/s, or lead stuff I've seconded before (so no detailed memory of the route, just the knowledge that I could get up it), but for me HS is a relatively comfortable lead o/s grade, whereas f6c lead o/s... no chance! Should add I'm not that into sport, and live in the most boring county in the country so only climb every other weekend or so during the summer, but have never felt an HS to be overly physically demanding (non climbers on a TR would get up most), whereas f6c I don't think many 'non-climbers' could TR, at least not without resting on the rope.
> I suppose I’ve always felt f6a and above is where climbs get interesting and, to an extent, the higher grade you can climb, the more interesting climbs are available to you.
This one is a bit of a bugger because I can confirm that although this is true, the easier something gets the less interesting it becomes. An example: My first 7c took me 4 sessions and was a really big deal at the time. I was incredibly happy to tick it. Nowadays I expect to onsight 7c and if I don't I often won't bother going for the second go redpoint unless there's nothing else to do because I reason I'll come back at some point and give it another decent go ground-up, which is probably true, but also stems from the fact that second go 7c isn't really interesting anymore, so I'm unlikely to put the effort in unless the route is really good. Second go 8a, on the other hand, is still a valuable tick because it feels like a good effort.
This has pretty much been the pattern going forward in that once I establish I can do something fairly solidly, it becomes rather uninteresting unless part of a bigger challenge i.e. in my case a long multipitch with many 7th graded pitches or similar. The takeaway here is that for me, the attractive part of sport climbing is the uncertainty which lies around whether I can do a route, maybe in a particular style or or a new grade, plus the knowledge afterwards that it was really close to my physical or mental limit.
> I’m planning on working on training and leading this winter with a view to getting my trad grade more in line with what it could be next year. Maybe E1...
Trad is a tricky one because it's actually so easy to push your 'grade' without necessarily being any stronger by compromising on your own safety. I did this redpointing E7 when at the time I was climbing maybe 7b, simply by being willing to climb fairly close to my limit on bold slab with no gear. I realised after a while that this was a rather self-destructive process and decided to get stronger instead of bolder. If you want to push your trad grade, do it on safe routes where you can go hard on the onsight without too much risk.
> It would be great if there was a way to see what percentage of climbers were at what grades. I did try and look round ukc but to no avail.
Don't worry about this too much. There's all sorts of people claiming all sorts of grades but what matters is you and your strength and head. Get yourself strong, challenge yourself, and keep goal setting. You'll be reet!
It’s a grade which is a couple of grades harder than your best grade. It doesn’t matter what your best grade is - there is always someone who is going to be better (unless you are a top end pro climber). So a good grade is going to be something that’s a bit out of reach for you, regardless of your level. Then you get better and hit that grade but that means the bar is raised and the new ‘good’ grade is another couple of notches higher. So you strive for that... or just get happy with where you are at. It doesn’t really matter what level you are, as long as you are safe and competent. And if anyone ever starts bragging how good they are, just tell them there are lots of people who are better.
> Can't believe no-one's yet said this but: "a grade or two above what I climb"
> Always thought E3/4 and above was good climber territory, mid 7 sport. V6/7?
So have you always been stuck at about E2 and 7a ;-) ?
> .......I agree with whoever said 'the best climber is the one having the most fun'...
Except that a moment's thought reveals it to be bollocks. If you are shit at climbing but having loads of fun, you are still a shit climber.
> Won’t comment on trad, but for sport f6s are climbing, f7s are sport climbing.......
So there are no 6a - 6c sport climbs? Bizarre news.......
> Admittedly everyone has there different strengths and weaknesses but if you can climb f6c you should have no trouble with safe E2's
Are you not overlooking the fact that climbing a safe E2 safely involves an awful lot more than the physical skills to climb any particular sports grade?
I've always found it to be the one above the grade I'm currently climbing
> Most of the weekend warriors I mix in are climbing around HVS / E1 and above that your getting bold. Hard to say as that's the circles I mix in but ask a group climbing at a higher lever and you'll probably get a differing opinion.
Plenty of safe routes well into the E grades...
> There are plenty of people that have led E5 that would have a less than 50% chance of onsighting a random E1 picked from a grit guide.
Really? Surely not people who have done proper E5s (not some scarefest which only gets E5 for being bold). Grit E1s aren't that hard!
> E4 and 6c is also quite normal!
Indeed. HS and 6c is sport climbers who dabble in trad (even then, you'd think they would be at least VS). E4 and 6c is trad climbers who dabble in sport. Not sure which group is larger these days. Probably outnumbered by pure sport climbers and pure boulderers.
> Indeed. HS and 6c is sport climbers who dabble in trad (even then, you'd think they would be at least VS). E4 and 6c is trad climbers who dabble in sport.
It would be interesting to see a scattergraph of climbers' best trad onsight v best sport onsight.
> There are plenty of people that have led E5 that would have a less than 50% chance of onsighting a random E1 picked from a grit guide.
What a load of grit climbing self appointed aficionado elitist bollocks.
> Bat out of Hell at Higgar is about f6c and as safe as they come and you get E5 for it!
why did you headpoint it then? ;-)
Because I tried on sighting but can't climb f6c lol
> So there are no 6a - 6c sport climbs? Bizarre news.......
Of course there are. The idea behind that proverb I wrote is that f6 grade span is actual climbing (compared to say f5s), but not really something that requires a sport approach like f7s.
In essense a normal semi athletic person should be able to climbs easily f5s even on their first time dabbing into climbing. With a bit of training (skills & technique) they should get easily up to mid f6s. Even high f6s If we’re talking about overhanging pumpy Spanish limestone/indoor stuff.
but roughly from f7s onwards some dedicated training will be required. Think climbing twice a week.
> It would be interesting to see a scattergraph of climbers' best trad onsight v best sport onsight.
Mine is E3’ish (skandinavian 6+/7-), f7a (but all of them have been short bouldery ones), and for boulder it has been F7A.
More than one per type, so no flukes.
> If you are shit at climbing but having loads of fun, you are still a shit climber.
We need to have this as the banner header on all the UKC pages.
> Except that a moment's thought reveals it to be bollocks. If you are shit at climbing but having loads of fun, you are still a shit climber.
You are confusing good and bad with soft and hard. Furthermore the use of such language risks alienating beginners to the sport. A good climber is one who has the necessary competence to climb safely at their grade, and can maintain that while pushing limits. A good climber will manage this while also keeping their partners happy. This will likely result in them having fun.
A learning climber will struggle to place gear correctly, hesitate too long when it is perfectly safe and at times do things which compromise security of themselves or companions. Do they merit the title 'shit' ?
A bad climber is one who is experienced enough to have done better either technically or energetically - but she may simply be off-form.
Any attempt to classify good and bad with grades alone can only ever produce a relative judgement. A 'good' climber will always be one who is climbing harder than you, and finally there will only be one - he who is the hardest 'best' in the world.
> Any attempt to classify good and bad with grades alone can only ever produce a relative judgement.
I am simply classifying a good climber as one that is actually good at climbing. Grades are obviously a rough guide to how good someone is at climbing. Blindingly obvious in fact. It is also blindingly obvious that how much fun is being had is almost unrelated to how good at climbing someone is - stating otherwise is implying that begionners can't be having much fun which is clearly absurd.
> E4 and 6c is also quite normal!
I don't think I've ever even toproped sport 6c, even when I was regularly leading E3 and occasionally harder, and regularly seconding E5 and occasionally quite a bit harder.
> I don't think I've ever even toproped sport 6c, even when I was...regularly seconding E5 and occasionally quite a bit harder.
Well then, you have.
Here's a list of major classics on Peak grit, with the number of logged ascents. They also naturally include TR, dnf, 2nd and dogged, but give some idea of the spread:
HVD: Flying Buttress (HVD 4a) 6126
HS: Manchester Buttress (HS 4b) 4189
VS: Valkyrie (VS 4c) 2658
HVS: Chequers Buttress (HVS 5a)3217
E1: Flying Buttress Direct (E1 5b) 2448
E2: Elder Crack (E2 5b) 520
E3: Tippler Direct (E3 6a) 342
E4: Moon Walk (E4 6a) 231
E5: London Wall (E5 6a) 162
E6: Narcissus (E6 6b) 56
E7: The Master's Edge (E7 6c) 53
E8: Gaia (E8 6c) 30
E9: Meshuga (E9 6c) 8
Edit: Three things stood out in the search:
1. VS climbers appear not to log their climbs as frequently as the rest!
2. Some climbs are so massively popular that they give false peaks (Chequers Buttress in this list, or Strapadictomy (Froggatt) at E5 6b (248).
3. Slabs also skew the list because they have so many toprope ascents.
That having been said: the big dividing line would seem to be E1/E2.
But then it was Alex Lowe who said it, and Alex Lowe was better than you, both at climbing and at having fun. Perhaps you're missing something? Who says that the definitive measure of 'bestness' in climbing is the ability to climb harder things?
> Well then, you have.
I'm not so sure. Technical UK 6b or even 6c climbing isn't the same as the sort of crimpy overhanging stuff I associate with sport 6c. Power endurance is my kryptonite.
Edit: I guess the real difference is I'm talking about on sight. I've never really got redpointing.
> ...I agree with whoever said 'the best climber is the one having the most fun'...
I understand Shauna's training for the Olympics mainly consists of learning how to smile euphorically while doing a one arm pull up.
I was struck by something Johnny Dawes once said: a hard climber is somebody who consistently climbs at their own limit.
I'm happy to watch anyone take the challenge who has headpointed E5 at best. When guidebook checking I climbed with many people, of a wide range of ability, up to pretty solid mid extreme grit onsighters (all whom at the top end group had onsighted at least E6). The best of them had had plenty of 'fun' times leading on E1s when checking all routes of the grade on a crag and some had taken some serious lead falls onsighting for scary routes as low as E2 (Saddy being the worst example). A not insignificant proportion of E1s needed a good clean before we would risk a lead. So I use grit as an example, as I know it very well, it's the most popular rock in the UK (evidenced by logged ascents), it requires a wide skill range and despite E1 being an entry grade for the keen punter many excellent E1 routes are so rarely climbed they often need a pre-clean for an ascent.
A 4th point McHeath missed on his list is some routes are known to be OK for a big headpoint tick so get lots of ascents by number chasers; mysteriously other classic routes of teh same grade comparatively get hardly any ascents. Sometimes its down to sandbagging though... not many single E5 slab headpointers would get this HVS (still the bullshit definitive grade... hard E2 really)
Masochism (E1 5b) with only 96 logged ascents despite those attracted to its infamy and Sharrat's insistence you are not an HVS leader until you have led it.
> But then it was Alex Lowe who said it, and Alex Lowe was better than you, both at climbing and at having fun.
He was certainly a miles better climber than me but I have no idea whether he had more fun or not.
Anyway, I thought Lowe said it as a throwaway remark when pestered to say whether he was the best climber in the world or something and that he didn't actually mean it.
Perhaps you're missing something? Who says that the definitive measure of 'bestness' in climbing is the ability to climb harder things?
Being a good climber means being good at climbing. To twist that to mean being good at anything other than the actual climbing is simply perverse.
The best comment by far that anyone on here has ever made on this was: "Would you rather be operated on by the best surgeon or by the one having the most fun?"
Having climbed at Pex Hill - a forcing ground for hard climbers - for many years, I came to the conclusion that a good hard climber should be capable of going out and doing E5 trad/8a sport. There were a surprising number of unsung heroes who most climbers will have never heard of who managed this. Needless to say, I never did!
For bouldering i would say:
Average - Font 6a+ and above max grade
Intermediate - Font 7a and above max grade
Advanced - Font 7c and above max grade
Elite - Font 8b+ and above max grade
I actually like the fact that grades are often incorrect though. It'd be shit if you knew which routes you will or won't get up before you start and soft touches are like little early Christmas presents.
Sounds like you just haven't done much sport climbing. You can apply a sport grade to any piece of rock, it doesn't have to demand power endurance. Only the very boldest E5s are easier than 6c.
So you can top rope 6c, and what's more you can hang around and remove gear on it. In fact by the sound of it you've probably toproped at least 7b. Well done!
I always thought, and still do, that most fit people should be able to climb most VSs. Obviously this doesn't include leading.
So taking this a slightly above average I think HSV - E2 is advanced and anything above E6 elite.
But it's all just numbers, and while it might be nice to push yourself and know how well you're doing, it's not always the best measure.
Average at the wall is probably 5b 5c
> Are you not overlooking the fact that climbing a safe E2 safely involves an awful lot more than the physical skills to climb any particular sports grade?
Perhaps he meant that to be the 'best' climber is to have the closest affinity with the essence of climberness, to be the most climbery climber, a standard that can only be measured by the amount of pleasure one is taking in the action of climbing.
Or perhaps it was a throwaway comment.
> ............. a standard that can only be measured by the amount of pleasure one is taking in the action of climbing.
But I don't even think pleasure is the same as fun. Fun seems to me to be a fairly frivolous thing (and nothing wrong with that), whereas a pleasurable climbing experience is something a bit deeper. What about satisfaction? Some of my most satisfying climbing experiences have not been very pleasurable, let alone fun. So why shouldn't the best climber be the most satisfied one? Why the emphasis on fun? It all seems prettyy arbitrary, and completely unmeasurable or unrankable, whereas at least being good at actually climbing is a bit more objective.
On trad, I would say that being confident in onsighting most VS routes on most rock types, is the point where you clearly know what you're DOING. At HS you can kind of wing it a bit.
Whether "knowing what you're doing" means you are a "good climber" is up to you.
Maybe replace "good" with "competent" - does that change the spirit of your question though?
(for the record, I used to be confident at most VS but I have got soft and lazy; I've headpointed one E1 and E2, and onsighted about 6 HVS, and dogged a few more HVS); these days I have to be careful selecting my VS routes. So I have relegated myself to "soft and lazy" or, if you like, "below competent"
I don't do much sport climbing, hardest onsight was a sustained 4 pitch 6b+ in France 8 years ago.
> What does it mean to say someone climbs VS? That the hardest route they climbed was VS? Or, given a VS route selected at random in the UK, that they have a better than 50% chance of onsighting it? The latter sounds like a more robust metric...
I would hope to have a better than 50% chance of onsighting a climb before I even thought to try leading it! In fact, I'd prefer it not to be down to chance at all!
> I would hope to have a better than 50% chance of onsighting a climb before I even thought to try leading it! In fact, I'd prefer it not to be down to chance at all!
In which case you'd never leave the ground
It was just an example really to illustrate what a slippery concept the 'average' grade is, and how difficult it would be to answer in any kind of definitive way (not impossible though - maybe an interesting project for one of those surveys we occasionally get posted on UKC from research students).
I'll have to beg to differ. There is so much variablity in an onsight on fairly graded routes near one's limit (from route conditions, weather conditions, personal form, skill match etc) and some quite big grade widths, of what is regarded as fair in a grade, across the UK, before we look at objective risk issues (like a hold breaking or a bird flying out of a cleft) that plenty of adventure and excitement is guaranteed. There is also nothing to stop climbers, who want more challenge from playing other games.. like onsight solo or just climbing lines that look good with no guidebook.
I have reluctantly tolerated dumb safe sandbags in my guidebook work (like Masochism), as most of the team disagreed but will never tolerate dumb bold sandbags (of which I'm sure there are still many on grit, especially from VS in more obscure places) and my partners and I have removed hundreds of both from the Peak and YMC guides. I think bad grading has been slowly killing trad. Getting frightened on a route grade that one should be able to cruise destroys confidence and puts people off. It's also elitist.. sandbag acceptance tends to be way more common at lower grades. It's partly why I see a solid E1 onsight leader (someone who can and does onsight most routes of the grade on most rock types) as more skilled than someone who has headpointed a well selected E5 and otherwise only climbs well known extemes.
> I see a solid E1 onsight leader (someone who can and does onsight most routes of the grade on most rock types) as more skilled than someone who has headpointed a well selected E5 and otherwise only climbs well known extemes.
That style qualification was missing from your original post, which is why it met with disagreement. Now sounds believable, if still only true of a minority.
> Grades are obviously a rough guide to how good someone is at climbing. Blindingly obvious in fact.
Fraid not. I'm with AlanLittle here:
> I was struck by something Johnny Dawes once said: a hard climber is somebody who consistently climbs at their own limit.
Truth is - that the E5 / 7b climber may never be pushing his comfort zones - success on every route he tries because he knows he's on top of it, while the 'lowly' E1 man is taking whippers (safely !) and failing on half of them. There's the real hard climber !
Yes, once you refine down to that subset of E5 leaders who’ve headpointed a popular soft touch and allow your list of E1s to include dirty untraveled sandbags that are probably E3 (I.e. when you redefine the question as “can one-off E5 headpointers onsight E3”!) then it becomes a lot more realistic
I doubt that... lots of people seem to me to get grade obsessed and chase numbers (that frankly are partly irrelevant in the case of mid-extreme adjectival head points) and honeypot, and a good proportion of what I regard as solid experienced E1 onsight leaders will have led an E5.
I am weird in being one of a tiny minority I know who won't headpoint routes above my best official (E2) onsights. I've headpointed harder E1/2 new routes, that for me felt tougher than some easier E4s that suited me (having seconded or toproped them) so I know what I could do, but it feels like cheating (as does dogging, that I sometimes resort to out of necessity). I find onsight climbing compelling whatever the grade and much prefer bouldering for incremental problem solving above my flash limit; I also like exploring. Others have different preferences, and I celebrate that range of wonderful climbing games, providing we all respect the rock.
I was mostly only a solid VS leader, close to solid HVS at my best. Onsights to me formed a pyramid.... if going really well, and a nearby route looked like it would suit and excite, a lead 2 or 3 grades above my solid grade could be worth a try. Headpoints can obviously stretch that pyramid, especially so with a good head for known bold moves (I know some bold E5s I might have been able to headpoint into submission at my best). In contrast on a bad day in bad conditions I might need to warm up for and then even struggle or fail on a safe route at my 'solid' grade.
My proposed game allows pre-cleaning (by someone other than the onsighter) of the E1 picked at random (but it must be E1 in a Definitive guide, as the harder ones tend to be the ones not in Rockfax) . Safe E1s can be bloody hard to onsight and bold ones can be very scary, even when clean.
> > Grades are obviously a rough guide to how good someone is at climbing. Blindingly obvious in fact.
> Fraid not. I'm with AlanLittle here:
You seem to be equating "competence" with how good someone is at climbing, but there are several other factors which contribute such as technical ability, physical strength and drive. In general these these various factors will combine to make one person capable of doing climbs that another person cannot do, and the higher the grade of a route is fewer people will be capable of doing it. So, very roughly, grades are a guide to how good a climber somebody is.
And I honestly don't think there is any correlation between fun and grade climbed, either in theory or anecdotally/observationally.
> So, very roughly, grades are a guide to how good a climber somebody is.
More evident if comparing onsight grades, trad. However redpoint is another game where adventure and nerves may take a back seat. There are plenty of strong redpointers around who never stick their necks out.
This sketch is further biased by bolting tactics - in which grade 7 routes are often more closely bolted to facilitate working, while the learners must tiptoe past 4m spacing on 5c slabs.
> And I honestly don't think there is any correlation between fun and grade climbed, either in theory or anecdotally/observationally.
To be honest, there's probably an inverse correlation! Someone who doesn't care about grades and just goes out with good friends to bumble up v-diffs is probably having more 'fun' (in a carefree, childlike sense) than someone regularly pushing their limit on Extremes.
> > So, very roughly, grades are a guide to how good a climber somebody is.
> More evident if comparing onsight grades, trad. However redpoint is another game where adventure and nerves may take a back seat. There are plenty of strong redpointers around who never stick their necks out.
Obviously I'm not saying that the best sport onsighter will also be the best redpointer (let alone the best trad onsighter, winter climber, alpinist............ )
> Truth is - that the E5 / 7b climber may never be pushing his comfort zones - success on every route he tries because he knows he's on top of it, while the 'lowly' E1 man is taking whippers (safely !) and failing on half of them. There's the real hard climber !
This is clearly confusing 'trying hard' with 'climbing hard'. Either that or its just complete nonsense.
> I'm not so sure. Technical UK 6b or even 6c climbing isn't the same as the sort of crimpy overhanging stuff I associate with sport 6c. Power endurance is my kryptonite. >
I would expect even a single move UK tech 6b to merit sport 6c minimum? No way a 6b+ sport climber is going to be onsighting UK tech 6b.
> > I'm not so sure. Technical UK 6b or even 6c climbing isn't the same as the sort of crimpy overhanging stuff I associate with sport 6c. Power endurance is my kryptonite. >
> I would expect even a single move UK tech 6b to merit sport 6c minimum? No way a 6b+ sport climber is going to be onsighting UK tech 6b.
Yes, continuously overhanging sport 6c is generally on good holds and of relatively low technical difficulty - perhaps just lots of 5b or maybe 5c moves requiring a bit of endurance. Certainly rarely crimpy and very unlikely to be anywhere near UK tech 6b.
So anyone having a good time at the crag, doing easy routes, is a shit climber in your eyes ? That is very arrogant, the contempt you have for most climbers...shit climbers, pardon me...
> So anyone having a good time at the crag, doing easy routes, is a shit climber in your eyes ? That is very arrogant, the contempt you have for most climbers...shit climbers, pardon me...
Apologies if the language caused offence. It was supposed to be humourous and, judging by the "likes", most people took it in good spirit. Replace "shit" with "not very good" and the actual point still stands. I have no contempt for people who are not very good at climbing.
> Sounds like you just haven't done much sport climbing.
Guilty as charged. I also don't do falling off but I've decided I need to work on that.
Can't be bothered reading the whole thread so apologies if this or something like it has been said already.
There are a few good grades.
VDiff is good because it allows you to get onto big cliffs and great situations with a quite low level of physical training / ability.
VS is good because if you can climb VSs you can access many famous routes from bygone eras.
E2 is good because it opens up the classics of the Smith/Brown/Whillans era and requires some effort / training but not so much as to be out of reach for a large proportion of the climbing population.
E5 is good as both a goal in itself and a gateway to greater things.
III is good for the same reasons as VDiff and VS.
V is good for the same reasons as E2 but delete Brown/Whillans and insert Marshall/Patey.
VII is good for the same reasons as E5.
> V is good for the same reasons as E2 but delete Brown/Whillans and insert Marshall/Patey.
> VII is good for the same reasons as E5.
Genuine question: If you are solid at V, does that make you as good a winter climber as being solid at E2 makes you a rock climber?
Like wise for VII and E5?
> Genuine question: If you are solid at V, does that make you as good a winter climber as being solid at E2 makes you a rock climber?
> Like wise for VII and E5?
I wasn't really suggesting that in my post but...
Based on nothing other than my own prejudices I think those grades are (very very) broadly comparable in terms of time and commitment required to achieve them. I also wonder if the percentages climbing them are similar but that's pure speculation.
There's also a (very very) broad parity in the eras they were first achieved in.
> Based on nothing other than my own prejudices I think those grades are (very very) broadly comparable in terms of time and commitment required to achieve them.
I would agree, but I suspect most would consider the winter grades "easier"!
> I also wonder if the percentages climbing them are similar but that's pure speculation.
I suspect that a greater percentage climb V than E2. Not so sure about VII and E5.
> Genuine question: If you are solid at V, does that make you as good a winter climber as being solid at E2 makes you a rock climber?
> Like wise for VII and E5?
These days and judging by the queues on Point Five when it's in condition I'd have said grade V is about equal to HVS maybe E1. Competent but nothing special.
Someone up post noted that the knee in the grade/number of ascents graph occured between E1 and E2. That sounds about right to me. If you're keen you should be able to lead E1. If you're keen and have some ability then E2.
> These days and judging by the queues on Point Five when it's in condition I'd have said grade V is about equal to HVS maybe E1. Competent but nothing special.
That is true, though I was more thinking of technical mixed which is more comaparable in skills to rock climbing.
> That is true, though I was more thinking of technical mixed which is more comaparable in skills to rock climbing.
I was thinking that too.
As Dave wrote much of the Roaches guidebook I imagine he is thinking of 6b or 6c on grit slabs whilst like he says he thinks of 6c as overhanging stuff (limestone presumably).
I climbed my first Vs around the same time I climbed my first E1s - this was a long time ago! I did a V last winter (V,6 mixed, in Wales), but I haven't done E1 in the UK for a long time, if we ignore my redpoint of Westering Home (E1 5b)!
Back in the 90s most active Scottish climbers seemed to see V,5 or V,6 as the start of "hard". I wonder if better tools, and particularly better screws, has made V,5 ice the new IV,4?
It's not impossible (clearly) but it's incredibly unusual. I'd think you'd have to be a real slab master with nigh on no arm strength! As Robert says, a long overhanging 6c isn't going to have many crimps on it.
> Genuine question: If you are solid at V, does that make you as good a winter climber as being solid at E2 makes you a rock climber?>
I'd say E2 is harder than V, but I'm not sure if that answers the question above.
> I'd say E2 is harder than V, but I'm not sure if that answers the question above.
Physically yes I would agree. But there's a whole lot of other stuff other than the physicality that goes into climbing V.
Good is personal, if you're not climbing for you then you probably shouldn't be climbing.
HS gets you onto plenty of good routes in the UK but things really open up for you in the next few grades, even just the step to VS puts you in some amazing places on just about every crag.
Bouldering is plentiful and fun at any grade, the numbers are all but pointless.
UK sport quality improves markedly in the 7s, the same isn't true everywhere or even at every UK crag.
> HS gets you onto plenty of good routes in the UK but things really open up for you in the next few grades, even just the step to VS puts you in some amazing places on just about every crag.
I've said so many times here that when John and I started leading in 1967/68 we saw VS as the beginning of proper climbing - and our experience bore that out: this was 'the real thing', everything before that seeming more or less like training. We were very average climbers, maybe slightly above average in being technically quite strong. But when we were breaking into the VS/HVS grade in the summer of 68 in Llanberis Pass we became part of a group of about 10-12 virtual novices all climbing at more or less the same grade. We got to know them all by sight (often sharing stances with them on successive days) and quite a few of them by name. Of course there were people climbing much harder, but there seemed to be this bunch of us all doing more or less the same thing: 'breaking into VS'. In Llanberis Pass then you didn't see many or any incompetent climbers (in contrast to the Ogwen Valley). It was a really good, happy scene.
> I am weird in being one of a tiny minority I know who won't headpoint routes above my best official (E2) onsights.
That doesn't sound weird to me, I know plenty of people who don't headpoint at all. I guess our views are all a bit skewed by those around us.
> Physically yes I would agree. But there's a whole lot of other stuff other than the physicality that goes into climbing V.
Yes, there's more factors overall in winter climbing (and the grading thereof). To me, V,6 and E1 5b seem vaguely similar, with VI more within the E2-3 range.
> To me, V,6 and E1 5b seem vaguely similar, with VI more within the E2-3 range.
That sounds right to me - I've done one Scottish VI,6 - mainly because in the old guidebook with the first attempt at double numbers it was given V,6 so we had a go and just got up it. And I've done one route that now seems to E2 5b, which lots of people say should still be E1 not E2!
Whatever makes you smile : )
Spot on Cookie xx
PS. We weren't headpointing at all. Everything led on sight. Strangely enough, I don't remember failing on anything.
To (mis)quote surf guru Gerry Lopez; the best climber on the crag is the one who's having the most fun.
> To (mis)quote surf guru Gerry Lopez; the best climber on the crag is the one who's having the most fun.
I've always found this quote so weird. It's not that quite a lot of the time we're having some fun when climbing, but it just seems such a peculiar, crude term to use to summarise the whole complex experience. It's almost never pure fun. At it's best it's some kind of deep 'joy', OK, but even that misses the whole point. Climbing always has an edge of fear to it (if it hasn't, you're just pissing about, pretending to climb, or following a fixed rope/ladder of bolts, etc.) The truth is that it's a very unusual concoction of danger/expenditure of adrenalin, and visual and athletic beauty, and this is what makes it so special. When someone reduces the experience to mere 'fun', the word bounces back as an antiseptic absurdity. Any half-decent writer would reject it immediately as very poor writing indeed. ('Is "fun" really the best term you can up with?')
Further thought: the term 'fun' doesn't even do top-roping (e.g. on southern sandstone) justice. If you're top-roping right at your technical limit - otherwise, why on earth are you doing it? - there will be a huge amount of physical and mental effort, combined with some joy of movement. If someone said to you, 'I can see that was fun', you'd probably look at them as if either they were mad, or not sufficiently native enough to fully understand the English language.
> It would be interesting to see a scattergraph of climbers' best trad onsight v best sport onsight.
Indeed. Though there would be lots of inconsistencies, for example soft touches / overgraded routes (trad or sport) and trad routes with a relatively high E grade due to boldness. I guess it would average out across lots of people.
Ignoring trad routes which get the E grade for being very bold (E3 5b sort of stuff), I’d expect it’s something like this for someone who is mostly into trad:
VDiff / Sev - 4+ to 5
HS - 5 to 5+
VS - 6a to 6a+
HVS - 6a to 6b
E1 - 6a+ to 6b+
E2 - 6b to 6c
E3 - 6b+ to 7a
E4 - 6c to 7b
E5 - 6c+ to 7b+
E6 - 7a+ to 7c+
Beyond that I’d be guessing. As the trad grades get higher, the typical sport range gets wider, reflecting the fact that the trad grades themselves get wider. As a general rule, minimum sport onsight is half a sport grade higher than the lowest difficulty of the climbing for a given trad grade (ignoring overly bold trad routes as noted above).
Personally I’m E5 and 7b. Though the 7b was a one off years ago. Not many 7a+s either but I don’t do much sport. Not surprisingly, the E5s I’ve onsighted have mostly been at the easier end of the grade.
> I don't think I've ever even toproped sport 6c, even when I was regularly leading E3 and occasionally harder, and regularly seconding E5 and occasionally quite a bit harder.
Did you just not sort climb at all? I can just about imagine someone seconding E5 clean without being able to top rope 6c. I cannot even begin to imagine someone seconding E6 clean at that level of sport climbing. Unless the E5s / E6s were bold slabs or you didn’t get up them clean, you must be some kind of trad prodigy. Or never bothered to try hard on sport. Bottom end E6 is going to be at least sport 7a.
Edit - just read your later post. I just can’t figure it. Trad 6b is going to be way harder than the vast majority of sport 6c leaders could onsight. Trad 6c is just off the scale compared to sport 6c. Were these short, techy grit routes which don’t require much stamina? Because the average E6 6b is what, sport 7b climbing? At least 7a+! On the other hand, sport 6c isn’t going to be crimpy and overhanging. Either of those things, sure, but not both.
Good work! Elder Crack has a bit of a reputation though. Regent Street may be more representative and has about 1,200 logs.
When you said onsight an E1, the assumption is it’s in a climbable state. You might as well ask people to onsight grit E1 in the rain. Of course it’s going to be a lot harder. Secondly, a sandbag E1 which is actually E3 say is not an E1. Although a solid E5 leader should manage E3 just fine. Finally, you mention headpointing and E5 slabs. That’s not solid E5 leading.
So what you really meant was someone who headpoints E5 slabs can’t onsight a steep, dirty, vegetated E1 half the time. I would agree with you there. I wouldn’t onsight it either - mostly because I simply wouldn’t bother...
Or your E1 leader is actually crap because they keep trying and failing at E1. Now if they keep trying and failing some of the time but slowly getting better and then failing at the next level and so on, that’s a different story. They are improving and may be one day they will get good. Eventually they can’t get better any more but they stabilise at onsighting their top grade. That’s not crap or good, just average. Then they get worse. That’s just getting old.
Perhaps your climbing worldview is skewed by knowing a lot of people who mostly climb on grit? Because I don’t know any E1 leaders who have led E5. Even a headpointed one. Once you get out of the microcosm of grit and slate slabs, a proper E5 (even one which is at the bold end of the grade, like Right Wall) is miles harder than an E1. The average E1 leader simply wouldn’t have the physical and technical ability for it.
Another interesting one, trad v winter. A bit like sport v trad, the equivalence will depend on what you do more of. I think III = VS, IV = HVS, V = E1/2, VI = E2/3, VII = E4, VIII = E5.
> Good work! Elder Crack has a bit of a reputation though. Regent Street may be more representative and has about 1,200 logs.
Good point, thanks!
> Did you just not sort climb at all?
I guess I didn’t really. At least, not in UK. My experience here is of uninspiring overhanging limestone with no real line, as well as being too hard to on sight. That probably counts as not trying, doesn’t it?
I did some climbing on bolts in South Africa but generally technical rather than massively steep and, yes occasionally up to 26, which apparently is 7a+ (I had to look that up), almost always on sight. Quite a bit of 6b+ in French limestone and 6c bolted granite in Switzerland but that’s slabs.
I’ve never done harder than 6b indoors, but then I rarely lead indoors and bouldering isn’t the same.
> Another interesting one, trad v winter. A bit like sport v trad, the equivalence will depend on what you do more of. I think III = VS, IV = HVS, V = E1/2, VI = E2/3, VII = E4, VIII = E5.
I think that is pretty spot on, the few proper scottish winter lines I climbed were in the VI,7 range and at the time I was also climbing ~E2/3 stuff.
That being said, a lot of people "train" more for rock (season is longer, indoor walls etc.) where as they just go out and do winter lines. Now if people would properly train for winter (even half the amount they do for rock) with a solid rock climbing background, I would guess the correspondence levels would be different (think ~E1 == VII). In fact I had a friend like that... he hardly climbed rock (would struggle up f5 albeit trad, so I guess in the VS-HVS range), but in winter was climbing around M6/7 (if on gear, then I geuss that would be VII and upwards range).
>As the trad grades get higher, the typical sport range gets wider, reflecting the fact that the trad grades themselves get wider. >
Do you think so? I wouldn't say so, climbing up to E3. I was of the view it was just the tech grades at the upper end, not the overall grades.
Good observation. The kernel of which is that, grade data alone is insufficient to know the significance of an ascent for a given person. Whether you amass 10x E1 or 10x E5 in a year, only you and your best mates know whether you are trying hard, or you are an occasional punter, what your progression is - ie were you climbing harder or softer the year before etc
The E5 ascents could easily be those of an E7 man on his way down - so you might say he's still climbing hard grades but no longer a hard climber ... or maybe he's just having a year with his family ...
> Another interesting one, trad v winter. A bit like sport v trad, the equivalence will depend on what you do more of. I think III = VS, IV = HVS, V = E1/2, VI = E2/3, VII = E4, VIII = E5.
That seems reasonable to me though for me the winter grades should be a notch higher (eg VI=E3), but then I'm rubbish in winter. What surprioses me is the number of people who only climb HVS yet happily mixed VI in winter - to me there seems no comparison in the level of technicality or commitment level!
> ...What surprioses me is the number of people who only climb HVS yet happily mixed VI in winter - to me there seems no comparison in the level of technicality or commitment level!
I said someone else pre-cleaning the route is fine... my point is not about sandbagging and shitty routes, it's about the difference between an E5 headpoint that suits and the onsight of a random E1 that probably doesn't, for grade chasers. You worked on definitives as well didn't you? Do you lack confidence in the products? There are some sandbags but there are also soft touches (that usually are very popular) and most grades these days are normally fair and consistent when cleaned. The challenge of onsighting a random E1 is way harder than one that suits and that your mates have just led. I know full well headpointing E5 slabs isn't adjectival E5 ... that's half of my point. Yet on grit the large majority of first E5 headpoints are slab routes. Yes grit does tend to have E1s tougher than the UK average and the popular E5 slab headpoints easier than average: this means solid grit E1 leaders are better than they think.
Does being a well rounded leader matter? Maybe not for most but Lynn and I checked many thousands of route grades across all styles and we enjoy big trad routes where we needed to have broad skills, especially in the US being able on one pitch to stay cool on very bold 5.6, bold 5.7 and boldish 5.8 (all HVS/E1 ish) and on another deal with a brutal 5.7 or 5.8 wide crack (ditto) was key for some of our biggest targets.
In reply to Andy Moles
I can assure you I'm weird... I've headpointed a lot, especially on worrying looking lines, as the risk of always doing otherwise when checking tough (for me) bold routes, day-in-day-out often got too much for me. Also you don't have a queue of willing cleaners in guidebook work: you end up cleaning most routes you want to lead yourself. I sometimes even reverse headpoint... when my onsight is clumsy, through fear or incompetance, I can't fairly assess a grade, so if no others have a clear idea I will try and top-rope it straight afterwards.
That is a good answer. Ben Moon also said once "I don't mind being weak, but I don't like not being able to try hard" (think he had been injured for a while).
> What surprioses me is the number of people who only climb HVS yet happily mixed VI in winter - to me there seems no comparison in the level of technicality or commitment level!
I think that this thread assumes that (as regards the winter/rock climbing grade comparison) climbers are rock climbers who do some winter forgetting that a sizeable minority are winter climbers who occasionally do stuff in summer. Hence the apparent disparity you mention.
> ".......I agree with whoever said 'the best climber is the one having the most fun'."
> Except that a moment's thought reveals it to be bollocks. If you are shit at climbing but having loads of fun, you are still a shit climber.
You. You sir, win the UKC forums.
Yes, but we talk about type I, type II (and hopefully very rarely and in hushed tones) about type III fun. And I would certainly describe a good day's climbing as "a fun day out" - which might involve something like walking into Shelterstone from the Cairngorm car park, climbing a long multi-pitch route (say Steeple (E2 5c), then walking back out. So I'm not sure that your dismissal of the term "fun" is that correct.
And more deeply, there are many connections between surfing and climbing as sports, including an uneasy relationship with competition, and a range of levels of commitment - surfing can certainly be deep play in the same way as climbing can, and with the same levels of fear and commitment. Let alone the setting, the wilderness aspects, the travel experience, and the deep joy that can come from mastery of the dynamic experience.
You can have fun climbing even when climbing hard - you know, on the days when it all comes together, and while you are pushing your limits, you can feel your body and mind working together and in partnership with the rock, and it becomes easy. Same route, different day, you might be gripped with fear and having a miserable time wishing you were anywhere else.
I recall my old climbing partner Doug Benn had a theory that on any particular day, there was a perfect route to do - the trick was working out what that route was (particularly in a Scottish winter) - so taking into account conditions, how you felt, what the groove was, etc, could you pick the perfect route for that day and come home gushing with joy at, well, the sheer fun of it all!
The soft touch grade chasing thing is understandable in people who haven't been climbing long. The attraction of ticking a number way up the scale is obvious. Strikes me though as something that is usually a phase. Most mature climbers understand that the number tells only a part of the story. Or would you disagree? Is my view skewed by my own partners?
> I recall my old climbing partner Doug Benn had a theory that on any particular day, there was a perfect route to do
Very true! I led both pitches of Suicide Wall (HVS 5b) on a beautiful May morning, bursting with energy two hours after having just scraped through my driving test; to celebrate we drove to High Tor where I led the whole of Debauchery (E1 5b). Both were climbed onsight, perfectly in control, and gave me a deep satisfaction which I still feel 40 years later.
Two days later however I was gibbering on the top slab of Moyer's Buttress (E1 5b) and begging for a saving toprope, which I got. Some stitchable Severe would have been a better choice that day; I would have got much more enjoyment (and yes, fun!) out of it.
Not many beginners are headpointing E5 and I stand by my position of most solid E1 grit leaders as at least equivalent of headpointing a single soft slab E5 (and as many as vice versa). Being a solid E1 leader across many rocktypes is a very small minority of all trad climbers and counts as pretty expert to me. Yet E1 only counts as the bottom of the Rockfax red band, alongside F6b sport: I think this is a nonsense speaking as a trad specialist who has a massively better chance of success on a F6b redpoint than an average random E1 onsight. No wonder new climbers can easily get dispirited about trad... all that skill needed and the extra risk and progress seems so much slower than sport.
One other point I though I should make is that popular soft E5 headpoint might not be a soft E5 onsight.
> Is my view skewed by my own partners?
> It really depends on how you started climbing and what kind of person you are.
Yes but we're all vulnerable to advertising, right ? - or you and I wouldn't be here now discussing on a forum free-access. All eyes constantly focused on the boys at the top which alternately inspires and depresses.
> I've introduced a fair few people and the best I've seen a beginner get to in their first few sessions is 6a(+), and that was when they were basically ideal climber build - not too short, skinny and strong - from other activities. Mostly 5a/5b is as high as they get for a while.
> And that's talking indoors - knock that down at least a grade for outdoor sport.
> Beyond the first few sessions they aren't really a beginner.
I agree that 6a ish is more reasonable for a first outing.
With respect to how I defined my categories (which is what you were responding to), I disagree that you're no longer a beginner and have attained the next level of intermediate status after a few sessions. 6c seems perfectly reasonable as an intermediate grade when the aforementioned reasonably athletic and reasonably coordinated can achieve this in a few months.
>6c seems perfectly reasonable as an intermediate grade when the aforementioned reasonably athletic and reasonably coordinated can achieve this in a few months.
Then again people who have a few solid decades of leading E3 on Gogarth and the likes can't manage it. Or were you just referring to climbing walls?
up to and including Joe Brown, a few hard ones but mostly puntering. Full Breakfast and a couple of pints after. No training or climbing wall required. Good climber in the upper reaches.
Joe Brown + to Allen/Bancroft. Takes you up some of the most sublime climbs ever....finishes at Narcissus. They were too talented to train, but most of us mere mortals have to work hard for a tick. Fingerboards and climbing walls needed here at least for me. This is good to excellent climber territory.
Bancroft to Ron/Jerry/Ben. Train hard, climb harder. World leading in their time. Outstanding climber.
Ben to Megos highly dependent on genetics. Difficult to classify..
There, simple and doesn’t even mention a grade!😂
I don't know if anyone else has replied to this but why are the numbers in bouldering any more pointless than any other discipline?
> >6c seems perfectly reasonable as an intermediate grade when the aforementioned reasonably athletic and reasonably coordinated can achieve this in a few months.
> Then again people who have a few solid decades of leading E3 on Gogarth and the likes can't manage it. Or were you just referring to climbing walls?
There's not a person in the world who has been able to climb E3 for decades that can't climb sport 6c if they really try.
Disclaimer: does not account for age related decline, routes in the wrong style, or onsighting
> There's not a person in the world who has been able to climb E3 for decades that can't climb sport 6c if they really try.
> Disclaimer: does not account for age related decline, routes in the wrong style, or onsighting
Depends what you mean by E3 - that can mean totally unprotected but at the easy end of the grade, or well protected but technically really hard. It is quite difficult to map from trad to sport without the tech grade.
> There's not a person in the world who has been able to climb E3 for decades that can't climb sport 6c if they really try.
> Disclaimer: does not account for age related decline, routes in the wrong style, or onsighting
A climber having to red-point a 6c rather than on-sight 6c is not a 6c climber.
What is the "wrong" style?
Makes sense to me!
You’ve answered your own question here by saying that you aren’t that good at winter climbing. So of course it will feel relatively harder. You are probably right though, V is E1/2 and VI is E2/3. That’s for mixed.
Tech 7 is more like M6 based on Cham mixed grades.
Central Buttress is ungradeable!
I think people are agreeing with you that E5 headpointing in preferred and non physical style (realistically this means slabs) would not necessarily equate to onsighting every E1 (grit or otherwise). It’s just that your original post did not specify headpointing in preferred style.
I’ve never worked on any guide books.
Exactly, except that people then revert to headpointing or at least going ground up when it gets to a certain level of difficulty.
> A climber having to red-point a 6c rather than on-sight 6c is not a 6c climber.
> What is the "wrong" style?
Ha ha! why are you stating that as though it's fact?
Is your grade your best onsight every time? best out of 10 onsights? best onsight ever? best flash? best redpoint in a day? best in a year? I saw a video of Adam Ondra falling off a 7a, is he a 6c climber? or is he 9c?
For the record i'm saying anyone who has climbed E3 for decades (we will assume they have done at least 1 a year) can do a sport 6c in a style that suits them, redpoint, within a few sessions (and most likely within a few tries).
> Commitment aside, grade VI are often tech 7 or lower. Which from my brief stint in Scotland felt like M4+ or so (Central Buttress (Winter) (VI 7), Para Andy (VI 7) and Cutlass (VI 7))... So technique-wise they weren' that hard (and perhaps soft touches at VI, 7 but still the upper end of the technique spectrum). Granted none of them were ballsy/committing 'cept perhaps Para Andy that certainly felt a bit out there.>
Others may disagree, but in my opinion the above is not very representative of VI,7 routes. I thought V,6 for Central Buttress and Cutlass. Haven't done Para Andy, but going by usual SCNL grades I would expect it to be pretty solid VI,7.
Interesting question but it’s one of those sports where you can essentially attempt whatever you want there’s not as much enforced progression as other sports.
As an example when I first climbed outside my indoor grade was about 6b. I gauged routes by eye with no book which led to me assuming a trad route with a bolt in was easier and ended up doing E2’s - E4’s on my first outdoor climbs. Then I wouldn’t touch anything below HVS, as I got a lot more careful I spent years in the VS HVS realm and I’m super stoked to do anything above E1 nowadays, and my sport grade is only just getting above 6c to redpointing 7’s.
So in a way unless you’re in the very high end of things I think as long as your strong the grades are really about move memory and confidence / head game. Me not knowing what an E2 was sent me up E2’s no problems. Now double disco leg is a regular occurrence in those grades.
> I don't know if anyone else has replied to this but why are the numbers in bouldering any more pointless than any other discipline?
I'm not answering what grade makes for a 'good' climber in my opinion because who cares about that and I'm sure there's a thousand and one answers on that theme already. Instead I was trying to address which grades give lots of access to good climbing in the UK.
There is much fun to be had all over the country at every bouldering grade and none. I bouldered for years, I'm not against it or grading it, I just think it's a particularly accessible branch of the sport with a very low bar to quality/enjoyable participation.
With sport and trad, below a certain grade I'd argue (while accepting the many obvious exceptions to my generalisation in advance) that you don't have great access to lots of quality routes, you need to pick areas/crags/lines quite carefully.
Guess the stuff I've comparing it is not that soft.
You'er absolutely right, and I have been also under that impression that those lines are considered to be "soft". But I'm still happy with that, considering it was only a week (also climbed something on Pot of Messages and Lamp into Ordinary Summer Route).
As for Para Andy, the climbing wasn't technically any harder than CB (lead the crux chmney) or Cutlass (again, the chimney), but it was indeed a bit more *out there* (the top pitch from the tiny ledge above the roof) and also a bit ballsy.
> What is the "wrong" style?
For a flat blob like me, it's overhangs and pumpy stamina fests.
"My style" are slabs and vertical walls with crimps.
Others might have different "styles" that suit them.
Late to the party here, but about this expression “the best climber is the one having the most fun”.
This is clearly factually false. The best climber is Adam Ondra.
> Late to the party here, but about this expression “the best climber is the one having the most fun”.
> This is clearly factually false. The best climber is Adam Ondra.
I wouldn't imagine that Adam Ondra has a helluva lotta fun on his climbs. But he's certainly having a helluva lotta fun in his life!
Just to provide a counter point to some of these other posts. I can't get my head round people who think 6c is harder than E3. There is no good answer to what is a sensible relationship between the two systems for a given person.
I only climbed trad for many years and plateaued at E2. I did a couple of sport 6cs around the end of that time, they took me a couple of goes. At the time I thought that was OK but not particularly good.
Then I started spending my winter bouldering and and the summer 50/50 trad/sport. I quickly got up to about 7b sport and then found I could climb limestone E3 fairly solidly. I did lots of those and thought I thought I was becoming a decent climber.
I got up a couple of sport 7cs but never did manage E4. I tried one at the peak of my trad ability and within a couple of months of climbing 7c, but found it desperate. Fell off several times.
After that I focused on bouldering and sport for a couple of years. I eventually managed to climb an 8a and a few 7Cs. I thought that was pretty good. It took a lot of effort and I was chuffed. The only trad routes I climbed in that period were an E1 and an E2 (which I fell off - I had no long term stamina after training to climb 15m sport routes really fast, and no onsighting ability left after training myself to engrain sequences.)
Now when I go bouldering at the local wall I find I'm just an average punter being shown up by the local teenagers. Ive got a bit fatter and weaker (kids do that to you...) but I can still boulder 7A/B fairly regularly. Average physical climbing standards seem to have shot up massively over the last 2-3 years. To answer a point someone said was "obvious" higher up the thread - actually, I doubt very much that 8b could really be considered "elite" any more. It's only half way from 7a to 9c...
> I wouldn't imagine that Adam Ondra has a helluva lotta fun on his climbs.
What a strange comment! I'm sure he gets an immense amount of satisfaction and enjoyment out of almost all his climbs. It certainly looks like it. Esp. the way he often shouts with joy at the top.
> I got up a couple of sport 7cs but never did manage E4. I tried one at the peak of my trad ability and within a couple of months of climbing 7c, but found it desperate. Fell off several times.
I'm guessing you tried some 'orrible Peak limestone E4, not some jugfest on a sea cliff, or nice crimpy wall of rough mountain rock? I find it fairly unbelievable a good sport climber would be able to fall off any of the E4s I've done (OK maybe those that took an hour or so of not getting too pumped). At the time I'd generally fail to onsight 6c and certainly never onsighted 7a (probably had never tried). But these E4s weren't anywhere near the Peak!
> To answer a point someone said was "obvious" higher up the thread - actually, I doubt very much that 8b could really be considered "elite" any more. It's only half way from 7a to 9c...
I was envisaging four VERY broad categories: beginner, intermediate, advanced and elite. If we take 'intermediate' as being, say, HVS-E3 or 6b-6c+ as a rough equivalent then you've only got 2 categories to work with after that. In terms of numbers, those who have done 8b are a tiny percentage of climbers so most would consider it elite. Pretty sure that some of our best trad onsighters haven't redpointed any harder, and that's not due to a lack of trying.
Elite is anyone climbing harder than you currently can. Punter is anyone climbing easier than you currently can. Average is what you can climb.
> I can't get my head round people who think 6c is harder than E3.
I think what has happened is that nowadays the vast majority of E3 climbers train regularly on indoor walls and, for them, having spent the winter cranking up gently overhanging walls, 6c is going to seem like little more than a warm up and far easier than typical E3. In the days before modern walls on which training for endurance is so easy, 6c would have felt relatively hard. That is how it feels for me anyway!
> I was envisaging four VERY broad categories: beginner, intermediate, advanced and elite. If we take 'intermediate' as being, say, HVS-E3 or 6b-6c+ as a rough equivalent then you've only got 2 categories to work with after that. In terms of numbers, those who have done 8b are a tiny percentage of climbers so most would consider it elite. Pretty sure that some of our best trad onsighters haven't redpointed any harder, and that's not due to a lack of trying.
Fair enough. But it's worth noting there are now over 100 Brits who have climbed 8c or harder and the number for 8b would be much higher. (there is a list maintained via ukb.)
> I'm guessing you tried some 'orrible Peak limestone E4, not some jugfest on a sea cliff, or nice crimpy wall of rough mountain rock? I find it fairly unbelievable a good sport climber would be able to fall off any of the E4s I've done (OK maybe those that took an hour or so of not getting too pumped). At the time I'd generally fail to onsight 6c and certainly never onsighted 7a (probably had never tried). But these E4s weren't anywhere near the Peak!
You guessed correctly I'm not convinced that I'd have been much better elsewhere though.
I think the difference between redpoint and onsight ability is often under estimated too by trad climbers. You talk about onsighting 7a like I'd expect it to be a common occurrence - but actually I've only done it once or twice, and never onsighted anything harder. My onsight /redpoint difference is a full number grade, which I know is extreme but acts as a counterpoint to some of the pure trad climbers on here who only rarely try something more than once. It just goes to show how much your ability and perceptions are biased if you don't do very much of something for a while. I've never been interested in sport onsighting so never got very good at it.
If you focus on redpointing a lot (in the UK especially, where things are relatively short with hard sequences) then your onsighting ability can fall off a clff, they are different skills both mentally and physically.
Or maybe that people who don't know those who have tried hard on both sport and trad are lacking a proper comparative understanding. SidH is not untypical of that category for those I know, who have tried hard and trained for both, where solid E2 (with best onsights 2 or three grades harder) and best sport redpoints in the high f7s is normal.
In reply to Misha
Just to be clear again, my random game involved the ability to onsight the normal variety of typical clean grit E1 climbs (not being able to climb anything like all of them, and especially not dirty sandbags). A solid E1 leader to me gets up a large majority of E1s attempted onsight on most rocktypes they know and can normally get out of trouble otherwise. If we required the ability to onsight nearly all routes of a grade most would drop two or three grades lower. Still, my main point is that to become a solid E1 leader as I define it is quite an impressive thing.... equivalent in my view to solid mid F7 sport redpoint ability.
On Rockfax tables it looks like with equivalent experience and hard work we are comparing onsight trad at the bottom of the red band to sport redpoint at the bottom of black... this is insulting to trad and highly flattering to sport. Black bouldering grades starting at f7A is also generous compared to where black starts with trad (E4).
> What a strange comment! I'm sure he gets an immense amount of satisfaction and enjoyment out of almost all his climbs. It certainly looks like it. Esp. the way he often shouts with joy at the top.
I suppose it was a strange comment, with hindsight - we're back to the definition of "fun"! I meant that he must get incredible joy from having successfully done those climbs, but actually making those moves looks like agony to me, and not like fun!
> Or maybe that people who don't know those who have tried hard on both sport and trad are lacking a proper comparative understanding. SidH is not untypical of that category for those I know, who have tried hard and trained for both, where solid E2 (with best onsights 2 or three grades harder) and best sport redpoints in the high f7s is normal.>
I suspect that you can come up with different comparisons depending on definition of 'solid' and also bringing in redpointing as opposed to onsight. A lot of the time on this thread, trad climbers have been talking about hardest onsights trad and sport, for which your example above would change to perhaps E5 and 7a.
In the case of my friends who are experienced and have worked hard in trad and sport it's more like best E5 onsight and best sport flash F7b+. I think the indoor revolution and modern structured training has bypassed those trad climbers who would equate a best E5 onsight to a best sport flash at F7a. However, Rockfax colour bands are for onsight in mid extremes and for redpoint in the sport 7s... the starting black band equivalence of E4 onsight to Redpoint F7a+ is nonsense.
I reckon on the Cromlech Ride Wall E5 is 6c; runout , Resurrection E4 6c+ ; well protected
However being a 6c or 6c+ on-sight pure sport climber wouldn't ensure success on either
It's true that many trad climbers don't pull as hard as they could, but hard trad climbs sometimes require more lock off stamina, hold stress positions for long periods to place gear, work out moves, psyche up etc
> It's true that many trad climbers don't pull as hard as they could, but hard trad climbs sometimes require more lock off stamina, hold stress positions for long periods to place gear, work out moves, psyche up etc
Yes, I'm held back by the quaint notion that, if necessary, I should be able to reverse anything I've climbed up. Even when sport climbing.
In answer to the original question, unless you're climbing for sponsorship should anyone really care? In much the same way as other sports I'm heavily involved in (snowboarding, surfing and kitesurfing), climbing to me has always been about pursuing what feels good rather than aiming for difficulty (for difficulty's sake - or to impress others).
As with surfing, snowboarding and kitesurfing, there are many individual styles and specialties within climbing itself. We see some surfers on the new wave pool in Snowdonia who can surf that particular wave really well. They are very good technical surfers when on that particular wave. But unbelievably some of them only ever surf there at the wave pool (perhaps the equivalent of climbing mid 7's or similar at an indoor climbing wall). Put them in the sea and they'd really struggle because 90% of surfing in the sea is reading the ocean, positioning and wave selection. This can only be learnt through huge amounts of time spent in the water and experiencing a variety of different breaks & conditions.
With climbing I simply set myself goals of routes that I like the look of, whatever grade they are (my route goals currently range from Diff to E3). I practice different styles through from Scottish winter, ice, through to indoor, sport and multipitch trad. Granted I'm reasonably okay at all of them but not particularly good at any of them. What it does give me though is a large breadth of experience. The grades might be much lower than someone with a much more specialist approach but I would argue that the sum of that varied experience could make someone a better all round climber than their grades might suggest. In summary I would say that you can't necessarily tell how good a climber someone in based purely on their climbing grades alone.
> Apologies if there is a previous discussion on this.
We desperately need more emoticons on this forum :D
> Rockfax colour bands are for onsight in mid extremes and for redpoint in the sport 7s... the starting black band equivalence of E4 onsight to Redpoint F7a+ is nonsense.
But aren’t reasonable safe E4s around F7A+ in physical difficulty?
Because If you’re fit then placing the gear is not much more taxing than clipping a bolt (say, a nice granite crack a’la Bohuslan). So IMHO the difference isn’t that big as you make it out to be.
Now boulder f7A and Black is perhaps quite mellow (IMHO it should start at f7C or so), because even a flat blob can get up to that level rather easily (like me).
> Can you consider you’re advanced if you climb an E1? Have you left being a beginner once you can climb f6a?
Obviously, it's relative - one climber's hard grade is another person's easy. But I would also add that grade is just one of many ways in which one could assess "good" climbing: there's style, technique, ease of movement, good gear placing, rope and stance management, and probably many others.
These comparisons, to be fair, puzzle me about those experienced E3 leaders who can't onsight 6c.
If we say resurrection is well protected E4 and 6c+ (which I wouldn't argue with), then logically (and my own experience would tend to agree) some E3s will be 6b/+, maybe even 6c. Which, as you say, you have to climb whilst locking off in the middle of moves to fiddle with gear, etc etc. Together with a bunch of extra metalware - racks of wires, cams etc - hanging off your waist.
If you can climb 6b-c slowly, locking off in the middle, with a weight belt on, how is 6c onsight therefore something unachievable. Either the sport and trad routes are being graded very differently, or are wholly different styles (all long staminafests versus all short bouldery nasties) or the maths just seems to fall down...
I think it's simply that a lot of 6b+/6c sport climbs are a lot steeper than a lot of E3s, good trad climbers often aren't too strong
> But aren’t reasonable safe E4s around F7A+ in physical difficulty?
"Still, my main point is that to become a solid E1 leader as I define it is quite an impressive thing.... equivalent in my view to solid mid F7 sport redpoint ability."
Maybe I'm an outlier, but I don't think this can be right. I'd say I'm solid at E1 now. I climbed a lot of them in 2019, and I don't think I failed or fell off *any* (E2 was another story...Sacre Coeur (E2 5c)). I'm nowhere near solid at mid F7. I've redpointed one 7a+, and doubt I could even make the chains on a 7b+ unless I took an hour and went bolt to bolt.
A major factor here is head games, of course. I'm a pretty bold climber, so I'll push it on ground where I don't think I'll fall. The physical difficult of E1s is usually very low, unless you're on some grit sandbag / you don't know how to climb grit. So if you can climb (as I can) redpoint 7a, E1 is easy so long as you aren't scared of falling. By contrast mid 7 sport climbs are extremely physically taxing, and I'm nowhere near that yet.
So I guess it kind of depend on what you find "impressive". Physical prowess, or being a stupid tw*t who doesn't mind running it out above bad micros.
> the starting black band equivalence of E4 onsight to Redpoint F7a+ is nonsense.
Doesn't sound too far out.
> the starting black band equivalence of E4 onsight to Redpoint F7a+ is nonsense.
It's absolutely bang on if you ask me.
> But aren’t reasonable safe E4s around F7A+ in physical difficulty?
> Because If you’re fit then placing the gear is not much more taxing than clipping a bolt (say, a nice granite crack a’la Bohuslan). So IMHO the difference isn’t that big as you make it out to be.
> Now boulder f7A and Black is perhaps quite mellow (IMHO it should start at f7C or so), because even a flat blob can get up to that level rather easily (like me).
Are you deliberately trying to be wrong?
Shows how experiences can differ. I never reached Si dH's sport or bouldering grades but managed lots of E4s and, to focus on your point, I think more of them were on peak limestone than any other UK rock type. Some of these (e.g. Flaky Wall, Decadence) were amongst the most enjoyable and memorable of the lot.
I think the rock type is a red herring Harold.
I think the bigger influences on relative trad/sport skills are (1) relative ability to read moves onsight and not go to pieces if you get it a bit wrong vs remember an intricate sequence and then execute it perfectly, (2) relative ability to hang on and move upwards for a long time vs ability to climb something that is steep efficiently and fast before you get tired. It's perfectly feasible for two equally "good", committed climbers to be at opposite ends of each spectrum.
This might seem obvious (and a simplification) but I don't think some people realise how different they are.
> I think the rock type is a red herring Harold.
Might just be a personal thing, but the rock type/area is a huge deal for me.
At Lower Sharpnose, I'd find myself really psyched by the amazing crag; buoyed with confidence by the the massive size of the holds; and not too scared because there was good cams in deep breaks somewhere below; and I'd cruise on up without too much bother. Some people would say it's just a rock-type that suits me, but I'm convinced it's about 2 grades easier than 'normal'.
On Peak lime, I'd find it slippy, the holds small, the gear fiddly and untrustworthy, and the look of the routes totally shabby. I wouldn't go near an E4 like that. Neither has particularly solid rock, but I'd excuse that at Lower Sharpnose because it's good looking. Likewise on a clean wall of mountain rock like Resurrection, the solidness, friction, and beauty of the thing turns me on, whereas the vegetation, polish, looseness and uninspiring settings of Peak limestone are a massive turn-off. Rock type and setting/aesthetics for me are pretty much the determining factor on whether I'll even turn up and try the route to begin with, but then how I'll feel when I'm on it...then add to that the fact that some places are easy (Pembroke) while others are hard (Cornish granite) and you've got rock type making about a 2 point difference to my top onsight grade.
> Rock type and setting/aesthetics for me are pretty much the determining factor on whether I'll even turn up and try the route to begin with
Spot on - you have to get inspired. But its not just rock-types, as in limestone v granite. The styles of different crags or sectors vary so much, within each type. Eg. motivation for slabby granite is way lower than the steep stuff - at the high end.
Someone who can redpoint mid 7s and who is an experienced trad climber as well will be solid at E3 and getting up a fair few E5s. Whereas a solid E1 leader (so someone who gets up a fair few E2s and some E3s) who does a reasonable amount of sport as well will generally be redpointing 6c to 7a.
I think you’re overestimating how hard trad is from a physical and movement technique perspective. Clearly there are many other aspects to trad which might mean that being a solid E1 leader is similar in terms of overall effort / commitment required to being a mid 7s redpointer. But if we’re talking about physical and technical ability, these grades aren’t at all comparable.
So I sort of agree with you and sort of disagree.
Safe and hard E4 will be about 6c+. May be 7a at an absolute push but that would be a sandbag really. 7a+ is very hard E5!
Offwidth has a very grit-focused perspective, which is fair enough. But grit - unless quarried - is probably of all rock types the one least susceptible to wall/sport fitness.
If you're a mid 7's sport redpointer you're going to find the moves on any lime, ryolite, slate, gneiss (etc etc) E1 utterly trivial. (Yes, there might be a host of other reasons why you still find the route hard if you're not used to placing & trusting gear etc etc). I'd argue the same isn't true of grit if you don't have a lot of experience of that very particular kind of rounded shuffling.
I'm not that grit centric other than on exteme routes that I've climbed... I've climbed very widely. My views are of course based on much better experienced climbers, that I've climbed with, who generally climb even more widely. It's always been very clear to me that climbers relative skills across games varies massively but I'm still convinced, from those I know, that for those who train and try equally hard on trad and sport, that a F7a+ redpoint is way easier than an E4 onsight. I'm seriously amazed some people think otherwise. For a trad specialist who never sports climbs F7a+ might even be the harder alternative but they are nothing like typical. If E1 was so uttrly trivial the strong modern generation we have now would be all over the thousands of excellent starred routes we have in the UK, some of which may be lucky to see a few ascents a year. I think being solid E1 is far from utterly trivial... even the likes of Caff with his enchained solos of routes that he knows takes great care. If nothing else E4 onsight is four grades below the best ever acheived, whilst F7a+ is way off the elite.
> If E1 was so uttrly trivial the strong modern generation we have now would be all over the thousands of excellent starred routes we have in the UK, some of which may be lucky to see a few ascents a year
It's not that they can't do them, it's that they're lazy and can't be arsed.
I just don't buy that. I know loads of strong climbers who rarely climb trad, who openly admit the risk is the biggest factor (alongside cost of kit and the mileage time to build the experience)... some have only led safe soft VS. Its the opposite extreme from the mid extreme trad specialist who never sports redpoints.
What would you see as an equivalent black band redpoint to average onsight E4, as a matter of interest?
E4 onsight is indeed 'only' four grades below the hardest trad onsight, and 7a+ is indeed a lot more grades below the hardest sport onsight, but this is a silly comparison because 1) the grade bands in trad are absolutely massive and can spread 3-4 comparable sport grades (as helpfully shown by e.g. the Rockfax conversion tables) and 2) British trad on sighting at high grades is a rather select skill because it often means being willing to take on a high degree of very real danger, whereas attempting to onsight 9a is not dangerous at all so long as you stick clip the first (two) bolt(s). Result, lots more attempts at hard sport onsights...so predictably enough, lots more hard sport onsights at further degrees removed.
As others have said, comparing E1 to 7a+ is not really tenable. However, I am sympathetic to the idea that red-pointing 7a+ is easier than on sighting E4. Not least as I've managed the former but not yet the latter. That said, Resurrection (E4 6a) is the goal for 2020...
I climb sport and trad (and boulder but we'll leave that out for now).
If I was at Stoney for example, a crag that has sport and trad routes, and was going to try and get up an E4 or f7a+ I'd fancy my chances significantly more on the E4.
In fact for even odds I'd say E4 is more in line with f6c+.
Do you train for sport and regularly redpoint? Sport F7a+ is a redpoint grade, not an onsight flash grade.
It seems the exact opposite of silly to me. A solid E4 leader is an elite climber in my view; a solid F7a+ redpointer is a big distance from elite and that is nothing to do with the grade widths of the grades above. You get to pick and choose much more effectively in what suits (and to cheat a bit on the definition) for a first onsight than a first redpoint.
I agree with you.
I haven't trained or redpointed at all this year, but before this I have often redpointed sport routes, with lots of training at the wall too. I've done one 7b+ (funnily enough also at Stoney). It took many, many sessions.
I just genuinely think that I can climb quite close to my limit on trad, but then so can most of the people I climb with.
My f6bish mates climb about E2ish and my 7cish mates climb about E5-E6.
As for E4 being elite? Haha you're seriously having a laugh?
The comparison between sport and trad grades varies wildly depending on the style and the rock type.
These big soft things in the pass, like Right Wall (E5), often get touted at 6c+ or something.
Consider that lots of E6s on Yorkshire Limestone that have been retrobolted are now 7c sport routes.
Lots of grit trad routes don't readily accept a sport grade equivalent. Strapadictomy: can you really give a sport grade to that? It's more like a 6B+ boulder problem on a rope.
Then you have exceptions like Joker's Wall (E4), which took every last thing that I had in me to onsight (so it felt similar to a 7b sport route. Probably more like 7a or 7a+ if you consider having to put the gear in on the way).
There's little sense in arguing over the relative difficulty of onsighting a 7a+ or an E4 as it depends entirely upon the style of the routes and the climber's relative strengths. I'd back myself to flash 7a+'s (I certainly onsight most 7a's), but I'd completely go to pieces on a long E4. Climbing trad requires you to be able to hang on until the end of days, which is actually quite a difficult skill to acquire without doing it a lot or being loads stronger than you need to be to do the route's moves.
A solid E4 leader is miles and miles away from an elite climber. Look at Duncan Campbell! He romps up E4s and he's appallingly weak! (sorry, Duncan...)
I'm not John but I'll give you my entirely personal opinion anyway. I'd put "nowhere near cutting edge any more but reasonably impressive for an amateur requiring a lot of effort & commitment" (perhaps we could say "advanced" if we wanted to be a bit more succinct) at E5 & 8a.
8a is clearly *physically* much harder, but given all the other requirements of trad and allowing for the fact that it isn't what most people train for & are used to these days, I'm happy to go with some kind of rough "level of impressiveness to me" equivalence.
On which basis I'd equate E4 to upper 7's.
And I'm currently redpointing lower 7's, have done a reasonable amount of trad in the past, and I think if I did a bit more again then I "ought" to be able to get up some E3's. So that feels about right.
What was this topic even about? Who's an elite climber?
The correct answer is that there is only one elite climber in the world. At the moment it's Adam Ondra. Everybody else is just a different shade of punter, and anybody who thinks otherwise is kidding themselves.
Not a genuine onsight lead if you’re top roping the first few moves, is it?
I'd say Ondra is world leading, others below him are are world class and elite is below that (and not just dependant on their absolute best current climbing grade), so I think what most would expect the word to mean is much wider than you say. I'd accept some would say a solid E4 leader is a punter but for those who understand modern standards a F7a+ redpointer would be a good bit further down in your mass version of punterdom.
> I'd accept some would say a solid E4 leader is a punter but for those who understand modern standards a F7a+ redpointer would be a good bit further down in your mass version of punterdom.
That I do agree. But where on earth do you get the idea that french sport grades are for redpoint? You know darn well, it is the physical difficulty in getting up said line.
Now E4 does take into account tricky sequences (harder to onsight).
But onsighting a granite E4 (safe as sound with a nice crack for holds &gear, so prolly F6c/+) and onsighting a nearby granite face Climb on bolts of F7a+. We’ll I would say they are both around the same amount of effort, provide you`re not new to placing gear.
I agree that if you assume the same level of focus and commitment, getting to solid 7a+ redpoint is probably easier than getting to solid E4 onsight. But that doesn’t mean that the actual climbing on an average E4 is harder than on an average 7a+. It’s not - E4 will be easier.
The point is that once you strip out the extra skillset required for trad (trad head, gear placement, onsighting and so on) and put a load of shiny bolts in, it’s easier to get to the same or higher physical / technical difficulty level. Which is why most trad climbers can redpoint harder than they can lead on trad. Of course there are exceptions as shown in this thread but that’s due to those trad climbers not doing enough sport, not because they can’t actually get better at it if they wanted to.
So there are two different comparisons to be made - how hard is the actual climbing and what level can you get to with the same amount of dedication. The answers are quite different.
> I just don't buy that. I know loads of strong climbers who rarely climb trad, who openly admit the risk is the biggest factor (alongside cost of kit and the mileage time to build the experience)... some have only led safe soft VS. Its the opposite extreme from the mid extreme trad specialist who never sports redpoints.
I think it's probably unfair to hone in on one specific factor that puts people off trad. It's a very different kind of day out. When I (rarely) go to a sport crag, I feel like it's more similar to going to the wall than going trad climbing. All the belayers stood in a line, looking bored. The general chatting about the holds on each route, etc.
> What would you see as an equivalent black band redpoint to average onsight E4, as a matter of interest?
I dunno, 'cause all I've done is onsight a few E4s at the top of my game; and redpoint one 7a+ when "well trained" but nowhere near as comfortable on the rock. So, scraping the bottom of that black band at E4 and 7a+ has been my high point, they seem equivalenrt to me. Because sport climbing is so much more amenable to training and trying over and over again, I suspect it's quite a bit "easier" to redpoint 7a+ than it is onsight E4, but only because the resources come to hand more easily, not because it's an intrinsically easier task (whatever that means!).
Also, there's redpointing and there's redpointing. I'm so bad and inexperienced at it that for me every effort is lot like an onsight. I can barely remember where the holds are, let alone what I'm supposed to do with them. When I finally get up a sport route it's because I've finally managed to do at least some of it right. I could probably redpoint a bit harder if I could work out how to do it with any competence (but I have no desire to). In contrast, someone else's redpoint is going to be some perfectly executed routine of precision and efficiency, honed over scores of attempts.
The UKB mens high performance lists start at f8B boudering and F8c sport. The UKC weekly top ascents start at E6 (where a headpoint is well within the range of a solid E4 onsighter) and redpoint F8a and bouldering f8A.
I think you are out of touch with modern standards and how much they have improved with proper structured training in sport and bouldering. Top trad standards have only crept up slowly in recent decades... I'd argue mid extreme trad on grit is in slow decline given I saw more E5 leads in the 90s than I see now.
E4 is hardly elite. The way I see it for trad onsight, and this harks back to the OP’s question (as Will Hunt points out, this has been the ultimate thread hijack!):
Diff to Severe - everyone can leas at this level with basic trad experience, even with infrequent climbing indoors or out.
HS to VS - requires a deeper trad skillset and more experience (either regular outdoor climbing or many years of experience) but most people can still climb at this level and indoor climbing is not necessary (but is beneficial).
HVS to E1 - things are steeper and more physical, so regular outdoor climbing and some indoor climbing will be needed for most people operating at this level. Still, it’s a level most people can get to with the required dedication.
E2 to E3 - regular outdoor and indoor climbing pretty much essential but structured training not required. Far fewer people at this level but it’s still attainable by dedicated weekend warriors and once reached is not hard to maintain.
E4 to E5 - climbing outdoors most weekends and indoors several time a week is essential, with some basic indoor training approaches but not necessarily a structured training plan. Perfectly achievable by committed weekend warriors but you have to climb regularly at this level to maintain it. Doing lots of E1 or even E3s won’t get you up E5s. Hence even fewer people at this level but it’s far from elite.
E6 - still achievable by weekend warriors but they have to try very hard! Climbing and trying hard outdoors most weekends, including sport and probably bouldering to develop power endurance and strength, structured training indoors most days. Not many operating at this level. Incidentally, this is currently what I consider good as it’s one level up from where I am at!
E7 - elite in the sense that this is for pro climbers or the very best weekend warriors.
E8 - I think less than 10 British or Irish climbers have onsighted at this level. Some Euro wads have as well.
E9 - no trad onsights yet unless I’m misremembering.
This is for trad onsight. Knock a couple of grades off for headpoint.
I suspect the reason a lot of hard sport climbers can’t be bothered with trad is that trad is too easy for them at grades which are relatively safe (even well into the E grades). They want to push the physical and technical limit and obviously sport is perfect for that (and bouldering even more so).
I mostly agree with that now you have moved your position.
I'm arguing strongly that the Rockfax colour band experiences, which are clearly intended to relate to the normal style in which routes are climbed (and not the technical difficulty of the climbing), are wrong throughout the low to mid extremes. For the average experienced climbers involved in these games, achieving typical F7a+ redpoint success (the normal style) is much easier than typical E4 onsights (the normal style). I'm also trying to point out that having a solid E1 lead grade is in my view still pretty impressive... at least top ten percent ..... for active trad climbers right now; and this signidicant skill level seems heavily understated compared to sport and bouldering grade tables (partly as technical, physical, protection skill and especially the psychological requirements cover a much wider range and partly cumulate in forming the E1 onsight challenge...and yes that's ignoring any sandbags and dirty routes). Plus that these relatively low equivalences of UK trad to other games is helping put people off trad.
> I suspect the reason a lot of hard sport climbers can’t be bothered with trad is that trad is too easy for them at grades which are relatively safe (even well into the E grades). They want to push the physical and technical limit and obviously sport is perfect for that (and bouldering even more so).
Yes, very different reasons for wads than for punters.
Out of interest, how would you re-classify the 'low to mid extremes'? I was about to say I agreed with you, but then I had a look at the chart, and changed my mind.
The problem is this:
HS - too hard to be a green route
HVS - could be bottom of the red routes, but then orange routes span only HS and VS; seems too few
E3 - don't think it deserves the status of black route, and that really WOULD lose parity with any sport comparisons.
So actually, I think the dividing lines have to be where Rockfax currently have them. FWIW, I think starting black at 7a+ in sport may be a tad generous - perhaps 7b would reflect the increase in standards overall - but given that I've ticked a 7a+ I'm happy with where it's at right now.
If I had to pull a grade out of the air for the black boundary for sport to match E4 I would probably say 7b+ - it's a magic grade of sorts in itself, and I can draw a rough equivalence in that if one can onsight E4 one can probably redpoint E6 (moderately protected, not those E6s that are the mid-fr6 deathy end of the spectrum) for which 7b+ doesn't feel an unreasonable representative grade for moderately protected climbing at the grade (you could say 7c, but then you really would have to stretch the other bands upwards to avoid Red being gargantuan)
That list is broken, especially at the top, as you are comparing slightly different things and I think as a result is widening the gap at the top. I climbed with several weekend warriors with a best onsight at E6, that, in my experience, were more genuine in their best onsights than the elite climbers selecting those rare high-end onsights on climbs they knew suited them (often based on some beta). I'd add that most of the climbers that I knew in that 'best onsight in the E5 to E6 range' had had some 'fun times' grade checking on the odd non sandbag grit E1 and E2 (I think partly to do with the style or conditions and partly the 'psyche' we need in best ascents being hard to maintain). The reason I think the gap is so small to the talented weekend warrior is the top end of trad onsights is depressed significantly these days, as very few of the super elite technical climbers are interested in it.
The red band doesn't as much need to stretch as to move up. E1 Onsight is a good bit harder to acheive style wise on average than redpointing F6b.
Is this thread just lots of people complaining about the colour bands used in guidebooks and arguing, depending on how big their ego is, that the red/black border should be a bit higher or a bit lower than their personal onsight grade?
> So there are two different comparisons to be made - how hard is the actual climbing and what level can you get to with the same amount of dedication. The answers are quite different.
Which is so blindingly obvious, I find it incredible that it needs pointing out!
Made me laugh out loud on my own at the works so chapeau for that alone.
Will is right I am appallingly weak and E4 does not an elite climber make. To say you are elite at 7a+ is even more laughable.
My top grades are; Trad - a couple of (very soft) E6s O/S but I’d say I was an E5 leader with approx 60 under my belt onsight or ground-up.
Ive redpointed a few 8as and onsighted/flashed probably just under 10 7b+s.
Bouldering wise my top is 7B+ with somewhere under 10 7Bs. (Which were all vert, put me on anything steep and bouldery and I am pathetic.
I’d say each person’s good is relative to their aspirations and those they climb with. For example I aspire to climb E6/8a+/7C and all my mates climb these grades fairly easily. So I don’t really think of myself as a particularly good climber.
Misha seemed fairly bang on with his grade breakdown
I haven't seen anybody but Offwidth show any sign of caring about Rockfax colour bands. The rest of us - are as Robert points out - just circling endlessly around the blindingly obvious fact that there's more to comparing sport and trad climbing than the physical difficulty of the climbing. While all asserting that our own personal opinion about how much difference that makes is the self-evident truth.
Glad you enjoyed that and took it in good humour. It was definitely me punching upwards because I'm very unlikely to attain the same level as you in trad climbing.
This - "I’d say each person’s good is relative to their aspirations and those they climb with. For example I aspire to climb E6/8a+/7C and all my mates climb these grades fairly easily. So I don’t really think of myself as a particularly good climber." - is a fantastic example of the Ondra/Punter Hypothesis that I mentioned above.
It's all relative and anybody who ever gets to thinking that they're a big fish is just swimming in a pond full of small fish. I'm shit compared to lots of my mates, but on paper have done things which would make Offwidth declare me part of an exclusive wad squad. I've a friend who joined the Preston MC and remarked, "I generally climb E1, so have been declared the best climber the club has ever seen".
Do you think it’s still redpointing at the 6b level? People rarely redpoint 4s do they, so if the black band is indeed meant to represent redpointing as the default style then somewhere it must switch across somewhere. Middle of the red band would be my guess, if I had to make one...
In my personal experience the thing that got me from the high 6's to low 7's in sport climbing was a shift from "redpoint" as doing something second or third go that I'd failed to onsight, to actually intentionally projecting things I didn't think I had a chance of onsighting. Which, now that I look at the chart, is indeed the top of the Rockfax red band.
Whereas - coming from the pre-headpoint generation - I would never launch up a trad route I didn't think I had a realistic chance of onsighting. Not what trad climbing is about for me personally.
You really think that the big lines in High Tor look shabby?
Yes, certainly at less obviously onsight friendly venues my guess would be that a lot of people break into the red band onsighting 6b but get to the top end of it redpointing 7a. But to some extent it narrows the red band a bit if you shift style half way through...
> You really think that the big lines in High Tor look shabby?
It's no Lower Sharpnose, is it? I suppose the bit round Flaky Wall viewed on its own almost starts to look like a small bit of Eurolime, but it's surrounded by total nonsense.
Total nonsense such as Bastille, Supersonic, Darius, Debauchery, Robert Brown, Lime Crime....
I don't understand you on this. Like you, I was never very much of a fan of limestone (= not at all good at 'reading' it or climbing it, tho I had some quite good experiences in Pembroke, Gower, Wye Valley etc., but never v good at Avon) but High Tor seemed absolutely on a par with some of the best 'eurolime' as you put it, though much smaller. With the big difference that it's not riddled like a pincushion with bolts.
You have a point regarding the colour banding. The trad one is fine, it’s the sport one which is too generous - black short start around 7b+. But who cares really.
The gap is not small. There is a world of difference between onsighting the average E7 or E8 (elite) and the average E5 (decent but not exceptional weekend warrior). Probably similar to E1 vs E5.
Time to get on some more E6s!
Exactly. One of the best ways to progress is to climb with people who are better. Makes you realise what’s possible. I don’t disagree with Offwidth that being solid at E1 is a good achievement. It might even be impressive to some. But if you climb with people like Duncan, E1 is nothing to write home about. It’s a warm up, or if there are no E1s or E2s available, you warm up on an E3. Was it Ben who said ‘6b is easy, 6a is approaching a rest’? Now that’s good in my book - but my book is different to the next person’s.
Indeed! Let’s hope for a good summer next year!
However, I clearly said the best of my weekend warrier pals had onsighted E6 (and since my experience was from the mid 90s onwards, the best onsights at that time were still E7) and I still think that those modern equivalents, solid at onsighting E4 and onsighting the odd E6 are still elite (not that any climber in that top tiny percentage of trad would admit it, in fact some seem to delight in advertising just how weak they are), given how little onsighting has moved on since the mid 90's.
Just below the best (who were technical naturals), I knew a few incredibly impressive climbers who had worked despite much less talent to climb almost anything they could in the Peak below E6.
So I think there is too little respect and recognition these days for the craft of onsight trad, in the ability to deal with risk at the top end, as a genuine adventure activity, in contrast to say how Alpinism is still is regarded. I'd like to see more focus on who the best practioners are on onsights just below the top, especially those climbing in the best style.
It was Ben but I think it was when 6c is easy and 6b is approaching a rest. UK tech grades of course.
It was either in Crags or On the Edge (haven't got them anymore and can't remember which era but I'd guess Crags).
> High Tor seemed absolutely on a par with some of the best 'eurolime' as you put it, though much smaller.
Slippy and loose?
> With the big difference that it's not riddled like a pincushion with bolts.
Peppered with old pegs instead.
I've had some good days there, but it's semi-urban, polished and falling down.
> I've had some good days there, but it's semi-urban, polished and falling down.
Harsh but I suppose it's a long way from North Devon, which is rural, unpolished and falling down.
Sorry but there is no way that being solid at E4/5 and onsighting the odd E6 is elite. It just isn’t these days. Very good, top end weekend warrior level but not elite. Elite to my mind is something that only the top 10-20 trad climbers in the country are capable of. There are way more people onsighting E6. Now if you say solid at E6 onsight and onsighting a lot of E7s and the odd E8, that’s elite.
> Slippy and loose?
> Peppered with old pegs instead.
> I've had some good days there, but it's semi-urban, polished and falling down.
Absolutely, to say its comparable to Euro lime is laughable!
Plus, loads of good Euro lime trad!
> Sorry but there is no way that being solid at E4/5 and onsighting the odd E6 is elite.
Yes, it's hard to see something as being 'elite' that many were doing in the 80s.
> Sorry but there is no way that being solid at E4/5 and onsighting the odd E6 is elite. It just isn’t these days. Very good, top end weekend warrior level but not elite. Elite to my mind is something that only the top 10-20 trad climbers in the country are capable of. There are way more people onsighting E6. Now if you say solid at E6 onsight and onsighting a lot of E7s and the odd E8, that’s elite.
I don't disagree with your definition of elite but would like to point out that the equivalent in sport (by the same measure) would be redpointing 9a.
Agree, for men. May be 8c for women as there are far fewer women redpointing 9a. I don’t even know if redpointing 9a is truly elite any more outside the UK.
At the risk of reviving a debate that's done a few laps already, I reckon the Rockfax black sport banding starting at 7a+ is a bit of a fudge between onsighting and redpointing, and works fine.
It's about that level, very roughly speaking, that the proportion of ascent styles start to tip towards redpointing, compared to 6s which mostly get onsight/flash/ground-up attempts.
Onsighting 7a+ is harder than onsighting most E4s, but redpointing 7a+ is easier than onsighting most E4s. If it's an attempt to represent the way that most people will attempt the route, it's fine.
I don't think it really matters what grade you can climb. The best climber is the one having the most fun. Here's a wee article: https://rab.equipment/eu/basecamp/is-climbing-making-you-happy/
We can safely assume yiu are correct and that 7a+ black is for redpointing it.
Rockfax say "What generally tends to happen with grades across the world is that routes are graded in the style that they are usually climbed. So for easier routes below about 6b+ the grade is almost invariably an on-sight grade. For routes above about 7b it is almost always given a redpoint grade. In between is a bit of a grey area and the practice can vary from location to location."
upto E1 is beginner or occasional climber
e1to e4 regular average climber, most should be able to climb this with regular climbing.
e5 to e7/8 a good/very good advanced climber
It just means I define it wider than you and Mark as I'm looking at a fairly tiny participant group, with the head for the game, perfoming at the best adjectival UK levels, not their technical ability (as I also regard it in top end Alpinism, where fewer would argue with me). For Michael, I know things haven't moved much since the late 1980s, that's my point... trad onsights at the top end have become less popular maybe as training for the head needed to face such risk in onsights isn't moving much, whilst movement skills have improved massively at the top.
As such I'd call your elite a super elite and Mark's (highly characteristicly Mark... I can hear him say it with a wry smile) view as world class (by definition, as onsight E8+ as its where the best in the world are right now). The trouble with too much climbing modesty is that is can lead to disdain for significant performance. Those dealing with the psychology attached to high end risk in high end onsights have a very specific skill in that, which is as important as their movement skills (really the only big factor in sport and bouldering). Aside from highball ground-ups, where the risk is reduced, hard trad onsight IS a shrinking fraction of those climbers who have those movement skills, from the numbers still defined as needed from the late 1980s. Just look at the ascents of the week, with E6 and above headpoints (E6 headpoint is not elite in my view) being normally as common as bouldering reports (elite in my view at f8A).
I get what you’re saying and perhaps it’s a question of definitions. To my mind, elite in sport (if you want to use that word) is top end, a touch below world class. Onsighting E6 is only one grade above where I’m at and I’m only a decent weekend warrior (it’s a big step up but still only one grade). Equally, I know a few people who onsight E6 and they would laugh if you called them elite.
Not sure you’re entirely right about a decline in hard trad onsights. You are probably right as far as the Peak is concerned but there is still plenty of onsighting to E6 and above in other areas (Pembroke and North Wales in particular). Hard grit is becoming less popular but at the top end it was always headpointed anyway.
There we go... that climbing modesty again. If the head game is so unimportant with this much improved top end technical ability we would be seeing more of the many hundreds who can climb F8a and f8A, soloing of all those wonderful UK low extremes all the time and UKC Top Ascents of the week would be full of E7 onsights. There is a logical argument that elitism in the headgame stakes drops down below extreme... people experienced and rounded enough to lead at almost their absolute movement limits regularly. This dealing with risk and problem solving is to me the essence of trad, so I respect expertise in that as much as the grades.
Finally, don't lecture me on the top end, if nothing else because I'm lucky enough to work with the BMC and get to gently rib some of the too few stars who do climb impressive things in trad, about their modesty.
This seems to be partly about definitions. To me, 'elite' is just that, the very best. 'Super-elite' or some such is tautology.
No-one is saying the head game is unimportant, but just as important is reading sequences onsight. As Misha, you, top climbers and most well informed lowly punters know, there's a massive difference between onsighting E6 and onsighting E7, particularly on a regular basis.
You are assuming that strong sport climbers and boulderers would want to climb trad. Some would and do (with impressive results), most simply aren’t interested. They prefer to push the limits of redpointing where you can climb much harder than you would with trad, or going out with a bunch of friends and pads and doing problems at the absolute limit of their physical and technical ability, or perhaps highballing, which is arguably more dangerous than a lot of trad. Besides, trad is pretty faffy - the opposite of bouldering.
Onsighting close to your physical limit is indeed impressive but that doesn’t make E1 or E4 it E6 elite.
Climbing is a broad church and it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that just because you do something, everyone else must want to do it as well.
Back when I started trad in the early 80s, I joined a bunch of people who were operating comfortably around E3/4 and were pushing it out on E5 and above. Not knowing any different, I followed their methods, which was going for onsights, but if you blew it, then adopt what would become standard redpointing in sport climbing or head pointing on grit. My grade flew up doing this and I caught up with the tail enders and eventually got into the middle of the group gradewise. I’m pretty sure the obsession with onsight at all grades is probably the biggest hurdle to progression. When I finally did lead my first E5 clean, my previous attempts on it probably didn’t help much, but the redpointing of other trad routes certainly did, particularly as training and walls was pretty rudimentary at the time. The epithet given to us ‘lobbing lemmings’ at the time was pretty accurate but we got used to falling off on gear.
Probably heresy on here, but it worked for us😒
Hurdle in progressing to what though?... I'd recommend top-roping and headpointing (as long as the climber is capable of the moves... the flailng masses in Downhill Racer adding to the polish depress me) to help push onsight grades but if it's just to chase E grades, your kidding yourself and it's a different game. I wish we could have seperate headpoint grades for all extreme trad, to point out the real equivalence. For anyone with a decent trad head a safeish E4 is a much harder headpoint than a bold E5.
> Hurdle in progressing to what though?... I'd recommend top-roping and headpointing (as long as the climber is capable of the moves... the flailng masses in Downhill Racer adding to the polish depress me) to help push onsight grades but if it's just to chase E grades, your kidding yourself and it's a different game. I wish we could have seperate headpoint grades for all extreme trad, to point out the real equivalence. For anyone with a decent trad head a safeish E4 is a much harder headpoint than a bold E5.
Strange that Downhill Racer attracts mass flailing, that's the opposite of a soft touch. Both unprotected and harder than the neighbouring E5s.
Nah, not even that good, Robert! A small handful of E1s (have fallen off a couple of E2); very rare F7a indoors; first ever F7a outdoors this year with a LOT of practice!
It's a good thing I enjoy it really...
When it comes to pushing the trad onsight grade, there is no substitute for trying to onsight routes of the target grade. Obviously got to choose relatively safe ones. Clearly there’s a lot more to it (building a solid base at the previous couple of grades, seconding harder routes, sport climbing, perhaps bouldering, indoor training and so on), but by definition you won’t get up an E-whatever unless you try it and the first few you try you might not get up clean. Paul is spot on.
It's the worst example of an improtant route too often attempted in poor top-rope style that I know on grit. Those guilty are often good climbers encouraging friends, climbers who should know better and those flailing are not headpointing.
I guess it suffers from being situated in the middle of the most popular section of Froggatt, is visually appealing and known to be classic.
Dock a star in the next guide. Emphasise that it's chipped. ;)
I think it damages a guidebook to have to warn about poor top rope behaviour that leads to preventable polish on every affected slab route, as most users know this already.
From BMC Froggatt 2010 Conservation notes: "TOPROPING. If overdone this can cause difficulties for other climbers and damage the rock...... Do not make continuous and repeated attempts at hard moves as this leads to rapid and unneccesary erosion of the holds."
Easy don’t climb together. I’m lucky my mrs doesn’t climb 😂
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