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 Post subject: Grading a trad climb
PostPosted: Mon Apr 15, 2013 9:34 am 
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Coming from a sport climbing background, I have been wondering how people tend to grade new trad climbs. I particularly want to know how to base the grading of a hard route on table mountain that required working and red pointing
Do you
a.) grade it for the onsight including placing gear - In this case it would be really difficult to grade this way and would result in an inflated grade which would no doubt be downgraded.
b.) grade the difficulty of the actual climbing not taking into account leading and placing gear i.e. grade it as if it were a sport route assuming that people will factor in the difficulty for climbing it on trad themselves
C.) grade it based on how difficult the effort is to redpoint the route placing gear ie. add a grade or two if placing gear or the runouts make the route more demanding to climb on trad.

based on other routes in the same area and of similar grade it seems as though a mixture of b and c are used.

Jimbo


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 Post subject: Re: Grading a trad climb
PostPosted: Mon Apr 15, 2013 2:13 pm 
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Location: Cape Town
Real Name: Willem Boshoff
And that's why the Brits have their grading system :thumleft:


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 Post subject: Re: Grading a trad climb
PostPosted: Mon Apr 15, 2013 2:44 pm 
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Real Name: Warren Gans
I have been wondering the same thing too, also if you scratch round you often hidden pro that can work etc and this would impact the grade if it were to be considered. I think hard trad grading should be based on a headpointing approach rather than an onsight. I think the grading should be the same as if it were for sport climbing because that will make the transfer that you and I suffer easier, and provide fewer obstacles accordingly.

I want to know what happens if you do open a trad route 100% on preplaced gear: I reject the reply that "then it isn't opened" because I can also name top-rope routes: if you are going to accept those into your guide books then so should you preplaced routes, with the hope that someone will do a FFA some day.

While we are asking "sport climber's perspective" questions on trad: when one is projecting an unopened route, leaving preplaced gear to work moves, or even just cleaning it, is one entitled to "IP" the base? I would argue that as people have been climbing in RSA since 1895 and no one has done the route surely no one else was interested in that line, and so an "IP" is fair. The main reason I would want to place the IP is not theft of FA, but theft of in-place gear thinking it was abandoned.

Snort etc, some input would be great!

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 Post subject: Re: Grading a trad climb
PostPosted: Mon Apr 15, 2013 3:15 pm 
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Location: Aberdeen, Scotland
In the UK the general approach for a new trad route led on preplaced gear is it's normally given an approximate sport grade as well as a proposed theoretical grade for the onsight. Likewise headpoints / worked routes. It's then up to the repeaters to have the option try and improve on the ethical approach of the first ascentionist, given the information available.

I'm not saying you should do the same, but it seems to work fairly well.


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 Post subject: Re: Grading a trad climb
PostPosted: Mon Apr 15, 2013 3:40 pm 
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Real Name: Brian Weaver
I often dwell on this question... I think that it is very route specific. Sometimes placing the gear can be a crux of its own: doing the moves can be difficult but then to minimize the risk of death one might have to place a piece off a less than ideal position incurring extra pump. In that case I'd incorporate it as its own crux, I would grade it based on placing the gear. It might open me up to a downgrade from some who skips the pro or climbs on pre-placed but lets be fair, we all aspire to climb the route free, placing along the way. I kind of like the USA grading with PG, PG-13, R, X as a compliment to the the French or SA grade (like an E grade but less complicated).

Take a look at Sorcery at the ACRA wall in Boven... Grade 25 RX, doesn't see many repeats due to limited gear and worries about death (though Squeaky did find micro cam placements to make it safer). I don't know many climbers who will go for it on sight (I won't, I choose life). I don't know much about the route but it is a moderate grade compared to my normal routes however I take heed of the fact that you can get really hurt climbing it. Who knows whether the crux is very hard or soft, most just know of the run outs. Does this influence the number grade or just the mental grade surrounding the route??

When the gear is easy to place and doesn't affect the climb then it's really easy to grade the route purely on the difficulty as a climb.

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 Post subject: Re: Grading a trad climb
PostPosted: Mon Apr 15, 2013 4:01 pm 
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@ Warren: With pre placed gear on trad routes I think the key is just to be honest about what you have done. If you 'opened' a route on pre placed gear, thats cool and I think you should get credit for that but then you will probably share the credit with someone who comes along and places all the gear.

I haven't seen anyone red tag a trad route or write IP on them with chalk but climbers seem to respect projects, by not nicking their gear and the first ascent (certainly in the cape, anyway) . Most of this happens via word of mouth. I think this is fair because a lot of work goes into finding and cleaning the line

2nd, 3rd etc ascents should be fair game.


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 Post subject: Re: Grading a trad climb
PostPosted: Mon Apr 15, 2013 4:05 pm 
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@Brian: yeah thats my dilemma: to give something a higher grade because the gear is pumpy and sketchy to place or just go with the difficulty of the climbing
Jimbo


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 Post subject: Re: Grading a trad climb
PostPosted: Mon Apr 15, 2013 5:46 pm 
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Real Name: Brian Weaver
Personally, I'd give it the holistic grade. Placing the gear is part of the difficulty. There is no point in sandbagging the climb by giving it a sport grade...

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 Post subject: Re: Grading a trad climb
PostPosted: Mon Apr 15, 2013 10:21 pm 
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Real Name: Jonathan Newman
What I always wonder is why people say that top roping isn't really climbing, but leading a sport route with draws already in place is somehow...

Personally I climb rock to train for the Drakensberg and I want to climb in the Drakensberg because I want to get to the top - I like the "by any means" approach to climbing (I think aid on an easy route is acceptable under my premise).

I say the grading has to account for gear placement. If top roping isn't "real climbing", thus, a person going up after a seconder has already cleaned the route (i.e. basically top roping on a serious Drakensberg climb) "isn't really climbing", then why would the grade not account for the difficulty in placing gear or removing it?

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 Post subject: Re: Grading a trad climb
PostPosted: Tue Apr 16, 2013 9:12 am 
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Hi Jimbo

I think that with the sort of thing you're doing next to Double Jeopardy, if you aren't going to do the first ascent placing the gear on lead (which is the ultimate pure and unadulterated best way) because it's too dangerous or desperate, then go ahead and do the FA with some, or all, pre-placed gear and in the RD state that the route was headpointed using pre-placed gear. Regarding the grading, you must then grade it according to how technically hard it was for you with that pre-placed gear (i.e a bit like a sport route).

If a better climber comes along (quite hard to imagine!) and climbs the route on-sight and places gear on lead, then that person can claim the improvement. My own example: I made the first grade 24 route on Table Mountain in 1979 close to where you're doing your project called Cool Cat. I did it with one piece of pre-placed gear. AdK later did it without that pre-placed piece and got the first clean ascent.

I think often a subsequent ascent with improved style isn't really worth much in the way of accolades though. New gear comes along and suddenly people can do things that weren't previously possible. For instance, after the FA of Cool Cat micro-nuts came along and suddenly there was some gear.

Guy Paterson-Jones and I did a new crux direct pitch on Whinge (Wolfberg) last year which Guy very bravely led with one pre-placed smallest RP and to get to it involved about 8m of move-after move of grade 25 with a very bad deck-fall. The piece could not be placed on lead and without it would be like soloing Africa Arete. My advice to Guy was to write it up but state that the pitch was head-pointed and led with pre-placed gear.

Last comment - I think that new, hard, "sporty" trad routes generally cannot be done without top-roping them and working out all the gear placements etc and I think many will be death-fall stuff without some pre-placed pieces. There is no reason in my books to not do these pitches. We won't admire them as big-wall, onsight, clean first ascents but we will admire them for there technical difficulty and whatever else is deserved. Just give full disclosure.

Sounds like the project is done and dusted? go Jimbo!

Hilton


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 Post subject: Re: Grading a trad climb
PostPosted: Tue Apr 16, 2013 10:23 am 
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hilton, shot for the comments.

Yeah I did the project over the weekend. Its called The last of the Mohawks. Its about 31. Just for the record i did it placing all the gear on lead. I'll only use pre paced gear as a last resort if I think that I'm very likely to axe myself if I don't. But i don't have a problem with other people climbing things on pre placed gear or even top roping them if that is what they want to do, irrespective of the danger.

It is interesting talking to UK trad climbers where it seems perfectly fine to try to onsight or redpoint a route and if they fall off then they lower down of the gear, pull the rope and try again with half the gear in place. Saves a lot of hassle but doesn't seem as pure an ascent to me.

Jimbo


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 Post subject: Re: Grading a trad climb
PostPosted: Tue Apr 16, 2013 10:36 am 
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Location: Aberdeen, Scotland
Isn't that what used to be called a yo-yo ascen? AFAIK it's not "perfectly fine", just seems a bit daft when if you have blown the onsight to ab, remove the gear, lead it again placing the gear again just to get a "pure" ascent. Especially if it's not a new route.


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 Post subject: Re: Grading a trad climb
PostPosted: Fri Apr 19, 2013 10:33 am 
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Wow, Jimbo! That's massive! Big congrats!

Won't you please give us a story? And photos? That wall is no minor trick and your two routes on it are probably the hardest 'proper' trad routes in SA along with Clinton's. This is big news for us locals. (Justin, please extract this out of the very retiring James Smith)

Jimbo could you put Last of the Mohawks on that photo for the wiki, and also include Roulette Arête for completeness? RA goes up the peapod and then traverses left at the rail below the Roulette rail.

Appropriate route name!


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 Post subject: Re: Grading a trad climb
PostPosted: Fri Apr 19, 2013 10:39 am 
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Meant to say "...along with Clinton's and Adk's".

Clinton said that his free ascent of Oceans of Fear was the hardest thing he'd ever done and still today, notwithstanding a heck of a lot of trying, no other SA climber has done this. (Andrew de Klerk, Clinton Martinengo and Leo Houlding). One for you, Jimbo...


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 Post subject: Re: Grading a trad climb
PostPosted: Fri Apr 19, 2013 3:05 pm 
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Thanks Hilton

I will update the route wiki and i think I managed to get the route into Tony's new guide book in time. Justin did ask me to write something about it. I'll do that soon.

FYI I belayed Clinton on his project that branches off Mary Poppins the other day. He did all the moves but it looks absolutely desperate. That will be next generation hard when it goes.

By the way, how hard is Mary Poppins?

Jimbo


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 Post subject: Re: Grading a trad climb
PostPosted: Tue May 07, 2013 5:41 pm 
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Real Name: Willem Boshoff
i saw Hilton & Guy grade Space Race with the "S" grading system. anybody knows exactly how it works? a useful & needed addition to trad grading imho.


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 Post subject: Re: Grading a trad climb
PostPosted: Tue May 07, 2013 6:29 pm 
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Makes mention of it in the text - the "Snort (Seriousness) System" not sure how open ended it is?

In the old Yorkshire Grit Guide they used to have P1 - safe, P2 - minor injury P3 - death or serious maiming.


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 Post subject: Re: Grading a trad climb
PostPosted: Tue May 07, 2013 8:48 pm 
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Location: Cape Town
Real Name: Willem Boshoff
it seems the "s#" designation is to approximate seriousness by adding # to the grade. is that consistent with the British grading system? (to the best of my knowledge it is not).

after talking to some trad buddies the last week i'm again convinced that we need an extra grading scale to reflect the danger and difficulty of the route beyond the pure climbing difficulty. the most important factors in my view are:
1. gear - the quantity & quality of placements and if any areas of particular concern are well protected
2. gear placing - mostly a factor in harder routes where good gear may be hard to place
3. quality of the rock
4. a subjective reference to the scale & macro environment could be factored in (think yellowwood vs lion's head)
the currrent affixes of "R" and "X" are not sufficient


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 Post subject: Re: Grading a trad climb
PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2013 7:30 am 
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Real Name: Charles Edelstein
I think you will find routes graded with the “S” bit in the 1982 MCSA journal. It does not really stand for “serious” but rather “Severity” which I suppose is almost the same thing. I tried to introduce this method all those years ago and it never caught on. In the US and elsewhere you have X and R.

S0 is super safe and easy to protect with back-up pro. I would consider very few bolted climbs as S0 as the 3rd bolt which is often at 4m is not backed up and failure of that bolt would usually result in a deck fall.
S1 Excellent pro, easy to place but needs some care as do bolted routes. Steep rock with no deck fall possible. An example on TM is Magnetic Wall or Bombay Duck and most of the steeper routes on TM
S2 Excellent pro, not so easy to place, requires careful belaying, not easily backed up, perhaps a run out…..An Example on TM is Touch and Go.
S3 Dodgy pro, high fall factor, deck fall potential, dodgy rock: Sanitorium on TM. (Most of the routes on Yellowwood amphitheatre are S3. Fun Time and Smallblaar are S1/S2.
S4 = x Probably not death but possible Example on TM is, believe it or not, Arrow frontal. I know two people who have fallen on Arrow and one died, one had serious injuries
S5 = X. You fall or pull of a block you are Xed

Tony Dick and I climbed Time Warp on Yellowwood yesterday, a route that Hilton has also done. I would grade it 20 S3. Without the S system it would require a grade of 22 but it technically has perhaps 5 moves harder than 19. Protecting it is grade 22 or rather S3 and there is plenty of dodgy rock and placements.


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 Post subject: Re: Grading a trad climb
PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2013 8:15 am 
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Real Name: Charles Edelstein
Jimbo, grading trad routes has a lot to do with context. Most routes on TM, at least harder than 24/5 are rarely done on-sight or without some sort of beta even if this means climbing with someone who has done it before who will make sure that you do not miss critical bits of gear, get drag by clipping ropes incorrectly and the like unless he is a doos.

Country routes are different though and I think it is absolutely essential to include critical beta in the write-up or leave a fixed piece if it is truly dangerous. There the on-sight grade is an imperative. Oceans is a good example of a route that I gather has fixed pro (bolts) wherever the gear is critical or very difficult to place and it seems to have got a "sport" or head-point grade. I have little doubt that it is a lot harder to on-sight on trad gear without bolts?

Yosemite routes are also mostly graded for the on-sight up to grade 25 or so but there is a bolt or peg whenever pro is tricky to place. Whenever you see guys like the Huber bros doing free ascents of the really hard pitches in Yos they are carrying very light racks with only critical pieces while leading - why because they are headpointing. Getting into the changing corners on the Nose, which I gather is the crux is basically a top rope off a bolt.

On TM Africa Arête and No Longer at Ease are graded for the on-sight, both at 25. However, I would grade Africa Arête first pitch 23 S1 as there is a peg at the crux and the second 24 S2 or S3. Where-as "No Longer at Ease" is 25 S0 - probably one of, if not the safest of routes on TM. Before you even start At Ease you can bomb proof protect it with 25m of air below you.

Sanitorium is basically a headpoint 25 or otherwise it should be graded 25 S3. I would never recommend anyone try on-sight that route without beta. The gear is critical and specific off the ground and at 4m.

Another way of looking at trad grading, is if you do not want to use the "S" system then you need to add a grade for each level of Severity. That is how Africa Arete is graded.

On-sighting moves and placing gear is a problem solving adventurous exercise on most tricky routes. Anything less than perfect luck would add difficulty to the route. Headpointing and red-pointing is not adventurous for the gear or the moves. The problem is rather gymnastic and athletic like bouldering and sport climbing.


At Yellowwood you need a huge variety of gear which is extra weight and often lots of moves and experimental tries and changes of body position to get the gear out etc etc etc. You have to factor that into the grading one way or another. Prime Time does not have a single move actually harder than 22. As an overall grade I would put it at 25. No Longer at Ease is easier to on-sight than Prime Time even though there are quite a few harder moves.

Prime Time Direct is even harder because of the moves needed to place the gear - that is as hard to do as actually climbing the crux moves. The second pitch is possibly 25 although I have graded it 24 as I headpointed it. Place two bolts on it and it would be trivialized.

Another factor is conditions. It is very difficult to get perfect conditions for an on-sight in a remote area on big routes. At YW or Blouberg you can add a grade for each 2 degrees of temperature hotter than 28 degrees or so or colder than say 16 degrees or so. On TM you can choose your conditions for the on-sight or the headpoint.


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 Post subject: Re: Grading a trad climb
PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2013 9:37 am 
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Location: Cape Town
Real Name: Willem Boshoff
Thanks Snort!

I honestly think the S# designation is necessary; and not adding grades. a no-gear grade 16 pitch is not grade 20; it is 16 S4/5.
as always i'm sure there will be some debate about what S-grade a route should be, but it is better than having only R & X. shorti took a 45ft whipper at tafelberg, ripping 3 pieces on Solitaire, and ending his climbing holiday with the consequent injuries. the route is arguably not "R" since there is gear, only problem is that the gear is 50/50 at best. my take is that it should have been 19 S3.

i also think it is imperative that the S-grade be assigned to each pitch. having a 16 S4 pitch on a grade 23 route hardly makes it 23 S4. so, imho i think routes overall should simply have a number grading, and then the individual pitches should get a number + S-grade.

maybe we should start writing up the S-grades for new routes and the routes often climbed? hopefully it will catch-on.


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 Post subject: Re: Grading a trad climb
PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2013 10:00 am 
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I also agree that we should implement a severity grade to trad climbing and will happily adopt it.


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 Post subject: Re: Grading a trad climb
PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2013 10:28 am 
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Real Name: Charles Edelstein
BTW the Brit system does not make sense. Their E grade goes up with the technical grade. Arrow final should be E10 for severity but would barely rate as "Severe". I suppose their E grade also considers the ability and competence of the climber doing the climb.


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 Post subject: Re: Grading a trad climb
PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2013 10:34 am 
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This is the first time I heard of your (Snort's) S grade, but I like it. It makes a lot of sense. I suppose it takes away a little in adventure, but the grade and route description already did that, so adding a S grade won't make that much of a difference in that regard. If you want the full on onsight adventure, climb something new. It's not everyone's cup of tea in any case. No-one wants to see people get hurt or die, so I like the S grade as a warning to check it out first, instead of going for an onsight attempt and end up in trouble. I also don't like to add grades to compensate for the severity. It's going to be a big job to regrade everything, but maybe we can start eating the elephant bit by bit, so to speak. Andrew's new guide to the Magalies classics is maybe a good start? I can help. The Blyde guide has a system like that (kind of).

Just to "correct" Willem, I've metricized - it was 15m. There's not much gear on that pitch between the stance and the roof. There was a bomber cam just above the stance (Sarel used it in the stance, but I clipped it just the same). That was the only bomber placement. Next was a tiny cam placement in a flaring "rail" that became parallel deeper in. The rock was very rough and I was worried that the cam would break the crystals in the rock and simply pull out. There was also a very shallow small nut placement close to the cam in a little hole. I could only get half the nut in, but it seemed strangely solid(ish). This was only about 3-4m above the stance and as it turned out it proved to be good enough. The rest was just not worth calling placements. A shallow rail, a cam couldn't get any purchase, neither could I get a hex to stick. A big tricam maybe. The two top placements had to be "fabricated" by pulling out grass from a tiny flaring vertical crag, the cam barely held it's own weight. The top one was a mud filled pocket. It seemed ok-ish, but not ok enough to trust it for a fall, so I opted to hang on it for a shake out for what looked like the crux coming up (bulge below the roof). The next gear was only in the roof crack about 3m above. It must have slipped out on the mud. Anyway, it should definitely be an R you bastard! :twisted:

SNORT wrote:
BTW the Brit system does not make sense. Their E grade goes up with the technical grade. Arrow final should be E10 for severity but would barely rate as "Severe". I suppose their E grade also considers the ability and competence of the climber doing the climb.
I agree.


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 Post subject: Re: Grading a trad climb
PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2013 10:42 am 
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Jimbo, in that case add a severity grade for any new trad ascents. The question really is how difficult is it to find and properly and place safe gear just off the ground (2-3m) and then at incremental intervals the next being at 4-5m and then from 7-10m and then 13-17m and so on (the higher you go, the safer it gets even if the gear is spaced on overhanging routes provided you have good gear).

Jeopardy is run-out but perfectly safe as the lower parts are protected by 2 pegs and then one gets bomber gear in all the routes on that face in the rail at and above Roulette's rail. Also one can see where one would find good placements in the higher rails level with Captain Hook.

Because of the run-outs, I suppose a fear factor would require an S2 grading for the upper half of all the routes on that face.

For the lower halves I would think that Jeopardy is only S2 but can't vouch for the others as there is no fixed pro.

Also remember that for grading the on-sight, one would carry a normal rack without pre-organized draws and slings or knowing where the gear is other than the fixed pegs. So each gear placement would require several seconds or even minutes of hanging around one-handed fiddling in gear except at the obvious rails.

I saw you lead the S and the W. Seemed like easy enough gear to place low down but is it obvious and bombe?. I guess one can down-climb from there and test it so that stops a deck fall. But then after that?


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 Post subject: Re: Grading a trad climb
PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2013 10:46 am 
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Real Name: Garvin Jacobs
The English "Severe" grading is really great to climb on, after 2 or 3 days climbing(Kenya and Uganda) it made perfect sense and routes felt as I expected them to. I'd be keen on having something like that.


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 Post subject: Re: Grading a trad climb
PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2013 11:53 am 
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I agree it takes some time to get used to, but the UK grading system does work pretty accurately, 90% of the time. And for the places where it doesn't work, route descriptions are used to overcome any misinterpretation.

Trouble is that short hard grit routes have got a lot of the publicity of late, which tends to skew outsider's perspective of how the system works.


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 Post subject: Re: Grading a trad climb
PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2013 12:06 pm 
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The way Snort explains the S grade now is much clearer than the way the S grade was understood and applied in the eighties (when it was more open-ended, much like the British E system).

Clearly, his experience of other systems informs his understanding of how it (the S grade)could work given the developments in high-end tradding in this country.


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 Post subject: Re: Grading a trad climb
PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2013 4:16 pm 
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Real Name: Willem Boshoff
not sure how exactly the E-system works, but if we have two designations covering a) pure climbing difficulty & b) severity then i think we're covered. and whatever we use for severity should be clear and easily understandable. Snort's S-system does this very well in my view. or we can use smilies.

S0 = :thumleft: = super safe
S1 = :) = good
S2 = :rambo: = gotta wear your trad undies
S3 = :cry: :eye: = trad undies plus big nuts. and some band aids.
S4 = :shock: = kak
S5 = :x = looks like a good day to die


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 Post subject: Re: Grading a trad climb
PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2013 4:18 pm 
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Snort, this relates to my original post of how to grade the difficulty of leading the climb
How would you use the S system to grade the following scenario:
A route that if it were on bolts or top rope it would be grade 22 to onsight
Placing trad gear adds significantly to the difficulty of the route because you have to hang around and do extra moves making the lead effort more like 24 to onsight but leading it on trad does not add any danger or fear? Redpointing it would feel like 23.
Would it be 24 S0, 23 S1 or 22 S2 ?

would it be different if it felt like a 31 if it were bolted vs a safe 32 to lead on trad after working it but 34 to onsight on trad

At what point to you stop grading for the onsight and start grading for red point because every grade will have a handful of people capable of onsighting it while many others need to redpoint it


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