Metric System - Throw out SA Sport Grading

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Metric System - Throw out SA Sport Grading

Post by Bob » Fri Dec 09, 2005 1:47 pm

I have just been climbing in the Peak district in England and was extremely surprised to see that in the latest guide book to the area they have decided to use French bouldering grades as opposed to the old British B system. To see the British give up something of theirs in favour of a French system is a small miracle so there must be some merit in this standardisation?

Thank goodness the early South African bouldering pioneers had the foresight to adopt the Fontainebleau system for grading of problems BUT why are we still stubbornly sticking to our old South African Grading system for routes?

Isn't it time we moved on...


Post by Hector » Fri Dec 09, 2005 1:55 pm

Whats wrong with the SA system?

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Post by Bob » Fri Dec 09, 2005 2:21 pm

Whats wrong with the German, American, French, South African, UIAA, Australian, Polish, Dutch, Norway, Swedish, Belgium or British systems?

In isolation each of those systems are perfectly acceptable but the real issue is that their are too many of them!

Why not adopt the system that is valid in the most number of countries and used by the most number of people?


Post by Nani » Fri Dec 09, 2005 2:22 pm

I propose wiping the slate clean and starting the nani grading system world wide as a campaign for the 'nani's nudist nation' world organization.

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Post by gnomki » Sat Dec 10, 2005 1:51 am

Wolf (lupus). Rest my case :P


Post by Doug » Sun Dec 11, 2005 6:20 pm

Oh no, here we go again...

Grading systems are a bit like languages - they are part of an area's culture, but they do change, disappear or go out of fashion.

Bob, if you have been around long enough, you would remember that we used to have a different grading system in SA: went something like F1, F2, F3 etc. But in the 80's that language slowly got replaced by one from Australia, with some dialectic modifications. I don't think anyone could really explain the phenomenon - perhaps the new system was adopted because it is simpler than the old letter/number system. But the fact that it is from Australia makes it astounding that it found acceptance in SA at all.

But that cultural change happened - the old language died, and a new one was born (or adopted).

These days, though, the French grading system is the international language of climbing difficulty. The German-speaking countries in Europe still use the UIAA system, the Americans their one, and the Brits their unintelligible system - but everybody understands French. As with actual language, the reasons for that are obvious - the French would simply refuse to understand anybody else, so we would be stuck, because they have a lot of the best climbing.

So everybody understands French, even if they don't use it at home - which, considering the number of climbers in German-speaking Europe alone, is probably the majority of climbers.

So I ask I'll ask Hector's question again in a different way: why force a change? If the collective culture of climbers in SA prefers the French grading system (in the same way it preferred the modified Australian system - don't ask me why) it will get it - sooner or later.

G u y

Post by G u y » Mon Dec 12, 2005 9:24 am

I used to rant about converting to French route grades - but now I'm quite happy with SA grades. They do give our routes their own character.

However, I suggest that consider revising certain grades to make them fit better with all the other grades. For example, 28 = 7c = 5.12d. However, we have some very hard 28's (Phantom of the Opera, Gift of Wings etc*) that are definitely 7c+ or 5.13a. So why not grade these 29. The same problem exists around 6c/6c+ = 22/23/24 - let's just simplify it.

After all, these are just grades. The routes themselves are much more important.

* don't forget, route grades are for an ONSIGHT effort - how many times have these routes been onsighted!!!!

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Post by Russell Warren » Mon Dec 12, 2005 9:46 am

I am quite confused at this stage. I have been led to believe that climbs are graded for the redpoint. I am fairly new at this game so can what Guy has just said be confirmed. Surely the really hard climbs have never been onsighted so how can the grade be for the onsight? Take Clinton's new route. He surely did not onsight the route, but yet has given it a grading. How do you compensate for onsight difficulty?

G u y

Post by G u y » Mon Dec 12, 2005 10:22 am

Route grades have always been for an onsight ascent (which you correctly state was not the style of the opening ascent (it very rarely is)).
My definition of a route grade is \"a concensus assessment of the overall difficulty for a climber of average height to climb the route onsight in good conditions\".

If you grade routes for RP, then you end up with some routes being super-hard for the grade to onsight. In that case the grade would assume that you know every trick and hidden knee-bar (which you are very likely to find on an onsight).

This becomes much more confusing when someone finds an easier sequence - should the route be downgraded?

On the other hand - boulder problems are graded for RP. My thinking says that boulder grades should be \"a concensus assessment of the overall difficulty for a climber of average height to climb the problem in good conditions using the optimum sequence\".

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Post by Stu » Mon Dec 12, 2005 5:44 pm

Guy, instead of making a hard 28 a 29, why not make it 28+, I thought that's how it was done? On the onsight grading I can't see that being the case, while there are climbs that are graded for onsight, there are also so many that are graded for RP and not onsight. I think it varies from climb to climb.


Post by lilo » Tue Dec 13, 2005 8:13 am

Maybe we should leave the + out cause a grade should really just be an indication.Maybe its + for the one guy and a - for the other.

G u y

Post by G u y » Tue Dec 13, 2005 9:22 am

I don't know of any country where routes are graded for RP. Why should SA be different? The logic is that onsight is the ultimate style of ascent that we should all strive for (personally I detest onsighting, but that is just me).

Regarding the 28 issue - why should 28 span 7c to 7c+ and a half and 29 only cover the upper half of 7c+. I just seems daft to have one grade covering a range of other grades and then the next grade being very narrow.

As for +'s and -'s - let's not go there, because soon you'll want 28.3. Grades are so subjective, let's just agree to have hard 28's and easy 28's. And if lots of people think it's very hard 28 - the chances are that it's 29.

G u y

Post by G u y » Tue Dec 13, 2005 9:31 am

BTW Justin - your grade conversion table is out of alignment. Your SA and Aussie grades agree as do your French, US and UIAA grades. However, the SA/Aus grades need to be changed by 1 to agree to the French/US/UIAA grades. ie SA 30 (aus 29) is 5.13b/8a and not 5.13c/8a+

Sorry for being pedantic - but people reading this thread will probably refer to your table at some point.

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Post by ClimbZA » Tue Dec 13, 2005 9:55 am

G u y,
Perhaps you can contact us to perfect and finalise a grade table?
Please drop us an email and perhaps we can work it out together.
Climb ZA

Sandy bagger

Post by Sandy bagger » Tue Dec 13, 2005 11:55 am

I have alway's graded the route on how it felt the first time i jumped on it.
Even if it took me 10 times to get the route i still keep in mind how it felt the first time.I have often come back to climb the same route i opend some months before and found it easier but i'll never down grade it cause
that would be unfair to the next.When i first jump on a route example 30 it feels dam hard and when i eventually get the RP i thought wow that was really not that bad but it still stay's 30.Maybe we should list a couple of well known routes thats solid at its grade so if u opening something new you can compare it to those to get a good idea.
Ego's aside.
Elnino solid 30
Thruster solid 26

Post by » Tue Dec 13, 2005 1:19 pm

I don't think El Nino is benchmark 30, the taller you are the easier the crux is, and even then it's not that hard (Outshoorn in general needs to be re-graded). I think something like Chocolate Mousse is better as 30 and Point Break as 29 (about the same as El Nino).

Greg Hart

Post by Greg Hart » Tue Dec 13, 2005 2:00 pm

Changing the grading system to the french grade was something I was all for a couple of years ago, but in retrospect I think it would be a disastrous move to make just yet. Most people dont seem to have an accurate idea of our own grading system yet! There has been enough creep in grading standards in last few years already. Wholeheartedly adopting the French system would just lead to further confusion and distortion in the grades, already I am climbing at crags where routes are a full grade out.

Eg: Flint Hard at Truikieskraal is a give away at 22 and is more like 21, This was my first onsight at that grade and it fell easily (which shouldnt have been the case as that was my OS limit at that time), and right next door is Old Codgers Ego Boost which is true 23, I failed on the OS (no ego boost for me).

I find it strange that a route of Pauls should be graded incorrectly, One wonders if that is the original grade assigned the route? Was Paul just too strong to grade easy routes correctly or is the grade one artificially assigned by a recent guidebook author?? Because of the subjective nature of grading, it doesnt work to have one person deciding what grades should be. Grades are supposed to be a consensus of onsight difficulty. The only way we can arrive at that consensus is to get more opinions of the grade from experienced climbers and then to average it out. These then need to be accurately and consistently reported in guides in order for the system to work at all.

Conversion to French grades seems sketchy at best, firstly the steps between the medium difficulties are different in the French system and ours, they dont line up exactly, hence the confusion around the 6a+ to 6c+ grades and the7c to 8a grades. (Justin I second Guys suggestion that your grade chart needs revision, its way out in places, my 2c: dont simplify the splits at the problem grades, let people see that there is a misallignment so that they understand) From my experience at French crags the jump from one letter grade to the next is significant and very noticable, the + often simply signifies a stiffer version of that letter grade. Here we have a finer distinction to make in deciding which number to give a route. Consensus is the only way. Perhaps before the next publication of a guidebook, the authors will take the time to run a forum on those lines, and if there is a majority calling for a change then the grade can change with moderation by experienced climbers.

Grades are all for onsighting. If you open something above your onsight ability then its usually a guesstimate grade that you give, and once a rew more people have repeated it, the grade settles at hopefully an accurate level. Stu; to use different criteria for stuff above your onsight level just leads to further distortion in the grades. Ie: If you grade 7a up for RP then those routes are going to feel really hard for someone trying to onsight them, so lets try to keep things consistent. All things taken in to account grades are still just a gudeline, learn to read the rock, try leaving the book in your pack and pick routes that look good, too often we stay off routes coz we think they are too hard instead of assessing them from the ground and just going for it, differing strengths in different climbers make some routes easier targets than others so dont limit what you try based simply on a number, a lot of the grades locally are not that accurate anyway. :roll: :!:

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Post by Stu » Tue Dec 13, 2005 5:56 pm

Ok, with all that being said the funny thing is I don't follow any criteria and just get an overall feel of the route and grade and grade it as such. Haven't had any problems so far with most people agreeing with the grades. As for changing to the french grading system, bad move, we have had the system now for a number of years and some of us have only known our current system. With there still being debate on what grade routes are, to change it now would just create a huge amount of confusion and annoyance. The Aussies seem happy, lets leave it as such even if they did cost us the Rugby World Cup :x

Greg Hart

Post by Greg Hart » Mon Dec 19, 2005 3:17 pm

:idea: A grade poll is needed! Perhaps a spreadsheet with all the routes listed where people could enter what grade they thought a route was (after having climbed it obviously! No guessing) and write a brief comment as well. One could also register new or unlisted routes.The grades would be moderated and averaged out and the results could then feed directly into building a comprehensive and accurate route database for SA.

Not a new idea as 8a Nu and Rockclimbing .com have similar setups on their sites but very few local climbers have been entering information on those sites.

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Why do we climb?

Post by Andy Davies » Tue Dec 20, 2005 9:43 am

Come on guys and girls - does it really matter what number a route gets? Sure we are all competitive, but people who only try and climb a route that they fit into will never improve to become the complete climber - ie a tall climber always ticking reachy routes or Hulk always climbing meaty overhangs. The complete climber will climb everything. People who climb only for the number soon fade - they lack the passion.

Our grading system is sweet and simple and needs no adjustment - be proud of it - just like the many languages and cultures we have in this country. Even within France there are many grading discrepencies, so you can imagine the difference between Spain, France and Italy!

Moral of the story - get out and crank as many hard routes as possible.

Post by » Tue Dec 27, 2005 8:04 am

Thank God, at least there are still a few of us that still climb because it's fun... Get out there and have an adventure! So what if a route is sandbagged or overgraded, does it really matter? At least you can use it as an excuse for your failed attempt :oops or maybe impress a potential love interest 8)

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