Thursday 27 July 2006

Grades #2

For those who like to spend much time discussing grades (are they so interesting?) here is some further comment on the grading of top trad routes. Grades are generally given for an onsight ascent. However, the many new routes above E7/8 have all been opened after abseil cleaning/inspection and/or top rope practice. Therefore, prediciting what it would be like to onsight E10 is stupid and rather pointless. Who knows what that will be like? no one at the moment anyway. We can only give grades bases on a subjective feeling of increments of overall difficulty we experience. Grading can work perfectly well that way, although it is subject to the same complications it always had (hyping, sandbagging, new sequences etc...). A. B. Hill (writing in 1965 about the structure and significance of scientific research) says it better than I could:

"All scientific work is incomplete - whether it be observational or experimental. All scientific work is likely to be upset or modified by advancing knowledge. That does not confer upon us a freedom to ignore the knowledge we already have, or postpone action that it appears to demand at a given time"

I see that many people want to view other peoples grades through the straightjacket of their own mental models. For example comparing the number of days it took me to climb different hard routes and using that to question me (while not in posession of enough information!). People also assume that grading systems are a mess just becuase they either don't understand how they work or do not take into account the subjectivity of grading and influence of other factors.

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