Thursday, 11 January 2007

Grades grades grades.......

I took the paragraphs below/rant out of the post about Blind Vision and posted it separately so it doesn't bore people and to separate the often negative bullshit that goes along with grade arguments from the enjoyment of the climbing I had.

So here we go once again – another E10 repeat and the same tiresome process of deciding ‘what grade is it in my opinion?’ It would be so nice to sidestep the whole shebang. The primary reason being that it always overshadows the important part; the climbing. However, it is important nonetheless and I must give it thought. If you are interested to hear, I’ll think aloud right now… (if not I don’t blame you!!)

What are the facts I have to go on then?

Blind Vision took me three 1 hour sessions of top roping (curtailed by rain) followed by a lead in less than good visibility. It comprises of a highball (but not exceptionally highball) Font 7c+ or 8a, followed by an E8. But the boulder problem is hard enough to prevent a good proportion of E8 or even a few E9 climbers succeeding on it.

My opinion is that an E10 climber should dispatch Font 8a no problem (if not Font 8b). And anyone who can climb the boulder problem should find the top wall pretty easy unless they have very little experience in headpointing.

Other feelings… Blind Vision is definitely easier than If Six was Nine (which I have done the moves on during a 30 min session on the way home from Breathless). Its also easier than the Scottish E9s and I’d say it felt like 2 grades easier than Rhapsody. However, its harder than Breathless and Divided Years (but then they are E8s!).So these days I am getting more confused about the difference between the grades at E8 and above. My plan (weather and work permitting) is to try to repeat more existing hard trad soon. So I should do that first and then I’ll have a clearer idea of what E9, E10 and E11 mean.

But maybe not… This is why it takes more repeats to get a consensus going. One thing to make clear is that I do not intend to sidestep the process of forming a strong opinion about what grade all of these routes are. But I’m aware that with very few others going around a repeating hard routes, the reputations of these climbs (in the short term at least) are subject to the opinions of a very few climbers. Not a good situation. So it is good plan I think to repeat as many routes as possible before casting an opinion that affects how the sport views the hardest routes and how they relate to one another as achievements. I see from reading Dave Graham’s blog that the same process is happening still at the top level in sport climbing. Dave seems to be battling whether the inflation of early key routes like Action Direct up to 9a when they were never actually given that grade in the first place has caused a knock on effect that continues today. Dave at times seems like a one man mission to downgrade a lot of routes. Some people accuse me of the same thing in trad. Those people don’t know me though and make stupid assumptions about my motivation for climbing. I think that Dave G is only after a more level playing field and credit where credit is due for both his peers and predecessors in sport climbing. I feel the same about trad. What Dave doesn’t really deal with in his blog post is that the actual number is irrelevant. Who cares if Action Direct is 7a or 10a? its just a number. Dave is swimming against a tide by recognising that Action Direct might be ‘old school 8c+’ just like Hubble. Are a world full of sponsored climbers going to listen if he wants all these 9as to come down to 8c? nae chance. So maybe the minority of old school routes will have to have the upgrade in recognition that they are still up there above many other routes masquerading as being cutting edge.

The same themes are being played out in trad exactly. It seems to me that the only ideal situation would be for several climbers to repeat all the hardest trad routes there are and then say with genuine authority which ones are E9s and which are E10 or harder. For my part at least I can say I am out there on the crag working my way through the routes one by one. It may be that I will feel that more routes are in need of losing an E point in order to be fair to their counterparts. If people think I have some other agenda in my efforts other than to enjoy climbing and compete, f**k em. What more can you do than base your opinion on hard won ascents rather than armchair specualtion, and be honest.

1 comment:

  1. Dave, Congrats on your sweet send. I will join you on your quest for consistant top end grades, just as soon as it stops raining...
    Upon reading your comments about hard trad not being that hard, I've decided to take my tampon out and try some of the harder routes. I made the 3rd ascent of a 7c on the west coast which had thrown off a few of good climbers (most of whom are on the E5 list) so no more excuses - chemin de fer here I come!!
    Cheers, Mike Lee