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Sunday, 23 March 2008

Your Sunday Sermon - Grades: A Question of Integrity

Before I start this special Easter Sunday sermon I would like to state that rock climbing is about the experience, the feeling of flowing over stone is unparalled in this world (although I must admit a good BJ hits the spot too!). However in order to track improvement and to classify rock climbs one man called Albert Gradestein invented grades. Grades now have a prominent place in modern rock climbing. Love em or hate em you can’t ignore them and whilst not being a science it’s still pretty easy to get it right. I would like to address the global phenomenon of overgrading (specifically regarding boulder problems). Overgrading is a relatively new trend, more likely to be found in new skool bouldering venues. Switzerland is a perfect example of this. Even though Font is just up the road in some cases they have got it spectacularly wrong. I tried one boulder called Schule de Lebens on my last trip to Swizzy in January. It was too hard for me but it become instantly apparent that this problem was a long way short of the given grade of 8b. My mind drifted over to benchmarks such as Hubble, Malcs Start, The Ace, problems that deserve the magical grade of 8b. On these problems I would not be able to hang the positions on the crux never mind contemplate doing them one day. My suspicions were confirmed when I heard the news that Martin Smith had done Schule de Lebens from a low start and graded it 8a+ (so that would be 8b+ in swizzy grades!!!). A true knight of the realm! I’m not saying the whole of Swizzy is privy to blanket overgrading. Much of the grading there is on the money. However my children, when one finds a rock climb that is overgraded they must find it within ourselves to resist the big number and take the true path. Getting a grade wrong is not a crime (this is often the case in First ascents) but taking a grade when one knows it to be wrong is a sin.
The second part of this week’s sermon is about grade conversions, specifically with the V grades of the USA in mind. Last winter I made the pilgrimage to Hueco Tanks. While I was there it became apparent that the conversion from Hueco V grades to Font grades was in fact a tricky game to play. Before I go any further I would like to state that I didn’t question the V grades, they were developed in Hueco originally so the problem doesn’t lie with them. However there has been a tendency in Hueco for those with 8a.nu scorecards to fall into the trap of converting problems without any thought for there true font grades. For example taking 7c for every V9 or 8a+ for every V12 is incorrect. Here are some examples:
Mangum V9 = 7b+ Notorious D.I.G. V9 = 7c
Free Willy V10 = 7c+ Predator V10 = 7c
Barefoot on Sacred Ground V12 = 8a Full Monty V12 = 8a+

At the end of the day as long as folk can sleep at night then none of this all matters but when its so easy to get it right why not do so? On that note I’m bringing this weeks Sermon to a close, god bless you all and happy crimping! Enjoy some Hueco Tanks footage:

2 comments:

Tim said...

Amen Brother!

lore said...

bloggage taken to the next level.
god bless you, bless flowing on rock, and bless BJ's.
nibs.