BBC - Weather Centre - Forecast for Llandudno, United Kingdom

Thursday, 3 March 2011

The Grade Creep

There has been some debate via email this week by the Bolt Fund guide committee on the grade of Masterclass on the Orme. Masterclass was originally graded 7c+ by Jerry Moffatt and was regarded for years as benchmark for the grade. These days most regard it as solid 8a and this raises an interesting issue for the guide. Do you keep historical routes such as Masterclass as their original grades or do you bring them in line with modern standards? My argument has been that it is more important for the grades of routes to be relative to one another than sticking to different grading scales for different eras. To give Masterclass 7c+ would affect all the other routes around 7c+/8a in the area. This is also an issue on the global scene. When Wolfgang Gullich climbed Action Directe he graded it Xl which equated to 8c+/9a. Ben Moon and Jerry Moffatt were also pushing the limits at the time and their ascents were defining the grading system at the top end. Ben had done Agincourt one of the worlds first 8c's and Hubble the worlds first 8c+. Jerry had established Liquid Ambar in 1990, Britain's first 8c. In the mid 90s however Moon was becoming alarmed at the contracting of the grading scale and reports of 9a's and even 9b going up when he believed that 8c and 8c+ had not been consolidated properly. The grade creep had started! After doing Bronx and Super Plafond 8c+ in France, Moon believed them to be no harder than two 8c's in Britain, Sea of Tranquility and Liquid Ambar. Action Directe which Moon had got close to and believed it to be hard 8c+ soon became regarded as 9a and that was probably the catalyst for the way grades evolved at the top end. The proliferation of sport climbing areas across the world also had an impact and the parameters set out in the late 80s/early 90s soon became diluted. In Britain we have clung onto some of those early standards and certain routes like Liquid Ambar have retained their original grades over the years. It is clear now though that despite the historical repercussions (Britain's first 8c being 8c+!) that it makes no sense to keep these routes within a grade paremeter that is now obselete. These days we have Ondra travelling extensively and repeating most hard stuff old and new everywhere he goes. He has donwgraded many routes and upgraded some. Significantly he upgraded Huber's mega route from 96 Open Air to 9a+. These are significant shifts but at the end of the day although its a shame that the early pioneer's vision of the grading system has been adjusted somewhat it is more important that a grading system is consistent and depicts a routes difficulty in relation to other routes.

No comments: