This is a copy of an article that I wrote for VL magazine a few weeks ago. Before you charge through it though, I'd just like to clarify a few things. I am shit at grading, clearly!As such, I am taking a hiatus from grading any new problems, in a Sharma-like fashion. I am also a very front on climber. Usually when I do things, I do them quickly with a minimum of trickery. No heels, perhaps a toe here and there, but I live by the mantra 'front step and pull.' So, if you find some other way to do one of my problems, well done, glad for you, but that's probably not the way I did it. Does it make the grade wrong? Maybe. In the scheme of things, does it matter? Hells no. Is it still a good problem? I hope so. So enjoy the read and let me know what you think...
It seems that there are a lot of things that create serious angst amongst us climbers. When am I going to get out next? Who am I going to climb with? Has my pulley healed sufficiently to bear down on that hold? Does my arse look big in this harness? (Yes.) And, most importantly, what grade is the boulder or route am obsessing over at the moment?
|The Quickening, V10 my way? 9 yours?|
There are few subjects as personal or divisive in climbing as grading. But, more importantly, there is also nothing as subjective as the grade of a boulder problem. What may be easy for you could be bullet-hard for someone of similar talent but different build. And what you find impossible, perhaps a delicate slab, may be a piece of piss for an old Font master who can barely wipe his own arse without the assistance of a full-time carer but waltzes up V11 slabs with ease. (Note: the author may have been witness to such events in the past and may harbour some insecurities as a result.)
|Big Al bringing a consensus grade to |
Blackbeard's Delight V8
What is often forgotten in any grade debate is that the most important thing is the quality of the problem, not the number. Of course, as human beings, we want to measure our own progress (and, occasionally, the progress of our friends), and because of this overwhelming need for comparison, we create grades. In my mind, grading works in the following way: the first ascentionist suggests a grade, people repeat it and eventually a consensus on the grade is reached If you come along and don't agree with the grade – and the problem has been repeated a million times – you're either weak or a beast, you decide. But, whatever you do, don't take it out on the first ascentionist.
|Return of the King, Unrepeated, so still V10|
Now, let me educate you a little about first ascents. When someone does a new problem, they normally splurt out a number that is an indication of how hard something felt for them. And let me tell you, if you have spent an age working a problem, you're probably going to give it a big number to soothe your fragile ego. However, more importantly than the grade, they are thinking of a kick-ass name that highlights the issues plaguing the world on that particular day: who is so hot right now or what film they got baked and watched last night. NOT TO MENTION BEING THE FIRST TO FIGURE OUT MOVES?
I am sure there are people who lie awake at night and think long and hard about what other people are going to think of their latest addition to the world of bouldering. I, however, could not possibly give less of a shit about what other people think. I climb because I love it. I climb because I love to be outdoors. I climb because it feels right to me. But sitting around and discussing grades for prolonged periods of time moves away from all the things that I love about climbing and, in all honesty, it becomes a massive wank in the end. If the grade of a problem is so important to you that you can't possibly move on, then you are probably in the wrong game. There is no exactness in climbing. Problems cannot be measured in the same way that a run can be timed or a bike ride recorded. The best you can ever hope for in bouldering and climbing in general is a firm consensus. Even then, how often have you heard the following conversation or similar around the campfire? ‘Man,’ or perhaps ‘Dude’, ‘that thing is so soft, it feels like v9 to me.’ ‘Are you serious esé?’ (I like to sit around Mexican campfires) ‘That thing is fucken hard, I can barely touch that sloper.’
Just ease up before you start spraying on your 8a.fuckwit account about the FA's idocy, maybe the developer is a short arse (like me), or perhaps they are completely beastly when it comes to crimping (unlike me). Most importantly remember this little pearl, take it all with a grain of salt peeps and enjoy the sport for what it is, climbing fucking rocks. That's what we do, nothing more, nothing less.