I read Pierre´s blog post which mentioned his views on grades and then more recently Neals post briefly mentioned the same topic and both made me smile. Pierre divides the field into two distinct halves. Those that climb purely for the beauty and freedom offered by seeking out and executing a perfect move on an aesthetic line regardless of grade… and those who use grades and numbers to gauge their progress and measure their manhood. Is it that simple? I must come across as a number obsessed monster because I must admit I find grades and what they represent very motivating… and sure I write about them enough! Just check out my blog’s latest Wordle!
There is no point in me trying to say that I climb without care of grades because it´s just not true. But at the same time my most proud climbing moments are the ones when everything felt good and there was the perfect balance of movement and tension… grades don´t linger in my memories, it´s the colours, the air, the sounds and the feeling of climbing something well that stays. I know it´s the moves that appeal to me and the feeling of progress that comes with figuring out a path through a poor selection of holds. I know this. But yet grades motivate me in a very real and open way. Experience has taught me that the best movement has been found on the harder lines. I love the feeling of being just on. That on off moment when you´ve latched an edge and don´t know if you´re still on or about to fly. Every second after a move like that is a gift of chance and should be enjoyed. Fighting to the top would be like the cherry on the cake. But as personal standards progress it stands to reason that moments like these only exist at or near your personal limit. It´s inescapable. Another side of my personality could be described as competitive or maybe it´s just a failing in me that I feel I need to prove myself in some way. A byproduct of being the fat kid? Who knows! But honestly I just don´t feel good about my climbing if I’m not giving 100% (as good or as bad as that may be!) and whats the point in doing anything if you don´t feel good as a result? However when I try hard and dig deep (either physically or mentally) I feel great – regardless of success or failure. It psyches the shit out of me to have to fight! And when success arrives it´s a great personal achievement but also it represents something I’ve put a lot of myself into. Thought, effort, training… always on your mind. And it then becomes more and more like something that I want to share. And in that respect grades are useful because I can say “Hey guess what grade I just sent” instead of giving a blow by blow account of every inch of hold and the indescribable tension between each move. Whats the harm in grades? There seems to be such a stigma attached to using them as a tool to measure personal progress. I don´t see why? If the grades weren’t there I’d still be on the same routes and trying just as hard. I suppose I’d just compare routes to each other on a personal scale to see improvement or consistency in effort. Forget it! Keep climbing whatever way makes you happy and I’ll promise to do the same! Theres a lot of rock out there and so far I’ve not found two routes the same. That’s a lot of moves to be experienced and not much time to do it in. Happy climbing!