Friday, 20 April 2012

Grades in Ireland

Accurately grading dynos, especially jug to jug ones is pretty pointless.
Do you think that irish grades are inaccurate compared to Font?

I totally agree about grading dynos - especially for the lanky. And yes, “So it goes right” is one of the more morpho problems I’ve done. It’s a 5+ if you can reach the flake, 6C+ if you have to step up using the micro undercut crimp for your right hand and impossible if you can’t do either. Great piece of rock though.
Before i go on about grades can I just acknowledge that I'm not claiming to be able to do anything about grades or that I could/would do anything differently. This is not a criticism, rather it is an outsider's observations and an honest account of my perception of things as I see them. I say outsider as most of my bouldering to date has been done in the UK, France, Switzerland and Spain. 
As for Irish grades – yes, I find them sometimes off the mark or at the very least, inconsistent at the minute between areas and styles. But that is only my personal opinion (which is all anyone can offer) and I acknowledge there are boulderers out there far more experienced and fitter than myself at present who may disagree. I think that’s to be expected with the lion’s share of the grading during the past ten years being done by each area's discoverer and main developers. With more time and increased traffic on the problems thanks to the guide they’ll all settle and come in line with each other. In general I think the Irish grades are stiff. In my mind that can be attributed to two factors.
The first one is easy – an overdeveloped cultural sense of sandbagging merged with a dark sense of humour. I remember Pierre writing a great blog about the Irish attitude towards achievement and I think this is reflected in the grades we give somewhat.

The second reason that I’ve thought about is the “Local factor” – basically Irish climbers climb at the same venue week on week and progress through the problems and grades there. Over time they repeat many of their previous projects as warmups and become local experts. They know the rock better than anyone, the style, conditions etc… Then they compare how hard they have to try to climb a 7A on home turf with how hard they try to climb a 7A in say Font. Completely different rock, style, conditions etc…  They may have to give 20 or 30% more effort to climb a problem of similar difficulty away from home but instead of acknowledging this they downgrade their home problems. So what takes 100% effort at home aligns with what took 100% effort on a trip away. It’s just not the case and it really does take time and hours upon hours of training on a specific rock type to be able to preform on it as well as you would at your local venue. Peoples 3 annual trips to Font don't make them on par with the locals - you may climb as hard as them, but you're trying a damn lot harder for the tick.

So I've critiqued but what can I offer as a positive counter balance to the above? Well the fact that at the end of the day grades are irrelevant. The point of bouldering is to perfect and enjoy the movement regardless of numbers - simply working something that inspires us regardless of reason. The rock in Ireland is amazing! The craic bouldering in Ireland or away with Irish is unbeatable. The grades will settle with time and through discussion. Look at the groove SS in Glendalough for example - it's already begun.


ciaran said...

In my opinion grades in Ireland are indeed stiff, because of the reasons you have given above and also because the grades are based on Font grades, most Irish go on bouldering holidays to Font were the grades were proposed well before all the footholds became like marble and made the problems much harder. The grades in the northside co-op are laughable, way off the mark, complete sandbags. If this kind of culture was repeated outdoors on the Irish rock the grades would surely all be wrong !! So It Goes Right is a 6C+ and should be indicated as morpho in the guide, all morpho problems are indicated as such in the Albarracin guide and it works quite well.

Barry said...

The groove, a strange situation and not a question of the method used by the first ascentionist being wrong; original grade of 7c, accurate. New beta, downgrade to 7b/7a+, accurate. I've heard, although not seen, that a 'new' hold has appeared (totally different debate)and a further downgrade might be required (7a/7a+). However, I haven't climbged it with the new hold so my opinion is meaningless on this one.

Also, many problems have had only one/two ascents so the grade are still up for question. Moreover, those who do the problem first suggest a grade, that is the grade until a repeat is made. Those who repeat confirm/open the debate. Those who haven't climbed the problem, their opinions don't count as eyeballing etc does not allow for accurate grading.

Dave said...

Cheers Ciaran and Barry,

I wouldn't go into indoor grades as they're a different world altogether. Agree with Barry and it's another factor for sure - lack of repeats to confirm and settle grades - like i said, it's gonna come with time, spured on my the Guide and conversation. Eyeballing - no place for it. Ascentionists opinions only.

davo said...

Funnily I'm just writing a bit about grades for me new book.

"Difficulty in climbing is highly subjective, dependant on a myriad of factors (body type, height, experience, weather etc). To accurately summarise and generalise that difficulty in an objective grading system is pretty much impossible. So don’t take grades seriously, just treat them as rough guesses and as a crude means of identifying problems you might be able for."

Grades = a load of bollox (indoor grades = absolute bollox).

Despite writing a guide book I have very little interest in grades. Having said that I can't help joining in discussions like this one but it's rarely to argue that a problem given 6a is acutally 6a+.

Barry and Dave. I completely disagree that you have to climb a problem to be entitled to an opinion on the grade. Granted someone who has done a problem is in a better position to grade it accurately, all other things been equal.

"'s already begun" It has been going on for a while now Dave.

Barry said...

In my experience of other countries, grades are relatively objective, based on there being relatively good conditions, and determined through consensus between those who have established and repeated the problem. Agreed, people can have opinions on a grade and express these but if these relatively baseless opinions are a part of the consensus in determining a grade, no wonder they'd be so subjective.

P.S. the great grade debate continues....

Neal McQuaid said...

Ahhhh, grades! who cares really, decide yourself whether 'x' route/problem was harder for you than 'y' route/problem. I only find grades annoying when they're miles out, if it's a half-grade to a letter grade, who cares really.

And with all the new ultra-young generation coming through, it's all going to potentially get up-ended anyway. From's site about 10-year old Ashima's ascent of an 8b: "I personally think grades are meaningless, a rough estimate. Ashima has proven this by taking everything we thought they knew about grades and throwing it out the window. Its all about your perspective not about a number someone labeled the rock with."

Let's just re-grade everything by ' easy / o.k. / do-able / do-able if I pull out the finger / something-to-aspire-to-but-might-never-do / freaks-of-nature-only "? :)

Barry said...

Fact is Neal, lots of people care about grades and, from your blogging, I think that this would include you. This is not to say that grades are the be all and end all but they do figure - progress etc.

As you said, a good way of deciding a grade is to decide whether route x is harder than route y which would have been graded. In terms of superstars, and definitely not just a matter of labeling, Adam Ondra is trying to grade objectively by climbing through the higher grades, (9a etc etc) progressively so as he can gain an understanding of what a grade means in terms of difficulty.

Neal McQuaid said...

Fair points Barry! I care about grades in that I like to see personal progress like many others, but not in the particular of climbing 'x' grade - having said that, I'd be willing to bet a lot of people only pick up on when I write the number '8' before a route which is a real pity. Anyway, that's another topic, whether the current climbing grading schemes work or hold people back.....

Grades will always be weird/odd and hard to get right. There's too many variables in climbing - rock type, temperatures, etc., let alone body shapes, etc to get too upset about it. Dave F's comment for the new book is a pretty good description :)

Pierre said...

Talking about dynos, I came accross this vid of Clark Kent in Meschia (7c+ apparently)

That's a proper use of "putain!" hihi...

Dave said...