What’s Up With The Grades?!
This is the Now*
*Please take with one grain of salt. There really is no direct correlation, we judge based on factors like hold size, move size, and move difficulty, group consensus, and our past experiences.
We’ve been getting the question about our grades a little bit in the last few days, and it’s not unexpected. Since the last comp we have been trying to dial the grade scale in to where it “should” be. If you are wondering why we would do this to you, here’s what we are thinking:
We were getting a lot of comments that people were hitting the brick wall, so to speak, at a certain grade. We were also having a situation where some felt that there wasn’t much difference between 5 spots and 5+ spots. That is 2/15ths of our scale, used up in basically one grade. Similarly, the low end of the scale wasn’t getting spread out very much. While it is true that to the 4 spot climber, 1 spots, 2 spots, and maybe even 3- spots will feel the same, we are trying to spread out those lower grades so that for a 1, 2, or 3- spot climber they can fairly distinguish between difficulty and see progression. Similarly, we want to move the higher grades into more consistent levels so if you do a 5+ spot you know you’re climbing really really hard! We’d like there to be a more visible progression between 3-, 3, 3+, 4-, 4, 4+, 5-, 5, and 5+. Remember, if you are climbing a lot harder than a grade set it may be difficult to distinguish why a 3+ is easier than a 4-, but if you are projecting 4- it may be very very obvious when a crimp is a bit too small or a move a bit too large for the problem to be 3+.
The problem with any grade scale is that different problems of the same grade can feel completely different. Let’s take an example my friend Rocco recently shared when we were talking about grades in Hueco. In the East Spur Maze, which is a very popular and well traveled area, there are 3 classic V5 problems: Jingus Bells, Jigsaw Puzzle, and Slim Pickins.
Slim Pickins is a technical smear slab with imaginary holds.
Jingus Bells is a route-length problem on a huge slightly-overhanging boulder through fairly decent holds with a large dyno at the top.
Jigsaw Puzzle is a fairly beta-intensive sideways climb through incut edges on an shortish overhanging face.
Most people who top out anywhere near V5 (or V6, 7, 8, or more!) cannot do all 3 of these problems, but most people in that ability range can do at least one. I, for example, did Slim Pickins on my first trip to Hueco. I did Jigsaw Puzzle two years ago (and I still maintain the beta is to try like it’s V8 instead of V5). I will probably never do Jingus Bells, as the dyno is big and very scary for me. Other friends I know have had the opposite experience. Jingus Bells is pretty straightforward, so if you can dyno you can pull through it without much in the way of beta. Slim Pickins is very beta intensive. Jigsaw is a mix depending on how strong and how lucky you are. The styles are completely different. But they are all considered the same grade.
With that in mind, consider that different problems of the same “grade” at The Spot will not always feel the same. That does not mean we’re big jerk idiots. It means there are many factors, and it may be your inexperience with a certain move/hold/type of climbing, it may be beta you haven’t figured out yet, we may have misestimated the difficulty of a certain move or hold, something could have spun, you could be tired (or, if you flash harder than you think you should, you could be having a super good day), etc etc… The point of grades is to give you a base guideline so you have an idea of what you should be warming up on, what you should be trying, and how you are progressing; however, they are not perfect, and please know that we really are trying hard to make things as consistent as we can so you can have a good time and push yourself at The Spot.
As always, with questions or feedback please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org