Logic Grading – a different approach to 9th grade quotation
In the recent past I have launched several high graded boulders and routes that claim from their appearance to be among the hardest in the world. They are not far from it, but they are nothing in comparison to what the strong young guns have done in the last years. I decided to grade them like this anyway. I have my reasons. I will explain.
There are many well formed climbers in the world who should know what reasoning and the search for truth, what objectivity (or at least intersubjectivity) and science mean. But what we do is pure voodoo (this is not new, but what is new, is that we could to different). Let me explain.
Up to the grade 9a (that has clearly suffered to inflation when it became more of a mass product) we had and have a golden rule (or two) that always worked out well and were the easiest way to geat a rough idea of how hard a route or a boulder is: onsighting the a-grade, means climbing the b-grade in a day, the c-grade in several (about perhaps five) days and the c+-grade only after intense projecting. Differently said: for every plus you have to invest roughly the double effort. These rules account for the well balanced climber who has everything from maximum strength to endurance in the same way and under stable outside and inside conditions (especially counting only the days of steady progressing).
When I was still a student and no father, I found myself climbing a lot outdoors (actually I was never climbing indoors) and through all the seventh and especially the eighth grade I could perfectly apply these two rules. 8a+ onsight, 8b in two or three trys, 8b+ in four to six, … , 9a in thirty. I am not talking about Greece, Turkey or many parts of Spain (just to name a few), climbing there meant the cut down the number of tries by 25% to 50%. I rather refer to Céüse, the german speaking part of Switzerland or the Frankenjura. But with these corrections the rules worked well.
I climbed my first “9a” A Muerte in 2008 and my first real one Force du rapport in 2010. I sent two 9a, the two Cromosome routes in Charmey (the X one slightly too soft) the same day and repeated some others too fast (Cabane au Canada, Jungle Speed), seven in total. I'd say I had a proper 9a level. (Including Minimalomania, a boulder traverse in 2013, that again is some harder than the others.)
It appeared just as a matter of time until I would be able to take the next step.
Then I got confronted to what modern grading above 9a was meant to be. Nowadays. I tried Via de la Capella (9b) in Siurana and found it really hard. I heard that the uncrowned king (if it is not hair) of climbing worked nine days in it and then went south to “kill” Chilam Balam in only five tries, without downgrading it more than to 9b. This sounded suspicious to me. This difference in effort is much too wide for such a wholly talented climber. At least Via de la Capella had to be a really hard 9b. What isn't the case. It is supposed to be a “lower level one” (the first ascender). A real 9b of the kings hands at the moment has to take five days of intense training. Coming from a rather solid 9a onsight level.
Of c has become b.(At least when it is him who did it first.)
I suppose that b+ actually means a again...
Humbleness is without any dought pretty noble. But not very practical. We totally lose the ability to compare routes on this level, we would have to put the first ascender in brackets to know hard something is. And we create an enormous bias between the 8th and the 9th grade. Since 2014 we have the pleasure to house the hardest 9a in Switzerland and probably one of the hardest in the world in Chamey. Transcription. As you have to have the kings finger diameter (that practically no one has) to lock off the crux move and as the whole thing even with thick fingers is extremely hard, we can now observe something really funny. In the surrounding of Charmey you can find several 8c+ that are (listen!) four to even five “pluses” easier than Transcription. They come from the last generation of kings. I proposed to downgrade them at least to 8c, rather 8b+, what to my knowledge never has been done, but still there would be an incoherence of one or two “pluses”. What can mean the world at your own limit, as everybody knows.
I thought a long time about how to grade all the hard stuff form the new level of climbing that I had the extreme luck to achieve after my six months breakand I was flattered by the kings humbleness and kindness, his intelligence and openness to the world outside the microcosm climbing when I learned to know him, I was tempted to join his followers of “deflationists” and give up my dream of ever climbing something harder than 9a+. Because repeating something that meant five days of intense training to him is a privilege to... him and at this moment two or three other climbers in the world. Whereas climbing a “logic” 9b (an 9a+ of him) is much more achievable. Even for me.
So I decided not to join but keep my head and keep my reason. To keep it logic.
Welcome to logic grading. Let's open up the 9th grade again!
Let's not only feel that we are getting stronger, let's give it an visible expression. We ain't running out of numbers, nor out of letters. Why not attack the 10, when climbing has made such a big leap forward, as it has done in the last decade. We are not Güllich anymore, not physically. Let's keep his mind in honor, but let's admit that we've moved on. Action directe for some has become a training route. That's all there is to say.