Guidebook Grades

Guidebook Grades

Posted on 11. Mar, 2010 by in News

Over the past several weeks I have been working on the guidebook. Many of the descriptions have been written and it is starting to come together. It’s my hope that the community will be behind what I produce and I feel there is no better way to do that then to involve all of you. There are several problems which come into question and I hope this blog serves as a good place to discuss the grades of several problems in question. I have talked to many climbers already but the more I can involve the better. Already it’s obvious that some people are not going to see the grades they would like to see, and others will be very excited. If you’ve climbed any of these problems please feel free to comment on their grade! Thanks for the input. There will be no slash grades in the guidebook so keep that in mind.

The Park
The Kind Traverse V10 or V11
Sunspot V10 or V11
Riddles in the Park V11 or V12
Wildcat V11 or V12
Jade V14 or V15

Mt. Evans
Silverback V8 or V9 or V10 or V11
Clear Blue Skies V11 or V12
Mental Pollution V10 or V11
Public Execution V9 or V10
Ode to the Modern Man V13 or V14

59 Responses to “Guidebook Grades”

  1. Lee

    11. Mar, 2010

    Average what you’ve heard and don’t round up – you’ll be set!

  2. Maxim

    11. Mar, 2010

    Why not include slash grades? I think most of the problems you listed are prime candidates for the slash grade…

    Why err on one side or the other when you can please both sides AND be more accurate?

  3. B3

    11. Mar, 2010

    I think, because 8a is as prevalent as it is, that giving a problem a slash-grade is the same as just calling it the higher of the two numbers. Very few would take the lower grade. I don’t like the idea of slash grades generally. Grades are confusing enough as is, they probably don’t need to get more specific.

  4. camp

    11. Mar, 2010

    slash grades

  5. B3

    11. Mar, 2010

    I am open to listening to arguments for slash-grades, but let’s hear some reasoning for them.

  6. DaveH

    11. Mar, 2010

    Why V14 for Jade? You’d know better than me, but as far as I can tell everyone who has done it has agreed with V15.

  7. DaveH

    11. Mar, 2010

    Also, just a personal observation about slash grades is that I find that when people are presented with a slash grade they more accurately and confidently choose one grade over the other.

    “It’s definitely only V9 for me” or “For me, it’s hard, totally V10”.

    But I guess it’s different when you’re trying to write a guide, and one of your main purposes is to grade everything.

  8. chuffer

    11. Mar, 2010

    RANT: First off, the success of this guidebook should have absolutely nothing to do with the grades in the guidebook. The popularity of threads that discuss grades on this website, however, suggests some of us can’t get enough of them. RANT OVER.

    I would advocate that slash grades are appropriate for a lot of problems at ALL the grades, probably not a majority, but a lot of problems. Anyway, with the caviat that you’ve already decided against slash grades and your mind cannot be changed, I like Lee’s approach. However, consider rounding up when it’s really close, say .80 and up.

    For example, assume you are presented with the following 10 reported grades for a problem called STAND START:

    STAND START: V8, V7, V7, V7, V7, V7, V7, V7, V6, V6 with an AVG = V6.9

    Under Lee’s system, this problem would be V6.
    I think a better grade for this problem is V7.

    Consider another problem with the following 10 reported grades for a problem called SIT START:

    V11, V11, V11, V11, V11, V11, V11, V11, V11, V10 with an AVG = V10.9

    Under Lee’s system, this problem would be V10.
    I think a better grade for this problem is V11.

    Just my 2 cents.

  9. B3

    11. Mar, 2010

    Ok I appreciate the discussion but I really was looking for input on those problems.
    Chip, I tried to post things about access issues at Mt. Evans, but no one seems to care, sadly.
    My motivation is to really get some feedback about some borderline problems from the people that climb them, outside of 8a.
    The reason I put Jade on there is that is the first question that everyone at the gym seems to want to ask.

  10. Mike B

    11. Mar, 2010

    No slash grades. By offering a slash grade, some may choose to say that they thought the V9/10 was closer to 11 because it may have been particularly hard for them. I personally go back and forth with my understanding and comprehension of climbing grades. Then I feel stronger than ever, send some stuff and go somewhere else and have to try way harder on lower grades than I thought I would.

    I think that slash grades have a negative effect on the way that bouldering especially is interpreted. By condensing something into so few moves makes it very person dependent. an inch of reach or height to prevent feet cutting can make a climb feel like V8 to some and V12 to others. by inserting a slash grade into a published work could be devastating because people will already make them themselves.

    the “it gets V10 but it FELT like V8 to me”, or the “thats only V10 if you have a 6’5″ reach” already are heard at every bouldering area and I personally would encourage you not to insert this into a guidebook to one of the most amazing climbing areas in the world.

    Just my two cents for what thats worth. Hope to see you in Joe’s when the snow melts a little more

  11. Crafty

    11. Mar, 2010

    I don’t have anything to input as far as the grades listed, sorry.

    But, it sounds like the access issues at Evans are pretty well under control. I’m sorta missing what exactly needed discussion? Why exactly do you and Chip seem frustrated with the whole thing? It seems like most of the requests brought about by the ranger have been stated over and over again (if not explicitly about evans, then at the park and other areas), and are relatively reasonable. Either way, I think this guide will be a good thing for the bouldering there.

    Didn’t even Nalle, the fastest repeat of Jade to date, suggest V15? I’m just curious about this one- the speed of his repeat does sorta call it into question.

    best of luck with the guide.

  12. Stephen

    11. Mar, 2010

    Disclaimer: I live in Australia and struggle to boulder V4.

    Regarding the problems you haven’t climbed yourself:
    It seems there’s a bit of a split at the moment in the grading of both routes and problems. Grading has been progressing along a certain path, and right now there is a prominent group of people who are questioning that path (rightly or wrongly). So, no matter what you do you’ll annoy one of these groups of people.

    Regarding problems you have climbed yourself, I think it’s the guidebook author’s privilege to exercise their own personal judgement in grading problems that they have done. This is normally done well, especially as most guidebook authors tend to be somewhat humble and have a lot of experience to back up their judgements. It’s great to see you are going to be listening to what other people say, but I hope you don’t feel that you have to please everyone… and remember that sandbags are a time-honoured tradition :)

  13. Justin

    11. Mar, 2010

    Sunspot felt like 11 to me but that was in August of ’05 I had just done my first 11 shortly before that. I may think differently if I tried it now.

  14. JamesO

    11. Mar, 2010

    “think, because 8a is as prevalent as it is, that giving a problem a slash-grade is the same as just calling it the higher of the two numbers. Very few would take the lower grade.”

    “Take” the lower grade? It is people climbing boulder problems. The real purpose of grades is to act as a guide for what people should and should not try. And on that note something being one grade off is not a very big deal. People only “take” grades on

    Nothing you do should take into account the existence of

    And as for the input you actually want; I strongly believe that Ode to the Modern Man is V14.

  15. B3

    11. Mar, 2010

    James, I know you despise 8a but it is here to stay for better or worse. I agree with your statement “he real purpose of grades is to act as a guide for what people should and should not try. And on that note something being one grade off is not a very big deal. ” Again, the purpose is to try to get some feedback from climbers about some of the borderline problems in the park and evans. I’ll take it all in and make an informed decision.

  16. Pat

    11. Mar, 2010

    Curiously, when is this expected to be released?

  17. B3

    11. Mar, 2010

    Hopefully in early summer.

  18. little photon

    11. Mar, 2010

    Silverback v10, I was psyched to call it my first v11 at the time I did it but realize that some people hike this problem. No way v8 or v9, silverback took me many many trips to sort out and perfect crispy temps to send and is a difficult repeat even when feeling super strong.

  19. rando

    11. Mar, 2010

    I agree with JamesO on his point about “taking” higher or lower grades. It seems as if you’re partly motivated by preventing people from “padding” their score cards. This motive could result in biasing grades one particular way simply in response to 8a and not necessarily to hold up a particular standard of grading. I think there’s nothing wrong with a slash grading system, but it might even be better to have a +/- added to the grade to denote hard or easy for the grade. People already do that when they say ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ anyway. In any case, if you only go with single number grades, you may, as guidebook authors often do, write in the description “hard for the grade” or “reach dependent”, possibly resulting in even more ambiguity than simply applying a slash or +/- grade. It may be beneficial to the grading system to have more levels between numbers because in reality, the difficulty of climbs in on a continuum and not quantal. Consider a particular grade, let’s say V10. At that particular grade, there are hundreds or thousands of problems that are all different. Some will be considered “standard” V10 by 50% of climbers and the other 50% will be split evenly, calling a problem “hard” or “soft”. That problem would merit a V10 rating. If 99% of climbers consider it “hard” V10, maybe that merits a V10+ or V10/V11.
    Obviously that simplification doesn’t consider the hype that can accompany a particular problem and thus lead to it’s grade being inflated, but that seems to be a short term phenomenon that affects only the very high grades that few people can climb. Ultimately the grade of that climb will sort itself out as more people climb harder, but the upper levels will always be fraught with a high degree of uncertainy. I don’t think there’s any way around this.

  20. rando

    11. Mar, 2010

    Also, I think the average system is the best way to go. To get as accurate a grade as possible, it would probably be best to only include the grades submitted by climbers who have climbed >3 problems at least 2 grades above the considered grade. I think this system would, in theory, give the most “objective” grade possible. Rounding would be done simply by adding a +/-. In practice, I doubt anyone is willing to go through the trouble, although could probably develop an automated way to calculate this. Actually, I think it would be tragic to waste good climbing time doing something like this, but in theory I think that would be the most accurate way to determine grades.

  21. B3

    11. Mar, 2010

    thanks for all the input but again, I am looking for input from climber who have climbed these problems. thanks Matt for your input on silverback.

  22. paul r

    11. Mar, 2010

    wild cat is NOT v11. that’s my addition to the book.

  23. sock hands

    11. Mar, 2010

    mental pollution is v13. do not disagree. death will come swiftly.

  24. Nate

    11. Mar, 2010

    I would vote v10 for Public Execution. I have done all the moves but have yet to send. There isn’t 1 showstopper move but I think the sustained difficulty warrants 10 over 9. My disclaimer is that I’ve never tried it in ideal conditions. Always seems to be a bit hotter and slimier than I would like. As far as The Kind I think it is a toss up between the two grades. I would lean towards 11 for the same reason I say 10 for P.E. The sustained difficulty bumps it up in my mind. Good luck with the guide and thanks for putting in all the effort

  25. Thomas

    11. Mar, 2010

    I know you only cared for input on the above problems, but I’m curious what Bierstadt will be rated. Again, sorry for going off topic.

  26. Philip

    11. Mar, 2010

    I think you should go with whatever grade is given to the problem the most. For example with Jade, even if someone repeats it and calls it V14, we would have four climbers who called it V15 and one who called it v14. I think it would be inaccurate to list it as v14 in the guidebook in this case. The same is true for Riddles and Wildcat- these are almost always given v12 by climbers who have sent them.

    As for me, the only climb I have done on that list is Mental Pollution, which personally I thought was v11. However, most climbers who have sent it thought it was v10 so I would say listing it as v10 in the guide is more appropriate.

  27. b money

    11. Mar, 2010

    always go one grade lower than the lowest grade you ever heard. thats what we do here in bama

  28. sock hands

    11. Mar, 2010

    sunspot a bit harder than whispers and kind trav a bit harder than sunspot, all of which are a bit harder than lonestar/stinkbug.

    mental pollution harder than silverback. silverback bit easier than public execution. all of which are harder than bierstadt.

    riddles in the park is harder than jade or ode, if by hard you mean ultra rad and needing to be done by me.

  29. Maxim

    11. Mar, 2010

    Kind Traverse: V10/11
    Sunspot: V10/11
    Riddles in the Park: V12a
    Clear Blue Skies: V12a
    Mental Pollution: V10/11

  30. mervo

    11. Mar, 2010

    Public Execution V9. Just sayin. Felt about the same as Shambhala Traverse and took me about the same amount of time, in the same year.

    (for the record, i also prefer slash grades)

  31. MikeM

    11. Mar, 2010

    Only thing I have been on: Sunspot V10 and it’s only in Middle so it doesn’t deserve the extra point for the hike in.

  32. Jweb

    11. Mar, 2010

    Sunspot I see as v10. Feels much easier than most v11″s in the park.

    Riddles is a great example of a slash grade problem I think. Though I see it as hard v11. It’s hard to put a certain grade on it. Breaking it down I see it as a V9 into a v9. And if you chose to use maxims equation it would sit at v11. Accurate?

    Wildcat I thought was low end v12. But if you were to compare it to your “Colorado standard v12” dark waters, I think v11. Because to me dw feels tons harder. Hints I called it v13.

    Clear blue felt hard for me. Mainly because crimping isn’t my strong suite. But I was able to finish quickly last season and thought maybe hard v11. Also if you were to compare it to it’s two neighbors mental masterbation and nmgg, I see it being a step below.

    Silverback I see as low end v10. Love that slopey shit!

    Just my opinions. Hope it helps!

    Good luck with the book Jamie.

  33. B3

    11. Mar, 2010

    Thanks everyone, @Phil is really the only place to get opinions from people, and I think the stats are skewed (because there is only incentive to take the higher grade) and that is why I am asking here and not just pulling data off of there.
    @Tom I think Bierstadt will get V9.

  34. tendon

    11. Mar, 2010

    Mt. Evans
    Silverback V9
    Clear Blue Skies V11
    Mental Pollution V10
    Public Execution V9
    Ode to the Modern Man V13

    bierstadt v9?…damn you jemerson
    is foreign affairs still double digits at least IYO?

  35. B3

    11. Mar, 2010

    Dude foreign affairs is V11! that thing is hard. Have you seen how people do Beirstadt? The way we did it was def. V10 but so much new beta….
    You don’t get to downrate Ode until you do it Ben….haha

  36. tendon

    11. Mar, 2010

    whew. now i can sleep at night

    Cmon i’ve pulled on all the holds, that counts right?
    people really think its harder then circadian and suspension?
    i’m skeptic…

  37. Rocco

    11. Mar, 2010

    I suggest you shake things up a little bit and take the lower of each grade you listed above, subtract 1, and go with that.

  38. Peter J.

    11. Mar, 2010

    I think you are pretty well set on not using slash grades, but it seems like the above statement would actually warrant them somewhat, “The way we did it was def. V10 but so much new beta….” Now throw into that height, which some don’t really believe is a factor but it certainly is, and I don’t see how one could not use a slash grade in many cases – especially on problems that have been around awhile.

    I think people will be talking about the grades way after the book has been published and it has gone out of print. Make a clear, precise statement at the beginning on why you chose the grades you did, how you went about it, and why, and then let the naysayers be naysayers. It will happen no matter what. I don’t doubt that this guide will be considered one of the best bouldering guides for any area up to now, at least in terms of accuracy of grades, FAs, problem names, etc.

  39. Jesus

    12. Mar, 2010

    WIldcat: V11+
    Two well-respected climbers and “leaders” of the community that have it as V12 climbed it using ridiculously hard V12 beta, but that doesn’t mean everyone else using the easiest way up the line must also take the grade.

    Riddles: V12-
    Something about this problem makes you have to try hard, even if individual moves aren’t too hard.

    Sunspot: V10
    V9 gym-style climbing at it’s best. Just a couple thousand feet up the mountains.

    Mental Polluton: V10
    One single, accessible hard move that can be easily worked. Climbing into it changes the story.

    Jade: No one yet has the right to call it V14, no matter how right they are convinced to be. I wouldn’t have a problem seeing it as V14, but one must first earn the right to make such a powerful claim (and perhaps be proven wrong in the process).

  40. Crafty

    12. Mar, 2010

    Bierstadt I would (retrospectively) call V9, but it took me a ton of work at the time. Granted I wasn’t at the very top of my game. Would like to hop back on and confirm. Stiffer end of V9.

  41. Philip

    12. Mar, 2010

    One more thing… you say “ is really the only place to get opinions from people, and I think the stats are skewed (because there is only incentive to take the higher grade) and that is why I am asking here and not just pulling data off of there.”

    But do you really think this is the place? I mean half of the comments above are either people spraying about how easy problems are for them or downgrading climbs they haven’t even done. No one is going to come on this message board and admit how hard these climbs felt for them at this point. I know we talked about this in person already I just think you should take most of the above comments with a grain of salt.

  42. B3

    12. Mar, 2010

    Of course, nice talking to you yesterday by the way, that was productive conversation.

  43. Davin Bagdonas

    12. Mar, 2010


    Good to see the grades out in the public eye. One issue I’ve learned from while writing guide books is taking to much suggestion from people. My last book was open to public edit, specifically grades, and resulted in some messed up stuff. Because of the publisher I was unable to re-edit to the lower, more solid grades on many problems. The Vedauwoo book is seriously messed up because of it. My updates always carry the lower grade from those who have been on the problem.

    Har Mar Superstar is lowV11 not V12 or v10
    Cumulus is V10 not V11/12
    Red Snapper is V11 not V12/13
    Heart of Stone is V6 not V7 or V8
    Soke ’em Inside Her is V6 not V5 or V7/8

    and last example, Paper Cuts is V9, even with only the two of us doing that problem, the slash grade of V9/10 makes it V9 for a guide book

    For each of those, a variance of grades were suggested, but the lower, solid grade is a better grade for a book. It keeps our sport honest.

    I would highly recommend taking public comment as you have. Well done! Then taking the lower end grades from those who have actually climbed the problems. You will never regret taking the lower grades that are solid.

    I’m doing the same for a regional book here in Wyoming and I feel far better about this one than my last one.

    Good luck

  44. Ange

    12. Mar, 2010

    Okay, here’s my two cents:

    I think that Sunspot and The Kind Traverse should probably be the same grade. Very different problems, but overall a similar level of difficulty.

    Public Execution, in my opinion, might have been a little bit easier than Silverback. But, again, very different problems. I would probably call Public Execution a 9. And I don’t think it would be completely unreasonable to call Silverback a 9, but I felt that it was harder than PE. Maybe PE is a 9.7 and Silverback a 10.1. Can we use that system? 😉

  45. Ange

    12. Mar, 2010

    One more thing–
    I know you didn’t ask about Seurat, but I think that it should be a grade easier than Silverback. Both problems are very technical, but Silverback is harder. You probably already had that decided, but just thought I’d add it

  46. Lee

    12. Mar, 2010

    I must have been unclear….

    The Park
    The Kind Traverse V10 (v11 if you weight more than 165 lbs)
    Sunspot V10
    Riddles in the Park V11
    Wildcat V11
    Jade V14 (v15 if you weight more than 165 lbs)

    Mt. Evans
    Silverback V9
    Clear Blue Skies V11 (v12 if you weight more than 165 lbs)
    Mental Pollution V10
    Public Execution V9
    Ode to the Modern Man V13 (v14 if you weight more than 165 lbs)

    The weight upgrade applies because It’s harder if you weigh more, and I chose 165lbs cause my fighting weight is 166.

  47. little photon

    12. Mar, 2010

    If Silverback is v9 then Bierstadt is v7/8, feels like a huge grade difference between the two. I think: Bierstadt v9, Silverback v10

  48. Andrew

    13. Mar, 2010

    Lee’s post = best one yet?

  49. sidepull

    13. Mar, 2010


    You’re sounding a bit like Jens! Like you, he thinks slash grades are about accuracy. But I think several people here are suggesting the opposite, that slash grades are about providing a broader understanding of a problem’s difficulty. You yourself admit that many of these problems are on the borderline. Is that due to grade precision or because the very nature of the problem favors distinct body types and movement vocabularies and therefore generates less agreement about the grade? I think the latter. It doesn’t hurt you to post slash grades.

  50. Scott H

    13. Mar, 2010

    Hey Jamie,

    It’s been a while since I’ve contributed anything to the internet, but here is my 2 cents from using many guidebooks over the years. With whatever you choose as the grades to be – BE CONSISTANT!!! If you drop one problem down thats borderline make sure to drop the next problem down thats borderline. That way when people are actually using the guidebook, they have an idea of what they are getting on. If there is consistancy then people can “take” the grade they feel is appropriate. Even if it doesn’t exactly match what is in the guidebook.

    I am not opposed to slash grades. I have used them and definitely feel they are more appropriate on problems that haven’t seen a lot of ascents. To me it signifies that the grade is still open to discussion or that the grade is debateable. Also from my experience with guidebooks things that had slash grades ten years ago, the majority of them have now received the lower grade – unless something significant has broken.

    here is my third and maybe forth penny on things I’ve either tried or sent

    The Park
    The Kind Traverse (not commenting cause I don’t remember how it felt to me)
    Sunspot V11
    if Riddles in the Dark is = V10 (I did’t feel park is 2 grades harder unless something broke since I last tried it)
    then Riddles in the Park = V11
    (Riddles crux heal hook move is similar to formula 50’s {I suck at both}) for me dark = V11 park = V12

    Mt. Evans

    Clear Blue Skies V12
    Mental Pollution V10 masturbation V11 (similar reasoning as Riddles)
    Public Execution V9

    In the end the guidebook doesn’t have the final ruling, just the authors opinion, but now it’s officially on paper, as opposed to the internet. People relatively know how hard it was for them. I dont’ think anyones ego would be overinflated if they called any of the problems you mentioned by the higher grade. In the end – it is always relative. Have fun and good luck. I look forward to owning the final product.


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