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Rock Climbing Grades

Rock Climbing Grades

Rockclimbing Grades

The British grading system for traditional climbs, used in Great Britain and Ireland, has (in theory) two parts: the adjectival grade and the technical grade. Sport climbing in Britain and Ireland uses the French grading system, often prefixed with the letter "F".

Adjectival grade

The adjectival grade attempts to assess the overall difficulty of the climb taking into account all factors, for a climber leading the route on sight in traditional style. In the early 20th century it ran Easy, Moderate, Difficult, but increasing standards have several times led to extra grades being added at the top. The adjectival grades are as follows:

Easy (rarely used)

Moderate (M, or "Mod")

Difficult (D, or "Diff")

Very Difficult (VD, or "V Diff")

Hard Very Difficult (HVD – sometimes omitted)
Mild Severe (MS)

Severe (S)

Hard Severe (HS)
Mild Very Severe (MVS)

Very Severe (VS)

Hard Very Severe (HVS)

Extremely Severe (E1, E2, E3, ...)

The Extremely Severe grade is subdivided in an open-ended fashion into E1 (easiest), E2, E3 and so on. As of 2006 the hardest climb is graded E11: Rhapsody on Dumbarton Rock, climbed by Dave Macleod, features French 8c+ climbing with the potential of a 20-metre fall onto a small wire. However, many climbers consider such high grades provisional, as the climbs have not yet been achieved on sight. The hardest confirmed grade is E9.

Some guidebooks make finer distinctions by adding the prefix "Mild"; thus, Mild Severe lies between Hard Very Difficult and Severe. Additionally, in some areas the grade "XS" is used for climbs on loose or crumbling rock, irrespective of their technical difficulty.

Technical grade

The technical grade attempts to assess only the technical climbing difficulty of the hardest move or moves on the route, without regard to the danger of the move or the stamina required if there are several such moves in a row. Technical grades are open-ended, starting at 1 and subdivided into "a", "b" and "c", but are rarely used below 3c. The hardest recorded climbs are around 7b.

Usually the technical grade increases with the adjectival grade, but a hard technical move very near the ground (that is, notionally safe) may not raise the standard of the adjectival grade very much. VS 4c might be a typical grade for a route. VS 4a would usually indicate very poor protection (easy moves, but no gear), while VS 5b would usually indicate the crux move was the first move or very well protected. On multi-pitch routes it is usual to give the overall climb an adjectival grade and each pitch a separate technical grade (such as HS 4b, 4a).


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