Milestone Grades

Every now and then we bump in to interesting little titbits in our data: milestone grades are one of these!

In theory we would expect people’s best grades to follow some sort of distribution but it appears the population of climbers “who train” (i.e. the ones who come to see us!) gravitate towards classic milestone grades. Our route climbers illustrate what many of us already suspect – french 7a and french 8a are hugely motivating levels of climbing to achieve. On the other hand we see more of a spread in our boulderers, there is a large cluster at font 7A but we also see a big peak at font 7B. Could the UK’s “nothing’s harder than 7B indoors” be the reason?! The indoor glass ceiling?

What about the grades that people aspire to right now? The ones they’ve not achieved yet? Again french 8a is the big winner here with 7b and 7c trailing behind. So would the population of climbers have trained and performed differently if the arbitrary line of what french 8a equals, been different? We think so…we are human after all!

Benchmark Grades

Benchmark Grades

Comment List

  • Sandy 03 / 09 / 2017 Reply

    Hey there,

    Could you guys elaborate on the “Could the UK’s “nothing’s harder than 7B indoors” be the reason?! The indoor glass ceiling?” comment?

    Is this something that’s recognised in routes and boulders?

    Do you think it us partly to do with the relatively small number of people able to set at the very high ends?

    Really interesting post!

    • Remus Knowles 04 / 09 / 2017 Reply

      Hi Sandy, it’s a bit of an off-hand comment to be honest! Anecdotally we’ve noticed that indoor grades are pretty whacky (lots of variation between climbing walls, inconsistent across the grade spectrum, very few hard problems etc.) so it was mainly just a little speculation that the lack of higher grade indoor problems has lead people to think they’re V8 climbers, when really they could be climbing harder outdoors.

      I think this is true of both routes and boulders, as I’d guess it’s mainly a product of the (relatively) short life span of indoor routes/problems. That is, because walls are reset pretty often there’s never a chance for the grade consolidation you get outdoors.

      I think you’re right in saying that there’s relatively few people setting at the top end, most likely because there’s not much of a market for really high end problems.

  • Sandy 06 / 09 / 2017 Reply

    Hi Remus,

    Thanks for the response. Yea having worked at a few walls and with many setters/climbers I agree, indoor grades are very inconsistent.

    Yea there’s some really interesting points in this article!

    Thanks again!

  • Jim 08 / 09 / 2017 Reply

    Interesting stuff. I’ve also thought about this quite a bit. My own experience is that being able to consistently climb V8 indoors has equated to climbing font 7C and the very occasional 7C+ outside. I did always wonder whether this was an unwillingness on the setter’s part to tag hard stuff with anything other than a V8+ tag, even when something is clearly harder than 7B+…

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