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!
7 responses to “Milestone Grades”
Stumbling across this post a few years after its posted but couldn’t agree more with your comment on indoor glass ceiling. Comfortably climbing 7c and on the hunt for an elusive 8a. Living in the flat south east near London and with a full time job its hard to find the project routes which can be reached without a 4 hour round trip. Wish more centres set the odd 8+ projects.
Another year later… Just wanted to respond and say I think there’s plenty that gets set above V8 indoors (albeit accidentally) – an anecdote, I used to work at the Arch in London- we had Paul Robinson in somewhat randomly as he was doing some promotional work before heading to try some outdoor stuff. He found a green route (on the V6-8 circuit) and proceded to work it a bit and eventually got up it- reckoned it was around V11-12. It didn’t stay up long though and never had any other sends… I think that’s the trouble- there’s nothing other than board problems that stay up for any length of time and there’s no money in setting routes for those climbing above V7 since so few climbers climb at that level.
Hay guys, this is a fascinating read and so are many of the other articles. I absolutely love the approach you are bringing to the industry. If i could offer just one piece of constructive criticism it would be that you could make it much clearly what the data is showing. So here for example you don’t explicitly say these are the max grades clients suggest they have climbing and what they would like to some day in the future. That would make this stuff so much more digestible and help it reach more people. It guess when you’re so close to the data it can be hard to step back and explain for the person on the street.
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+…
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!
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!
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.