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What do Climbing Grades Actually Mean?

A rock climbing grade accurately describes the degree of difficulty and danger for each chosen route.

There are a number of factors that contribute to the difficulty of a climb including the technical difficulty of the moves, the strength and stamina required, the level of commitment, and the difficulty of protecting the climber.

Different aspects of climbing each have their own grading system, and, just to confuse the issue, many different nationalities have developed their own distinctive grading system, for example in the United States, climbs are rated from 5.1 to 5.14d (and now 5.15a) with 5.1 being the easiest. In fact, 5.1 to 5.4 are all pretty simple generally meaning that you probably don’t need a rope, whilst 5.5 to 5.9 is an intermediate level – you will definitely need a rope. It gets exponentially more difficult as you go up the ranking – 5.10 to 5.15a.

My thanks to Wikipedia for supplying this chart which gives a selection of grading systems from around the world.

Rock Climbing Rating Systems
YDS
(USA)
British
(UK)
Tech/Adj
FrenchVermin
(Bouldering)
UIAA
(Central
Europe)
Eastern Germany
(Central
Europe)
Ewbank (Australia, New Zealand & South Africa)
5.21II
5.32IIII11
5.43IIIIII12
5.54aVD4IVIV12
5.6S5aV−V13
5.74bHS5bVVI14
4cV+15
5.8VS5cVI−VIIa16
5.95aHVS6aVIVIIb17
5.10aE16a+V0VI+VIIc18
5.10b5b19
5.10cE26bV1VII−VIIIa20
5.10d5c6b+VIIVIIIb21
5.11aE36cV2VII+VIIIc22
5.11b6c+23
5.11c6aE47aV3VIII−IXa24
5.11d7a+VIIIIXb
5.12aE57bV4VIII+IXc25
5.12b6b7b+26
5.12cE67cV5IX−Xa27
5.12d6c7c+V6IXXb28
5.13aE7V7IX+Xc29
5.13b8aV8
5.13c7a8a+V9X−30
5.13dE88bV10X31
5.14a8b+V11X+32
5.14b7b8cV1233
5.14cE98c+V13XI−34
5.14d7c9aV14XI35
5.15a9a+V15

Please be aware that different grading systems consider these factors in different ways, so no two grading systems have an exact one-to-one correspondence.

Confusing? if you’re a novice – you betcha. But if you’re more experienced you will probably have already sorted out all these anomalies for yourself.

However, if you are still confused please go to www.wikipedia grade (climbing).com and you will be able to read more on this subject.

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2 Responses to “What do Climbing Grades Actually Mean?”

  1. lolajones
    2012 | 15 February at 11:47 #

    Hope we were of some help…

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  1. Bouldering. It’s Hard. | Awfully Fabulous - 2012 | 15 February

    […] Whilst I’m still getting used to what climbing grades mean, it’s generally clear that the lower the number, the easier a climb will be. I was browsing Google for some more defined articles on the matter, when I came across this page. […]

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