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8C? in 30 min by Hukkataival
  2012-07-11 00:00:00    
Nalle Hukkataival blogs about his first day in Cape town where he made the first repeat of Paul Robinson's A Simple Knowing, 8C in Topside.

"I managed to climb it quickly in half an hour. It’s a nice problem, but once again nowhere near the difficulty that I consider V15 (8C).
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2012-07-11 21:38:38    

Nice effort of Nalle who must have been surpriced as he just had flewn from Australia. The climbing community should be very thankful for guys like Nalle who give a personal grade instead to just take the easy way out.

I think we can learn three things from this.
1. Grades are nor so accurate or important that we need slash grades.
2. The suggested grade of the FA can not be based on a personal opinion. It also has to reflect if it is your style and length etc.
3. Grade inflation exist even if everyone knows about it.
4. Good effort of Paul opening yet another nice line.

OffLine Greg Corn
  2012-07-12 04:55:07    
I think maybe the top climbers should be more like sharma was when he was establishing crazy hard problems a number of years ago. He wasnt grading them. I think if I were establishing the upper grades I would just call them hard. I guess if they need the media for their sponsorships then so be it but all you do is put yourself out there to be criticized. Its almost impossible for a first ascentionist to know exactly the grade he just established. This is the same for the easier and harder problems. new sequences, new beta or just style come to be a problem for grading. I dont think this has anything to do with slash grades like jens is saying. Grades will be established when a number of people have done the problem and slash grades are good for problems where height or style or something causes it to be easier for some and harder for others. I think grading is important and accurate grades are important as it shows evolution. We dont have 100 meter races where we time it 9 seconds or 10 seconds. No, we time it to the second decimal. say 9.69. We as humans want to see progression and its a great motivator for training, for sponsorship and for the excitement of others. Where the problem lies is that until a number of people have completed the problem its just a guess and this story has such a negative tone towards paul. Not that its meant but it just does. look at sharmas line three degrees. What seemed easier for him has maybe seemed harder for others, no repeats yet. Until es pontas or three degrees gets multiple repeats we wont be sure of the grades. Some might be harder and some might be easier. Wouldnt it be awesome if 8a had a section of the worlds hardest routes that are waiting a second ascent or geting ascent to solidify the grade. This way a climber could say new problem and give it 8B to 8C, then the problem can wait to be judged after a number of repeats.
OffLine Tim O
  2012-07-12 07:23:57    
I don't think we need slash grades (i.e. '/'), I think we need OR grades (i.e. '|').  Precisely because grades are subjective and putting a single number on something is always going to be wrong.  Remember "All grades are wrong but some are useful".  So A simple Knowing might be 8C | 8A+ (say) meaning it is somewhere in there and let's get on with things ...

Keep blocking!
OffLine Arnoud Prinz
  2012-07-12 10:15:32    
You said it well Greg.

And yes Tim no slach grades.
OnLine ps
  2012-07-12 10:17:53    
"3. Grade inflation exist even if everyone knows about it." XD

OnLine Jens Larssen
  2012-07-12 12:02:15    
ps: sorry :)

What I meant was that it is strange that we continue to see grade inflation although everyone knows about it.

It is about time to be more modest with the grading. It seems that Nalle in fact did down grade another three boulders made by Robinson. For me it is very strange that although everybody knows that grade inflation exist...it continous :)
OffLine Fred Stone
  2012-07-12 15:38:29    
maybe some people just find first ascents much harder
OffLine Atious
  2012-07-12 16:21:44    

Greg Corn ; Very well said, if a FA can't be accurate let the time and repeats put the extreme performance in place.
This way nobody is descredited and the effort will be put into prespective without ego-things,besides of giving the ascent a mistic aura Sharmas' stile.

OnLine Jens Larssen
  2012-07-12 16:30:52    

Sure but the lesson learnt must be to try to be more humble with the grade the next time.

As you can see on Graham's scorecard he down graded another boulder from 8B to 8A.

Of course you might find logical reasons for why a specific boulder do get downgraded...but when it happens repeatedly...

OffLine David Nieto
  2012-07-12 16:41:18    
I think in news like this it will be nice to give some extra/relevant information about the boulder, the number of moves, the style, some video of one of the climbers, the impressions they both gave after climbing it, the beta...
OffLine Alex G
  2012-07-12 16:45:27    
Or maybe some people follow your advice to finally give harder boulders higher grades instead of grading everything 8B+.

Different beta results in different difficulty. Maybe the FA just didn't find the best beta or easier beta didn't work for him?

Who knows but is there really a need to discuss EVERY downgrade? I think this topic was clubbed to death too often already.
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2012-07-12 16:52:34    
@ Alex G: The base of boulder grades are Font as bouldering more or less were invented here. You can not say that the grades are hard in Font as they have set the standard of difficulty.

Sure thing that different beta might change the grade for one boulder but when it happens like 50 % of the time...? We need to make the grade inflators aware of this as they steal the spot lights for the humble ones and in the long run, they will loose credibility.

@ David: Sure thing, but I have not find videos etc.
OffLine Tommy Seppänen
  2012-07-12 17:31:31    
Might be on this one

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHK0T6I108E

Didnt check it out as surfing on my phone, but took about 2 seconds to google: paul robinson a simple knowing capeside


OnLine Jens Larssen
  2012-07-12 18:09:36    
 
OffLine Alex G
  2012-07-12 19:06:32    
@Jens I was refering to your discussion about the gap in grades between routes and boulders.

"Maybe it is about time to upgrade some 8C's and also start projecting a 9A boulder?"
http://www.8a.nu/forum/ViewForumThread.aspx?ObjectId=23342&Object&CountryCode=GLOBAL
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2012-07-12 19:44:44    
Edit: I would guess that 8C has been suggested for some 100 boulders out of which at least 20 of them have been down graded and we will see more.
 
In one case, Adam Ondra has suggest an upgrade to 8C+ for Gioia. I guess that some more should be upgraded in order to better define the 8C grade.
OffLine Markku Laine
  2012-07-12 20:23:40    
@Jens See http://www.tinyurl.com/hardclimbs for reference. The list might contain a few errors here and there but it's better than making random guesses.
OffLine Christian Stohr
  2012-07-12 20:34:26    
So upgrading boulders define a grade? 
Upgrading boulders means they've been graded "wrong" in first place or they wouldn't deserve to be upgraded. But doesn't this all just lead to grade inflation, that you're so keen to talk about?

If you want a proper discussion on that topic you should put all your thoughts and ideas in one article, form sentences that everyone will understand, give proofs whether that be statistics or actual examples/events (pro tip: graphs w/o marked axis or w/o reliably data don't count), have it read by someone else, and then post it. 
And with all thoughts/ideas I say that you should also take old ideas that you've might consider false or didn't want to follow anymore at a certain point. Or else you'll see yourself confronted with comments like Alex brought up which contradict to what you're currently saying.

I'm visiting 8a.nu for just a little time and my English might be bad at some points, too, I don't decline that. But as I see it your way of having discussions here is not really productive.
It's a great effort from you and the other editors that collect, proof read and publish news but commenting it every time someone downgrades a route/boulder looks to me rather contraproductive to your goal which I see is to stop grade inflation. Waiting a month or two and then summing up what has been down/upgraded would have a bigger effect.


Edit: typo
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2012-07-12 20:38:33    
Thanks :)
Can you please explain on what basis you have made up a "consensus grade"? It would also be nice if you did some analysis of your data which I can present on 8a. What is your conclusion regarding the boulder inflation.
OffLine Markku Laine
  2012-07-12 20:47:53    
@Jens See the "How to read the lists" section on top of the page. I am just collecting the data. You or somebody else can do the analysis, as I do not feel competent enough to do that by myself.
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2012-07-12 21:18:35    
Markku: You have done a great job...very impressive. It would be nice to actually create a new user on 8a and record all your ascents. This would make it much easier to stay updated and make different searches etc.

I think you should change the "consensus" to repeater's, consensus is misleading I think.

I think you also should look at the 8a data base because I mis some 8C's.

Christian: I agree, I will see what I can do with Markku's data. Regarding upgrading defining a grade! Of course, there is a span for each grade. Today, we have maybe some 70 8C's, for me it sounds very logical that the 8C span is to big. Do you get my point? 



OffLine Charlie Carroll
  2012-07-12 21:24:56    
Why can't it just be accepted that grading first ascents is inherently difficult and that downgrades will occur naturally? It is not a bad thing for climbing and seems to be the pattern over the entirety of climbing. There should be an effort to standardize the grading scale across all climbing areas but I don't think downgrading and upgrading needs to be looked at so harshly and critically. No climber, including your humble Adam Ondra, is perfect at grading and we should never expect grading to be a near perfect system. To say someone should be " try to be more humble with the grade the next time." is nonsense when we know that first ascents typically get graded harder and it is natural for eventual downgrades.
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2012-07-12 21:34:56    
So why is it that some often that down graded and some never? These guys who often get down graded should of course be more modest in the future. Why can you not keep it low and in instead wait for it to be upgraded?

Is the importance of grades defined by the inflation?

Why is it that trad climbs almost never get down graded.

Of course, grades are subjective but why is it that almost no routes prior to 2000 have been down graded. For me the whole thing seems more to be a thing for the new generation?

Everyone makes choices, like Dave Graham did when he gave The story of two wheel. He could have given it 8C+ but he choose to be modest.
OffLine Christian Stohr
  2012-07-12 21:52:10    
Jens: can you put that number ("some 70 8C's") in a relation to other grades? The amount of 8B+'s and 8B's would be interesting to know.
Knowing how many 8B+/8B's existed before the first 8C was climbed would be interesting, too, but I don't know if there's any statistic supporting that.
Anyways what I'm trying to tell by my questions is that I don't understand how it should be logical, that a high amount of boulders in a grade make the grade's span too big. For me a span is too big if there's a boulder A which is significantly easier than boulder B. If you find such a boulder A you have to check whether it's too hard for a lower grade (do the same for B for a higher grade - if existing) and then we can start discussing if that span is too big or not.
OffLine Charlie Carroll
  2012-07-12 21:57:05    
Your assumption is that those first ascentionists think their FA is easier but decide to grade it harder and that this occurs with many FAs. This probably isn't true, as it seems this happens across a range of climbers across a range of areas. The importance of grades is to give climbers an understanding of difficulty between climbs in regions across the world. And if the comment on trad climbs is based on "statistical analysis" from 8a data then its rather meaningless. Maybe that assumption on downgrades after 2000 could relate to the newer generation being more analytical and willing to accept a floating grading scale. Statistical analysis in climbing is extremely difficult and should be generally ignored.
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2012-07-12 22:09:12    
My guess is that it maybe existed 15 8B's before 8B+ was suggested and the same goes for 8C and 8C+.

In the 8a data base the pyramid ratio for each grade above 8A is around 15.

Of course we can not exactely define the 8C span but the discrepeancy towards routes suggest that some 8C's should be upgraded.
OffLine Alec Sibbet
  2012-07-13 19:18:49    
Its pretty easy to see why Paul graded this boulder as 8C compared to Nalle. As he mentions in the video, the cruxes are big, reachy, powerful moves. Paul is pretty short, while Nalle is tall with a wide armspan. I'm sure the boulder felt 8C for Paul and probably 8B for Nalle, this doesn't mean either of them are wrong. 
OffLine Joooonas Schropp
  2012-07-13 19:54:31    
Nalle might be more muscular in general and look taller than Paul on pictures, but he's not very tall either, like 1,72 or something?!
OffLine Markku Laine
  2012-07-13 20:00:45    
@Alec I would not say Nalle is a tall person. And if I remember correctly he has also complained about his not-so-wide armspan. His comment about The Island also hints this.

However, I do not know how tall Paul is, though. Do you know their heights and armspans? Any source for that information? Or maybe a photo/video were they stand next to each other?
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2012-07-13 20:38:57    

You are bringing up some good points here and the question that should be asked is if the FA should give the boulder a personal grade or a community grade?

Let us say you are 165 cm and puts up a reachy climb, clearly you should not just base your FA grade on your personal perceived difficulty. In this case, you also have to consider how 175 cm guys will perceive the difficulty.

If a female puts up a steep boulder where lock-offs are needed she has to somewhat estimate how guys will perceive the difficulty.

If you are very bad at knee-drops you have to consider this if the only way to do the crux is a knee drop.

A repeater should base his grade on his personal opinion but the FA has to try to make it a community grade.

I do think this is the general problem why we so often see minor controversies in between climbers as the FA's have misunderstood their mission to give a community grade as best as they can. I am sure that Paul did not exaggerate deliberately but that this boulder maybe put focus on something Nalle is very good at meanwhile it is not Paul's cup of tea.

OffLine Derek Bredl
  2012-07-13 23:39:55    
There are some good ideas going around here ... but also a lot of mis-information and someimtes complete nonsense.

I'm sorry Jens, but you once again just don't seem to get it ... I can't believe you don't see it yourself ... someone has posted above one of your contradictions and now in this post you have clearly outlined another ...

You criticise people who simply take a "consensus" grade and do not truly offer there own "personal" grade ... yet turn around and now suggest that FA's should not offer a "personal" grade (something which is very hard to do anyway) and somehow try to magically come up with a "consensus" grade based soley upon there own climbing of a FA!!!

I've got a lot of notes and some diagrams and one day I'll finish my wiritings on grades and post it, when it is complete so it makes sense ... but here are some simple basics that everyone (hopefully) should grasp.

A consensus grade is exactly as it sounds ... an average of all grades attributed to the climb (take all the personal grades given, average them and you get the consensus grade). You can't start to second guess if someone on a website like 8a has offered a personal grade or simply taken the consensus ... you can't chose which data point to use or to ignore, it's not how it works and you're simply making the data fit what YOU want.

Grade variation will and does exist! People, the human race (and so climbers) are simply too variable for this not to be the case. And that's not even taking into account beta variations, condition variations, etc. Expect up to and sometimes more than 2-3V grades variation in problems.

Slash grades simply help climbers decide better where something sits in terms of difficult (is it an easy V6, a hard V6 or a normal V6 ... obviously a V6/V7 is usually more difficult than something given just V6), it does not inherently means grades are more or less important.

Simply put ... if you are an average human, hieght, weight, arm span, flexibility, mental capability then grades have a chance of having a better meaning for you ... move away from that average and you'll encounter more and more and greatly variations (realising that even in the average bunch there is a significant amount of variation).

p.s. Jens your graph is bad. As was pointed out above, your lack of axis titles, graph titels, etc, means that it means nothing to me ... for all I can tell is there are only 5 boulder problems in the world graded 6A ... it lacks explanation!

OffLine John Meget
  2012-07-13 23:48:20    
Jens, I think the only thing any climber can do is grade a boulder by how hard it seems to him or her.  Trying to figure out how hard it might be for others is just speculation. 
OffLine Rainer Held
  2012-07-14 02:39:17    
@Derek: thank you for your post! Your approach makes a lot of sense to me and I'm looking forward to seeing your data! And Jens, you have to see that it is incredibly hard for the first ascensionist of a climb to do the right thing: Paul chose to grade his climb 8C and got downgraded by Nalle. Now he has to face the possibility that some people will question his choice of grade next time he puts up an 8C. So should he have ignored his honest opinion and chosen 8B+ instead, or maybe 8B just to avoid this possibility? But what if the climb is then later upgraded to 8C? I am sure that Paul would have been called a sandbagger by other people. And sandbagging (underrate a climb) is sometimes done for the same reasons as grade inflation: To get attention. The sandbagger just has to wait longer than the grade inflater to get it. Because people usually don't put as much effort into underrated climbs than into presumably one of the most difficult climbs of the world.
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2012-07-14 08:05:14    
I am just trying to give advices in order to make climbers better understanding the fundamentals of grading.

Of course the FA should not only base the grade only on his personal perceived difficulty. Let us say he is 160 cm and very bad on crimpers, steep climbing and knee drop but the new boulder challenge exactely this. His personal feeling might be 7C but in this case he should of course suggest something lower.

I can not understand how you not can understand this simple logic. Maybe this is the reason why paul and others make big mistakes sometimes when they suggest FA grades?
OffLine oO00Oo
  2012-07-14 11:52:24    
More or less I agree with Jens. The problem since yet is that we have not a basis on which to build on grades. Theoretically it is possible and some months ago I presented an idea how to do. Climbers don't know how to grade a problem because there is a lot of ignorance in sense of which problem is harder if you are tall and which if you are short. And what means tall and short? The mean value of europeans males regarding height is around 178 cm and for females around 165 cm. For the system it is important to have a height on which to base on the grade, we can take the mean height for every country or a mean height in general, it is not that important, and base the grades on it. Important is that we have an orientation guide, an standard, a reference. So if we would like to build a system based on scientific parameters how to grade problems, like a botanic guide book, it would be a great step for the transparence of the sport. I can do it but I need a committee for work sharing and some supporters. If we have this guide book we can grade a problem based on this guide, so we have a reference to discuss about. The scientific parameters have to involve standard relations of parameters in the development of human body to differ between performance and morphology to build on this orientation guide. First determine an general height or country specific height, it is not that hard because there are just good data for that, the second step is to establish the relations of the main standard parameters in the normal development of human body and refer to holds and main combinations. It sounds quite strange but it is the only way to gain transparence and botanic guide books are much more complex :-)! So a single boulder problem get more grades, coordinated on the standard morphology of a single individual to measure the performance. Like it is now I agree with Jens but for me the given grade by the first ascensionist should value more than the grades given by the repeaters and we have to accept that the grade range of a single boulder can differ some grades between different climbers.
OffLine Rainer Held
  2012-07-14 16:50:27    
Jens, I think you are certainly right in the special circumstances you described. But Paul apparently didn't think that "A Simple Knowing" was that special. If you are willing to trust him then you have to come to the conclusion that he thought that the boulder could be 8C also for other climbers. And this decision was based on all his experience from bouldering in the top range of grades which is for sure one of the most extensive in the climbing community. To me it seems like you are not willing to trust him any more because some of his top-notch climbs got downgraded. But you could also just accept that it is extremely difficult for the first ascensionist to grade a very difficult climb. And after a while, when the climb has been repeated many times, statistics will provide us with a more accurate grade.    
OffLine Heikki Toivanen
  2012-07-14 20:56:22    
To people wondering about height differences, Paul is taller than Nalle.
Paul has said on an interview in 2007 being 178cm tall and I´ve heard Nalle saying he´s 173cm tall on several occasions. 
Pauls interview from 2007: http://www.frontrangebouldering.com/archives/oldinterview/robinson/interview.html
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2012-07-14 21:56:07    
Rainer: Of course we all know that it is very hard to suggest FA grades and it is just natural that a percentage of them are wrong. I do not think Paul has a higher percentage inflated grades compared to the average but of course we will trust the guys more with less inflated grades.
OffLine Carlo Traversi
  2012-07-15 12:27:51    
What Nalle fails to mention is that him and Dave (who also climbed the boulder) found a heel toe cam that made the crux move much, much easier compared to the way that Paul climbed it.  I've tried the boulder using Paul's method and it is very hard.  When significantly downgrading a high-end boulder I think it's important to point out the use of new beta that the first ascentionist might have missed.  By not providing such information, you are falsely representing your level of ability compared to others and you are also going to appear to others as an egotistical asshole.  This is unacceptable from a professional in our sport.  Nalle's attitude and actions in regards to this ascent take him down a notch in my book... 
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2012-07-15 16:16:28    
Thanks Carlo for that very important information.

I do think exactely as you say but let us hope Nalle actually did think he used the exact same beta as Paul when he reported it... otherwise it is not nice, I agree.

As you can see from Dave's scorecard, explains that he used another method and gave it 8B+.
OffLine Tom Thudium
  2012-07-15 17:27:25    
Was thinking sth. like Carlo said. I mean its not that Paul never has climbed any boulder. Its just normal that boulders get downgraded cause its normal that the Fa. not always finds the perfect beta and this has nothing to do with grade inflation.   By the way am I the only one who thinks it's a bit arrogant to post a downgrading of an 8c with a picture of an 8c you established yourself? I mean there are other 8c problems confirmed or unrepeated too.
OnLine kinson
  2012-07-15 22:43:52    
Grading boulders is much harder than grading routes in my opinion. Everything is concentrated on a couple of moves. If those moves fit you, it´s easy for you, even though it´s supposed to be a hard grade for you.

But I think sometimes it´s just the problem to see sometimes if it really fit´s you or not. F.e. my style is medium steep, crimpy stuff. On a boulder  which is extactly like that, I had serious trouble, even though I should have climbed it fast, cause it´s my style and they proposed and confirmed grade was in a level which I should climb at least in a day. I couldn´t climb it so far although I tried it already my fourth day.

So, if this would have been a FA i would have given it a much too high grade...Grading boulders is not easy business, don´t bee to hard with first ascencionists.

And what is else to say...climbing a boulder for the first time feels definately way harder than just to repeat, where you also most probably know already the beta...

Just my 2 cents
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2012-07-15 23:29:56    
But as we have seen the story repeat itself for ten years now...some should try to be more modest when suggesting FA grades.

It should not be like some exaggerate the grade in like 25 % of the time meanwhile others are almost always spot on!
OffLine Charlie Carroll
  2012-07-16 01:00:15    
Who exaggerates grades? It would be great to hear your list. Pretty sure most every strong boulderer has put up an FA that got downgraded later, and the leading boulderers (Graham, Nicole, Sharma, Woods, Robinson, Zangrel, the list goes on) all have had downgrades on hard climbs leading to believe that FAs are inherently hard to grade and lead to downgrades.
OffLine Charlie Carroll
  2012-07-16 01:00:18    
Who exaggerates grades? It would be great to hear your list. Pretty sure most every strong boulderer has put up an FA that got downgraded later, and the leading boulderers (Graham, Nicole, Sharma, Woods, Robinson, Zangrel, the list goes on) all have had downgrades on hard climbs leading to believe that FAs are inherently hard to grade and lead to downgrades.
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2012-07-16 08:27:53    

Graham has put up hundreds but just a low percentage of them have been down graded. Beside your list there are like 50 guys who have put up hard core boulders that have not been down graded later, on the contrast some have put up boulders that later have been upgraded. I just think is about time that we learn something from the inflation and choose the lower grade when in doubt. About the other guys I do not know apart from Nicole and Zangerl having high numbers of boulder being downgraded.

In UK, Zillertal, Frankenjura, Spain and FONTAINEBLEAU we more seldom here about down grades. In Switzerland, Rocklands we have seen maybe 50 % of the hard core boulders have been down graded...which can be compared to like 5 % in Font.

Why can they suggest a correct grade in Font and other places but not in Switzerland?

OffLine Tim O
  2012-07-16 08:59:47    
Hi all,

@Jens - I have suggested several times an article on grades and ratios between each successive grade but have been knocked back.  So I'm just going to put it here. 

So everyone, before Jens steals my thunder! ... this is what he meant by "the pyramid ratio for each grade above 8A is around 15"?

It's not 15, it's 6.  Read on ...

Now, before anyone gets their knickers in a twist this article hopefully just inspires an interesting debate that goes some way to helping answer questions like;
•    How much harder is a V14 than a V13?  My answer – 6 times.
•    Is there any actual science to grading?  My answer – Yes.  Grades appear to be an ordinal measure following a decaying power series.
•    What’s Tim O’Neill’s favourite cheese?  My answer – Roquefort.

So if you’re not interested in a debate on the ‘science’ of grading then you better stop here!

Disclaimers done, let’s get into it ... as of the 16th July 2012 (yes, I just updated the numbers!) the number of ascents at each grade reported in the database for routes and boulders were as per the tables below.

Routes first ...

Grade  #Ascents
9c        2
9b+      3
9b        10
9a+      53
9a        313
8c+      ???? (I dont have access to the DB so dont know)
8c        ???? (I dont have access to the DB so dont know)

Now, boulders ...

Grade  #Ascents

9A         1
8C+       12
8C         97
8B+       547
8B          ???? (I dont have access to the DB so dont know)
8A+       ???? (I dont have access to the DB so dont know)



Now, before we look at this data in detail I’m the first to admit that there are a lot of issues with this data set as described in the footnote below[1].

In any case let’s get on with it ... with these data series plotted as a graph you get a standard decaying curve.  Fair enough, grades are an ordinal measure and one grade is ‘harder’ than the previous.  Big deal.  No surprises there.  But looking in more detail, things get interesting. Plotting the data on a logarithmic scale you get ... a straight line!


Wow!  As per the original http://www.australianbouldering.com/table.html article both these data series fit a decaying power series as follows;

N = n*r^(Gmax-grade)

Where;
N = numbers of sends per grade (the Y axis).
grade = an index for the Grade (i.e. 9b / 8C+, 9a / 8B+ etc - the X axis).
Gmax = the maximum Grade in each scale (currently 9b+ and 9A).
n = a scaling constant that potentially reflects the popularity or accessibility of the sport.
r = a relative constant that potentially reflects the difference in difficulty of each successive grade.

And for routes and boulders specifically the constants are n = 2 for both routes and boulders, but more interestingly- a difficulty multiplier per grade of r = 5.3 for routes and just r = 6.5 for boulders.

So what on earth does THAT mean?

Well to start with, there does possibly seem to be some ‘science’ to this grade stuff.  Indeed, from the relative constant ‘r’, the data seems to be saying that each successive route grade is 1/5th as likely to have seen an ascent as the previous grade, and each bouldering grade is 1/6th as likely to have had an ascent.  To me the similarity between these two ratios is quite significant.  It tells me that the two grade scales are probably related in some way, and that of course climbers and boulderers are probably still one-in-the-same beast.  Only time will tell if these ratios diverge or converge.  And what about those actual ratios of circa 6 or 7.  That suggests that each successive grade is 6 or 7 times as hard as the previous grade. How cool is that!

So there you have it, the proposed grand-unified theory of grading, aka O’Neill’s Law is ...

Each grade is 6 or 7 times harder than the previous



(Edit: 19/7/2012 - Of course it isnt correct that it is 'harder'.  As per the comments below, it is just saying each grade has 1/6th as many ascents and each grade is 1/4 as many ascenders).

Who said grading wasn’t easy :)

And using a similar approach when looking specifically at the number of climbers who have climbed each grade we get the following ...

Routes first ...

Grade  #Climbers
9b+      1
9b        4
9a+      24
9a        110
8c+      ???? (I dont have access to the DB so dont know)
8c        ???? (I dont have access to the DB so dont know)

Now, boulders ...

Grade  #Climbers

9A         1
8C+       8
8C         36
8B+       141
8B          ???? (I dont have access to the DB so dont know)
8A+       ???? (I dont have access to the DB so dont know)

And these also follow a perfect decaying power series with
constants as follows;

Routes - n = 1, r = 4.8
Boulders - n = 2.2, r = 4

So what do those numbers mean?  Well it says that 1/5 as many climbers send each successive route grade, while 1/4 as many boulders do.  So bouldering is a 'flatter' pyramid I guess.  Draw your own conclusions :)  Flame away ...

If readers are enthusiastic in the comments, then I’ll look into further analysis of the data to consider;

1) Gender - i.e. do women versus men follow the same trends?

2) Country-by-Country - i.e. is one country’s problems/routes showing a trend of more or less ascents at a given grade than expected?

3) Age - i.e. is there a relationship between number of ascents per age per grade and do younger climbers climb the grades quicker than older ones?

4) Number of Climbers per grade NOT the number of ascents – i.e. to see if this gives more accurate results? (I already started this above)

5) Trends per Climber - i.e. do these ratios stack up for individual climbers as in 6 or 7 to 1 for each successive grade?

6) Grade increase over Time – i.e. has there been a steady increase of grades over time or is it ‘speeding up’ / ‘slowing down’ to test hypothesise on grade inflation / grade compression.

7) Suggestions welcome!

And for those of you that like this sort of discussion with over 2,000,000 unique visitors you will find likeminded individuals here – http://www.sportsscientists.com/



[1]
Firstly, logging an ascent is an optional thing so clearly not ALL ascents by ALL climbers will be in the database.  It is what it is. Also, I think climbers tend to put their higher graded ascents in lieu of the lowest grades so that will skew things to the ‘top-end’ a bit. Though I’d like to think that 8c routes and 8A+ boulders aren’t quite passé yet!  And of course there are some unavoidable data quality issues with some ascents being duplicated, some ascents being honestly mis-reported / mis-recorded, some blatant ‘joke’ ascents and we’d have to accept some straight out fibs / BS ascents. Furthermore, the grades themselves are by no means stable with problems openly slash-graded, over-graded, under-graded and non-consensus graded. And finally, when looking purely at the number of ascents per grade, the results will be skewed by any ‘grade chasing’ climbers out there that target cutting-edge grades.

OffLine Tim O
  2012-07-16 09:11:41    
Sorry about the formatting there ... I just copy/pasted the original word article I have.  Will fix it up later ... if Jens doesn't delete it :)
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2012-07-16 09:58:34    
You are most welcome to share your thoughts but as I said earler I do not understand the logics how you come to the conclusion that an "8C is six times harder than a 8B+"?
OffLine Christian Stohr
  2012-07-16 10:05:41    
Tim: when in science you give a law I was told in school (and now in university) that you have to proof it. I don't really understand your proof, how do you choose n and r? That just seems rather randomly to fit your data.


Ok after looking at it a second time, if you solve the equation for r (which you said is the difference between two grades and which leads to your law) then you don't have to choose r and N is set from the data. But then there's still n. 
Can you explain that?
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2012-07-16 11:26:27    
I like his data very much and it is interesting to see the 1:6 data but on what basis can you then say that one grade harder is six times harder?

I think that the data might suggest that if you have just done two 8c's then you might think twice if you are about to suggest a 8c+ for your next route.

What the data does most of all in a very good way is to describe the grade pyramid.
OffLine Tim O
  2012-07-16 14:50:57    
@Christian - the empirical proof is the data. I tried to upload the charts that show the perfect straight lines. Will try again later.

Also, I have looked at year-on-year ratios and its definitely getting smaller. That is each year there are less (relatively) of the easier grades before harder grades are sent. Evidence of grade inflation without doubt.

And of course it is just saying something about how MANY of each grade a climber has sent before the next grade. Up to 2010 it was 6 or 7 consensus lines before the +1 grade.

I'll redo with recent stats later.
OffLine Jonas Broo
  2012-07-16 18:36:52    
Interesting stats there, Tim O, and sounds more or less right. However, I do not agree on your conclusion that each grade is 6 times harder than the previous. That each easier grade has 6 times more ascents just says that it is easier, but not at all by how much.
Assume we have 6 equally good climbers, each capable of climbing 8A but not 8A+. They all want to improve and try to train harder and/or better, but only one of them progresses to 8A+. Did he train 6 times harder than before? Of course not.
OffLine Andrew Haydawg
  2012-07-16 19:26:22    
Yeah it is interesting data Tim but your word choice/conclusion seems off.

You have shown that each easier grade has 6-7x more ascents.

Thus the next grade is "six times" more difficult

Previous discussion threads have also suggested that generally each easier grade has about 3x more people who can send that grade.

AKA 27 people can climb 9A, 9 people can climb 9A+, 3 can climb 9B.

So using your logic with this data, each grade is "three times" more difficult.

However, I think that both of these statements are false. You are not accounting at all for the availability of lines, the time people are willing to put in, etc. For instance if you can send 8A in 20 min, you will send a lot more 8A then 8B+ just because you can churn them out very quickly, not because of the absolute difference in difficulty specifically. Also I would suspect that it not easy to "find" an 8C versus and 8B because of the number of climbs that have already been established (many 8B, few 8C), how hard it is to know a grade without climbing it, etc. Therefore you are more likely by circumstance to be climbing an easier grade than a harder grade because there are simply more available.

These factors would inflate you're measurement of "hardness" when in fact they do not reflect the difficulty of the individual climbs.

OffLine Tim O
  2012-07-17 09:00:35    
All good points!  And I was just being provocative with O'Neill's law.  Of course it just means that there are 6-7x more ascents and yes 3-4 more ascenders.  I'm crunching some mroe stats and will update later today ...
OffLine Tim O
  2012-07-17 12:33:21    
I have updated the numbers above in the original post ...

Bottom line, it is still around 1/6th as popular to send each successive grade.  Not difficult of course, just 'popular'.

And 1/5th as many climbers send each successive route grade, while 1/4 as many boulders do.  So bouldering is a 'flatter' pyramid I guess.  Draw your own conclusions :)
OnLine grubber
  2012-07-18 13:01:14    
wow Tim, that's awesome!
very impressive and interesting. I will now go and see how my own ascents look, and if I should climb more hard stuff, as my mates keep saying ;)

and as for the 'number of ascents correlates to the relative difficulty of grades', I think it's not a one on one correlation, but there should definitely be some. I like the idea, if nothing else.

how about we use a vaguer word like 'accessibility' of a route or boulder? every higher grade is x times less 'accessible'.. or maybe even 'ascendible'? or am I being too 'sensible'? ;)
OffLine Christian Stohr
  2012-07-18 13:42:41    
Something I just want to throw into the discussion after reading grubber's post: how does Tim's law behave on lower grades? His assumptions are only for the top of the scale but does that also hold for lower grades then; especially because they might have evolved in a different way / in a different time.
So was the first 8a 6 times harder than the first 7c (edit: should be 7c+, depending on how you interpret the law) and so on? And does that still hold today?

I think you have to be more accurate if you want this to be scientific. At least that's the impression I get, I don't know anything about the rules in sports science though.
OnLine grubber
  2012-07-18 17:07:09    
christian, only a valid dataset could prove this, and as tim already mentioned, that's probably not the case. most people don't log easier ascents, which would make the law only valid  for the higher grades, in a practical sense at least.
I think, that even with 'good' climbers starting their logs at 8A or something, the size and make-up of the population will mostly rectify the situation down to low 7's. just guessing here, no claims ;)

edit: I just looked at my boulder-distribution, and it was 2-13-(22-half grade)-82. I'm disregarding the 2 above that (a dyno and a traverse, and thus too specific), and get a ratio of 1-6, then again 1-6. it only works for full grades in my case. NICE :P
OffLine Johannes Boos
  2012-07-18 17:09:26    
sometimes my favouriteboulder is 6a, sometimes 6b and sometimes 5c!
Fact!
OffLine Tim O
  2012-07-18 18:17:12    
Cheers Christian and Grubber!  I was beginning to lose hope :)

I'd love to do query that returns ALL grades and looks at them over time but alas we are limited to only 500 records at a time ... hence why I have asked a few times for Jens' help to get the stats ... @Jens?

I have looked at sends per year per grade at that top end and there are multiple data sets that more or less support the theory.  And any differences I'm wary of assuming too much cause the data is pretty dirty.  Trust me, I do big data analytics for my day job and just because billion dollar companies make decisions off worse data ... that doesn't mean they should! :)
OffLine oO00Oo
  2012-07-18 19:57:32    
Nonetehless, the conclusion that each grade is 6-7 times harder than the previous, is wrong! It is a wrong conclusion of your statistic. To measure the difficulty of a climb we have to work out a guidebook with scientific knowledge about morphological parameters how to rate problems to have a basis where we can transfer significant individual parameters required for a climb and grade them based on the instructions of the book. This is the only possibility to build on an objective grading system which is able to measure the performance of an individual for a certain problem and can be analyzed by the community objective and transparent. We have to abstract a little bit. Otherwise we will see "wonderkids" who climb Fb 8C Boulder problems with ten years if our grading system and the community is not able to distinguish about performance and morphological requirement for a certain problem. If a boulder for example fits the style of a short climber around 160 cm best, for every cm and every kg you differ from the ideal morphological parameters for this boulder in worse cases you can have intensities which require years of training only because you are few cm taller or some kg heavier. Random boulder problems normally differ more than 2-3 grades between individuals between 155-185 cm. And if we try to grade problems for a average height of 165-170 cm we favor climbers who are in this range but this does not automatically mean that these climbers have the best requirements for this sport as they are favored only by our grading system which is not able to distinguish between morphology and performance since yet!
OffLine Christian Stohr
  2012-07-18 20:56:40    
oO00Oo: general question: does the majority of climbers actually want such a grading system which probably makes things more complicated than the average climber wants to care for?
I think what rather is needed is a sort of plugin/extension to current grading systems so that people can debate about routes scientifically and others just go climb it?
OffLine oO00Oo
  2012-07-18 22:15:12    
@ChristianStohr: I don't know what the majority of climbers want but when I do a boulder I want to estimate the performance relatively to others, want to know if the problem fits my style generally or not. Since now we don't have a reference and everybody can claim hard performances because the community can not distinguish between performance and morphology. The only way is such a system I proposed. It would be a big step forward even for the competitions to create problems which are more or less fair. My idea for competitions is to have a look on the participating nations and calculate the mean values for each country of the participating nations (not for the single climbers) regarding the height for male and female. And then set the problems for the calculated values. This can simply be automated and is more correct than setting boulder problems which favors climber around 165-170 cm. For example the mean values for mens regarding height for countries in europe are around 175-180 cm. But does the community know if a certain problem is harder for a tall climber or a short one? How much knowledge does the route setters have when they set the problems? I am wondering why in the finals of males bouldering most likely are climbers around 170 cm. Since yet I am not sure, and I am very interesting, if a short climber has on average really better requirements for climbing how it seems like, or if there is only a ignorance in grading and route setting which favors short climbers generally. 
OffLine Greg Corn
  2012-07-19 09:49:08    
Tim O.......you really have something with this data and I am super impressed with what you have done. You obviously have some expertise in this area and are really on to something. I sure hope you continue and publish something. It's a great awesome idea and you are on the right track. Remember you aren't dealing with the same quality of person on this site and most people will just come up with some bs reply to try and discredit you. At the end of the day the numbers are the numbers and the data is the data. Uneducated people and even some educated people won't get this and still argue. Forget about them. Stick with it. This is an awesome very cool way of helping figure this out and I get it.
OffLine Greg Corn
  2012-07-19 09:54:18    
Also in lieu of Carlos comment I think everything Nalle says now has to be taken with a grain of salt. He sure seems like a shit disturber. He made a big beal of FRFM before and would be wondering how much effort he has put into the route since. He is one strong dude but that's no excuse to be an ass!
OffLine oO00Oo
  2012-07-19 11:11:21    
@GregCorn: Nonetheless the conclusion of the statisic is wrong. What should this has to do with people who are trying to discredit the analyses? Do you think the conclusion becomes true if nobody is talking about? If you understand the analysis of the data you should know. I find it interesting no question but from other points of views. And I personally find the downgrade of Nalle legitimate, not disrespectful and what ever. The argumentation that Nalle and Dave found a easier beta is very weak and who decide if a beta is really easier? Normally climbers uses different beta and it can be kind of respect for the first ascensionist if you dont claim your beta easier because you dont know if the beta you used works for the first ascensionist. And what the hell is the problem with downgrading? There are always some grades difference between most of the climbs between different climbers so I find the offense a bit strange. We should respect the estimation of Nalle even as I think that the number given by the first ascensionist should have more impact because the boulder is kind of affected by the grade given by the first ascensionist and should require a bit of the identity as long as possible since our grading system is not objective.
OffLine Christian Stohr
  2012-07-19 14:24:19    
Greg: to explain you how science usually works: there's a scientist having an idea of whatever that might be (something he observed maybe) so he does research on that and finally comes to a thesis. He publishes that thesis. Now because luckily he's not the only scientist in the world other scientists start "attacking" his thesis and trying to show it's false in general / that there's a mistake in his proof / give an example which doesn't follow the thesis (if that wouldn't happen we'd believe a lot bullshit - more bullshit that you could imagine in any post on 8a.nu). If the scientist is able to defend his thesis he will gradually believe more and more in it and will eventually convince the other scientists of it.
Now you can say that his thesis is part of our current view on the world and is true.

Back to Tim, he observed a law in the difficulty of grades. It is just naturally that there are people out there who don't trust him blindfolded / think he's wrong or (like me) are trying to understand better how he made his conclusion by trying to get more data/explanations from him/8a.
I understand that you might feel offended by the choice of words of a few on this topic - but hey, what do you expect? This is the internet.
OffLine Greg Corn
  2012-07-19 15:11:13    
When the guy who repeated Graham's line coup de grace downgraded the climb he had the professionalism and honesty of saying he found an easier way. He also stated the way Dave did it was 9a+. Obviously this is critical. If you find a kneebar or as in the game new holds or holds are bigger then the fa it should be stated. It sounded like from Carlos post Nalle knew he found an easier way. This is just respect and honest. It's happened in so many first ascents. Nothing wrong with downgrading at all. I don't think Robinson is known for over grading his problems and has certainly repeated enough of the hard ones to know the grade of 8C. If an easier way was found then state it. Who knows maybe FRFM is 9a, maybe it's 9b+, we won't know until it gets multiple repeats and maybe someone finds an easier method. Again, use some class and be respectful.

Christian, thank you for explaining to me how science works, you have opened my eyes.............

I want to hear more grades are not important posts from jens. It's like bad techno music that plays over and over and over. Jens do you realize your posts are the same over and over and over and over?????? Everytime I read grades are not important it makes me want to puke.
OffLine Christian Stohr
  2012-07-19 15:22:46    
Again, use some class and be respectful.
Everytime I read grades are not important it makes me want to puke.

Oh the irony.
OffLine Greg Corn
  2012-07-19 15:40:27    
Your right that was not very respectful but go back and read the first few posts of where this discussion started. Jens 3 lessons for all of us to learn. Don't you have another educational post for me Christian. Irony would be the name of this website!!!!!!
OffLine Greg Corn
  2012-07-19 15:40:30    
Your right that was not very respectful but go back and read the first few posts of where this discussion started. Jens 3 lessons for all of us to learn. Don't you have another educational post for me Christian.
OffLine Greg Corn
  2012-07-19 15:40:33    
Your right that was not very respectful but go back and read the first few posts of where this discussion started. Jens 3 lessons for all of us to learn. Don't you have another educational post for me Christian.
OffLine ®ents
  2012-07-20 03:16:22    

I think Paul has no case to be offended here. Cast you mind back to his ascent of Dave Graham's "From dirt grows the flowers". Suggesting a down grade without climbing the original line?

OffLine Malcolm Koyamada
  2012-07-20 12:29:11    
Let's not forget about when Pknob 'downgraded' King of Limbs to 8b after having two seasons on it without offering an explanation - even after he said it would be 8c for sure. Someone beats him to the first ascent so he has to downgrade it... Welcome to the hood. Never really got graded in the first place to be fair. Sensationalist media crap.
OnLine NickT
  2012-07-20 14:58:01    
lol..from the looks of it..paul has not actually commented on anything, only Carlo :) the only reason this is being discussed is because the '8a community' has decided to. In the end, who cares!! The line is a good line and is damn hard....and that's really what matters, right?