GO TO GLOBAL SITE   se es us fr za it
de ca au no
at br ru ch
gb pl nl sk
Home | News | Videos | Articles | Gallery | Crags | Gyms | Search - Tick List | Forum | Ranking | Blogs | Contact | New Member
Forum: GLOBAL / News / El Bon Combat 9a+ (9b/+) by Jakob Schubert Login in to contribute
El Bon Combat 9a+ (9b/+) by Jakob Schubert
OffLine 8a.nu
  2018-12-02 00:00:00    
Jakob Schubert reports on Insta that he has done the second ascent of Chris Sharma's El Bon Combat in Cova de l'ocell giving it a personal grade of hard 9a+.

"I know it's easy to not think about it and just take the grade of the first ascensionist which in this case is 9b/+ but I feel the responsibility to have more thoughts about it. For me it felt easier from the first day I tried it and I would guess it is a hard 9a+. Curious what others will think."

Jakob has been one of the leading competition climbers in the World the last ten years and this year he was the Lead as well as the Combined World Champion, beside winning the Lead World Cup. The 27 year old Austrian has previuosly done three 9b's, seven 9a+' and two 8C boulders.

El Bon Combat is located just 40 min oustide Barcelona and it was bolted by Martí Iglesias Galobart. It is 25 meters and the really spectacular route is made up by a mixture of sand stone and conglomerate. The difficulty is based on several 8A Boulder problems connected with poor rests.
OffLine crcamara
  2018-12-02 18:31:42    

In climbing, grades have become this strange, complex and controversial thing. And it is also unavoidable debating about them, particularly in a forum such as this one.


I think whatever you believe grades are depends on certain assumptions, most of which are, probably, incorrect. These are some of the assumptions I can think of:


1. Grades are physical properties of rock

2. Grades are subjective properties of climbers


Take assumption #1. This is clearly not quite true. Rocks have physical properties, such as density, texture, mass, ledges, angles, holes etc., but “grades” are not one of them. You won´t find grades in analyzing a rock in a microscope. This might seem obvious, but some people do talk about a rock (a route or boulder) as “being” of such or such grade. An example where this might be closer to the truth is in sprinting 100 meters. Distance is a property of a track, and the time you can cover this distance in is indeed a formula for speed. So, when a sprinter breaks the 100m record, he does not say “oh, this 100m must really be only 95m”.


Every so often, climbers realize that this assumption is wrong, and then swing towards assumption #2. This is where words like “it felt to me like xgrade” pop up, and when people start talking about “consensus”. But this assumption cannot also be completely right. If one cannot send a route, this does not mean it is harder, and if one can flash it, it does not mean it is easier. If you practice the same route for years, this does not change the difficulty of the climb, it changes you. Everyone knows that body features (reach, finger size, etc.) matter, but a route with the “reachiest” move in the world is not automatically the hardest route in the world (although if only one climber in the world can do it, someone who is 2.3 meters, for example, one could argue that it isreally hard!). Even comparing one route against another you have done in the past is tricky, because it is scientific fact that our own memories and impressions are not always 100% accurate (so, when you think: “oh, the route I did last year was much harder than this, this one must be of a lower grade”, you might be misrepresenting your own memory of the event that happened a year ago!).


We are left with the frustrating realization (pun intended!) that grades must be a composite of both the properties of a rock and of the climber. They are an “emerging property”, dependent on but not reducible to the sum of the rock´s properties and the climber´s abilities. So: is “El Bon Combat” easier than “Neanderthal” or “Stoking the Fire”? Will this neverending debate ever be resolved? Will I come close in climbing a 9a? I am only certain of the answer to the last question, which is, of course not!.

By the way, awesome news, great achievement by Jakob, a truly elite climber.
OffLine Jens Larssen
  2018-12-02 21:27:35    
In one way it is really strange how FAs grades around the globe can be so accurate. This in combination with guys like Schubert and Ondra being honest giving their opinion very few hard core grades of routes and boulders are wrong.

Historically we have seen some areas and type of climbs being affected by grade inflation and in one way this is just natural and part of the game. Possibly 20 % of all hard core climbs around the globe have later been down graded.

The thing I personally feel bad about when it comes to grading and news reporting is the lack of cred the modest hard grading guys get in the media and that goes also in general for most old school routes as well as most trad routes. It is not fair that these guys do not get the media or sponsor attention they deserve just because they always want to play it safe. Alex Huber is the best example here who could have been much more famous if he would on average graded his FAs one grade harder.
OffLine Johannes Boos
  2018-12-02 23:51:32    
crcamara: one of the best descriptions of the grading misery ever read on 8a.nu.. 1up

Jens: same as ever... like a dreadmill…
OnLine austin howell
  2018-12-03 02:50:44    
Jens, in the style of 8a’s general reporting.... the consensus or original grade is given priority, while the personal grade is given secondary. Shouldnt’ this article be about “El Bon Combat” 9b/+ (9a+)

Otherwise you’re exercising the authority of your platform to push the narrative of a downgrade rather than simply reporting on the news of climbing, and this piece should be moved to the opinion column. After all, we the keyboard warriors have no way of knowing whether Sharma’s or Schubert’s grading is more accurate. Maybe a third ascent will clarify?
OffLine Sebastian Peace
  2018-12-03 04:17:53    
I second Johannes. Very nice read crcamara.
Edit: Although we do slightly change the rock with our sweat, chalk, rubber, brushing,...
@Austin: Maybe, because Jacob gave a personal grade, the 9a+ part stands first and the 9b/+ Sharma grade stands second between the brackets. This might explain, otherwise no clue.
OffLine Robert Kasper
  2018-12-03 08:29:44    
when i read jakobs instagram post then i read a nice story. When i come here i just hear about grades. its a bit sad

Here is a blueprint for every 8a.nu headline:

XY who has won two worldcups in 2007, and is only 1.65 m high, has done Route xy.
Grades, grades, personal grades....
OffLine Till Teufel
  2018-12-03 10:19:17    
@RobertKasper: This is exactly how I feel. This thread has sadly evolved as almost every other thread about a hard ascent. The main thing people talk about is the damn grade. I don't care if it is a 9a+, 9b or 9b+.

As Chris Sharma sais, El Bon Combat is one of his most important routes. And Jakob sais in his opinion it is the nicest route around and I am very happy for Jakob to be able to send it after such a great year for him.

I would love to read some more credit for Jakob here instead of this annoying discussion about grades. That it is not a 7a is clear, but does it really matter if it is a 9a+ or 9b?
OffLine Jens Larssen
  2018-12-03 11:26:50    
Grades are the number one criteria for when media select which ascents to report. It is indeed news worthy when the fifth hardest graded route in the world gets heavily down graded. It does very much matter if it is 9a+ or 9b+ if we want to consider climbing a sport.

There is a link to Schuberts Insta where we can read in detail what Schubert thinks of the route. It would be kind of strange if I just copied everything what Jakob said. Instead I pointed out that it is really spectacular.
OnLine Jason Crank
  2018-12-03 14:47:32    
Jens - again, grades are the number one criteria when you choose to report. For me, Nalle sending Singularity, even though it was "only" the underwhelming grade of V14, was still big news.

Two whole ascents, especially when they differ by a step and a half, is not enough for anyone to build a "consensus grade" around. Jakob calling it 9a++ in no way makes that the real grade any more than Chris calling it 9b/+.

What is the grading theory we want to use? Clearly we have benchmarks - climbs we all have chosen to agree on and compare new climbs against. But beyond that, is the grade of a climb the average of the ascentionists opinions? Is the grade that it feels in perfect conditions with intimate knowledge and is in your "style". Is it the lowest grade offered by a "reliable" climber?
OffLine Robert Kasper
  2018-12-03 14:50:25    
ha i knew this was gonna be the answer.

Dude just let anybody else write the News. It's not your thing
OffLine Jens Larssen
  2018-12-03 15:11:06    
Grades are, as we all know, subjective and we can never be 100 % sure of the grades. Even bench mark grades can change due to new beta have been found etc. Historically, we can say that normally when a climb gets a down grade proposal, sooner or later it will be down graded. In this specific case, I have gotten the message both before and now also after Schubert's ascent that it will get down graded in the future.

Grades are not based on the average opinions. Take Era Vella and Mind Control as examples. Most people have called it 9a and 8c+ but today this is not how they are referred to now.

I agree that also other criterias, beside the grade, can be used deciding which ascents should be reported. However, if Nalle or Sharma makes a FA of a 6A, no media will never report it as it is not news worthy. Grades are what it is all about, from the media perspective, although for many climbers it is secondary :)
OffLine Sebastian Peace
  2018-12-03 15:38:40    
Even Chris is discussing the grade on his instagram. What else is really worth discussing? The beauty a specific foothold? ;)
OffLine rai
  2018-12-03 15:39:15    
This difficulty debate is concerning 20 people more or less in the world... In this case, and for the bulk of average climbers, it would be interesting to understand the following: "why such a difference in the grade appreciation", who should we believe, etc...? C.Sharma has the 2nd best tick-list of 9b's and should have a good feeling of the difference between a hard 9b and a hard 9a+ (even if this is an FA), it is always subjective. Has Jakob used the same methods, or is he transfering on rock all the specific "on rope boulder training" of the WC circuit, etc...??? Because reported like this (and I must say that from the other news mags we did not got much analytical content...), you are adding a raw news to what is a grade comparison debate only...
OffLine Jens Larssen
  2018-12-03 15:52:25    
This is what Chris told Planet Mountain after the FA,

"It’s at least 9b, but I’ve decided to give it the b+ slash grade because, who knows, perhaps it’s even harder."

There are many reason for different grade opinion, as Chris says, Jakob might be in a super shape but it could also be that new sequences are found, different in height and conditions etc.

In one way, in regards the down grading, the spectacular king route will get more traffic as much more climbers can do 9a+ in comparison to 9b/+, which is really good.
OffLine Peter Pan
  2018-12-03 16:07:09    
Jakob being in a super shape should not change the grade. The climb is the grade the shape is the climber. Otherwise we would get a funny grading system where it's one grade for a weaker climber and another for a stronger (to an extent that's what is happening with sandbagging or soft grades).
OffLine Dan Cannaday
  2018-12-03 16:20:13    
Supposedly Jakob was working the route with Felipe Camargo. I know that traditionally only the ascentionists talk about grades but I'm still curious what Felipe's experience on the route was and his initial impressions about the potential grade. Also did Jakob use Sharma's exact beta for the cruxes? Did he explore new holds that Sharma had dismissed? I'm pretty sure there is good footy of each ascent so why not compare them? Seems like limited reporting being done here. I would love to see an article like this with some sort of "8a.nu will do some more investigation on this ascent and be back with more details about this route and the potential downgrade."
OffLine crcamara
  2018-12-03 20:47:11    
First of all, I apologize for throwing gasoline into the fiery debate of grades, instead on focusing on Jakob´s cool ascent. My post may have better placed in the comments of an opinion piece, and not on a news piece.

But the damage is done. My point is that our assumptions on grading are affecting the way we think about them, and therefore, our feelings on what a grade should or shouldn't be. My conclusion was that grades cannot be dissected into purely objective and subjective qualities, as some in the thread have insisted on. Chris´s comments on his Instagram appear to get the point: the rock is there, it is hard to climb, AND the climbers fitness matters as well. Few human beings in the planet should have a better concept of what 9a+ to 9b+ is than Chris Sharma. And Jakob just beat another one of those human beings in competition (AO). So it is both true that the climb is hard and that Jakob is super strong.

Some (not naming names) will insist on "grading inflation". But we fail to recognize that there is also a problem of "grade deflation". Look at recent ascents by Ben Moon on "Evolution", and the history of Action Directe or Hubble. By the way, Felipe Camargo also did Chris´s Gancho Perfecto, and thought it was 9a/+-ish. So again, Chris thought that one was 9a, but then did El Bon Combat and thought that was 9b/+. If we insist that one must be right and the other wrong, the debate will never end. I wish I had an answer for consistency, something to make the debate go away forever. But if we don´t agree on the definitions first, or do away with our flawed assumptions, we will never escape the paradox that we have created for ourselves.

Cheers to all and happy climbing!
OffLine Peter Pan
  2018-12-03 22:31:37    
Interestingly this is already the second time Jakob is proposing a down grade for one of Sharma's climbs: