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Forum: GLOBAL / News / Jacopo Larcher does the world's hardest trad? Login in to contribute
Jacopo Larcher does the world's hardest trad?
OffLine 8a.nu
  2019-03-22 00:00:00    
Jacopo Larcher, who three years ago did La Rambla 9a+, has done his hardest route ever. "I have never invested so much time in a route before. Anyway, I decided not to grade it ;)"

The Italian found it six years ago and the last year the 25 meter line in Cardese, Italy, has been his big focus. He says that he has worked on it during possibly 50 sessions or more. In regards placing the gear, Jacopo says it is not so hard to place. "It just makes it more pumpy between the two hard sections." (c) Paolo Sartoro Photo

It is a well known fact that trad grades are harder than sport grades. One reason for this is that in the beginning of the sport era, you had to place the quick draws as you were climbing as you had to place the trad gear. Later, the sport ethics changed towards pre-placed quick draws. Further more, it seems that at the same time we have seen grade inflation for sport routes there has been deflation for trad. Currently there exist some four 8c+ trad routes meaning that there possibly should be a two grades gap comparing it to sport routes.

Understanding that the gear placement did not have so much impact on the difficulty for Larcher, it just might have been 9a+ or 9b with bolts. So what do you think? Did Jacopo do the first 9a trad route in the world?
Click to Enlarge Picture
OffLine Raoul Crivelli
  2019-03-22 21:16:45    
Hi, the route is in Cadarese not in Cardese ;-)
OffLine Lando Peters
  2019-03-23 08:48:12    
Echo wall would certainly be a contender for that as well
OffLine Henning Wang
  2019-03-23 10:44:49    
"It is a well known fact that trad grades are harder than sport grades."


"Currently there exist some four 8c+ trad routes meaning that there possibly should be a two grades gap comparing it to sport routes."

why in the world would that be the case?
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2019-03-23 13:03:17    
If the maximum trad grade was 8c+ and a couple of hundreds have done 9a harder in sport, it must be obvious that trad grades are harder.

Further more, many trad experts have done harder and much more fast ascent in sport.
OffLine Sebastian Peace
  2019-03-23 13:48:36    
Mhhh but climbable trad routes are harder to find than hard bolted routes. Sure, placing gear is harder than clipping a quickdraw but it should be noted that there are more lines out there that can only be protected by bolts rather than trad gear.
OnLine Steve
  2019-03-23 18:01:04    
Also, it's generally harder to project a trad route than a sport route. So if a trad and a sport route have the same difficulty, it requires much more effort to send the trad route. The grade however, stays the same.
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2019-03-23 18:35:14    
I do not agree. The best objective measurement when suggesting a grade is to base it on the time and effort invested, i.e. Time Comparison Grading.

An ascent that requires more effort means it is more difficult to repeat, in comparison to an ascent which required less effort.
OffLine Jure Franko
  2019-03-23 20:49:35    
There are many many many more hardcore sport climbers than hardcore trad climbers. The best are pushing their limits on bolts and are interested only in diffuculty of routes not placing gear. The same goes for soloing, the hardest route tthat was soloed is 8b+, wich was done with rope too and nobody sugested 9a+. The effort of 8c+ trad is probably comparable with effort of 9a with bolts but it is still 8c+. Jens suggest upgrades or downgrades when you do the route. You still have to climb Action direct, Era vela, Akira...and probably hundreds more just justify your statements :)
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2019-03-23 21:20:05    
Many hard core trad climbers have done their hardest grade on a sport route.

"The effort of 8c+ trad is probably comparable with effort of 9a with bolts but it is still 8c+."
Why should comparable efforts have different grades?

As you most probably know, my grade statements becomes normally the truth after some years :)
OnLine Steve
  2019-03-23 21:27:14    
@Jens Complete disagreement. Time comparison grading is misleading. Different routes have different moves, some more tricky than other. For different climbers it takes a different amount of time to wire in some moves, i.e. to activate muscle memory. Once this is done, it's essentially the physical difficulty that counts and this makes it most comparable. Once you've got the moves of a route wired in, you can tell how difficult it feels. And then you can tell a grade that other climbers can understand. I'm sure you have experienced it yourself: You go to a new crag, choose a route of grade x from the guidebook which is within your limits, try it, fail at a certain move and think "no way this is grade x!". After working it for a while you are able to do the move and it doesn't feel that hard anymore. At this point you realize "oh yeah, this route is indeed grade x". Time comparison therefore doesn't work. It would only work if all routes in the world would have the same style of moves. Btw, that's also Pirmin Bertle's big mistake with his "french golden rule", giving him such a bad reputation.
OnLine Steve
  2019-03-23 21:28:31    
"Why should comparable efforts have different grades?"

-> see above
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2019-03-23 21:29:48    
So please explain a better way of getting the grades correct than measuring the time and effort needed.
OnLine Steve
  2019-03-23 22:19:51    
Well, I did, three posts above. Just read it.
OffLine austin howell
  2019-03-23 22:26:15    
Oh, I dunno... maybe by letting first ascensionists repeaters develop consensus by comparing the routes to others of the same style?

Grades have always represented the aggregate physicality of a route, not time investment. If it takes me thirty years to send it, would we up the grade? Clearly not.
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2019-03-23 22:56:10    
So how do you subjectively measured the physical difficulty of the moves?
OffLine Federico Trespiernas
  2019-03-24 11:38:27    
The reason is obvious, for every 99 sport climbers there is 1 trad climber ...
Jens knows it, he just creates another controversy by throwing an absurd comment to get a few clicks.
It would be interesting to see a little more attention in Echo Wall, I do not know how many years it´s waiting for a repeat, It must be intimidating.
OffLine Thomas Bach
  2019-03-24 18:35:29    
"As you most probably know, my grade statements becomes normally the truth after some years :)" Jens, seriously. What an arrogant statement. Its an overused term, but I think you tend to the narcissistic side of the personality-spectrum. Jesus Christ!
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2019-03-24 19:41:45    
@ Federico: Why do you think many trad experts have a grade personal best in sport.

@ Thomas: I just try to explain that Time Comparising Grading is the best way to understand grading. I have used it in a number of occasion in regards down grading in Hueco Tanks, Rocklands, Ticino, north east Spain and Kalymos etc which all later have seen a massive down gradings.
OffLine Thomas Bach
  2019-03-24 23:32:25    
Yes, you are the superior Emperor of all things climbing, I understand that now. Supreme Leader, I will not argue any more and will forever bow to your commands.
OffLine Georgicus Fruticis
  2019-03-25 10:08:39    
Does anyone know in wich sector the route is located?
OffLine pbla4024
  2019-03-25 12:51:21    
Trad experts have their max in sport climbs because:
1) In sport climb you are not weighted by few kilos of friends
2) You do get tired by friend placement
3) There is much much more risk in trad climbing
4) It is tiring and time consuming to clean up the route after each attempt
5) Fingerlocks in small cracks (common in hard trad) are quite devastating for skin and articulation
Etc etc.
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2019-03-25 14:52:47    
The difficulty of a route must also include how hard it is to place the protection.

It is not that a trad route which is 8b on top rope should stay 8b if you have to place the protection in the middle of the crux.
OffLine austin howell
  2019-03-25 15:34:28    
The only thing Time comparison grading does is add an extra layer of obfuscation and subjectivity to an already subjective and hard to quantify value

How do I propose to subjectively measure the physical difficulty of the moves?

How do you propose to subjectively measure who’s time on a route matters the most? How do you propose to subjectively weigh the time spent by various climbers? If it took one climber ten years to send, and another took ten minutes....

How do you choose who’s time to compare? The one who’s “better?”

That’s a subjective designation
OffLine Spencer "Spanky" Scott
  2019-03-25 16:57:47    
Jens, no one cares how much sport and trad grades have drifted apart over the years as much as you.

I think 5.14- trad climbs are often more impressive than 5.15 sport climbs, as do many people. The general public respects the accomplishments in both disciplines regardless of the grade.

Someone had a great accomplishment and then you were a public nuisance about it, again, begging for more respect because "trad this and sport that". There's a reason people don't know who you are.
OffLine pbla4024
  2019-03-25 17:20:16    
When you remove bolts from 8b+ and climb it with nuts and friends, it stays 8b+.
For reference see Prinzip hoffnung.
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2019-03-25 17:21:52    
After publishing the news I asked Jacopo if it was OK? "Perfect! Thanks!" was his answer.

I did write, "It is a well known fact that trad grades are harder than sport grades."

Even so, one very experienced climber said this was not correct here above.

Without understanding grades, the community can not fully appreciate the ascents. I try to make it as understandable as possible. I am sorry you did not like it.
OffLine pbla4024
  2019-03-25 18:47:37    
Again, if you climb bolted route not clipping any bolts and only using friends, it does not change the grade.
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2019-03-25 19:07:27    
Please Google Prinzip Hoffnung and you will see that it has been down graded to 8b/+ even if it clearly must be harder placing all the gear. As a sport route, with all quick draws in place, it was 8b+ as you say.

Please try to explain why the trad experts normally have their grade personal best in sport?
OffLine pbla4024
  2019-03-25 20:03:16    
Apparently I have to write it again:
Trad experts have their max in sport climbs because:
1) In sport climb you are not weighted by few kilos of friends
2) You do get tired by friend placement
3) There is much much more risk in trad climbing
4) It is tiring and time consuming to clean up the route after each attempt
5) Fingerlocks in small cracks (common in hard trad) are quite devastating for skin and articulation
Etc etc.
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2019-03-25 20:48:32    
If you carry extra weigth and have difficulties placing the gear, obviously this makes the ascent harder and should be compensated for in the grade.

Jacopo says he did his hardest ascent but nevertheless I do not think it will be graded 9b as trad routes normally are harder graded.
OffLine Milky "Dad-Bod" Williams
  2019-03-26 01:56:27    
"The difficulty of a route must also include how hard it is to place the protection.

It is not that a trad route which is 8b on top rope should stay 8b if you have to place the protection in the middle of the crux."

In America, or at least at all the places I've climbed, it's exactly the opposite of what you just said Jens. Routes are graded for the difficulty of the climbing (basically how hard it is on toprope) and the grade doesn't reflect how hard it is to stop and place protection. So yes, an 8b is an 8b if it has bolts or if you have to stop and place gear and deal with additional risk management. When I follow my partner (on toprope) I can usually flash about the same difficulty whether it's sport or trad. But, like most people, I can onsight much higher graded sport routes than I can trad routes. It's not that trad grades are harder, it's that it's harder to climb trad. That's why most climbers' hardest trad route is a few grades less than their hardest sport route.

Here's an example that might help you understand. Say there's a 7a trad route. Alex Honnold cruises up it and only stops to place 3 pieces of gear. It feels like 7a to him. I go up it and stop every 5 feet to plug gear. I'm scared and overgripping everything, but after an hour long battle I get to the top and I'm so pumped I feel like I just climbed a 7c+. That doesn't make it 7c+ just because I suck at climbing. It's still a 7a rock climb. Right?
OffLine Tj Ovesen
  2019-03-26 02:33:58    
Just to find a line on natural gear at the 9 level is probably why it doesn't happen a lot. It really has to be very cruxy. If not I just imagine gear where my hands and feet wants to go. How interesting is it to climb a route trad if it ups the grade with more than one level ? Well, I dunno, but it does make it a different sport.The time it takes to fickle that out should then be subtracted from the time comparison theory. Not to mention the time it takes to trust the rig, witch also differs a lot. The E grading system might be a better option for trad routes. If only graded with physical difficulty two trad routes could end up with the same grade when in truth they are at totally different levels.
A good example is Gaia. Physically (toprope ) not very hard 7b+. placing gear is not even a big issue. But for a 7b+, well...
So how many points does Gaia get, and why ?
But the flaws in the E system. How to assess danger into the level. The famous E 11 said to be one of the hardest and most dangerous things out there. Kind of crashed when Gaz Perry crushed it second try and called it 8a+ and not that dangerous. Bet it took longer on the Fa because of the broken leg, maybe not that much because of the physical difficulty.
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2019-03-26 08:09:56    
@ Milky: The same placing gear/clipping difficulty appears on sport routes but then it is included in the grade. Further more, every climber has to carry the rope. I bet the Oliana 50 meters route would be physically easier if done solo but the grade of sport routes also includes the difficulty to carry and clip the rope.

E-grades on easier trad routes works fine but on harder routes it is often miss-leading which also have been Said by UKC. A hard and dangerous, in the start, trad route gets down graded if you carry in several crash pads. A trad route which is supposed to be ok Protected could get upgraded if somebody dies due to the piece did not take the fall.
OffLine Tj Ovesen
  2019-03-27 11:34:15    
Sport routes have grades based on the difficulty of placing the gear ?
Isn't that also imbedded in the trad grades. And if so, with new and better gear like aliens old school trad routes are now easier and could in some cases even get down graded?
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2019-03-27 12:34:13    
Yes and because of that a sport route where the bolts have been chopped off, might get upgrad if it is hard to place the gear.

In reality, it seems sometimes that it is often the other way around as trad grades in general are harder graded, i.e. sand bagged in comparison to sport. Therefore trad guys do sometimes not get the credit they deserve.
OffLine Tj Ovesen
  2019-03-28 06:06:59    
The human processing power is limited(7+-2). That is why sudoku is such a brilliant game and why humans will never be able to beat artificial intelligence in chess.
When climbing at your limit, processing power diminishes as it is being used to get the next hold, having that toe work in the right direction,grabbing that hold right etc.
Adding danger and trust in a rig needs processing power an average climber does not have in this situation.Especially at the top level.
It will take longer time to work it out.
If you strictly use time comparison theory, it will be flawed. The subjective feeling of overcoming a trad challenge increases drastically closer to your personal limit. If it is a few levels from your personal limit, processing capacity can handle the extra stress. The felt difficulty for one route, like Milky pointed out will vary a lot.
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2019-03-28 07:18:32    
I have just said that Time Comparison Grading is the best indication. What other method could be better to give an indication of the grade?
OffLine Henning Wang
  2019-03-28 09:57:29    
Time Comparison would only be relevant if conditions, physical form and mindset were constant, and in addition the routes compared were similar in style.

Like Jacopo writes. He can not compare this route to La Rambla as that is a 40 meter endurance route and this is highly friction dependent bouldering.. The time spent is not really relevant if the conditions are rare but super important, but you still try the route when the conditions are not there.

I have tried routes in good conditions thinking I would do them super quick, then returned and had shitty conditions for 3 weeks gettting nowhere, then to get good conditions again and walk up it. Total time spent 3,5 week or 20-40 or so goes perhaps. Had conditions remained good tho it would probably have been more like 2-3 days and 3-6 attempts. So does that extra time invested make the route harder? I think not.

Time comparison also fails on long term redpoints as it completely fails to factor in the mental aspect of trying something at your limit over time. It is not easy to always have 100% focus and go 100% for all the holds when you have been up there for months already failing for one reason or another.

Then of course there is the classic long route vs short route problem.
A long route has more moves, that means more to practice and more to remember. All depending on how tricky and weird the moves/sequences are this can add a lot of time over a short and more straight forward route at the same grade. That however does not mean longer routes are harder then shorter routes per se, just that they in most cases will take longer to work out and climb.
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2019-03-28 10:03:50    
Conditions are of course included in the TCG :)

Please suggest a better way than Time how Jacopo and others try to compare the difficulty on totally different climbing style. Even Jacopo says Tribe is his hardest based on the Time invested which have made media speculate if it is the worlds first 9a trad.
OffLine Henning Wang
  2019-03-28 10:39:51    
When it comes to trad grades vs sport grades I will say it again, the grades should be the same if toproped.
However one of the major differences on a trad route compared to a sport route is that the gear is not neccesarily where you want it to be, while the bolts are placed where it´s most logical/easy to clip.
All depending on how hard the gear placements are this can for sure add something, and in some cases make a trad route feel harder to redpoint then a sport route of the same grade.

As pointed out earlier tho, there is a huge difference in comfort zone and willingness to take risk.
Trusting small gear vs trusting a bolt is not for everyone causing all sorts of fear related issues that as stated above takes away from the focus needed to climb at the limit, or just climb relaxed and efficent on "easy" terrain.

But then you have those guys with balls the size of your mothers minivan that climb just as relaxed 7 meters over scetchy gear as you would half a meter above a bolt. Unless you use the brittish system, the grade is then based on toprope as the mental aspect is to hard to take into account.

Of course the route will usually have a reputation for it if it´s scary and/or dangerous. It is this that make some trad ascents very impressive despite not being at the cutting edge grade wize, much the same as Hannolds solo of the Freeblast slabs is one of his most impressive solo´s of all time, not because of the grade, but because of the nature of the climbing. This however does not change the grade of the climb, or make it somehow harder compared to a sport route of the same grade...

The last point, for some reason missed so far as I can see, is the style of climbing. In addition to safe bolts all over on a sport route, the climbing style in general is much more similar to the style people climb on a daily basis and train for indoors, aka face holds, endurance and so on.

A trad route requires some form of cracks/slots to place gear in to be climbed on gear. This usually makes for different types of holds and climbing technique required compared to the average sport/indoor route. Besides the Recovery Drink, there are barely any hard, overhanging endurance routes on gear. Trad also requires a much better understanding of the rock and skill/understanding to safely place gear, in addition to being a pain in the ass to clean every try.. Working out the moves is often also much more tricky as the gear is not where the hard moves are and so on. All this makes trad a much more skill dependent and time consuming endevour. It does not however change the grade in any way, tho a lower grade is usually more impressive when done on gear then on bolts for the obvious reasons mentioned above.

The reason there are so few hard trad routes (9a or above) comes down to two things. 1. Very few routes in this grade range have been found that can be done safely on gear. 2. Very few people have the skill and balls required to climb at this level on gear, and even fewer actually try.
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2019-03-28 13:31:08    
I do not agree as we do not grade neither sport or trad routes based on how difficult they are to top rope as you seen to suggest.

Many sport routes includes hard clips which often increase the grade. Certainly, also trad routes must be graded on that same principle.
OffLine Teilzeit Abenteurer
  2019-03-28 16:49:09    
Take the Gondo Crack as an example: It's an 8c crack route with bolt protection, which can also be climbed on trad gear. Either way you climb it, the route stays exactly the same and so does the grade. It does not make any sense to adjust the grading to the climbing style.
Of course, it is usually harder to climb a route on gear than to clip bolts, which is why most climbers cannot climb the same level on gear they do on bolted routes, but climbing on gear does not make the grade harder, it's just harder to climb the same grade.
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2019-03-28 17:05:58    
I agree that normally you should not adjust the grade based on the climbing style.

The problem is the other way around, trad routes are often sandbagged in comparsion to sport, i.e. Gondo crack might have been set up as an 8b+ trad if it is was done in this way.
OffLine Teilzeit Abenteurer
  2019-03-28 18:03:42    
That's your theory, but there is no evidence. You could only tell by direct comparison, which is rarely possible.
In my opinion, the main problem is that you can hardly compare sports and trad climbing grades, like you can hardly do with sport climbing and bouldering. Even though both styles can be very similar and can somehow be compared, they remain still different and one would just better use the respective grading system since direct comparison mostly would be misleading.
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2019-03-28 18:43:09    
We can compare 9c with 9A saying it is the hardest in sport and boulder. In the same way we can probably say that 9a is the hardest trad grade which indicate that sport grades are softer.
OffLine Teilzeit Abenteurer
  2019-03-28 20:40:26    
Holy cow, it is hardly to believe, how resistent to all suggestions somebody can be... What sense does it make to simply hold the numbers of different grading scales next to each other and derive anything from that?
Following that argument, sport grades equally softer than bouldering grades, since 9A is the maximum bouldering grade.
In the british grading system, the hardest grade is 7b. Does it mean that british (trad) rating is so much harder?
If one compares the highest grade in (french) sport climbing 9c with the hardest boulder V17 and the hardest (british) trad grade E11: Which one is the softest then?
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2019-03-28 21:38:09    
You seem to missunderstand. What I am saying is that there exist three grading scales, i.e agree with you.

Originally trad and sport did use the same grading system but now for some reason it is much more impressive to do a 9a trad in comparison to do a 9a sport, i.e. sport grades are softer.
OffLine Vincent Bouillot
  2019-03-28 22:00:15    
What if there was just more sport lines opened than trad lines in these grades?
I guess there's also a lot more sport climbers than trad climbers.

I believe cleaning a route after every single attempt to send your trad project is not appealing to a lot of climbers.

This explains mostly why there are so many 9a sport and so few trad...
OffLine Teilzeit Abenteurer
  2019-03-28 22:29:16    
I don't think I missunderstand. I simply disagree with the conclusion that sport grades are softer. Of course, it is more impressive to do a 9a trad in comparison to do a 9a sport, because you climb with more weight and you have to place the gear, which is more strenuous than clipping a quickdraw. Consequently, it is obviously harder to climb the same grade on gear. However, that does not say anything about the grade itself.
Furthermore, as pointed out by others, there are less climbers attempting trad routes, and thus it can be expected that there are accordingly less routes of the same grade.
Again, this does not provide any indication that trad grades on the same scale are any different from sport grades.
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2019-03-28 23:16:05    
Yes, that explains mainly why there are many 9a sport but is it not strange that it does exist several hundreds of 9a's and harder and not one trad route. As a matter of a fact, it seems that the trad hard core FA's do not think grades are so important and they are more likely to suggest a very stiff grade in comparison to the often softer sport grades that so often get down graded.
OffLine Tj Ovesen
  2019-03-29 04:16:35    
I don't see the need to compare. Larcher and Rodden and all other incredible trad ascents have my respect.
But let's face it. They are not going to the Olympics. That is a different level.
And its not that strange that there are not many 9a's on gear.
The movements of a puzzle will always be more interesting to most climbers.
Back to Gaia. How would you grade it if you want the credit be reflected in the grade?
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2019-03-29 08:03:03    
Comparison sport achiements is part of what media do for a living. Most climbers know that 9a is super hard but if somebody comes in the gym saying a trad climber just did an 8c+, most average climber will think this is not as hard as a 9a.

Gaia has been recorded as an 7b+ onsight by Alex Honnold. Some in the gym would give him extra cred for it being dangerous.
OffLine Teilzeit Abenteurer
  2019-03-29 08:41:53    
You suggest that quote: "It is a well known fact that trad grades are harder than sport grades.", which would mean that given two identical routes, one bolted and one clean, the (sports) grade would be different, because trad climbers tend to propose harder grades. It might even be true, BUT there is no evidence and will most likely never be and thus it is by no means a "well known fact". On the contrary, if you apply a sports grade, which is misleading anyway as explained before, it should by definition be identical.

If an average climber, who does not do trad climbing, believes climbing 9a sport is harder than 8c+ trad, it just a perfect example why applying sport grades to trad routes is misleading, because it just reflects the difficulty of the moves, but not the difficulty of the entire climb, which for trad routes is more than just doing the moves. If you apply a different scale and for example say, somebody did E11, everybody looking at the scale will immediatly understand that E11 is the hardest grade that currently exists.
OffLine Henning Wang
  2019-03-29 12:00:27    
Again, it is extremly difficult to find 9a or harder routes that can be protected only with gear. It is not hard to find rock to put bolts in..

Furthermore, as most developers, you included Jens, put bolts in routes that could go on gear, the amount of purely tradprotected hard routes out there is much lower then it could have been had they been left alone..
OffLine Tj Ovesen
  2019-03-30 11:30:42    
If you accept Gaia being 7b+ and at the same time accept that it will be harder in other ways than a 7b+ on sport,and in average take more time it has to go for all routes when comparing trad and sport.
Accept that it is a different sport.
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2019-03-30 13:36:06    
I certainly know it is different and accept it. Most not so experienced climbers do not know it. In order to give the trad guys more credit, I sometimes explain it like this time. Jacopo was pleased with the article I wrote.