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Meltdown 8c+ trad: Possible the hardest female ascent ever
OffLine 8a.nu
  2015-11-24 00:00:00    
Tom Randall has written an interesting article in the latest issue of Rock & Ice - World's Hardest Cracks. Out of the Top-10 listed, Tom has done the FA of four and Sonnie Trotter two.

The most interesting story in the article is that he puts Beth Rodden's Meltdown 8c+ at a pedestal much harder than any other trad route in the world. It took Beth five months to do it but in reality she never did gave it a grade. At the time, Beth was married to Tommy Caldwell and both said it was harder than any trad climbs that they had done. Beth had previously done the Optimist 8c trad. Old interview in Climbing and her is one from Crux Crush.

"After a few hours of working the moves, both Pete (Whittaker) and I walked away having done only 10 percent and scratching our heads over how the crux was even possible".

Taking into consideration that when the best trad climbers in the world go sport climbing such as Sonnie Trotter and Nicolas Favresse, they often perform two grades harder doing 9a's, it might be that Meltdown might be equivalent to a 9a or 9a+ sport route, and possibly the hardest female ascent ever? (c) Corey Rich
Click to Enlarge Picture
OffLine eddi
  2015-11-24 12:10:34    
Edited - Please check the forum ethics!
OnLine joza
  2015-11-24 13:04:17    
Jens, you are my hero! ;) If you also take into consideration time comparising scale it might be , that Meltdown might be possibly even harder, maybe even 9b+, possibly harder than Change and it might be THE HARDEST route on Earth, which could mean it's possibly the hardest route in the Universe!  
OffLine Arnoud Prinz
  2015-11-24 13:28:03    
do not understand the fuss about this topic. It's about trad climbing, and it is often said that trad get graded harder than usual sport climbing routes.
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2015-11-24 13:36:24    
When one of the best trad climbers, Sonnie Trotter, often performs two grader harder in sport compared to his best skill, trad. It must be obvious that the two scales are more and more working with different difficulties. I choose to high light this also in order to give more credit to the best trad climbers in the world.  
OffLine GeneralFifi
  2015-11-24 13:55:17    
I don't think the two scales are different. The grade shoud relflect the difficulty of the moves and those don't change regardless of the way you climb, trad or sport. The fact that you have to place gear in trad just means you are more pumped so are unable to do the moves that you normally can on a sport route, hence the hardest trad climbs are a bit lower in grade than hardest sport climbs (true for personal max for each climber) 
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2015-11-24 15:07:53    
I think the grade should reflect how hard a route is to do.  If the only trad placement is to be put in during the crux move, of course this has to reflect the grade. If such trad route was considered 8a and then the FA thought it was better to change it to a sport route, with better clipping positions, such route would actually be down graded to maximum 7c+. However, the reality seems to be the different, a much harder trad ascent seems to be 7c+ and the easier sport route 8a :) 
OffLine Daniel Rebmann
  2015-11-24 15:38:44    
In my opinion GeneralFifi is right saying that placing gear or bad clipping positions don't have anything to do with the grading. If the grading system would include the clipping position etc. routes were also much easier for a free solo climber. And the height of the climber would play a much bigger role than it actually does in reality.
OffLine Micah Humphrey
  2015-11-24 15:42:28    
Optimist is a sport route
OffLine Sasha Jovanovic-Hacon
  2015-11-24 15:53:15    
Should have used an E grade! Seemed to work pretty well when I was climbing in England. But seriously, these are two different games (sport and trad). If you really want to compare them, then you need to have a grading system that allows for that. The idea being that on average a climber who practices both sport and trad has the same chance of success on a given grade in both styles. Seems almost  impossible to do this accurately.
OffLine gianluca
  2015-11-24 20:30:38    
easy argument in favor of not considering "protection effort" when grading a trad route, and especially a continuous crack.

there is no one single way to protect such routes, and while one climber might overprotect it and get pumped, another may be very bold on and have a physically easier experience (although scarier).

therefore it is self evident that it is much more reliable to describe the difficulty of those routes as if you were climbing them on toprope, and eventually comment the protection as a separate note (the famous R and X the americans use. Interestingly they lack a letter for "tricky but safe protection").

Jens might object that the English offer an overall grade (effort+protection issues).
Yet in this case one should note that the stereotype of a brit route is not a continuous splitter crack that you can protect (or not)wherever you want.
on a separate note, i find it curious that no one observed that cracks are inherently favouring a specific finger/hand size, and as a consequence grading them very precisely is as nonsense as debating whether "rainbow rocket"* is a hard 7C+ or an easy 8A.

*spectacular jug to jug dyno in fontainebleau.
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2015-11-24 21:04:39    
Climbing grades measures the difficulty of climbs. If it is much harder to do a 8a trad compared to a 8a sport something is wrong. Of course, grades are personal so they can differ but if everyone thinks the 8a trad is much harder compared to the 8a sport, the grades should be change. If we do not have the goal that the climbing grades should be as equal no matter of which, style, country or steepness, we could just skip all grades.  E-grades for trad work pretty well in the lower grades, but it is just stupid to use them for top notch climbs. The world's hardest E-graded route can drop several grades just because somebody made some construction over a bad landing and then placed several crash pads on top. 
OffLine Michal Sylla
  2015-11-24 21:31:12    
No grading system should be changed on the basis of posts on the internet. Particular climbs and the climbers who did their FAs are the once who should change the system if necessary. However I do not see any reason to change a thing. Who beleives that Adam Ondra would climb the Century Crack now? Who thinks that Pete Whittaker should do Action Directe? No one. There is a limit of the objectivity established by any grading system. The grades are not what counts, the particular routes are. Just a few last notes: Since when do climbers who did not climb a route can grade it? As far as I remember only repetitors of a route are supposed to do so.
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2015-11-24 21:50:23    
I agree that in general it is the guys who have done or tried the route who should grade it... but the history shows as an example that whenever 8a has speculated in some grades, in the long run, it has been the reality. I mean, we have a freedom of speech and of course any body is allowed to express their opinion. Do not forget that both Moon and Huber questioned the 9b+ FA grade by Fernandez and they were right. The reason, why 8a has given some grade speculations is because we do want to give as correct news as possible. 
OffLine Klem Fandango
  2015-11-24 21:50:54    
"The world's hardest E-graded route can drop several grades just because somebody made some construction over a bad landing and then placed several crash pads on top." Ok I'm calling bs on that statement (not you personally Jens, post not poster :)). When did Echo Wall, or Rhapsody, or El Choronzon drop several grades due to padding?  Both the 8a trad and 8a sport are 8a, so I fail to see what the issue is as others are pointing out. If you are saying that Beth's ascent is the hardest crack climbed by a woman so far, then you're probably on the money. Beyond that point it's all apples and oranges.
OffLine gianluca
  2015-11-25 01:45:03    
"Climbing grades measures the difficulty of climbs"

everybody agrees i think.

where we do not agree is that a purely objective, impartial and universal measure of this difficulty is possible...something that you can apply worldwide regardless of style and type of the climb.

in running, do you have a number telling you if your performance on the half marathon is more decent than your 100m sprint, if you're better at trail running or on a turf track?
No, and there is no need. You can easily work out rough comparisons i guess, but a strictly precise measure is silly.

If we were to change something in crack grading, maybe a wiser idea would be to specify briefly that it's a trad protected crack, more or less the same way you specify that a number of horizontal things in Fontainebleau are "7C trav" and not simply 7C.
The main reason isn't that the trav grade is softer (which is not what a pure boulderer will experience!) but rather that it is enough of a different game that an accurate comparison with straight-ups is pointless.
OnLine Philippe Vaucher
  2015-11-25 11:51:33    
It's just impossible to give only one grade to a route which accurately describes its technical, physical & mental properties. For example, a route can be very technical but not so physical and another one can very physical but not so technical and yet they get the same grade. Add the mental or protection aspect to it and it becomes even harder to grade accurately. It's either you grade all the different aspects separately, or you accept that they are not always accurate when mashed up together.
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2015-11-25 12:27:30    
I totally agree and the climbing community in 99.9 % of the cases, use the mashed up grade and I think that is great.
OnLine Philippe Vaucher
  2015-11-25 13:27:32    
I think the french grading system only takes the physical & technical aspect in account and "ignores" the other ones (mental, protection, etc) because these factors are usually similar. If these factors becomes an important part of the climbing, the french grade alone would be incomplete and necessitate additional informations, for example "technically it's a 8c but because it's trad it feels like a 9a", or "8c trad" which would imply more difficult than "8c sport climbing". When the type of climbing is different it makes sense to use a different grading system, like we have between bouldering and sport climbing... that said I think what @gianluca says is a good idea: just accompany the grade with the type of climb... like "8c trad" (which implies 'more demanding than a "8c sport climbing"').
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2015-11-25 13:34:31    
It is the sport climbing grade inflation that has made a 8c sport more demanding compared to an 8c trad. Of course, when the first sport routes where set up, they based the difficulty on the trad scale and I think it should remain like this.  I think there are many trad climbers who should get some credit but just because of the sport climbing grade inflation, the climbing community do not in general think these ascents are so impressive. I think that risky trad routes should include R or X but otherwise, the grades should be based on the same difficulty.
OffLine Henning Wang
  2015-11-25 15:04:41    
Jens, as usual I don't agree or even see where you are going with this. Hard trad routes are obviously harder to do compared to the same level sport climbs for no other reason then that you have to carry gear and use it if you don't want to die. Modern sport climbs allow you to go for it a muerte style with more or less no consequence, taking away much of the mental aspect. Bolts also make the routes much easier to work, not to mention the multitude of bolted routes compared to trad climbs of a high level, allowing people to choose a style that suites their strengths. Trad climbs are also usually much more involved with either dangerous falls, strange technical climbing, specific climbing (like painful stacking and so on) thats much harder to train for or just draining gear placements. In theory the grade should be the same as on a sport climb if both where done on toprope and you mastered the style of the climb, but thats obviously not the case for most trad routes for some of the reasons I mentioned above. Does that mean trad climbs should all be upgraded? Of course not. Jens, when you say: the climbing community do not in general think their ascents are so important. What community are you refering to? I for one am well impressed when people onsight or climb tricky or dangerous routes on gear above 7c, not to mention 8b. @gianluca: Rainbow rocket is 7C for 1.80 sized people that can jump. If you are tiny its obviously much harder, but that should no more effect the grade then fat fingers on a thin crack. As a historical note Rainbow as it is done today was never given 8A. The 8A is an elimination to the right, tho that somehow got lost when people started logging things in places like 8a.nu.. 
OffLine Ben Iseman
  2015-11-25 17:16:17    
The distance of a dyno should absolutely affect the grade as should finger and hand size with respect to the size of a crack. Sure, it makes for much more fluid grades for certain problems, but to pretend that such specific challenges can be described as being the same for people with vastly different proportions is ridiculous. Consider the Transgression and Progression boards as a great example of a distilled challenge. What is more difficult? The absolute smallest hold held on those boards? Or the smallest holds held on those boards as a percentage of finger pad size?
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2015-11-25 17:17:51    
Of course I do not think all trad routes should be upgraded.

I think some corrections should be good to give the trad climbers More cred. What Beth has done is a good example.

I agree it is riskvilligs to think it is possible to set an objektive and accurate grade.
OnLine BOR
  2015-11-25 21:24:03    
No trad routes should be upgraded. No corrections should be made. If you want to give more credit to trad climbers you have to educate people so they realise that 8c trad is more or less equal to 9a sport climb. Besides, some time ago you had a topic about greenpoint. If I greenpoit 6c spot climb is it a 7a? No, ridiculous. It's still 6c!!!
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2015-11-25 21:49:45    
The dilemma is of course that an old school 8c sport route is not 8c any longer. Another problem is that possibly the 8c trad is soon to become 9a+ sport. In any case, it seems you agree with mu conclusion that Beth Rodden's Meltdown 8c+ is possibly 9a+, i.e. the hardest female ascent ever.
OffLine El Scorpion
  2015-11-25 23:58:16    
Apples, oranges and this topic is definitely bananas! Is the hardest female ascent a boulder problem or is it a sport climb or a mixed ice-climb? Crack climbing is as fundamentally different to sportclimbing as sportclimbing is to bouldering. The term "trad" climbing is also somewhat misleading -crack "trad" climbing in Moab Utah usually 140' splitter dead vertical cracks - jamming only, "trad"climbing in  Yosemite means a mixture or crack and face climbing skills, "trad" climbing in parts of Britian seems to mean face climbing protected by occasional seams or pockets. Ask anyone who has spent time climbing the three disciplines - the technique is so different, the angle, the movement, the strength vs endurance vs mental. Also crack size single handedly can change the grade between two fairly similar sized people based on finger, hand and foot size - not to mention the grade discrepancies for a 5'0" person and a 6'2" person. I agree in principle with Jens that trad climbing grades are harder than sportclimbing- and I've spent 20 years doing all three. However, I know some enduro crack climbers that can climb cracks at a much harder grade (many letters) than they can sportclimbing. So yes, in general trad climbs are a little sandbagged (and we like it that way and will keep it that way). Trad climbers are we aware of famous crack climbing ascents and don't need them explain by another grading system. We know a proud ascent when we see it and don't need the grade comparison to Ondra latest tick to comprehend what just went down. If a sport or boulderer is interested they can learn about crack climbing by trying themselves. But to try to compare Meltdown with something in spain or norway or rocklands is ridiculous and has no meaning. Who's the best runner - the 100m gold medalist, the 800m gold medalist or the marathon winner? Who's the best climber in the world - the best competition winner, the hardest sport climber or the burliest boulderer? Jens, this isn't a trad site and won't be, you're so far out of your depth on this subject it would take many posts to explain. Let it be. Beth like Lynn Hill is an amazing climber who has done many amazing climbs- sport, bouldering and crack, Meltdown is a crack-ish type climb  that was in her backyard and suited her body type and experience. It's apples to oranges with other hard routes and like The Nose might be awhile before it has a second ascent - and will probably never become popular.
OnLine Jens Larssen
  2015-11-26 00:43:36    
It is equally hard to compare a ten moves 8a roof as a 100 moves 8a slab...but we try...and this is the whole purpose of the climbing grading scale. Very few climber know that trad are harder graded compared to sport and why should it be like that. It was not the case in the beginning of the sport climbing era. On the contrary, the sport grading system was tried to be a direct copy of the trad grading system :)
OffLine Klem Fandango
  2015-11-26 15:27:55    
The only place that doesn't publicise trad climbing much is here. Pop over to UKClimbing (an outlet you have just had a sly dig at on the Ashima piece you copied) for example and see how much trad climbing is highlighted in comparison. 8a.nu is but a tiny microcosm of the media available in the climbing world, and just because 8a lacks any credibilty at publicising trad climbing, does not mean other media outlets do.  I'm genuinely not trying to get at 8a as a news site; it does a good job of cutting and pasting sport climbing and bouldering stories from other media outlets, which means it's a nice page to check first, before you move on to the site where the story originated for the in depth piece. It is a good site at pooling international sport climbing and bouldering.    However where trad climbing is concerned, well let's look at the current offering; cut and paste of a much more in depth story, with some crazy made up on the spot conversion attempt in the last paragraph which is, as El Scorpion puts it, bananas. When Meltdown was climbed it appeared in magazines, blogs, even a bigup production video, it seems the only people who aren't aware of this is 8a.nu. Meltdown is a fantastic crack line climbed by someone at the very peak of their abilities, and the size of the crack suited them 100%. It needs no comparison to some sport climb, or boulder, because it is already something quite amazing to behold and is one of my top three trad climbs to watch for inspiration. Apples and oranges, apples and oranges. Others have already said the same, the majority in fact; it is what you could call a consensus. Perhaps it is time to listen :) The main points I wished to highlight;  You lied in your statement with reference to the top E grade climbs, I called you on that post, you have failed to address it. No problem, we all make mistakes and I will regard it as 'misremembered' on your part rather than an attempt to make up a blatant lie.  I was climbing in the time when sport grading attempted to copy trad and it was a shambles. There is a reason that sport and trad grades separated, because they do not compare at all. This was figured out 25 years ago and is the reason for two grading systems, because they don't compare in reality at all.  You know what, I've just looked at El Scorpion's, gianluca, henning and all the other posts again (sorry if I missed your name, too many to write :)); read them again and all the others, take on board what is actually being said. I am only parroting what they have said to be honest, so ignore mine and read theirs :) I do enjoy popping on the forums and don't wish to simply criticise as I have learnt from many people here. I like chatting about different climbing topics, I'm just not sure the the 8a approach is always conducive to open conversations (statements rather than questions, the constant use of 'ever' rather than 'so far' or neither of them is even better). When the topic allows for open views, people tend to elaborate more, the little side stories and opinions come out and this is the gold that I think make forums worthwhile.  Take this and the recent Fred Rouhling's headlines for example. If you wanted to have a conversation about the two subjects why not try a more open ended approach to allow other opinions?  I could be wrong but I do think people generally enjoy chatting about climbing topics on here and there are some interesting and funny people lurking in these forums :) Anyway keep up the good work on continuing to highlight the international sport side of climbing, I for one will pretty much always head here first to catch up on the news. A few tweaks to the forum, and bingo, you would have the biggest pool of climbing opinions assembled in one place chatting.    
OffLine gianluca
  2015-11-27 11:18:32    
"I think there are many trad climbers who should get some credit but just because of the sport climbing grade inflation, the climbing community do not in general think these ascents are so impressive"
what if this is not really a matter of grade, but rather a matter of popularity of their sub-discipline? Do they get recognition among trad/crack climbing enthusiasts?

will messing up with grades, especially at the very top, do much to push people buy a rack and learn how to protect themselves and crack climb, or are there more effective ways to get this result?

@henning
i don't say that RR should have a different grade for different people but rather that it is silly to give it a precise grade (even specifying 1.80m who can jump...) and it should rather be recognized as a hard and very cool dyno, period. Do you get the nuance? ;)
Same as many cracks in the US are graded without letters, e.g. "5.12+", which sounds broader and more vague than, say, "5.12d"
OffLine stambecco
  2015-11-27 12:02:07    
did anybody mention the fact that in "sport" climbing quickdraw are preplaced and in "trad" climbing you have to place the gear AND clip the draw? I assume that the grade of a climb is the one given "toprope", taking care only of the climbing. But if clipping a draw requires a % of more effort, placing the draw and clipping requires more % and placing trad gear and clipping requires another bigger amount. (not always, take cobra crack as an opposite example). But in general, at the end, the pcocesses change the physical effort, not talking about the mental aspects.