Downgrades %, kneepads and controversies


Monday, 18 October

It is quite logical that a first ascender does not always find the optimal beta and thus the climb is later downgraded. However, history shows that for certain periods, countries, crags and climbers some 50 % of the original hardest grades have later been downgraded. In some cases, the beta explanation is used but even so, also the old sequences could have been downgraded as the original beta was the optimal beta for the FA.

Most probably, we will see many more downgrades of older steep routes once they will be re-climbed by the new generation having better knee pads technical skills. In this case, we should not blame the FA, what so ever, but in general, how many % downgrades are acceptable before we talk about climbers, and areas that have been promoted, and benefitted, from inflated grades?

Personally, I think it is perfectly ok with a track record of some 20 % downgrades for FAs, but as we all know, it was actually a higher percentage for the first steep boulders and also in some crags in Spain etc. On the contrary, we should give credit to climbers like Adam Ondra, James Webb and Seb Bouin who have helped out the community reducing inflation with their honesty. For some reason, climbers suggesting personal downgrades have by some been called egos or even worse. Just the last month, Cedric Lachat commented on Insta, in regards to Sébastien Berthe having suggested a personal downgrade on one of his routes.
"So if you want some advice accept that you are strong and try not to be too much of an asshole if not you will end up like xxx and hated by everyone!"

As it stands, old school routes are in general harder graded and there are many more climbs that need to be downgraded in order to reflect the real grade. This is also a reason why most FAs, in general, should suggest the lower grade when in doubt. On the contrary, when it comes to Ramon Julian Puigblanque, he should always suggest a higher grade when in doubt :)

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