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 By: Jens Larssen  | Date: 2005-11-16  | Category: Tips & Tricks    | Comment  
 8a.nu





Grading scales for Routes and Bouldering

Different grading scales for climbing have been developed in different parts of the world, both for bouldering and route climbing. To date, some seven major, and a few rarer, scales are in use, though most of them can easily be converted to the French system, which is the 'oldest' and internationally most accepted system. An important distinction between the other types of scales compared with the French is that the latter differentiates more between difficulties by using smaller steps in between scales. In bouldering, for example, the French (Fontainebleau) scale includes six steps for each level (e.g. 6a to 6c+), compared to the V-scale that includes only three steps. In order to compare and translate other scales to the French, it is sometimes neccessary to use half grades. In the table below, the number of steps in between difficulty levels are shown for some of the common scales.

Steps/Levels
French
UIAA
Australian
British - Rope
Scandin.
USA - Rope
USA - Boulder
6a - 6c+
6
4.5
5
3
4,5
7
3,5
7a - 7c+
6
5
5
3
4,5
6
5
8a - 8c+
6
5
6
3
4,5
6
6

Comparing the grading between Boulders and Routes

Judging by the 8a scorecard, we see that the grade-gap between routes and boulders has been reduced during the last couple of years. The white, purple and blue colour in the graph demonstrate the development in difference between Boulder and Route grades from 2001 to 2005. Previously, it was customary that 3 steps should be added to the route level to make it comparable to the boulder difficulty. However, compared to route climbing, bouldering developes faster and climbers are getting stronger, and these days it seems as if an 8A = 8b.




Although you're not supposed to compare route and boulder grades it's nevertheless interesting to do so. We think thet the easiest way to analyze the differences is by measuring the performances in routes and bulders by the climbing community and the 8a scorecard offers an excellent opportunity to do so.

Based on this scorecard and its members, it seems as if a 6C boulder is as difficult to do as a 7a+ route, which means there's a difference of three steps. However, when comparing lower difficulty levels, the discrepancy between route and boulder scales increases, that is, a 6A boulder is probably equal in difficulty to a 6c/+ route (4.5 steps). On the other hand, looking at higher levels of difficulty, an 8A boulder for example, the discrepancy between route and boulder scales increases, and the difference in levels seems to be around 2 steps. This non-linear conformity between route and boulder grades is confirmed by the 8a.nu's Scorecards.
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