Grading. Always a hilarious subject. Once bandied around the campfire, now bandied around the virtual campfire, i.e. internet forums :)

Jens Larson (8a.nu webmaster) recently posted a controversial grading proposal dubbed the Time Comparison Grading Theory.

Jens wrote:

"Climbing grading is based on how difficult it is to do a climb, measured by the time and effort, that has to be invested. A climb that take 2 days should be graded harder than another climb that takes 2 hours. The grading scale has very wide steps. On an average, a climber that can do an 8A (8a) on 2:Go should be able to do 8A+ in two hours (8a+ in 1 day), 8B in two days and 8B+ in 20 days and maybe 8C in 200 days. The above Time Comparison is a speculation and 8a do not have the truth. However, it is based on the 8a grading theory. Feel free to comment!"
This led to tons of people bagging Jens and calling him an idiot. There's currently over 54 comments on the post, so he's stirred the pot, that's for sure.

I thought I would weigh in with my 2c, based on the data I have about my own climbing. My view is that it is useful, but only at an individual level.

"The time comparison grading theory is useful, but not universally as Jens is suggesting. The only way it would be able to be universally applied is if all other factors were equal. As we know, they are not.

However, it is not without merit. It's useful at the level of the individual climber, particularly when it comes to suggesting the grade of FAs. I can graph the grade of my ascents with the number of tries, and I get a very predictable curve - an exponential curve (like that shown at bottom).

This provides the individual climber with a model of sorts, which predicts an 'expected' grade range for a route based on number of tries. But of course, there will always be influencing factors.

I would also suggest this theory would work more successfully for routes than boulders. As Sharma has noted, routes are generally more predictable, whereas boulders are more likely to have weird moves which expose advantages or disadvantages based on climber physiology and body type.

--Lee Cujes

What do you reckon?

Lee said...

This is an 'after-the-fact' comment based on another thing that has popped up on 8a.nu...

When Adam Ondra repeats hard routes he always comments on how many tries/how long time he needed, i.e. Time Comparison Grading. The easier the route is, for him and as for everybody, the harder it is to confirm or suggest new grades as it only comes down to feeling, compared to Number of tries/Time, i.e. very difficult for him to confirm 8a routes as they are to easy. This is a wild 8a speculation of the current TCG for Adam on routes of his best style. Does the suggested intervalls fit into your track record for confirming grading steps? 8b+ = Onsight, 8c = Flash, 8c+ = 2:Go, 9a = 1 day, 9a+ ~ 5 days, 9b ~ 30 days and 9b+ ~ 100 days

So this ends up being the steps between the grades. Substitute your own grades, starting with your best onsight and then stepping up...

8b+ = Onsight
8c = Flash
8c+ = 2:Go
9a = 1 day
9a+ ~ 5 days
9b ~ 30 days
9b+ ~ 100 days

For me, it's very close to being a correct model.