*If you want to read this… it is going to take a while, just a mild disclaimer!
There has been a lot of debate about grades these days and what is happening with them. Is their an inflation due to externalities? What does v16 mean? I am not sure about these questions but i definitely do have a stance on grading and where bouldering is going. After traveling Europe and South Africa for the past year, I have been able to climb a lot of really amazing boulders and each one has given me more knowledge and insight into the whole grading debate. After climbing all of these boulders, especially The Story, i have a new basis for grading and thought that I would share my thoughts.
So, I think the easiest way to go about explaining my reasoning for the grades i have happened to assign each climb is to go through each climb I have done, 8b+ and up, give the given grade, my thought on the grade in (), when I completed it, and then a brief description.
Terre De Sienne 8B/+ (8B) 1/6/07- At the time of the ascent i registered it as 8B+ as it felt slightly harder than 8B’s I had previously completed. After re climbing the boulder in 2009 and after having sent many more lines in the range it feels to be around solid 8B. It is a nice three move hard crimper boulder and feels like what I would consider solid 8B.
Echale 8B+ (8B+) 3/10/07- tried and true this one. even though it is chipped, glued, dug out, etc. it climbs well and it is hard. it has barely seen any repeats and lots of people have given it effort. A nice one y muy dificil tambien.
Mandala SDS 8B/+ (8B) 3/24/07- psyched after having just sent The Swarm, i headed over to this fine boulder and sent the line in about an hour and a half. cool boulder and pretty tough with the old method. I think it could be low end 8b+ this way hard 8b but with new refined beta it seems that this one is settling in around 8b and that makes sense. new beta can make a huge difference in the difficulty of climbs!
The Swarm 8B/+ (8B) 3/24/07- I still remember climbing this amazing boulder, an awesome moment i will never forget. I first tried the swarm ever so briefly in 2007 with friend Carlo Traversi. I was not strong enough and gave up super quickly. I came back the next year psyched for another attempt. I tried the line once, smashed my elbow into the rock and then the sun came over top of the hill and made the wall too hot to try again. I came back early the next day and fired it off first go. To be honest, I was going with what everyone else said on the grade and just kept my mouth shut even though it felt soft at the time. I had not climbed enough hard boulders yet to really have an idea if this boulder (which very much fit my style) was the grade the rest of the community was claiming it to be. I again decided later after having climbed many more boulders this thing was not 8B+ and decided for the more appropriate 8B grade. to break it down would be more like 8a+ to 8a which seems to be more in the 8b realm and justifies the down rating.
Mandala Direct Assis 8B+ (8B+) 3/27/07 FA- doing the top the direct way is hard! It still has not seen a repeat and I think that even with the new beta people will still give the direct 8b+. I guess we will see!
Jade 8B+/C (8B+) 8/23/07- This is an interesting boulder. The hype around the climb made it out to be the “hardest” thing in the world and people began to believe it even if it was not. the green 45 was an infamous project and now is getting repeated like crazy. I think we all kind of built it up in our heads and maybe that was one reason that the line never was considered to be 8b+ for the longest time. oh well, happens. I was so psyched when i did this thing and man did it feel hard… and SHARP. the crux of the thing for me was not splitting my tip. That’s not good. Rethinking the line it is 8b+. It is just so condition/skin dependent that it is really hard to assign a grade to this boulder. It is a crimper test piece and definitely a step up from the swarm in many aspects. So considering the swarm is now 8b this is very easily a solid 8b+ crimper boulder.
Ode to the modern man 8B+(8B+) 9/4/07- Originally given 8c this boulder is another crimper boulder test piece. It seems to be slightly easier than jade and quite a bit less sharp. it was soon downgraded after its FA and seems to be sticking at 8b+. not much more to say. 8b into an 8a top.
Esperanza 8B+(8B+) 12/22/07- Not much to say here either. solid 8b+ roof boulder. no one has downgraded and it seems fair to say it wont any time soon. amazing fred boulder. wish it topped out. This is a very good comparison boulder for slightly long overhung boulders because it is 100 percent 8b+. 8a+ to 8a+= solid 8b+.
midnight express 8B+(8B+) 3/15/08- let me preface with the fact that i did start where the first ascentionist did. It felt hard and climbs really well. i dont think i have ever climbed on a colder day in my life, i remember seeing the temp when i got back to my car and it read 9 degrees F. hard beginning followed by an easier ending. to break it down it would be like 8B to 7C+ or so. sooooo mid to low 8b+ seems fair for this one.
Madiba 8B+(8B+) 7/14/08- soft 8b+ in my opinion. If you can climb esperanza then you can climb this boulder. they are very similar. I would say that both of the combined boulders are slightly easier than that on esperanza and would make for low end 8b+ potentially very hard 8b. great boulder none the less.
Amandla 8B+/C (8B/+)- to me this is a good comparison bloc. this boulder is easier than jade but harder than terre de sienne. does it get 8b or 8b+? more repeats will decide that one but for now i think 8b/+ seems fair.
Mooiste Maise 8B+(8B) 7/20/08- I guess this one is interesting because it broke and i did it before the break. To me it felt like 8a+ to 8a which would make for upper end 8b. Now that it has broken… i dunno could be more like 8b+.
Sky 8B+ (8B/+) 7/28/08- the taller you are the easier. this one, very similar to climbs like terre de sienne and lucid dreaming are quite hard to rate. This is a 2 hard move boulder. It is very hard but i know that if you are super tall and strong this boulder is going to feel so much easier. For daniel i am sure that this thing was 8b+ because he is shorter but for me i think the slash grade is more appropriate.
New Base Line 8B+ (8B+)- This boulder is a very good benchmark for the grade. it is not highly repeated and is 2 8A+’s linked together = solid 8b+. i dont think this one will be downgraded any time soon.
big worm 8B+ (8B) 6/13/09- yeah 8b… i know seems crazy but this thing just did not feel that crazy. I did it pretty quickly and i dont climb well on this style. it is hard but i dont think that it is 8b+ hard. definitely quite a bit easier than esperanza.
wood grain grippin 8B+(8B) 12/20/09- This climb is amazing however i am really wondering if 8B+ is the right grade for this one. I did this thing very quickly and now when i think back it seems like one that i have always questioned the legitimacy of the grade on this one. so for this one i will stick my head out there and say that it is not 8b+ in my opinion. The crux moves felt too high percentage for me to believe this is 8b+. i have climbed 8b’s that have definitely felt harder.
lost in the hood 8B+(8B+) 12/26/09- amazing climb! sooooo good! this one is mid to low end 8b+ but a stellar line and requires quite a lot of accuracy.
derailed 8b+ (8B) 7/13/10- This one is like 8a+ to 8a and definitely should fit into the 8b category. for a while i was unsure what to think of boulders that were 8a+ to 8a. There are quite a lot of them and where do you stick them. I feel that they can go either way depending on how hard the 8a+ and 8a are. both of these would be soft for the grade so 8b seems more appropriate of a grade for this one.
black eagle 8B+(8B+) post break fa- so this one would be another hard one to grade because it is only a very few hard moves. I think that this one was quite hard and took me multiple days to figure out and send. The crux revolves around a really hard heel hook and a hard stab move with the right hand.
le lent silence du moleskine 8B+/C Trav (8B/+ trav) 9/12/10- well this one sure as anything aint 8c trav as it was originally graded. this was my first encounter with a traverse grade which i seem to now have more of an understanding of. as a boulder grade you subtract one from the trav grade, approximately. This climb felt hard low end 8b boulder. the climb is a cool traverse with some pump factor added in. 7b to 7b+ to 8a to 7c seems about right.
radja 8B/+ (8B) 9/15/10- Though this was the first 8b+, new beta has been discovered and it seems like this climb will settle in around 8B. The old way is hard and most likely is 8B+. 8A to soft 8A+.
The never ending story 8B+ (8B) 9/24/10- i think this one is broken down pretty simply as very very soft 8A+ to 8A. Which now as i mentioned before should become 8B and not the 8B+ because the grade of the first 8A+ is way too soft. The climb and the 8A+ to 8A seems to be very consistent for upper end 8B. I feel that if the bottom sequence were harder on this boulder it could very easily be 8B+.
The Dagger 8B+ (8B/+) 11/5/10- This climb I originally gave 8B and think that it could be but this is a very difficult one to really justify the downgrade. The first section is 8A+ and a very solid one at that, the second section (with my beta) seems to be about 8A or so. So again, we find ourselves in this 8a+ to 8a vice versa debacle. This one is much harder than NES and i think could very well be low end 8B+ which seems fair however I think that the new beta at the end could make the climb hard 8B.
Dreamtime 8B+ (8B+) 11/25/10- This climb is hard and amazing. I unfortunately did not get to try it before it broke but can definitely say that this climb fits into the the 8B+ category as it is broken down to 8A+ to 8A+. I think that this 8a+ to 8a+ is becoming a standard for grading a boulder 8b+ these days.
Big Paw 8C (8B+) 11/29/10- well I explained this one decently well on 8a however thinking more about it I think this one is 8a to low end 8b. This would make for hard 8B+ but I do not think that this would make for 8C. I think standard for low end 8C is 8A+ to 8B. This is close but hard 8B+ seems fair. check 8a for more.
Ninja Skills 8B+(8B+) 12/3/10- one of the best in Ticino! Hard 8B to 7C+. Since the crux 8b section is in the beginning and the other boulder is easier than that on big paw this one is clearly easier than big paw but still a very hard boulder. This climb is quite long too which adds the pump factor as well, if i remember correctly something like 22 moves!
Satan I helvete Bas 8B+/C (8B+) 12/25/10- soft 8b+ feels like 7c+ to 8b. this climb is really cool and very atypical of font. Not much more to say about this climb but feels decently easier than big paw so lower end 8b+ or very hard 8b seems appropriate. The climb is very much my style and i think why i did it much quicker than i did ninja.
Kheops assis 8B+/C (8B) 12/31/10- I thought this climb was going to be a lot harder. In the first hour i tried the climb it felt impossible but once i figured out the body position for the top i felt like i could do it nearly every time. This climb i would break down in 7C to soft 8B. so this is why i think the slash grade may be more appropriate if not hard 8B for the whole line. This climb is definitely hard however it is very much a learned boulder and i did it in crap conditions really quickly which makes me wonder if 8b+ is possible for this one.
Gecko assis 8B+ (8B+)- standard 8a+ to 8a+. not much more to say there.
La force du destin 8B+ (8B+)- This climb is very much like jade or any other very short boulder and is interesting one to grade. The climb is about 7c+ to a very hard move to the lip. The move feels harder than the move on boogalaga for me so it seems only fair to say this climb is solid 8b+.
Terremer 8C(8C) 1/1/08- Daniel was very correct in saying that this deserves the soft 8c on this one. 8a+ to 8b seems fair. In my scale of rating i see this 8a+ to 8b as the low end of the 8c grade. we see this ever more often and it seems like the bottom of the 8c scale is coming together! finally. The grade seems to now be more solidified… maybe not at the top of the grade yet but at least at the bottom.
monkey wedding 8B+/C (8C) 8/24/10- For me this climb was very hard! I think to break it down into that undercling in the middle it would be hard and technical 8a+ to 8b. So this climb is more of a harder 8C than a climb like terremer. This is definitely one of the harder climbs i have done and seems more like mid level 8c.
Ill Trill 8B+/C (8B+/C)- i wonder what mickey thought of the grade on this one?? I know he tried it a lot last year and am wondering if he thinks it would still be low end 8c. I originally stated that the line was low end 8c. for me it was 8a+ to hard 8a+/easy 8b. Now that daniel has done it and he thinks that the top is more like hard 8a+ i could see where he is coming from in grading the boulder hard 8b+. I would like to see what mickey has to say about this line as it is clearly harder than big paw and from dirt.
From dirt grows the flowers left variant 8C (8B+) 12/12/10- Now that i think about this one more it seems more like 8b+ than 8c. I did the boulder in 2 days. At this point of my trip it was snowing everyday, my gf was not psyched on the cold, and i was climbing by myself. i had no one to spot me on the original top out and i could not get the rope over right enough to try the top on a self belay. i managed to do the left top out, as mickey gave me the beta for how he did it, and was psyched. he told me that both top outs were about v12 and that he preferred the left one. i spoke to dave and he said he tried that way too back in the day but went with the direct exit when he did it. i was psyched on the left since i could try it on a rope and stuck with that method. i did the crux sequence of the bottom boulder on my second try that first day and decided to come back when i had pads and a spot. a few days later i came back and did the line in about 6 goes or so. now this boulder is tough to grade as i did it when i was sick. i feel that it was slightly harder than satan i helvete assis but does that make it real 8c? i am guessing not. though the straight very well could be… though i did not try so i cannot comment but for the left i am thinking it is more 8a+ to 8a+ which seems to make it very solid to hard 8b+
Trip Hop 8c trav (8c trav/ soft 8c boulder) 2/7/11- to break this one down I would say 7C+ to 8B/+. soooo as a boulder it would get 8b+ but with the pump factor of it all i think that it could be very hard 8b+ boulder if not soft 8c boulder. the crux is really pumpy at the end and is a harddd link! this one took me a while and really climbs well when linked all together! the traverse grade seems to definitely be of the 8c grade and i guess a bit on the harder side but the whole traverse grading system is still new to me.
The Story of 2 worlds 8C (8C) 3/8/10- welll, this is the reason i decided to rethink everything i have climbed. this to me marks the upper tier of 8C and contender for the hardest boulder problem i have ever done. this truly was a remarkable effort by dave back in 2006. inspiring. anyway, the line is very easily broken down into soft 8b into the dagger which i spoke about above as 8b/+. This link is insanely hard and this is one damn hard boulder. it requires technique, endurance, power, finger strength, etc. it has it all. I fell on every single move of the climb at least a few times and was a huge monumental success for me as a climber. To really understand 8c i think that this climb is a very good one to do for the purpose of knowledge. this climb in my opinion is at the upper tier of 8c. if either boulder were harder, i think it could potentially be 8c+ however, this thing clearly is 8c and will be a standard for the grade for a long time.
Lucid Dreaming 8C+ (8C) 3/30/10- I spent the last four years of my life before my road trip in college. I am now a graduate and man does it feel good to be done. I climbed a lot of hard boulders during my college career but did not learn as much as i did about climbing and grading until my last ten months of traveling. When i first did this climb it felt so much harder than anything i had done in the past (terremer, jade, etc.). now that i have climbed so many more difficult boulders i have a real understanding for 8b+ and 8c. I think that this climb still is by far one of the hardest things i have ever done however i think that it could very well be a hard 8c. I have spent countless hours talking about this climb with others and still am confused about how hard it is. The two moves on the climb are still some of the hardest moves that i have ever done and to link them was a huge fight that took 12 days. i think that the line is, like the story, very hard for 8c, i just don’t think that the climb is at the next level of 8c+. maybe it is and in the future someone will upgrade it but for now i think i will call the line hard 8c and see what happens. i cannot be more thankful for the time i have spent climbing around the world and really beginning to understand bouldering and the thought process that goes into establishing and grading problems of my own. I would like to thank everyone i have met and climbed with along the way. it really has been an amazing process and i cant wait for the years to come