Introduction course to rock climbing – Grades

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Grading system:

You will probably only start to get a feel for the grading system in rock climbing after having climbed a lot on your own or with friends. I know for me starting with easy routes, and working my way up to harder once is the way I feel in control.

In other words you will need some climbing under your belt in order to get a full appreciation for the grading system wether you follow the European system or the American to name two of them. It can feel a bit hard to understand at first since it is made up of grades, and numbers, but i am sure it will make sense to you after a short while if you take some time learning, and understanding the system properly. 

The picture below taken from the book: Rock Climbing – Introduction to essential technical skills for leaders, and seconds by Pete Hill Mic

Shows you how the grading system is ment to be understood, and how you can plan when wanting to improve over time.The column to the left shows you just how serious a climb can be, and the right one shows the technical level of the climb. And it indicates the difficulty of the hardest move or sequence of moves on the rock. Combining the two columns, and the information they provide will give you a lot of knowledge before heading out, and it is therefor worth really understanding before you start. 

Remember anyone starting to climb outdoors after a few seasons on a climbing wall indoors will feel that the grades feel different to those used indoors. As a general guideline indoor grades, which are based on a French sport grades tend to be two about two steps up from the UK outdoor grades . A climbing wall grade 5 indoor will most probably be a 4 outdoors. 

                                     – Introduction to essential technical skills for leaders, and seconds by Pete Hill Mic – 

I have tried a Norwegian five if i am not mistaken, and you can get to that level fast if you are a bit consistent. Over time I have understood that rock climbing is not so much about physical strengt as pure technique. 

So where can you start?

  • EASY: The UK grading system starts here. You will have a lot of big grips, and getting up the wall should not be that hard. You can fall even on such a route so proper rope work, and a understanding of gear placement is essential even here. 
  • MODERATE: This is the next grade up, and will be a little trickier, and you should experience it a bit harder then the first one. A number of classical routes will be at this grade.
  • DIFFICULT AND VERY DIFFICULT: The top grades that most people getting into climbing will want to work towards. They will cover a variety of route types, chimneys, slabs, corners and so one. The wall will be steeper then the last two. 

Hope that helped, and maybe gave you some inspiration to take that first trip. 

Next topic: Equipment