We want to work with the rock climbing community to get a comprehensive and intuitive coverage of grades in the system. This is a long term initiative and at times will involve fundamental changes to the way grades work on the site. We welcome feedback on grades, but for this to be useful to the community as a whole it has to go onto our issues list. We don't promise to fix things straight away, but we will link the discussion into this article so that the whole community can constructively contribute.
This article covers the following topics:
- Grade conversions
- Grade bands
- How are grades assigned to routes?
- How are grades assigned to ascents?
- Grade contexts and parsing
- Country context's
thecrag.com can automatically convert grades to a different system according to the table below. If you can suggest a better translation please log an issue in issues list.
Note the coloured grade bands which are used throughout the site as a quick way to gauge the difficulty of a route or area.
Free climbing grading systems
|Band||Ewbanks||YDS||NCCS Scale||French||British Adj.||British Tech.||UIAA||South African||Old South African||Saxon||Finnish||Norwegian||Polish||Brazil Technical||Brazil General|
Bouldering grading systems
|Band||V-Scale||B-Scale||S-Scale||P-Scale||Joshua Tree Scale||Fontainebleau|
Other climbing grading systems
|Band||Aid||Aid||Aid||Alpine Ice||Water Ice||Mixed Rock/Ice||Ferrata Schall||Ferrata Num||Ferrata French|
Internally grade conversions work by converting each grade to a fine-grained internal number range between 0-500.
If you would like programatic access to the grades and grade conversions through the API then you should get in contact with us. The programatic version of this table is available through the following API call:
For use on thecrag.com we have divided climb difficulty ratings into 5 segments - Beginner, Intermediate, Experienced, Expert and Elite. These definitions are somewhat arbitrary, but they are based on many years of climbing experience and there are also some statistical reasons for breaking climbing into these segments.
There are two common area difficulty graphs used throughout the site, the grade band and dual grade band.
The grade band chart shows the relative number of climbs at the particular difficuly bands. This is shown at each area and should give you a quick summary of the area's relative difficulty.
The dual grade band shows also what grades people are climbing at an area, based on the number of ascents at each grade. This is interesting, because some areas may have a lot of hard climbs, but the easier climbs are climbed more often (eg Arapiles) and other areas have a lot of easier climbs, but people go there for the hard climbs (eg Grampians).
The table below fives a brief description of each band.
|Beginner||The level of difficulty for your first couple of days of climbing (seconding or top roping). Many people may achieve these grades on their first day of climbing. There are still some very scary and/or dangerous climbs at this level (eg Bard).|
|Intermediate||Typical grades for people with less than a years climbing. Note that most people cannot climb this level on their first couple of days of climbing. Statistically speaking, most outdoor climbing is done in this band. A lot of experienced climbers end up backing off to this level as they enjoy their climbing into old age.|
|Experienced||People can achieve these levels if they have been climbing fairly regularily for a couple of years. These grades are where the social climbers start becoming rare.|
|Expert||You really need to be training in a focused way to climb at this level. Not so many people reach this level.|
|Elite||You climb for a living, are sponsored and have a full time trainer and massuer looking after you. This is the best of the best. If you are normal, you would not have a hope of even dogging up one of these climbs.|
Routes have a registered grade and a list of independent user and publisher grade contributions (a publisher contribution is a citation from a publication). The user and publisher grade contributions are displayed on the route page. The official grade of the route is given by the registered grade.
3.1 Registered grade
The registered grade is the official grade of the route, and is used through out the website and publications.
A registered grade may have multiple components, for example:
- A free climbing grade (5.12a) and an aid grade (A3), combined would read 5.12a A3.
- British technical (4a) and adjectival (MS), combined would read MS 4a.
A route may have official grades from several different grading systems (eg in Thailand many routes have an official French and Australian grade). For example:
The above route, "Knights In White Satin" has a registered grade of 7b+ French and 26 Australian Ewbanks. Because the Thailand is assigned the French context the French grade will be shown on the site. (Question: Do we want to show the Australian grade to Australian users?)
Once a route has a registered grade it can only be changed by an Editor and is not affected by subsequent user contributions.
3.2 Grade contributions
Anybody may make a grade contribution. A climb may have several grade contributions from users and publishers.
When you add a new route, the grade you enter becomes your grade contribution (unless you are citing a publication, in which case in becomes a publisher contribution). For new routes your grade contribution also becomes the registered grade.
You may add your user grade contribution to an existing route using the update route details process. If the route already has a registered grade then this will not be effected (otherwise your contribution is used to start the registered grade).
3.3 Grade ranges
Behind the scenes everything is a grade range with a minimum grade and maximum grade. Mostly people will use just one grade, but on occasions it is useful to use a grade range for a particular route (eg you may input 5.10a-b, which will be interpreted by the sytem as a grade range and displayed as 5.10a to 5.10b.
Grade ranges are absolutely necessary for grade conversions. Very few grade conversions match exactly there is usually overlap. For example 5.8 in the Yosemite Decimal System maps to both 15 and 16 in the Australian Ewbanks system.
We are planning a future enhancement where we represent each grade to a probability bell curve because this represents more accurately what a grade is. For example a route usually takes on the grade of the first assentionist, which is subjective. The first assentionist is feeling really strong that day, and they think the route is a 5.10a, when in actual fact most climbers would have though it is a 5.10b. All climbers have come across routes that are easier or harder then the grade suggests. Over time grades which are way off may be corrected, but ultimately if you got a 100 climbers to independently grade a route, you will not get exactly the same answer from each climber (leaving aside arguments about differences between short and tall climbers). This suggests that route grades are probablistic.
3.4 Aid eliminates
A route may orinally be a 5.10b A4, then later somebody may climb it as a 5.11a A0, then later as a 5.12c. In this scenario the route should have the cleanest grade as its registered grade, but may have all the other grades listed as grade contributions.
3.5 Special rating systems
Although not part of the registered grade you can include some additional rating systems in your grade contributions. These include:
- Protection rating
If you add a *, ** or *** to the end of your grade contribution the system will recognise this a star rating. See how stars work.
You may also use the YDS protection rating in your grade contribution. The system will assign the worst case protection rating to the route and display that alongside the registered grade if it is a R or X protection rating. For example if you made a grade contribution of "5.10d X" then the route will be displayed as 5.10d X.
This area needs a complete rethink because the system is a little restrictive. If you want to contribute to a community discussion see the following issue in our issues list:
Currently when you log an ascent the asent will automatically take the route's registered grade as the ascent grade. If there are multiple registered grades (eg British Adjectival and Technical or Free and Aid) then the system will ask you to choose one of these to be associated with the ascent.
A logged ascent has a single grade independent of the route's grade. This has the following implications:
- You may update your ascent to any grade you want, such as a different grading system or different grade to the route.
- If it is an aid climb you have to choose whether you log the Aid component or the Free component (currently you cannot have both).
- Similarily if it is a British climb have to choose whether you log the Adjectival or Technical grade.
To adjust your ascent's grade after you have logged the ascent follow the following procedure:
- Log your ascent with the grade from the route.
- Go to your Account page ('My Account' tab) and click on Logbook tab.
- In the ascent you just logged click on the name link under the 'Ascent Label' column.
- Click 'edit' ascent.
- Click 'Update Ascent Grade' button at bottom of screen.
- Select the grading system you want to use for your ascent.
- Select the grade.
- And yes you are done, easy eh - not (we will have to make this simpler at some point, but mostly you will not need this procedure).
Our aim is for you to contribute grades as you see them in guidebooks and for the platform to be smart enough to work out what you mean.
5.1 Grade contexts
What does it mean if you type in the grade '5c'? If you were in Britian you would think it was the Experienced British grade 5c, but if you were in France you would think it was the Intermediate French grade 5c. Interpretation of grades is dependent on where you are, this is what we term grade context.
A Grade context is a way of the platform working out how to interpret potentially conficting grades written in plain text, and we set a grade context at the country level.
A grade context is simply a priority list of which grade systems it should check first when matching a grade. For instance in Australia, you can use a french grade, but it will check it first against the locally used Ewbank, and V-Grade bouldering grade systems first, and then if it doesn't match it will check against all the other grade systems. The platform defines as few contexts as possible in order to eliminate conflicts. In general most countries can use the default context.
Currently the system defines the following contexts:
|Code||Grade context||Countries and Grade Systems|
Australian (Ewbanks ...)Australian rating systems including Ewbanks and aid systems.
Priority grade systems: Australian Ewbanks, Bouldering Vermin V-scale, Australian Aid
Priority grade systems: Brazillian Technical Grade, Brazillian General Grade, Distance Rating System
FontainebleauFontainebleau bouldering system used in european bouldering - same labels as French grading system, but different difficulty levels.
Priority grade systems: Fontainebleau Bouldering
Priority grade systems: Finnish
FrenchFrench rating systems including free, bouldering, aid and alpine systems.
Countries: Croatia, Egypt, France, Greece, Hong Kong, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Morocco, Netherlands, Portugal, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam
Priority grade systems: French, Bouldering Vermin V-scale, International French Adjectival System, Aid, Hammerless Aid, Via Ferrata Schall System
Priority grade systems: Norwegian
Priority grade systems: Polish
South AfricanSouth African rating systems including free, bouldering and aid systems.
Priority grade systems: South African, Old South African, Bouldering Vermin V-scale, Aid, Hammerless Aid
SaxonSaxon free rating systems.
Priority grade systems: Saxon, Jumps
UIAAUIAA free rating system but also includes bouldering and aid systems.
Priority grade systems: UIAA, Bouldering Vermin V-scale, Aid, Hammerless Aid, Via Ferrata Schall System
BritishBritish rating systems including technical, adjectival, bouldering and aid systems.
Priority grade systems: British Adjectival, British Technical, Bouldering Vermin V-scale, Aid, Hammerless Aid
American (YDS ...)American rating systems including YDS, aid, bouldering, alpine and ice systems.
Countries: Afghanistan, Argentina, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Lichtenstein, Mali, Mexico, Micronesia, Nepal, New Caledonia, Oman, Peru, Philippines, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, South Korea, Taiwan, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, Venezuela, Yemen
Priority grade systems: Sierra Club Class System, American Yosemite Decimal System, Bouldering Vermin V-scale, Bouldering Expanded Gill B-Scale, Bouldering Smith Rocks S-Scale, Bouldering Phoenix P-Scale, Bouldering Joshua Tree Scale, Aid, Hammerless Aid, National Climbing Classification System (NCCS) Alpine Grade, Alpine Ice, Water Ice, Mixed Rock/Ice, National Climbing Classification System (NCCS) Scale, Via Ferrata Schall System
Each country is assigned a context. Hopefully we have got it close to right (see section 5.3). In the table above we only show countries that have routes in them, and new countries default to the US, so if this isn't right for a particular country please contact us and we'll fix it.
You may change the context of a particular route when you add or update that route.
The best way to explain how the system converts the plain text you enter into grades is to look at some examples.
|US||5.12||5.12||The system has a grade system where grades are expressed as 5.12-, 5.12 and 5.12+.|
|US||12a||5.12a||The system is able to work out common partial grades.|
|US||12||5.12||partial grades can be very dependent on the context (in US context this is 5.12, in AU context this is 12).|
|AU||12||12||Compare to above example|
|US||5.12a-5.12c||5.12a to 5.12c||This is interpreted as a grade range.|
|US||5.12a-b||5.12a to 5.12b||Common abbreviated grade ranges|
|US||5.12a/b||5.12b||The forward slash '/' is interpreted as an or, in which case the system assigns the highest single grade.|
|US||5.10,5.12d,5.9||5.12d||Commas used to indicate multi-pitch, in which case the system will assign the highest grade.|
|US||5.9 S||5.9 S||Protection rating is displayed as part of the grade.|
|US||5.10a X,5.12||5.12 X||Multipitch may include protection rating.|
|US||5.9**||5.9||The contribution will also be attributed with . Learn more about quality ratings.|
|FR||5c||5c||The French grade.|
|UK||5c||5c||The British technical grade.|
|UK||E2 5c||E2 5c||The British adjectival and technical grade.|
|UK||D||D||The British adjectival.|
|UK||Difficult||D||Yup, according to the British adjectival system, difficult is a beginner's route - go figure. I think climbing developed faster than they could keep up.|
|AU||19||19||Australian Ewbanks grade.|
|SA||19||19||South African grade (compare to level of difficulty for an Australian Ewbanks grade 19 above)|
|AU||21 (S)||21||Australian Ewbanks grade with a sport route indicator. This is in for historical reasons (common for Australian guidebooks to use this notation), but because of it's potential confusion with the protection rating S we don't want it to be used anymore. For sport routes just tick the sport route indicator. Note the sport indicator must have brackets.|
|AU||21 M2||21 M2||Australian Ewbanks grade with an Australian aid grade.|
|AU||M2||M2||Australian aid grade (we should probably colorize this).|
|US||Class 2||Class 2|
|US||Class IV||Class 4|
|SA||D3||D3||Old South African grade.|
|US||5.6A1+||5.6 A1+||Free plus Aid grade.|
|US||5.6C1+||5.6 C1+||Free plus hammerless Aid grade.|
|US||A1+||A1+||Straight Aid grade.|
|US||V4||V4||Vermin V-Scale for bouldering.|
|US||B5.6||B5.6||The little more obscure Expanded Gill B-Scale for bouldering.|
|US||B2-||B2-||And another B-Scale.|
|US||S4-||S4-||Bouldering Smith Rocks S-Scale.|
|US||P10||P10||Bouldering Phoenix P-Scale.|
|US||C+||C+||Bouldering Joshua Tree Scale.|
|AU||V0+||V0+||But really the bouldering V-Scale is accepted everywhere, so just use that.|
|US||M3||M3||Mixed rock and ice.|
|FR||PD||PD||IFAS (International French Adjectival System) - nothing in the conversion table.|
|US||VI||VI||National Climbing Classification System (NCCS) Alpine Grade (no conversions).|
|US||VI 5.11c A2+||5.11c A2+ VI||Alpine route with free and aid climbing.|
|AU||12 # i think||12||You can add comments to your grade contribution by using "#".|
If you see a way of writing a grade in a guidebook then test it out and if it does not work then please contact us so we can enhance the system.
The following table shows the current system settings for country context. Please raise an issue in our issues list if you think we need to make some adjustments.
|AG||Antigua and Barbuda||US|
|BA||Bosnia and Herzegovina||US|
|IO||British Indian Ocean Territory||UK|
|British Virgin Islands||UK|
|CF||Central African Republic||US|
|CC||Cocos (Keeling) Islands||US|
|CD||Congo Democratic Republic||US|
|TF||French Southern Territories||FR|
|HM||Heard and McDonald Islands||US|
|IM||Isle of Man||US|
|MP||Northern Marina Islands||US|
|PG||Papua New Guinea||US|
|KN||Saint Kitts and Nevis||US|
|PM||Saint Pierre and Miquelon||US|
|VC||Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||US|
|ST||Sao Tome and Principe||US|
|TT||Trinidad and Tobago||US|
|TC||Turks and Caicos Islands||US|
|AE||United Arab Emirates||US||34|
|UM||United States Minor Outlying Islands||US|
|US||United States of America||US||67074|
|WF||Wallis and Futuna||US|