Grades

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:

  1. Grade conversions
  2. Grade bands
  3. How are grades asigned to routes?
  4. How are grades asigned to ascents?
  5. Grade parsing
  6. Country context's

1. Grade conversions

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 AID BOULDER
Band Ewbanks YDS NCCS Scale French British Adj. British Tech. UIAA South African Old South African Saxon Finnish Norwegian Polish Aid Aid Aid V-Scale
Beginner
Intermediate
Experienced
Expert
Elite
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
5.0
5.1
5.2
5.3
5.4
5.5
5.6
5.7
5.8
5.9
5.10a
5.10b
5.10c
5.10d
5.11a
5.11b
5.11c
5.11d
5.12a
5.12b
5.12c
5.12d
5.13a
5.13b
5.13c
5.13d
5.14a
5.14b
5.14c
5.14d
5.15a
5.15b
5.15c
5.15d
F4
F5
F6
F7
F8
F9
F10
F11
F12
F13
F14
F15
F16
1a
1a+
1b
1b+
1c
1c+
2a
2a+
2b
2b+
2c
2c+
3a
3a+
3b
3b+
3c
3c+
4a
4a+
4b
4b+
4c
4c+
5a
5a+
5b
5b+
5c
5c+
6a
6a+
6b
6b+
6c
6c+
7a
7a+
7b
7b+
7c
7c+
8a
8a+
8b
8b+
8c
8c+
9a
9a+
9b
9b+
9c
E
M
MD
D
HD
MVD
VD
HVD
MS
S
HS
MVS
VS
HVS
E1
E2
E3
E4
E5
E6
E7
E8
E9
E10
1a
1b
1c
2a
2b
2c
3a
3b
3c
4a
4b
4c
5a
5b
5c
6a
6b
6c
7a
7b
7c
1-
1
1+
2-
2
2+
3-
3
3+
4-
4
4+
5-
5
5+
6-
6
6+
7-
7
7+
8-
8
8+
9-
9
9+
10-
10
10+
11-
11
11+
12-
12
12+
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
A1
A2
A3
B1
B2
B3
C1
C2
C3
D1
D2
D3
E1
E2
E3
F1
F2
F3
G1
G2
G3
H1
H2
H3
I1
I2
I3
J1
J2
I
II
III
IV
V
VI
VIIa
VIIb
VIIc
VIIIa
VIIIb
VIIIc
IXa
IXb
IXc
Xa
Xb
Xc
XIa
XIb
XIc
XIIa
XIIb
XIIc
1-
1
1+
2-
2
2+
3-
3
3+
4-
4
4+
5-
5
5+
6-
6
6+
7-
7
7+
8-
8
8+
9-
9
9+
10-
10
10+
11-
11
11+
12-
12
12+
1-
1
1+
2-
2
2+
3-
3
3+
4-
4
4+
5-
5
5+
6-
6
6+
7-
7
7+
8-
8
8+
9-
9
9+
10-
I-
I
I+
II-
II
II+
III-
III
III+
IV-
IV
IV+
V-
V
V+
VI-
VI
VI+
VI.1
VI.1+
VI.2
VI.2+
VI.3
VI.3+
VI.4
VI.4+
VI.5
VI.5+
VI.6
VI.6+
VI.7
VI.7+
VI.8
VI.8+
VI.9
VI.9+
M0
M1
M2
M3
M4
M5
M6
M7
M8
M9
M10
M11
M12
A0
A0+
A1
A1+
A2
A2+
A3
A3+
A4
A4+
A5
A5+
A6
C0
C0+
C1
C1+
C2
C2+
C3
C3+
C4
C4+
C5
C5+
C6
VB-
VB
VB+
V0-
V0
V0+
V1
V2
V3
V4
V5
V6
V7
V8
V9
V10
V11
V12
V13
V14
V15
V16
 

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:

http://www.thecrag.com/api/config/grade/system

2. Grade bands

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.

Grade bands summary

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.

3. How are grades asigned to routes?

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 minum 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:

  • Stars
  • 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.

4. How are grades asigned to ascents?

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).

5. Grade parsing

Our aim is for you to contribute grades as you see them in guidebooks and for the system 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.

Grade context is a way of the system working out how to interpret potentially conficting grades written in plain text. The system defines a small set of contexts as possible which can eliminate all conflicts. Currently the system defines the following contexts:

  • US: United States
  • AU: Australian
  • UK: United Kingdom
  • FR: French
  • UIAA: Countries primarily using UIAA grades
  • SA: South African
  • SX: Saxon

Each country is assigned a context. Hopefully we have got it close to right (see section 5.3). You may change the context when you add or update a route.

5.2 Examples

The best way to explain how the system converts the plain text you enter into grades is to look at some examples.

Context Text entered Grade Comment
US 5.12a 5.12a
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
US F6 F6 NCCS Scale.
UIAA 11- 11- UIAA grade.
SA D3 D3 Old South African grade.
SX VIIa VIIa Saxon 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 AI5- AI5- Alpine Ice.
US WI5- WI5- Water Ice.
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.

6. Country context's

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.

Country Context
Afghanistan US
Aland Islands US
Albania US
Algeria US
American Samoa US
Andorra US
Angola US
Anguilla US
Antarctica US
Antigua and Barbuda US
Argentina US
Armenia US
Aruba US
Ascension Island US
Australia AU
Austria UIAA
Azerbaijan UIAA
Bahamas US
Bahrain US
Bangladesh US
Barbados US
Belarus UIAA
Belgium UIAA
Belize UIAA
Benin US
Bermuda US
Bhutan US
Bolivia US
Bosnia and Herzegovina US
Botswana US
Bouvet Island US
Brazil US
British Indian Ocean Territory UK
British Virgin Islands UK
Brunei Darussalam US
Bulgaria US
Burkina Faso US
Burma US
Burundi US
Cambodia US
Cameroon US
Canada US
Cape Verde US
Cayman Islands US
Central African Republic US
Chad US
Chile US
China US
Christmas Island US
Cocos (Keeling) Islands US
Colombia US
Comoros US
Congo Democratic Republic US
Congo Republic US
Cook Islands US
Costa Rica US
Cote d'Ivoire US
Croatia US
Cuba US
Cyprus US
Czech Republic US
Denmark UIAA
Djibouti US
Dominica US
Dominican Republic US
East Timor US
Ecuador US
Egypt US
El Salvador US
Equatorial Guinea US
Eritrea US
Estonia US
Ethiopia US
Falkland Islands US
Faroe Islands US
Fiji US
Finland FIN
France FR
French Guiana FR
French Polynesia FR
French Southern Territories FR
Gabon US
Gambia US
Georgia US
Germany UIAA
Ghana US
Gibraltar US
Greece US
Greenland US
Grenada US
Guadeloupe US
Guam US
Guatemala US
Guernsey US
Guinea US
Guinea-Bissaau US
Guyana US
Haiti US
Heard and McDonald Islands US
Honduras US
Hong Kong US
Hungary US
Iceland US
India US
Indonesia US
Iran US
Iraq US
Ireland US
Isle of Man US
Israel US
Italy US
Jamaica US
Japan US
Jersey US
Jordan US
Kashmir US
Kazakhstan US
Kenya US
Kiribati US
Kosova US
Kuwait US
Kyrgyzstan US
Laos US
Latvia US
Lebanon US
Lesotho US
Liberia US
Libya US
Lichtenstein US
Lithuania US
Luxembourg US
Macau US
Macedonia US
Madagascar US
Malagasy Republic US
Malawi US
Malaysia US
Maldives US
Mali US
Malta US
Marshall Islands US
Martinique US
Mauritania US
Mauritius US
Mayotte US
Mexico US
Micronesia US
Midway Islands US
Moldova US
Monaco US
Mongolia US
Montserrat US
Morocco US
Mozambique US
Myanmar US
Namibia US
Nauru US
Nepal US
Netherlands US
Netherlands Antilles US
New Caledonia US
New Zealand US
Nicaragua US
Niger US
Nigeria US
Niue US
Norfolk Island US
North Korea US
Northern Cyprus US
Northern Marina Islands US
Norway NWG
Oman US
Pakistan US
Palau US
Palestine US
Panama US
Papua New Guinea US
Paraguay US
Peru US
Philippines US
Pitcairn Island US
Poland POL
Portugal US
Puerto Rico US
Qatar US
Reunion US
Romania US
Russia US
Rwanda US
Saint Helena US
Saint Kitts and Nevis US
Saint Lucia US
Saint Pierre and Miquelon US
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines US
Samoa US
San Marino US
Sao Tome and Principe US
Saudi Arabia US
Senegal US
Serbia US
Seychelles US
Sierra Leone US
Singapore US
Slovakia US
Slovenia US
Solomon Islands US
Somalia US
South Africa US
South Georgia US
South Korea US
Spain FR
Sri Lanka US
Sudan US
Suriname US
Svalbard US
Swaziland US
Sweden US
Switzerland FR
Syria US
Taiwan US
Tajikistan US
Tanzania US
Thailand FR
Tibet US
Togo US
Tokelau US
Tonga US
Trinidad and Tobago US
Tunisia US
Turkey US
Turkmenistan US
Turks and Caicos Islands US
Tuvalu US
Uganda US
Ukraine US
United Arab Emirates US
United Kingdom UK
England UK
Wales UK
Scotland UK
Northern Ireland UK
United States of America US
United States Minor Outlying Islands US
Uruguay US
Uzbekistan US
Vanuatu US
Vatican City US
Venezuela US
Vietnam US
Virgin Islands US
Wallis and Futuna US
Western Sahara US
Yemen US
Zambia US
Zimbabwe US
Montenegro