Thursday, 11 September 2008

The DAFT Brigade

Maybe it’s the appalling weather and ensuing lack of climbing opportunities, but people seem even more crazy than normal.

I was just recently reminded why I stopped reading the UKC forums on a regular basis. A simple thread on the definition of bouldering grades quickly brought out the Defenders of All that is FonT brigade.

I’ve noticed a tendency among a few climbers in the UK to have an almost religious zeal when it comes to the Forest. This extends not only to the rock itself, but to its grading system.

I seriously question anything that people believe in 100%, whether that is a rock type or religion. The one thing that I’ve found in life is that there are no absolutes and I find the behaviour of the DAFT brigade complete anathema. Life is grey. There is no one true bouldering area or grading system. Different places have positive and negative qualities. Bouldering and life for that matter exists beyond the Forest.

I prefer V grades, but I base this on a few simple things. First, some of my best bouldering experiences happened in places that use the V grade system namely Bishop and North Wales so I tend to equate V grades with good times. Second, both of these areas play to my strength and therefore the grades feel less sand-baggy. I will admit, I am horribly weak with slopers and have no technique, therefore just about everything in Font or the Peak feels a few grades harder for me.

Do these two points lead me to believe that the V grade system is vastly superior and the only true system. Heck no. It’s just the basis for a mild preference which I can appreciate might fully work in opposite ways to someone else.

In fact, regardless of the grading system I find myself constantly converting between the two as a means of thinking about the problem. “Oohh that was a hard V4, maybe it would be a Font 6b or 6b+”. Conversely, “6a, hmm, that seems easy for a V3”.

Much more important is yet another yardstick for measuring problems which is completely specific to one person, namely myself. I love finding moves that are at my complete physical limit. Obviously by definition this won’t readily apply to another person and indeed, I often encounter many of these moves on relatively easier problems simply due to my lack of stature. One of my biggest accomplishments in bouldering was a reachy, high-ish slab in North Wales that had a whopping grade of V3 but I know that I did one of the hardest moves that I ever did on it.

Life is difficult. Life is gre[a]y.


Peter said...

and the award for best acronym of 2008 goes to...

Stubbs said...

Agree completely - it only takes a small amount of common sense to be conversant in both grading systems - neither has an advantage as they may as well be list of numbers 1 upwards, or a,b,c, etc. The only thing vaguely important is that the chosen grading system for an area has the problems of comparable difficulty at the same grade as those in other areas using that grading system. Now how much milk was it you wanted - 2 pints, 1.13 litres or a quart? ;)


Jenn said...

Exactly – why people can’t convert between the two is beyond me, but I guess arguing about grading systems is almost as intrinsic to climbing as arguing about grades :-)