A Swede and a Yank Start Messin´ With Our E – grade

by Mick Ryan – UKClimbing.com Jens Larssen, the founder of the climbing website that ranks climbing achievement and puts everyone and the routes they have climbed into an orderly list has started messin´ with the British E- grading system, despite having little knowledge or experience of it. 8a.nu is a climbing web phenomenonand attracts those climbers who like to log their climbing achievements, like train spotters but with a difference. Rather than a little dog-eared book to record your ticks, climbers can log their routes climbed in the public domain for all to view and comment on: UKClimbing.com has a similar system. At 8a.nu the twist is that you are then ranked in order of your achievements – like aclimbing equivalent of a football league table. Good viewing for the punters and the pros who like to know who the supposed top dog is, but as some have criticised, 8a.nu is open to all kinds of abuse. However, whilst the easily understood and universal bouldering grades, Font or V – grades, the two global standards, and the ubiquitous French grade, which synchs perfectly with the American YDS sport scale, all fit well into the 8a.nu system and make for easy calculations, there is a big snag; there´s a bad girl in town and she isn´t behaving as she should – our very own, complex and enigmatic E- grade system. UK climbers have a special bond with the E -grade, even if you don´t climb at that level, it is a relationship that goes far beyond marriage, it´s a match made in heaven; the E-grade is The One; our off-the-wall personalities matched with an off-beat grading system; Jens and 8a.nu to the rescue. Whilst there are numerous grade tables that compare global grading systems – most offer a disclaimer that they are only rough guides – perfect linear conversions are not possible for a variety of reasons, not least the complexity of the British E system, it has at least 3 components, but also variations in local grading systems – for example Switzerland bouldering grades are considered soft compared to other areas – but that hasn´t stopped Jens making a stab at it in another 8a.nu ´innovation!´ Jens has produced another comparison grade table just like the rest (8a.nu Table here) and as normal he is under the misapprehension that the E component compares directly to a French sport grade. Jens, it doesn´t. You have to factor in the technical grade and the gear, or lack of it, which can make an E10 physically easier than an E9 or E8 but bolder. Further, Jens has invented even more notation for when UK routes are reported on 8a.nu , so we have Rhapsody, 8c+S (E11 7a); French grade first, cheeky bastard; then S for serious: full notation is: 8aT = trad ascent, S = serious, R = Risky, X = Death. Who does he think he is? Adam Wainwright! To add insult to injury, and there is a lot of that flying about, Kevin Jorgeson (kevinjorgeson.com), one of a team of American climbers who are making short work of the UK´s hardest grit routes, in a response to James Pearson´s response to Kevin´s explanation of his downgrading of The Promise, it has slipped two E grades from E10 to E8, has now stated an oft-repeated pronouncement that an E grade of route can change depending on the experience of a climber on that route. So The Promise is E8 for Kevin Jorgeson and E10 for James Pearson…. and that´s without even mentioning the difference between an onsight ascent and a headpoint, practised ascent. Add that variable into your bloody grading table Jens Larssen.