Sport vs bouldering grades

I had a question after listening to the “Do Your Sport and Bouldering Grades Line Up?” Episode. When you compare the two grade scales - it sounds like you aren’t saying “doing a V4 is as hard as doing a 12a” or “a V4 should be the crux of a 12a” - both of which I’ve heard before. You’re saying “on a 12a, none of the moves should be harder than V4 (but they might all be easier)”

Is that right? I think that makes sense more sense to me than what I’d heard before.

So in theory if there’s a V5 on the route, it’s gotta be harder than 12a?

Also, should we interpret between French route grades vs French Font bouldering grades in more or less the same way?

Put this in the bucket of my LONG-time climbing mysteries :slight_smile:


Yes and Yes. No more mystery.

Haha. It’ll always be a mystery, but I think what you’re saying makes the most sense to me as well.

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In theory yes a v5 should make it be graded higher than 12a, but like all things in climbing grades this might not always be true.

As far as I know, 12b=V5, so if it’s short and bouldery, or very cruxy with mostly easy climbing, it certainly could be.

Of the 100 or so 12bs I’ve climbed, I can’t immediately recall any that had what I’d call V5. Maybe fewer than a dozen even had what I’d call V4. But I’m sure they are out there.

I’m curious though @fireclim3r , in what case could a climb with a V5 on it not be harder than 12a?

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A sandbagged original rating(especially in an older area) or a broken hold that now makes it more difficult. All of which stems from inflexibility in the established grade to change, with new route changes. Broken holds should change the grade when warranted but this isn’t always the case especially when the route has been established for a long time.

In my own experience climbs are much more likely to be downgraded than upgraded. I climb a bit in American Fork and routes breaking and changing difficulty is fairly common.

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Difficulty changes despite the inflexibility of a guidebook author or grading gatekeeper. Their inflexibility doesn’t change the actual grade - only what they tell people.

The tricky part comes in the sandbagging. I’ve climbed hundreds (thousands?) of things that people call “sandbagged” and I disagree with them in all but two or three cases. Even in those cases I suspect I’m just missing some technique I don’t quite understand yet, and if I ever grasp it the “sandbag” will disappear. I’d go as far as to say that many areas that are “notoriously sandbagged” like Joshua Tree and Vedauwoo are actually quite soft for the grades once you learn the proper techniques.

So maybe the perceived V5 isn’t V5 at all.


Love that attitude about sandbagging!

Yeah I was going to say an example of a V5 on a 12a would probably be where most ppl say it’s a V4 , but it’s my anti style and feels way harder for me for whatever reason.


I get most confused when endurance becomes an factor. Like if you keep doing V3 moves sooner or later they’re going to feel a lot harder. So how many moves make it the same difficulty as a V5 and therefore 12b… or V7 and therefore 13a? When is a rest bad enough that it only changes the difficulty of the moves minimally? Does a no hands rest always reset the cumulative difficulty of moves to 0?

Ahhh, the mysteries of grading. Sometimes I think it’s better just not to think about it!


Just wanted to add more unnecessary information to this topic in a very timely manner, namely, when the topic is at its hottest!.

Many years ago, I saw this figure in a blog (Remember when blogging was cool?!) . I found this approach of combining crux problem/endurance and grading rather interesting.

Below is the URL to the blog article in case you are interested in reading it.


As a New England/East Coast climber, I’ve referred to this chart many times.

Also, all the breaking beta episode on a similar topic, this resource. Where, really, the left hand column is the best grading scheme IMO.

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I[quote=“Wytold, post:1, topic:462, full:true”]

Also, should we interpret between French route grades vs French Font bouldering grades in more or less the same way?


That‘s just a conversion of the grades and the same here in Europe.