The grading system can be very daunting for most climbers. Not only can the grade system be totally subjective there are many differing grading systems. So is that 6b really 5.10d a 6+ or a whopping 20. Over the next few articles we will try to provide a good undertanding of the most popular climbing grading systems which will, hopefully, allow you to make accurate climbing grade comparisons in the future.
The grading system can be overwhelming at the best of times so I’m going to investigate the differing grade systems and try and make sense of it all in laymen terms.
American (YDS) Yosemite Decimal System
Developed in the early 1900s, the YDS was originally was brought in to replace the old descriptive system for hikes and climbs in the Sierra Nevada. Previous to this system route were just described by comparing it to another route. Rubbish if you haven’t climbed any of the other routes.
The YDS currently splits hikes and climbs into 5 classes, which can be a little vague.
Class 1: Walking with a low chance of injury.
Class 2: Simple scrambling, with the possibility of occasional use of the hands. Little potential danger is encountered.
Class 3: Scrambling with increased exposure. A rope can be carried but is usually not required. Falls are not always fatal.
Class 4: Simple climbing, with exposure. A rope is often used. Natural protection can be easily found. Falls may well be fatal.
Class 5: Technical free climbing involving rope, belaying, and other protection hardware for safety. Un-roped falls can result in severe injury or death.
But wait it doesn’t end there. In addition to this each class a series of grades to describe the difficulty within each class. So 1st number is the class 2nd number is the grade eg. 4.5 class 4 diffficulty 5.
Just when you thought it was safe to get up that wall, there is more. In addition to the class and grade there is also a protection rating. This is not always applied to the rating but offers additional information on the riskiness of the climb.
PG : Runouts may be present but falls will not be dangerous
R : – Long runouts are present. There is enough protection to stop you from hitting the ground but injuries may occur.
X : – Little or no protection. There are areas where falling is not acceptable. Death can occur from a fall on this climb.
S : – This is a fairly new danger factor rating scale. ‘S’ stands for ‘serious’ and is similar to an ‘R’ danger factor except that ‘S’ values are affiliated with a ‘Sub-Grade’ value.
So to round up the YDS grading system in very simplistic terms,
Class: type of climb 1-5 falling off no big deal to dead
Grade: Difficulty within each class 1-9 easy to hard
Protection/Danger Rating: PG – X, Easy – Not Easy.