Rock climbing grades

There are a variety of different systems used around the world to define rock climbs grades. Below you will find a table that compares the different climbing grades across the five most popular systems.

Roped climbing

  • French
    The French system is an internationally recognised system for grading sport climbs and is therefore used on bolted routes within the UK.
  • UIAA
    This system is used in Germany, in other areas of Eastern Europe and in Italy for the classic trad routes.
  • United States
    Yosemite Decimal System(YDS) is a grading system commonly found in the United States, starts with a 5.something.
    Grades 1 to 4 refer to walks of increasing difficulty, by the time you reach 5 you are assumed to be scrambling over rocks which equates to about 5.0.
    Sub-Grade (Yosemite Decimal System).
    The sub-grade ranges from 1 to a theoretically infinite number (today the highest number is 15). The number is increased when a ‘harder’ climb is developed.
  • Great Britain
    The UK system is made of two sub-grades, an adjective grade and a technical grade. The adjective grade describes the overall difficulty of the climb taking into consideration how strenuous the route is, the amount of exposure and the availability of protection.
    The adjective grades are as follows: Moderate (M), Very Difficult (VD), Hard Very Difficult HVD), Mild Severe (MS), Severe (S), Hard Severe (HS), Mild Very Severe (MVS), Very Severe (VS), Hard Very Severe (HVS) and Extremely Severe. The Extremely Severe grade is also broken down into 10 further sub grades from E1 to E11.
    The numerical technical grading describes the hardest (crux) move on the climb. For a brief explanation of UK traditional climbing grades follow this link.
  • Australian
    The system used in Australia and New Zealand is perhaps the most logical of all. There are no letters secondary grades, just a single number which gets bigger as the routes get harder.

Rock climbing grades

France UIAA YDS GB AUS Level
 1 I  5 3a     Novice ↓
 2  II  5.1/5.2 3b   11  
 3  III  5.3/5.4 3c   12  
4a  IV  5.5 4a VD 13 Beginner ↓
4b IV+ 5.6 4b S 14  
4c V 5.7 4c HS 15  
5a V+ 5.8   VS 16  
5b VI- 5.9 5a HVS 17  Intermediate ↓
5c VI 5.10a   E1 18  
6a VI+ 5.10b 5b   19  
6a+ VII- 5.10c   E2 20  
6b VII 5.10d 5c   21  
6b+ VII+ 5.11a   E3 22 Advanced ↓
6c VIII- 5.11b     23  
6c+ VIII 5.11c 6a E4 24  
7a VIII+ 5.11d     25  
7a+ IX- 5.12a   E5 26  
7b IX-   IX 5.12b 6b     Expert ↓
7b+ IX 5.12c   E6 27  
7c IX   IX+ 5.12d 6c   28  
7c+ IX+ 5.13a   E7 29  
8a IX+   X- 5.13b       Super Expert ↓
8a+ X- 5.13c 7a   30  
8b X 5.13d   E8 31 Elite ↓
8b+ X+ 5.14a     32  
8c X+  XI- 5.14b 7b   33  
8c+ XI- 5.14c   E9  34  
9a XI 5.14d 7c    35 Super Elite ↓
9a+ XI+ 5.15a     36  
9b XII- 5.15b     37  
9b+ XII 5.15c     38  
9c XII+ 5.15d     39 Aliens

Download climbing grades table (PDF) for your mobile!


Bouldering

In the sport of bouldering, problems are assigned technical grades according to several established systems, which are often distinct from those used in roped climbing.
Bouldering grade systems in wide use include the Hueco “V” grades (known as the V-scale), Fontainebleau technical grades, and more. You can read a very detailed article about bouldering grades here: www.99boulders.com.

There are also other systems used around the world to grade rock climbs.

Bouldering

Drawing by Claudio Getto “Caio Comix

Hueco (USA) Fontainebleau
VB 3
V0- 4-
V0 4
V0+ 4+
V1 5
V2 5+
V3 6A
  6A+
V4 6B
  6B+
V5 6C
  6C+
V6 7A
V7 7A+
V8 7B
  7B+
V9 7C
V10 7C+
V11 8A
V12 8A+
V13 8B
V14 8B+
V15 8C
V16 8C+

The evolution: from 6a to 9c

Let’s now see how climbing has evolved over time. The following is the result of careful research done by two well-known names in the world of climbers: Maurizio Oviglia and Claude Remy. My thanks go to them and PlanetMountain (which previously published an article dedicated to the evolution of free climbing) for allowing me to publish this interesting table that allows you to observe how the degrees of difficulty in climbing are constantly evolving.

In addition, other details are included: solo (climbing without a rope); on-sight (OS); expo which indicates runout gear; obl. stands for obligatory; Female = F; not confirmed or unrepeated = NC.

YEAR GRADE CLIMBER ROUTE

1918

6a expo

Emanuel Strubisch

Wilder Kopf- Westkante / Elbsandsteingebirge, Germany

1930

6a+ expo

Frank Elliot, Harry Dovere Gilbert Ellis

Wall End Slab Direct at Stanage, Peak District, GB

1936

6b/6b+ expo

Willi Hänztschel

Schrammtorwächter nord, Elbsandsteingebirge, Germany

1949

6c expo

Peter Harding

Demon Rib, Black Rocks, Peak District, GB

1952

6c expo

Wulf Scheffler

Schwager-Talseite / Elbsandsteingebirge, Germany

1958

7a solo OS

Don Whillans

Goliath, Burbage, Peak District, GB

1960

6c solo

John Gill

Final Exam, Castle Rock, Colorado, USA

1961

7b+ solo

John Gill

Thimble, Needle, Dakota, USA (12m high)

1970

7a

John Stannard

Foops, Gunks, USA

1972

7b

John Bragg

Kansas City, Gunks, USA

Alan Manson

Invents the Figure of 4 (Yaniro)on the University of Leeds climbing wall

1973

6c solo OS

Jim Erickson

Cassandre, USA (new route integral solo)

1974

7c

Steve Wunsch

Supercrack, Gunks, USA

1977

8a

Peter Cleveland

Phlogiston, Devil’s Lake, USA

7b, F

Lynn Hill

Shawangunk Ridge, Gunks, USA

1979

7c, F

Lynn Hill

Ophir Broke, Telluride, Colorado, USA

8a

Tony Yaniro

Grand Illusion, Sugar Loaf, California, USA

7b+ expo

Bernd Arnold

Direkte Superlative, Elbsandsteingebirge, Germany

1980

7b+ OS

Patrick Edlinger

La polka des ringards, Buoux, France

7b+ OS

Patrick Edlinger

Parties carrées, Buoux, France

1981

7c+ expo

Maurizio Zanolla (Manolo)

Il mattino dei maghi, Totoga, Dolomiti, Italy

1983

8a+

Jerry Moffat

The Face, Altmühltal, Germany

1984

8b

Wolfgang Güllich

Kanal im Rücken, Altmühltal, Germany

8b

Martin Scheel

Vuelo a ciegas direct, Montserrat, Spain

7c+ OS

Jerry Moffat

in USA e in Europa, citiamo Pol Pot, Verdon, France

7c+, F

Lynn Hill

Vandals, Gunks, USA

1985

8b+

Wolfgang Güllich

Punks in the gym, Mount Arapiles, Australia

8a solo

Antoine Le Menestrel

Revelations, Raven Tor, GB

1986

8b+/c

Antoine Le Menestrel

Ravage, Chuenisberg, Jura, Switzerland

8b+

Antoine Le Menestrel

La rage de vivre, Buoux, France

8b+

Antoine Le Menestrel

La minimum, Buoux, France

7c solo

Wolfgang Güllich

Weed Killer, Raven Tor, GB

8a, F

Luisa Iovane

Come back, Valle San Nicolò, Italy

1987

8c

Wolfgang Güllich

Wallstreet, Krottenseer Turm, Frankenjura, Germany

8a+ solo

Jean-Christophe Lafaille

Rêve de gosse, Les Arnauds, France

8a, F

Christine Gambert + Lynn Hill

Rêve de papillon, Buoux, France

8a OS

Antoine Le Menestrel

Samizdat, Cimaï, France

7b, F OS

Lynn Hill

plusieurs aux USA

1988

8a+, F

Catherine Destivelle

Choucas, Buoux, France

8b, F

Isabelle Patissier

Sortilèges, Cimaï, France

8c

Fred Nicole

Anaïs et le canabis, St-Loup, Switzerland

1990

8c+

Ben Moon

Hubble, Raven Tor, GB

8c/+

Jerry Moffat

Liquid Ambar, Lower Pen Trwyn, Galles, GB

8b+, F

Lynn Hill

Masse critique, Cimaï, France

1991

9a

Wolfgang Güllich

Action Directe, Frankenjura, Germany

8b solo

Alain Robert

Compilation, Omblèze, France

1992

8a, F OS

Lynn Hill

Simon, Frankenjura, Germany

9a

Alex Huber

Om, Triangel, Endstal, Germany (9a+)

1993

9a

Fred Nicole

Bain de sang, St-Loup, Switzerland

9a

Fred Rouhling

Hugh, Les Eaux Claires, France

8b OS

Elie Chevieux

Les liaisons dangereuses, Calanques, France

1994

9a

Alex Huber

Weisse Rose, Schleierwasserfall, Austria

8a/+, F OS

Lynn Hill

Overdose, Lourmarin, France

1995

9b

Fred Rouhling

Akira, Grotte de Vilhonneur, Les Eaux Claires, France (NC)

8b+ OS

Elie Chevieux

Massey Fergusson, Calanques, France

1996

9a+

Alex Huber

Open Air, Schleierwasserfall, Austria

9a+

Neil Carson

The big bang, Lower Pen Trwyn, Wales, GB

8b+ OS

Elie Chevieux

Maldita Maria, Cuenca, Spain

1997

9a/+

Fred Nicole

Elfe, Grimsel, Switzerland.

1998

8c, F

Josune Bereziartu

Honky Tonky, Onate, Spain.

9a+

Bernabé Fernandez

Orujo, Malaga, Spain (une prise visée, NC)

1999

8b, F OS

Katie Brown

Omaha Beach, Red River Gorge, USA

2000

8c+, F

Josune Bereziartu

Honky Mix, Onate, Spain

8a+, F OS

Josune Bereziartu

Bon viatge, Terradets, Spain

9a+

Eric Talmadge

Im Reich des Shogun, Tüfleten, Switzerland

2001

9a+

Chris Sharma

Realization, Céüse, France

2002

9a, F

Josune Bereziartu

Bain de sang, St-Loup, Switzerland

9a/+

Fred Nicole

La chimère L2, St-Loup, Switzerland

2003

8b solo

Alex Huber

Opportunist, Schleierwasserfall, Austria

8b+ solo

Alex Huber

Kommunist, Schleierwasserfall, Austria

9b

Bernabé Fernandez

Chilam Balam, Archidona (80m)

9a+

Ramon Puigblanque

La Rambla Ext, Siurana, Spain

2004

8b, F OS

Josune Bereziartu

Steroid performance, Hourai, Giappone

8c OS

Yuji Hirayama

White Zombie, Baltzola Spain

9a/+

François Nicole

Bimba luna, St-Loup, Switzerland

2005

9a/+, F

Josune Bereziartu

Bimba luna, St-Loup, Switzerland

9a+

Dave Graham

Coup de grâce, Sonlerto, Switzerland

2006

8b+, F OS

Josune Bereziartu

Hydrofobia, Montsant, Spain

2007

8c+ OS

Patxi Usobiaga

Bizi Euskaraz, Etxauri, Spain

2008

9b

Chris Sharma

Jumbo love, Clark Mountain, USA (75m)

9b

Chris Sharma

Golpe de estado, Siurana, Spain

9b

Dani Andrada

Delincuente natural, Rodellar, Spain

2009

9b

Chris Sharma

Neanderthal, Santa Linya, Spain

2010

8c, F OS

Charlotte Durif

Les rois du pétrole, Pic St-Loup, France

2011

9b

Adam Ondra

La Capella, Siurana, Spain

9b

Adam Ondra

Chaxi Raxi, Oliana, Spain

9b

Adam Ondra

La planta de shiva, Villanueva del Rosario, Spain

9b

Chris Sharma

First round First minute, Margalef, Spain

2012

9b+

Adam Ondra

The Change, Flatanger, Norway

2017

9a+, F

Anak Verhoeven

Sweet neuf, Pierrot beach, France

2017

9c

Adam Ondra

Silence, Flatanger, Norway

2018

9a+, F

Adam Ondra

Super Crackinette, Saint-Léger, France

2020

9c

Alex Megos

Bibliographie, Céüse, France