Different rock climbing grades across the five most popular systems
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. In addition, the skill level of the climber has also been included. The difficulties are listed in increasing order of difficulty.
The French system is an internationally recognised system for grading sport climbs and is therefore used on bolted routes within the UK.
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.
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
Climbers mainly use two rating systems for rope climbing, according to geographical location: FRENCH scale and YDS. Speaking about rock climbing grades, there are not only the systems listed above but also others difficulty rating systems. For example: South Africa, Brazil, Finnish, Swedish. Click on this link to see other systems for measuring difficulties in climbing.
Rock climbing grades, bear in mind that:
the system for assessing how difficult the climb is is subjective. As much as you can try, there is no perfect way of ranking climbs. The various systems have improved over the years, however the fact remains that climbing is a highly individualistic and subjective sport. Our differences make us stronger in some areas, weaker in others. Hence, it is impossible to put together a perfect system for evaluating climbs. But this is what makes our sport special!
Bouldering is a simplified and often “social” version of rope climbing. In fact, in this case no rope and harness are used, because it climbs extremely difficult short routes (also known as problems). The heights are limited, so you climb not too far from the ground. Bouldering is a great way to increase your confidence and technique, and it’s a lot of fun!
The evolution of rock climbing grades: 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.