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"Sandbagged" and relativety: Your standard?
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By The Stoned Master
Administrator
From Pennsylvania
Sep 18, 2013
Day Lily.
This is supposed to be a fun, productive conversation, not a war zone please.

An article on Climbing magazines sites made me think. I hear ALL the time here in the East that the Gunks and Seneca are "sandbagged" (just to name a couple spots). People (locals alot) state it with such pride! I say the Gunks and Seneca are NOT sandbagged (relative). Heres why:

The Gunks and Seneca (again just examples) are not sandbagged because alot/most of their routes were established first. Wouldnt it be that the newer established routes are "soft" (maybe because the developers wanted to be climbing harder so they applied harder ratings to make themselves feel better/cooler?) and the STANDARD would be these first/early established routes?

Think: you HAVE to have a standard to compare (you cant compare route A to route A, you can compare route A to route B however). Whats your standard? wouldnt it make sense that the newer developed routes are "soft" (if these Eastern routes are sandbagged then that leaves only one direction to go)

So if you state that these Eastern routes are "sandbagged" I ask you why is your standard these newer routes and not the originals?

its all relative (which fascinates me because Ive climbed 5.7s that felt like a 5.10 and Ive climbed 5.10s that were equal to 5.7s (overall effort required to ascend)).

so whats your standard? a local crag? a major area? Thank you.

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By Buff Johnson
Sep 18, 2013
smiley face
SPlatte & adventure climbing. Comparatively, the Gunks are pretty straight forward.

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By Locker
From Yucca Valley, CA
Sep 18, 2013
...
Reverse sandbagging is what's going on currently.

A 5.10 "Sport" climb is = to a 5.6 "Trad" climb in JTree.

LOL!

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By Mark Pilate
Sep 18, 2013
Jack Durrance apparently sandbagged all his routes...

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By Jake Jones
From Richmond, VA
Sep 18, 2013
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after...
My standard: How sandbagged a route is directly correlates to how embarrassed I was flailing on it.

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By Bill Kirby
From Baltimore Maryland
Sep 18, 2013
Me eating a cliff bar walking back from Frankenste...
The Stoned Master wrote:
This is supposed to be a fun, productive conversation, not a war zone


That's no fun!

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By Jeff Thilking
From Lynchburg, VA
Sep 18, 2013
Rap
I have noticed that at the Obed in Tennessee. Many locals I talk to seem to claim routes are harder than they are listed as. All the overhanging cave shit feels like 5.23a to me anyway, but I definately noticed that trend when hearing about gunks, seneca, etc.

"Wouldnt it be that the newer established routes are "soft" (maybe because the developers wanted to be climbing harder so they applied harder ratings to make themselves feel better/cooler?) and the STANDARD would be these first/early established routes? "

--This makes the most sense to me, but I'm no developer.

The link for those interested:
climbing.com/news/semi-rad-eve...

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By pfwein
Sep 18, 2013
The one-sentence answer is that old trad routes are pretty much consistent across the country, and sport climbs vary but generally range from a little to a lot easier.
I'm sure there are exceptions, but the Gunks, as a rule, didn't seem like a significant exception to me (ok Modern Times is harder than any flavor of 5.8).
To make this concrete, consider Boulder Canyon, which has lots of old trad and newer sport lines. It now has the reputation of being ultra light. I have to assume people who think that are only referring to newer sport lines--the old lines feel just like any other trad place, at least to me. That is, unless you're a very good climber, prepare for a good challenge on some sub 5.10 climbs.

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By John Wilder
From Las Vegas, NV
Sep 18, 2013
The Stoned Master wrote:
Heres why: The Gunks and Seneca (again just examples) are not sandbagged because alot/most of their routes were established first. Wouldnt it be that the newer established routes are "soft" (maybe because the developers wanted to be climbing harder so they applied harder ratings to make themselves feel better/cooler?) and the STANDARD would be these first/early established routes?


Well....it depends. (Doesn't it always?). I suppose from a purely logical standpoint, sure, this makes sense. The problem, of course, is that grades grew organically across the country, so comparing them to a small area in New York as the standard ends up not working out that well.

I think that, for the most part, that people think each major area is sandbagged compared to their home area. They also sometimes think that their area is sandbagged and they are proud of it (gunks, yosemite, etc). It has been my experience that grades across the country are, for the most part, pretty consistent. I find that if i'm really struggling on a route at a given grade, its more because i dont have the skill set (slab climbing, in particular for me) to climb at a given grade than because that climb is hard for the grade. People think that because they can climb a 5.whatever finger crack, then they can obviously climb that same grade in every style. Which is of course totally not true.

The Gunks gets its sandbaggery from the roofs and the unique nature of the climbing in general- not the actual difficulty (my opinion, of course).

I've climbed all over and i've of course been sandbagged everywhere i've climbed- there are ALWAYS outlier routes that are actually sandbagged, but the vast majority feel about right for what they are.

A side note- I once climbed in Red Rock with some good friends who, at the time, were Gunks climbers. Strong, too. One of the pitches on the route we were on was a crack thing, some wide climbing- nothing too strenuous. Given a 5.7 rating, it was well within her ability. Took her ages to lead it and she struggled mightily. Why? Because the was a Gunks climber (at the time. I hear she crushes cracks now that she lives in Colorado)- and had very limited crack climbing experience. It's all relative.

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By Bill C.
From Fort Collins, CO
Sep 18, 2013
This is how I understand it:

Many of the older routes were established when the YDS was a closed system. Meaning, 5.9 was about the limit of what they thought could be possible back then. As a result, routes were getting harder and harder, but no-one felt like they really had the authority to claim that it could be harder than 5.9.

As a result, "moderate" climbs of the era were graded based on a sliding scale between the easiest/hardest routes in the area.

So lets say its 1967, you have a confirmed 5.2 on the left, a super sick proj on the right that you call 5.9 (even if it might be closer to 5.11), and a new route that falls somewhere in the middle. So lets call it a 6 (even though its probably closer to being an 8).

By this logic, routes just got harder and harder until 5.10 and all his friends finally came into fashion.

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By NC Rock Climber
From The Oven, AKA Phoenix
Sep 18, 2013
tanuki
IMHO, there is no standard. Every crag and region varies. I try not to get too worked up over the numbers game. I can climb bigger numbers some places, and 5.9 is hard at other crags. Whatever. If I am with cool people and smiling, then it is all good.

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By doug rouse
From Denver, CO.
Sep 18, 2013
I agree that grades, and how hard they feel is due primarily due to skill set. Personally I find 5.11 slab to be very hard, 5.11 vert. to be doable, and 5.11 roof to be relatively easy. Days I climb in Eldorado require considerable more mental fortitude, than days spent in Boulder Canyon. I convinced a positive attitude has the most to do with success. Mornings in Eldo are considerably more focused due to route-finding, runouts, tricky gear etc. Sport days are alot like going to the beach, and therefore can catch you slacking in your focus..my 2-cents

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By Ed Wright
Sep 18, 2013
Magic Ed
"In the mountains there are only two grades--either you can do it or you can't"

--Rusty Baillie

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By Tombo
From Boulder
Sep 18, 2013
1/3 of the way up Spire, just above where my piece...
I'd say relativity. When I first started to climb sport routes in the front range in the late 80's their grade felt similar to old established Eldorado grades with two exceptions, Rossiter routes and the routes in Clear Creek felt soft to me.

I got out of climbing totally for 7 years in the late 90' when I started out again I felt my limit was easier 5.10 in Eldorado on the other hand when I climbed the newer sport routes in Boulder Canyon or CCC anything in the 5.10 range felt easy by a half to a whole grade, 5.11's seemed hard only because I'd gained 20 lbs and my hand strength couldn't combat that fact. So I went to the older sport crags in Boulder Canyon and revisited older routes on Table Mountain and was immediately handed my ass learning that in pre 1998 climbing routes I'm a good solid 5.10- climber, post that period I climb a good half to full grade harder.

So what do I think. It seems the majority of the new climbers today climb sport and many of them learn in gyms. They climb soft routes in the gym, begin on soft sport routes outdoors and perpetuate the soft grading though concensus of the majority. Probably when they get on a trad route and now have to deal with the consequences of placing their own gear or lack of, the climbing feels a lot harder. Think of how much easier the 2nd pitch of Outer Space would feel with one good bolt halfway to the pin.

BTW of the "Classic Sandbags" listed in CLimbing for Eldorado I'd only agree with Rosy mainly due to it's endurance requirements. Some of my favorite Eldorado sandbags are (I'm short) West Buttress, Northcutt, C'est La Vie and Vertigo.

Lastly, thank god for grade inflation I can still hope to be a solid 5.12 climber someday. Of course someone will have to figure out how factor in an age and 5 lbs weight gain per year component into the grades for me.

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By bearbreeder
Sep 18, 2013
you also need to remember that many people dont start off on wider cracks like the legends of christmas past

most newer climbers start in the gym, bouldering, or sport climbs

ive seen new people in squamish walk up 5.11 finger cracks and sport climbs, but get destroyed on 5.7 fist cracks ... simply because they almost never practice wider crack techniques ...

those old geezers had to be very good at climbin wide cracks simply because they had so little pro .... the mountain boots may have helped as well

as to "sandbagging" ... it doesnt matter really ... either you can do the climb or you cant ...

the grade IMO here is fairly irrelevant ... a few weeks ago i walked someone up their first "5.11" trad lead safely... that individual had never lead more than 5.9 trad previously and had climbed trad for less than a year

yet its listed in the guidebook as a "testpiece" ...

;)

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By Charlie S
From Ogden, UT
Sep 18, 2013
Cams above the arm bar moves on Three Pigs in a Sl...
Bill C. wrote:
This is how I understand it: Many of the older routes were established when the YDS was a closed system. Meaning, 5.9 was about the limit of what they thought could be possible back then.


Technically, this logic only applies to the 5.9 difficulty. This is where that argument falls apart.

My developing philosophy: get over it, go outside, and have some fun!

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By Will S
From Joshua Tree
Sep 18, 2013
The rating system we use was established just down the hill from me, so my standard is THE standard. Tahquitz/Suicide.


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By Brian
From North Kingstown, RI
Sep 18, 2013
Eiger summit
The Stoned Master wrote:
The Gunks and Seneca (again just examples) are not sandbagged because a lot/most of their routes were established first. Wouldn't it be that the newer established routes are "soft" (maybe because the developers wanted to be climbing harder so they applied harder ratings to make themselves feel better/cooler?) and the STANDARD would be these first/early established routes?


Yup...that's right. Tahquitz/Suicide is the YDS standard and early east coast climbs largely conform to that standard. These early climbs are the authority and everything else after that, that seems easier by those standards, are soft. It is especially true of sport climbs and some particular areas. I've climbed routes in Red Rocks that are three grades soft.

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By Brendan Blanchard
From Strafford, NH
Sep 18, 2013
Obi Wan Ryobi - Darth Vader Crag, Rumney NH
Charlie S wrote:
Technically, this logic only applies to the 5.9 difficulty. This is where that argument falls apart. My developing philosophy: get over it, go outside, and have some fun!


Does it really? If someone puts up a 5.11, but rates it 5.9, then someone who does a climb that "IS" (although there technically is no solid standard) 5.8, then they might rate is as 5.6/7 because it's so much easier than that 5.9 that's really a 5.11. It's a sh!t show really :)

Just look at David Breashears' (sp?) climb that he recounts in High Exposure. Originally, he onsighted it, placing a single wiggly nut, calling it 5.9+ because, well, it felt f*ing hard back then. It now carries a 5.11+ R if I remember correctly. In the end, it's all relative, and ego, bravado, hindsight, post-send goggles, ethics, and style all serve to muddle what would be some sort of golden standard.

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By Bill C.
From Fort Collins, CO
Sep 18, 2013
Brendan Blanchard wrote:
Does it really? If someone puts up a 5.11, but rates it 5.9, then someone who does a climb that "IS" (although there technically is no solid standard) 5.8, then they might rate is as 5.6/7 because it's so much easier than that 5.9 that's really a 5.11. It's a sh!t show really :) Just look at David Breashears' (sp?) climb that he recounts in High Exposure. Originally, he onsighted it, placing a single wiggly nut, calling it 5.9+ because, well, it felt f*ing hard back then. It now carries a 5.11+ R if I remember correctly. In the end, it's all relative, and ego, bravado, hindsight, post-send goggles, ethics, and style all serve to muddle what would be some sort of golden standard.


Exactly

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By chuffnugget
From Bolder, CO
Sep 18, 2013
Rifle is the Gunks of sport

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By Mark Pilate
Sep 18, 2013
Rifles are the gunks of sport....

oh wait, sorry, wrong thread

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By PTR
From GA
Sep 19, 2013
"So lets say its 1967, you have a confirmed 5.2 on the left, a super sick proj on the right that you call 5.9 (even if it might be closer to 5.11), and a new route that falls somewhere in the middle. So lets call it a 6 (even though its probably closer to being an 8)."

This is a good hypothesis to apply to the Gunks, in my experience, irrespective of the efforts made by Dick Williams to re-climb everything as he updated his guides. By the way, I usually find comments on Gunks routes on MP and elsewhere to make the route in question appear to be harder technically and more run-out/harder to protect than I remember. So, are we reverse-sandbagging ourselves or just correcting -- from a modern climber's perspective -- the sandbagging perpetuated on us by our elders? As a relative elder myself, I think the grades at the Gunks are at least internally consistent.

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By The Stoned Master
Administrator
From Pennsylvania
Sep 19, 2013
Day Lily.
alot of good points have been brought up so far. some I had never thought of.

relativety = keeps things from not getting too boring.

as always I learn alot from these threads (learning from others experience/stories is a preferred method of mine to learn, hence alot of questions) and I appreciate your thoughts and time.

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By mountainhick
From Black Hawk, CO
Sep 19, 2013
All of the above.

-The old closed end YDS maxed at 5.9 and the resulting nasty 5.9 plusses did present problems, and there is still some holdover form that time.

-I started climbing in the NE in the 70's, mostly at Cathedral ledge NH. There were still 5.9+ routes than since have been regraded up to hard 5.10. That's what I learned to expect at the 5.9+ grade. Coming west in the early 80's I remember the Boulder area seeming relatively soft (at least the routes I got on at the time). Now people complain that some of these routes are sandbags. At the time, some of these routes were accepted as the grade standard (including the trad style as they were established with the corresponding added risk of sparse pro) Now some of these are considered sandbagged both in terms of difficulty and protection.

I definitely notice that climbers of my generation tend to complain more about ratings becoming softer than earlier days,and younger climbers tend to complain more about the opposite.

To me there is a noticeable trend to softer grades. Just like Tombo said in the front range area, clear creek and bocan sport routes are graded at a different standard than many of the old eldo, lumpy etc trad routes.

-Egos abound and there are those who rate routes both higher and lower than actual difficulty. There are those who bolster their egos by grading things higher that they should be to make them feel they have done something more than they have, and those that bolster their egos by grading things lower than they should be so subsequent ascentionists are belittled by their prowress. The latter are the classic sandbaggers by definition.

-Then so much depends on each individual's specific abilities in the context of each area's idosyncracies. For example, people always complain about Vedauwoo generally having sand bagged ratings, but there all you need is the requisite technique for the type of climbing and then ratings (for the most part) seem pretty much right on. There is a learning curve transitioning either way. If you grow up climbing on vedauwoo granite (or say Needles SD trad) and learn that grading and stylistic standard for that kind of climbing, you might then go to Wild iris or Ten sleep bolted overhanging limestone and be completely out of your element... and vice versa. Cut your teeth in a gym or clear creek, and vedauwoo will seem ridiculously hard.

-With advances in shoe technology, protection, even just better clothing for the outdoors, the level of adventure and challenge has also changed. There is also increased accessibility to harder grades of climbing through sport climbing and people develop different expectations. The downward slide in grading and upward trend in maximum difficulty reflects a form of progress, perceptual change, cultural change, perception of acceptable risk, and it seems general advancement in human ability relative to the challenge of climbing. There is more choice in what game you play. With the older trad style, difficult and sometimes non-existant pro from hard stances was just an accepted part of the game. Now, that is not even an issue if you choose to just climb sport, you don;t even have to know how to place pro to lead climb hard sport routes in certain settings. So sandbagged can mean different things in different contexts. Having to grub for difficult nut placements from a difficult stance can be an ultimate sandbag to a bolt clipping sporto.

I am not saying it is good or bad, just that things change. I like both ends of the spectrum, sometimes going for more "sandbagged" run out trad style and ethics, and other times clipping every 6 feet on soft sporty routes. Seems this "progress" just means more diversity in climbing, which is OK by me.

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By Mike McKinnon
From Golden, CO
Sep 19, 2013
Bunny pancake
The biggest question now one is answering is where did the term sandbagged come from?

Does the route make you feel like you are wearing sandbags tied to you?

FLAG


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