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Time for a New Rating System for EZ Climbs?
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By The Watchdog
Aug 30, 2012
5.3 the Forgotten Grade



The last dozen or so fourth-class peaks I've hiked have had fifth-class moves on them. I welcome this style of climbing but think the practice of lumping all non-technical routes as fourth-class is not only dangerous to hikers pushing their personal limits, but also leaves an vast ambiguity for people looking for challenging scrambles.

In our minds and in our guide books fourth-class is omni-present. But when you take a closer look at what fourth-class is, a move that is harder than third-class but easier than 5.0, a very slim grade is revealed. Yet it is the default rating for many of our "harder" peaks.

There are many reasons for the lack specifics at the lower-end of the Yosemite Decimal System. A bravado that shrugs off easier terrain. A general lack of understanding of the YDS, gym-rats think if a vein in their forearm starts to bulge, it's 10c. An elitist mentality of the sports "leaders" towards lesser talented climbers and beginners.

I get the 4th class rating implies no rope - scrambling. But to carry a rope or not is a personal choice. If a scramble does in fact include 5th class moves, that info should be a part of decision-making process when hikers are making preps.

A route is rated by the hardest move. Period. I propose a new rating system for scrambling:

S.0
S.1
S.2
S.3
S.4

Dropping the "5" prefix and adding "S" implies 5th class moves but rope is optional. This new rating communicates the real difficulty of a scramble and leaves the decision to rope up to the climbers, not a guide book author.

In a sport that loves describing its activities through a host of different rating systems, it is odd that such an ambiguous void even exists...


mountainnewsdesk.com/index.php...

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By Adam Stackhouse
Administrator
Aug 30, 2012
Courtright Reservoir, September 2013
I always thought 4th class meant using a rope without intermittent protection between belays (belays when necessary)...

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By Scott McMahon
From Boulder, CO
Aug 30, 2012
Bocan
I hear ya...but the following are pretty much the accepted definitions of class 3 & 4.

Climbing Class 3 Scrambling or un-roped climbing. You must use your hands most of the time to hold the terrain or find your route. This may be caused by a combination of steepness and extreme terrain (large rocks or steep snow). Some Class 3 routes are better done with rope.

Class 4 Climbing. Rope is often used on Class 4 routes because falls can be fatal. The terrain is often steep and dangerous. Some routes can be done without rope because the terrain is stable.


You should not be climbing 4th class without expecting what is clearly outlined above. And yes, there are times it pushes the boundry of 5th class but it comes with the territory. I don't think anything more than a 4+ is required. The current "standard" is to climb 4th class unroped however that does not alter the definition nor the consequences of a fall.

I think individuals climbing in the mountains should be responsible for properly researching their objective and be aware of the skill set required to achieve it. This includes the basics as well as technical awareness.

The only time this really deviates is historically, where climbers were known to "fourth class" routes, which implied that it was 5th class climbing, but climbed unroped.

And as a personal note...just because it's 4th class doesn't make it "easy". I've gotten my butt kicked and been in far scarier positions on a 4th class hike than much of the 5th class climbs I've done. Again it's personal responsibility to navigate the mountains safely with proper training, skill set and gear.

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By mountainhick
From Black Hawk, CO
Aug 30, 2012
4.0 to 4.15 of course with +/- and abcd in the higher difficulty range.

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By Rajiv Ayyangar
From Portland, ME
Aug 30, 2012
Cut! Sadly my flash attempt met with dismal pump-f...
"Class 1. Hiking

Class 2. Simple scrambling, with possible occasional use of the hands.

Class 3. Scrambling; hands are used for balance; a rope might be carried.

Class 4. Simple climbing, often with exposure. A rope is often used. A fall could be fatal. Typically, natural protection can be easily found.

Class 5. Where rock climbing begins in earnest..."


From
Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills

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By Josh Kornish
From Missoula, MT
Aug 30, 2012
Humboldt Bouldering
Lets just bump all grades below 5.12 into 4th class.

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By Unassigned User
Aug 30, 2012
Josh Kornish wrote:
Lets just bump all grades below 5.12 into 4th class.



I second this.

Now most of my climbing buddies will not climb harder than me.

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By Rajiv Ayyangar
From Portland, ME
Aug 30, 2012
Cut! Sadly my flash attempt met with dismal pump-f...
mountainproject.com/v/what-do-...

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By Scott McMahon
From Boulder, CO
Aug 30, 2012
Bocan
haha thanks for brining that thread back up!!

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By Crossing
From Breinigsville, PA
Aug 30, 2012
old rag summit
I heard this somewhere in regards to Class 4: "terrain where a rope would be an insult to your climbing ability, but it sure would feel nice"

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By Woodchuck ATC
Aug 30, 2012
Rock Wars, RRG, 2008
J Hazard wrote:
I second this. Now most of my climbing buddies will not climb harder than me.


Elite-ists. gimme a break. agree that to "3rd class" or to 4th class a route means unroped scampering over under 5.6 to many people these days. Same folks who say 'intermediate' climbing is 5.10-5.11.

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By Adam Stackhouse
Administrator
Aug 30, 2012
Courtright Reservoir, September 2013
Scott McMahon wrote:
The only time this really deviates is historically, where climbers were known to "fourth class" routes, which implied that it was 5th class climbing, but climbed unroped.


This differs from what I used to hear (anecdotally) that bad-asses would "third class" routes of a 5th class nature (notably Bachar)

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By Scott McMahon
From Boulder, CO
Aug 30, 2012
Bocan
Adam Stackhouse wrote:
This differs from what I used to hear (anecdotally) that bad-asses would "third class" routes of a 5th class nature (notably Bachar)


I think you are correct on that. I quite possibly misquoted that one.

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By Stich
From Colorado Springs, Colorado
Aug 30, 2012
Coffee after freezing our asses off near James Pea...
While I like the idea of S grades for scrambling, I would really prefer this grading system due to it's complexity and inexplicability:

Grade

1A

33i

4R

9+22

Zounds


I think the grades are self explanatory.

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By The Watchdog
Aug 30, 2012
So, a climb is always rated by its hardest move.


But 4th class routes are rated 4th class regardless of their difficulty because they are 4th class.


Got it, thanks!

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By brennahm
Aug 30, 2012
So people who are too lazy/ignorant to research a route and find out what is entailed will be motivated to look up what the S ratings are?

I guess I missed all the hikers falling to their death this year...or are you just trying to solve a problem that doesn't really exist?

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By Mark E Dixon
From Sprezzatura, Someday
Aug 30, 2012
At the BRC
I thought the whole point of wearing a rope on a 4th class pitch was just in case you ran into some 5th class moves and wanted to place some gear. Otherwise the rope doesn't do the leader much good. It may still be a 4th class pitch, but it's not always easy to find the best line onsight, and I rarely find myself 'working' class 4.

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By Tom Grummon
From Golden, CO
Aug 30, 2012
Top of Montezuma's Tower
The Watchdog wrote:
So, a climb is always rated by its hardest move. But 4th class routes are rated 4th class regardless of their difficulty because they are 4th class. Got it, thanks!


The hardest move thing really only comes into play for 5th class. There's a reason that we don't use + or - for grades below 5.8/5.9 and we don't use letter grades below 5.10. The easier it is, the less differentiation you need.

If you read the YDS descriptions, they all have to do with safety and exposure, not necessarily difficulty. Its not until 5th class that we begin to differentiate difficulty because that's when it becomes about physical ability and not just mental willingness (Sure 4th class has to do with physical ability, but any reasonably fit person can do the moves; whether they feel safe or not is a different issue and that is why the YDS suggests the use of a rope).

If, as you say in the OP, a 4th class route has a 5th class move in it, that should be identified in the description, by a 5th class rating. In that scenario the climb is no longer 4th class.

The grading system is already convoluted enough, don't make it more so. Do your research before you climb.

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By Adam Stackhouse
Administrator
Aug 30, 2012
Courtright Reservoir, September 2013
Tom Grummon wrote:
If you read the YDS descriptions, they all have to do with safety and exposure, not necessarily difficulty. Its not until 5th class that we begin to differentiate difficulty because that's when it becomes about physical ability and not just mental willingness


Well said.

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By doligo
Aug 30, 2012
Jose Cuervo Fruitcups dirtbag style
5.3 is alive and well in the Gunks - just read comments for Yum Yum Yab Yum. People actually do differentiate between 5.3 and 5.4

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By Eric Fjellanger
Aug 30, 2012
Me on top of Chianti Spire
If you consider how often people argue about the difference between a 5.7 and a 5.8, it is not surprising how much grayer the boundaries between 3rd/4th/5th are. It's really better to accept this than try and "fix" it. Increasing the granularity of the scale is really not going to make things clearer.

4th class means you're using your hands and you might die if you fall. The difference between that and low-fifth is subjective and always will be.

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By Eric Fjellanger
Aug 30, 2012
Me on top of Chianti Spire
doligo wrote:
5.3 is alive and well in the Gunks - just read comments for Yum Yum Yab Yum. People in the Gunks have decided to differentiate between 5.3 and 5.4


FIFY

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By Scott McMahon
From Boulder, CO
Aug 30, 2012
Bocan
Eric Fjellanger wrote:
If you consider how often people argue about the difference between a 5.7 and a 5.8, it is not surprising how much grayer the boundaries between 3rd/4th/5th are. It's really better to accept this than try and "fix" it. Increasing the granularity of the scale is really not going to make things clearer. 4th class means you're using your hands and you might die if you fall. The difference between that and low-fifth is subjective and always will be.


Pretty much...look at "Freeway" on the 2nd flatiron in Boulder. It's called 4th class and 5.0. I'd probably agree with both as there's some of each. Less on the 5th side, but a fall in the wrong spot will be catastrophic.

Longs peak...4th class, but I think there's a low 5th class move on one or two of the chockstones. That's pretty subjective however and based on how it felt for me.

Like it's been said above, do the research and expect these types of things. If you aren't comfortable on 4th...well maybe you shouldn't be there.

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By Mark E Dixon
From Sprezzatura, Someday
Aug 30, 2012
At the BRC
Tom Grummon wrote:
There's a reason that we don't use + or - for grades below 5.8/5.9 and we don't use letter grades below 5.10. The easier it is, the less differentiation you need.


I believe letter grades were invented by Jim Bridwell to solve the problem of a wide range of difficulty in the 5.10 grade that developed back before 5.11 was accepted as a legitimate grade and people just called everything hard 5.10. That's why we don't have 5.9a-d

I don't know how the +/- developed, seemed more of an eastern thing.

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By s.price
From PS,CO
Aug 30, 2012
 Morning Dew ,self portrait
That would be a waste of time. In 32 years of climbing I have done over 200 peaks and have never found a 5th class move on a 4th class climb. 5.3 is alive across the world. Everybody rates to the default of 5.4 cause it just sounds better. Besides, we're talkin tennis shoe routes. How much difference is there?

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By Elijah Flenner
Aug 30, 2012
Scott McMahon wrote:
Longs peak...4th class, but I think there's a low 5th class move on one or two of the chockstones. That's pretty subjective however and based on how it felt for me. Like it's been said above, do the research and expect these types of things. If you aren't comfortable on 4th...well maybe you shouldn't be there.


It is very subjective, as proved by your post. The Keyhole (which I assume is what you meant by Longs peak, please correct me if I am wrong) is generally considered class 3, but Gillett gives it class 2. I believe that there are a couple of class 3 moves, but just a couple. It is a stretch to call it class 4 in my opinion. On the other hand, Fosters book gives the Keyhole class 3+.

What I find is that 4th class is pretty serious and should not be taken lightly. The expression is "I third classed" the route, meaning I did it without a rope. There is just cause to bring a rope on 4th class terrain, and I would not belittle anyone for doing just that.

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