The Changing Perception Of Grades

End of the VS challenge on Stanage just as we loss the light

End of the VS challenge on Stanage just as we loss the light

Climbing has always been pretty central to my life and that in turn has meant that one of the things I always measured myself on was what grade can I climb, beit in winter, trad, sport or bouldering. For years i obsessed over what grade i could climb, I was always looking for the next “e point” or next hardest winter route. Every time I went to a crag or mountain I would scan the guide book looking for a soft touch at a certain grade just so I could get the tick. I would pass by 3 star classic VS routes to climb some crappy corner just because it was graded E2. I did this partly because of the culture and pier group I was in at the time. University climbing clubs are a bit of a hot bed of proving ones self and being in competition with friend all be fun. 

I carried on like this for years after I left Uni thinking that the measure of how good I was as a climber was dictated by the grade I could climb. This did lead to a few great climbs and leading my hardest route to date however it also stressed me out. I would go away on climbing weekends or holidays and always come back feeling that I hadn't accomplished anything because a friend had climbed an E3 and I hadn’t. This went on and on and I got more and more stressed. I was training harder and harder which lead to injuries that I am still carrying today.

Then one day whilst scanning UKclimbing I came across a challenge “The Stanage VS challenge". So this is a challenge to climb all of the three star VS routes on Stanage in a single day, 31 in total. At the time I was starting to get in to trail running and this is something my wife loves so we decided to try it as a way of merging the two sports (In the end we ended up doing it over two days as it was bit harder than we thought). Doing this challenge opened my eyes, like most British climbers I have been to Stanage many times but every time I had ever been I had walked past fantastic world class climbs just because they where at a grade I thought was beneath me.

Over the coming months I started to change my view of what I wanted to do when I went to the crag, instead of fighting and dogging my way up routes at the very edge of my limits I start to look for classic routes that took striking lines and were known for there quality. The grade of the route started to become an after thought next to the quality of the climb. I became a lot less stressed in my climbing because after ever session I was leaving the crag knowing that I had climbed good routes and had had fun doing it.

Now the one massive advantage of this was I became a lot less stressed however the other advantage was that I ended up doing a lot more climbing on a given day, what used to be 4 routes a day turned in to 8 routes a day meaning a lot more millage and that had an advantageous effect, I started getting better. This meant that slowly my climbing grade started going up.

I don’t regret the days I had with my uni friends fighting my way but I don't miss them either. I have come to the conclusion that you can have both quality and quantity and that has overall made me happier and a better climber.