In regards to the grading on The Milk Road:
It's a subtle game, isn’t it? Of course noone wants to throw around sandbags, and grading consistently within the region should be the general goal... but how to compensate for the general “sandbagginess” one experiences after cutting their teeth on Squamish rock and then heading out to other areas, especially those longer established? Take the grading trends between, say, Skaha, Squamish, and older areas in the Rockies such as Yamnuska – old routes on Yam got 5.9 because 5.10 meant the hardest route fathomable – those routes may now be considered hard 10’s, or even above (of course the same thing has happened in Squamish as well, but far fewer routes were done here decades ago). Upgrades do occur, but differences will still persist, compounded by the probable relative strengths of climbers in their home areas; a strong Squamish jammer will feel exposed and weak on slippery, loose, Yam limestone bulges (happened to me last month), while a fingers-of-steel Skaha 5.11 crimper may feel way over their head on a Squamish 5.8 hand crack (happened to me when I first moved here after my first real leading summer in Skaha). I even thought I knew how to climb crack because I’d lead some gear routes in Skaha, placing pro in widely variable features while faceclimbing on crimpers around the crack.
I suppose what I’m getting at is that in the context of areas like Squamish and Skaha, which, for the most part, are relatively recently developed climbing areas, and subsequently are labelled as having “soft” grades by visiting climbers, perhaps a goal should be the avoidance of further down-grading and cautiously erring on the side of the sandbag rather than the other, if only to slow down the inevitable progressions towards soft grades as climbing gains more mainstream recognition and participation by those less inclined to expose themselves to risk.
(If that last line sounded like a dig to Jeremy-and-crew in re: creating safe routes with use of bolts – it’s not. I fully support Jer’s routes, methods, and placement of pro. His routes that I have been on are exceptionally well thought out, planned, and a joy to climb as a result. Safe climbing should be the goal)
I wonder how much of the idea of “soft” Squamish and Skaha grades has to do with the quality and security of the rock here? I know that for myself I always feel the fear more on routes with sketchy rock, and thus pro, which shakes concentration, makes me overgrip holds, spend more time placing and fiddling with gear, and consequently makes the whole route feel harder.
Anyway, that’s my 2 cents (or 2 bits more like, sorry for the length)
What’s your take?
I don't have any real opinion on this. I put my trust in Marc and Kevin to consult with local guides and other well-travelled climbers to adjust the grades to at least make them consistent with one another. When I offer a grade for a new pitch, I do so with an intent to be accurate. It's always a hazy enterprise for me... for example, the Filibuster pitch on Right Wing could be anything from 10b to 11b as far as I'm concerned. I still don't know how to grade it. I trust that climbers in the community will offer corrections when my suggestions feel off. I understand that new Squamish guides are on the way. I look forward to seeing them to learn what the difficulty and quality of "my" routes actually are.
I've been responding as if the question concerns the grading of new routes...
But it could be that Squamish as a whole is soft and that we would do well to downgrade just about everything. That would be a hard one to pull off.
Same as climbing in J Tree, there are many climbs there where I thought I was going to sh*t my pants, but I had to keep telling myself "this was lead by a guy in leather boots".
There's no point in intentionally sandbagging other than bragging rights that your 5.9 is harder than everyone else's. Sandbagging long routes will test how easy it is to back off of the route.
Try to be fair. Compare it to similar style climbs and it should have a similar grade. What else is there to it?
Even in Squamish the grades are all over the map but that is specific to my strengths and skill set.
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