Grading: To Sandbag, or not to Sandbag?

Everything and anything to do with climbing in Squamish.
Post Reply
Senior Member
Senior Member
Posts: 224
Joined: Thu Apr 24, 2008 12:05 pm
Location: Downtown Squam

Grading: To Sandbag, or not to Sandbag?

Post by pinner » Sat Jun 05, 2010 12:09 pm

I originally started this post in the “Milk Road” thread, but as I’m procrastinating from writing a paper this quickly became long-winded and off topic, so I’ve posted it here to avoid highjacking that thread.

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?

User avatar
5.4 Slayer
Senior Member
Senior Member
Posts: 418
Joined: Fri Apr 02, 2004 5:54 am
Location: Surrey, BC

Post by 5.4 Slayer » Sat Jun 05, 2010 3:13 pm

Personally I feel much better about sending a route that is "solid" for the grade rather than sending one that is soft. Having said that I climb sport 99 percent of the time and leading sand bagged trad is probably a whole other ball game.

User avatar
Senior Member
Senior Member
Posts: 350
Joined: Wed Oct 18, 2006 10:04 am

Post by Optimally-Primed » Sun Jun 06, 2010 10:53 am

Good question, pinner.

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.

Full Member
Full Member
Posts: 165
Joined: Wed Jul 08, 2009 9:18 pm

Post by slopr » Sun Jun 06, 2010 6:07 pm

just so long as there is 10bs that are harder than the 10cs or 10ds and there are V2s harder than some classic V4s and a few 12as easier than some 11cs we are on the right track don't forget a couple 12as that are tougher than the 5 star 12c just to keep everything in sync. IMO that's what is kinda good around here- there is so many different types of climbing: cracks of all sizes, slabs, face, sport on a few different rock types. I think that somewhere like skaha it is easier to be consistent because the style of climbing and rock are consistent, however its tough to define grades overall, keeping them consistent between area/rock type is virtually impossible. Comparing chek and skaha is a little easier since the style is more similar than say a pitch of the same grade on the apron? There will always be soft and hard routes for the grade depending on where you are, how tall you are, how fat you are, how stoned you are, what you like to climb, what you usually climb, how big your fingers/hands/reach is, if there are spectators, and most importantly how much you care about grades and how much you let them influence you will be the ultimate factor if a sandbag matters much or not- especially once you are on one, @ that point the grade should be the last thing on your mind!! I would agree though that climbing a stout route usually makes you feel more badass but its also fun to just try and climb them all!

Full Member
Full Member
Posts: 159
Joined: Sat Apr 01, 2006 1:51 am
Location: The forest

Post by Dooley » Mon Jun 07, 2010 7:17 am

I have been climbing here for 5 years and one thing I have come to learn in Squamish, is that most routes are graded for the red point and not the on-sight. When going for the onsight for many trad routes, I usually think the grade is way off. But the more I climb the route the more it makes sense, when I start to dial the moves and find the knee bars and hidden holds the grade seems accurate.

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".
When in it out!!!!

Junior Member
Junior Member
Posts: 73
Joined: Wed Aug 15, 2007 12:56 pm
Location: East Van.

Post by hafilax » Mon Jun 07, 2010 10:39 am

The best that can be done is to have a relatively consistent system within an area. There's no way to compare routes in Squamish to even Yosemite. When you go to a new area you get on an easy route and build up to calibrate your ability to the area's grading system.

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.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests