I am frequently asked what grades I climb. The answer to that is fairly simple, I climb those grades that are challenging, and sometimes I climb some easier ones because the routes are fun. This, however does not satisfy most people, because they want to compare themselves. This is not only patently silly in my opinon, the answer is also not a simple one.

How do you define what you can climb? I’ve met some very different schools of thought here. Some people say that the best grade you can climb counts. no matter if you fall on the way, as long as you continue and do all the moves without somebody physically dragging you up, then that’s fair. These people usually climb for the technical challenge, and they are probably less strong han the average climber, but it’s a fair definition. Not a very common one, though.

5.14 is no different from 5.7 – the holds are smaller and the route steeper, but you do exactly the same thing! (Peter Croft)

Some people say it shouldn’t matter whether you toprope or lead, because as long as you’re not hanging in the rope, it really doesn’t make any difference, except psychologically, and psychology isn’t what climbing is about. i can very much identify with that, because I like to climb for the physical and intellectual challenge, not for the fear of falling 4 meters. I get enough endorphines out of climbing, I don’t need the adrenaline from fear.

Most people will say that in order to count a grade, you should be able to lead it. Their argument is probably that this is how you’d climb “for real”, or on a multi-pitch route, and the fear of falling is more real than on toprope.

And lastly, some people say that it doesn’t count if you use any kind of safety. Probably because, like the previous group, they say it’s not real enough if the fear of falling isn’t there. My personal opinion is that they are stupid, but the whole debate is stupid in the first place, because it’s not about being better than anybody else. It’s about being the best you can be, and more importantly, about enjoying yourself and having a good time.

“Why gamble with money when you can gamble with your life?” a partner once said to me in Vegas. (Chiloe, in rec.climbing)

Oh, and the final issue is the grading system. I grade myself according to the norwegian scale, which sounds like UIAA grades, but isn’t. My best (toproped) routes were 7, which i about an 8- according to UIAA. But it probably isn’t. I haven’t done enough of climbing outside Norway to be able to say. But at the moment, after six months of injury, I can climb a few sixes because I’m really weak. And yes, I know that this probably mean that in comparison to you, I suck.

Since I always have to go look for it, and it’s kind of hard to google, here’s a link to the grade comparison chart I use when I have to. Next time I can look it up here.

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