I just learned that Kevin Jorgeson and Alex Honnold both made rapid ascents of The Promise. Supposedly E10 but now I suspect it’s been confirmed at E8. A slight miscalculation perhaps? Although it is worth mentioning the talented first ascentionist did not use any crash pads. Regardless it’s been a tremendous trip for the team of US climbers, (even though North America seems oblivious to this fact) and the grit is proving to be a world class destination of sorts for those looking to push the titanium nuts envelope.
Now on to my rant. First off I want to say that I never commented on the E grades of the UK while I was over there because quite frankly I think they are a wee bit silly. I understand clearly that they held an important job at the time, in history, but climbing has evolved slightly and the information no longer meshes well. You see ( in short) the E grade work on a sliding scale. A combination grade, of difficulty plus danger. So, you may have an E5 with much harder climbing than say an E7, but it’s all relative, especially when you factor in if it’s an onsight or a headpoint ascent. I think what climbers need to know is simple, roughly how hard is the climbing and what is the fall factor? There is no need to combine these two bits of information, it only fuddles it up. Keep it simple, tell climbers what they need to know and let the line dictate itself.
I recently wrote a very brief essay about my feelings towards this in the latest issue of gripped. Grades are not important and never will be, but I do find it interesting how different countries and cultures find ways to measure their performance, at the end of the day it’s all in good fun and a great way to bring people together down at the pub. The thing is – grades are only relevant if they are compared to something else. When you try to compare Equilibrium E10 ( a short powerful and delicate arete with an atrocious landing) to say Rhapsody E11 ( a longer, power endurance climb with a huge but safe fall) you get something not unlike apples and oranges. This is why climbers are infinitely at it with each other, because they are trying to compare two or three things that are nothing like one another. A classic scenario of different taste and style.
For those who care, Kevin J made a sub one hour ascent of the Promise, James Pearsons E10. He then downgraded it to roughly E8. Now, it is not our business what the grade is, it’s a beautiful line no doubt and only three men have climbed it, so I’ll keep my mouth shut. However, he did say that he was able to find a sequence that made the crux feel easier. This is absolutely CLASSIC of repeat ascents and in no way changes the feat of the original climb. James’ effort was still notable and no one can take that moment away from him, it was his experience.
The same holds true for Sharma’s great arch in Mallorca. Ethan Pringle discovered an easier sequence declaring the dyno a bit of a show boat move. And on Rhapsody, Steve McCLure and myself both found alternate ways of climbing the crux and multiple ways of escaping to the arete. In fact, on the redpoint McClure used a different variation at the final lip, opting for a left leaning dyno rather than the straight up dyno Dave and I used. This was how Steve envisioned the climb, he was obviously strong enough and bold enough, however, he chose his own adventure.
And further more, The Corba Crack was repeated three times this summer, Nico and Sean (two formidable climbers from Belgium) discovered a new sequence out left that involved a heel toe hook above their head (because let’s not forget there are barely any foot holds at all) the heel toe cam allows the body to access crimps on the left side of the headwall. Now why didn’t I think of that?
Nico said after the fact that the “bra” felt more like 5.14b than 5.14c. And swiftly afterwards Ethan Pringle and Matt Segal also made ascents of the beautiful crack. Yet, still nobody has repeated the original sequence out right. And why should they?
What I am getting at is that climbing is freedom to express and we all have the right to interpret the rock the way we (as individuals) see fit. If someone finds a new sequence and thinks it is not as hard as what the original grade suggests, who cares. After all these crazy numbers are only as legend McClure will say best, “Merely A Suggestion”.
Best wishes to all this Monday afternoon, I hope dreams are coming true all over the world.