Sunday, May 24, 2009

American Safe Climbing Association

Here is a link to their website

a bare bones nonprofit of dedicated climbers who replace unsafe anchors and minimize the visual and environmental impacts of climbing. hmm sounds like Richard and PPM combined.

Here is an interesting article from their website.

Rock climbing and rock protection/anchors

Rock climbing in the U.S. began in the 19th century with such prominent figures as John Muir. In that day, climbers attempted to climb every peak they saw, beginning of course with the biggest and most spectacular. Peaks could be climbed with easy walking, or trickier scrambling, or if needed, ropes and rock protection was needed. Rock protection means some means of securing the rope to the rock. A gross generalization of rock climbing is that over time, more and more difficult climbs were sought out, which required more rock protection and anchors. Sometimes this meant leaving nothing in the rock, but often slings, pitons, and small metal bolts were left. Even today, all these are temporary in that they will fall off or rust away within a few decades, but are permanent in that they are left there from year to year. The ASCA mission is to replace deteriorating anchors on classic climbs in the U.S. and educate climbers and the public about climbing safety. See the History essay for a little more background and some good references.

U.S. Rock climbing rating systems

Overall commitment/time rating: the "Grade" system.

Grade I a short climb done in a couple hours
Grade II a short climb done in an afternoon
Grade III a climb which takes most of the day
Grade IV a climb usually done in one very long day
Grade V a climb taking two to three days
Grade VI a climb taking 4 days or more
Grade VII a Grade VI in an extremely remote location

Technical difficulty rating systems

ALL rating systems for climbing are HIGHLY subjective, depending on the skill and experience of the climber. Most climbers will never be able to climb 5.11 crack, yet some do so without ropes. Most climbers will never be able to climb El Capitan, and those that do usually take days to make it up a Grade VI climb, yet several of those climbs have been climbed in less than 4 hours by the worlds' fastest climbers, making them only a Grade II for those few superstar climbers.

Anyone attaching too much importance to any rating should remember that these are subjective, and climbing should be about enjoying the vertical world, not competing with other people over some little silly numbers.

The original Sierra Club rock climbing rating system, dating from the 1930s:

1st class - hiking
2nd class - scrambling and boulder hopping, hands are needed, but generally very little exposure or danger
3rd class - steep scrambling with exposure, ropes are needed for inexperienced people. An unroped fall on 3rd class terrain would likely be fatal.
4th class - steeper scrambling on small holds, ropes are needed for most people, but an experienced climber would normally climb an entire rope length without intermediate protection, then set an anchor and belay other climbers up. Inexperienced people may not be skilled enough to ascend even when belayed from above.
5th class - steep rock climbing where the leader must place intermediate protection, and in case of a fall, the intermediate protection would catch the leader (who will fall twice as far as the distance above the last piece of protection)
6th class - very steep climbing where the climber is unable to ascend the rock without pulling and stepping on rock protection

The Yosemite Decimal System (YDS; more properly known as the Tahquitz Decimal System), invented by Don Wilson, Royal Robbins, and Chuck Wilts in 1956, rated all free climbs on an initially closed decimal system:

5.0 easiest 5th class
5.9 hardest 5th class

After many very difficult climbs accumulated in the 5.9 rating, the decimal system was "broken" in that it was no longer a decimal system, and the 5.10 rating came in to existence, followed by 5.11, 5.12, 5.13, 5.14, and now 5.15. These upper grades were further subdivided into 4 "letter grades" to further refine the rating: the suffixes a, b, c, and d were associated with increasing difficulty (i.e. "easy 5.10" = 5.10a or 5.10b, "hard 5.10" = 5.10c or 5.10d). In addition, the popularity of bouldering (very short unroped extremely hard climbs) introduced the current standard "V" scale, which currently ranges from V0-V15. Boulder problems tend to be short and powerful, often requiring different techniques than roped climbing, and a separate rating system makes sense.

The use of outdoor rating systems in gyms is inappropriate and leads to safety issues

Modern climbers learning in a gym are often misled by the use of the YDS in indoor gyms. The use of the YDS inside is entirely inappropriate, as indoor gyms have little relation to outdoor climbing. Most people who learn in a gym and think they "climb 5.11" would likely DIE attempting a 5.0 chimney system first climbed in the 1930s. Because of this new generation of gym-educated climbers, the use of the lower 5th class ratings has fallen by the wayside, and modern climbing guidebooks typically condense all climbs formerly 5.0-5.6 into the 5.6 rating. A large number of accidents are directly attributable to the use of the YDS in climbing gyms.

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