I was talking with my friend Ben Hutt today about climbing grades. Ben has a new friend who is eager to go climbing outside. Ben was telling me about a conversation with him, and said:

And I quote, “Quincy and the gunks are harder than most places “for the grade”

Your thoughts? I mean… they kind of are?

But at the same time, Cathedral / Whitehorse is pretty close, I think I agree 50%. Because of the relative nature of climbing grades, there is no absolute, so you always need a comparison.

I would agree that a 5.8 at Quincy is harder “for the grade” than a 5.8 at BKBS or MetroRock The technical rating of the route has historical baggage attached to it which does make it relatively harder. In addition to the route-finding skills necessary for outdoors that are not strongly developed indoors. And not to mention the additional environmental factors of being outside versus a 70* climate controlled environment with staff members, padded floors and an insurance guy in the corner going “mhmm”

But a 5.8 at Quincy compared to a 5.8 at, say, Cathedral, are much more equivalent. And thinking about the technicality of some of the 5.6s at the Gunks, I would say they match the technicality of a 5.7 in the gym - not much of a difference. But wandering up the rock with PG protection and having to do real route-finding makes the route seem harder even though its technicality is not that far off from an indoor route. Especially with the newer climbs at the Gunks set in the last 15 years or so.

It’s just that there’s so much more to a climbing routes difficulty than the technical grade established in a YDS rating.