Great Grade Debate - now with video

Posted by Niall Grimes on 09/03/2009
Talking shop. Photo Keith Sharples.

Grades, grades, grades. In some way they are the most tedious thing in climbing, while at the same time, they are also the second most tedious thing in climbing. As a celebration of their primary role in the world of climbing, this year’s Sheffield Adventure Film Festival (ShAFF) hosted its much publicised BMC sponsored Great Grade Debate.

Grades are many things for a great number of climbers. They are something to witter about for under-stimulated desk-bound computer-based under-employed office workers. They are a trophy to let the world know how good a climber, and, by extension, how good an individual someone might be. They are a name for a video. They are a brand of clothing. They are a range of shoes. They are a shop.

It may come as some surprise for many to realise that they are also a means of stacking climbs in relative order of difficulty to each other. They are used by experienced climbers for whom a range of these grades will show how much difficulty one can expect from a particular experience on a route or boulder problem.

The Great Grade Debate sought to air some of the dirty laundry of grades, wash it down in detergent-free good sense, then iron out any problems. On stage, a veritable why’s why of British climbing talent had come together to flop their opinions out on the table. Dave Birkett, John Dunne, Ben Bransby, James Pearson, Nic Sellers and Steve McClure were all chaired over by the headmasterly Nick Colton.

Questions were taken from the floor and panellists explained their opinions on grades, and what they wanted from them. Exactly what that was, I’m afraid I can’t remember any more, but Dave Birkett talked about sheep, John Dunne looked pretty slim, Ben Bransby looked quite short, James Pearson was in yellow, Nic Sellers knocks a grade off whatever he thinks it is, and Steve Mac reckons you’re best to save money on your outfits, and instead spend that little extra on your accessories.

See more photos here.

Watch the great short film by SteepMedia below:

The Great British Grade Debate from UKClimbing.com TV on Vimeo.


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