Friday, 10 July 2015

Feedback on ascents and grades

The Second version of the Pedra Rubia guidebook has been published in June 2013. The first version was published the previous year (June 2012) but did not include a section about Portocelo.

If you’ve followed my blog, you might remember that I had climbed a few lines in Portocelo back in 2010.

At the time, I had looked for info everywhere, but had not found any either online or on paper. The only thing I knew was that it wasn’t a proper discovery. On a Galician forum, a guy called Luis Vigo had told me Portocelo boulders had been a climbing spot for the last 15 years and had even seen the first Galician bouldering comp in 1998.

So in an effort to share what I knew, I had post up some info online, via my own blog, YouTube, the web platform UKClimbing, Facebook and the likes.

Five years later, I find that some of ‘my’ problems (for more on ownership, see previous blog post) have been recorded in a guide book under different names and displaying different grades.

My first reaction was that of a six year old. I thought it was not fair. But after second thoughts, I realized that the people who had published the guidebook could hardly know about my FAs.

After all, my blog is written in English and only a handful of people reads it (thanks for your patience if you’re one of them), so I probably don’t rank very high in Google relevance charts.

Besides, 'my first ascents' were probably not proper FA anyway.

Nevertheless, it’s very interesting to compare the grades:


César Alvarez, 2013

Difference of grades
El Zambulidor
El Dragón
El Gigante verde
Super Tanker
Super Tanker
El pesa’o
O Electronico
Techo izquierda
Corner Ongui
La fisura del techo de Portocelo
O Fendeteito
Techo derecha
Corner Etorri

Interestingly, some of the 2013 names are in Galician (the local language) rather than Spanish. While I can speak Spanish, my understanding of Galician is limited and I could have hardly found many problem names, so I’m actually quite glad these problems have proper local names.

Although some other lines also show striking similarity, the lines shown in the table above are all the exact same. This observation points towards the existence of 'natural' lines, i.e. problems that are not just the result of one person's imagination, but that seem obvious to people who have not been in contact at all. Do 'true' lines exist? I believe so.

Yet the grade difference is substantial. In all cases but one, the difference varies from 2 to 4 grades, the maximum difference being from 6a to 6c. Either I was sandbagging, or inflation is rampant in the 6 grade sector.

I doubt that I was completely off the mark though. I have climbed a lot of boulder problems in the 6 grade, on granite, in different places and countries including Ireland, Scotland, France, Spain, and in various conditions, from bone dry windy days to miserable drizzly days, and from -5°C to +30°C. So while I could be wrong with 5s and 7s grades, I think I’m fairly accurate when it comes to 6s.

Another interesting fact - for social media addicts anyway - is that the only boulder problem that has the same name and the same grade (Super Tanker, 7a+) is also the only problem that I’ve named and graded on YouTube for this area, which would imply that YouTube is more visible that the other social media I used - but we all know that watching vids is easier than reading info, right?

In any case, I thought this really put in perspective the power of the Internet - It’s not sufficient to share info online, people have to be able to find it easily!

Also, we should not underestimate the power of languages. Not everyone speaks English. Or want to. The same goes for Spanish. Some people speak and use Galician for bouldering, which means this minority language is well and alive.


Neal McQuaid said...

nice post!
I'm sure the language barrier is definitely removed when it comes to videos so I suppose that's an additional benefit to moving pictures :)
Interesting about the grades - I'm just going to assume you're a sandbagger from now on ;)

Pierre Edinburgh said...

Thanks Neal!

Yes, videos can be a good source of info but some vids have no text at all, nor any maps. If the person who posted them ignores texts and mails, there's no way to find out where and what.

Also, videos take away the pleasure of ‘unlocking’ problems - watching them after many tries may be like giving up, but (over)watching them before having tried the problem even once is like cheating, I think.

Thankfully, a vid never shows all the footwork, thumb catches or other subtleties so some problems will always hide their tricks :-)

Neal McQuaid said...

as someone who's never really watched a video for beta, I can't really comment too much but I can see their benefits if that's your thing!
A pity your activities weren't captured but just think that in about a generations time, no one will remember anything we did anyway ;)