Simplifying: Grading systems in rock climbing

When rock climbing will make its debut in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The sports will be in form of amalgamation of its all three disciplines which is lead climbing, speed climbing and bouldering. This decision to combine three disciplines- with one set of medals per gender—caused widespread criticism in the climbing world of IOA. But as they say, “Something is better than nothing”. This inclusion will definitely provide much needed and deserved attention to the world of sports climbing through a global audience. So, before you hop onto Google or starts watching any recognized competition of rock climbing, you should know the Grading systems by hand or else you will not be able to follow up the action which is happening in front of your screen.

Here is the grading system in terms of difficulties that a player will be judged upon. Note: This grading systems also act as a rating systems for routes.

Ratings, or grades, record and communicate consensus appraisals of difficulty. Systems of ratings are inherently subjective in nature, and variation of difficulty can be seen between two climbs of the same grade. Hence, there may be occasional disagreements arising from physiological or stylistic differences among climbers. The practice of rating a climb below its actual difficulty is known as sandbagging.

The most commonly used rating systems in the United States are the Yosemite Decimal System and the Hueco V-scale bouldering grade. The current ranges for climbing routes are 5.0 for easy beginner routes to 5.15 being world class and V0–V16, respectively. As the limit of human climbing ability has not yet been reached, neither grading system has a definite endpoint and they are thus subject to revision.

To further simplify, here is how the Yosemite ratings (U.S. standard) goes:

  • 5.0 – 5.6 : Beginner climbs. First-time climbers should be able to handle these. Pre-5.0 climbs are often considered “scrambles” — some climbs below 5.5 can also be considered scrambles by some.
  • 5.7 – 5.9 : Beginner-Intermediate. I’ve seen first-time climbers who were in good physical shape pull off 5.8
  • 5.10 – 5.12 : Intermediate/Advanced — I think 5.10 is when climbs should really start to push the limits of your abilities.
  • 5.13 – 5.15 : Very Advanced/Pro level climbing.

Once you reach 5.10, you will start to see letter grade A, B, C, D. This is done to add an additional level of difficulty variance on the remaining grades 5.10-5.15. For example, a 5.10d is harder than a 5.10c — but again, everything is subjective. The person that sets the route ultimately names/grades it, and based on their experience, ability and body type, grading can oftentimes seem way off for you.
Note: The Yosemite ratings are most widely used indoors grading system

In Hueco V-scale: same technique is used. Higher the number-higher the difficulty.

Rock Climbing

The ratings take into account multiple factors affecting a route, such as the slope of the ascent, the quantity and quality of available handholds, the distance between holds, ease of placing protection and whether advanced technical maneuvers are required. Typically the rating for the hardest move on the wall will be the rating for the whole climb. Whilst height of a route is generally not considered a factor, a long series of sustained hard moves will often merit a higher grade than a single move of the same technical difficulty. For example, a climb with multiple 5.11 moves with no rests may thus be rated a 5.12.

Basically, the higher the number, the harder the climb, but don’t let the numbers scare you; just climb whatever you think looks good. If you’re inspired by a line and tho motion on it, get on it and work it until it goes; if not, who gives a heck what the rating is. And on the plus side, now you can follow up sports climbing competitions on your digital screen with ease.




Anucool, still believes that Ponting used a spring bat in 03' WC Final. One of those nerds who think that 'sports can change the world'. 'Ex Mohalla' Footballer and a full time sports viewer. Trekking makes him happy.