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Thread: The Definition of a 5.11a

  1. #1

    The Definition of a 5.11a

    I've been seeing that term lately, hope I've got it right.

    What is it exactly?

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  3. #2

    Re: The Definition of a 5.11a

    Quote Originally Posted by Sombeech
    What is it exactly?
    Its a rating of a rock climb on the "Yosemite Decimal System" scale. AKA "YDS".

    Climbs are broken down into difficulty from class 1 through 6. 1 being walking on an easy trail, 6 being what's called "direct aid" ie, climbing your gear and not the rock.

    5th class climbing is where your 5.11a resides, right between 5.10d and 5.11b.

    Considered fairly hard, and, for some routes in the Saint George area, really only 5.10 (ha ha).

    Very subjective, and, climbers love to argue about the relative ratings of routes. For some, the rating is a very important yardstick. And, it gives us something to sprag about.

    Seems like there's a really good wiki definition of climbing ratings out there. A good read.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grade_(climbing)

    -Brian in SLC

  4. #3

    Re: The Definition of a 5.11a

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian in SLC
    Quote Originally Posted by Sombeech
    What is it exactly?
    Its a rating of a rock climb on the "Yosemite Decimal System" scale. AKA "YDS".

    Climbs are broken down into difficulty from class 1 through 6. 1 being walking on an easy trail, 6 being what's called "direct aid" ie, climbing your gear and not the rock.

    5th class climbing is where your 5.11a resides, right between 5.10d and 5.11b.

    Considered fairly hard, and, for some routes in the Saint George area, really only 5.10 (ha ha).

    Very subjective, and, climbers love to argue about the relative ratings of routes. For some, the rating is a very important yardstick. And, it gives us something to sprag about.

    Seems like there's a really good wiki definition of climbing ratings out there. A good read.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grade_(climbing)

    -Brian in SLC
    ^^^ what he said..

    Climbing grades have a tendency to become all-consuming. Example: a buddy of mine really wants to become a professional climber, and he might just do it. Right now he is climbing 5.13a's. Still a ways to go, but he is getting there. The point however is I'm not sure how much fun he is having. He climbs for ratings. This has transfered over into canyons and caves as well, he just wants to book it through just to say he did it. Not a whole lot of enjoyment going on while in the canyon.

    That said, it is still very fun to push yourself to become better. I do think there is point where it can go to far though.

    "The best climber is the one having the most fun." - Alex Lowe
    better off outdoors

  5. #4

    Re: The Definition of a 5.11a

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian in SLC
    Climbs are broken down into difficulty from class 1 through 6. 1 being walking on an easy trail, 6 being what's called "direct aid" ie, climbing your gear and not the rock.
    This is why, in descriptions of hikes, you'll often see mentions of 3rd and 4th class scrambling. Third class is hiking where you have to use your hands, but don't need a rope. Fourth class is when some folks will start roping up, to protect from falls. Sometimes a small section will be a fourth class or low 5th class, and can be done without a rope - depending on one's abilities, how exposed it is, and how bothered one is by that exposure.

    The boundary between 3rd and 4th can be nebulous, as well as that between hard 4th and easy 5th class. Kind of a continuum.

  6. #5
    OK, so I can understand how something can be a class 5, but what's the difference between the .10, .11a, .13d .....

    What does the letter mean, and how do you determine the decimal spot?

    Thanks.

  7. #6
    The bigger the number the more difficult the route. Here is a general description I have on Climb-Utah to help you understand.

    From: http://climb-utah.com/ratings.htm

    5.0-5.4: A person of reasonable fitness can climb at this level with little or no rock climbing skills.

    5.4-5.7: Requires rock climbing skills or strength.

    5.7-5.9: Good rock climbing skills and strength are generally needed to climb at this level.

    5.10-5.14: Excellent rock climbing skills are required to climb at this level.

    All rakings (where to put the decimal) are extremely subjective.


  8. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Sombeech
    OK, so I can understand how something can be a class 5, but what's the difference between the .10, .11a, .13d .....

    What does the letter mean, and how do you determine the decimal spot?

    Thanks.
    I think you want laymans terms. So since I have been progressing up the "ladder" myself I will try and shed some light. Again these are my opinions and I'm sure some peeps will disagree.

    5.8 - 5.9 Beginner. Still tough though if you don't have good finger strength. 4 solid good places to hold at all times. one for each hand and feet. At least 2 inches to hold on with all fingers. Nothing over vertical.

    5.10 - somewhat easy, but takes a while to figure out. There is always some trick unless you're really good. "Put your hand in this one spot and hold on and then put your foot exactly here for leverage", otherwise you're falling. There are still holds but they are not all very good. There are select ones that you have to expoit the advantages of. Here is me trying a 5.10a, you see there is a little vert, some good handholds but they are far and few in between. I'm proud to say I can now climb this 80 footer 3 times in a row and not fall. but you can see here how very very difficult it was for me starting out. Like right 11 seconds in, that left hand grab is complete crap but the right hands are good. barely any feets, you'll see them slip often. So I exploit the good right handers and try not to rely on the left at all. That's the trick to getting up this run. The less good handholds, the higher increase in difficulty a,b,c,d. I've seen people argue over what makes it the certain letter, but that is usually based on comparisons to other runs. So like I would say well I can climb this 5.10c but this 5.10a is giving me trouble so I think it should be rated a 5.10d because of this part right here... The main problem I think is the people rating them are soo friggin good, stuff that gives them no trouble is hard for us noobs and they dont realize it.



    5.11 - not a lot of good holds or a lot of hanging inside good holds. I posted in the other thread one that was a lot of past vert hanging, but the holds are really easy. So you are hanging practically upside down but all 4 finger have full traction. It could be less vert but a couple of what I like to call "pinch grabs" where you can only get good traction on 2 fingers and the others are pinching the rock. Somewhat painfull until you get some calusses going. Here is a good example of a pinch grab I filmed of my buddy Justin.



    5.12 - lot more hanging on even worse holds. Pretty much just get a pinky in some places and that's it. One or 2 good holds on the whole run and the rest are just crap.

    5.13 - Impossible unless you are spider man. Any videos you see on you tube of people climbing them are camera tricks.



    I find the rating system very accurate and extremely helpfull. I know I can climb some 5.11's a,b, probably not c,d, depends on what the tricky handhold is and what muscles I have developed so far. If it's rated 5.12 (anything) I wont be able to make it. And if it's rated 5.10 I can pretty much be assured I will be able to figure it out. Just might take me a couple tries in the tricky spots. But usually first try.
    Your safety is not my responsibility.

  9. #8
    Also, remember leading a route is much different than top roping it.

    I can climb anywhere from 5.10d to 11a/b, but while leading I'll drop to 10cish range
    better off outdoors

  10. #9
    Originally, the decimal rating was based on what people thought was possible. Nobody expected to be rating climbs harder than 5.10 With advances in sticky rubber, protection, and climbing training, the grades just started getting higher and higher. I remember when I got into climbing, and a 5.14a or 5.14b was the hardest thing that existed. I see that there is now at least one 5.15b out there. Amazing.

  11. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Deathcricket
    I find the rating system very accurate and extremely helpfull. I know I can climb some 5.11's a,b, probably not c,d,
    noobs....

    Something you will discover really fast with a little seasoning is.... 5.9 at the local bolted crag, with a top rope, on a nice sunny day, in the afternoon.... is nothing like 5.9, at 12,000 feet, at 5 degrees, with a 60 mph wind, at 0'dark thirty in the morning.

    Also.... yes ratings are helpful.... but don't expect 5.10 in Little Cottonwood to be the same as 5.10 at Indian Creek.... YMMV


  12. #11
    ok, so the 1-6 is the grade, steepness, and the decimals are what type of experience the climber must have. right?

  13. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Iceaxe
    noobs....

    Something you will discover really fast with a little seasoning is.... 5.9 at the local bolted crag, with a top rope, on a nice sunny day, in the afternoon.... is nothing like 5.9, at 12,000 feet, at 5 degrees, with a 60 mph wind, at 0'dark thirty in the morning.

    Also.... yes ratings are helpful.... but don't expect 5.10 in Little Cottonwood to be the same as 5.10 at Indian Creek.... YMMV

    You forgot to mention chalked hands man! I forgot my chalk one day and lemme tell ya, it wasn't pretty.

    Your safety is not my responsibility.

  14. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Sombeech
    ok, so the 1-6 is the grade, steepness, and the decimals are what type of experience the climber must have. right?
    Basically. The 1-6 is the "class" and equates roughly to steepness. There are variations, though. A slick, bare slab can be a 5.7 "slab" climb, but the same angle with lots of blocky holds could be a 3rd or 4th class route. But mostly, yes.

    The decimal is the difficulty rating. They can be roughly grouped, too. Low-fifth, or mid-fifth, that kind of thing.


    DC: Man, I hate chalk. Makes my hands feel gummy!

  15. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Sombeech
    ok, so the 1-6 is the grade, steepness, and the decimals are what type of experience the climber must have. right?
    Not really.

    The "decimal" is just how the fifth class is broken up.

    Like Shane posted. 5.0 fairly easy, 5.11 and up fairly darn hard. Etc.

    Since there was huge (to some folks) differences between, say, 5.8 and 5.11, the difficulty ratings were further parced into bits.

    You might see 5.8-, 5.8+ and the same with 5.9. Above that, 5.10, it can be broken up by 5.10-, 5.10, 5.10+ and further broken up by letters like 5.10a, 5.10b, 5.10c, 5.10d. You also see folks call routes, say, 5.10a/b or 5.10 c/d (usually when they're too modest to call it 5.11a).

    Sometimes the difficulty of a route depends on steepness, but, its usually the type and size of the holds. There's smooth as glass very low angle routes in Little Cottonwood Canyon, say, that are rated 5.12 that are not any where near as steep as say Zoo View at Moores Wall in North Carolina which has a huge over hang with big holds and is rated 5.7.

    The ratings don't take into account the type or style of climbing. Certain Death, at 5.8, will be pretty undoable for most folks winching their way up 5.11a on the St. George area sport routes. Dreaded off width.

    That's why I kinda find it amusing to find folks who say "I'm a 5.10 climber" (or whatever grade). Doesn't really mean they can do Incredible Hand Crack in Indian Creek or Black and White John and Mary or the Hook Direct or Paranoia Streak in Little Cottonwood. Knowing how to jam a crack, or, place tricky pro, or suss out the moves on a smooth as glass slab all are very different to steep sport climbing.

    Its all good, though, and all fun.

    -Brian in SLC

  16. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Brian in SLC
    Certain Death, at 5.8, will be pretty undoable for most folks winching their way up 5.11a on the St. George area sport routes. Dreaded off width.
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    Your safety is not my responsibility.

  17. #16
    just to make it more confusing. you have to include the r and x rating.

    r = bad pro, long runouts, a fall could result in serious injury or death.

    x = bad or no pro, long runouts, a fall will be deadly.

    ie: 5.11a x
    But if I agreed with you, we would both be wrong.

  18. #17
    Zions the "s" is silent trackrunner's Avatar
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    surprised no one has posted this definition yet

    5.0 to 5.4
    There are two hand- and two footholds for every move; the holds become progressively smaller as the number increases.
    5.5 to 5.6
    The two hand- and two footholds are there, obvious to the experienced, but not necessarily so to the beginner.
    5.7
    The move is missing one hand- or foothold.
    5.8
    The move is missing two holds of the four, or missing only one but is very strenuous.
    5.9
    The move has only one reasonable hold which may be for either a foot or a hand.
    5.10
    No hand- or footholds. The choices are to pretend a hold is there, pray a lot, or go home.
    5.11
    After thorough inspection you conclude this move is obviously impossible; however, occasionally someone actually accomplishes it. Since there is nothing for a handhold, grab it with both hands.
    5.12
    The surface is as smooth as glass and vertical. No one has really ever made this move, although a few claim they have.
    5.13
    This is identical to 5.12 except it is located under overhanging rock

    http://www.climber.org/data/decimal.html

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