Monday, January 21, 2008

How (not) to Rate a Boulder Problem

John Gill Now
John Gill then

Saying that I like bouldering is like saying the Queen enjoys her afternoon cup of tea. Bouldering is like riding a fixed-gear bike on the track - it's the sport boiled to its core.

When John Gill elevated bouldering into an art form back in the 50's & 60's, a very simple rating system existed. It was the "B" system (B1, B2, B3). Pretty easy to use.

Me, I just rate boulders as "easy" or "hard". What else could it be? In fact, I usually don't rate my problems.

Why? Because bouldering is often a solo journey into self-improvement . And you can't (or shouldn't) rate an experience that's so personal. Bouldering is like dancing. You work on the moves throughout your life, aiming for perfection along the way.

A while back, the V rating system (V1, V2, V3, etc.) got started somehow. This open-ended rating system is similar to the 5th class rating system (5.1, 5.2, 5.3, etc.).

Why now the V rating system? Competition and ego.

Joe wants to say that he's better than Jim, and so on. The conversation would go something like this: "Dude, I just climbed a V9, and you can only climbed a V5, you suck".

Look at surfers - they don't rate their waves with numbers. Surfers just go out and ride, and enjoy the water

Bouldering - it's personal. So leave the V rating system in the trash and just focus on the moves, and more importantly, the experience.