on quality and difficulty

21 07 2008

one of the easiest ways to tell if you are a climbing dork is if you engage in inane conversations about seemingly insignificant aspects of climbing – incessantly- instead of climbing.  today, ICftG is proud to bring you one such inane conversation.

specifically, this article will deal with the phenomena of people rating difficult climbs as better, or of a higher quality  than the average problem- and i am talking about boulder problems here.  if i wanted to subject myself to the masochistic obsession that is red river gorge sportclimbing, then i would return tissue’s phone calls when he asks me to meet up with him on the weekends.  and since i don’t, i am unfamiliar with any of the grade debate and associated quality controversy that arises out of such climbs like ro shampo. …it’s .11d bitches.  editors note: it’s 12a.

but now just hold that chalk encrusted proverbial phone for a second!  difficult climbs?  well that’s a bit vague, eh?  i’m going to catch some flak from my editor on that one no doubt, for improperly defining terms and failing to make a clear argument again.  if we here at ICftG are going to uphold our high standards of journalistic coherency/complacency and editorial complacency/coherency, then i’m going to have to do my job a bit better.

it’s not so much the global standard of difficult or burly, but the local and specific standard that we are concerned with.  obviously, what is difficult for me is going to be easy for everyone at the gym, and what is easy for me is going to be difficult for a quadriplegic.  the point is, you have to be climbing at your limit for the problem to be ‘totally rad.’  thus, it is not so much that all hard climbs are totally awesome by merit of their five star ratings, only that the people that did them rarely climb above that limit, and are hence, totally geeked out that they can pull that shit.

the reason so many hard problems are five star, three star, big mario star (or whatever scale we’re using) is because the act of doing any of these problems is so unbelievable, so unfathomable, that when they are pulled, they become instant classics!  sometimes actually doing these problems is akin to finding out you can fly.  it just doesn’t seem right.

just think back to the first time you realized you were strong enough to pull a really long cross-through, or actually do a rose-move.  being strong enough to pull these moves opens up a realm of problems with unique, gymnastic moves, that you would otherwise have been unable to try.  it allows you to explore problems that don’t climb like a ladder- and this is really key.  sometimes the hard problems are so quality because the only way to climb them is to often do some other-worldly gymnastic move that is so novel and problem specific that it becomes a must-do problem.

therefore, the trend of quality rising with the grades seems warranted.  the chances of a hard problem being possible only one way, and involving novel moves, rises at a similar rate as difficulty.  For, if it were not so difficult (rated so hard) it would probably be possible another way, and hence, in a word- lame.

and this is really the appeal of bouldering, right?  apart from the social interaction, lack of commitment in gear, and outdoor aspects it allows, the appeal is interesting movement over rock.  no one who goes bouldering is looking for a vertical face with ladder crimps to the top- well, at least i don’t.  the goal is to find something so ridiculously impossible looking, that climbing it requires us to unlock some magic sequence that has us levitating to the top.  the alure is finding a piece of rock that requires a sequence so bizarre that you’re going home googling the human musculature-skeletal system.

and this is why i train.

-the architect

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5 responses

21 07 2008
tissuetendons

love the time capsule shot of us. newbs.

21 07 2008
lordcaffeine

Ro is 11b. Always has been. Just because Lumpy could never send did it get upgraded. You should know better.

22 07 2008
thearchitecturality

as stated, i am unfamiliar with any of the controversy surrounding such climbs. the idea was to leave such debate to that website we link to on the right called red river climbing.

the issue at hand, is how dev makes god module, a V11 look like popeye, a V5.

22 07 2008
tissuetendons

wait, i thought the issue at hand was the way in which difficulty correlates with quality.?.?.

31 07 2008
thereverend

you are the reason why i train. . .

that and the correlation between difficulty and me climbing qualitatively harder than you!

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