Sunday, August 17, 2008

Peter Kamitses Interview--Enough with downgrading already!

Go read the interview at MVM with Peter Kamitses. Here's an excerpt:

What are your thoughts on the 9a grade in the USA?

It seems a little strange to me that in a country this big, that has produced some of the best climbers in the world, that there are only a few routes graded 9a. Why are so many people scared to throw that grade on something that could reasonably be that hard?
People are worried what others will think if someone repeats their route and then downgrades it. Some climbers love to downgrade things just to boost their own ego by saying, "what? You thought that was hard? Nah...I just did it faster than anyone else so it couldn't be that hard." I think it is a pretty common thing for grades to get a bit bunched up at certain levels like how in Rifle everyone was scared to have their routes downgraded so there are a huge number of 5.13d's that cover a range of difficulty with some of them being regarded as pretty solid 5.14a. Decades ago everything got 5.9+ because people didn't think they could be climbing 5.10. America has always been a more conservative place than countries in Europe; it was founded by a bunch of Puritans no less.... so there you go. I think its interesting how some of the best American sport climbers who are also among the best in the world, are in top shape and do new routes at the top of their ability and then grade them no harder than the hardest routes from 15 years ago. What’s up with that? Where is the progression? I think giving a climb a sandbag grade can be just as much, (or more) of an ego-based thing than over grading.


It's good to hear someone finally say what's really going on. Maybe Peter has a bit of an outsider's perspective on the issue but I think he's calling it absolutely right. My previous comments on the topic are here. Is this in part why the Front Range has seen many of its testpieces first climbed by outsiders such as Dave Graham? The grades might come down later but the innovating achievement remains long after. The confidence and self-belief needed to actually be a pioneer might also include the possibility of that climber proposing a grade that may be higher than what's already been done. Imagine that, progress!

Big congratulations to Dara Torres for 3 silver medals in Olympic swimming at age 41. This is in a way more impressive than Michael Phelps' 8 medals. We'll see if we hear much from Michael Phelps in 18 years.

8 comments:

James said...

Big congratulations also to Oksana Chusovitina for winning silver in the Women's Gymnastics Vaulting at age 33 (a mother and wife)!

Peter Beal said...

I just saw that last night, also amazing. 5th Olympics for her! Plus the Romanian from Erie crushing the marathon at 38. The women are just amazing!

Jamie said...

sick peter can I upgrade Slashface, Circadian, nuthing but sunshine etc to V14? awesome!!! (playfully sarchastic)
Freaks of the industry 8C? nice

sock hands said...

jamie: yes you can, but only if you can sleep at night knowing that wade believes them all to be 8A or maybe even 7C+ [playfully dead serious x10].

when i did them, i was inclined to agree w/ ze darth.

sock hands said...

ps: i would like to mention that the kind trav is as hard or harder than anything else i've done this year... despite the constant downgrading of that rig it is at least five times harder than whispers of wisdom.

Peter Beal said...

Sarcasm aside, Jamie has a point. However, given that the problems he named, besides being classics, still represented significant advances for Colorado, so what if there was a number grade "discrepancy"? The problems and the FA are long remembered after the B team's commentary fades away.

jamie said...

Peter, I hope you are not suggesting that I am B team material. I think I got cut from the D team when I turned 30

Peter Beal said...

Jamie, when did you turn 30? Didn't you know that you are promoted to the B team automatically once you turn 30 and are still climbing?