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.