French sport grades
First up on ‘rock climbing grades explained’ is the French sport grading system. You’re most likely to come across it at climbing walls (including our own), but it’s also used for bolted outdoor sport climbs.
The French sport system gives each route a difficulty grade consisting of a number between 1-9 (although technically it is open-ended). As you might expect, the higher the number, the more challenging the climb.
Each grade can then be subdivided to include a letter from ‘a’ to ‘c’, and sometimes a plus or minus symbol. A route graded 4a would be easier than one graded 4c, whereas a 7a+ climb would be slightly more difficult than a 7a route. Still with us? Most climbing walls offer routes beginning around the 4 mark, and this is where novices should kick things off.
A useful thing to remember when looking at climbing wall grades is that they will have been set by one climber, working as a route setter. In other words, they are subjective. With that in mind, it’s always a good idea to step back and take a look at the climb before you begin. The beauty of climbing at an indoor wall is that it’s super easy to bail out if you attempt an overambitious route! So be bold, nothing ventured…