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Are most traverse ratings BS?

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Are most traverse ratings BS?

Postby seano » Tue Oct 02, 2012 3:01 pm

I recently ran across a paragraph on the CAC Wiki that supported my recent experience:
It is worth noting that the ratings for theses traverses are not very comparable to ratings of traditional rock climbs. A tough traverse is usually rated (5.9 VI), but this does not mean you will find 5.9 climbing necessarily; rather, it is a relative grade compared to other traverses. A (5.7 IV) traverse is on the easier end of the scale. With only a few exceptions, most of these traverses rely heavily on routefinding, and while the guidebook author may have found a 5.9 crux, other parties may find a 4th class variation (and vice-versa). In general, a "5.9" rating means that the party should be comfortable soloing mid-5th class, and "5.7" rating means the party should be comfortable soloing hard 4th class.

It makes me wonder what the "actual" ratings would be for various traverses, i.e. the hardest moves required to do them with careful route-finding, but without major deviations, with and without rappels. For example:
  • Matthes Crest (II 5.7) is actually 5.7 -- you can't get to the north summit without going up a short 5.7 pitch.
  • Thunderbolt to Sill (IV 5.8?) is 5.8 with the summit blocks, and maybe 5.0-5.2 besides that (descending the cracks off Starlight). With rappels, it's 4th class.
  • Little Bear to Blanca is 4th class, since you need to get off Little Bear.
  • The Minaret traverse (VI 5.9) is apparently 5.6-5.7 thanks to Dyer Minaret.
  • Mount Kaweah to Black Kaweah (VI 5.9) is actually about 5.4, thanks to the ridge south of Koontz Pinnacle.
What are the actual hardest moves on other Sierra traverses, like Evolution or the full Palisades? Are traverse ratings this uninformative in other ranges?
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Re: Are most traverse ratings BS?

Postby Kahuna » Tue Oct 02, 2012 3:36 pm

Ratings have no meanings when you are up there. Especially if one is solo and ropeless.

All it takes is one hand or foothold to break off on a Class 4 move, daylight dissapearing etc., all the while doing it solo, and that is all she wrote. There have been three fatalities this season alone in the Eastern Sierra becuase of this exact situation.


Another fact, today's ratings are definitely over inflated compared to those of 30 or more years ago. I have seen many a modern day "5.8-5.10" Gym climber bail/turn around on a Norman Clyde Class 4 plus section. I have taken several 5.9 Gym climbers out on an old skool 5.7 slab climb only to see them completely flail to the point of failure.

Ratings are all relative and should never to be assumed to be consistent. Many Dynamic factors are involved as well. Rock features change from year to year on many of these Sierra Crest Traverses. What may have been there two or ten years ago, may be completely gone the day you are out looking for the crux move.


My advice to anyone that is out to do these "traverses" solo, is you best be solid and well rounded at 5.10 everything before even considering such and endeavor.
Last edited by Kahuna on Tue Oct 02, 2012 4:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Are most traverse ratings BS?

Postby Palisades79 » Tue Oct 02, 2012 4:39 pm

When you are wearing a bivouac pack and climbing more than ten hours a day above 13,000 feet for a week ,any fifth class is challenging . Finding water is important too.
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