You’re So Vain: Soft Gym Grading

New routes at the Boston Rock Gym. Photo: BRG

New routes at the Boston Rock Gym.  Photo: BRG
New routes at the Boston Rock Gym. Photo: BRG

By Chris O’Connell

This post was originally published on the Boston Rock Gym blog and reprinted with permission from the author.

I visited a new rock gym not long ago and found myself excited leaving the gym later that evening. I had just flashed a half dozen 12’s, and that was straight off the couch. While I was feeling really good about myself, I also recognize that I haven’t gotten any better or stronger with my training regimen of atrophy. I was just enjoying the phenomena of “Vanity Grading.”

I don’t know if vanity grading is a harmless practice that will simply foster higher self-esteem or if it’s a harbinger of the coming apocalypse. I suspect that it falls somewhere in between. I’m not sure that ‘vanity sizing’ has any serious risks other than not being able to fit your fat ass into a euro designer offering when your sizing measuring stick comes from JC Penny. I see that as being more amusing than anything else, but what about climbers being offered a steady diet of vanity graded gym climbs? Should that climber dare venture into the wild, they could conceivably find themselves in deep shit.

It’s a given that the vast majority of gym climbers do not cross over to outdoor climbing, but do we owe the minority that do venture outdoors a grading experience that is more in line with the regional norms? Is it time to recognize that gym climbing is a separate branch of the ‘Climbing Tree’ and not worry about what ‘crosses over’ and what doesn’t? I’m not sure what the answer is; grading is always a contentious topic.