Rating of aidclimbing and big walls

From Chris MacNamara. Seems he's coming out with a new guidebook for the Valley walls and is proposing a new (old) rating system that essentially throws out the "new wave" mess and returns to the older meanings with some notable additions.

Aid Climbing Ratings updated 10/01/99

In the early 90's the "new wave" rating system was introduced to wall climbs in Yosemite Valley. Although it was originally touted as being more precise than the previous A1-A5 system, it is now clear the new wave system only brought more confusion to the ratings process. This book ignores the new wave system and reverts to the system introduced 30 years ago, with a few modifications.

Keep in mind that individual pitch ratings are only one measure of the difficulty of a wall climb. Weather, the length of the climb, the number of previous ascents, approach and descent and many other factors, all combine to determine the overall difficulty of a wall. Pitch ratings also can't include the dangers of bad bolts and poor fixed gear. Bolt ladders on Tangerine Trip, which should theoretically be "A1", have scored numerous 30-50 foot falls when rivets broke. Big air time has also been logged on the Shield's "Groove" pitch when numerous fixed pieces pulled. Don't trust fixed gear and be prepared if it should pull.

Grade Ratings - give a sense of the overall commitment required on a climb.

Grade I and II (seldom used) - short crag routes.

Grade III - half-day routes. Examples: Royal Arches, Nutcracker.

Grade IV - full day routes. Example: East Buttress of El Cap,

Grade V - shorter "big wall" routes. Fast parties may only take a day but most parties will spend 2-3 days on the wall. Examples: West Face of Leaning Tower, Prow, South Face of Washington's Column.

Grade VI - longer "big wall" routes. All but the fastest teams require at least two days and sometimes much more. Examples: Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome, all routes on El Capitan.

Grade VII - extreme alpine big walls. Require at least 10 days of suffering on a huge wall in poor weather and located in a remote area. Examples: Great and Secret Show, Baffin Island; Grand Voyage, Great Trango Tower, Pakistan.

Pitch Ratings

A0 - Pulling on pieces for progress while in free climbing mode. Generally no aiders are used.

A1 or C1 - Easy Aid: all placements are bomber no serious danger of falling. Examples: Many pitches on Half Dome's Regular Route, Nose, and South Face of the Column.

A2 or C2 - Moderate Aid: One or two bodyweight placements over bomber gear. 5-20 foot fall potential. Examples: Many pitches on the Zodiac, Prow, and Direct on Half Dome.

A3 or C3 - Hard Aid: 3-5 bodyweight placements in a row. 20 - 40 foot fall potential. Many pitches on Pacific Ocean Wall, Mescalito and Ten Days After.

A4 or C4 - Serious Aid: 5-8 bodyweight placements in a row and a 40-70 foot fall potential. Examples: Many pitches on, Sea of Dreams, Atlantic Ocean Wall and Native Son.

A5 or C5 - Extreme Aid: more than 8 bodyweight placements in a row. 70 foot plus fall potential. Examples: Most El Cap routes put up in the 90's: Reticent Wall, Disorderly Conduct and Gulf Stream.

"A" - pitch generally involves placements requiring a hammer, usually pitons and copperheads. Examples: All pitches on the Reticent Wall and many pitches on Native Son, Lost in America, Zenith and Sea of Dreams.

"C" - pitch goes hammerless without relying on fixed gear. Examples: All pitches on the Nose, Regular route on Half Dome, and the South Face of Washington's Column.