If you’ve been bouldering at EVO Lou over the last few weeks, you might’ve noticed something a little…different. The mystery of the missing grade placards, which we’re here to explain:
Grades have always been a sticking point in bouldering—all genres of climbing really—and the conflict is amplified in the condensed setting of a modern climbing gym. Those slopers you keep sliding off might feel like jugs to someone with larger hands and like massive slippery monsters to the tenacious team kids. And let’s not even get started debating the grade of that green dyno in the corner you’ve tried for weeks, only to watch your non-climbing friend crush it her first time in the gym. We like grades because they feel concrete. They give us a way to talk about where we are now and track our progress. Unfortunately, it’s a flawed system when you’re talking about something as subjective as climbing difficulty. Grade consensus is formed over time, and the more voices the better. So, it’s hard to get a real consensus on climbs that only exist for 7 weeks.
Calling this letter ‘A Farewell to Grades’ is only half true (but it caught your attention, right?). For the past year we’ve followed a color circuit for grades in the bouldering area. Every color encompasses a rough range of three grades, with overlap in between colors. For example, in the current circuit pink boulders range from V6 to V8, and purple boulders are between V7 and V9. This will not be changing. What is new, however, is that we will no longer be specifying where in that range each boulder falls. It is our hope that providing more flexibility in the perception of grades improves the overall experience of bouldering at EVO Lou. Grades are subjective and personal. Use the colors as a rough guide for how hard you’re looking to try, and then go have fun.
—The EVO Lou Setting Crew