Grading and setting


We want the problems and routes across all our climbing and bouldering walls to be of a high standard. This means they need to be challenging, interesting and fun. They also need to be graded correctly – or as close as we can get!

Grading – General

Grading is a subject of much debate and is extremely subjective. Ultimately, grading is a person’s perception of what is hard and what is not. Some climbs suit a certain body type or a person with certain strengths. For example, some climbs are easier if you are tall, some if you are short, some you’ll need to be strong, others you’ll need excellent balance and technique and finally, some climbs will be perfect for everyone.

We call it the Goldilocks Conundrum!

Our Grading

Our approach at Highball is to keep our grades, in terms of difficulty, in line with what you would expect to find when climbing outside. This means if you boulder at 6a on the grit or at font, then – hopefully – you will find a 6a problem in Highball equally challenging.

We don’t believe in and are not interested in grading things harder or easier than they actually are – we’d much rather have a reputation for being ‘about right’.

It is something we accept we will not get right all the time. But, by working with some of the country’s best route setters, we hope to maintain a high standard of route setting which will give our in house setters the opportunity to learn from the best and have a consistent benchmark by which to measure their own work.

This, we hope, will help us achieve a standard of routes, problems and grading to be proud of.

Setting at Highball

Our aim is to reset the Bouldering circuits every 6-8 weeks but this will depend on usage i.e. climber volume and the difficulty of the circuit, as well as in house events which may mean delaying a reset or bringing it forward a week.

The purpose of setting is not just to refresh the problems; it’s also about trying to keep the holds clean. Therefore circuits in the low/mid ranges may, on occasion, be set more frequently as they receive more traffic, whereas circuits at a higher level may have a slightly longer life span. This is because less people are climbing them and those who are may well be working on (projecting) a problem or two and for this they need a bit more time – they also tend to use less chalk and brush more which keeps the holds in better condition!

Coming Soon: The Highball Grading Reference Table.

This table will detail the popular/classic outdoor problems against which we benchmark our own.

Inside vs Outside

There is a big difference between indoor and outdoor climbing. For starters, the holds on outdoor climbs are not labelled or identified by colour; you have to find them for yourself and work out the correct sequence, often using techniques you may never use indoors, like smearing and topping out. Also, different rock types have different attributes – grit, for instance, is very rough and limestone can be very smooth.

These things can all make outdoor climbs seem harder than what you’re used to climbing inside – so you have been warned!



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