No place for old scared man - Part VIII The short history of rock climbing
The trad climbing, that can’t be ignored either, recovered a bit after the period of "Sturm und Drang" in 80s. Not without resistance and controversy top climbers harnessed to action methods from sport climbing simultanously compromising on style, which was seen by many as a necessity needed to achieve the goal. The end justifies the means. In this discipline, as one may easily guess, the tone was imposed mainly by the British and Americans with the support of Canadians. The biggest headache connected with trad climbing is immeasurable risk factor, which is to be borne by a climber. From the continental-European point of view it is almost impossible to assess the grade of the ascent in a truly mathematical way, largely because it is based on the reputation. As far as the U.S. system of trad's grading tries to approximate difficulties to risks (although, truthfully, e.g R or X may, roughly speaking, assume a various final "effect"), the British scale presents itself as a one big mystery. In my opinion the problem lies not in the E factor, but in its extension over the difficulty factor - one British grade may include even two or three grades of the French scale, not to mention the American one. Often you may find the evidence for the fact that British have quite a problem with that and therefore they add the French or bouldering grade while evaluating their routes. In favor of the Islanders one can certainly credit the general difficulty in grading anything that was made on their flagship product, which is gritstone. It is due to the peculiar nature of climbing. Such routes as Rhapsody Br7a (Fr8c /+?), Elder Statesman Br7b (Fr8b +?), Equilibrium Br7a (Fr8b?) can definitely serve as the examples... However, returning to the subject matter three events deserve special attention. Firstly, in 2006 on the Dumbarton Rock, the ascent of Rhapsody was made by Dave MacLeod, who proposed unprecedented grade - E11. Apart from the controversy related to the limiter and the relative safety (as it is defined in the UK), Rhapsody is the route that has moved trad climbing onto the 8c+ level, confirming thereby that a solid training and determination enable a climber to mark up trad extremes, which somehow refers to the achievements of sport climbing. We should not forget that after two years of work, this amazing Scot raises the bar again by the opening of Echo Wall on the walls of Ben Nevis. Due to logistic reasons, we’re not probably going to get to know soon how difficult it is, considering that MacLeod repeats only that the route is harder than Rhapsody.
Moreover, the 2006 brought the support for Scotsman’s crazy actions - Sonnie Trotter dealt in the Indian Creek with "the eternal problem" called Cobra Crack. There was no doubt that in this case the bidden rate would be quite high. And so the first trad 8c/+ was introduced to the world at large. Besides, the Canadian did not stop at this point and as the second climber in the history he entered the list of Rhapsody conquerors.
Trad climbing has its own requirements, because it involves much greater stamina. And women sometimes prove that in this discipline they may equal men. The most prominent example of this can be Beth Rodden, who in the year 2008 after four months of attempts led the Meltdown crack in Yosemite placing the protection during the ascent. Although Rodden avoids an unequivocal answer to the question of the valuation, she suggests that the route is more difficult than the 5.14s that were previously sent by her, which gives an idea that we probably talk about 8c+.
What are we able to achieve in trad? This is probably about to be seen, but two factors will certainly work "in minus": the niche of this discipline and therefore the smaller number of talented climbers, and the necessity of searching for the lines, which would be suitable for placing even illusory protection - unless there will be a technological breakthrough in this sphere.