Bouldering Grades Explained

In this section we’ll cover the 3 main grades used to describe bouldering problems around the world.

For those that don’t know, bouldering involves climbing routes made up of a series of technical moves which are near to the ground and hence don’t require protection from a rope. Protection is normally provided by a partner spotting the climber or by the placing of protective pads under the route to soften any fall.

Bouldering routes can be found at the bottom of longer routes, however they generally take place on large boulders found at the base of crags - hence the term bouldering! Originally used by single or multi pitch climbers as a method of warming up, bouldering has became increasingly popular in the last 10 years as a sport in its own right. Most climbing walls now have bouldering areas and there are regular bouldering competitions and leagues throughout the world.

The first grading system is the V Grade which was developed by John Sherman or Verm as he is known to his friends. Increasingly popular worldwide, it was initially felt that the grading system was lacking in the lower grades, hence the inclusion of the V0-, V0 & V0+.

The concern over the coverage of the lower grades in the V grading system, led to the development of the Peak Bouldering grades. Although still popular, the inclusion of V0- & V0+ in the V Grades and its increasing worldwide popularity means that the days for this grading system are probably numbered.

Finally there’s the Font grade which was developed in the Fontainebleau area of France, an area popular with boulders from both sides of the channel. Although at first glance it would appear to be the same as the French sports grade (see rock grades explained for more information), this is not the case and is in fact completely different. To add to the confusion, it has now become the norm to give traverses a French sport grade as they can be quite long and committing. Hence a bouldering problem with a traverse that is graded 6c could be given a traversing grade of 7b - so beware!

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Grade Comparisons

The following table attempts to compare the three different bouldering grades described above. The British technical grade has also been included for comparison.

US V GradePeak Bouldering GradeFont Bouldering GradeFont Traverse GradeBritish Technical Grade
V0- B0 3 5a
V0 B1 4 5a - 5b
V0+ B1 - B2 4+ 5a - 5b
V1 B2 5 5b - 5c
V2 B3 5+ 5c - 6a
V3 B4 6a/6a+ 7a 6a- 6b
V4 B5 6b/6b+ 7a+ 6a - 6b
V5 B5 - B6 6c/6c+ 7b 6b
V6 B6 - B7 7a 7b+ 6b - 6c
V7 B7 - B8 7a+ 7c 6b - 6c
V8 B8 7b 7c+ 6c
V8+ B9 7b+ 8a 6c - 7a
V9 B10 7c 8a+ 6c - 7a
V10 B11 7c+ 8b 7a
V11 B11 - B12 8a 8b+ 7a - 7b
V12 B12 8a+ 8c 7a - 7b
V13 B13 8b 8c+ 7b
V14 B14 8b+ 9a 7b

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Further Information

If you’d like more information about bouldering and bouldering grades then I would recommend taking a look at the following sites:

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Article written by Giles Thurston on January 15, 2008


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