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BREAKING NEWS – New route grading across the UK

In January 2020, nearly three years after the referendum, the UK finally left the EU, with a one year transition period currently in place. As part of the transition to Take Back Control, outdoor industry governing bodies of the constituent countries of the UK: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, this morning released a formal report on the updated climbing grading systems that have passed through government via statutory instruments at the start of the current health and economic crisis, virtually unnoticed by the climbing community. The changes, introduced to better reflect regional languages and dialects, as well as the differences in climbing across the four countries, have been introduced with unprecedented speed and unity from the four nations. 

President of the newly-founded Welsh Mountaineering Council, Bore Da, announced the changes early this morning, outlining a preliminary grade transition plan within their report, and stating, “…these changes in grade reflect the continuous growth of the Welsh language within Wales and allow us to take back control of our routes. Gone are the days of ‘Hard Very Severe’ Dream of White Horses, instead we will be seeing the route renamed to Breuddwydio am Hedfan Moch and graded Ffyliaid Ebrill.” Da is said to believe the changes will lead to hundreds of thousands of climbers becoming fluent Welsh speakers, and contributing to the development of welsh culture. 

North of the border in Scotland, a similar picture is appearing after an early morning press release from the Scottish Government’s Head of Outdoor Adventure Fun, Jock Breaks, outlining the Scottish approach: “these changes in route grading are central to our case for Scottish Independence; in an Independent Scotland there isnae any place for E11, it doesnae reflect our culture, so alongside England, Northern Ireland and Wales, we are introducing a wide ranging grading revision, to reflect our true celtic culture and unique rock formations. We were able to push these fundamental changes through parliament in recent weeks with support from industry leaders and little dissent from climbers – they seem to be all for it”

Condition Grade - Taps Aff

Scottish grading is set to be even tougher thanks to the new system, with ‘Piece a Piss’ to ‘Yer Aff Yer Heed’. This will be followed by ‘D’ grades (D1, D2, D3) and so on upwards, with Echo Wall for example, now being graded D12. Breaks described the meaning and importance of the D grades: “the Dram grade is central to Scottish culture. It reflects the number of measures of whisky one needs before taking on the route – clearly a much more accurate way to measure your gnarl than a few meaningless letters. This is the culturally sensitive approach that climbing needs at this moment in history.”

A second and formidable aspect of climbing up north is conditions. Thanks to the incredible work of key Scottish climbing experts, this hasn’t been forgotten in the exciting new system. The ‘Condition Grade’ being introduced will be added to the route’s technical and protection grade to demonstrate the full climbing experience. Scottish CG grades include ‘Pure Stoatin’ and ‘Taps Aff’, which we’re told individuals can adapt and add to their log book as they choose, giving a wider and more diverse range of options for anyone undertaking Scottish routes from now onwards. 

Scottish CG grades include 'Pure Stoatin' and 'Taps Aff'

Across the Irish Sea, we will see a slightly more complex arrangement with two proposed grading systems running in concurrent alignment. It’s a delight to see a picture of sweet harmony evolving. SystemEU involves quickly moving in line with the EU, with a schedule already in place starting in May 2020, that includes bolting the entirety of Fair Head and re-grading of all routes to European (french) sport grades. SYSTEMBRIT, a more modest system will hardly stray from the past, sticking steadfastly to tradition. Climb NI Spokesperson, Jeanie McPhail says, “What’s wrong with the current system? It’s tried and tested. We all know that Difficult is the easy grade, Hard Very Severe makes total sense… I don’t know why more countries don’t use it actually and I have never met a single beginner climber who has found this confusing. We need to stick with tradition in Northern Ireland and that means sticking to the ways of the Union. Pass the Guinness.”

Fair Head bolting commencing May 2020

England, in contrast with the rest of the union, is moving on in the world and taking into consideration the modern british climber. No longer will routes be graded with hobnail boots and tweed jackets in mind, but instead, with lower grade of Difficult (Diff), being replaced with ‘OK’, whilst harder grades ‘Alright I S’pose’, ‘Could Be Harder’ and ‘Not Easy’. The hardest of grades will get ‘This is Fucking Nails, Man’. Reflecting the increased difficulty in the Peak District, this grade will be reserved for gritstone climbs only. As the BMC spokesperson said, “But what have you ever done on grit?”

Knight's Move, now graded 'Alright Unless You're Short'

The far-reaching changes have seen little resistance; it’s thought that the lack of pushback is a result of climbers’ focus on getting outdoors in any way possible as the spectre of lockdown loomed large in the UK a fortnight ago. The proliferation of videos on Tiktok, Facebook and Instagram, showing people ‘buildering’, doing press-up challenges and dry tooling on their stairs showed where the climbing community’s priorities lay. 

Now this B******ks!

An early comment from Apriliana Foole reads: “I can’t believe they’ve gone and pushed this through! First the f***** blue passports and now this b******ks! Not even climbing is safe!” At the time of going to press UKC were unavailable for comment, but we expect to see loads of *interesting* discussion from people who *have full and meaningful lives* and need a good moan on the *redacted* forums very soon.

The changes outlined here can be viewed in full online at www.youvebeenad.co.uk 

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