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Monday, November 06, 2006

G is for Grovel

Kelly Cordes, who always has something to say about—well, about just about anything—filled me in on an alternative grading system while we were walking down from Eldorado Canyon's upper West Ridge yesterday. The G System, he explained, is the most useful way to rate mixed alpine climbs, because it gets at the hardest and sketchiest part of alpine climbing: snowed-up, thin-or-no-ice rock climbing. The kind of climbing where nothing sticks, there are no holds to grab, and pro is nonexistent, and the keys to success are determination, boldness, and the ability to oonch up slick, snowy granite. The G stands for "groveling". Turns out that a lot of climbers who are extremely talented when measured by the Yosemite decimal system or water-ice grades or even the M scale for modern mixed climbing can't always master G climbing. "I know people who are solid M10 climbers who get shut down by G4 groveling," Cordes says. Never mind that there's no way to explain what G4 feels like. If you have to ask, you haven't done it.

Cordes has done big routes with some of the best alpine climbers in the U.S., Jonny Copp and Josh Wharton among them. But he says the best G-climber he's ever tied in with, hands down, is the relatively unknown Scott DeCapio. "It's unbelievable how quickly Scotty can climb that stuff," he says. DeCapio served a rugged apprenticeship: He lived in his VW Fox hatchback for five years, traveling around to climb. He and Cordes have done some great new routes and speedy ascents in Alaska, and right now they're mulling over the right overseas project to attempt next summer or fall. A climb, that is, with a G-rating that won't get parental approval.


Ade Miller said...

Nice blog. Kelly's not wrong. The number of good sport climbers who get shut down by easy grovelly trad routes is amazing - let alone on alpine routes.


Anonymous said...

Kelly also says that he's a mediocre average climber.


I have a feeling that his G4 is my G9+ A2...

Anonymous said...

Scott is the mental master. He gets locked in the zone and moves through the shit. He has the hardest part of climbing mastered, the head game!