Understanding Bouldering Grades and Ratings

Diving into the complex world of bouldering grades and ratings can confound even the most experienced climbers. We’re aware of the bafflement, having been puzzled ourselves by terms like “V-Scale” or “Font Scale”, until we fully delved into understanding this crucial aspect of climbing.

In this article, you’ll find a clear breakdown of both climbing and bouldering ratings, designed to make your route selection more accurate and improve your scaling skills. Start exploring – this guide is your sure-footed step towards mastering climbing grades.

Key Takeaways

  • Climbing grades have evolved over time to provide a standardized way of measuring the difficulty level of a climb, with an open-ended decimal extension beyond 5.9.
  • Understanding climbing ratings is essential for accurately assessing the difficulty level of a route, and climbers should familiarize themselves with the specific rating system used in their community or area.
  • Bouldering grades use different scales such as the V-Scale, Font Scale, and B-Scale to measure the difficulty level of boulder problems based on physical challenges, technique, balance, and mental aspects.
  • It’s important to note that climbing ratings may vary based on location and individual interpretation, while bouldering grades can also vary between different gyms and outdoor areas.

Understanding Climbing Grades

Climbing grades have evolved over time to provide a standardized way of measuring the difficulty level of a climb.

Evolution of Class 5 Ratings

The evolution of Class 5 ratings is a fascinating tale in the world of rock climbing. The system was originally developed by climbers Sierra Club, and it has served as the foundation for many grading systems worldwide.

It started with grades from 5.0 to 5.9, where climbs falling under grade 5 were deemed as technical ascents necessitating ropes and safety gear for protection against falls.

However, as climbers pushed boundaries and advanced their skills over time, this scale proved inadequate to describe the increasing levels of difficulty they encountered. In response, an open-ended decimal extension began encompassing harder routes beyond 5.9 – further divided into ‘a’, ‘b’, ‘c’ and ‘d’.

Now you’ll find challenges designated anywhere from 5.(10-15)a-d! This expanded rating system has allowed granular ranking to effectively illustrate variations between one difficult route from another.

In my own experience tackling these challenging ascents, this nuanced classification provides a more accurate picture of what to expect on any given climb – giving me confidence when I tackle new heights or challenges.

How to Use Climbing Ratings

Understanding climbing ratings is essential for rock climbers to accurately assess the difficulty level of a route. Here are some tips on how to effectively use climbing ratings:

  1. Familiarize Yourself with the Rating System: Take the time to understand the specific rating system used in your climbing community or area. This could be the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS) or International French Adjectival System (IFAS), among others. Knowing which system is being used will help you interpret and compare ratings accurately.
  2. Start with Beginner Grades: If you’re new to climbing, begin with routes that are graded at the lower end of the difficulty scale. Look for routes labeled as beginner-friendly or beginner grades, such as V0 or 5.6. These grades indicate an easier level of difficulty and provide a good starting point for building your skills.
  3. Progress Gradually: As you gain more experience and skill, gradually move up to intermediate and advanced grades. Pushing yourself too quickly can increase the risk of injury, so it’s essential to progress at a comfortable pace.
  4. Understand Route Descriptions: Climbing ratings are often accompanied by route descriptions that provide additional information about the climb, such as technical challenges, type of holds, and potential hazards. Take the time to read and understand these descriptions before attempting a route.
  5. Consider Personal Strengths and Weaknesses: Climbing grades can vary depending on factors like height, reach, flexibility, and technique proficiency. Be aware that certain routes may suit your strengths more than others. Pay attention to your own abilities when interpreting ratings.
  6. Seek Input from Experienced Climbers: If you’re uncertain about a particular rating or have questions about how challenging a specific route may be for you personally, don’t hesitate to reach out to more experienced climbers for guidance and advice.
  7. Use Ratings as Guidelines: Remember that climbing ratings are subjective assessments made by climbers who have completed the route. While they provide a general measure of difficulty, everyone’s experience may differ slightly. Use ratings as guidelines rather than rigid rules.
  8. Embrace Challenge: Climbing ratings are meant to challenge and motivate climbers to push their limits. Embrace the opportunity to tackle more difficult routes as you continue to improve your skills. Don’t be discouraged if a climb feels challenging at first – perseverance is key in climbing.

Understanding Bouldering Grades

Bouldering grades can be understood by familiarizing oneself with the V-Scale, Font Scale, and B-Scale.


The V-Scale is one of the most widely used bouldering grading systems, and it’s named after John Vermin Sherman, a renowned climber. This rating system provides a straightforward way to understand the difficulty level of bouldering problems.

The V-Scale ranges from V0 (the easiest) to V17 (the most challenging). Each grade represents a significant increase in difficulty, so as you progress through the scale, expect more demanding and intricate climbing maneuvers.

Keep in mind that different climbing gyms or outdoor areas may have slight variations in their own interpretation of the V-Scale, so it’s always good to familiarize yourself with specific locations’ grading systems.

Font Scale

The Font Scale is another widely used bouldering grading system, particularly in Europe. It was developed by the British climber Jerry Moffatt and is named after the Fontainebleau forest in France, a renowned bouldering destination.

The Font Scale uses numbers to grade boulder problems, ranging from 1 (easiest) to 9b+. In this system, each individual climb is assigned a specific number based on its difficulty level. Unlike the V Scale, which focuses mainly on physical difficulty, the Font Scale takes into account other factors such as balance, technique, and mental challenge.

Therefore, if you come across climbing routes that are graded using the Font System while exploring European bouldering areas or gyms that follow this rating system, make sure to familiarize yourself with its different levels so you can gauge accurately their difficulty and choose your challenges accordingly.


The B-Scale is another bouldering grading system that is commonly used alongside the V-Scale and the Font system. While the V-Scale and Font system focus on the physical difficulty of bouldering problems, the B-Scale takes into account other factors such as technique, style, and mental challenge.

This makes it a more comprehensive grading system for boulderers looking to assess their skills.

On the B-Scale, bouldering problems are graded using letters ranging from B0 (easier) to B17 (harder). Each letter represents a different level of difficulty, similar to how numbers are used in other rating systems.

The precise classification within each letter grade can vary depending on local climbing areas or gym-specific standards.

Whether you’re just starting out or already an experienced boulderer, understanding different grading scales like the B-Scale can provide valuable insights into your progress and help you find routes that suit your skill level.

Comparing Climbing and Bouldering Ratings

Bouldering and climbing ratings, although serving the same purpose, are quite different. Let’s delve deeper into the distinctions.

 Climbing RatingsBouldering Ratings
1. BasisClimbing ratings take into account both the physical difficulty and other factors such as the risk involved.Bouldering grades are solely based on the physical difficulty of the problem, risk factors are not considered.
2. Commonly Used Grading SystemsEvolution of Class 5 Ratings is a popular system for climbing.The V or Vermin Scale and the Font system are commonly used for bouldering.
3. Range of GradesClimbing grades have a wide range based on the system used.The V Scale grades bouldering problems on a scale from V0, which is the easiest, to V17, the most difficult.
4. VariabilityClimbing grades may vary based on location, weather, and individual interpretation.Bouldering grades can also vary between different climbing gyms and outdoor climbing areas.

Knowing the distinction between climbing and bouldering ratings allows you to understand the challenges you face more accurately and prepare accordingly.


Understanding bouldering grades and ratings is essential for any rock climbing enthusiast. By familiarizing yourself with the various grading systems such as the V-Scale, Font Scale, and B-Scale, you can better gauge your skill level and track your progress.

Whether you’re a beginner or an expert climber, understanding these ratings will help you choose routes that match your abilities and push your limits in a safe and rewarding way. So get out there, explore different bouldering areas, and challenge yourself to conquer new grades!


1. What do bouldering grades and ratings mean?

Bouldering grades and ratings are a system used to describe the difficulty level of a boulder problem or route in rock climbing. They provide climbers with a consistent way to compare the challenges of different climbs.

2. How are bouldering grades determined?

Bouldering grades are typically determined based on factors such as the type and size of holds, the steepness of the climb, the length of the boulder problem, and any specific technical moves required. The grading scales vary slightly depending on regional preferences.

3. Can I use bouldering grades from one area to compare climbs in another area?

While bouldering grades aim to provide a universal measurement for difficulty, it’s important to note that there can be variations between different climbing areas or even within a single location due to subjective judgments by developers or local climbers. It is best to consider these variations when comparing climbs across different locations.

4. Should beginners pay attention to bouldering grades?

Yes, beginners can benefit from paying attention to bouldering grades as they start their climbing journey. Starting with easier graded problems allows beginners to build strength and technique gradually while gaining confidence before progressing towards more challenging climbs at higher grade levels.

Calvin Rivers

Hey, I’m Calvin Rivers, a climbing veteran with 10+ years on crags and walls around the world. I can’t wait for you to explore our site and fall in love with the outdoors just like I have.

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