Planet Granite Bouldering Circuits

How many times have you jumped on a gym climb to warm-up, only to find yourself completely pumped at the top? Conversely, how many times have you sailed up a gym climb that was at your project level? Trust us, we’ve been there. Some problems can feel easier or harder depending on one’s style, strengths and weaknesses. Why is it that the difficulty of one 5.10a can vary so wildly from a 5.10a set 5 feet away?

Answer: climbing grades are inherently subjective.

That’s why, we’re trying out a new, less arbitrary grading system than what is typically found in outdoor areas and gyms across the country. This system is called circuit-based grading, also known as circuits. While the concept of the bouldering circuit is still catching on in the United States, it is widely practiced in many European countries, like Germany and France. It’s basically a sliding scale to more accurately depict the difficulty of a bouldering problem.

Our circuit-based scale for difficulty begins with the red tagged problems as the easiest on the scale, followed by orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink, white, and, finally, black, which is the hardest circuit of problems in the gym. Because it’s an overlapping scale, some problems in a harder circuit will feel easier than some problems in an easier circuit, but overall the harder circuits will have more hard problems than the easier circuits and vice versa.

Here’s are the benefits of circuit-based grading systems:

  1. Amazing Training Opportunity: The basic idea behind circuits is to complete a color theme in its entirety, and not problem by problem. The end result is that you’re climbing a higher volume of boulders in a shorter amount of time, which increases both your endurance and power endurance. Completion of an entire circuit also means you have pretty much mastered those grades.
    Additionally, circuits are also a good way to look at where you might need work. If you can complete every problem within the blue circuit except for the overhanging one, that means that you may need to step up your overhang game. You can improve your overhang climbing abilities by trying to complete as many overhang circuit problems as you can—the aim should be to achieve the highest color possible. You’ll find yourself able to complete “higher” colors depending on how much the particular angle suits your style.
  2. Increases Awareness of Climbing Strengths and Weaknesses: It will help give climbers a better picture of where their ability levels are at: for example, completing every route within the orange circuit means you’re a more well-rounded climber than completing just one V5 would indicate.
  3. Improves Your Ability to Read Climbing Routes: Instead of just looking at the climbing grade number posted at the bottom of the route, you’ll learn to really look at the problem and judge it based on visual cues versus.
  4. Higher Quality Climbs: You’ll have higher quality problems because our setters will be more focused on quality versus a specific, subjective grade.
  5. Overall Better Climbing Experience: It will help take some of the pressure to climb a certain grade off of climbers, which encourages a more positive experience.

There is definitely an adjustment period in getting used to the circuit grading. For example, you may find yourself constantly glancing at the wall trying to remember what orange is rated, but once you get the hang of it, it’s super easy. You’ll find yourself having just as much fun as ever while climbing. You’ll  also complete new challenges, such as completing as many circuits as you can. The endurance you’ll gain will make you a better climber.

We hope you now have a better understanding of the new system we’re implementing in our bouldering area at Planet Granite Sunnyvale, and find yourself enjoying it as much as we think you will.

Have an opinion on the new Circuit based systems? We’d love to hear your thoughts–tell us what you think.