Climbers use two grading systems for sport and top rope climbing. They are YDS (Yosemite Decimal System) and French.
YDS is a grading system for hiking, scrambling, and climbing. It is widely used in the United States while the French system is more popular around the world. These two system correlate with each other. Let us talk about how to understand the level of difficulty of these systems.
There are three parts to a YDS. Let’s clarify with an example. Imagine we see 5.3.
5 talks about “Class” of the hike, scramble, or climb. 5 is a rock wall that needs a rope. The second part which is three, can vary from 2-15 and describes the difficulty of the moves.
Sometimes you might see 5.10a. Letter a, b, c, or d, precisely describes the difficulty of climb. For instance, 5.10a is easier than 5.10d or 5.10a is closer to 5.9 than 5.10d. 5.2-5.9 are beginner levels. 5.10a to 5.11d are intermediate. 5.12a to 5.13d are advanced and 5.14a to 5.15c are professional levels.
The first number is from 1 to 9 and describes the difficulty of the climb.
In French system, the first number is from 1 to 9 and describes the difficulty of the climb. Letter, a, b, or c, describe the difficulty of the climb just as it does in the YDS. The + in French grades is an added level of specificity that makes the level more precise. 1-6a are beginner levels, 6a+ to 7a+ are intermediate levels, 7b-8b are advanced and 8b+ up to 9b+ are professional levels.
Bouldering grades are different. The French system is exactly the same except for the 9a level for super professional climbers.
The V scale in YDS system is so simple. The level of the difficulty varies from 0-17. V0 is the beginner level and V17 is the hardest one.