Rock Climbing Grades and Ratings: Growing as a Climber

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced rock climber, it is important to understand the system for rock climbing grades and ratings in the US. Using these ratings, you can learn and challenge yourself as you train harder to reach the next climbing level. Understanding route grades will allow you to understand yourself as a rock climber.

 Kendall Cliffs Indoor Rock Gym
Kendall Cliffs Indoor Rock Gym provides a variety of route levels.

Rating Systems Differ for Each State

The rock climbing grades and ratings are different for each state in the US and each country around the world. The Sierra Club, a US climbing group in the 1950s, developed a system to rate the difficulty of rock climbing routes called the Yosemite Decimal Rating System (YDRS). Some systems use a handful of climbers to rate a route, while others gather input from multiple climbers about a route.

With YDRS, the scale for top rope climbing can range from 3 to 5.15c. Several variables can influence a climb’s rating: stamina, strength, technical difficulties, protection for the climber, and commitment level. Each grading system ranks these variables differently, which is why each system is subjective and unique. For our purposes, beginner climbers should look for climbs at 5.6, professionals and advanced climbers should try 5.11c or 5.14d climbs.

Kendall Cliffs Indoor Rock Gym
Understanding rock climbing grades and ratings will help you to challenge and strengthen yourself as a climber.

A Breakdown of the YDRS

To break down the system, class 1 is for walking on a pre made trail; class 2 is hiking an incline; class 3 is climbing a sharp incline without a rope; class 4 is an exposed route along a ledge, possibly including a rope; and class 5 signals technical rock climbing that requires a rope.

Class 5 breaks down into more detail.

  • 5.0-5.4 gives climbers good hand and footholds.
  • 5.5-5.7 is a steeper incline but still offers easy holds.
  • 5.8 +/- signals a vertical climb with small, challenging hand and footholds.
  • 5.9 +/- shows that there may be overhung routes and smaller holds.
  • 5.10 a, b, c, d means that climbers need to have significant experience to safely navigate small holds, overhung places, and sequential techniques.
  • 5.11 a, b, c, d are for steep, challenging routes that require strength and stamina.
  • 5.12 a, b, c, d are long routes for challenging footwork and balancing on small holds.
  • 5.13 a, b, c, d; 5.14 a, b, c, d; and 5.15 a are some of the hardest climbs in the world.

It is always a wise idea to gradually work your way up the climbing levels. Never endanger your safety by taking on more than you know you can handle!

Kendall Cliffs Indoor Rock Gym
Improve your skills and safely stretch your comfort zones at Kendall Cliffs indoor rock gym.

Rock Climbing Grades and Ratings at Kendall Cliffs

At our Kendall Cliffs indoor rock climbing gym, our climbing routes range from easy (5.6 for beginner climbers) to intermediate, moderate, and hard at 5.11/12+ levels. Visit us to try out your climbing skills on a variety of routes – our skilled staff is there to help you grow your skillset.