Mixed Grades 2005/2006

Albert Leichtfried's Drylands Grades Dec 28th 2005 (Albert just did Game Over bareback, pretty cool!).

Updated December 28, 2005 with grades from Drylands, Austria, courtesy Albert Leichtfried.

This is an on-going list of hard mixed routes around the world. In 2004 and 2005 the popularity of "bareback" mixed climbing really took off, and to me and others chasing difficult routes, "bareback/pure style" is becoming the standard for grading hard mixed routes. The energy for "bareback/pure style" is awesome, I'm getting emails from all over the world about people repeating hard mixed routes bareback, yeah! It's good to see a style develop among many climbers and spread all over the world.

Some useful links:

Evgeny Krivosheitsev's take on it all after a strong visit to Canmore last year. Evgeny prefers the term "Pure Style" for bareback, that's why I use bareback/pure style, same idea. Note that some of the route names have changed around, clear enough. Evgeny is one of the strongest mixed climbers going...

Bubu's take on it all.

Robert Jasper's bareback ascent of Vertical Limits, M12. (Cut and paste translation from Babel Fish here)

Some more movement commentary here

Style/Grade Notes: I have written a lot about mixed style. The very short version is that the adition of spurs in 2002/2003 to mixed climbing made steep routes relatively very easy, and relatively boring. Good bolt-on spurs allow no-hands rests virtually anywhere on a route. Spurs lead to a "Hook foot over head, repeat to top or until bored" style of climbing. In rock climbing routes are re-graded if somebody finds a solid knee-bar or new rest, spurs are far better than even the best knee bar for resting, so routes done with spurs are now graded for that style of ascent. Spurs reduce steep routes to boulder problems separated by near-total rests--boring. Climbing "bareback/pure style," meaning without spurs but with leashless tools and good light boots, requires very similar effort to climbing these routes as they were originally graded (leashes to help hang on, but big boots with bad crampons), and in my opinion climbing spur-free is a hell of a lot more fun, way better movement. Check out this link too if you want the full explanation... I feel strongly that people should climb in whatever style they want to, and will use my spurs on anyone who claims their style is the only "clean" style. This is ultimately a crazy fun sport and that's where the energy should be, give 'er!

Note: Rock grades and mixed routes obviously require different skills. A pure rock climber will not find bareback M12 equal to 13a/7c+ without a lot of practice. Until you're really comfortable with tools everything seems really hard. These grades assume an equal fitness/skill level for rock and mixed.

Route FA, year "Old School Grade" Grade with spurs, or "Comp Style." Bareback/Pure style Mixed Grade Comments
Game Over, Drylands, Austria Albert Leichtfried. 2005 NA M12- M13 Game Over is Europe's hardest mixed route for sure. Albert first did it comp style, but then went back (Dec 26th) did it bareback. Since then Bubu and maybe one other person have also repeated it bareback. Scott Muir did the second ascent, but it's clear from the video that spurs, as usual, reduce the difficulty of this route substantially.

The Game Reloaded, Cineplex

Will Gadd, 2005 NA M12- M13+ Firth originally bolted the finish to The Game so you could climb out over the ice and on up, but couldn't finish it before the ice totally filled the end in as it does some years. The Game Reloaded finishes Ben's original line, and adds some hard climbing when you're well-thrashed. Evgeny Krivosheitsev did a bareback/pure style repeat and found it good value.
The Game, Cineplex Ben Firth, 2004 Not Given


Maybe easier as holds evolve...



Ben's Firth's first ascent involved minimal spurring because he had shitty spurs and was done without several "intermediate" holds that appeared in the spring of '04. The ascents in the spring of '04 involved anything from creative hold cleaning to continuous massive spurring. With spurs you can run laps and hang for hours on the Game, I've done it, let's stop pretending and admit it ain't that hard despite what we read in the mags. With bareback style each of the three span release moves become harder and harder with the pump. Many of the spring '04 ascents also involved very tight ropes to control the swings (not so with Berger and some other ascents). No self-respecting climber would call the tight rope ascents clean.
Jedi Mind Tricks Jared Ogden, Ryan Nelson, 2004 NA hard Not done. This route looks like a good candidate for "hardest mixed route" if done bareback. Done with full trickery, no bareback ascent yet.
Musashi, Cineplex Will Gadd, Ben Firth, 2002 M12, 13a/7c+




5.13a/7C+ or so

Musashi is primarily an endurance route with one harder dyno move. With spurs the crux is easier and there is no endurance issue as you can rest between moves on the tools or spurs. Many ascents have been done with an ass cheek on a tool to make the reach even easier than with spurs. Even with Beta it hasn't received a flash ascent. It has received several bareback or close to bareback ascents from Evgeny, Bubu, Chris Cubits (sp?) and me, with attempts from Ines and Simon. This route has been at the centre of this game for a long time and has seen the most ascents both bareback and spur-style, so it's a good reference.
Rocky Horror, Cineplex Grant Meekins, Dave Thomson, 2002


M12, 2004




5.13a/7C+ or so.

Rocky Horror is a great pump fest. Or add spurs for the flash, as has happened three or more times. The crack is changing regularly with ice buildup or not. With spurs Rocky is probably slightly harder than Musashi. Without spurs they are pretty much the same. Some of the original crack holds have broken, which makes the route a bit harder.

Tension, Drylands

Albert Leichtfried, 01/2004




With spurs good rests in the roofs, without spurs the 2nd roof is hardcore

Piltdown Man, Hafner Joe Buszowski, Will Gadd, Evgeny Krivosheytsev NA NA M12 Originally called, "Piltdown Man, M14" as a riposte to the grading of Alcatraz. Short, bouldery, powerful route. "Piltdown Man" was a hoax "missing link" in anthropology.


Glenwood Canyon

Rich Purnell, 2005

NA M11 M12 Excellent route. Originally touted as M14. Second ascent and third ascents took less than two days, mainly because finding all the holds on this route takes some time. This is a classic "pump" route where the pump factor isn't there with full trickery. The climbing is far better trickery-free, lots of inventive heel-toe locks and such in the Huecos. Among the top three routes in the world.
Vertical Limits, Ueschenen

Robert Jasper,


Not Given Ines says M11 as does the guide Updated--Jasper does it "Ohne Heelhooks," M12

Yet another top mixed climber playing the "BB" game. Pretty cool, Jasper has been at it for a long time, starting way back in the day with "Flying Circus," one of the first M10s in Europe.

This is an interesting route, basically a long traverse on an overhanging wall across every other route. It has been flashed, done second try, etc., but all only with spurs until Jaspe went back at it. Bubu found it rather straightforward, it was part of what made him switch styles.

Neolithic, Hafner Joe Buszowski, 2003 -



With spurs the bouldery span moves are still difficult, and this route isn't a full horizontal roof, so the difference between being able to spur like mad and not isn't as great. Rocky saw a lot of quick spur ascents and flashes, Neo hasn't despite supposedly being "easier." The reality is that spurs don't help as much on Neo as they do on Rocky. Joe Buszowski did the FA of this route, which is probably the hardest FA from a guy in his mid-forties, pretty cool. I think this is a solid M11. JD LeBlanc, who opened the route with Joe, has been working it bareback and will send soon.

Fontok, Drylands, Austria

Albert Leichtfried, 01/2004




With and without spur hard crux at the end, with spur better rests

Tomhawk, Isenfluh, Switzerland   M11- M9 M10? An endurance route that traverses, the pulls are similar with or without spurs but as usual the rests are far better with spurs.
White out, Switzerland Robert Jasper, 2003? M10 M9+ ? A short route with a roof crux, which spurs do a lot to reduce. Holds break and "re-form" regularly on this route. Isen
Fire Roasted, Hoar House, Hafner, Canada JC bolted and who knows redpointed, 2005 NA M9+ M10+ A friend of mine worked this yesterday and said, "Anyone who can't see the difference between spurs and bareback doesn't know what they are talking about." Excellent route either way.
X Files, Italy Stevie Haston, 2000? M10 M9? ? Probably M10- A classic route that has changed a lot over the years but remains classic.
Cave Man, Hafner Sean Isaac, 2000 M10-, 12b/c


5.11b-5.11d, varies



This route starts steep but then eases off, and is really good with or without spurs, but spurs allow for rests, which, not surprisingly, makes it easier but no less fun.
Reptile, Vail Will Gadd, 1999?

M10 (originally rated m9)


?M8+ M10 Perfect for spurring. This was one of Bubu's early onsights, he was probably the first to truly realize the potential of spurs. His original ones weren't bolt-on, which makes a huge difference.
Amphibian, Vail Will Gadd, Helgi Christianson, 1997? M9/5.12b ? ? This route was part of the learning curve for the sport, and we're definitely a lot better with our tools and less intimidated by dry tooling than we were then. The result is that it is relatively casual today but still good fun. It's also not that steep, which means spurs don't help as much.
Mojo, Hafner Sean Isaac, 2000?



M8+ to M9+


M8+ to M9+


Depends on where the ice is and what holds have broken or formed. Spurs don't make much of a difference on lower-angled routes. The holds on this route also change dramatically from day to day, as does the grade. The crux is generally bouldery depending on conditions, but only one move with a pumpy ice slab.

Rough rock grade comparisons, but like it says above, "Rock grades and mixed routes obviously require different skills. A pure rock climber will not find bareback M12 equal to 13a/7c+ without a lot of practice. Until you're really comfortable with tools everything seems really hard. These grades assume an equal fitness/skill level for rock and mixed. "

Modern Mixed Grade (bareback/pure style/reloaded or "old school")

Like any mixed route the onsight effort is way higher due to having to find the holds.

Bareback "Rock Grade" Spur Grade (assuming it's steep, and for the redpoint grade)
M8 5.10 to easy 5.11 No big difference.


M9- to M9+

Somewhere around 11d/7a to 12b/7b M8 if it's steep, otherwise no big difference.


M10- to M10 +




M11- to M11+

5.12b/7b to c or d/7c. M10 or so, sometimes easier if it's a big roof.
M12 12d/7c to 13b/8a M10 to soft M11
M13 13c/8a+ and up M11 to M12- , not many routes of this grade yet. The Game Reloaded felt like a letter grade harder than the Game done bareback, but I just added a plus symbol to the grade rather than calling it M14.
M14 ? ?

Style Notes: What is what?

Bareback (Evgeny calls it Pure Style, Albert Leichtfried designates routes done this way as "reloaded.":

-Tools are for your hands, not your ass, to quote Harri Berger. Stacking the other tool on the pick or grip is OK. No hooking the tool with shoelaces (yep, that’s another tactic, I kid you not), no feet/spurs on your tools. It’s not complicated. -Nothing on your crampons that allows a no-hands rest purely on gear. Go ahead and toe jam, knee bar, heel hook, whatever, just don’t hang by the spurs/toe spikes/piercings and call it free climbing.

-Climbing in this style is very technical and interesting--it's possible to "rake" with the secondary points and sometimes get rests or at least shakes, heel-hook, heel/toe cam, kneebar, and all the other ticks common to hard sport climbing. I've found my climbing "mind" has really opened up climbing this way, it's pretty damn cool!

-Albert Leichtfried, who opened many of the hard routes in the Drylands in Austria, prefers adding "reloaded" to a route's name to designate a "bareback/pure style" ascent, and adding "comp style" to designate that style, with the grades matching. He has already done "Tension Reloaded" and a few others, and is working on Game Over "reloaded" this week. Good luck!

Comp Style

-Comes from the World Cup rules. Spurs allowed, but only on the rock/ice. Tools are for your hands only--no sitting on a tool, leg over tool, etc. Generally a bit harder than "Full Trickery," but not much. It takes time to really learn how to use spurs, and they have to be bolt-on to make them work really well.

Full Trickery

-Anything goes. Spurs, tool shaft sits, sitting on one pick while hooking both handles together to make a seat, etc. etc.