What’s in a number?

Would a route by any other rating be as hard?

I haven’t climbed at Cathole in years, and by years I probably mean 10 of them. There was only one route I could remember having anything to do with and that was Pegasus. I knew it was one of the Connecticut classics and remembered it as being about 5.7 and not too bad, but the new Falcon guide I was carrying called it 5.8+ and 5.8+ is hard, harder than I’ve ever led in Connecticut.

After John and I had warmed up on Pink Elephants (unexpectedly difficult, as I’m not an off-width fan) and Golden Book (more pleasant than anticipated), I had to make the call as to whether we were going to wait for someone to drop a TR on Pegasus or if I was going to lead it. Reasoning that the gear was good and that 5.8+ was within my range, though it might cause me to pause and fret, I tied into the sharp end.

I kept waiting for the 5.8+ moves, but they never came. It climbs like the 5.7 I remember it being before revisionist rating struck. With good gear always in reach, I made a stressless ascent. John sailed up it nicely too.

What’s in a number is a whole host of thoughts but no reality. Pegasus, the route, is the same whatever number we stamp on it. Pegasus, the experience, varies according to my expectations and actions, which I allow to vary based on that number. Because the rating was acceptable to me, I chose to lead it. Because the moves were easier than I had anticipated based on the rating, it was a successful, pleasant experience. But the choice and the judgment were based on thin air–someone else’s opinion of how I ought to feel.

Obviously it’s necessary to take the rating into account to some degree when making choices (for the sake of safety), but using it to form an entire spectrum of expectations, which later become judgments, is counter-productive to enjoying the moment. The route, by any other number, is the same if I, by any other number, take it for what it is.

Dawn led all
Pink Elephants, 5.5
Golden Book, 5.6
Pegasus, 5.8
Block of Ages, 5.5
Elegant Monkey, 5.6

October 20, 2010   Posted in: Cathole, Connecticut Crags

Leave a Reply