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4th Class - Your Definition?

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Re: 4th Class - Your Definition?

Postby Tory Wells » Sun Sep 30, 2012 1:45 pm

Above+Beyond wrote:I was gonna say it depends on your relationship to your inner mountain goat... but actually I like Rosebrough's succinct, rope-based description in The San Juan Mountains (1986, pg 9), perhaps because I've been using it for a long time:

3. Unroped climbing requiring the use of handholds.
4. Roped climbing where a leader climbs without protection but gives the other climbers a belay.

He goes on to give a paragraph of elaboration on each class, using examples in the SJs as calibration, and saying 4th Class is "the most subjective". With a continuum of varieties of terrain and qualities of rock, trying to place all climbs into a small number of discrete classes is obviously going to create borderline instances.

The key word there IME is leader. A 4th Class route is difficult enough that it almost certainly takes someone with Ormes' "carefully graduated experience" to do it unprotected. Following on such a route can be a different matter: relative novices, or those hikers/climbers used to mostly 2nd Class routes, or those who get rattled easily on any kind of steeper or uncertain slopes, often do much better with a belay on 4th Class terrain, if the look of it alone doesn't stop them.

This take on the situation does pretty much correspond to the common facing in/facing out on descent rule of thumb. (Better yet, use a quick, sport rappel for the diciest parts of 4th Class routes, which beats tedious, exposed downclimbing by a mile.) As well, this angle on things lines up fairly well with the fatal fall possibility rule of thumb also, with whether the exposure/traction ratio is high enough for a fall to be both severe and within the conceivable realm of possibility -- i.e., enough of a concern to detract from the enjoyment of the climb.

No one ropes up for class 4 though. Even for California Class 4 (what we might call 5.easy) many people do not use ropes for that either.
Last edited by Tory Wells on Sun Sep 30, 2012 1:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 4th Class - Your Definition?

Postby aaron479 » Sun Sep 30, 2012 1:48 pm

people do rope up for class 4. And, a 5.9 is a 5.9 Alex H. or not.

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Re: 4th Class - Your Definition?

Postby smoove » Sun Sep 30, 2012 2:20 pm

aaron479 wrote:And, a 5.9 is a 5.9 Alex H. or not.


Yes, that was a tongue in cheek comment. I was alluding to how some climbers refer to free soloing fifth class routes as "class 3ing" them. If the consensus is 5.9, it's 5.9 (or close to that).

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Re: 4th Class - Your Definition?

Postby Tory Wells » Mon Oct 01, 2012 8:46 pm

aaron479 wrote:people do rope up for class 4. And, a 5.9 is a 5.9 Alex H. or not.

You're right, some people do rope up for the Hourglass on Little Bear and, more rare, for the Knife Edge on Capitol. But in general, a rope is more of a hinderance than a help on Colorado class 4 routes.
"Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earthbound misfit, am I." -David Gilmour, Pink Floyd

"We knocked the bastard off." Hillary, 1953
"It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves." Hillary, 2003
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Re: 4th Class - Your Definition?

Postby Brian C » Mon Oct 01, 2012 9:17 pm

In reference to the "ropes on 4th class" comments. I think it's common for folks to do the "4th class" routes on 14ers (i.e. North Maroon, Little Bear, Capitol, etc.) and think they are pros at the grade. In my experience, the standard 4th class 14ers are quite soft for the rating. I think this sets people up to receive a shock and feel sandbagged when they get on other routes of the same grade. Once you get on some more sustained 4th class routes (even in CO), it becomes a bit more apparent where a rope would have its place in the hands of a knowledgeable party. Here are just a few that come to mind. These are all 4th class, and all spots where a fall would be disastrous. Even experienced people occasionally use ropes on 4th class...

Little Matterhorn, RMNP - This is the final 4th class to the summit.
Image

Little Pawnee, IPW - This is the initial downclimb toward Pawnee Peak.
Image

The Hammerhead, Flatirons - Exposed and steep 4th class to the summit.
Image

Lone Eagle, IPW - Exposed terrain to get to the summit.
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Re: 4th Class - Your Definition?

Postby milan » Tue Oct 02, 2012 5:26 am

I had feelings that the class 4 sections on the standard 14er routes I've done are just very short pitches, maybe 10 feet maximum within class 3 and 2 routes; so overall, there is a lot of safe places to rest, there is possibility to take a close look at the class 4 section every time and plan how to climb it from a safe ground. I dont't agree with those who say Sunlight is not class 4, it is but just one loong step. I'd have doubt about class 4 on Capitol (still I think it was the most difficult of what I've done). On the other hand, chimney on North Maroon is what I'd expect to be class 4. Still enough holds but not as plentiful as on class 3, a bit weird angle, more rare holds at the top..

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Re: 4th Class - Your Definition?

Postby rickinco123 » Tue Oct 02, 2012 9:50 am

Brian C wrote:The Hammerhead, Flatirons - Exposed and steep 4th class to the summit.
Image


Did you do that last pitch following the line of the rope? I started climber left and traversed across the ledge. I agree its 4th but I protected it in 3 places simply for psychological reasons. If I did it a few more times I could probably nerve up to do it unroped. One of the finest summits in Boulder and an awesome picture BTW.

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Re: 4th Class - Your Definition?

Postby GeezerClimber » Tue Oct 02, 2012 5:44 pm

I'll admit I don't have a lot of experience with hard routes. I have climbed most of the class 3 14ers including Crestone Needle this summer plus Capitol about a month later. Capitol was overall harder IMO and certainly more intense mostly due to the exposure and looser rock in some places but I did not find any single move on Capitol any harder than say moving from the east to west gully on the Needle. I faced in during the descent more on the Needle than on Capitol. For that matter, I faced in more on Wetterhorn. It wasn't out of fright, but the steeper sections were like climbing down a ladder in those cases and just plain easier than facing out. As a result, I'm struggling to understand the difference myself. Perhaps someone can explain why Capitol is 4 and the Needle is 3? Also, if the concensus is that Capitol is 4, is it easy, medium or hard 4? I'm guessing it would be easy 4 much like Kit Carson is easy 3 compared to the Needle's hard 3?

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Re: 4th Class - Your Definition?

Postby Legpowered » Tue Oct 02, 2012 11:05 pm

I find that class 4 is when I start feeling like I need to downclimb facing inward. Class 5 when I want to rappel and dont like downclimbing at all.

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