Data taken from the: routes – all time – global ranking, in the famous web site www.8a.nu.
How many climbers do 7c, 7c+, 8a… ? Are you curious about the average level of a typical sports climber? I went to the only climbers’ database I know, the 8a.nu, and did some research…
In my opinion the chart supra presented should be a reliable representation of the distribution of climbers per level (grade) only when the function “climbers maximum level vs number of climbers” (the red line) starts to decrease (the blue line should also be seen only from there). I cannot say that the former data is or is not representative, though I would guess it’s not!
From the IV to the 7c level the number of climbers is an increasing function of the climbing level.
These result is puzzling and one of two conclusions can be draw (a third conclusion could be a mix of the two): 8a.nu is more interesting for climbers who have a level of 7c (red point) or more; or 7c might be a reachable level for most sports climbers and, therefore, most of the lower level climbers are just the ones that still haven’t reached that level… Thus, we would only find in the lower level (below 7c) the new and in progress climbers, that would be fewer than the already established ones.
From the 7c to the 9a level the number of climbers is a decreasing function of the climbing level.
Probably not a very surprising conclusion … high level (harder) climbs lead to less people succeeding!
The function “climbers’ maximum level vs number of climbers” is convex at the end of the descent (from the 8a level forward). In other words the number of climbers who do a certain level of climbing isn’t reduced at a constant rate, rather, it is reduced at a decreasing rate.
The justification for this fact can be highly speculative… Higher grades can be over graded, lower grades can be under graded (see the post: “professional downgraders”), the grading system can be more sensible to small changes (in the climbing level) when you become closer to the limit, etc.
Especially curious about this result I went to see how the distribution of competitors would look like in a competition where the difficulty is an objective thing (time)… and guess what… When one analyses the results for the 2007 Lisbon’s half marathon, the same convex shape in the right end (just like a normal distribution – in statistics)! Does this mean that we have managed to equal, with our subjective grading system in climbing, an objective grading system like time in the marathons?! It looks like the problem is not one of a biased subjective grading system but rather one of human nature…
This later chart also helps us to shed some light over the first “unreliable” part of the first chart. It looks like it is normal that most people have a middle level (as their maximum) but can we say that 7c is that middle level? Once again I cannot say for sure but I believe not and this is why:– If 7c is the middle level this should be equivalent to doing 115m (1h:45m) in a half marathon;– I’m not a usual runner but I’ve done a 3 or 4 half marathon and for the last I’ve trained (1hour trains) 2 times a week for 2 months and 4 times a week in the last month and I’ve done 94m (1h:34m)!– Could I have succeeded to have an 8a+/8b level in climbing with so little effort? (No way J).
That said, I’m guessing that though the “climbers by grade” real function should be shaped more or less like the first chart (based on the 8a.nu database) its peak (average best grade per climber) should be lower than the 7c.
Feel free to do a comment with your own analysis of this data (you are welcome to do it in english, portuguese, spanish, french or italian).