Who is Mr 8a.nu?

23 10 2007


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! 

Main Conclusions 

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).



14 responses

5 11 2007

How were you able to get all this information from the 8a database??

5 11 2007

It was manual work 😦
I did several searches through the 8a global rankings and individual presentations in this site!

5 11 2007

That is what I thought. It would be incredibly interesting if they were able to make the database open for all to analyze the data using more powerful database tools. This is something I had been interested in for a long time, thanks for doing all the hard work 🙂

6 11 2007

“It would be incredibly interesting if they were able to make the database open”

It would surely be!

Thanks for the support


6 11 2007

Only today I got to know you have this site…
It has plenty of good news – keep on the good work!
Suggestion: anounce it at havista.com

Congratulations for the 3rd place at the Portuguese Boulder Championship!!!
Keep on stôr!!!

6 11 2007

Thanks Sílvio! Congratulations for you too! It was, by far, the most enjoyable competition I have been on! It would be nice to publish here some photos from our comp… Let’s see if I can convince anyone to publish here his/her photos!


“anounce it at havista.com”

I did it already

9 11 2007

Hi, good work!

I think the main reason for this “mean” of 7c in the climbing database is that the people climbing low grades, aren´t so obsessed with grading as they only climb sporadicly, or don´t take it so seriously as others.

When you start to climb or train 4 or 5 times a week, you start to be a “fanatic”, and then you center in grading and progress. Then you know a web to write down your climbings and see your progress.

So, I think there are thousands of people down the 7c. I would guess the 6c-7a as a middle stablished grade (10 sent routes); at least as i see it here in Spain.


13 11 2007

Oh and it should also be noted that many climbers do not seem to register ascents of “easier” routes. It seems that many only register ascents of routes 7a+ and harder.

13 11 2007

The fact that some of us do not mention the easer climbs is of no impact here, since I only studied the 10 hardest climbs of each climber (all time ranking).



19 05 2008
Martin Heywood

A deep analysis of the data sent to you would be almost meaningless, the grades given for many climbs are wrong, people are not truly honest in how they report their ascents and the distinctions between flash, onsight etc are artificial.

2 12 2008


Good work !
I really think 8a.nu is not representative of the level of the entire climbers community. Many people climb once a week or less, and are of a 6 level, but those people don’t register their climb in 8a.nu !
If you want to compare with the result of a popular competition as the half marathon, you would need to have the entire distribution.
But for the rest, that’s interesting for the high levels.

Another point, the time to train : in my opinion, it’s difficult to compare 1 hour of training in climbing and running -or cycling or swimming. (I used to climb, and now I’m into triathlon ! – where we have the same distribution in results).

Again, I think this attempt to compare is good for reasonably high level.
Roughly speaking we could estimate a regional, national, european and international level, for (almost) any sport. This can give a first idea.


16 01 2009
News & Notes - 11/7/07 | Climbing Narcissist

[…] out this pretty cool analysis of the ascents in the 8a.nu database. Without having access to the actual database, any analysis is […]

2 09 2010

Interesting post. You might be interested in this page http://www.ukclimbing.com/logbook/graphs.html
It has stats for UK climbers. It obviously isn’t comparable but the average climb recorded in a UK centered population is only 6a+. I think the maximum climb of the average climber is above this. For example, my max climb this year is 7b+ but my average is 6b+. Too many easy routes I’m afraid. It only takes a few easy ones to bring the average way down.

2 09 2010

Thanks for the feedback and your link Tony!
As soon as I have some free time I will take a good look at it.

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