climber on boulder

© iStockfoto/Ken Babione

V scale for bouldering

In bouldering, a scale used to describe the difficulty of problems. (In bouldering, particular ascents are called “problems”, not routes.) It is sometimes called the Hueco scale, from the Hueco Tanks State Historic Site east of El Paso, Texas, where John “Vermin” Sherman developed the scale in the 19XX's (the “V” is from Sherman's nickname).

The scale begins at VB, proceeds to V0 and then goes up to (at present) V16, though in theory it is open-ended. Climbs above V6 challenge most experienced climbers.

Ratings are developed by consensus. The first person to solve a problem gives it a rating based on his or her experience with other problems. Subsequent climbers suggest modifications, and the rating gradually converges on an accepted value. Sometimes, ratings will acquire plus or minus marks that indicate that the person repeating the rating thinks the rating over- or underrates the problem.

Ratings are published in guidebooks and periodicals like Climbing magazine. Some examples:

Name Where Rating
The Automator Rocky Mt. Nat'l Park, CO, USA V13
Unendliche Geschichte 1 Magic Wood, Switzerland V12
The Vice Kleinfontein, Rocklands, South Africa V13
Chicken and a 40 near Meeker Park, CO, USA V6 

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