In addition, because of a wide range in the 5.10 category, I have added a sub-letter (a through d) to further classify comparative difficulties.
Interesting idea. Bridwell has omitted one other reason to downgrade a route: sandbagging. I never sandbagged anyone on purpose, but my best partners sandbagged me. I guess this is old school learning. Sink or swim mate! If it weren't for them I would have been stuck at my grade and never gone way out there into dangerous territory. I have been accused of sandbagging a couple times but it was a combination of my being able to do the route, and over estimating the person I'm sandbagging. So when my friends sandbagged me it was actually a compliment.
Also we tend to see the opposite effect more often - route grades creeping up instead of down. Since everyone can climb 5.12 these days, thats where we start. I wonder how this relates to the phenomenonn the author was seeing, of downgrading.
One thing Bridwell appears to have been concerned about, but has been lost over time, has been keeping the routes in categoriees: face, hand crack, etc. Routes are directly comparable within these categories, but compare across categories and its apples and oranges.
I agree Kevin, just plain old solid grade with a plus or minus is fine.
I do like most of what Jim wrote in the 1973 OP article about downgrading as nothing less than insecure chest thumping.
Perhaps ironically, the A through D system may have instigated rating creep in the other direction. Most routes you come across which are rated in the old plus or minus style are in fact stiffer ratings-wise when compared with "modern routes" -modern, contextually to mean mid-to-late 70s and forward.
And the old sandbag term "not that bad." Ha ha. One of Bachar's favorite tags for just about anything that wouldn't kill you. And we know he was the King of sandbag ratings at upper levels. In his defense however, he was fighting rating creep.
That's like a rebound circle right there.
Bridwell pulls back the curtains on downgrading.
Rating creep ensues for whatever reason, (later going all out of proportion when sport climbing arrives).
Bachar fights rating creep by returning to the stiff old ratings from the plus or minus days (plus some blatant downgrading for good measure), or just "not that bad".
There's a lot of unconscious stuff going on with ratings too. You tend to see clusters at some ratings and nothing at others (one thing I've noticed is that odd numbers dominate in the V grades, for whatever reason V6s seem scarce compared to 5's or 7s...and this isn't based on one area, but something I've noticed over many years and many areas).
And we all laugh about the old quip that difficulty really goes:
I didnt even check who wrote this - now that I see who it is I respect Jim Bridwell even more. But do people agree with this assessment of Yosemite?
Group pride, or the pack instinct, exhibits itself when an entire area is downrated. The climbers here are better than the climbers there, because the climbs here are rated harder.
I believed Yosemite rating were actually the benchmark, at least at one point in time, for climbing ratings across the US. If Yosemite climbs were hard for their ratings, its because everyone else is letting their ratings drift.
Now I learn that the ratings were downrated because of insecurity and sandbagging. It's not that the stonemasters were so much better climbers, it's that they were better sandbaggers. The culmination of all this, is like a meta-sandbag.
I think he's referring to areas like, for example: Granite Mountain, Arizona or Devils Lake, Wisconsin.
Pretty stiff ratings, however the original locals could probably claim "innocent" due to the effects of some isolation.
These days, lots of seminal places like Needles of South Dakota, even Joshua Tree, cripes, even Eldorado Canyon get accused of knowingly instigating sandbagged ratings, but this is by people ignorant of the fact that ratings were invented in places like that: they are, were and should be the standard.
I'm sure we can come up with an area that locals sandbagged just to show off.
(And yes, the Stonemasters were very much into sandbagging! More often than not, towards one another).