The Bouldering Grading System

Overview of different grading systems

The here described Bouldering Guidebooks use different bouldering grading systems. The grading systems used in a guidebook differs from the specific region the book chose as a topic.
When giving a summary of the bouldering guide content, refers to the bouldering grading system the guidebook is using.
However as a boulderer used to a specific bouldering grading system or as a beginner in bouldering, you might get a little lost in the different grading descriptions. To be sure that you will find the bouldering difficulty in a guidebook, your are looking for, please find here a little résumé of the two most frequently used bouldering grading systems.

The French Grading System

The French grading system, also called Fontainebleau grading system or Font grading system (often abbreviated with FB), starts at 1, which is the lowest level and goes up to 8 (and even more) with plus and minus sub-devisions to differ the grading. Also letters are used to give more acuteness to bouldering grades. Therefor “a” ist used for being the lowest, “b” the intermediate and “c” the highest subdevision. The Fontainebleau grading system is used in most European countries and South Africa. Beginners should orientate at FB 4- or 5+ bouldering problems.

The Vermin Scale

The Vermin Scale (often abbreviated with V) is used in the United States. Especially at Hueco Tanks and Bishop. The range goes currently from V0 to V15. Each number represents a step up in difficulty from the one before. If you are a total beginner, you should expect VB/V0- to start with. V10 bouldering routes remain untouched at least by 95% of boulderers.

Conversion between V Scale and Font Scale

Below is a chart of showing the conversions between the V Scale and Font Scale.

UIAA Scale

The UIAA (International Union of Alpine Associations) scale consists of Roman numbers from I to X and more – as it is an open scale. It is followed by the sign + (plus) or – (minus) as a subdevision. The system is used in Germany, in other areas of Eastern Europe and in Italy for the classic trad routes.