Here at the Spot we grade all our problems with a “spot system”. The system is unique to the Spot, and, as all grading scales are relative anyways, we generally try to avoid admitting a direct correlation to any other system. This is how we mark our routes:
The two most important parts of this for you are the number of spots and the route rules. We have three sets of route rules in the Spot. The most commonly used is N/T, which stands for Naturals/Tracking, and means you can grab and step on any hold carved into the boulders (the naturals) or any hold marked on the problem with tape (the tracking). Sometimes you will see anO/F or OF, which stands for Open Feet, and means your hands are limited to naturals and taped-on holds but your feet can use any holds on the wall, natural or bolted on, and regardless of their tape color. The final designation is a circled T, which means Tracking only–you can only use taped-on holds for your hands and your feet. The exception to this is the top-out–naturals are always on for top-outs at the Spot unless they are taped off that specific problem (for example, if the problem goes left or right of where you are when you near the top of the wall, and the setter wants you to climb through that left or right top-out instead of going straight up).
Though we try to avoid using the V-grade system, since we are all outdoor climbers as well it is pretty much impossible to avoid using it to help us decide how hard problems are when we’re forerunning them. Spot climbers often want to know what correlation we use so they know how hard they’re training inside and what they should be climbing on when they go outside.
The V system (the most commonly used outdoor bouldering grade system in the United States) was developed by John “the Vermin” Sherman. It starts with VB and, at the moment, goes up to V16. The Spot system goes from 1 Spot – to 5 Spot + This means there are 15 grade categories at the Spot. In addition, just like outside climbing, there are “hard for the grade” and “easy for the grade” problems, even within each Spot rating. Also, a problem may be harder or easier for you depending on your specific strengths. When forerunning we try to take these things into consideration, but if you’re good at crimping, a crimpy 4 Spot will probably feel much easier to you than a compression 4 Spot will. With that in mind, here’s a rough translation: