The curious case of Yishun SAFRA climbing grades

Table of Contents

For those of you who frequent climbing gyms such as Climb Central (CC), On Sight (OS), Ground Up (GU), Climbing Lab (CL), and T Hall (TH) you’ll find that the routes at Yishun SAFRA (YS) are kind of under graded. First of all, you are right. But that will depend on what you are comparing with. Why the grades at YS are graded the way it is you must first understand the complex story behind it.

Yishun SAFRA Route Setting Volunteers

Yishun SAFRA Adventure Club is under the management of SAFRA Adventure Club. Unfortunately, SAFRA had hardly ever set or changed any routes on the climbing walls. The regular route setting exercise since 2011 had been done by a group of regular Yishun climbers. They volunteer their own time to set new routes. Unlike route setting at other commercial gyms. The routes are set by gym staff or paid route setters using impact drills and cherry pickers. The volunteers at Yishun SAFRA set routes by leading up the 15m wall. They’ll remove the old holds and put up new ones using an Allen key mostly under the hot afternoon sun. While holds are hoisted up by top rope or carried by route setters themselves.

Maintenance of the routes is taken care of by the regular climbers. They ensure the holds are not loose or altered to ensure the quality of the climb as it is intended. Under the management of SAFRA, these volunteers get free climbing passes depending on the number of routes they set. Now under Camelot management, these volunteers are still actively setting routes for others to enjoy. Apart from setting routes, the regular climbers at YS also contributed new holds to replace the old ones at SAFRA. They are also the ones maintaining the Yishun Climbing Community Facebook group. Where climbers get regular updates on news regarding YS’s climbing gym such as events and promotions.

Back to the grades

Now that the behind the scene story had been cleared up, we can talk about the YS route grades. As the volunteer route setters are relatively decent climbers and do not work for the gym. Hence they do not need to set easy routes to ensure newbie climbers can make it to the top. However, they will normally set at least one 6a or 6a+ on each wall for warmups. Unfortunately, this 6a or 6a+ can feel like 6b or 6b+ at other Singapore climbing gyms.

Some common complaints about YS routes are. The moves are too big, holds are too small, and critical holds are always in a negative position. The reason for the big moves is because the route setters need to put up as many routes as possible. And with a limited number of available holes on the wall. Having too many small holds on a route. That is because big holds are too heavy to hoist up a 15m wall. Finally, why are critical holds always in a negative position? Well just take it that the route setters are assholes. However, rest assured YS grades are an accurate representation of outdoor climbing grades. Because most of the route setters had climb outdoors and know what an outdoor 6a or 6a+ feels like.

So next time you are at Yishun SAFRA and see the volunteers setting routes. Please go over to say hi and thank them for their effort. And if you chose to frequent Yishun SAFRA your lead climbing will definitely improve dramatically.

The unofficial Yishun SAFRA grade conversion table

The unofficial official YS SAFRA grade conversion table

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Lydia Yang

    Interesting article, climbed there so many times but never knew the story behind it.
    Great blog by the way! We need more Singapore climbing blogs:)

    1. Yong En

      Hi Lydia,
      Thanks. We are putting up new routes soon. There is a regular group of us that climb at Yishun SAFRA every sat hope to see you there.

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