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X- versus full X

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Jbryancoop, Nov 1, 2018.

  1. Jbryancoop


    I have read several people commenting that Sandthrax is a X- so I am curious what are some canyons that are full Xs and what really makes the difference?
  2. Bootboy

    Bootboy Atwood Gear

    The emerging consensus on the ranking of the X slots is as follows, from least to most difficult/consequential on a scale of 1-6:

    1. Egypt 5, Lower PINTAC, Big Tony, Psycho D
    2. Sandthrax, Frosted Flakes, Mumbai
    3. Glaucoma, DDI, Egypt 4
    4. Long Branch, Full PINTAC
    5. Bishop, SOS
    6. Bad Neighbor

    A few factors, in various degrees and combinations affect these rankings. They include but are not limited to:
    Exposure, total stemming time, rock quality, up-climbs, wall features/holds, width, nature of movement, silos, team work elements, and to a lesser extent; technical/anchor challenges.

    Hoping a few other “X-men”(and women) will chime in here.
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2018
  3. Preston Gable

    Preston Gable

    How about a list of R canyons for those of us wanting to work into X?
    Ram likes this.
  4. Ram


    First the R question....Try Raven (aka Foxhole), Pottymouth, the non X part of Big Tony and Stair, which are all R's. After these, share what was comfortable and what wasn't and the entry into X- comes next. Perhaps Lower Pintac.

    What makes an X vs X-?
    It is a bit of an evolution. The first time I heard canyons get these type of ratings was from the Steve Allen's group. Their ratings are stiffer than the generally accepted ratings of today. Examples were. Big Tony got an R+/X- rating. DDI got an R rating. Today they are both X's.

    I am speculating a bit here on the old ratings, but having done 10 on Boots list above (last one 3.5 years ago-I'm done!), The Allen group took difficulty as a factor more than exposure. Tony's X section is short and straight forward. It does have spots where 50-60 foot ground falls would be the result of an error. DDI is remarkable in that it has little in the way of gapers or silos, yet it does have you between 15-60 feet off the ground and for 3.5 hours in a row (an average). The rock quality on one wall, is poor, but the moves are reasonable, even as the experience is a bit of a marathon. So I fully get the Allen group rating DDI an R, by my speculation of what held sway for them.

    A decade back, when I was still able to plod through a moderate X, I was with Nat Smale, who at that time had done more hard canyons that anyone since the Allen group (early 90's) was particularly active in the X game. His take on it was that the CONSEQUENCES of a fall mattered more than the difficulty of movement. His thinking changed my perspective. Till then I honored the old ratings, as the pioneers had earned the right to rate them. It was just good manners, even if I disagreed here and there.

    Moving forward, a bunch of us shifted some of the ratings into the X and X-, that had R and R+ ratings, because the the "consequences" approach to rating. Back then PINTAC was the most difficult canyon known.

    About a decade ago, a pair of canyons harder than PINTAC were done. They were Bishop and SOS. With insidious route finding and more and sustained difficulties, a new rating evolved for these canyons (and eventually Bad Neighbor too). That was when the XX rating came about for these super challenging slots came into general acceptance. Interestingly, is that no one had done both SOS and Bishop, until the cadre of hard X Men plying their trade today. This is just a few years back, Kudos to those pushing the careful, my friends.

    So you mentioned Sandthrax. Allow me to plug that into the "consequences model." Yes, it is an X due to the crux. But it also has a few other spots. A pair of silos that would be fatal to blow. So if you rate a climb and for that matter a canyon, by its hardest move(s), then Sandthrax earns its X- rating right there, independent of the crux. But most of the canyon you are above.....yes you are off the ground for nearly all the way.......a V shaped canyon, that falling to the bottom would be impeded by the shape and narrowness. I am not saying that is safe, by any means. I am not implying that falling/sliding 15 to 40 feet into a constriction won't ruin your day, if not kill you, but it is not a vertical ground fall, that could happen, in places in many of the X canyons. Thus those type of constrictions can earn R+ ratings for their individual sections.

    So nowadays, it is, with some variation. Fall and you die is an X. Fall and get busted up is a R
  5. Bootboy

    Bootboy Atwood Gear

    In my mind, the current ratings list above factors in primarily difficulty and exposure, one doesn't necessarily take precedence over the other. So, in theory, you could have two canyons that are quantitatively equal by rating, but qualitatively are profoundly different.

    For example DDI is about 3 hours of stemming, while the movement is fairly straightforward and flowy, but you stem for 0.7 of a mile and after a while, its cumulative effect is felt. You feel pretty worked by the end of the day. There are no moments of particular pucker-factor or obstacles that are especially difficult. You don't face crux type moves and ultimate consequences simultaneously.

    Bad neighbor, on the other hand... While only 0.1 mile long, exacts roughly the same physical toll as X canyons that are 7+ times longer (DDI). This is attributable to the numerous 40-50' up-climbs, featureless walls, and high-tension, dont-f-up silo crossings. While a much shorter distance is travelled, the physicality of the movement is the equalizer. The factors that take it up to the King-of-the-X-canyons are the mental and psychological factors, the consequences and exposure that accompany the most difficult moves. You are making the most difficult moves while facing the gravest of consequences.

    Do not discount the mental factor in rating X canyons. World class chess players maintain heart rates, blood pressures, and caloric consumption rates nearly equivalent to marathon runners while exercising only their brains. This is a very real phenomenon factoring into X canyons as well and highlights the imperative of mental conditioning in addition to physical.
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2018
  6. Jolly Green

    Jolly Green

    Farmington, UT
    I'm certainly not in the X-Men group but my appreciation for a good stemming canyon has grown immensely over the years. My addition to this thread would be to recommend a warmup day prior to jumping right in. I think we've all had off days where our flow and movement just isn't as smooth as we would like it to be. I've noticed that for me this is usually the first day of the trip. Subsequent days usually work out better. YMMV but I enjoy stemming canyons far more when I'm having an on day than an off day. In other words, self-evaluation is extra important in physically and mentally challenging places.

    If you do drop into a stemming canyon and can tell you aren't feeling it, don't hesitate to say something to your group and take an early exit if possible. A high stem is not a great place for doubt. While much of the work is up to you as an individual, verbal cues, tips, and reassurance from the group can help get everyone through. This idea is just as applicable to a newbie in Hog 1 as it is an X canyon.
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