"Fontainebleau" grade system to be effectively banned in the UK - boulderbrighton.com

"Fontainebleau" grade system to be effectively banned in the UK

"Fontainebleau" grade system to be effectively banned in the UK

New rules to apply as part of Brexit regulations - but don't worry, we've got a plan

Like everyone else in the climbing community, we were shocked and saddened to hear that the Fontainebleau grading system which we know and love, and have used at Boulder Brighton since we opened in 2013, will soon be effectively outlawed under regulations confirmed by the government's Brexit department this morning, due to its origins in mainland Europe. Instead, a British equivalent will need to be used.

The new regulations outlined today are intended to protect British foodstuffs and trademarks such as "Cheddar" cheese, "Cumberland" sausages and "Buckfast" tonic wine, by imposing enormous tariffs on the use in the UK of their continental equivalents. Any businesses wanting to use products or systems originating in France, Germany, Spain or elsewhere across the channel will soon have to pay large licence fees to do so, or face huge fines and even criminal prosecution.

The costs of these licences, often climbing into the tens of thousands of pounds, effectively prohibit small businesses like ours from using European equipment or systems and will leave us reliant on British-sourced alternatives. Luckily, an exception written into the rules to protect export sales of Wellington boots into Europe mean that our ability to stock climbing shoes from La Sportiva, Scarpa, Five Ten, Boreal and other European brands will not be affected (nearly gave us a heart attack!).

When we first heard rumours about this a few weeks ago, we had originally decided to switch to the popular V-grade system, currently used in most other UK bouldering walls, which originated in the USA and therefore falls outside the new rules. However, even this system is under threat due to the lack of an Anglo-American trade agreement which cannot be negotiated until after Brexit is completed. If no deal on the use of US grading systems in the UK can be agreed, all other bouldering walls will have to change their grades too.

As a result, we have decided to take the initiative and create a new, home-grown grading system which we're calling the "BB grade" system, which we have actually been developing ourselves for several years. This a simple grading system going from BB-0 for the very easiest beginner problems, to BB-10 for the hardest boulder problem in the world.

It’s a great new system incorporating size of holds used, angle of wall, distance between holds, and slipperiness of volumes (the Bauer index). Rather than rely on subjective grading from route-setters, a complex formula is then used to work out the final grade. In tests we've done so far the formula successfully mirrors the current grades, with the unusual exception that almost all climbs currently graded 6B, sometimes bemoaned as a "sandbag grade" at Boulder Brighton, translate to a new grade of BB-10 - proving the sandbag theorists right after all. We're currently ironing out a small hitch with the use of the grade "BB-8" due to a copyright claim from Lucasfilm Ltd, but we're hopeful of getting this resolved soon.

According to the new legislation we have exactly 12 months to implement the changes, meaning that we will be changing all our grade tags to the new system by 1st April 2019. For more detail on the government's proposals and what they might mean for other aspects of your climbing life, click here.

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