Bouldering, or climbing low to the ground with no ropes, is the simplest form of rock climbing and is often where people start out. The rating scale used for bouldering differs from that used for roped climbing, and understanding both the scale used and what is considered good can be challenging. We’re here to help you understand the bouldering levels and what is considered good.
What is a V4 in Rock Climbing?
A V4, simply put, is just a grade in bouldering. It denotes climbs considered more challenging than a V3 but still more manageable than a V5. This simple definition doesn’t really do justice to V4 climbs, though, since V4 is typically considered a transition in terms of someone’s climbing ability.
Colloquially, V4 is considered to be a grade of bouldering that is a transition into the more complex boulder problems. Being able to climb V4 or above is when technical skills start to come into play. Typically someone who climbs V1, 2, or 3 is just starting or climbs casually.
Just like climbing a 5.12 in roped climbing, climbing a V4 in bouldering is considered to be a decent achievement. Many climbers work hard to break into the more complex grades of roped climbing and bouldering, and successfully climbing V4 is viewed as the start of that transition.
What is Considered a Good Climbing Grade?
The short answer is that anything can be considered a good climbing grade. You get to determine for yourself what you think an excellent climbing grade is, and the answer will likely be wildly different for everyone.
The long answer is that a good climbing grade is ultimately determined by societal pressures of the time. For example, if you used to climb when the Yosemite Decimal System, or the scale used to rate roped climbs in the US, was just getting started, climbing a 5.9 would have been an enormous achievement. Nowadays, in regards to roped climbing, climbing 5.12 is considered the “it” grade to hit.
In the US, we use the V scale to rate the general difficulty of boulder problems. This bouldering difficulty scale is a simple numerical scale where the higher the number is, the harder the problem will be. Bouldering, however, is a little harder to figure out. Unfortunately, grades in roped climbing and bouldering are subjective, so you might find a V3 that you think is easier for you than a V2. It all depends on how you climb.
If you are operating under the assumption that climbing a 5.12 is good, then climbing a V4 or V5 is what you would likely consider to be good in bouldering since a V4 climbing equivalent is about an easy 5.12. Here is a rough comparison of these two scales:
|Yosemite Decimal System||V Scale|
What Affects Your Climbing Grade?
There are a lot of factors that impact what grades you are able to climb. Here are some of the factors that we think are the most impactful, but remember that what impacts your climbing grade might not be the same for the next person.
How strong you are is not the only thing or the most crucial thing impacting your climbing grades, but it is a pretty important factor. Strength starts to become more important as you start climbing harder grades. Your ability to pull or push your body up to the next handhold or foothold using only a few muscles will be tested as you start climbing harder and more complicated climbs.
Strength is a great starting place, but it will not allow you to climb hard climbs all on its own. You might be relying solely on your strength and not working on improving your technique or your balance. It is worth noting that if you are naturally strong, you may find that the first few climbing grades are easy for you.
There are a lot of techniques to learn when you start climbing. The technique used on an overhanging climb is vastly different from a crack climb which is also different from a slab climb. Learning all these different techniques can take a while but will ultimately pay off when you start climbing harder climbs.
Technique is helpful for beginner climbs as well as experts. Everyone uses a technique, and everyone is constantly trying to improve their technique. Make sure you take some time when you start climbing to really focus on learning technique. Having good technique will also help you climb longer and help minimize the chance of certain injuries.
Depending on your climbing style, your balance is one of the factors that will be tested. Balance is often overlooked, but having good balance will help make climbing more straightforward and comfortable. Being able to use the smaller foot holds and hand holds while controlling your body gives you more room to maneuver and more options when you are up on the wall.
Dancers and gymnasts tend to find the transition to climbing relatively simple since both of these sports rely heavily on body control and balance. These skills make understanding the movements of climbing a whole lot easier.
Is V4 Considered a Good Climbing Grade?
Is V4 bouldering good? How hard are V4 bouldering problems? These are the types of questions that you may find yourself asking when you start climbing. Understanding the bouldering scale is one thing, but figuring out what counts as a “good” grade is a totally different question.
Ultimately, if you consider V4 a good grade, then V4 is a good grade. It is generally considered a transition grade from simpler movements and easier techniques into boulder problems that are likely to require more complex movements and challenging techniques.
Does that mean that you can’t even try a V4 if you don’t know the techniques? Not at all; as we mentioned earlier, every climbing grade is subjective. You may find that you cruise through V1, 2, 3, and 4, but you hit a plateau or roadblock at V5 climbs. You may hit that roadblock at V2. It all depends on you and your personal climbing journey.
3 Tips to Improve Your Climbing Grade
There is a lot you can do to help improve your climbing grade, but here are a few of our favorite things to help get you over any plateaus you may hit in your climbing progression.
1. Climb more
The simple answer to getting better at climbing has always been to climb more. It might seem simple, and it is. The more time you spend on the wall, the more you will start to figure out how to move your body effectively on the wall. You’ll improve your strength, technique, and balance over time by climbing more.
The challenge with this is that it does take a long time for some people to get over hurdles in climbing simply by climbing more. Another challenge is that you may not have more time to dedicate to climbing. This might be the simple answer, but it isn’t always the best answer.
2. Take a class
Taking a class is often viewed as something that you do when you are just starting, but sometimes taking a class can help you get through a tough patch in your climbing. Advice from an expert can often be what you need to figure out a challenging climb or better understand a technique you’ve been working on. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
3. Use other physical activities as cross-training.
Activities like swimming, biking, or running that improve your cardiovascular health are great options for improving your breath control or endurance. Weight lifting, pilates, or yoga are fantastic for improving muscle tone and strength. Dance and gymnastics are excellent for someone looking to gain better body control and awareness. There is a cross-training option for everyone. All you have to do is find the one that is best for you and your climbing.
Wrapping Things Up: Is Climbing a V4 Good?
Regardless of if you are climbing V2 or V7, every grade will feel different and unique. Climbing a V4 is good, but so is climbing a V3 or V5. Societal pressures give V4 the weight it has, but with the proper technique, strength, and balance training; you can climb any grade you set your mind to.