Rock climbing has the Yosemite Decimal System. Mountaineering has the International French Adjectival System. Bouldering has the Hueco (or Vermin, depending on your taste) Scale. These grading systems have arguably become the lingua franca by which we quantify the difficulty of a climb.
However, it seems remiss that we have no system for determining the overall Radness of an activity, one which spans the gap between the individual disciplines. I hereby intend to remedy this situation by creating the Radness Quotient (RQ).
In aid of discovering the inherent Radness in any enterprise, we must assess a number of factors. Each factor is given a grade from 1 through 10, the cumulative total of which gives us the RQ of any given activity or expedition. Those factors are as follows:
This is relative to the activity. For example, a bouldering route would be considered a 1, whereas the free ascent of the Dawn Wall which took 19 days on route would be considered a 10. On the other hand, a fast and light alpine ascent might take under a day hut-to-hut, whereas true expedition mountaineering trips can go for weeks on end. For backpacking trips, just give a number for each night spent in a tent and throw in a +1 for any thru-hike, because that shit is ridiculously long.
This is how strong or fit you need to be to complete said activity. This is where boulderers can make up some points.
Vastly different from physical difficulty, though the two often go hand in hand. There’s no doubt that one must be in decent shape to complete the Appalachian Trail… but in terms of technical skills, if you can put one foot in front of the other and repeat, you’ve got it nailed.
This is an objective, not subjective rating. What that means is your specific mental deficiencies don’t count. Rather, it’s the mental fortitude that (in legal terms) “a reasonable person” would require to undertake the endeavour.
If you’re not scared, it probably isn’t rad. How quickly does your sphincter pucker whilst pushing through the crux? A rough estimate might be 1 for bouldering, 2 for top-roping, 5 for lead climbing, 7 for trad climbing and 10 for free soloing. Which brings me to my next point…
Possibility of death or dismemberment:
Every outdoor pursuit is an inherently risky business, all Tom Cruise jokes aside. If the incorrect procedures could result in injury, throw some points on there. On the other hand, take points off for actual injuries, depending on the severity. Forfeit all points if you die.
Chronically undervalued, the promise of stellar views and picturesque surrounds contribute greatly to the Radness of an expedition. -1 point if the view from the summit is obscured by clouds.
We often journey into the wilderness to escape the grind of everyday life, from social pressures to the feeling of being tethered to electronic devices. Gauge the overall isolation of the location and score accordingly.
Proximity to post-expedition libations:
Let’s be honest and say that most of us would probably never leave the field if it weren’t for beer. Beverage quality means a great deal here. After flying down from the Kahiltna Glacier, it’s just a 5 minute walk to Talkeetna’s Twister Creek Brewery with its sublime range of craft beers… +10 points. On the other hand, after a long, hard battle with the elements on the Patagonian Ice Cap, you’ll need to hitchhike 15kms into Coyhaique just to snag yourself a 6 pack of Escudo… +2 points at best.
Kind of an X factor… How cool does the activity or expedition make you appear, especially to the opposite sex? In some ways, this criteria is the summary of all those that preceded it, essentially putting a numeric figure on how Rad the activity is, though with a socially biased slant. It can also vary depending on your role in the expedition. Sent a killer trad line? Fuckin A… that’s a 7, you might say. Seconded the same route? Sorry buddy, just a 5 for you.
The total of these 10 factors will add up to a score out of 100, giving you an RQ for any given activity, be it skiing, rock climbing or chess. The scores then fit into descriptive brackets, known as the Erik Griffith Adjectival Description (EGAD), which is as follows:
1-20 = Weak
21 – 40 = Meh…
41 – 60 = Sick
61 – 80 = Dope
81 – 100 = Righteous
I’ve retroactively applied RQ to some of my previous expeditions, just to give a few examples.
Hiking the Te Araroa – 54, Sick
Denali – 59, Sick
Northern Patagonian Ice Cap – 62, Dope
Kor-Ingalls Route (Moab, Utah) – 54, Sick
Lamington National Park Border Trail – 20, Weak
Feel free to post your own. The world needs a Radness Quotient.
Ryan Siacci, Esq.
Originally published in July 2015