It SNOWED in Denver yesterday (middle of May, mind you...) so I'll blame my purely-critical bloggery on the gloomy mood outside. Perusing the internet this afternoon, I came across a link to Hazel Findlay making the first female climb of Air Sweden in Indian Creek. And that's awesome. Air sweden follows a thin-hand and ringlock crack (Sweden-Ringle 5.12), then where the crack temporarily peters out (and Swedin-Ringle ends), one must use the incipent crack features and the nearby arete to continue straight up for ~3 body lengths without gear, until the crack reopens. This crack is then followed shortly to a second bolted anchor.
My problem? Air Sweden is "5.13 R"
I've always understood an "R" to mean that a fall is likely to result in injury. Hence in all but the most unusual of mountain circumstances*, I think adding an "R" is completely redundant when grading an alpine route, as very few don't feature some "fall and you're gonna get hurt" climbing.
Being above one's gear on a vertical or overhanging pitch is one thing, but climbing above one's gear with a strong likelihood of serious inury from a fall? That's something else. And it's something I generally seek to avoid. I don't want to just guess if that "R" stands for "rescue & evac." or "really clean airtime."
"I fell slapping quite high in the slot on my
second attempt, but it is a nice clean fall."
Dozens of climbers have been on Air Sweden, many of them falling repeatedly on film. (And here and here...) but not a scratch among them. It's not a dangerous route, and it shouldn't be "R" rated.
*an example of when I understand giving your alpine route an "R" rating is when falling from the route's crux, especially if it is several grades harder than anything else, would result in injury. A 5.11+ R with sketchy 5.9 and a well-protected 5.11 is different than a 5.11+ R where missing the crux onsight lands you in the hospital.