What Is A Sandbag In Climbing? - Climbing Jargon Explained - Climber News (2023)

Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on Pinterest

Ever jumped on a nice easy route for a warm up, only to find yourself pumped and searching a blank wall for anything that looks remotely like a hold? You may have just been sandbagged.

What Does Sandbag Mean In Climbing?

A sandbag is a route which is under-graded, normally by a fair bit. Meaning the route is much harder than graded. You often find out a route is a sandbag when you struggle to get mid-way on a grade you’d normally flash or you hear maniacal laughter from your belayer below.

Sandbagging a route means to give it a lower grade than it probably deserves. Sometimes this means a that the original climber who graded it though it was easier than most people would. Sometimes it comes from a time when climbing grades were much different.

Sandbagging can also apply to when people climb a hard route and give a personal opinion that the grade should be lower. It can be an ego thing but at the same time can depend on individual’s strengths, beta, and condition.

The term isn’t to be confused with actually using a sandbag while belaying – commonly used in gyms when you have a heavier climber. Although the idea of carrying a sandbag while climbing can be akin to the added difficulty of a sandbagged climb.

What Does Sandbagging Someone Mean?

To sandbag someone means to tell them a route is actually easier than it is. “Oh yeah that route’s super fun, you’ll do it easy”. You can sandbag any type of route – boulders, sports, trad, big walls, ice.

Whether this is a fun prank or a dick move is up for debate.

Where Did The Term Sandbag Come From?

Sandbagging is a popular term used in many sports or games to describe a similar thing. Basically if someone is sandbagging, they are pretending to be worse than they actually are.

From the merriam-webster dictionary: –

(Video) What if He Falls? The Terrifying Reality Behind Filming “Free Solo” | Op-Docs

In the 19th century, the verb sandbag began to be used to describe the act of bludgeoning someone with a small, sand-filled bag – a tactic employed by ruffians, usually as a prelude to robbing their victims. The verb went on to develop metaphorical extensions, such as “to coerce by crude means.”

Pulling out a sandbag in Poker is a common term for “slow playing” a hand. You pretend the cards you’ve got aren’t good in order to keep people betting to raise the pot. Then you pull out the sandbag hand and clobber everyone for the win.

Why Do Routes Get Sandbagged?

1 – Grades Are Subjective

Routes normally get graded by the first person to climb them. Sometimes the person that climbed the route found that to be the appropriate grade for them. Routes can be very height dependent and everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses.

Specific techniques also factor in to a lot of grading. Some people have great endurance and excellent footwork while others might have insane finger strength and can lock-off on a dime.

In many desert areas of the USA crack climbs are everywhere. If you grew up on crack climbing then the technique is pretty straight forward. If you’ve literally never jammed before it’s a whole new world.

Check out world class Japanese boulderers getting shut down on M4 at the Meiringen IFSC World Cup below while Ondra cruises it. The problem starts at 1:30:40 and you can see Ondra giving a bit of advice early on at 16:40.

If you flash a problem because you knew the beta, saw the right chalk marks, were in peak physical condition, and managed to find the holds perfectly – does it mean the route was easy or that you just had a good day?

2 – Old School Grading

To this day grades are hotly debated. There are multiple different systems used around the world and arguments about for which is the most accurate.

(Video) CLIMBING TERMINOLOGY || how to talk like a climber

Honing in on the US where the Yosemite Decimal System is used, the first free climbing grades of 5.8 and 5.9 were considered almost impossible. Not everyone climbed in the same areas so weren’t able to compare routes – only judge based on written testimony.

As a result you’d find very strong climbers reading about these feats and not believing that they could be climbing at that level. There was a strong culture of being humble in your achievements and to over-grade something could lead to ridicule.

As a result there are a huge amount of 5.8 and 5.9 graded climbs that vary wildly in their actual technical difficulty. Some of the first ascentionists might hazard a + on top of the main grade to indicate it was a little harder.

It wasn’t until many traveled and found the variety of route differences that grading started to get up to 5.10. 5.9 especially is where sandbagging is rife and the grade you should most look out for. Any “classic” 5.9 or 5.9+ is worth assuming as a being a grade or two harder.

More Climbing Jargon Explained
What Is A Runout In Climbing?
What Does Climbing Onsight Mean?
What Is Climbing Beta?
What Does Redpoint Mean?

3 – Grading Is More Accurate / Modern Grades Are Soft / Grade Inflation

As climbing became more popular, routes got repeated, and people started traveling between areas – it was clear that consensus was helpful. Initially climbs in the US were just given a grade of 1 to 5 for steepness, 1 being a walk, 5 being a technical climb.

Yosemite Decimal System

The Yosemite Decimal System subdivided the 5 grade into 5.0 through 5.9. It was first used by climbers of the Sierra Club in Tahquitz (not Yosemite) Royal Robbins, Don Wilson, and Chuck Wilts and spread from there. 5.9 was initially means to be the hardest climb possible but now grades reach up to 5.15d.

As climbers saw big differences between two grades – for example 5.10’s – they started to assign letters from a through to d. So a 5.10a is easier than a 5.10b, then 5.11c is harder than that, 5.10d harder again – then jumping to 5.11a and so on. Sometimes a plus might be given to indicate a route was a little harder.

(Video) So... What Do Climbing Grades Even Mean? | Climbing Daily Ep.889

Sport Climbing – French Grades

The same thing happened with sport climbing and the French grading system. Here the grading numbers don’t correspond to the YDS. Originally a simple number like 4, 5, 6 was given. As grades increased and people saw the different between a hard or easy 6, letters started to be used like 6a, 6b, 6c.

Then within that the + grade was used, so now we have 6a, 6a+, 6b e.t.c. It’s worth noting that the YDS system also takes into account the difficulty of protecting the climb and it’s “seriousness” whereas the French Sport system is just about technical climbing difficulty.

Note – There are way more grading systems than this and we haven’t even touched on bouldering.

As a result modern route grading tends to be more accurate. Some route climbers don’t grade until they have input from others to get a consensus – which can be helpful. It’s still subjective and routes can change over time from rockfall, holds breaking, and erosion.

However, changing grading on classic routes isn’t taken to very well. Guidebooks and website often publish the original grade but also give the modern rough grading, or just say the route is a “classic” as a nod on what to expect.

4 – Different Areas – Different Ethics

Following on from classic grading – many people believe routes should be graded according to other routes in the area. So if there are a good few classic 5.9’s and your new route isn’t any harder than those (even though everyone that’s climbed it would call it 5.10c) it should be graded as 5.9. What is a sandbag is very subjective.

Some areas are renowned as having “stiff” grading and can be a big of a shock to the ego. At the same time “holiday” grading is a thing, where lots of modern sports areas in Europe seem over-graded and easy in comparison to a home crag.

5 – It’s Funny(?)

Quite a few people would say it’s not and please don’t take this as a suggestion to sandbag someone into a scary situation. But – it is sort of funny to see a confident, strong climber getting nearly totally shut down on a something they would consider a basic day out climb.

If you’ve climbed for long outside you’ve probably been sandbagged by either a friend or a guidebook. We’ve definitely been flummoxed by that “easy for the grade” route and the old classic: “it’s totally your style, you’ll flash it”.

Maybe on the route it’s not the most fun – but learning to deal with tough situations and pulling through is a part of climbing. Plus it makes a great story and qualifies perfectly for type 2 fun.

How To Tell If A Route Is A Sandbag?

  • If a US graded route has a + on it, it’s probably an old route that’s way harder by modern standards. The plus is the most anyone will go to changing a classic grading
  • It says “easy” or “easy for the grade” in the guidebook…
  • Your friend suggests an easy route but won’t let you see the guidebook

What Is The Opposite Of A Sandbag?

If a sandbag is under-grading a route, then the opposite would be to over-grade a route and make it seem harder than it actually is. There isn’t really a word for it apart from a route being “soft”.

(Video) Why It's Almost Impossible to Climb 15 Meters in 5 Secs. (ft. Alex Honnold) | WIRED

Some people would argue lots of modern routes are overgraded or given soft grading. There aren’t that many examples of routes that are the opposite of a sand-bag but it does happen. We all know the soft 7a that everyone claims as their first of the grade.

There are plenty of instances where climbers have proposed a grade and then another climber has downgraded it – the James Pearson story was a big one in the world of UK trad. The problem is that it’s very hard to grade a route if you are the only person that’s done it. Grading nowadays tends to work out over the first few ascents with input from a few people.

Are Gyms Routes Over-Graded?

The way that gyms grade is generally very soft compared to outside. Gym route grading just doesn’t correspond to outside routes. We’re not complaining or bragging here and actually think this is a good thing. It just tends to be a shock for climbers going outside for the first time.

With gyms it feels better to see clear delineation between difficulties so its clearer what to choose for practice. It’s easier to choose the right routes and get in more mileage. Outdoors one grade might contain a wide variety of hard or soft routes within a 5.12a for example.

Gym setting is an endless debate and to be honest the best way of doing things would be to establish a new grading system. However, no-one wants a new grading system so the best idea is also a terrible one. For now we think grading routes within a color and having variance within that is the best solution.

Classic Sandbag Areas

Any classic climbing areas with free climbs established any time before the 70’s are probably rife with sandbags.

There are plenty of multi-pitch 5.4 to 5.9’s that are fairly easy in lots of sections but have moves that individually might be well over the grade given. These also tend to have sketchy runouts, pegs, home-made bolts, or other old-school surprises.

Tahquitz is where the Yosemite Decimal system was first used. It has plenty of routes that are harder than their grade implies – but at the same this is where the grade were defined, so are they really sandbagged?

Yosemite has a lot of classics like the Steck-Salathé, and Bachar-Yerian that would be very differently graded these days. The same goes for many of the boulders in the valley. The Shawnagunks (the gunks) is another classic area with lots of hard low grades.

Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on Pinterest
(Video) Denali 1967 Tragedy: The Deadliest Climb to The Highest Peak in North America


What Is A Sandbag In Climbing? - Climbing Jargon Explained - Climber News? ›

Sandbag – A route that's way harder than its grade suggests. Sometimes says more about the climber than the route… Arete – The sticky-outy corner of a crag or wall.

What is a sandbag slang? ›

Sandbagging is deceptive behavior intended to lower someone's expectations so that they can be taken by surprise later. Typically, sandbagging involves lulling someone into a false sense of security and then taking advantage of them. It's an act of psychological manipulation.

What is the Sandbag strategy? ›

Sandbagging sales is a practice where a salesperson slightly holds back their deals to undermine their forecast and lower management's expectations. They ultimately close or report those deals later on — typically to give the impression of overperformance. Sandbagging is a matter of underselling a deal's potential.

What is the opposite of a sandbag in climbing? ›

What Is The Opposite Of A Sandbag? If a sandbag is under-grading a route, then the opposite would be to over-grade a route and make it seem harder than it actually is. There isn't really a word for it apart from a route being “soft”. Some people would argue lots of modern routes are overgraded or given soft grading.

What does sandbagging mean in lifting? ›

Sandbag training is a form of resistance training featuring a shifting load. Traditional tools such as a barbell have a fixed load, meaning that the weight's center of mass will stay in one place. Due to the center of mass shifting in a SandBell, the muscles will be forced to adapt to new stimuli.

What does it mean to sandbag someone in climbing? ›

Sandbag. (verb) To soften the grade on a climb, or to describe it as being easier than it actually is. Quite often, you will hear climbers in the gym use the term “sandbagging.” It means to soften the grade on a climb because they think it is easier than the declared grade.

What is the history of the phrase sandbagging? ›

“Sandbagging” term originates from the late 1880s and relates to somebody who sneaks up on another person from behind and beats them with a sandbag. It was a dishonest move back in the days. Today, the term also implies some kind of trickery but not that dangerous.

What's another term for sandbagging? ›

On this page you'll find 447 synonyms, antonyms, and words related to sandbagging, such as: constrain, curb, discourage, forbid, hinder, and impede.

Is sandbagging ethical? ›

In most cases, sandbagging is viewed as a dishonest and unethical practice that can significantly negatively impact company culture, employee morale, and overall business success.

Why is sandbagging bad? ›

Sandbagging Undermines Your Performance

Sandbagging is bad because it blocks the business from maximizing its potential.

What are examples of sandbagging? ›

Other Common Contexts of Sandbagging

For example, a pool shark may deliberately shoot a game poorly when they encounter a new player who is unaware of their actual skills. This might entice the new player to accept bigger betting stakes, which turns out to be a bad move when the pool shark reveals their actual prowess.

What are free climbers called? ›

Free soloing is the easiest type of rock climbing to understand: No ropes are involved, and if you fall while climbing, you will fall all the way to the ground. If you climbed trees as a child (or still do), you were technically free soloing. Example: Alex Honnold is the world's most famous free soloist.

What is climbing without gear called? ›

Free soloing is a type of free climbing that involves climbing routes with no aids or protection whatsoever – no trad gear, no bolts, no rope, nothing to catch a fall.

How do you stop sandbagging? ›

Here are 10 suggestions for dealing with sandbaggers in your midst.
  1. Take pity. ...
  2. Turn the other cheek. ...
  3. Gripe and gossip. ...
  4. Leave an anonymous note. ...
  5. Give the cold shoulder. ...
  6. Alert the authorities. ...
  7. Poke gentle fun. ...
  8. Confront them directly.
Jan 27, 2022

Can you get banned for sandbagging? ›

Sure, sandbagging is cheating. Rating manipulation and it will most likely get you banned.

How effective is sandbagging? ›

When placed correctly, sandbags can reduce the impact of flooding on your home or business. Sandbags will not stop the water completely but can reduce the amount of water entering your property.

What is sandbagging vs anti sandbagging? ›

“Anti‑Sandbagging” Provisions

An “anti‑sandbagging” provision, as the name suggests, prohibits the buyer from sandbagging or seeking post‑closing indemnification for any breaches of the seller's representations or warrant of which the buyer had knowledge at or prior to the closing.

What is sandbagging and anti sandbagging? ›

An “anti-sandbagging” clause, as the name suggests, prohibits the buyer from “sandbagging” the seller, by limiting the buyer's ability to seek recourse with respect to matters which the buyer knew about at closing.

What are the benefits of sandbagging? ›

Some athletes like sandbag training for the benefits it provides. For example, sandbag exercise has been linked to increases in muscle strength and grip strength in particular. It has also been connected with greater levels of stability and improved sports performance.

Why are people called Sandbaggers? ›

Sandbaggers deceive others about their real intentions or abilities, or otherwise use deception to gain something. In the law, if you know that a contract or warranty isn't valid, but you pretend to trust it so that you can sue later — you're a sandbagger.

Where did the saying go pound sand come from? ›

Origin of the Sayings Pound Sand and Go Pound Sand

The earliest form of the expression dates back to 1857. Oxford English Dictionary defined it as “a menial task.” Another early meaning of the idiom meant someone was “hopelessly stupid," according to a publication from 1886.

What is sandbagging in a relationship? ›

An expression that is frequently used is “sandbagging.” Sandbagging your angry feelings means to avoid the person for whom anger is directed, sidestepping the issue, keeping the anger inside, instead of being direct with a person. Sandbagging results in being indirect and sarcastic.

Why do teams sandbag? ›

The function of sandbagging is to guarantee a win by outperforming the slower opponent at first, and then hitting the brakes near the finish line in time to just barely beat the opponent. However, sandbaggers run the risk of beating their dial-in time, thus disqualifying them from the race.

Do sandbags actually have sand in them? ›

A sandbag is a sack made of burlap or woven polypropylene that is filled with sand or soil and used for such purposes as flood control and military fortification.

Do plastic bags work as sandbags? ›

You can buy sandbags from many hardware, landscaping or garden supply stores. Plastic shopping bags, grain and animal fodder bags may also be used in an emergency in place of sandbags.

What is climbing without feet called? ›

CAMPUS To jump from hold to hold without using your feet. Campusing is a common training technique used in a climbing gym on a “campus board,” but is also an actual rock move that's useful on a steeply overhanging route with no footholds.

What is a group of rock climbers called? ›

In mountain sports, especially climbing, a rope team is a group of mountaineers or climbers who are linked together by a safety rope. In a more general sense, a group of mountaineers, who are travelling together, may also be known as a rope team.

Has anyone free soloed El Capitan? ›

Honnold rose to general fame in June 2017 when he became the first person to free solo El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, a feat that was described in the New York Times as "one of the great athletic feats of any kind, ever."

What is Gaston in climbing? ›

Gaston. A gaston is the inverse of side pull. In a side pull, the hold is oriented so that you pull in, toward yourself. A gaston is also oriented for a sideways force, but instead of a pull in, it requires a push out.

What is smearing in climbing? ›

So, What is Smearing? Smearing, simply put, is using the surface of the wall as a foothold. This lower body skill is one of the few areas in climbing where getting your hips as close as possible to the wall is not the optimal position.

What is climbing with a rope called? ›

Types of indoor (roped) climbing

Climbing with ropes can be done indoors and usually involves two people, but it can also be done in a group. The person climbing the "route" is tied to a rope controlled by another person. Controlling the rope is called belaying and the person controlling the rope is the belayer.

How do you identify a sandbagger? ›

Here are 10 ways to spot a sandbagger.
  1. Few, if any, recent scores. ...
  2. Posting scores away from home course. ...
  3. Purposefully misses tap-ins. ...
  4. Picks up tap-ins so score doesn't count. ...
  5. Poorly dressed. ...
  6. Doesn't warm up. ...
  7. Tanks. ...
  8. Wrong club.
Feb 27, 2023

What is a sandbag goal? ›

Sandbagging means to under promise and over deliver. It's a bad habit for countless organizations and teams.

What is the opposite of sandbagger? ›

A reverse sandbagger, as you might surmise, is the opposite of a sandbagger. They're a golfer that has an artificially low handicap -- sometimes called a vanity handicap -- one that doesn't represent their current skill level.

Do sandbags really stop water? ›

Sandbags are a good way to reduce flood water damage, and when they are properly filled and placed, the sandbags can act as a barrier to moving water around instead of through buildings. Sandbags will leak, and it's best to have a pump on the dry side to remove water that gets in.

How high can you stack sandbags? ›

A single-stack sandbag berm usually works well, but is generally not recommended to be above three layers in height. That's about a foot tall. If you're expecting more water than that, consider a pyramid sandbag stack. To create a pyramid berm that's two feet tall, you'd ideally have a base that's about five feet wide.

What are the disadvantages of sandbags? ›

Remember! Sandbags are popular but they have disadvantages: During an emergency sufficient quantities may be difficult to obtain. They are time-consuming and require two people to fill.

How long do sandbags last? ›

A sand bag can last indefinitely. The bags are durable, and sand never breaks down or evaporates.

Do sandbags stop bullets? ›

Sandbags for Cover

Although sand feels soft when you touch it, filled sandbags are powerful bullet-stoppers that provide cover from enemy fire. A single bag of sand is enough to stop most handgun rounds in their tracks. It will even stop some rifle rounds from reaching the other side.

Is sandbagging good or bad? ›

Sandbagging is bad because it blocks the business from maximizing its potential.

Is sandbagger an insult? ›

Shower thought: calling someone a sand-bagger is both an insult and a compliment. It's saying they're a cheater, but also better than their average indicates.

What is another word for sandbagging? ›

On this page you'll find 447 synonyms, antonyms, and words related to sandbagging, such as: constrain, curb, discourage, forbid, hinder, and impede.

What is an example of a sandbagging clause? ›

For example, the agreement may provide that seller shall not be liable “for any Losses resulting from or relating to any inaccuracy in or breach of any representation or warranty in this Agreement if the party seeking indemnification for such Losses had Knowledge of such breach before Closing.” The parties may limit ...

Is sandbagging unethical? ›

In most cases, sandbagging is viewed as a dishonest and unethical practice that can significantly negatively impact company culture, employee morale, and overall business success.

What is the point of sandbags? ›

Purpose of Sandbagging

Sandbags are a good way to reduce flood water damage, and when they are properly filled and placed, the sandbags can act as a barrier to moving water around instead of through buildings.

What is a sandbagger in intelligence? ›

Sandbagging - Intentionally Lowering Expectations to Beat Them.


1. Champion Ice Climber Rates 9 Ice-Climbing Scenes In Movies And TV | How Real Is It? | Insider
2. How to learn climbing technique
(Dave MacLeod)
3. Reviewing London's Highest Rated Climbing Gym - Hang
(Sandbag Bouldering)
4. The Strength you need to Climb Hardest Grades
(Wide Boyz)
5. Men's Boulder semi-final || Prague 2023
(International Federation of Sport Climbing)
6. What I wish I would've known when I started bouldering | 5 ESSENTIAL TIPS
(Boulder Baddie)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Lilliana Bartoletti

Last Updated: 09/22/2023

Views: 6185

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (73 voted)

Reviews: 80% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Lilliana Bartoletti

Birthday: 1999-11-18

Address: 58866 Tricia Spurs, North Melvinberg, HI 91346-3774

Phone: +50616620367928

Job: Real-Estate Liaison

Hobby: Graffiti, Astronomy, Handball, Magic, Origami, Fashion, Foreign language learning

Introduction: My name is Lilliana Bartoletti, I am a adventurous, pleasant, shiny, beautiful, handsome, zealous, tasty person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.