Another important step the UIAA did after a few years was introducing the abbreviation EX to the top step of global evaluations, certifying in this way the raise of the level of performance even in alpine-style routes. Around the early eighties of last century, in some French guides, appeared scales of difficulties that were using the Roman numbering, similar to UIAA, up to V + and then continue with the progression of numbers followed by a letter (e.g. VIa, VIb), while in other cases they were used Arabic numbers coming with 5+ and continuing with 6a, 6b, etc.. At that time, effervescent and confused, it was born in a café in Chamonix also the ABO overall evaluation (abominable, not recognized by UIAA): an acronym that should mean the maximum reachable level.
The introduction of these scales was a clear response to the non-recognition by UIAA of the evolution that took place in rock climbing. Towards the end of the 80’s Francois Labande, compiler of numerous guides including those of the Dauphiné, presented the French Scale, parameterized with the UIAA scale, replacing permanently Roman numerals with Arabic numerals and placing the value 6a instead of the VI +. But a few years later it was the same Labande in the guide “Dauphinè vol. II “, to revive the French scale with Roman numerals (V+, VIa, VIb, etc..), but still leaving open the parameterization between VIa and 6a.
Currently, in almost all cases, the French scale is used in its version with Arabic numerals and is parameterized by UIAA even in low grades, which until recently was not the case. This scale, whose use gradually established itself among groups of Swiss, French and Italian climbers, was also used to evaluate the famous “plaisir” grades (Table 1) in place of the UIAA scale. So much for the small Alps crown. Other well-known realities, such as the United States, Australia and South Africa, have lived their evolutions with always local and difficult to export benchmarks.
But even if we extend the look to Europe only, we find that in every area, where alpine and/or climbing activities are deployed, there are different difficulty scales, such as in UK or on the sandstone towers along the Elbe and in Bohemia. To say nothing of the former Communist countries, where there have always been different scales.