Routesetting 101

31 07 2008

Life is running a pace that I can barely match. Keeping up with work and climbing seems to be all I can manage. Without a goal or stopping point in sight the days pass very quickly.

With Lizzy out of school June and July became our traveling months. Extended weekend trips make for crazy 3-4 day work weeks. With a big project just finishing up I have been putting in extra hours these last two weeks. After returning from Boston and our friends wedding Life has been pretty non stop.

The first weekend back I attended a USA Climbing Routesetting Clinic hosted by Chris Danielson at the soon to be open Hanger 18 in Riverside, CA. If I had not reserved a spot in advance I would have most likely been programming all weekend. Saturday and Sunday we still had 9-5 days with lectures, routesetting and fore running.

This class was tons of fun since I got to know Chris Danielson and Louie Anderson a bit better. As well we had a great crew of 20 routesetters from around the area. People were friendly and had a variety of styles to show off. The climbing ability ranged from 5.10 to 5.13 and had between zero and ten years of experience setting. I was fun to see different people psyched on setting routes versus setting boulder problems, crimps versus slopers and all other types of holds.

Climbing holds have really changed in the last 20 years and you see new hold companies popping up all the time. Since Zach owns both Hanger 18 and Climb-It Holds we had more than enough plastic to play with. Beyond just the standard Climb-It sets we had holds from Atomik, So-Ill and E-Grips with a few sets from some other companies. To add aesthetics to indoor climbing many newer gyms are setting routes by color. I had only previously seen this in Australia and so far had not really been a fan. It can be more limiting and requires a gym to have a much larger number of holds. (According to Chris and Louie you need about four times as many holds when setting routes by color.) The one advantage is that your climbs are much more attractive and when you stick with the same style of hold, granite, font, or coastal you achieve a distinct style.

On Saturday after a few hours of instruction everyone chose a color of holds and went about setting a route. The rules were simple, set a route at the assigned grade, make the route functional, fair and fun, and do NOT climb the route before it is finished. As well we were given a few tricky techniques and were supposed to push ourselves. Arranging the holds on the ground and pre-visualizing the whole route, Simul-setting two routes at the same time, using directional holds were all optional ways to help us become better setters. We were to use ladders as much as possible and keep on our street shoes and stay off the ropes. Setting from a ladder is more efficient and is less tiring.

I have always tried the routes while I set them. This allows me to perfect the movement and make things flow, my favorite style. Not being able to climb on the holds forced me to think more about the movement and the footwork. I really had to plan on where the holds should be and how climbers of various levels would pull on them.

After setting our routes we would forerun them and tweak them. Climbing on the routes for the first time was great and it was cool to see that a fun climb could be set just with your imagination. I had to tweak my route and add foot holds but overall I was able to get the movement I had wanted. My boulder problem required a bit more tweaking than my route and was almost a grade to easy.

Taking these skill I went into my local gym, Vertical Hold, this past Wednesday and set a new problem. A nice traverse that focused on pulling on a few small holds. I got bolts for all the holds that I picked and set the entire route without climbing it. I had a few of my friends forerun it and then I tweaked it a bit to hone in the grade and the movement. Only the first half of the problem needed adjustment and I was able to efficiently climb the route. Setting with my street shoes on and tagging the route as I went saved a lot of energy. It also helped to have all of the bolts ready so I did not have to dig through the bolts bin for each hold.

While I still need a lot more experience before I would be qualified to become a head setter I think I am starting to gain more experience. I look forward to a possible Level II setting course next year and hopefully can set for some of the ABS 10 comps in the area this coming season.

Cheers,

Luke

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