Route Setting Process

In route setting for rock climbing, it is the route setter’s job to put up holds on a blank climbing wall designed to be fun and to not injure climbers. Sometimes that is the only guidance that is given to a setter before their session begins. Other times there are more instructions such as the difficulty they must set, the type of holds they should use, or certain features on the wall they need to avoid. Due to the freedom a route setter has, this job is considered a form of art. At RIT’s Red Barn rock climbing gym, setters typically pick out holds from buckets on the ground and lay them out on the mats. Some of these holds are for hands and others are for feet. Sometimes the holds must be used for both. Once they have decided they like the sequence they have set, they place tape on the walls where they plan to put the holds, then they bolt the holds into the wall. Once the wall is done, a group of forerunners climb the problems and decide if any changes are needed. This is a process that takes several hours. For competitions, it is important to set these problems quickly. There are several processes that I think could potentially be faster. One option is to pick out only the hand holds they plan to use. Once they go through their typical sequence and bolt them to the wall, they could decide where to put the feet and bolt these in later. This is beneficial because setters oftentimes bolt footholds that are not needed for the climb. Another option to shorten the process would be to set the crux, the most difficult part of the climb, first. If the crux was in the middle, the setter would work up and down in order to establish a flow that is both fun and difficult. This would be beneficial for competition setting because as a route setter gets ideas, he or she could bolt a few holds in and then come back to it later to finish the route and make sure it runs smoothly.

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