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Route Setting: Ethos, Aesthetics and Mechanics by Sean Milligan
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Carlo890


Nov 8, 2012, 10:44 AM
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Route Setting: Ethos, Aesthetics and Mechanics by Sean Milligan
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This is an article my friend sent me and I thought I would share with the rest of you, since I have been doing more asking then giving. I made bullets of what I thought were key points in this article. Enjoy and welcome any feedback.


Route Setting: Ethos, Aesthetics and Mechanics
by Sean Milligan

As I’ve been making the rounds over the past few months – touring through a few different climbing facilities - many people have been asking me about route setting. Wherein the questions have tended to focus on “Am ‘I” doing any route setting?” – and have frequently been followed by much appreciated compliments – they haven’t really resulted in any burning desire to instantly go and hang myself on the end of a rope for a few hours. They have, however, generated a number of thoughts related to the ethos and aesthetic of route setting and just how subjective the ethos and aesthetic can be. Route setting in a climbing gym is just one of those things it’s a prestige position – a certain amount of honor and respect are assigned to those who have been given the privilege of placing the holds on the wall – and everyone has an opinion has to how it should be done.

Part 1: ETHOS
Now before I get started here, I should concede two things: the first concession being that everything I’m about to say pertains only to “every day” route setting activities in a gym not “competition setting” – I believe (quite firmly) that the two are entirely different things (and that’s a discussion for a different day); the second concession being that, including the first concession, all I’m really doing is throwing my opinions in to the mix (and wherein they are opinions formed through the experience of setting, quite literally, thousands of climbs and boulder problems over the past 15 years, they are in the end just opinions (and hence it is a given that many out there will disagree with one or more of the things I have to say)). Those concessions aside, I’m hoping I won’t generate too much controversy by suggesting that any discussion concerning the quality of a setter (or their routes) should start by discussing the overall responsibilities of the route setter (beyond just putting holds on the wall).

Of course route setters (and even more, the “Head Route Setter”) have the responsibility to ensure the gym is free of mechanical hazards (spinning holds, bad clipping stances and fall scenarios). In a broader sense, route setters also have, in terms of the type of climbs they build (and distribution across the grade range), responsibility not just to the strongest climbers that frequent their facility but to all patrons of the facility – the responsibility to create an environment that is enjoyable and conducive to both continuous learning and sustainable physical development. The setters then have the obligation to create climbs and problems that don’t exclude climbers for sake of proportions (or are otherwise plain old frustrating) and that encourage climbers to develop and employ sound technique (instead of just power). In other words, the setters have the responsibility to create an environment where all patrons have the opportunity to improve as climbers without being led into potentially injurious situations.

The potential for questionable setting arises in that in most climbing gyms, those who are perceived to be the “best” climbers and boulderers perform the route setting activities. Wherein this may seem like a sound practice, “best” is too often equated with “strongest” – those who have climbed (or are working on) the hardest routes/problems – and the route setting ranks become populated by those trying to make a name for themselves within the climbing community (or otherwise strut their stuff). In such scenarios (and there are many), there lays the possibility for route setting to move away from responsibility and customer satisfaction and trend towards some sort of pissing contest - the setters spend an inordinate amount of time trying to set tricky sequences, moves that must be done in a specific way/require a huge amount of power or otherwise trying to make people fall (an ends which is often supplemented through a little recreational sandbagging).

From the perspective of the route setter, the difficulties with this approach are limited - ultimately an exchange of time and money for a few laughs - but the difficulties from the perspective of the members and the facility are many. Climbs and problems established by this ideology will always frustrate those at the extreme ends of the height/reach spectrum (or who are otherwise unable to determine the “exact” right moves to progress) and encourage exertion under fatigue as people attempt to perform/repeat powerful moves. The net result is an environment that is often less than satisfying, at best suited to power training and at worst conducive to injury.

Some of the negative effects of the pissing contests and show boating can easily be avoided if those doing the setting keep in mind some of the larger objectives/responsibilities outlined above while setting but the greatest positive change – in terms of both the quality of routes and the environment created – is achieved if (and when) those doing the setting adopt a different ideology towards the actual act of setting. Recognizing that this will be amongst the most contentious of the opinions I’m going to express. I would suggest that the point in setting in climbing gym (aside from competition setting) is to simulate, as best as possible, what might be encountered while climbing on rock. Understanding (and knowing) that climbing (and climbing gyms) has (and have) become more social/recreational in nature over the past decade and that many using climbing gyms these days never have (and perhaps never will) touch rock. I would also put forth that most climbing gyms were established as training facilities for those who were already climbing outdoors and the people who were setting the climbs and problems were doing so based on their outdoor climbing experience.

Now whether or not you agree with the simulation of rock as the point of setting – what I propose is that climbs set with the intent of simulating a natural surface are not as likely to exclude/frustrate those of extreme proportions, more conducive to training technique and efficiency (instead of just power) and as a result less likely to injure climbers. Plastic and concrete will, of course, never be a substitute for rock and using the two in an attempt to simulate a natural surface may seem daunting but more often than not, the important aspects of a “natural” climb can be mimicked with a change in objective and two “concessions” on the part of the route setter.

In short, the setter’s objective should not be to “force” moves; there are very few climbs on rock where everybody has to do a move in exactly the same way, some but not many. Instead, the objective should be an “ideal” hand hold sequence, perhaps with specific moves in mind but with some allowance for variation in how climbers move between the holds. This variation can easily be conceded and introduced if setters add “extra” holds in two situations: an intermediate handhold to initiate/assist long reaches and an intermediate foothold so that climbers can utilize more of the lower body musculature in the case of mantles and high steps.

Yes, the potential for variation means that some climbers will be able to do moves/sequences in ways that are frustrating (instead of letting it bother you, just remember one of the few truth’s of climbing: any fool can make a climb harder than it’s supposed to be, the real trick is to make a climb as easy as it can be). More importantly, the potential for variation means that instead of being forced to repeat the same move over and over again, climbers can engage in efficiency based training methods - refining their approach to climbs and problems over time. As a result, climbers can simultaneously develop strength and technique – a process that is both more stimulating and sustainable than one which just develops power, which could be just as easily achieved by lifting weights. All told, what I’m suggesting is that if climbs and problems are set with the objective of simulating rock – with the appropriate concessions on the part of the setter – the climbs and boulder problems produced will be more conducive to effective (injury free) training programs and enjoyed by a larger proportion of the climbing community.

For my part, I must admit that there was a time while setting I was very interested in making people do specific moves. Over time I came to understand that the best routes were the routes that a number of different people, all of different size, could make their way to the top of, all in subtly different ways, and all agree on the grade.

• Setters
o Have the responsibility to ensure the gym is free of mechanical hazards (spinning holds, bad clipping stances and fall scenarios)
o Have the responsibility to create an environment that is enjoyable and conducive to both continuous learning and sustainable physical development
o Have the obligation to create climbs and problems that don’t exclude climbers for sake of proportions and that encourage climbers to develop and employ sound technique instead of just power
o Have the responsibility to create an environment where all patrons have the opportunity to improve as climbers without being led into potentially injurious situations
o To simulate, as best as possible, what might be encountered while climbing on rock
o Are setting climbs and problems based on their outdoor climbing experience
o Set climbs/ problems with the intent of simulating a natural surface
o Objective should not be to “force” moves
o Objective should be an “ideal” hand hold sequence, with some allowance for variation in how climbers move between the holds
o Add “extra” holds in two situations: an intermediate handhold to initiate/assist long reaches and an intermediate foothold so that climbers can utilize more of the lower body musculature in the case of mantles and high steps
o Create climb/ problems that climbers can engage in efficiency based training methods, so climbers can simultaneously develop strength and technique

• Any fool can make a climb harder than it’s supposed to be, the real trick is to make a climb as easy as it can be

• The best routes were the routes that a number of different people, all of different size, could make their way to the top of


limestone_cowboy


Dec 11, 2012, 8:18 AM
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Re: [Carlo890] Route Setting: Ethos, Aesthetics and Mechanics by Sean Milligan [In reply to]
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Original posting and follow up can be found here:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Flowstate/497571573605506


Carlo890


Dec 12, 2012, 2:26 AM
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Re: [limestone_cowboy] Route Setting: Ethos, Aesthetics and Mechanics by Sean Milligan [In reply to]
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Hey Limestone_cowboy,

Thank you for that post.

-Carlo C


limestone_cowboy


Dec 16, 2012, 6:02 AM
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Re: [Carlo890] Route Setting: Ethos, Aesthetics and Mechanics by Sean Milligan [In reply to]
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Route Setting: Ethos, Aesthetics and Mechanics

Part 2: AESTHETICS

Perhaps the only things more difficult for a route setter to accept beyond having the responsibility to consider all members of the facility is…….that every piece of work they do will be evaluated (and commented upon) by every member of the facility. For the route setter, this is not just a matter of being thick skinned – it’s well worth considering both the compliments and criticisms as a form of performance evaluation. Much of the commentary will be a direct result of the moves that have been set (everyone’s entitled to their opinion) and the “value” of the opinions can be weighed and accounted for over time as appropriate. There is, however, another area of “critique” that pertains to nothing more than “how” those moves have been presented to/placed before the climber(s). It may seem like a somewhat “intangible” quality – difficult to address – but most of the evaluation pertains to one strategy that all climbers (should) practice and one question that (outdoor) climbers hate.

The element of climbing/climber strategy that the setter should attempt (is obliged) to address is…….“surveying the route” – i.e. the climber should be able to examine/see the general path of the route in question to identify sequences and rests before leaving the ground. Needless to say, if there’s too much clutter on the walls (holds and/or tape), the route is not going to “stand out” in any way and……..surveying the route properly is going to be difficult (if not impossible). To my mind (and the minds of many) the only thing more frustrating than encountering a “stupid” move on a manufactured climb is……..having to ask “Is that mine?” The frustration could be experienced by an outdoor climber who is accustomed to using all parts of all available surfaces or by someone who is concerned about ethics or blowing a flash but either way…..I’m of the opinion that it’s an unnecessary (and unwelcome) part of the indoor climbing experience. Some may suggest that there is benefit in being forced to “search” for the holds (hands or feet) that are required to complete a given route in terms of simulating a natural surface, but I would (and will) contest that the true trick in climbing a natural surface is not finding “a hold” to use……….it’s finding “the right hold” to use. That said, what I propose is that a route setter should, as part of their overall process, take steps to eliminate any doubt in the climbers mind as to “what is” and “what is not” considered part of the route in question.

The first step towards eliminating any questions of this nature is identifying what factors/conditions produce them and…….I would suggest that the two largest contributors are features of the walls themselves - ranging from arêtes and open books to holds (hands and feet) that are a permanent part of the surface (such as might be included on EntrePrise, Eldorado, Rockwerx or Pyramide walls (to name a few)) – and…….the holds that have been used to construct neighbouring/overlapping climbs.

The simplest solution to questions arising from “surface” features is to include all such features (hands and feet) on all climbs – the truth of that matter is that most people are going to put their hands and feet all over them anyways. For those who are working at (or near) their limit, there’s something kind of annoying about having to consciously avoid using good holds for the sake of doing something hard and for those looking to do something a little harder……well – they can avoid using features as they see fit. In the case of arêtes and open books, if the feature is not to be used it seems more reasonable to construct the route such that the climber is moved away from the feature than it is to expect that people won’t attempt to use it if it’s close enough for hand or foot placements. Knowing (and understanding) that layout in some facilities may make this approach challenging (if not impossible) – especially for wood framing in a tight space – confusion and questions can be reduced through adopting a convention (i.e. such features are always “in” or always “out” unless stated) and sticking with it. All that said, I would also suggest that questions arising from features of the walls themselves are far easier to account for (and far less annoying to the “engaged” climber) than those that arise due to holds on neighbouring (or overlapping) climbs.

Some facilities attempt to address the effect of neighbouring climbs through the use of taped boundaries but at the same time I acknowledge and appreciate the effort, I would also suggest it’s limited in it’s application and……not completely effective. Taped boundaries are of little use in the case of overlapping climbs (the existence of which will be justified in Part 3) and……pieces of tape are often removed (generally by sloppy foot work close to the climb boundary) instantly placing climbers back in the situation which was trying to be avoided. As such, a more successful approach to “highlighting” the holds that “are” (and “are not”) included as part of a given route is to construct routes using only one colour of hold. Yes, this may limit what holds can be used for a given climb (and as a result place some limitations on what type of climb can be built) but…….both these problems can be addressed with a little forethought on the part of the setter (which, it could be argued, is amongst the things they are being paid for).

Even if a climb is constructed using only one colour, climbers may still have to search for holds, or practice some form of “discrimination” while climbing but……..aside from those with forms of colour blindness (@10% of males and 0.5% of females), colour focus/distinction is relegated to the unconscious level somewhat quickly (leaving climbers free to focus on other aspects of the climb (and climbing)). That said, the effectiveness of this approach cab be augmented by taking two additional steps…….

(1) Use similarly coloured tape to mark holds;

In short, consistency of colour (along with the increased visual footprint offered by the piece of tape) will make finding holds that much easier for the climber. Yes, like with taped boundaries, pieces of tape are likely to be removed over time BUT…….given that the route is colour consistent, the effects of removed tape are not quite as pronounced AND…….while the tape lasts, it will assist climbers in both surveying the route and finding the appropriate holds while climbing. Of course, colour consistency with taping will introduce some limitations in terms of quantity (there are only so many colours of both tape and holds) and is only truly effective for actual “climbs”. In the case of designated bouldering areas (and boulder problems), the easiest (and most effective) approach is to use tape colour to designate difficulty. Used this way, tape (and colour) serve not only to designate/mark a specific problem but also to assist the climber/boulderer in identifying other problems of a similar grade.

It is, at this point, worth noting that taping of holds – taping anywhere for any reason in the facility for that matter – has an impact on the overall appearance of the facility and is worth paying attention to/exercising control over. There are some facilities that extend the notion and put in place “taping guidelines” (or something like that) such that every piece of tape on the wall must be facing in the same direction but……this approach has it’s drawbacks too. As well intentioned as idea may be, the overall effect is……“agitating” (kind of like looking at BAD modern art), in some scenarios counterproductive and in the long run it’s a little easier (and more visually pleasing) to place tape using a few simple principles……..

(a) Tape should be placed such that the hold itself (hand or foot) plays a part in keeping the tape on the wall (i.e. some of the tape should be “underneath” the hold)
(b) Tape should not meet the hold at a contact surface – pieces of tape that meet a contact point will quickly be removed from the wall by sloppy climbers (of which there are many) and…….have the potential to change the nature/feel of the climb (even for those who are not sloppy)
(c) Tape should line up with/point towards t-nut – in general, this means that tape will be oriented “somewhat” symmetrically with respect to hold
(d) Tape should give some indication of hold orientation – if tape lines up with obvious line/feature on hold…….it can be used to re-orient the hold if it spins
(e) Length of exposed tape should be somewhat consistent – different length pieces of tape marking a route look sloppy (end of story).


(2) Choose carefully the colour of neighbouring climbs

The overall idea is….all climbs should be similarly constructed – holds and tape colour consistent – but…….the colour of adjacent climbs should be selected to offer enough visual contrast for each climb to “stand out” against it’s neighbours. There are some obvious contrasts that work very well - blue and yellow, yellow and green (bad for some), blue and white, red and white (always nice around Christmas). At the same time, there are some colour combinations that should be avoided – depending on the exact shades purple/red or blue/purple end up looking like a big bruise on the wall; red/green is worth avoiding (unless you wish to mess with those who are colour blind) and……yellow/red always looked to me eye like a McDonalds add. In the end, there are many more combinations with “strange associations” – ultimately it’s a matter of personal preference and the easiest approach is just to avoid combinations of colours that don’t offer an immediate and obvious visual contrast (ex: red and orange or combinations of dark colours).

As important as making a route stand out and reducing hassle for the climber are……I would suggest that of equal importance is……making the “visual sales pitch” – drawing the climber’s eye to the line and……giving them a reason to get excited about the climb before they even leave the ground (obviously, this is far easier to do if the climber can actually “see” the route in question). One of the easiest ways to draw a climber’s attention to a route is to include a big “feature” hold – something that makes them think “I want to go up there and put my hands on that”. That said, the sales pitch ends if climbers are able to touch the hold without leaving the ground and………some effort should be put into placing the hold far enough up the wall that climbers actually have to start the route to get their hands on it. Other ways to generate a little pre-climb excitement include taking the climb to (or through) an “intimidating” feature on the wall or by using an assortment of obviously nasty holds to build the route (kind of depends on whose attention it is you’re trying to get). Taking a broader perspective, the ideology and process is really accomplishing two things: not only does it serve to draw the climber’s attention to the route……..it also helps to generate a positive (or at least “productive”) headspace before their hands even touch the wall.

In the end, the success of a route setter – and the quality of their routes – will always be measured and determined by the people who are climbing their routes. That said, at the heart of what I’ve put forth here is….most of the evaluation and criticism is (and will be) completely subjective and the route setter serves their own interests by considering not just physiology but also psychology – to build a foundation for success by taking steps to eliminate objective sources of hassle and confusion and…….to generate a little excitement – both on the wall and on the ground.


(This post was edited by limestone_cowboy on Dec 16, 2012, 6:03 AM)


limestone_cowboy


Jan 4, 2013, 7:30 AM
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Route Setting: Ethos, Aesthetics and Mechanics

Part 3: MECHANICS

Wherein much of what I have had to say on the topic of route setting thus far could be construed as “valuable” to pretty much any member of the (indoor) climbing community – if for no other reason than having provided some ammunition for personal battles with setters and facility owners - it seems best to point out – right now – that this section is intended primarily for the new (or aspiring) route setter and……..may prove a little too technical (and boring!) for those not directly involved with the activity. That said, the biggest advances for the route setter – in terms of the mechanics of their work – will come from the realisation that their survival (both physical and financial) is dependent upon not just what moves are set (Part 1) and how those moves are presented (Part 2) but also upon the actual process used to place the holds on the wall.

At the heart of what I’m attempting to describe is………route setters are generally paid close to minimum wage (a truly egregious situation given the level of skill and experience required to set properly) or……the “labour” is conducted as piece work. For those unfamiliar with the term, it means that the work is assigned a set dollar value and….it’s up to the route setter to finish in an amount of time that equates to a reasonable hourly wage. The problem being……..route setting - though not the “most” complex task in the world - involves a large number of finicky steps or pieces and if the process isn’t approached with sufficient forethought……time will invariably disappear minute by minute. As such, the route setter does well to carefully examine each step of the route setting process, to identify and eliminate all the ways in which time is wasted and…….to make the process as a whole as efficient as possible. The first step towards achieving this efficiency is establishing a systematic approach and establishing a systematic approach starts by breaking the task as a whole into discrete sub-tasks (see below). The second step would be deciding what order those steps should be taken in and……..given that most facilities keep all holds and tools required for route setting in the same place, I would suggest that the sub-tasks be completed in the order in which they have been presented.

(a) Examining the wall and envisioning the line

If there’s any one group of people that can fritter away the hours fawning and drooling over climbing holds………it’s route setters. It’s not that the time is wasted – a route setter does well to familiarize themselves with the holds that their facility has available and muse on all the different ways they could be used. It’s more that unless some restrictions are placed on the holds that could be selected for a route BEFORE the setter enters the hold area…..hold selection (and daydreaming) will consume a huge proportion of their time. Of course, the setter should know what wall they are going to be setting and the desired grade before attempting to select holds but what they should ALSO do is……stand in front of the wall that’s to be set and survey the terrain – imagine the climb that is about to be and it’s relationship with neighbouring routes – both in terms of path and colour.

Selecting a colour for the climb (one that offers contrast to that of it’s neighbours) and imagining a path for the climb……..generates further restrictions on the holds that could be considered suitable - beyond those already resulting from the angle of the wall and desired grade - and as such…….limits the amount of time that the setter will spend casting their eye’s (and hands) around while selecting holds. It’s not that the setter shouldn’t spend time selecting appropriate holds - it’s just that I know from experience that being in a well-stocked hold area is very much like being in a candy store - if you don’t go in with some sort of idea as to what you want….you’ll spend all your time looking around (instead of getting on to the business of eating candy).

The overall message being, for sake of saving time – it is only once the wall has been surveyed and the necessary decisions made the setter should make their way to the hold/tool area.

(b) Holds and Tools – For Stripping and Setting

One of the greatest, and for the most part avoidable, wastes of time while route setting……are the potential trips back and forth between the hold area and the wall that is being set. Moreover, one of the greatest, and for the most part avoidable, wastes of energy while setting……are the potential trips up and down the rope. In both cases, the waste is usually as a result of forgotten (or worse….dropped) tools and/or a shortage of holds. As such, the setter does well to make sure they have everything that MIGHT be required BEFORE they leave the hold area.

Depending on the specifics of the facility, there will always be some variation in the safety equipment required but would suggest that the base tool requirements for route setting are pretty much universal:

- Hex keys (2 imperial and 1 metric if setting on Walltopia or Pyramide (ideally….two of each))
- Appropriately sized screw driver and wood screws (wood framing only)

Over time, I just decided to keep all of my tools in a separate crate which I always carried to the base of the line being set; in the end this crate also contained…

- Steel brush (cleaning holds and features)
- Rubber hammer (removing “fused” holds)
- Extra hardware (draws, bolts and hangers)
- Vice grips (for dealing with stripped T-nuts and maintenance of fixed gear)

In terms of the holds that will be required……..well – I have seen (and been given) instructions that break down the number of holds required per metre of climbing and……I’m not going to do that – there’s just too much variation and subjectivity in setting to do so usefully. What I will suggest is that once you’ve selected all of the holds that you “think” you’re going to need and fit them with appropriately sized bolts, add the following:

- 3 – 5 extra handholds
- 5 – 8 extra footholds
- 10+ extra bolts of various sizes
* (Estimate based on @10 m of climbing)


Carrying extras means……..if there’s been an error in envisioning the route or holds are dropped/broken during the setting process, there won’t be an extra trip down (and back up) the rope to fix the problem. The assortment of “extra” bolts is, again, just to make sure there’s no waste of energy or time accounting for an error in judgement (or coordination).

Before leaving the hold area the only other thing to grab would be…..crates/storage containers for all of the holds that are going to be stripped off the wall. That said, with sufficient foresight………there shouldn’t be a return trip to the hold area until a new route is set and tools and dirty holds are being returned to the hold area.

(c) Stripping

There’s some argument to be made, in terms of efficiency, to simultaneously stripping and setting…..obviously I don’t feel this way. From an objective stand point, there’s bound to be a little clutter/confusion if you’re trying to do both at the same time (which slows things down) and from a completely subjective standpoint…..well – I always preferred practicing my art on a clean slate. In the end, the choice is up to the individual but…..I honestly recommend stripping before setting.

That said, it is in stripping a wall that the “piece work” mentality will offer the greatest returns and in my experience…..the greatest efficiency is achieved in approaching the task as follows:

- Strip from the ground
- Strip from a ladder
- Strip top down on rope
* By stripping in this order, you minimise the amount of time you spend on the rope and…..the amount of weight on your harness while you are on the rope

In each case, try to minimise the number of positions you work from and stick to the following ideologies:

- Reach as far as possible
- Do EVERYTHING that can be done with a specific tool before switching tools
* Switching tools – putting one down and searching for another – wastes time second by second


With the above ideologies in mind, perform the stripping tasks in the following order

- Remove wood screws (surface/climb dependent)
- Remove holds with “large” hex
- Remove holds with “small” hex
- Remove tape

There’s no denying that stripping a wall really is “labour” – it’s not terribly exciting and consumes a fair amount of energy. That said, it is a necessary evil but…….if you stick to what I’ve described above it will be over with quickly allowing you to move on to the act of actually “setting”


(d) Setting

Wherein I do intend to make some comments about moves that one should (or at least that it would be better to) avoid setting, it is not my intent to tell anyone what type of moves should be set…….only to suggest a systematic means of approaching the process – one that will, in the long run, minimise the amount of time and energy expended moving up and down the rope. That said, my recommendation is that actual setting of the route proceed as follows:

1. Place starting hand and foot holds before connecting to the rest of the system; mark (with tape) position for next hand hold

2. After connecting, assemble the rest of the climb “ground up” marking positions for “low” foot holds with tape

* Foot placements are generally located/decided upon once they are below your centre of gravity – it’s easier to mark the location and continue upwards (instead of lowering and re-jugging OR using body tension/extended reach to place hold)
* Holding difficult positions to place holds will be the largest expenditure of energy (also when you are most likely to drop a hold or tool); consider using a personal safety or specialized tool (see Part 4) to make things easier (and safer)

3. While lowering back down, place footholds and secure potential spinners (see Part 4)

* This is also a good time to inspect any fixed gear on the climb – check carabineers and slings for wear, ensure that any screw gates (as on quick links) are tightened to a locked position

In terms of the “type” of moves or the “nature” of the climb…..I would (humbly) make only the following suggestions…….

(i) Avoid setting hand & foot matches (except on holds obviously designed for such things): Yes, a hand or foot match can be “hard” but…..it’s an annoying kind of hard and……people are likely to screw up the sequence and have to match on holds anyways
(ii) Avoid setting moves that stretch the climber out to either a shallow two finger pocket or undercling – such moves are a good way to damage climbers.
(iii) Keep in perspective your own power and reach as compared to those who are likely to attempt the climb
(iv) If you’re setting a lead climb……make sure to set (or at least consider) a clipping stance for the leader at each clip AND…….always consider the fall a leader would take from any position YOU take them to
(v) Always use a “jug” (relative to grade) as the final hold on the climb

Once you’ve finished setting – or once you ‘think” you have – there’s one last thing to do before returning all of your tools, extras and stripped holds to the hold area - forerun the climb yourself and better yet……watch another climber comfortable at the alleged grade forerun it too. Often the setter is locked into their imagined sequence and fuelled by honor – the only way to make sure the moves work the way you would like (or in a way that you are comfortable with) is to get someone else to test them


Having performed pretty much all duties in a climbing gym at one point or another over the years, I can honestly say that setting climbs was always the most labour intensive and……..the most satisfying. Some of the satisfaction was as a result of completing a task and some from the joy of creation but………most of it was ALWAYS as a result of being able to share what had been created with people who genuinely appreciated it (and listening to them curse and take my name in vain).


Bastonydaga


Jan 18, 2013, 11:53 AM
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Re: [limestone_cowboy] Route Setting: Ethos, Aesthetics and Mechanics by Sean Milligan [In reply to]
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This has been a GREAT read. I have a question about grading/rating a route (understanding the relative and subjective nature of rating):

What is the minimum a roof route should be rated?

I have an indoor facility and some controversy has been stirred up concerning a V3 roof climb?? It's juggy, but a few patrons are flashing flat wall 3's and then bailing at the 1st couple moves on the roof....

Insight on how to clean up and adjust the roof is encouraged. I want my experienced climbers AS WELL as the gumbies to enjoy the roof.


acorneau


Jan 19, 2013, 4:15 AM
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Re: [Bastonydaga] Route Setting: Ethos, Aesthetics and Mechanics by Sean Milligan [In reply to]
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Bastonydaga wrote:
What is the minimum a roof route should be rated?

That's a tough one, but as in many things: it depends.

I've got a V0- on a 20-25 degree roof right now: huge handle-bar holds every 18" for ~7 feet, then big jugs to pull up onto the 80 degree face and to the top.

No way it's anything close to a V3 or V2, and still easier than a real V1.

Remember that roof/overhung climbing requires an additional set of skills (technique) than relatively vertical climbing. If your patrons don't have that technique figured out then it's going to be a lot harder for them.


limestone_cowboy


Jan 19, 2013, 4:50 AM
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Re: [Bastonydaga] Route Setting: Ethos, Aesthetics and Mechanics by Sean Milligan [In reply to]
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Hi Bastonydaga....

Glad you have enjoyed the read, I understand the issue you are describing/experiencing but.....am somewhat unclear as to whether you are describing a long boulder problem or a lead route (more accustomed to lead routes being graded with YDS).

In either case, the discrepancy could be, as acorneau suggested, one of technical/physical development.....climbing roof can require elements of strength, endurance and technique which your newer climbers have yet to develop. In the case of a lead route, these "problems" would be, if anything, pronounced, as many new lead climbers are a little apprehensive of clips and falls on (and off) a roof.

On the bright side.......most new (lead) climbers look at a roof climb with a bit of a twinkle (or fear) in their eyes - they seem to know it's something to aim for. The fact that they are experiencing difficulty with it (while being able to see other people climbing it) will give them the incentive to keep coming back and.......keep training.

All that said.......it may well be that the addition/rearrangement of holds could make things a little easier and if you are able to forward along photo/video.......I'd be happy to have a look and see if I can make any suggestions.

Climb Safe,

Sean


limestone_cowboy


Jan 19, 2013, 5:06 AM
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Re: [limestone_cowboy] Route Setting: Ethos, Aesthetics and Mechanics by Sean Milligan [In reply to]
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For "All".......

If you've enjoyed reading this thread and/or better yet have found it helpful/informative in some way......further instalments and more are available at http://www.facebook.com/...tate/497571573605506 - all visits, likes and shares are greatly appreciated........

Sean


Bastonydaga


Apr 11, 2013, 8:07 AM
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Re: [limestone_cowboy] Route Setting: Ethos, Aesthetics and Mechanics by Sean Milligan [In reply to]
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"...whether you are describing a long boulder problem or a lead route..."

Yeah, we're talking bouldering. My walls are only 16-1/2ft tall... haha, there's no leading here!

I definitely know how touchy grading can be. And I can see what Acroneau is saying. So, to be a little more precise: we are bouldering, the route is really only about 12 feet long, sit start on the vert wall then on the roof. But it isn't just an angle, it's a full-on ceiling. I guess you could say "180 degrees."

I'll see if I can get some pics...

Thanks for the feedback.


rschap


Apr 20, 2013, 8:38 PM
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Re: [Bastonydaga] Route Setting: Ethos, Aesthetics and Mechanics by Sean Milligan [In reply to]
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A lot of it depends on how it is set. I've set a 5.8 on a roof before and everyone said it couldn't be 5.8 until they climbed it. it is possible to set easier routes on horizontal walls but it is difficult. I tell people to think of it like being on the monkey bars and putting your feet up. But, then you have to make it like being on the monkey bars and putting your feet up.


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