Review by: j_ung, 2005-11-30
[size=12][b]Full Disclosure: The company that manufactured this equipment provided it free of charge to RC.com and RC.com then provided it as compensation to the reviewer for his or her review. This company does not currently advertise on RC.com.[/b]
Fifteen years ago, I walked into a climbing gym for the first time. I’d love to tell you that I was captivated by its obvious potential, but on the contrary, I thought it sucked balls. All of the angles were right – and I don’t mean “correct” – which lent the place a contrived look. The building was blazing hot, half the holds were wood and I had to [i]pay[/i] to climb there. Previously, the only place I had ever paid to climb was the Gunks… and the Gunks that wasn’t.
So it is with some mild amusement that I tell you what became of my relationship with climbing gyms over the course of the next decade and a half. I started working part time in a gym, eventually got bumped up to manager, ran a gym-based instructional program that grossed over $100k per year and even once relocated 500 miles for the sole purpose of helping a friend open a new climbing gym.
Along the way, I dove into coursesetting like a sailor on shore leave dives into a Bangkok brothel. Suspended in aiders or teetering precariously atop extension ladders with wrench in hand, I spent many happy years exploring my once-lost creative gene sequence on super-sized surfaces. Nothing I’ve ever done in the climbing business, including private guiding, has ever given me the satisfaction that I get from coursesetting. Currently, it’s my only role in my local gym. I set one night a week and customer interaction be damned!
But my education has largely been in a vacuum. Like, I think, most coursesetters, I’ve been mostly left to my own devices to find what works in a route and what doesn’t. So it is with a surreal mix of both glee and trepidation that I opened Louis Anderson’s [i]The Art of Coursesetting[/i]. [i]Coursesetting[/i] attempts to cover difficult ground and it does so in a way that setters of any level can find useful. For myself, it was both reassuring to have many of my own conclusions validated while also opening my mind to a few new ideas.
If you haven’t heard it as a coursesetter, then chances are you’ve said it as a climber in a gym: “[i]That guy’s routes are always too reachy.[/i]” I’m only 5’6”, so I don’t hear it about my routes as often as some others, but I still think it’s the most common complaint regarding indoor routes. Anderson jumps into the fray willingly to attack this and many other issues, all of which will prove invaluable to new setters and seasoned pros alike. Of most value to me, a perennial 11d-12a climber, is the section on setting routes past my own climbing limit. For that, Anderson provides some perspective: “All setters have had to do this at one time or another…” He goes on to explain that since, usually, the crux of an indoor route is only a few grades harder than the rest of the moves, it’s easiest to think of a route as within your limit and then just step it up a bit for the business section. Simple? Yes, but somehow, it still never occurred to me.
That [i]The Art of Coursesetting[/i] will appeal to setters is certain, but there are some obvious benefits for others, too. Do you own or aspire to own a home wall? You’ll find some great tips to keep your workouts interesting over the long haul. Are you a gym manager tasked with organizing a competition? [i]Coursesetting[/i] includes an entire section on comp organization authored by ABS founder, Scott Rennak.
I’ve already touched on [i]The Art of Coursesetting’s[/i] only real weakness, but you might have missed it. Anderson makes no attempt to teach creativity to aspiring or struggling setters. The book acknowledges this inherent shortcoming and purposely makes little effort to overcome it. And actually, I agree with that premise. The vision required to see a quality route, put it onto a huge surface and then have people climb it and enjoy it time and again is not a learned skill.
So how can I blame the book for a stance with which I agree? I don’t. I still gave it five of a possible five biners. I don’t think there are [i]any[/i] coursesetting prodigies who can walk up to a wall for the first time, set gold and then rarely falter for ever more. But it is possible to make even the least creative among us passable as a coursesetter, and that’s why this book’s inherent weakness is also its strength.
[i]The Art of Coursesetting[/i] (not to be confused with [i]The Art of Corseting[/i]) is available from many hold manufacturers and gear retailers for $14.95 or you can purchase it directly from its author by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. [/size]