Route Setting

by Steve Dunning
Posted: 18th Apr 2015

Route setting! If you arrive at 5pm on a Wednesday evening you will notice there are 35+ freshly set and cleaned boulder problems. Is it as simple as just firing a load of holds onto the wall? Or is more required of the route setters to ensure good, fun and enjoyable problems. I have been setting at Depot Nottingham since we have opened and set at various other walls around the country before the working here.

In this time period, there are 6 things I have learnt about the art of route setting.

1. Every route setter has their own way of doing it: Be it putting a few holds on at a time, building the climb from the top down, laying the holds out on the floor before assembling them on the wall or simply putting a hold on and seeing where it goes from there. I have learnt that there is no correct tested way to set. Each setter has their own style and this variation only makes for a wider scope of interesting boulder problems.

2. Inspiration can come from all sources: We set 35+ climbs every Wednesday on the same angles with the same hand holds. This can prove challenging when trying to find inspiration for new ideas. Ways in which this can be done may include mimicking climbs that exist outside or taking ideas from indoor competitions that can be found online. It would be nice to think we always have the originality to come up with new creations but if you see a good idea online it would be silly to look a gift horse in the mouth.

3. Trying to create the right challenge for each climber at every level: Trying to create the right climb at all levels is very challenging. It is easy to create a climb you think is great with spinning moves, toe hooks, heel hooks, campus moves etc. And the climb may be great, but if you were to set something like this on steep groud for the V0-V2 circuit it simply woudn't get climbing due to its difficulty. We must be aware at all times of what we are setting and who we are setting for. I have definitely guilty of committing this error in the past.

4. Route Setters Block: Yes I know you are thinking the climbs here are brilliant 100% of the time ;) but we do struggle for motivation. Its very easy to replicate moves and sequences you have set in the past when you are struggling. This a trap that must be avoided at all cost to stop things becomes repetitive. If you are really struggling with fresh ideas, adding volumes to the wall can make a massive difference. This gives you an entirely different bit of surface to work with, alternatively ask your route setting buddy to take that bit of wall because you are struggling. If you don't have a fellow router setter on hand with you, a break and refuel can always help spawn new ideas.

5. All body types must be taken into account: The fact that I'm quite tall is always a thought in the back of my mind when setting (I become paranoid about it). If I set a move I may have to re think it by adding in another foot hold or bringing the hand hand down a little. As many of our shorter customers will let you know (in a very vocal manner), there is nothing more annoying than not being able to do a climb due to lack of reach. Although they never complain when the climbs are bunched with incredibly high feet.

6. Do the climbs 'flow'?: The problem has to flow nicely. As a climber myself there is nothing I dislike more than going to a wall and climbing a load of awkward climbs with foot and hand holds that just don't seem to be in the right place. Testing and tweaking the climbs has to be done without fail everytime, even when you are totally destroyed from along days work. You never know how the problem truly flows until you test it. If people are failing on a climb due to lack of technique or just not quite there with the strength yet, it can be a good sign of a well set problem.

As a customer, if you ever find yourself feeling perplexed by a certain climb, the staff are always on hand to aid you through our 'interesting' climbs.

Depot Team :)