Gym route setting??


Original Post
Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 265

The gym/real rock thread highlights some of the difficulties in creating routes, especially if you are trying to include moves applicable to outdoor climbing.

Me being, well, me, I am setting for brand new climbers. Easy, easy routes. But, I love outdoors, and do not think new, old, injured, whatever, climbers should have jug ladders foisted on them. Boring, and, honestly, insulting, too.

What I don't have is much experience elsewhere, which is where you come in.

What are some of the videos you've seen, with fun moves, that are easy? Inside, outside, you or your bros on your favorite route at the gym, whatever, just 5.9 absolute max, or less, and tell me what part of it you liked. Links, please! And my gym is all vertical, so those mythical slab climbs I've heard about don't count unless they'd go as a vertical. We do have some right angle walls, and overhangs to work with.

Thanks a bunch if you can help me!

Best, OLH

"Plagiarism is basic to all culture" Pete Seeger (perhaps quoting Woody Guthrie?)

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 10,240

I don't do any route-setting, but I much enjoy experiencing good results (and noticing less-good) results on Top-Rope. So I'll offer some ideas that other more knowledgeable people can shoot down.

I doubt that watching videos is going to help much. There are several really good Top-Rope route-setters in my favorite gyms. And management seems to be good at "breeding" or discovering more of them as needed -- so the capability does not seem confined to rare geniuses . . .

I don't think any of them learned by watching videos. I believe the key is to be exposed to really good setting, and to have interesting wall terrain (not just flat) to work with. Doesn't hurt to have a wide variety of holds (and to not be constrained by making all the same color for one climb).

Although they're all really strong climbers, management pushes them to create interesting easy routes for less-strong climbers (something neglected at many gyms).

my suggestions:

  • Take a course in route-setting - (likely requires traveling)
  • Travel to lots of places and sample lots of gyms: focus on trying lots of bouldering, and ask yourself which problems feel interesting and fun, and which ones seem relevant to outdoor climbing, and what makes them that way.
  • Start your own routesetting with constructing interesting boulder problems, or outdoor-relevant boulder problems (don't worry about combining both yet).
  • Ask for critiques.
  • For Top-Rope longer routes later, try to make them a link-up of interesting boulder problems.
  • Try to get your management to purchase some large volumes, so you can break up the flatness of your walls.

Ken

P.S. Travel ...
So far I'm unimpressed with the Top-Rope route-setting for easy + moderate difficulty around Salt Lake City (and Las Vegas). That's why I suggest focusing your learning on Bouldering.
Perhaps if you can sample some of the best big-city gyms in California or Seattle, some of them might have good Top-Rope setting. Or if you can all the way over to the NY metro area ...
John Wilder · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,530

Interesting setting, especially routes, can be a real challenge as a setter. If you're fortunate, you'll have a great hold selection and volumes available to you to help with both aesthetics and movement.

I will say that after about two years of setting, I stopped trying to mimic rock climbs and started focusing on interesting movements. As a setter, my favorite thing is setting really interesting and fun movement at a moderate grade, even better if it's forced movement.

Directional holds are your friend, along with holds that are difficult to match. Good feet for hard-ish moves brings the difficulty down as well. Bad feet on good holds accomplishes the same thing, taking the difficulty up if needed.

A setting course is an option if you really want to invest. USA Climbing runs level 1s a few times a year, which aren't super involved, but you'll be exposed to 24 or so setters from around the country, and it's a great way to meet other setters and to learn more about setting.

King Tut · · Citrus Heights · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 430

^^^ This.

You don't want to set like real rock as much as you want to set with a clear plan for the movement you want to train and reward climbers for figuring out as well as challenging different muscle groups.

This means (for example) that I would set routes that had mandatory left hand cranking as well as moves that went with right hand cranking so that beginners that favored their dominant hand too much would be challenged. Set high step left and high step right feet to work on flexibility. Back step right and back step left to encourage them to read a back step when it presents itself. Mandatory under clings or side pulls (beginners automatically grab the top of the hold so having them at unfamiliar angles encourages assessment and thought) etc etc.

So, as above, think about the movement and flow but try to make the sequences mandatory so as to reward the climber that finds the right way to do it and you will build their technique as well as their fitness.

This takes more time than setting ladders :).

The beauty of plastic is that you can set a 5.8 that has the same movement of a 5.13...just with bigger holds. Any video of a face climb you enjoy can be set in plastic.

Paul Hutton · · Dirtbaggin' western US · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 701

Some of my favorites are lie backing with high feet, forced bump ups (on arêtes is great), big deadpoints, dynos, paddle dynos, rose moves with big, exposed barn doors. I've done some problem setting for my local gym and have learned a bit.

B-Mkll Mackall · · Bozeman, MT · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 1,471

I'll echo what has been put forth here as a former route-setter.... you will never emulate real rock with plastic, nor is that the point of indoor setting. Setting's primary focus is to force certain beta, from the bottom up, and to create sequences that are cryptic yet flow well put together.

A climb can be VB or 5.8 level and still require body english, flagging, bumping, matching, small holds, etc. Anything that breaks the monotony of left-right-left-right at the easier levels. One of my favorite tricks is either eliminating available footholds, or putting the necessary foot for a reach far off to one side, forcing some thought about balance/ body position. Alternatively, have handholds face non-intuitive directions, forcing a gaston rather than a sidepull, or an undercling rather than a straight jug (though avoid having it be too awkward!). Corners are fun to work with because you can use extremely non-positive holds and force outdoor-type movement such as stemming, palming, mantling, etc.

Get creative. Start with one hold, imagine a movement that isn't simply "reach up with right hand". Maybe a hip-to-the-wall flag move to reach a gaston out right and then match on it before being able to move to the next hold? The possibilities are endless.

Have fun. I miss setting.

a.blair · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 65

A route that we have at our gym that is really cool is a corner route that involves stemming a couple of dropped knees that goes at 5.8. There is also a auto-belay setup with some bouldery jugs but you have to be more dynamic to reach them. It goes at 5.9. I know that really doesn't help, but as a beginner climber I really enjoyed the stemming.

Paul Hutton · · Dirtbaggin' western US · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 701

I disagree with indoor setting being unable to emulate outdoor rock climbing. But! Real rock will always hurt more than plastic! Getting arêtes involved for toe/heel hooks and side pulls, stemming up dihedrals, low angle slab with bad slopers and reachy holds that strain the lats, roof routes with blind, exposed reaches. I've seen some great route setting in not-so-climby areas in the Midwest, with old school ratings that will humble the strong. Don't be intimidated by meeting expectations while making your art. My first boulder problem wasn't interesting or colorful at all lol! Even after pondering on special obstacles and particular movement at a particular grade at a particular angle, I walk in there looking at what holds are available, and the spaces that are available on the wall, worrying about invading another setter's space. It can be tricky! I would spend more time on one problem than the time it took for other setters to finish and forerun two problems! One may think "just how unique and fun and athletically- pleasing could my problems be, when countless problems or routes have gone up in the past decades?" Hey, someone's gotta do it!

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 10,240
Paul Hutton wrote:I disagree with indoor setting being unable to emulate outdoor rock climbing.
"unable" ... I say ...
Unable at the easy - moderate difficulty grades, because outdoor rock climbing at those levels is mainly about footwork ...
where and how to place your foot on some slopy slabby patch of rock that has no distinct holds at all.
The usual advice to beginners on outdoor rock is, "Find the most likely non-hold you can, then commit to that and trust it to stand up in balance."

Unless the setter can work with some very special expensive structure / surface, there's no way to imitate that puzzle / situation indoors.

That's why lots of preparation indoors can only gain little for easing the transition to outdoor rock. Setters who think they can improve that are just kidding (somebody).

Even experienced outdoor climbers who then spend all winter climbing indoors (at good gyms) often have embarrassingly bad footwork their first day out in springtime.

Ken

P.S. Related problem is that most outdoor rock at easy+moderate grades is less than vertical, but most indoor walls are at least vertical or overhanging, for injury/insurance reasons.
Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 265
kenr wrote: "unable" ... I say ... Unable at the easy - moderate difficulty grades, because outdoor rock climbing at those levels is mainly about footwork ... where and how to place your foot on some slopy slabby patch of rock that has no distinct holds at all. The usual advice to beginners on outdoor rock is, "Find the most likely non-hold you can, then commit to that and trust it to stand up in balance." Unless the setter can work with some very special expensive structure / surface, there's no way to imitate that puzzle / situation indoors. That's why lots of preparation indoors can only gain little for easing the transition to outdoor rock. Setters who think they can improve that are just kidding (somebody). Even experienced outdoor climbers who then spend all winter climbing indoors (at good gyms) often have embarrassingly bad footwork their first day out in springtime. Ken P.S. Related problem is that most outdoor rock at easy+moderate grades is less than vertical, but most indoor walls are at least vertical or overhanging, for injury/insurance reasons.
Kenr, all, I have yet to encounter any nonvertical climbing, short of boulders low enough I can sit on them! Lol! So, yeah, that's what I'm thinking for my climbers, too, and our gym is all vertical, too.

I should probably make it clear, I am a volunteer at our local university gym rec center, so brand new climbers are there pretty often, and they do have outdoor trips to our local climbing (that columnar basalt in my photo), so they have no easy beginner slab climbs, either, although we do have some 5.6 out there.

That's why I was asking for vids of fun movement on verticals, for beginners.

Classes, traveling all over the country, none of that is going to happen, but thanks, anyway, I know it was meant well.

Paul, sorta silly we haven't crossed paths! Or, if you've ever seen a very short ancient old lady in a big gun harness, then we have!

Best, H.
King Tut · · Citrus Heights · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 430

Here's a vid to watch Helen, of a woman with very nice technique. Its a couple of routes set for a comp of some kind and if you study it you will see the principles of forcing the climbers into reading the sections and doing it one way, or heavily penalizing the climber if they get out of sequence.

The idea here as a course setter, regardless of difficulty, is that you can direct people in just this way to build their technique, ability to read a sequence as well as fitness. Just use bigger holds for beginners (these are probably at least 5.12) and mellow out the feet a bit (not quite so high-steppy or heel-hooky).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEzTMwXfVro

And once you start watching climbing vids on youtube they will know your preferences and start feeding you all kinds of vids on climbing to watch.

Paul Hutton · · Dirtbaggin' western US · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 701
Old lady H wrote: Kenr, all, I have yet to encounter any nonvertical climbing, short of boulders low enough I can sit on them! Lol! So, yeah, that's what I'm thinking for my climbers, too, and our gym is all vertical, too. I should probably make it clear, I am a volunteer at our local university gym rec center, so brand new climbers are there pretty often, and they do have outdoor trips to our local climbing (that columnar basalt in my photo), so they have no easy beginner slab climbs, either, although we do have some 5.6 out there. That's why I was asking for vids of fun movement on verticals, for beginners. Classes, traveling all over the country, none of that is going to happen, but thanks, anyway, I know it was meant well. Paul, sorta silly we haven't crossed paths! Or, if you've ever seen a very short ancient old lady in a big gun harness, then we have! Best, H.
Ha yea really. I'm at Urban Ascent all the time when I'm in Boise, and frequently going to the black cliffs when the weather is decent.
Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 265
King Tut wrote:Here's a vid to watch Helen, of a woman with very nice technique. Its a couple of routes set for a comp of some kind and if you study it you will see the principles of forcing the climbers into reading the sections and doing it one way, or heavily penalizing the climber if they get out of sequence. The idea here as a course setter, regardless of difficulty, is that you can direct people in just this way to build their technique, ability to read a sequence as well as fitness. Just use bigger holds for beginners (these are probably at least 5.12) and mellow out the feet a bit (not quite so high-steppy or heel-hooky). youtube.com/watch?v=dEzTMwX... And once you start watching climbing vids on youtube they will know your preferences and start feeding you all kinds of vids on climbing to watch.
Thanks! I confess I don't know the rules for comps, but she did make great use of the wall. And, I also noticed she chose some of those high heel hooks over using some lower holds.

I'll be back at the setting soon, so we'll see how it goes.

Best, Helen
Pavel Burov · · Russia · Joined May 2013 · Points: 50

Surprisingly good strategy is to no route set at all. Just screw in as much as possible holds of different sizes and shapes. Something like a HUGE system board.

Lot of training strategies:

1. Coach is pointing the next hold with laser pointer.

2. Play an "every next move is hell hard" game with a buddy (grow a problem one move at time: you find an extremely awkward start position, your buddy repeat it and fire a hell hard move, you repeat it and add the next hell hard move, etc).

3. Ask others if there are new cool problems were recently "set".

4. Address your weakness (e.g., if bad on weight shifting, make as much different weight shifting moves as possible).

5. Climb your favorite hard problem with no using the key hold.

6. Etc.

Cons. Bouldering walls only.

Mark E Dixon · · Sprezzatura, Someday · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 549
King Tut wrote:Here's a vid to watch Helen, of a woman with very nice technique.
Those routes look about 5.10 to me.
kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 10,240
Old lady H wrote:I have yet to encounter any nonvertical climbing [outdoors]
OK - but outdoors even on vertical routes, usually footwork is the critical success factor (along with some finger strength).
Without expensive special surface features, you're just not going to teach footwork indoors -- so there's always going to be a shock factor when start climbing outdoors.

Finger strength can be gained on routes that have little resemblance to outdoor routes.

So I'd suggest focus most of your attention on learning to create routes that are interesting.

One other strategy: Get other people involved in the routesetting and learn from each other. That way you see different styles of "interesting".

Perhaps the best skill of all is to be able to recruit promising setters, foster an environment in which they learn from each other, and recognize which ones are really talented.

Ken
King Tut · · Citrus Heights · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 430
Mark E Dixon wrote: Those routes look about 5.10 to me.
Looking Jain Kim up on her wiki page her hardest red point is 5.14c...so someone climbing that hard can make 5.12 look pretty easy. This first route is a qualifier for an Asian lead climbing comp and probably pretty hard.

Jain Kim for a period a few years ago was one of the top woman sport climbers in the world and won the lead climbing world cup 3 or 4 times.

TBH of course I don't know for sure how hard the route is but the beauty of plastic is that I could set nearly that exact movement with far bigger holds and have it be 5.8 on a vertical wall, or 5.7 with a few extra foot holds or 5.6 on a slab. That is one of the concepts I am trying to share with Helen.

Route setting draws from a knowledge of a catalog of standard moves, then you just vary the size/type of holds/angle of wall to adjust difficulty. At it's most challenging you can also add in sucker sequences that are doable at a grade or two harder to penalize poor reading and introduce a pump that will hurt the climber later at a real mandatory crux.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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