Gym lead route question


Original Post
Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 120

The gym I set at has a new policy. You must be able to climb their "5.9" lead route to test for leading there.

In the absence of any cracks, chimneys, any of that, what seems to happen to make the routes harder are small crimpy holds set farther apart, slopers set farther apart, or both.

Which pretty much locks the door for me.

I'm also a setter, and yes, not climbing much grade wise, but I do think I'm a good enough climber to lead and lead belay safely, based on my outdoor experience.

Here's the question:

What makes a decent 5.9 climb in a gym setting? I can edge pretty small feet, work a Gaston, use oppositional holds, use a one hand pocket for most people as a two hand hold....a decent list.

But i can only stretch 4' 11" so far.

We do have some overhangs/roofs, one I can do, two, maybe, but not an entire route that's past vertical (which also does not strike me as 5.9) on lead. We also have a fair number of corners, right angle or shallower.

Ideas? If I can come up with two or three honest cruxes, I might get away with setting something I can climb, and get after those leads next winter!

Thanks! OLH

Eric Fjellanger · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2008 · Points: 830

When I imagine a 5.9 lead route indoors, I picture it on a dead vertical wall and consisting of nothing but jugs.

By the way, I feel like leading indoors is a lot sketchier than doing it outside, usually. Much of the climbing is in the groundfall zone, there are tons of distractions, noise, traffic, etc.

Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 120
Eric Fjellanger wrote:

When I imagine a 5.9 lead route indoors, I picture it on a dead vertical wall and consisting of nothing but jugs.

By the way, I feel like leading indoors is a lot sketchier than doing it outside, usually. Much of the climbing is in the groundfall zone, there are tons of distractions, noise, traffic, etc.

Really? That doesn't even describe my 5.6 top rope beginner climbs!

Best, H.

Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 120

Hey, folks, really, besides cracks, what makes a 5.9 climb? If I do small feet, have a roof or two, and a Gaston or some oppositional moves, would that get me there? I'm totally willing to work the sucker hard, until I nail it, but this is soooo frustrating! And yes, I am quite willing to "game" the system!

Thanks in advance to any who come through!

Best, OLH

Petsfed · · Laramie, WY · Joined Mar 2002 · Points: 875

In a gym? Imagine that crazy easy 5.6 jug haul. Now put it on a consistently overhung wall. That's the "5.9" lead route set literally everywhere. The point is not difficulty, it's that the consequences of a fall are minimized during the lead test. Ideally, it's set in the lead-only portion of the gym.

Daniel Joder · · Boulder, CO · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 0

OLH, maybe you could design a corner that requires deciphering a thoughtful sequence rather than merely a steep/overhanging wall that utilizes small holds? I always like it when I run across a gym route that requires some interesting sequencing to get through--too many gyms just make the ladder-type holds smaller and farther apart, then up the rating, and call it good. Movement in Boulder and Denver have setters who are pretty imaginative when putting up those dihedrals and they can be challenging just based on the weird beta, not necessarily on the size of the holds or the distance between them. I am not a setter, so I have no suggestions about how to actually do what I suggest...just an idea for you. DanJ

Daniel Joder · · Boulder, CO · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 0

+1 for what Petsfed just wrote, as I think about it. A corner may not be the best for a lead test depending on where the draws are placed and how you might swing as you fall.

Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 120

They have about five spots with the draws, several sets or routes possible at each spot. Some of these are also top rope areas, so they could have a top belay going when no sport guys were on it.

If I remember correctly, one of these sport or top rope areas has a partial corner, slightly overhanging, and a roof. One is flat, with one roof (currently has a 5.7 I can't quite reach on). The last is two roofs, so it ends up out some but not past vertical. The other lead walls are way past my strength/power/stamina right now. I just can't do overhangs for very long, and at 60, I don't know if I'm going to win that race. I am working hard, though, and way stronger than six months ago.

Currently, I can get up the 5.8 lead, or could do it clean with some work (the two roof one), except I can't reach in one bit close to the top. If I work it, I maybe can get a "legal" go around, but, it's still just 5.8.

I actually try to set more than just a jug ladder, always. Even if it is easy, my view is beginners particularly should have an opportunity to learn something or try a move.

My longest standing route so far, has just a little short section at the top, four or five holds near a right angle corner. They are stacked in a line, but turned vertical. So, you can lay back, stem, or, if you fold up small enough, chimney up that six or eight feet.

They (the management) are chewing on this now. I can certainly understand wanting climbers who are a certain competency on the leads, but that doesn't always correlate with the ability to climb a certain grade.

I'm not asking about the setting, more about the moves, especially as outside just doesn't translate to inside, when those grades are where cracks come into play a lot of the time.

I have asked my rope gun kid to think about what we might have locally with 5.9 moves that are doable for me, that I can steal from!

Best, OLH

The Yeti · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 0

OLH,

In my experience it's difficult to use removable/replaceable indoor climbing holds to simulate out door crack climbs.

I'd also recommend talking to your climbing wall managers about reconsidering their 5.9 requirement. In my experience it's better to let new lead climbers choose a grade they feel comfortable at so they can start to develop good leading & lead belaying skills early & on moderate terrain. However, they should still demonstrate that they can catch a fall so the climbing wall tester needs to have the authority to veto routes where a lead fall may not be safe.

If you do want to set some harder routes for leading my general advice would not be to increase the distance between holds but to simply make them more difficult to hold on to & to add an abundance of shitty feet to accommodate climbers with varying reach.

Best,

The Yeti. 

Momoface · · Arvada, CO · Joined Apr 2008 · Points: 0

Big jugs oriented up like this? 5.6.

Now, the same holds but turn sideways or upside down into an undercling? That's more like 8 or 9. 

Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 120

Boy, your'e making me feel better about this, at least, thanks!

Yeti, I agree, but I try to bring outdoors in, at least in spirit. The chimney/stem/layback works, and I managed one nice hand jam between a couple holds when I could get them lined up, but I don't think they got used that way.

I agree with the rest, but we'll see. I am just an old lady climber, in a university gym, after all, and a volunteer setter.

Momoface, that's interesting! If you cut off the bottom third of those holds, or generally shrink them a bit, those are jugs, for me. I rarely put them horizontal, unless they are where you need a fast grab to latch, or, for me, a six finger two hand pocket to do a pull up on.

I'm thinking I need to try and find out more about gym grades, generally. They aren't stiff compared to our local climbing, but our stuff here is pretty much 5.6 and up, and pure vertical.

I do know the local commercial gym's easy routes are heaps easier, but that's good business!

Thanks, all, OLH

AmandaM · · Jackson, WY · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 0

This is a real pet peeve of mine. I've never understood why you have to be able to lead an overhung 5.9 or 5.10 for your gym lead test in order to show competency at leading, especially since in all the gyms I've been to, there are plenty of lead routes available that are significantly easier. When I took the lead tests at BRC and Earth Treks in Golden, you had the option to lead some really easy routes. I think I led a 5.6 at both. If these awesome gyms think it's fine to lead a 5.6 in order to show you can smoothly clip bolts without back clipping or z clipping, then why do so many feel otherwise? I can't help but think it's mostly just elitism. 

I know lots of older mountains guides and formerly badass climbers in Jackson who may not be able to crank that overhanging "5.9", er more like 5.10, lead test route in the gym anymore, but could still teach anybody how to climb trad or sport any day. The fact that these people are shut out from leading in the gym by a standard seemingly based on pure strength is ridiculous and sad to me.

Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 120
AmandaM wrote:

This is a real pet peeve of mine. I've never understood why you have to be able to lead an overhung 5.9 or 5.10 for your gym lead test in order to show competency at leading, especially since in all the gyms I've been to, there are plenty of lead routes available that are significantly easier. When I took the lead tests at BRC and Earth Treks in Golden, you had the option to lead some really easy routes. I think I led a 5.6 at both. If these awesome gyms think it's fine to lead a 5.6 in order to show you can smoothly clip bolts without back clipping or z clipping, then why do so many feel otherwise? I can't help but think it's mostly just elitism. 

I know lots of older mountains guides and formerly badass climbers in Jackson who may not be able to crank that overhanging "5.9", er more like 5.10, lead test route in the gym anymore, but could still teach anybody how to climb trad or sport any day. The fact that these people are shut out from leading in the gym by a standard seemingly based on pure strength is ridiculous and sad to me.

Thank you. :-) OLH

Tico · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 0

It's not elitism Manders, it's injury prevention.  Like ol' Tom, who's my fucking hero, just got hurt falling off in jtree.  Gym routes are too short, and too steep, to prevent decking without a certain amount of physicality.  And that gym in driggs has you in ground fall at the third clip, maybe fourth if you yard up slack to clip overhead.

Leading in the gym if you can't climb steep routes is stupid anyway.  Why bother?  Can't remember the last time i did.  

Tradgic Yogurt · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2016 · Points: 55

OLH, 

Go for forcing body position bit. Momoface's suggestion is a really good one, turning holds to the side. For example, in places you could have a good side pull so that you have one hand free to clip easily, but only if you turn your hips into the wall because the hold is far enough to the side to demand it. The 5.9-ness comes from reading the route, not from jug hauling.

will ar · · San Antonio, TX · Joined Jan 2010 · Points: 215
AmandaM wrote:

This is a real pet peeve of mine. I've never understood why you have to be able to lead an overhung 5.9 or 5.10 for your gym lead test in order to show competency at leading, especially since in all the gyms I've been to, there are plenty of lead routes available that are significantly easier. When I took the lead tests at BRC and Earth Treks in Golden, you had the option to lead some really easy routes. I think I led a 5.6 at both. If these awesome gyms think it's fine to lead a 5.6 in order to show you can smoothly clip bolts without back clipping or z clipping, then why do so many feel otherwise? I can't help but think it's mostly just elitism. 

I know lots of older mountains guides and formerly badass climbers in Jackson who may not be able to crank that overhanging "5.9", er more like 5.10, lead test route in the gym anymore, but could still teach anybody how to climb trad or sport any day. The fact that these people are shut out from leading in the gym by a standard seemingly based on pure strength is ridiculous and sad to me.

Based on my personal experience (living in a few large cities with multiple gyms) gym lead routes below 5.8/5.9 are not all that common. I don't think it's elitism, it is a business after all. Gym lead routes are typically slightly overhanging (again to make lead falls safer) which makes setting easier routes more of a challenge. If you're a 5.7 climber trying to make it between clips on a 5.9 can be somewhat dangerous for the first few clips. Most of the accidents/sketchy stuff I've seen in a gym involves relatively new climbers getting flustered or pumped out trying to make a clip within groudfall range. While it's not uncommon for experienced sport climbers to project routes that they have difficulty making it bolt to bolt initially they have a lot skills/experience/judgement that a sub 5.10 gym climber might not.

As for overhanging 5.9 being a standard based on pure strength I would disagree.  Most overhanging 5.9/5.10 gym routes are jug hauls and require minimal finger strength. There are a lot of skills and technques specific to steeper climbs, without which you will need to be really strong to make it up.

AmandaM · · Jackson, WY · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 0
Tico wrote:

It's not elitism Manders, it's injury prevention.  Like ol' Tom, who's my fucking hero, just got hurt falling off in jtree.  Gym routes are too short, and too steep, to prevent decking without a certain amount of physicality.  And that gym in driggs has you in ground fall at the third clip, maybe fourth if you yard up slack to clip overhead.

Leading in the gym if you can't climb steep routes is stupid anyway.  Why bother?  Can't remember the last time i did.  

Yo Tico. I think lots of people find it worthwhile to lead in the gym even if they're only climbing 5.8. Maybe they just want to stay with their leading game through the winter so they feel in practice for the Spring. I think if there are moderate lead routes available at the gym and you can show competency at clipping bolts at that level, then you should be allowed to lead. Apparently seems to work for BRC. 

And I guess it's my pet peeve because I saw lots of older climbers not be allowed to lead at Enclosure when they were still climbing 5.9 vertical routes outside. It's kind of a blow to the ego to have climbed and guided for 50 years and then have a gym manager not let you clip bolts because you can't climb an overhanging 5.10 anymore. Who cares if they just want to lead a 5.7? They're 70 years old! Let them! Not that any of this matters here since our gym is now a car dealership.

G R · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 65
AmandaM wrote:

Who cares if they just want to lead a 5.7? They're 70 years old! Let them! 

Probably the management who have to deal with what happens when a 70 year old decks from falling while trying to clip the third bolt of a 5.8.

AmandaM · · Jackson, WY · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 0
Greg Redlawsk wrote:

Probably the management who have to deal with what happens when a 70 year old decks from falling while trying to clip the third bolt of a 5.8.

And no 5.11 climbers ever deck when trying to clip the third bolt of a 5.12?

Tico · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 0
AmandaM wrote:

Yo Tico. I think lots of people find it worthwhile to lead in the gym even if they're only climbing 5.8. Maybe they just want to stay with their leading game through the winter so they feel in practice for the Spring. I think if there are moderate lead routes available at the gym and you can show competency at clipping bolts at that level, then you should be allowed to lead. Apparently seems to work for BRC. 

And I guess it's my pet peeve because I saw lots of older climbers not be allowed to lead at Enclosure when they were still climbing 5.9 vertical routes outside. It's kind of a blow to the ego to have climbed and guided for 50 years and then have a gym manager not let you clip bolts because you can't climb an overhanging 5.10 anymore. Who cares if they just want to lead a 5.7? They're 70 years old! Let them! Not that any of this matters here since our gym is now a car dealership.

I think the problem is that in this day and age, you can't let gym employees have discretionary powers.  The standards are for the lowest common denominator, not for the exceptions.  And if you've been guiding for 50 years, you don't need plastic to stay in shape or for your head. And it is funny that the dude who sold the enclosure also sold this very site to rei.  Gyms are money making operations, plain and simple.

Tico · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 0

Oh, and vertical routes are the most dangerous in a gym, since the holds stick out, causing a plinko of ledge fall potential.  As much as I enjoy watching geriatrics break ankles, there really shouldn't be less than overhanging lead routes in a gym. Slabs are for rock.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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