The rules of routesetting.


Original Post
Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,175

I feel like some rules need to be established. In no particular order....

1. The first or last move shant be the hardest! The former just blows the load to quickly and the problem is soon forgotten. The latter is just disappointing and potentially dangerous.

2. Using holds a very unintended way is Uber lame. Eg, using a jug for a footchip or upside down slopes to make worse slopers. This technique oozes laziness!

3. When in doubt, add a footchip. It helps the shorter folk and puts some flexibility to how the route is done.

4. Problems must end on a jug. Match a sloper to finish?!? Talk about a let down.

5. The attitude behind trying to just shut the climber down has got to stop, makes some really bad problems.

6. Bolt holes are always off. Duh.

7. Jesus, watch the highball layback on a sloper crap, you are going to break someone's leg...again.

8. Trying to recreate a problem from outside never works well.

9. Throw those holds prone to spinning away. I'm against drilling a bunch of screw holes in the wall but if you must...do!

10. Every problem should be classic. Why? Because you can pick and choose the holds and where to put them. No excuses people.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 190
Tradiban wrote:

I feel like some rules need to be established. In no particular order....

1. The first or last move shant be the hardest! The former just blows the load to quickly and the problem is soon forgotten. The latter is just disappointing and potentially dangerous.

Why?  At the chains is usually the best place to fall.  I would say cruxs at the start (especially 2nd-3rd bolt) are the most dangerous, because you're high enough to get hurt but still low enough to deck...even if this is a better recreation of outdoor climbing (*cough* Devil's Lake *cough*).

Totally agree about the rest!

Andrew Krajnik · · Plainfield, IL · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 250
Ted Pinson wrote:

Why?  At the chains is usually the best place to fall.  I would say cruxs at the start (especially 2nd-3rd bolt) are the most dangerous, because you're high enough to get hurt but still low enough to deck...even if this is a better recreation of outdoor climbing (*cough* Devil's Lake *cough*).

Totally agree about the rest!

Yeah, there are quite a few "easy" climbs at the Lake that seem to have tricky starts.

As far as I'm concerned, the higher the crux, the better (unless you're talking bouldering). I'm much more comfortable attacking a crux above the 3rd bolt than anywhere below it. Putting the crux at the last move is a bit sadistic, though.

I feel like you should add a #11: See #10. You have a blank slate; make it interesting! Fortunately, we have a couple routesetters at our gym that seem to get this. If you see their name on the route, you know it should be something interesting.

Dirk Diggler · · Boulder, Colorado · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 225

Having the finishing hold being a jug sometimes takes away from the problem. If you set something hard and techy you want the whole climb to be hard and not have any easy moves on a boulder.

John Byrnes · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 451
Tradiban wrote:

I feel like some rules need to be established. In no particular order....

Got some time to waste....  "Rules?  We don't need not stinking rules!"

1. The first or last move shant be the hardest! The former just blows the load to quickly and the problem is soon forgotten. The latter is just disappointing and potentially dangerous.

It depends on your wall.  If the wall is short and you want the climber climb the rest with a pump (training is WHY he's there after all), putting the first crux, of several, right off the deck is just fine.  Besides, MANY routes outside have a crux right off the ground.  If you're "blow(ing) your load too quickly", think about baseball.

2. Using holds a very unintended way is Uber lame. Eg, using a jug for a footchip or upside down slopes to make worse slopers. This technique oozes laziness!

Nonsense.  I often placed holds upside down.  It improves your footwork when you need to smear or be dynamic, and often the hold was intended to be also used as an undercling or mantle.  Open your mind Tradiban.

3. When in doubt, add a footchip. It helps the shorter folk and puts some flexibility to how the route is done.

Sometimes.  Being tall, I always set the next handhold where I could touch it with my elbow from the previous footholds/position.  Also, I usually could find 2 or 3 ways to do the move, leaving the "flexibility" to the mind of the climber.   I also set dynamic/balance moves that required your lower/back foot to come off the wall.  Maybe your route setter has done the same?

4. Problems must end on a jug. Match a sloper to finish?!? Talk about a let down.

The top of the wall is your jug. 

5. The attitude behind trying to just shut the climber down has got to stop, makes some really bad problems.

Never had that attitude/goal when I was setting.  Seems to me your attitude has made some really bad problems... for you.   However, I do agree with you that having a V4 in the middle of a 5.10 route is kinda dumb.  Unless it has a really cool way to solve it at V0, in which case it's brilliant.  ;-)

6. Bolt holes are always off. Duh.

The bolt hole in the hold (not in the wall) is always ON.  I can't remember the number of times I've put my thumb in one to improve a pinch.

7. Jesus, watch the highball layback on a sloper crap, you are going to break someone's leg...again.

Sounds like you're mostly a boulderer.  I think it's well known that bouldering, both in a gym and outside, produces far more injuries than climbing.

8. Trying to recreate a problem from outside never works well.

Yes, it does.  I've actually named routes in the gym after routes I've done outside, or certain techniques: E.g.  The Dancing Pickle, Eldo Highstep.  Ya gotta draw from what you know.  And mimicking real routes keeps things from getting repetitious.

9. Throw those holds prone to spinning away. I'm against drilling a bunch of screw holes in the wall but if you must...do!

I agree with you here.  Spinners suck.   

10. Every problem should be classic. Why? Because you can pick and choose the holds and where to put them. No excuses people.

Have you ever set routes?  Lots of them?  Making them all "classic" is impossible, no matter how hard you try, even if "all classic" weren't an oxymoron.  I'd say a third of mine were great, a third mediocre and a third kinda lame, regardless of grade.

rhythmrug · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 105

This wasn't very well thought out. Are you a setter?

Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,175
Ted Pinson wrote:

Why?  At the chains is usually the best place to fall.  I would say cruxs at the start (especially 2nd-3rd bolt) are the most dangerous, because you're high enough to get hurt but still low enough to deck...even if this is a better recreation of outdoor climbing (*cough* Devil's Lake *cough*).

Totally agree about the rest!

I disagree, falling at the chains sucks. Classic routes outside don't do this because it's a shitty feeling. 

Early cruxs are dangerous, not late ones.

Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,175
Andrew Krajnik wrote:

Yeah, there are quite a few "easy" climbs at the Lake that seem to have tricky starts.

As far as I'm concerned, the higher the crux, the better (unless you're talking bouldering). I'm much more comfortable attacking a crux above the 3rd bolt than anywhere below it. Putting the crux at the last move is a bit sadistic, though.

I feel like you should add a #11: See #10. You have a blank slate; make it interesting! Fortunately, we have a couple routesetters at our gym that seem to get this. If you see their name on the route, you know it should be something interesting.

The rule for the last move Crux is more bouldering orientated for safety reasons but on routes it's disappointing, better to have a high Crux and a few cruiser moves to the chains.

Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,175
rhythmrug wrote:

This wasn't very well thought out. Are you a setter?

How is it not thought out? Explain.

Yes, setting for 17 years.

Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,175
John Byrnes wrote:

Got some time to waste....  "Rules?  We don't need not stinking rules!"

It depends on your wall.  If the wall is short and you want the climber climb the rest with a pump (training is WHY he's there after all), putting the first crux, of several, right off the deck is just fine.  Besides, MANY routes outside have a crux right off the ground.  If you're "blow(ing) your load too quickly", think about baseball.

Most climbers in a gym are not there to train, they are there to workout. The "training gym" concept is outdated.

Nonsense.  I often placed holds upside down.  It improves your footwork when you need to smear or be dynamic, and often the hold was intended to be also used as an undercling or mantle.  Open your mind Tradiban.

I think it looks ugly and confuses people. If a hold is upside down as intended to be an underling then that's fair use.

Sometimes.  Being tall, I always set the next handhold where I could touch it with my elbow from the previous footholds/position.  Also, I usually could find 2 or 3 ways to do the move, leaving the "flexibility" to the mind of the climber.   I also set dynamic/balance moves that required your lower/back foot to come off the wall.  Maybe your route setter has done the same?

The elbow makes weird stuff, it only shrinks the reach, body position proportions get out of whack.

The top of the wall is your jug. 

Yes, it should be, or if there's no top edge, then a jug is needed.

Never had that attitude/goal when I was setting.  Seems to me your attitude has made some really bad problems... for you.   However, I do agree with you that having a V4 in the middle of a 5.10 route is kinda dumb.  Unless it has a really cool way to solve it at V0, in which case it's brilliant.  ;-)

We are on the same page here.

The bolt hole in the hold (not in the wall) is always ON.  I can't remember the number of times I've put my thumb in one to improve a pinch.

Unless the bolt hole is built into the "grip" of the hold I don't find the bolt hole to be pleasing to hold, feeling like cheating.

Sounds like you're mostly a boulderer.  I think it's well known that bouldering, both in a gym and outside, produces far more injuries than climbing.

Does my name indicate that I mostly boulder?

Yes, it does.  I've actually named routes in the gym after routes I've done outside, or certain techniques: E.g.  The Dancing Pickle, Eldo Highstep.  Ya gotta draw from what you know.  And mimicking real routes keeps things from getting repetitious.

Nah, it just never ends up the same. I can see using outdoor routes for inspiration but to fully mimic is impossible, it's a different medium, plastic is different from rock inherently.

I agree with you here.  Spinners suck.   

I'm a fan of a elegant anchor hold.

Have you ever set routes?  Lots of them?  Making them all "classic" is impossible, no matter how hard you try, even if "all classic" weren't an oxymoron.  I'd say a third of mine were great, a third mediocre and a third kinda lame, regardless of grade.

Yes, lots. We should always strive for classic but of course it doesn't always happen. "Classic" routes usually share certain attributes...it's probably easier to define what isn't classic, which is what I'm trying to do here.

ViperScale · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 230
Tradiban wrote:

I feel like some rules need to be established. In no particular order....

1. The first or last move shant be the hardest! The former just blows the load to quickly and the problem is soon forgotten. The latter is just disappointing and potentially dangerous.

Disagree it is fine to do this for boulder problems but doing sit starts on a rope route is stupid.

2. Using holds a very unintended way is Uber lame. Eg, using a jug for a footchip or upside down slopes to make worse slopers. This technique oozes laziness!

False, use holds anyway you want it gets old if you only use them one way on every single route.

3. When in doubt, add a footchip. It helps the shorter folk and puts some flexibility to how the route is done.

This can destroy a route by making it to easy if you are randomly adding new foot holds. I have seen routes that a foot hold used by the hand made it trivial.

4. Problems must end on a jug. Match a sloper to finish?!? Talk about a let down.

Hmmm no you don't need to finish on a huge jug but finishing on extremely bad holds normally sucks.

5. The attitude behind trying to just shut the climber down has got to stop, makes some really bad problems.

This is a pointless statement, the point of climbing grades is to get harder so at some point everyone gets shutdown.

6. Bolt holes are always off. Duh.

What does this have to do with setting?

7. Jesus, watch the highball layback on a sloper crap, you are going to break someone's leg...again.

Ever heard of spotters? I wouldn't make it a regular thing and there have been problems I have skipped climbing for this very reason but I mean would you rather pratice a high move in a gym where the entire ground is pads or out in a real boulder field where help is hours away and you only have 2-3 crash pads?

8. Trying to recreate a problem from outside never works well.

Not true the best setters are those who can recreate outdoor movement indoors. It is the difference between a setter and a good setter.

9. Throw those holds prone to spinning away. I'm against drilling a bunch of screw holes in the wall but if you must...do!

Never seen a problem with screws to stop a big feature from spinning.

10. Every problem should be classic. Why? Because you can pick and choose the holds and where to put them. No excuses people.

Sure we should fire all the setters who think they are god (like yourself) and only hire good setters and that way everything will be a classic. /sarcasm off

Mi Schm · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2017 · Points: 0

I think "Rules" is a really hard word for this topic. Thoughts/Opinions would fit better.

I like the thinking about not setting the crux on the last moves. Like you sayed, falling out on the last moves doesn't makes fun to me, when I'm climbing in a gym. But setting a nice boulder move/s at the start(for many classic climber the hardest move in the whole route) is fun for me when I'am climbing in the gym. And it is also not so dangerous as many people think. Hopefully your partner is spotting you 

Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,175
ViperScale wrote:

Disagree it is fine to do this for boulder problems but doing sit starts on a rope route is stupid.

Are you stoned? I'm not talking about sit starts.

False, use holds anyway you want it gets old if you only use them one way on every single route.

You fail to understand the problem.

This can destroy a route by making it to easy if you are randomly adding new foot holds. I have seen routes that a foot hold used by the hand made it trivial.

Ya, don't add the foot randomly.

Hmmm no you don't need to finish on a huge jug but finishing on extremely bad holds normally sucks.

You fail to see the point. You need a solid hold to finish because you are probably high up and tired and chances of falling off wildly are higher. Plus it just feels good to be secure at the end.

This is a pointless statement, the point of climbing grades is to get harder so at some point everyone gets shutdown.

Umm...no. The point of climbing grades is to assess your ability. The shutdown mentality causes routes to become needlessly jacked because the setter is simply focusing on one aspect of the climb, the difficulty. Good setting has so much more to it.

What does this have to do with setting?

Dude, read. The bolt holes of the wall and the holds are for practical reasons, they aren't supposed to be part of the route or problem.

Ever heard of spotters? I wouldn't make it a regular thing and there have been problems I have skipped climbing for this very reason but I mean would you rather pratice a high move in a gym where the entire ground is pads or out in a real boulder field where help is hours away and you only have 2-3 crash pads?

Spotters regularly cause accidents. A spotters sole purpose is to keep a climber on the pads which usually isn't necessary in a gym where the whole damn floor is a pad.

Not true the best setters are those who can recreate outdoor movement indoors. It is the difference between a setter and a good setter.

Again, read my posts. There is no outdoor or indoor movement, it's all climbing. 

Never seen a problem with screws to stop a big feature from spinning.

Wtf? You are out of your element Donny.

Sure we should fire all the setters who think they are god (like yourself) and only hire good setters and that way everything will be a classic. /sarcasm off

We are all now dumber for having read you post. I hope you are happy.

Daniel Coltrane · · Seattle, WA · Joined May 2010 · Points: 346

1. Eat brunch

2. Put plastic on plywood

3. Repeat

rhythmrug · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 105
Tradiban wrote:

I feel like some rules need to be established. In no particular order....

Maybe a collective conversation on what makes routes good and bad? 

1. The first or last move shant be the hardest! The former just blows the load to quickly and the problem is soon forgotten. The latter is just disappointing and potentially dangerous.

In a gym setting I believe a "route" should absolutely not have the crux near the ground. This is potentially dangerous and I agree with you. The crux at the top is not so much of a big deal. Little to no danger is present and it can replicate a real life scenario. As you said most classic routes don't have the crux by the chains but some do. Im not saying do this to every route but sometimes a desperate throw to the top feels damn good to get. maybe 1/100 routes you set. Assuming you are talking about routes here the same can not be said for boulders. Sometimes the best part is pulling a hard move from the ground. For example a v6 to some v5 moves the rest of the way. This can also be a confidence booster for a climber. Maybe they can pull that v6 move off the ground fresh and finish the climb because of the easier finish. There are absolutely right and wrong ways to do this also.   

2. Using holds a very unintended way is Uber lame. Eg, using a jug for a footchip or upside down slopes to make worse slopers. This technique oozes laziness!

Maybe I don't understand this rule well enough and you can further explain? Using every hold as intended puts a tear in the matrix. If a sloper is better on one side than the other this means I can tweak accordingly to grade or the movement I am trying to enforce. If you mean a sloper on a "roof", this can also be done correctly. 

3. When in doubt, add a footchip. It helps the shorter folk and puts some flexibility to how the route is done.

Foot chips are a very important part of route setting. Depending on grade feet can do very different things. The lower the grade the more feet you will have, no brainer right? the mid range is the most difficult to master. Ive learned that sometimes placing a foot chip where your eye sees it is the best thing to do. Ive also learned that placing foot chips in a unique area to the next intended move creates some very interesting body movement. Getting this right for both short and tall climbers can be the hard part. 

4. Problems must end on a jug. Match a sloper to finish?!? Talk about a let down.

I can see the confusion in some people here. Not all gyms have the top of the wall to hold on to. I agree that the finishing hold should be something good but not always. No shadow foot chips and knee bars make for cool finishes. Also harder tops for me experienced climbers can boast confidence outside or on longer run outs. Slopers can be very good sometimes so I don't see the problem there. 

5. The attitude behind trying to just shut the climber down has got to stop, makes some really bad problems.

Not one of the setter I work with have this mentality. There are some v1s and 5.7s we get excited about. The shutting down I enjoy is hidden beta. Frustration and then the Ahh Haa moment that gets them to the top. I like seeing someone try there hardest. If they get shut down, most likely the problem is just too hard for them. If you know someone with this mentality you should express your concerns and your ideas to promote better setting, much like you are trying to do here. If that doesn't work, punch them.  

6. Bolt holes are always off. Duh.

Bolt holes in the wall for obvious reasons but on a hold, fair game. IFSC says its a go so why not. If i can grab a sloper and my thumb feels good in the bolt hole, I'm going to use it. This can come down to people using foot chips also. Its all about the experience you want out of the gym. Do you want to cheat your way up a v9 by using a foot chip or do you want to climb it how it was intended and push yourself?

7. Jesus, watch the highball layback on a sloper crap, you are going to break someone's leg...again.

No cool moves?!? Even mid way up the wall feels a little exposed on wild moves. Maybe keep them for the mid to higher grades?

8. Trying to recreate a problem from outside never works well.

This isn't really a rule but there is some truth to this. The texture of the holds, angle of the wall and a few other things can make this next to impossible to recreate in a gym. But, if the setter can create the same move or movement I wouldn't necessarily call that failure. It can be different but good. 

9. Throw those holds prone to spinning away. I'm against drilling a bunch of screw holes in the wall but if you must...do!

Pretty much. 

10. Every problem should be classic. Why? Because you can pick and choose the holds and where to put them. No excuses people.

Classic is a strong word in the realms of climbing. 

I would to hear more from you! Interaction with other climbers and setters is never a bad thing on this topic.

Tyler Metheney · · St Louis · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 0

I too am not a fan of the crux being at the top. However,  it is in the gym to where you can pretty much predict how almost every hold is gonna feel. If ya don't like it move on to another. :)

Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,175
rhythmrug wrote:

Maybe a collective conversation on what makes routes good and bad? 

In a gym setting I believe a "route" should absolutely not have the crux near the ground. This is potentially dangerous and I agree with you. The crux at the top is not so much of a big deal. Little to no danger is present and it can replicate a real life scenario. As you said most classic routes don't have the crux by the chains but some do. Im not saying do this to every route but sometimes a desperate throw to the top feels damn good to get. maybe 1/100 routes you set. Assuming you are talking about routes here the same can not be said for boulders. Sometimes the best part is pulling a hard move from the ground. For example a v6 to some v5 moves the rest of the way. This can also be a confidence booster for a climber. Maybe they can pull that v6 move off the ground fresh and finish the climb because of the easier finish. There are absolutely right and wrong ways to do this also.   

Good points.

Maybe I don't understand this rule well enough and you can further explain? Using every hold as intended puts a tear in the matrix. If a sloper is better on one side than the other this means I can tweak accordingly to grade or the movement I am trying to enforce. If you mean a sloper on a "roof", this can also be done correctly. 

Not what I mean. I'm talking of a gross misuse of the hold, an obvious jug put on because the setter was too lazy to find a suitible footchip, for example.

Foot chips are a very important part of route setting. Depending on grade feet can do very different things. The lower the grade the more feet you will have, no brainer right? 

Very wrong and it shows the gist of what I'm talking about. Good problems/routes have the right amount of feet in the right places. Easier doesn't automatically mean more feet and harder doesn't mean less.

 mid range is the most difficult to master. Ive learned that sometimes placing a foot chip where your eye sees it is the best thing to do. Ive also learned that placing foot chips in a unique area to the next intended move creates some very interesting body movement. Getting this right for both short and tall climbers can be the hard part. 

Right on here.

I can see the confusion in some people here. Not all gyms have the top of the wall to hold on to. I agree that the finishing hold should be something good but not always. No shadow foot chips and knee bars make for cool finishes. Also harder tops for me experienced climbers can boast confidence outside or on longer run outs. Slopers can be very good sometimes so I don't see the problem there. 

For most people the finish needs to be safe. From a business perspective this is more important than training for run-outs.

Not one of the setter I work with have this mentality. There are some v1s and 5.7s we get excited about. The shutting down I enjoy is hidden beta. Frustration and then the Ahh Haa moment that gets them to the top. I like seeing someone try there hardest. If they get shut down, most likely the problem is just too hard for them. If you know someone with this mentality you should express your concerns and your ideas to promote better setting, much like you are trying to do here. If that doesn't work, punch them.  

Some setters get their ego bruised if their route goes easier than they thought, so they tweak it to make it harder instead of tweaking it to make it better.

Bolt holes in the wall for obvious reasons but on a hold, fair game. IFSC says its a go so why not. If i can grab a sloper and my thumb feels good in the bolt hole, I'm going to use it. This can come down to people using foot chips also. Its all about the experience you want out of the gym. Do you want to cheat your way up a v9 by using a foot chip or do you want to climb it how it was intended and push yourself?

The bolt hole is not ergonomic and not intended as part of the hold, it's there only because it has to be. As a climber, using it is cheating.

No cool moves?!? Even mid way up the wall feels a little exposed on wild moves. Maybe keep them for the mid to higher grades?

Cool moves can be safe too.

This isn't really a rule but there is some truth to this. The texture of the holds, angle of the wall and a few other things can make this next to impossible to recreate in a gym. But, if the setter can create the same move or movement I wouldn't necessarily call that failure. It can be different but good. 

Pretty much. 

Classic is a strong word in the realms of climbing. 

I would to hear more from you! Interaction with other climbers and setters is never a bad thing on this topic.

Thanks for the thoughtful response.

Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,175
Matias Francis wrote:

Dude thanks so much for the awesome info! I'm sure your limited experience setting on your home wall, let alone in a commercial gym,  have given you tons of knowledge on the matter. I'll be a much better setter because of these rules. Why take a USAC cert class when I have Tradiban to show me the way!

17 years setting in a commercial gym. Maybe ask before you make an assumption that makes you look uninformed. Obviously your mind is closed and I only have limited time for your type.

rhythmrug · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 105
Tradiban wrote:

Good points.

Very wrong and it shows the gist of what I'm talking about. Good problems/routes have the right amount of feet in the right places. Easier doesn't automatically mean more feet and harder doesn't mean less.

What I meant by that is a 5.6 for example. I have a hard time setting an un-interesting route even at lower grades. I tend to make easier routes have more movement and moves to educate and intrigue a new climbers where technique get them up the wall not necessarily more power. This resulting in many more foot chips. It takes me longer to set a 5.8 and below more than other grade. This is simply a technique I use for easier climbs. You are correct that it would not take more or less foot chips to make the climb work placed in the correct spots. 

John Byrnes · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 451
Tradiban wrote:

I disagree, falling at the chains sucks. Classic routes outside don't do this because it's a shitty feeling. 

Haven't climbed much outside, eh?   There's TONS of routes with cruxes right before the chains and many of them are real classics.

ViperScale · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 230
Tradiban wrote:

17 years setting in a commercial gym. Maybe ask before you make an assumption that makes you look uninformed. Obviously your mind is closed and I only have limited time for your type.

Funny commit from the guy who thinks he is a god of setting because he has been doing it for 17 years. My friend has been setting since he was 10 and is now 32... doesn't make him an amazing setter though.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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