and boulder problems
In a commercial rock climbing wall environment, routes
and boulder problems should be viewed as one of the main products a gym
a restaurant, quality will determine how people feel about your facility.
Even the desperate to climb will lack motivation when faced with a bad
What follows is a basic guide to setting routes and boulder problems.
It describes a style of setting that uses ladders and is often much quicker
than setting routes move by move on a self belay. We'll explain how to
build a "skeleton" of your route first and then show you how
to add "meat" and then fine tune your creation.
1. Choose an approximate grade that you
would like to end up with and think about what type of climbers will
be on your rock climbing wall. This will help you determine what types
of moves and sequences are appropriate. Now draw an imaginary line the
start to finish. This can range from subtle movement from side to side,
to tricky traverses that really wander. Straight up is BORING, however
make sure you don't go to crazy with your line or people will be swinging
all over the place. As the route gets closer to the anchors, cut back
on this sideways movement to prevent violent pendulums and interference
of the top-rope set up. Be sure to consider how a climber on your route
will affect/be affected by climbers on neighboring routes.
duct tape and ladders, layout the line on your rock climbing wall with
right and left hand positions from start to finish. Don't worry about
up the route think about what styles of moves you can have
to attain the next climbing hold. By styles, I mean a combination of
two key elements;
Grip type (crimp, sloper, pinch, pocket
...etc) and the associated move
(side pull, under cling , gaston, lock-off...etc) the upper body
will do. You can "mime" the movement to help create these
different sequences and get an idea of what is an acceptable distance
to the next
climbing hold. Try to lay out a line that has many transitions from hold
to hold, rather than long pulls. This will get you more individual moves
feet and big bonus points for technical quality. "Party trick"
moves like dyno's and figure 4's are better left to boulder problems.
Be sure to include a variety of grip type and movement. A route that
a little bit of everything will demand a broader range of skills from
each climber and will give your rock climbing wall more character.
ADD the MEAT
3. Now it is time to select the climbing
holds for your route and make your moves work nicely. Choosing the right
critical. There are many things to consider when digging through your
stock of holds for the best shapes. The two most important factors are
size and grip type. You need to select the size of holds that will keep
your route in the range of the pre-determined difficulty/grade. An important
element of a great climbing wall route is its level of sustained difficulty.
No one likes climbing 3/4 of the way up a flowing 5.9 just to get spanked
by a 5.10d crux! As mentioned before, you also need a variety of grip
types, so include a few from each style. You should also pay attention
the aesthetics of different shapes. Colors and textures will affect how
people feel about your creation. Grab 10 to 15 more holds than you think
you need and lay them out at the base of your rock climbing wall with
the proper bolts in them. Now start attaching your climbing holds to
from bottom to top. Choose the holds that will work best for each intended
move. When trying to force sequences, remember that it should make sense
for a climber to do it the way you intended. Reward a climber by giving
them a slightly better hold to grip when they get in the right position.
Punish them for skipping sequences by choosing climbing holds that are
oriented to be right or left hand specific. Remember, there will always
climber who on-sights routes 3 grades harder than what you have set and
will skip stuff. Consider your sequence a success if it is easier
to do the move the way you set it, rather than to skip something.
ADD the FEET (skin?)
4. Footholds and their placement can make
or break a quality route. Remember that some of the best climbers in
world have amazing footwork and a indoor rock climbing wall is a great
place to develop it for the rest of us. Don't rush this part. Start by
bucket and pull out a pile of climbing holds that will work with your
desired grade. Bolt them up and throw 'em in an empty chalk bag. Once
each move of your route on the ladder and add tape and foot chips where
you need them. If climbers use the footholds in the correct order, they
should be able to maintain a balanced position and flow from move to
move. Remember that there may be some shorter climbers on your route
all know that reaches SUCK! So add extra feet if you think they're required.
Although you may not get the feet perfect this way, the foot chips will
be in the general area and when you tune the route you can make
the necessary adjustments quickly.
Hair and Make-up
5. O.K., Now it's time to finish things
off and tune your route. Grab your shoes and warm-up enough
to handle your creation. Many setters agree that it is best to tune your
at once rather than move by move as you set it. This will help you judge
the routes consistency and level of sustained climbing. It's also WAY
FASTER and will help you stay motivated throughout the setting process.
Setting routes move by move as you climb often burns out this motivation
3/4 of the way up a rock climbing wall, and leads to rushing the final
moves. When tuning there a many things to consider and a few ascents
Start by simply climbing your route from start to finish. Assess the
sustained difficulty, taking note of where moves suddenly feel much harder,
or easier, than the preceding sequences. Generally the route should flow
nicely without to much range in difficulty. Many competition route setters
like to slightly and steadily increase the level of difficulty as the
climber moves higher. This can demand more focus on technique as a climber
tires. Letting routes get to easy as they continue is poor practice.
your wrenches back out and make the necessary adjustments to the orientation,
placement or size of climbing holds to make things feel right. That
Even powerful sequences should look controlled when done properly
by climbers. I often find that rather than switching a handhold that
to big or to small, I can adjust the size or placement of a foot chip
with more success. It also makes people pay more attention to their
Remember that even if they fall, a climber who usually climbs routes
at the grade you are trying to set, should be able to do all the moves
feeling stumped by any one section. After making these adjustments and
testing them out, it is time to make sure that there are no climbing
holds out of reach
for shorter climbers. I don't mean KIDS! Unless your rock
climbing wall caters to them, in which case you would have been setting
the start! There are a few ways of checking
routes for reachy moves. If you are taller (5'10" and up), climb
the route and try to reach each climbing hold with your elbow. Remember
that short folk can use higher
and compact themselves into tighter spaces, but those "feet"
need to exist. If you are a little shorter than 5'10", use your
mid-forearm for the reach test. Shorter than that? You probably don't
have much to
worry about it. I'll often get the shortest climber around
to run up the route to see how they do. Sometimes they
can just reach holds, but because of the climber's orientation, they
may not be able to move off it. This is common with "iron cross" and
"gaston" type moves, so be careful.
6. Just because the ladders, wrenches and climbing
holds have been put away, it does not mean you cannot make anymore adjustments
to your climbing wall.
Watch how a variety of climbers move through your sequences. If many
people are falling in the same spot, you've got a major crux. Are people
skipping a certain sequence? They have probably found the smartest way
through he route. Ask climbers what they think of the route. You will
learn a lot by this and future routes will benefit from it.
Imagine the "line" the route will take.
Lay the route tape where holds will be placed.
Mime the intended moves as you set, and pick the holds that will work best
with each move.
Place the selected holds.
After placing all the hand holds, add the feet. NOW get your gear on and
"tune" your creation. MAKE IT FLOW!
Setting BOULDER PROBLEMS.
Boulder problems are a little easier to set than routes because most
of the work can be done without running up and down a ladder. Fill in
the base of your indoor rock climbing wall with boulder problems, and
take full advantage of wall real estate. Bouldering uses the same
skeleton & meat approach as with full length routes, but
keep your climbing shoes on and test out moves as you go. As mentioned,
roped routes feel better when a variety of movement, holds and grip styles
are used. However, Boulder problems are often more fun when set with
theme in mind. For example, setting a problem using only climbing
holds such as sick slopers. If you want to get stronger at a particular
skill, there is
better way than to set a problem which demands it. Deadpoints and Dyno's
are better suited for boulder problems as well. Just be sure the climber's
safety is considered with regards to how they will be oriented when the
fall. Getting really twisted high on a problem is a recipe for a busted
leg or tweaked back. Missing a season of climbing is not worth it!!