A day in the life of an Urban Climb route setter

How does a route setter take rock climbing movements, and put it onto the walls at Urban Climb? It goes a little something like this…

 

Caffeination

A legitimate dose of caffeine is essential. The team gathers, the coffee appears, and the psyche accumulates.

The reality is, route setting is physically demanding. By weeks end, the team is sore – in mind and limb – and naught but a strong brew from our resident barista Ash is enough to revive the spirits. Sufficiently energised, the day begins.

 

Ideation

Once the walls are clean, the holds washed, and the volumes prepped, the planning process begins in earnest. A boulder is sometimes bad, but an idea rarely is. The team brain-storms:

Which line will the problems take? What’s the focus for today? Complexity – power – fun?

As the ideas materialise, the team breaks off to select holds, and delves into the individual portion of the creative process. The ideas themselves can come from anywhere. A creative filter, maybe a recent rock climbing trip to the Grampians, or perhaps just taking inspiration from the holds themselves.

 

Creation

Headphones go on, drills fire up, and movement starts appearing.

As friend of Urban Climb Niklas Wiechmann would say,

‘Just give it a go. We’ll see what happens’.

An undertone of playfulness is essential to the creative process. If you spend too much time thinking about what you’re designing, it will climb like that. Convoluted, too clever, overdone.

Some stuff works, a lot of stuff won’t. It’s not uncommon for an entire problem to go up, only to be stripped. And it’s certainly true that there’s no problem that persists in its exact initial state to the end of the day.

 

Starvation

At some point – sometimes early – the energy begins to dip. Rock climbing is tiring business. Sustenance is required and the team breaks for refreshments.

As Mr Pavarotti once said,

“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.”

We don’t disagree.

 

Gestation (& communication)

 

With (over) full stomachs, the team returns to action. Testing and tweaking begins. Every problem is climbed – many times. The process is systematic, even if it doesn’t appear that way.

Is this appropriate for this colour? Too complex, maybe too intense? What are we teaching through this movement? Is it interesting?

The setters will confer with one another. Highlighting what can be improved – whether it’s the direction of a hold, the aesthetics of the line, or something more inexplicable and intuitive – is it a good problem? Egos are left at the door. As Tonde Katiyo taught us: use the supercomputer – the collective experience and wisdom of the team – to fine tune the climbing product to the best it can be.

Finalisation

When it’s done, we ‘lock it in’. The problem is almost ready to be consumed by the gathering 4pm hordes. Final checks focus on safety. Mat sweeps, screw checks, attaching tags.

When they’re sure, the barricades are opened, and another round of clean holds and fresh problems is consumed. Accumulated into the experience of the gym as a whole. The setter’s disperse, only to return again tomorrow.

 

 

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