Sunday, March 09, 2014

Setting Life

So once again, it's been over a month since my last post. It would be easy to assume that I don't have enough going on worth writing about, but in reality I've just been so busy setting, coaching, and training for my personal goals, that it's been easy to lose track of updating this thing. I'll be focusing on the first of these three items as the subject of this post, routesetting life.

If you ask me, it's pretty awesome that professional route setting has actually become a reality. I don't think that many of us who are making our livings in this line of work would have expected it even as recently as ten years ago. Between working as Head Routesetter at Boulderdash Indoor Climbing, in Thousand Oaks, pre-opening setting at The Stronghold in downtown LA (more about that in a bit), as well as some competition setting and preparation, needless to say I've been staying occupied.

One recent event that was generating buzz in the route setting community, and one that I was really looking forward to, was the Kingdom Games, which took place last Saturday at Louie Anderson's The Factory bouldering gym in Orange, CA. The Kingdom Games were one part route setting competition (the first of its kind in the U.S.), one part brand launch for my friends Mike and Mike's new company Kingdom Climbing Holds, and one part social gathering for the SoCal climbing community (and who doesn't love those?!). The general concept was that 24 different gyms from the Southwest were invited to send one of their best routesetters to represent them in the competition, and we each had to set three problems of varying difficult with randomly (well kinda) selected hold sets and unknown, pre-assigned wall angles. Thankfully, Kingdom's holds are fun and inspiring, and the terrain at The Factory doesn't disappoint.

Other setters eye the goods before hold selection.

Boulder setting in progress.
After about three hours of setting, the judges' climbing period began, during which selected climbers got to climb on the problems and score them in several areas, including aesthetics, flow/fun factor, and creativity. The Expert Judges Louie Anderson and Mike Helt (a level 5 USAC setter) scored the technical and functionality categories. After the judged climbing session, the gym was opened to the public for a fun free-for-all climbing session, including a couple kegs of free beer, courtesy of The Factory. These kind of community-building climbing events are one of my favorite things, and I was very happy to be in attendance.

IF I were to share one point of constructive criticism about the Kingdom Games, it would only be the slight lack of organization during the judged climbing period. It was somewhat unfortunate to see some climbs ignored because they were on less appealing angles (everyone loves the roofs) or because they were too difficult by the time the climbers got to them. With a little added structure to this portion of the competition, the Kingdom Games (which hope to take the concept on the road) will prove an even more awesome event in the future.

A glimpse of the judged climbing session during the Kingdom Games.
Beyond the Kingdom Games and my routine several days per week at Boulderdash, I have also been participating in the pre-opening route setting at The Stronghold, Los Angeles' newest gym, located in Lincoln Heights at the Brewery Arts Complex. It's been super fun getting the place ready to open to the public. And guess what ... THEY JUST DID! If you're a climber in LA, you should get in there and check the place out next time you're looking for a new indoor climbing venue.

Our blank canvas on the first day of boulder setting.

Kyle McCoy and I were forerunning in a cloud of construction dust one day, but at least these respirators kept us from sandbagging the grades too badly.

The Stronghold's lead arch is a pretty daunting feature. Here you can see my blue 5.11- skirting the right side of the arch.

Another of my routes, 5.12b, give or take, can be seen here on the left.
Of course, no sooner does The Stronghold open, but Boulderdash has announced a second location, to be located in Chatsworth, fairly close to the famed outdoor gym, Stoney Point. With Rockreation getting a facelift, Sender One announcing an expansion to the LAX area,  Touchstone's LA.B opening recently, and their announcement to begin work on a sport climbing facility in Pasadena, it looks to be an exciting few years for LA's plastic pulling community.

To me what this ultimately means is introducing the sport of climbing to as many people as possible. After all, it can be an incredibly enriching and rewarding pursuit for participants of all levels, and most of today's great talents got their starts in climbing gyms.

Speaking of competition climbing stars (okay, that was a leep, but I'd like to wrap this post up), I've been spending a fair bit of time lately planning a local SCS (Sport Climbing Season) comp at Boulderdash, to be held April 12th. It's a USA Climbing youth comp, with three routes per age category in an isolation/onsight format. I'm psyched to have a lot of awesome companies on board as sponsors for this event, both of our raffle/prize pool, as well as several hold companies that have sponsored routes for the competition (namely: Habit, Urban Plastix, Enix, Capital, and Kingdom). Not only is it a USA Climbing sanctioned youth comp, but at 6 pm, after the youth competition is finished, we'll be hosting an open/recreational redpoint format competition throughout the entire gym. Participation will be open to the general climbing public. Check out the poster below. If you're a youth competitor, register now, because this is going to be a great event!
Also, if you're a Boulderdash member and you feel like lending a hand, there will be a volunteer sign-up sheet at the front desk this week!

Check out Boulderdash routesetter and former team crusher Mike McGee cruising my red .13b on the Spring Sending Spree poster. All credit (photo and graphic design) to Drake Martin.
Oh Yeah, did I mention that Capital Climbing Holds is one of the sponsors for the Spring Sending Spree? I'm also very happy to announce that Capital Climbing Holds has asked to sponsor me as a routesetter (sending me some apparel and sponsoring comps that I set for). I'm super psyched to be involved with Capital and can't wait to share what I end up setting with their holds for this comp.

Well that can do it for now. Hopefully you found this plastic-centric post at least somewhat informative. I'll try to make the next update about an interesting send, as I look forward to putting all the hard training I've been doing lately to good use.

Have fun, and climb safe, indoors or out!