In an indoor rock climbing environment, one thing's for sure: the routes you climb are our product.
Sounds stupid and maybe overly philosophical, but the very talented and hard working Touchstone Routesetters literally create a commodity that is so unique and high quality that people pay a monthly membership or for day passes just to experience it. If you've ever ventured outside of the "bubble" of Touchstone setting, you'll always come back with a holy-moly-I-didn't-know-I-had-it-so-good kinda feeling. Not to toot the Touchstone horn, but these dudes set amazing climbs 40 hours a week, at nine gyms across the state (that's not even touching on the hard work that goes into competitions).
But inevitably, you'll still hear members say something like, 'I could do that.' Maybe that's true, but most of the time it's without knowing how much is actually included in the process.
Maybe what people mean to say is, 'I really, really, really WANT to do that.'
Ok. So now we have people saying they 'could' and 'want' to route set that are not actually route setters themselves. After hearing over and over, we created the Member Setting Clinic that took place at Berkeley Ironworks on February 21st.
When creating the clinic, we had a few goals in mind. Obviously, we wanted the participants to do what they came to do: route set. We also wanted to make sure our beloved members would get a chance to interact with the Touchstone Routesetters in ways they don't normally get to. Right now it's pretty easy for any of the desk staff at our gyms to create a relationship with the members and vice versa, but the setters don't always have that opportunity and although all of us have a unique relationship with the way they set, we rarely get to know the person behind the wrench.
Enough of the sappy stuff, aren't you here to find out what happened in the clinic?!
We provided 4 hours for the clinic in total because we knew that the participants have little to no setting experience and putting up just one route might take longer than expected. We also factored in forerunning (trying out the problems and making necessary changes) and clean-up. It was decided that the Campus Board Wall to the far left of BIW's bouldering area would be the best terrain for the event because of the height, simplicity, and low impact to the rest of the gym. You have to remember, this was an experiment. If it went terribly wrong and EVERYBODY set bad problems, people would be bummed.
The clinic began with a freshly stripped bouldering wall and holds spread out all over the ground. Each of the 11 participants were handed a Route Setting Guidelines sheet and listened to Ben Polanco (Flea) and Anthony Vicino (AV) give an impressively informative rundown on what makes a route good based on their own experiences as long time wrench turners.
The next step was claiming valuable real estate on the wall and selecting the holds necessary for the boulder problem.
Ben observed a theme, "Apparently, everybody wants to set tweaky gastons."
Anthony described the biggest, but most useful challenge was helping people realize their intention. "It's easy to get tunnel vision when setting and think that there'll only be 'your' way to climb the problem. More often than not, it was fairly easy to see a simpler way of doing a sequence than the setter had wanted for the climber. Nobody likes to see people botch their sequences. The other constant struggle was getting people to think about comfort. You think your problem is 'amazing', but you want to make people WANT to climb it. No tweaky stuff!"
Thankfully the criticism was taken well across the board and remained a positive experience with both sides. Long time Touchstone member, Josh Eads, said "This is the most fun I've had in FOREVER!" Both Anthony and Ben felt that the problems set were 'way cooler than we expected' and that the clinic was generally a very good experience.
Check out the problems from your peers next time you're in BIW on the Campus Board Wall to the far right of the bouldering area and stay tuned for this clinic to appear a gym near YOU!