Welcome to our latest installment of Better Know a Setter, featuring the incredible routesetters of Touchstone Climbing. Today we introduce you to Buck Yedor, an Evolv National Team athlete and the foreman of Mission Cliffs. Buck joined the crew in November 2015 and has been killing the game ever since with his thoughtful Yosemite-style routes and problems, replete with high-finesse footwork and powerful, balance-y movement. Read on to learn more about the crusher behind your favorite sets.
Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get your start climbing? How did you end up in the Bay Area working for Touchstone?
I’m originally from Colorado but spent most of my life living in California. My dad was a climber in the 70’s but more or less gave it up to pursue skiing and to raise a family. With encouragement from my dad I took an interest in climbing when I was around 14 and never really looked back. For the first many years of my climbing life I spent weekends out in Joshua Tree, trying not to get too scared while learning to trad climb with him. We would go to the local climbing gym occasionally, but for the most part I thought of climbing as a vehicle for adventure, getting outside, and escaping from the pressures of school (and everything else).
After finishing college at UC Santa Barbara, all I wanted to do was move to Yosemite Valley and be a big wall climber. Somehow I managed to find myself a seasonal internship with the Yosemite Climbing Rangers and ultimately ended up working for Yosemite Search and Rescue.
Fast forward a few years, I met a girl and and followed her to Oakland. While slacking on the job hunt, I went climbing out at Jailhouse with a friend and a couple of guys I didn’t know; one of them turned out to be a Touchstone routesetter. After hearing about my difficulties finding a job, he encouraged me to give routesetting a shot. Within a week I was screwing holds onto the wall at Berkeley Ironworks.
What was it like being on Yosemite Search and Rescue? Any crazy stories?
I lived and worked seasonally in Yosemite National Park for three years. My first year in the park I worked with the Climbing Rangers on stewardship projects and public outreach programs. The following season I was hired onto the Valley team of Yosemite Search and Rescue.
YOSAR is a pretty interesting gig. My seven other teammates and I lived in tent cabins behind Camp 4 without electricity or running water for more than half the year. We climbed together, went on rescues together, and became a tight-knit family. For the most part life on YOSAR was pretty idyllic, with lots of time spent climbing, cooking in dutch ovens, and drinking whiskey by the fire. Living the good life did however come at a price and we had to deal with our fair share of some pretty grim stuff. It was easy to compartmentalize most incidents we responded to as “work,” but when it came to rescues and recoveries involving climbers it would hit us pretty close to home. All in all I wouldn’t trade my time with YOSAR for anything.
One of the craziest things I got to experience while working for YOSAR was being short hauled from El Cap Meadow to the top of the Leaning Tower for a rescue, which means that I was clipped into a cable hanging about 50 feet beneath a helicopter and was dangled underneath as it flew me to the top of the Leaning Tower. That view of the Valley and the sensation of flight is something I’ll never forget.
How is it transitioning from climbing outside to setting in the gym? How do you think your experiences on real rock affect your setting?
The hardest part about transitioning from climbing outside to setting in the gym for me has been learning to set interesting movement on overhanging walls. My climbing background is mostly on vertical to slabby granite, so I don’t always feel like I have as big of a repertoire of movements to draw from on steep terrain.
My experience on real rock definitely means that I prefer setting techy foot cruxes and slabs. Nothing makes me happier than a good balance problem.
Do you have a particular style or philosophy when it comes to setting? What do you like best about setting routes or problems?
I don’t know if I could pinpoint a specific style to my setting. At this point in my setting career I’m really just striving to be a well-rounded setter. I love watching people climb my routes. Sometimes it feels like I put a lot of myself into a route or problem and in a weird way it feels like this silent interaction with people. They might not know it but it feels a little like a dance!
What is your proudest climbing accomplishment?
My proudest climbing accomplishment is having made a ground-up free ascent of Freerider (5.12d, VI) on El Capitan. The climb is somewhere around 31 pitches long and took me and my partner three days to reach the top. Going ground-up means that we didn’t try any of the pitches before our continuous push of the route.
What about your lowest climbing moment?
In 2011 I took a groundfall and ended up shattering both of my heels. I spent almost four months in a wheelchair and it took nearly two full years before my feet were back to being as normal as they will ever be. While my feet were healing, I started seriously overtraining and ended up with a tendon injury that completely took me out of climbing for another full year. The experience taught me a lot about myself and who I was as a person, and not just as a self-identified climber. That being said, I am forever stoked to have been able to return to climbing!
Do you have any other hobbies or passions outside of climbing?
These days when I’m not climbing I’m usually playing with my pet rabbit, fermenting stuff, or stuffing my face with food.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“Don’t rap off the ends of your rope.”