Welcome to our latest installment of Better Know a Setter, featuring the incredible routesetters of Touchstone Climbing. Today we introduce you to Holland Pettingill, an OG out of the OC. With over a decade of climbing experience, she brings the fun to LA Area Touchstone gyms with her thoughtful, powerful problems that would be right at home in the Buttermilks. Read on to learn 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 working for Touchstone?
The first time I was introduced to climbing was in 2005 at Fossil Falls in California. A family friend was traversing the walls with these rubber shoes that I knew nothing about. He handed me a pair that was too big and I started traversing with him. I was so fascinated by the sport, even if I was just going across a wall and not up for my first time. My mom and dad arranged a meeting with him to take me out climbing a couple weeks later, where I was thrown into the thick of it and learned how to sport climb on my first day.
I ended up in LA with my girlfriend. I was originally in the OC setting for a small gym, but was always driving to LA to climb at Cliffs of Id. When I caught wind that they were looking for a setter, I made the move and applied.
What’s your favorite thing about climbing?
What I love most about climbing is how it makes me feel. I love being outside. I’ve never been good at team sports; climbing is something that is just for yourself. It feels amazing when you finish a climb and discover new projects. I love the challenge.
Do you have a particular style or philosophy when it comes to setting? What do you like best about it?
I love setting climbs where it feels like a boulder problem outside. I’m learning something new every day to better my sets—the team I’m with is amazing. And I just want to keep it fun! I love watching people climb my routes, and love seeing the joy when they finish.
Routesetting is currently a male-dominated field. Do you have any advice for other women looking to break into setting?
I’m not gonna lie. It’s VERY intimidating, but the guys make me feel welcome. Part of the fun of routesetting is the challenge to create something. Sometimes I feel hesitant with input because I see these guys that just crush, but it gets me to keep pushing myself to be a better setter and climber.
A tip I would give other female routesetters is to just do what you love. You’ll know what to do when you’re there. And to just have fun! Be yourself. It may be intimidating at first, but know that this area of the industry isn’t completely closed off to women. Just know that you can do everything a guy can do, maybe even a little more! You will be just fine.
What is your proudest climbing accomplishment?
HIGH BALLS. I love the mental game you have when you climb high balls. I don’t care about the grade. I just love high balls. I faced my fear this past Thanksgiving and climbed Southwest Arête (5.9) in the Buttermilks, and I loved having a few friends there that just kept me going. It was amazing.
What about your lowest climbing moment?
I’d have to say I also hit my lowest this past year. THANKS 2016. I had appendicitis in April and was training with a good friend to do a very insane hike. It took me 2 months instead of 3 weeks to recover! When I got better I just wanted to get outside. I called my best friend and said, let’s go to Echo Cliffs. Jumping the gun I got on a 12b and froze halfway up. I got scared. I’ve never been scared on a climb like that. I started crying and asked to be let down. The fear of a climbing fall I had a few years ago got in my head, and I didn’t climb for the rest of the week.
When you’re not climbing or setting, what are your favorite things to do? Do you have any other hobbies or passions?
I honestly love doing NOTHING.
Actually though, my girlfriend and I love to explore museums and try fun new restaurants; brunch is a thing we try to do once a week or so. Hurts the wallet, but that’s ok—food is amazing. I’m actually a chef, and I’ve worked in a professional kitchen several times.
I also love hiking in the snow. I know California doesn’t really get snow, but I try to find it anyway. And I love to sail, even though I don’t do it often. My dad used to race, and I’m hoping to do more of that with him.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“Don’t say sorry so much, just be you.”
My mom, who passed away in 2010, told me not worry what other people think about you. Just be you, and love you for you. She would always say, “Holland, if someone doesn’t like me, then they don’t like me. I’m not going to please everyone, and that’s their fault not wanting to get to know me. I’m great.”
Any final thoughts for our readers?
If anybody wants to give me their dog, I’ll take them off their hands! I want a crag pup.