What The Hell Is A Route Setter?
That’s a fantastic question- I’m glad you asked.
Generally speaking, a route setter (or “setter”) is a person that establishes rock climbing pathways of varying difficulty across artificial terrain for the purpose of amusement, training, and/or competition. When boiled down to their essence, however, a route setter is simply a creator of kinetic artwork.
Like any artist, the craft of setting takes a lot of time, a ton of effort, and a most importantly, a community that is willing to both support and critique their work, so that they may learn from both their successes, as well as their mistakes. That being said, an experienced and successful route setter typically has one key ingredient that sets themselves apart from others in their field. A rabbit in the hat. A secret recipe. An ace up their sleeve.
A great route setter has the uncanny ability to shut their mouth more than they open it.
That’s right. Setters listen with their ears and watch with their eyes.
Gym members, little midgets on the climbing team, other setters, first-time climbers, hell, even old-timers who are top roping that 25 foot, 5.6 slab wall set with animal shaped holds that you put up 3 months ago, climbing with three ATCs, a rack of nuts, a couple tri-cams, and a 50m static line coiled across their chest, all have valuable information to offer.
You just have to listen.