Routesetting Archives - Sender One Climbing
Routesetting: Behind the Scenes Video

Routesetting: Behind the Scenes Video

Words and Video by David Lee

Instagram: @s0obs

Music: Hyukoh – Burning Youth

Midweek I come in to the gym more excited than usual because often a new set of boulder problems is put up. The fresh holds without grease from caked up chalk and shoe rubber are simply enchanting, and seduce all of us climbers to hop on, feel the texture, pull, and send.

A new set means that any unsent, or proudly sent project from the previous set is now gone. This may be disappointing, but at the same time it provides the opportunity to see how all the hard work on the previous set translates into the new set. A move one struggled on a previous set might feel much easier. On the other hand, one might run into a specific movement or hold that exposes a previously unidentified weakness. And the pure psyche of meeting an unknown boulder problem keeps one going, and when everything aligns perfectly, this sometimes leads to breaking into a higher grade.

Therefore routesetting is perhaps the most crucial part of a climbing gym, and behind this, of course, is the routesetters. All of our routesetters are incredibly strong, but even more passionate about setting boulder problems and sport routes that everyone can climb and train stoked and safe. Based on one’s style of climbing, each setter comes up with the holds, movements, and lines that are fun to set, exciting to climb, and aesthetically pleasing. More importantly, the setters take into serious consideration the fairness and safety of the problems. Through the process of forerunning, setters attempt to find intended or alternative moves that can be excessively difficult or easy for climbers of different characteristics, most notably, height. The setters further attempt to identify unintended moves that can pose hazard to climbers. One time Devan, one of our Sender One routesetters, set a beautiful line consisting of big blue volcano-looking holds from start to finish. Based on other setters’ concerns that climbers may get their feet jammed in the giant volcanoes and injure the ankle, Devan, after much trial and error, managed to preserve the essence of the problem while significantly reducing potential danger. While routesetting is an expression of each setter’s style, creativity, and pride in climbing, the setters fundamentally strive to create a climbing terrain that the entire climbing community can enjoy.

All this process – stripping the holds from the previous set, planning and setting a new problem, forerunning and making adjustments, assigning grades and cleaning up – certainly takes a full day’s work. This does not include the time the setters climb or train to get even stronger such that they can come up with more creative, fun, and useful moves for all levels of climbing. So when you see the setters next time, why don’t you give them a good pat on the back, and let them know what you like or don’t like about problems and routes? They seem to appreciate the feedback to continue to set even more exciting climbs. Oh, to reveal a secret behind their insane power and skills in climbing, the setters much frequent a great local pizza place during their lunch breaks.

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USAC Collegiate National Championship: An Interview with Randy Casillan

USAC Collegiate National Championship: An Interview with Randy Casillan

Randy Casillan, possibly better known as RC, is Sender One SNA’s routesetting foreman. Recently, he was invited to set for the USAC Collegiate National Championship at Momentum Indoor Climbing in Houston, Texas. We interviewed Randy about his experience at the National Championships.


Hello Randy. For those of us who aren’t familiar with you or your setting style, can you tell us a little about yourself? 

Hi. I’m Randy, I’m the SNA routesetting foreman. I’m RC. I set what I think will be fun; climbing is like a puzzle. I like challenging people, and making them “solve” my climbs. Climbing is more than just a physical challenge, there’s a huge mental game in climbing. That’s why they’re called problems.

That’s awesome, that’s probably why they invited you to set for the Collegiate National Championship. Can you provide some background on the event?

The championship was a two day event, and we set at two Momentum gyms. We had climbers come from all over the place, I even saw some climbers from Sender One there. We set boulders and sport climbs. It took a whole week to prepare for the event.

Wow, a whole week! How many other setters were there? Did you enjoy meeting and them?

I’m a social butterfly with the other nine routesetters. We had our own texting thread. I sent GIFs, and had a lot of fun. It was great connecting with the other setters. It wasn’t just climbing, we stayed out and hung out throughout the week.

So you made friends. How was setting with them?

All the sets were a team effort. There was a lot of setting to do with a very diverse skill-level to accommodate to. We all had a say in everything, and we set climbs from V3 to V10. I even helped set a 5.8 for ropes.

Did you learn anything from the other setters? How did you contribute to the team?

Absolutely! Climbing is constantly changing and everyone has their own styles and ideas. Competition sets are a different game than commercial sets and it gave us an opportunity to try some new things.

I learned a bunch of new things, and Momentum has a lot of cool toys and tools that I got to try out. I think I was an I was positive influence on the team. I believe I have great attention to details, I notice things. I liked tweaking certain aspects of the climbs to just make the flow smoother.

Can you tell me how competition sets are different than regular sets?

For competition sets, we’re really testing someone’s skill in all aspects of climbing. We use the Risk-Intensity-Complexity scale for the climbs. Risk means a high commitment moves, like dynos. Intensity is the raw strength required for the climb. Complexity means the technical aspects of the climb, or the creativity in reading the route beta.

In the gym, I just like to set what I think would be fun to climb. I set all different aspects so I can challenge everyone and help them improve.