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.
What was the best part of the competition?
Finals night was the pay off for all of our hard work. Watching the climbers try to figure out our climbs, and feeling the energy and hype from the crowds. The crowds would just go wild when the climbers would make certain moves, or finishing the climb.
Did you bring anything back from your experience? How is going to affect your sets at Sender One?
Well, I got this super cool jacket. And I’m back on dynamic moves. Paddles, I’m gonna set a bunch of paddles. Low percentage, high commitment moves. Risky moves, cross dynos, and such.
Would you like to see anything new at Sender One?
Our gym is perfect. But I saw some cool new holds that we’re planning on getting for Sender One.
Any advice for the climbing community out there?
Climbing is hard. Never quit. And all climbing styles are good. I’ve seen it all and it's always fun.
Sender One SNA will be hosting the USAC Sport & Speed Youth Regional Competition. Click here to volunteer for the event!
Climbing in the morning is such a chore. You have to wake up before the sun rises and it makes you feel more productive than you should be. The drive is forgettable without the usual vexation of traffic. Then, you get to the gym and nobody's there, except for the bright and cheery-eyed front desk crew. Your voice echoes through the empty space when you ask for tension and no one is there to watch you send your project except for your belayer. You can do laps on your favorite routes and you don’t have to wait for any to free up. If you encounter a spinner, you get to be the hero and report it to the front desk, who probably knows why you’re there to talk to them anyway. Finally, when you’re climbing outdoors, you’ve developed a habit of an early start and waking up early is no longer such a pain when you want to beat the heat and the crowds to the crag. If these aren’t enough to convince you not to climb before work, here are four more reasons why exercise in the morning sucks:
Burn more calories
Boost your EPOC (Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption) - otherwise known as oxygen debt or the “afterburn”. EPOC explains how your body can continue to burn calories long after you’ve finished your workout. So, the intensity of your workout directly correlates with the amount of EPOC benefit you receive.
Win win win, no matter what
Don’t get derailed by last minute errands, to-dos, or a late night at the office. Getting your workout done first thing in the morning ensures that nothing else gets in your way and you can stick with your training program.
Morning exercise can not only improve the length of sleep you enjoy, but also your quality of sleep by promoting deeper sleep cycles. Exercise releases a healthy dose of adrenaline which is great for waking up, but not so great in the evenings before bed. The hormones released during exercise also improve your internal digestion and system on a more consistent and regular basis.
Editor's note: Iris climbs EVERYDAY at 7AM.
With all of this being said, I hope you take my advice and never climb in the morning.
Sender One Santa Ana (SNA) and Los Angeles (LAX) both have competitive ("comp") teams that practice at their respective "home gyms". Given the distance between the two gyms, Sender One coaches hold monthly full team practices and an early season "all team lock-in" event. This encourages bonding between comp team members and fosters cohesion for Team Sender One. For the 2018 sport and speed climbing season, the all team lock-in event took place at Sender One LAX on February 17, 2018.
While the Sender One Youth team trained together, coaches Christian and Nate held a parent orientation to discuss team goals and important information about USA Climbing membership requirements for competitors. Many parents were new to the comp team, and climbing in general, and welcomed a forum where they asked the coaches questions about training methods, safety, and USA Climbing rules. Coach Christian Mercene, the SNA youth head coach, really listened and addressed new parents' questions and concerns. Coach Nate Withey, who has extensive personal competition experience, was able to answer technical questions about USA Climbing's rules. Parents are encouraged to visit USA Climbing's rules page and watch the short video explaining its competition rules.
After training and dinner, Team Sender One visited Sender City. Parents were welcome to try out the obstacles, some of which were quite challenging! My husband won the "speed climbing challenge", but I was able to pass his high-point on the the "moving cog-wheel" climbing problem. Many of the challenges required leaps of faith, such as jumping off high objects or platforms into the air, which are wonderful exercises in "trust" and made these obstacles popular in adult team-building/confidence events.
Groups began to form, with some kids heading to the party room to watch the climbing movie, featuring world class climbers Chris Sharma, Alex Honnold, and Margo Hayes. Others hung out with coach Melanie (who seemed to be exercising for hours at a time!) at the fitness area. The rest of us headed to the climbing walls to work off the dessert we ate! At 10pm, the gym doors were locked and all the other guests had left. Team Sender One and their families were locked in. A few parents collectively took a breath as Team Sender One took over LAX!
Kids ran all over the place, playing hide and seek, clamoring upstairs and downstairs. The main lights turned off, leaving the spot lights shining on the iconic Torch and the other big walls. Those who brought head-lamps did some "head-lamp climbing".Coaches also rigged up a "King Swing" in the middle of the lead climb arch. This was a long rope that required the swinger to climb up the wall, then jump off, for a long fall and wide swing.
By this time, it was past midnight. Many parents were exhausted since it was past our bedtime! People began staking sleeping spots around the bouldering areas. We set up the ground sheet and sleeping bags/pillows, and as things wound down, we settled to sleep. It was quite a pleasant experience to sleep in the dark and quiet building, with the occasional sound of an airliner taking off or landing at LAX.
The next morning Team Sender One campers woke up, packed up, and met for potluck breakfast. Coaches Toby and Christian greeted everyone and asked about favorite parts of the lock-in. King swing, Sender City, Rope swings, the (climbing) movie, "everything" were answers, followed by the next question: "When are we going to do this again?" Looks like the lock-in was a success!
After packing up the next morning, Vall and I drove our cars to the East Canyon parking area where there are a lot of different walls. Todd had to be back in Big Bear so he left the night before. I wanted to check out one of the most popular walls, Raven Rocks. As we approached we saw a lot of climbers, which reminded me it was Saturday. We had been spoiled with seeing only a handful of climbers the past two days. There were ropes hanging everywhere! We found an open route named Custom Tailored. It was a fun climb with lots of holds and nice sequences. After Vall’s turn, we decided to leave my rope after asking other climbers if they wanted to top rope it. Being an introvert, this was a nice segue for me to ask to climb on other people’s ropes, which everyone said yes. It was awesome to see everyone sharing ropes and providing beta on different routes. (Note: If climbing on another climber’s rope, make sure their anchor is safe. If you have any questions about safety, do not climb on other’s gear). We eventually gravitated towards a group that had three ropes set up. They welcomed us to climb with them. They lived in Orange County and climb at Sender One Santa Ana. The Sender One community bands together!
Don Burton with a fantastic review of his trip to New Jack City.
Raven Rocks was very clean compared to the other walls we climbed so it was nice not to be dodging any falling rocks. It even gave me the confidence to flail two thirds of the way up a tough 5.11b route on top rope, but the route I had really had my eye on to climb before I left was the classic, Route 66. It is a sustained and thoughtful 5.9. There were quick draws on all of the bolts but no anchor built so I was hoping someone else would finish the route so I could top rope it. Vall left around 3 pm but I planned to stay until dark and I still had hopes of climbing Route 66. After climbing a couple of other routes I finally worked up the nerve to climb it on lead. As I made my way towards the last bolt I realized I had reached the crux. I paused to figure out the sequence to the anchors. After trying a few moves and hanging in between, I decided to step far left on the thin ledge I had been standing on and then match my feet. This would put me in position to work my way up a short crack to the anchors. As I jammed my hands and feet into the crack, I tried to recall all of the Wide Boyz YouTube videos on crack climbing technique. Point your thumb towards your pinky, rotate you leg to wedge your foot… it was working! Before I knew it I reached the chains. It was really satisfying to top out and finish my trip on a high note.
As I was packing up, my new friends (Arturo, Christina, and Sarionne) asked if I wanted to eat dinner with them at a Vietnamese Restaurant in Victorville as they were leaving soon. “Sounds good,” I said. It turned out to be an even better way to finish my trip.
Bring toilet paper as the restrooms have been known to be empty.
No running water so bring plenty for all of your needs.
There are no trash bins so bring trash bags and pack out everything.
Check the weather before heading out. Temperatures can fluctuate drastically.
New Jack City Sport Climbing Guide by Jordan Robbins can be found on Amazon.
We both decided to head to bed early because it was getting quite cold even with the fire. The next morning while eating breakfast Todd checked the weather and saw that the low temperature for nearby Barstow was 22 degrees Fahrenheit! As we shivered over our breakfasts, I suggested we pack up and move to a site that was in the sun. Todd said he was thinking the same thing. We moved over to site 4 which is right next to the White Face wall so we decided to get in a few pitches before Vall showed up. We started with the far right route named White Flight, rated at 5.7. “Great beginning lead route,” said the guidebook. I thought it would be a fun way for me to start the day. Wrong! About three fourths of the way up I was stumped. I didn’t see any good holds and it was too early to take a fall, well at least for me. Even up to that point I never really felt secure so I tucked my tail between my legs and down climbed just below the fourth bolt. “Take!” “Lower.” It wasn’t like any other 5.7 I had climbed outside before. Todd tied in and started climbing. I sure hoped he would finish it so he could clean my quick draws. I didn’t want to leave any gear on such an easy route. When he was finished he said it
Vall and Todd scrambling down from Cliffs of Insanity.
was definitely not rated correctly and suspected some holds had pulled off making it much more difficult of a climb. Phew, I thought I would have to update my Mountain Project profile to “Leads 5.5 Sport.” We climbed the neighboring route, which was fun and seemed to be appropriately graded. Afterwards we headed back to camp to eat lunch and wait for Vall.
Once Vall arrived we quickly hopped in my car and headed to the trailhead that leads to the Cliffs of Insanity wall. It is one of the few areas that require any sort of approach. Still, it only took about 15 minutes to reach with the help of the recently published New Jack City guidebook by Jordan Robbins. This is a really thorough guidebook with an overview, approach directions and even coordinates for each wall. There are also short descriptions of each route along with the number of bolts and the type of anchors plus plenty of pictures.
Once at the base of Cliffs on Insanity you need to scramble up a short distance to reach the belay station. I was most excited to climb this wall because it has the longest routes in New Jack City at 120 feet high. Two of the routes, Inconceivable and Uncle Funs Basement have mid-point anchors if you want to climb it in two pitches. This is especially nice if you wanted to practice multi pitch climbing. Note: It is necessary to climb it in two pitches if you are using a 60m rope though. Todd led first and made it to the mid point ledge fairly quickly but soon after he started to slow down. He said a lot of the holds seemed suspect and as he steadily made his way up pebbles periodically fell towards Vall and I. It wasn’t surprising though because this wall isn’t very popular so it is not as clean as some of the others. As he reached the last bolt, he only had one quick draw left. He paused for a bit and I could see him getting a little gripped and I imagined pumped too. He had a few options at this point. One, he could continue climbing to the top and rappel down which meant there wouldn’t be a top rope anchor for me to climb if that's what I wanted to do, which I did. Two, I could have lowered him and he could have back cleaned two more quick draws to build an anchor. Three, he could bail and lower off his highest quick draw and clean the rest on the way down. Todd opted to bail, which I don’t blame him. It is unfortunate he didn’t have a bail biner and ended up having to leave a quick draw behind. On his was down, he built an anchor at the mid-point bolts so Vall and I could do a couple of short pitches. Vall even cleaned her first sport anchor, which Todd had taught her how to do earlier.
Don leading Cupid’s Fever on the Valentine Wall.
With only about 1.5 hours of daylight left we decided to head back to camp and check out some more routes next to our site. We decided on Valentine Wall, which had a couple of 5.8’s. I decided to lead Cupid’s Fever, which had a tough start for the grade. It was kind of thin until I reached the fourth bolt, then it was pretty easy the rest of the way to the anchors. Next it was Vall’s turn. She cruised up the route, which to me was really impressive because she had 1.5” long painted nails! The sun was setting so it was time to get back to camp for dinner. Vall had a subway sandwich, Todd had cold spaghetti and I pulled out a rib eye steak. What can I say? I backpack a lot so when I car camp I like to splurge a little. As my steak was sizzling away, Todd shouted and pointed to the horizon. There was an amazing glowing streak across the sky.
Space X Launch
Growing up in Southern California you see this type of thing every so often. We figured it was a missile launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base but we later found out it was SpaceX’s Falcon rocket launch. Thanks to the much warmer night, we spent more time catching up around the campfire before heading to bed.