On Saturday May 30th, The first Setter Showdown setting competition in Colorado took place. On Sunday, they held a 4 hour judging session between all the setters and climbers. Our very own TJ Sanford, representing the BRC routesetters, took third place! He won the function category and took overall 3rd out of 24 setters from around the country. Each setter was tasked to set three problems, one in the v1-v3 range, one in the v4-v6 range and the last in the v7-v9 range. Some problems had added challenges, such as setting around a pre-existing hold or partnering up with another setter on one of your problems. The holds were all provided by Kingdom Climbing, Kilter and Element – most setters were given holds from one company set per problem.
Sean Drolet, Aubrey Wingo and I ventured down to Golden to support TJ and check out all the problems the competition had to offer. There were a plethora of dynamic and comp style themed problems – a lot of them set to have the more modern eye candy gymnastics to draw attention to the climb. The drawback to a lot of those problems was the reach factor. Some required toehooks or big deadpoints, but the majority of it favored the taller climber. As the goal of these problems was to create great commercial problems, appropriate reach and flow should be paramount in the judging process. Most of the boulders i got on were in the average to great realm, there were very few duds. I only saw one climb that i would have outright taken down and fired the setter(would they have worked for me) and only a few climbs that had no consistency.
There were a number of larger King, Queen, and Emperor sized holds in use by all three companies. Many were used well, but a few of them were put on and only ever used as a single hand hold. I’m always disappointed if i get to play on big holds that could just be taken off and replaced with a single small handhold with no difference to the route. I at least want to match hands on the volume sized hold, or toss a heel on it, or (even better) bicycle toe hook it and bump a hand up it 3-5 times, etcetera. To use a big hold well, it demands being used multiple times in the same problem.
There were two problems that stood out to me. One was a blue crimp problem with a single Kilter teagan volume on it heading up a steep arete. It was just pure flow up a sea of blue crimps with consistent core tension and no trickery – just real rock climbing. It made me happy and reminded me of rope climbing. It also reminded me that for great commercial routesetting, i always love having 50% of my routes and problems as great flow routes that are reminiscent of outside climbing and also useful as good trainer routes. They are the ones you want to get on over and over after you’ve done it the first time.
I later learned that this particular problem was set by our very own, Jay Samuelson, who also sets for Thrillseekers climbing gym in Denver(and whom he was also representing at the showdown). He mentioned that all the trick/comp and theme styled boulder problems were an eye opening experience for him, being schooled in the way of the old school routesetters.
The second problem was a purple sloper problem up a blunt and nearly vertical arete made with Kingdom Climbing’s new Contour sloper set of holds. I ended up using every hold (at first i thought too many) and again i felt like i was climbing a bit more like a techy outdoor climb. For a red grade route (the v7-v9 range) it was very accessible as well, which i thought was an excellent strategy. Allow your problem to be on the easier end of the spectrum and a lot more climbers and judges will get on it. More will also finish it, and people love problems even more when they can actually do them. I might end up ordering this set of holds from Kingdom now that i’ve climbed on them… i was skeptical of these shapes at first!
A couple months ago we held our own little BRC setting competition to see who would earn the right to represent the BRC at the Setter Showdown. We’re psyched that we got to send TJ and even more psyched that he took third. Congratulations TJ!
You can check out more information about the Setter Showdown HERE!