Wednesday, March 16, 2016

"Bluebeary Muffin" - Setting a route on the rock wall

Ready to set! Notice the rope setup.
On average, I get out to the climbing gym twice a week. There are actually two different gyms I go to, the Tri-City Court Club (TCCC) for top-rope climbs, and a sweet homemade garage some folks built out in the boonies for bouldering. My climbing skills have increased so much since really getting into the sport last October. I started climbing 5.8's, typical for beginners, and now I'm up to 5.10a's and b's. These guys involve more technical movements with weight shifts and smaller, crimpier hand holds. I feel more badass and stronger with every route I climb.

The Court Club is an open space for climbing and you can go there whenever there isn't a class going on to climb. My friend Luke and I are often there on the weekends before I head into work for a solid climbing sesh. Him and a bunch of people I've met recently are often changing up routes because the gym is small, and there needs to be a good mix of difficulties from 5.7's for the amateurs and 5.12c's for the experts.

I really wanted to set my own route up on the wall because it's like your own art project. You get to choose your holds and the moves and you can try to be tricky and creative. So one day Luke spent an extra hour with me showing the procedure of setting a route. There is a lot of technical rope work you need to know since you are belaying yourself with a gri-gri. These are the steps!

Step One: Choose your intended difficulty. We were shooting for a beginner route, so a 5.8, maybe 5.9. I realize now that as a new setter, it takes practices to make it a consistent difficulty all the way up.

Holds for daysss
Step Two: Choose your holds. The TCCC has a sweet gear room with buckets of holds, carabiners, gri-gris, anchors, harnesses, you name it. So we filtered through a bunch of holds that were juggy and crimpy types. For this route, Luke and I decided to have the theme of pockets. So most of the holds were ones with small holes that only allowed a few fingers to fit in at a time.

Step Three: Rope up. This is the most technical part. Luke spent a few minutes describing to me how the system works. You take one end of the rope, tie a figure-eight bite, and anchor that to the ground. Then you tie yourself in, via figure-eight, into the other end with a gri-gri. As you climb, your weight is against the end safely fixed to the ground. Also, as you make your way up, always tie a knot every three or four feet below yourself as a backup incase your gri-gri fails.

The start. Our route - Blue and White
Step Four: Mark your route with just tape first - no holds yet. This is where you climb up and set tape on the wall where you'd want to bolt in a hold. This takes a bit of time because you might be applying and reapplying tape to different spots. This is also Jedi Luke's way. There are many ways to set routes.

Step Five: Kind of a minor step. Once you've taped all the way to the top, haul up the bucket of holds you've chosen and fasten it to your harness. This was so tiresome because the bucket was heavy and after a while of dangling in the air your harness starts to cut off circulation. After 30 mins or so, I was very uncomfortable.

Step Six: Start setting! This is where you can be creative and plan positions for the holds and make them flow into cool moves. Luke and I did a little thinking on the ground but he was basically on the rope next to me helping me place the gear with bolts. You have to make sure the holds are fixed securely with no edges overhanging on the curved part of the wall or at an angle where tension could break the hold. It's pretty common sense stuff. Luke and I spent the next bit of time placing holds all the way down with the intention of keeping it a 5.8 with plenty of jugs and easy moves for beginners. You get hungry to place another route up that is harder, and I constantly found myself wanting to place a difficult hold on the route with Jedi Luke saying, "remember young padawan, it's just a 5.8!"

Jedi Luke doing his thing.
Step Seven: Test your route! We both climbed it, got a feel for it, added a few foot holds to make some parts easier. The difficulty might change from what you expected to after you first climb it. We figured it could be a 5.8+, so a little more difficult than a 5.8.

Step Eight: Name the route. This step is almost the best part. Some folks might have a name in mind before they start taping, but I decided to get a feel for it. Luke always names his routes involving a llama, his favorite animal. So, since my spirit animal is a bear... Had to go with that. Llamas and bears though, few similarities there. But I climbed it and instantly felt like it had to be called "Bluebeary Muffin" since we used blue and white tape and I had a month where I made blueberry muffins like every Sunday. We decided on the name, "There's a bluebeary muffin in the llama's pocket." A bit of a phrase, but eh, it works!

There is a little bit of satisfaction when you see someone attempting your route and they can't start it or get stuck on it at a certain spot. Mwaaahahaha. I also made a second route named "Danger Bear" that is solely mine and rated a 5.9. In a couple months, they both will be taken down for new routes to be placed. Some routes are just awesome and you'll remember them. I'm excited to learn what I can and climb hard. ⤲

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