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Routesetting is demanding; emotionally, mentally, and most of all, physically. A typical 5 to 6 hour work session includes organizing materials and tools, setting, forerunning, and packing down which can burn over 400 active calories per hour! If you have ever wondered what it’s like to be a routesetter, this post will walk you through a day in the life of a setter. We have also included two workouts that replicate the act of setting for you to try during your next session!

Setting Routes

Your day begins at 7:00 a.m. in the setter’s workshop. Your first task is to put away (deadlift) 5-10 bread trays of clean holds (each tray averages 15-20 lbs). Collect your setting tools and push the hardware cart to the other side of the gym where you will be setting. Set up your ropes and get ready to strip (the route, that is!). Using a fixed rope and an ascender, ascend 50 feet to the top of the wall. As you rappel down, remove holds and place them in the bucket attached to your harness.

Once you’re on the ground, more squats and deadlifts await as you sort and arrange the dirty holds onto new trays. Stack them up and move them out of the way. Select and lay out your clean holds and ascend the rope two more times while you set two perfect routes. Climb both routes bottom to top and make any final changes. Then, it’s time to climb (on lead) two of your crew member’s routes. At least one is beyond your onsight ability, so you’re working hard to make sure the moves are possible and the route meets the grade. The work isn’t over! After climbing at your limit, all of your equipment must be put away and the hardware cart returned to the workshop.

If it’s your day to wash holds, prepare for more deadlifts later in the day!

The Workout

Wake up at 7:00 a.m.
Deadlift, moderate weight x 10 (put holds away).
Slow Mountain Climbers x 25 (push cart).
Single Leg Squat with One Arm Ring Row, dominant arm, opposite leg x 12 (ascend, strip).
Squats, bodyweight x 20 (clean up, layout holds).
Single Leg Squat with One Arm Ring Row, dominant arm, opposite leg x 12 (ascend, set).
Single Leg Squat with One Arm Ring Row, dominant arm, opposite leg x 12 (ascend, set).
Rest, stretch, stay warmed up.
Lead climb 4 routes, progressive in difficulty (~5.9-5.12, working the moves on more difficult routes).
Squats, bodyweight x 20 (clean up).
Slow Mountain Climbers x 25 (push cart).
Deadlift, moderate weight x 10 (wash holds).

Setting Boulders

Your day begins at 7:00 a.m. in the setter’s workshop. Your first task is to put away (deadlift) 5-10 bread trays of clean holds (each tray averages 15-20 lbs). Collect your setting tools and push the hardware cart to the elevator on the other side of the gym. Take the elevator to the ground floor and push the cart to the bouldering wall. Help your crew carry out all three 45 pound ladders. Get your drill and holster – it’s time to strip (the boulder wall, that is)! Take several trips up and down the ladder, do a few squats for those low holds, and don’t forget those far away finish jugs! Perform even more squats and deadlifts as you clean up the bouldering pad – no bolts left behind and all dirty holds stacked up and out of the way. Lay out your holds and set 4 boulder problems. After more squats and ladder runs, it’s time to climb!

Get warmed up and climb beyond your onsight ability – working hard to make sure each move is possible by doing them in isolation. The work isn’t over! After climbing 12 problems, those 45 pound ladders get put away, hold trays and the hardware cart returned to the workshop.

If it’s your day to wash holds, get ready for more deadlifts later in the day!

The Workout

Wake up at 7:00 a.m.
Deadlift, moderate weight x 10 (put holds away).
Slow Mountain Climbers x 25 (push cart).
Single Overhead KB Press with hold, moderate-heavy weight x 5 each (move ladders).
Alternating Lunges, bodyweight x 20 (strip, up and down ladder).
Squats, bodyweight x 20 (clean up, layout holds).
3 Bodyweight Squats + 4 Alternating Lunges x 10 (setting).
Rest, stretch, climb a few warm up boulders.
Climb 12 boulders, progressive in difficulty (~V0-V8, working moves on more difficult problems).
Squats, bodyweight x 20 (clean up).
Single Overhead KB Press with hold, moderate-heavy weight x 5 each (move ladders).
Slow Mountain Climbers x 25 (push cart).
Deadlift, moderate weight x 10 (wash holds).

Setting at Climb So iLL generally happens on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If you don’t see setters at the gym those evenings, they are probably resting from a busy morning! Give them a high-five next time you see them!

Routesetting is much more than just putting holds on the wall. It is physically exhausting, mentally stimulating, and emotionally challenging. Although the creative aspect is not included in this simulation, these workouts are a great way to challenge yourself and possibly improve climbing strength! For best results, we recommend you try the Route workout one day then the Bouldering workout two days later. Make sure you work out early in the morning for the full routesetter experience!

Take your training sessions to the next level. Learn more about private instruction opportunities with Jess Blanton.

Jess Blanton

Author Jess Blanton

Jess Blanton is an instructor and routesetter at Climb So iLL. She holds an M.S. in Sport and Exercise Science and is an NASM Certified Personal Trainer. From setting nutritional goals to developing customized training plans, Jess works with all types of climbers – regardless of ability, experience, or age.

More posts by Jess Blanton
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