We’re so excited to see our holds on the walls again this year!
Female Qualifiers 2/21 2014 9AM MST
Male Qualifiers 2/21 2014 3PM MST
Semifinals 2/22 2014 11AM MST
Finals 2/22 2014 7:30PM MST
ABS Open Nationals are coming up next weekend! Louder Than 11 will be producing a live HD webcast again for all of us that can’t be there to catch the action – woo! Our super weird low-tek commercial will be running again. Don’t miss it!
Quali’s will be airing Friday the 21st; women at 9 am Mountain Time, men at 3pm. Semi’s on Saturday (men & women) 11am, then finals the same day at 7:30pm.
We’re super psyched to be supporters of this event and to see our holds on walls again!
Here’s a trailer for the event:
In october of 2011, I was invited to Japan to set for a 2 day team training course and to set for the Japanese Lead Championships in Nagano. The success of both events prompted a second collaboration with the Japanese Mountaineering Association, so in February 2012 I was invited to Nagasaki for another double booking : Team training round 2 and Boulder Japan Cup, the national bouldering competition.
If you want to get the most out of a training session in this day and age, you need quality resources, a wall, volumes and holds. Then you need setters and a coach. Then you have to get your athletes there, then there is the issue of accommodation, transport, food and various other expenses like airport shuttles, train commutes. Even for large federations with a solid budget, all these things are not easy to orchestrate.
It boils down to money, something that climbing seems to have trouble connecting with on long and bumpy road to being a professional sport. So I can only admire the efforts made by the JMA, and in particular Kazuhiro Chiba, National Coach and technical director for climbing, for having skilfully managed bring together the double event for which I was hired. He even managed to get small monetary contributions for the setters who volunteered to help out, as recognition of the effort they put in. Props to Chiba-san!
As skillful as Coach Kazu is, the scheduling still required some sacrifices to keep the budget together. One of those was the tight timetable I had to stick to in order to get the training boulders done on time.
I stepped off the plane on a sunday evening and monday morning I was at the climbing wall, jet lag and all, exposing my training plan to the team. Since it was pre-season, coach Chiba and I figured it would be good for the climbers to have a mock World Cup comp with a qualifier round on the first day and then a semi-final on the second day to give everyone a chance to see where they were at.
Seth and Zoe had all the newest sets sent to me via Tak Kiori and his company Crux that distribute Teknik in Japan. So our mission on the first day was to unbox a whole bunch of new holds and then set the semi-finals round with very 4 very defined styles for each circuit. The semi finals round often being the hardest of a competition, and training being always a little harder than real competitions, we had to set some of the hardest boulders of the week on the first day, and I was still waiting for my brain to step off the plane…
In training I always make it a point to try new things or to take risks that I can’t afford to take in a comp, or at least not blindly… The spectacular effect of setting a move that is new and original or setting a boulder that only one person tops, usually involves a lot of maybes, and when it fails, the route setters usually end up looking stupid and/or incompetent.
So since my trip to Singapore in December, I had been musing about this new move that had originally been set by Irwan Mohad (head setter at Climb Asia) a singaporean setter in the Gravical event. Basically it’s a very long campus move from a bad hold that is very hard (ideally impossible) to do statically, but, if you swing your body back and forth to generate momentum and then time your release just right you are able to make the move. I thought this was awesome.
As a travelling setter I try to make it a point to spread good ideas, and with Irwan’s permission, I promised to try to reproduce the move for top level climbers, hopefully in an international event. But before that, I had to understand it, practice it, and figure out how to force it and how to set it on different walls and to adjust it’s difficulty as needed.
So decided that would try to set the Singapore Swing, as we dubbed it for the men’s semi finals circuit japanese training course. The other mens boulders in the circuit were one very complex volume balance problem that required no power, one very physical volume problem and a brutal coordination crimp bloc, with no volumes at all.
On the women’s menu I put strange and powerful volume climb, an awkward coordination hop to 2 bad slopers followed by a hard mantle, a steep arete with some balance moves at the top, and then some small crimps in a steep wall to a committing move into a slopey Climb-It halo.
With the added time constraint and the pressure of having to manage the team and test all the boulders, when time came to strip the first days blocs to clear the wall for the next days setting, the singapore swing wasn’t working. Not even close. Across all the variations, we always found either an easier heel hook method, or couldn’t do the move at all.
Since all the other boulders set that day where good, I decided to strip it as it was and figured I would have time to fix it when we put them back up. Wrong. When we put the boulders back up a (busy and tiring) week later, even with fresh testers I couldn’t get the idea to come together the way I wanted. So I bailed… I didn’t want the men to have a 3 boulder circuit because 1 boulders was either stupid or undoable.
So I hacked the women’s circuit that was missing a straightforward dyno – a common weak point for japanese female climbers. We decided to change Womens 3 into a men’s boulder, it only needed a bit of distance added to the already awkward coordination hop, and the failed singapore swing was turned into Womens 4 mondo jump. It’s a signature move, maybe only Irwan can set it…
After a few training courses, all over the world with climbers of different levels, one thing I noticed is that it takes the climbers some time to get comfortable, with the idea of pretending to be in a competition and trying as hard as they need to, and usually I am hired to set styles that they are unaccustomed to. A lot of the climbers have trouble being on their ‘A’ game on the morning of their first day.
I decided that instead of the shock therapy of World Cup circuit climbing, I would start everyone out with a different and -arguably- more gentle kind of shock. I designed a circuit for each gender with 4 in boulders each to be climbed in rotation but 3 minutes on, 3 minutes off AND only one attempt per boulder.
This idea came to me and my co-worker Florian, while we where working in Singapore. We have learned from our work with coaches, and from observing many athletes that poor quality of attempts is what keeps a lot of climbers out of the next round. So we came up with this exercise, to get climbers to practice higher levels of concentration and attention to details in a single push.
Obviously the boulders where set accordingly, the intensity of the boulders was lower than in a standard comp circuit, the risk factor however was pushed up as high as possible.
Our intern, 20 year old Ryoma Sato set the quintessential one-shot boulder problem with the new set of Big Fat Slopers, it was no more than maybe V6, but the slight overhang and the huge unknown slopers made it possible to fall from every move. And the prominent Bloctite in the middle looked like salvation from the desperate slapping and hooking? WRONG! as soon as you grabed it you swung out to the doom of your single attempt.
Setting for the comp
After the 2 days of setting for the training, a fresh team of route setters arrived to set for the Nationals. Okano-san took over as chief for the event, but as always in good team dynamics I didn’t feel like it changed much, we where all working together.
I had already played around with Big Fat Slopers during training, but I really wanted to set a boulder with the Problematics that I had in red. So on day 1 of the comp setting I decided to try a kind of weird dyno which required that you swing off the start holds and jump to a large volume very close to the ground for your feet that you had to kick off to reach the next holds. Followed a overhanging dihedral in which the problematics offered some large slopers but also corners that you had to wrap with your hand to stay on, much like volumes.
As it turned out this boulder didn’t work at all. It was set for the girls but none of them figured out the first move. Akiyo Noguchi did finally get on the right track but she timed out before she could succeed.
I dislike boulders that can be labeled party tricks but they often fit the bill for a finals problems : dynamic, graphic, only a single solution (also known as a forced move), not too hard so potential for multiple tops and my personal favorite : not so obvious, therefore creating confusion for the climber and suspense for the audience…
In the case of this particular boulder, although we toned it down in the fine adjustments just before the finals round, it was still too much for the particular group of climbers it was intended for. As a matter of fact we pretty consistently messed up the girls rounds throughout the whole comp.
Setting by numbers
I really only noticed in what proportion we had made a mistake by studying my excel sheet detailing the boulders and the results. I’ve mentioned before that inspired by Laurent Laporte I had started experimenting with the computer as a tool to improve my setting. Over the past year, I have been recording detailed information for each boulder in the events I set for during the setting, and more recently I began cross referencing it with the results very accurately.
At BJC 2012 I feel as though I made a serious advance in how to use that information. I’ve added 2 columns to my excel sheet to record the intended tops and actual tops. So during the final phase of tweeking I ask the setters how many tops they think their boulder problem will get. I’d like to think that the number we settle upon is a reflexion of both our expectations as setters on the one hand and our knowledge of the field on the other.
I watched this comp like I watched many others before, and yes, it looked “a bit” hard for the girls but not “disaster” hard, there where tops it didn’t look like people where not getting off the ground, we got separation, no ties. It looked OK you know… But after the comp, when I added up the number of intended tops for all four semi-finals boulders for women I got 24. The actual number of tops was 7.
So all these mistakes were made, but I only realized the exact nature of them once I was done compiling all the information in my little program. It’s still very empirical and inaccurate but I’ll keep you posted on the evolution of this tool that is also helping me articulate a wider vocabulary to teach route setting in the clinics we give.
After the comp exhaustion set in. I was really burned out from trying to find new ideas on the same wall. I had an insufficient rest day before doing a couple of days of courses for local climbers. The I travelled back to Tokyo to do a couple of days of setting at Rhino & Bird in order to prepare another training course. I was told that I’d have some help. It was some help. All the best setters in Tokyo showed up including Yuji Hirayama. It was a little strange giving instructions to a guy who had been a legend and inspiration in my teens, but he was very open minded and generous, and working with him was a real pleasure.
Teknik is once again a season sponsor of USA Climbing. Our newest shapes, in addition to a whole wack of classics made it onto the walls over the last two weekends for the ABS Open and Youth bouldering Championships. Chris Danielson and the USA Climbing setting team laced up the walls with some amazing looking problems for two very successful events.
The film crew from Louder Than 11 was there and filmed the action. Check out the promo vid below that they did for us with pro setter Scott Mechler (he’s been setting comps with Teknik since back in the PCA days!), as well as other footage from the comp here.
Yup, as seen in the video, Big Fat Slopers and Problematics at 25% off for the next 10 days only. Just send us an email with your order including the following line ‘Fat and Problematic’.
Retail prices for the new sets are as follows (see Chris’ blog post below this one for photos and descriptions of the holds):
Big Fat Slopers $150
Long Pinches $120
No Shadow Tip Toes:$42
I’ll get actual photos onto the website soon- I just got my first sets of each of these on my doorstep today woo-hoo!
Seth set a Canadian Tour de Bloc comp in Edmonton a couple weekends ago. He set the entire finals on his own, and went off with the new shapes.
I love how he screwed the Formulas and Equations onto the Problematics, lining up the angle breaks on both holds perfectly.
Hey, and before you get too craaazy about all the awesome new big holds, keep in mind that some of Chris’s favorites as a setter were the tiny little No Shadow Tip Toes. Micro tweaking at it’s finest….
Killer start to 2012. Seth and Zoe shaped new grips for addition to the Teknik line, a few of which were previewed in foam in an earlier post in 2011. Well, they are now all in production and all… HERE:
These are BIG… FAT… SLOPERS. Can you tell? Each of these holds is feature size but we have still been able to keep the cost of a full set reasonable, especially when you compare to some of the rest of the climbing holds on the market. We did a little looking around and there are some very high priced grips out there.
Teknik have been making awesome tools for the routesetting trade for over 12 years, and Seth and Zoe do want to run a good business and make money, to keep being able to make awesome grips, but, we do not want to charge customers an arm, leg, or any other body parts for holds. Teknik make the highest quality shapes but keep them very competitively priced, and keep you with all your appendages so you can climb on them.
What is Teknik perhaps best known for? Making amazing pinches. Some of you may recall an older set of Teknik big pinches that this new set is reminiscent of. These new Long Pinches will be instant classics I am sure. They are each nearly a foot and a half long, easily matchable and all the shapes are positive making them nice additions for nearly any wall angle and some raw compression climbing on horizontal steep walls if you have the power for it.
The Problematics are another gigantic set of 5. Straightforward shapes – rectangular blocks that will be excellent for compression pulling on overhangs walls, tricky lie-backs and contortion on low angle stuff, and great for adding itty bitty grips like the new No Shadow Tip Toes screw-ons to, for thumb catches (shown further below).
There are three new sets that are similar to the Problematics, in their geometric flat-planed designs, but are super low profile. Each is a set of 10. The Formulas are the biggest set of the bunch, The Equations just a touch smaller in size.
And the last of this design type, the Numericals, we categorize in the footholds section, since they are the smallest – though they can certainly be used as hands as well.
All of these shapes are great for slabs, aretes, and for additions to volumes and will help you create some very delicate climbing indeed.
Not only are there the three new sets of 5 above that are all basically sets of Indy-sized feature holds, there is also this monster:
Bloctite is like the Pinchtite, awesome for pressing/mantling, cool to jump to, equally good for wrestling with… except this guy has a bit more bite, coming to more of a tapered point at the top. Suffice it to say this Indy introduction will also be great for creative lower body work, like knee-bars, heel-hooks, toe-catches, foot-hugs, etc.
And, two more sets to round out the new designs for early 2012. The Loafers set of 20 are going to be top sellers. These shapes are very simple rounded grips classified in the foothold category but equally functional as small hands for bump holds, aretes, volumes, or if you just want to litter the wall with these roundies – you can make a crimp tension polka-dot route.
The last new set is a variation on the brilliant low profile No Shadow Hands and No Shadow Feet. These shapes are so popular nowadays that setters will refer to other brands’ low profile pancake shapes as No Shadows. The NS shapes are perfect for smear feet, on slabs, kickwalls, etc. Many times I have used the NSF and NSH myself as screw-ons, in spots where no t-nut presents itself. They are fantastic for intricate footwork and tension. So… Why not a perfect small screw-on set of 20 No Shadows? YES – No Shadow Tip Toes!
I hope everyone likes all these shapes as much as I do. I had a permanent grin all morning when I saw these new grips, and they posed for their first photos. I kept shaking my head at the Big Fat Slopers, Problematics, Long Pinches and Bloctite – talking to them… “You guys are BIG… Whoa”. We got a nice exchange going and it’s the start of a blossoming friendship… I am excited to be working with them closely for the first time in a few days, routesetting for ABS Nationals. They said they are looking forward to it.
Teknik is again a season sponsor of USA Climbing, and those of you who may be headed to the ABS Youth and Open Championships out here in Colorado in the coming weeks will get a look at many of these new creations. Hope to see you there!
Happy birthday to Teknik! Twelve, wow!
So, what’s happened since our last birthday… it’s been a big year, our biggest ever!
For starters, we’ve added a lot of new shapes to our line: Big Sneakers, Long Methods, Hooded Fangs, Hoods, Mathematics, Hard Math, Low Fat Slopers, Half Fat Slopers, Minimeats, Meatlets, and of course the Hulk. If you haven’t read the story behind the Hulk, check it out. We also added a bunch of new tees.
We’ve re-done our entire website (thanks to Tondé!). In addition to better navigation, and a cart function, we added new larger photos of all the shapes showing multiple views and scale, as well as boxes for you to leave comments about the sets and “like” them. We added the story about Teknik thus far, and our setting team has been active with excellent posts on Tekkies.
This has been an absolutely stand out year for our involvement in high level comps.
We were season sponsors for USA Climbing’s Bouldering and Difficulty series. Half the holds used at US Nationals for both disciplines were Teknik.
We were also season sponsors for the Unified Bouldering Championships Pro Series. The second event of the UBC series held in Central Park NYC produced an amazing photo in the New York Times of the Hulk in action- rad!
Also on the East Coast US we sponsored the futuristic Dominion Riverrock bouldering comp. It was on a structure comprised completely of hanging volumes; wild! Here’s a short video:
We sponsored the Tour De Bloc Canadian Bouldering Nationals as well as the training camp for the Canadian National Team after the event, in preparation for the Canmore Bouldering World Cup. And of course, we sponsored that event too!
We offered to come on as sponsors as soon as we heard there was going to be a Boulder WC in Canada, and so close to home too… we had to be involved. Amazing! It turned out we were the only hold company who stepped up to sponsor that event, so as luck would have it, all the holds (save a few screw-ons that superstar setter Jacky Godoffe brought from his personal collection) were Teknik. We never imagined an entire World Cup would be set with only our holds, crazy, and awesome.
We actually ended up sending 70% more than we had agreed to when we found out we were the only hold sponsor, because we wanted to make sure the setters had enough to pull the comp off- even with the extras it was tight, but they did it.
Seth was one of the routesetters and had an amazing experience working with our shapes, with a master, at a competition of that level. There are some nice photos of the routesetting, as well as the competitors in action here.
I drove down to Canmore with a big tent, and table strapped to the roof of my car and set up a nice Teknik tent on site.
I had a great time hanging out at the event and showing off the Tek wares to the international crowd. The highlight was when the entire Japanese team all came by and each bought a SLAB tee; so awesome!
We also put out a Fat Sloper turned upside down like a big bowl and filled it Canadian Loonie and Toonie chocolate coins. The internationals (and the local kids) loved it!!
Chris Danielson came up to hang out with us too, help us man our Tek tent, and spend some time with the Canadian setters and the Master (Jacky of course).
Shortly after this event, our holds were heavily used once again at the World Cup in Vail, as they have been in previous years.
A couple weekends after that our holds showed up again in Holland where we sponsored the Eindhoven Bouldering World Cup.
And then one more- the Bouldering World Cup in Munich. Whew.
…Munich video here (check out Semi final W4)
Not only has it been a busy year for our holds, it’s been a busy year for our setters. As mentioned, Seth made his debut as a setter for a WC level comp.
Tondé set the French Bouldering Cup and Youth Bouldering Championships, the World Cups in Eindhoven, Barcelona, and Munich. He also taught a number setting clinics, and ran training camps for some National Teams, including the one for Canada. And somewhere in between all that, he built us this excellent website!
Chris set the US Bouldering and Difficulty Nationals, the Unified Bouldering pro series, the Dominion River invitational, and the World Cup in Vail. He has also been teaching routesetter certification courses for USA climbing.
Well, what an amazing year it has been. The coming year should be every bit as good. We got a big new block of foam and already have quite a few new shapes underway that we’re quite excited about, and will be available this fall.
I’m thinking it might be a good time for a couple new tees too…
Anyways, Happy Birthday to us, it feels good to be 12! Woo!
To celebrate, I’m spending the day wearing my purple Puma Tekkies sneaks…
Chris just got the green Tekkies… and Seth will need to get the White Puma Tekkies, obviously.
Early in 2011 I suggested to CEC the governing body for competitive sport climbing in Canada that I organize a 3 day training camp for the climbers who intended to go to the bouldering World Cup to be held in Canmore, Alberta at the end of May. The idea was to help them prepare the event by simulating the climbing conditions that World Cup climbing circuits offer in terms of intensity and complexity and most importantly diversity.
I flew into Toronto on April the 15th, a comfortable day before the Canadian bouldering nationals held at Climbers Rock in Burlington, Ontario. As I didn’t know the athletes I would be working with for 3 days, I though it would be best to see them perform in real competition conditions and see if I could spot strengths or weaknesses and get a better grasp as to what sort of climbers they were. I had already done my homework by studying their competition results and videos from previous years, but it certainly was not enough information to gauge their climbing qualities. So I spent two days at a climbing competition as a spectator for once.
At any competition the largest demographic is almost always the spectators, and as route setters we try our best to make the competition an exciting and interesting event to watch. But it is always a good thing to occasionally find ourselves in the shoes of those spectators : people who are not involved in the organisation and are just watching a sports event. Fortunately for me the setting was in the able hands of Jody Miall seconded by Climbers Rock’s head setter Aaron Eden and Teknik’s own Chris Danielson. The boulders were well set, a lot of them were easy on the eyes, and it was easy to tell that everything was going well from how much fun the climbers were having.
The training camp was to take place from the 20th to the 22nd of April 2011 at one of Canada’s oldest but best gyms : Joe Rockheads in Toronto and I was supposed to team up with Jody to set six 4-bloc circuits, one per gender, per day. Unfortunately, at the last moment he had to rush home, leaving me as the only setter for the 3 day camp. Stress. On two counts : first I wasn’t sure I would be able to turn out 24 quality blocs alone in two days, and secondly one of my main goals was to expose the climbers to as foreign (to them) a style of climbing as possible, and I didn’t know if my personal flavor of setting could produce that effect.
But after weeks of back and forth emailing with the CEC the Canadian climbing authority, and Luigi coordinating to get climbers from all over Canada in one place (no small feat), it was not time to get cold feet. I had sent out emails to the attending climbers with a few basic questions about their climbing and goals. I compiled that information with the notes I had taken while watching the comp and checked it against the concept of the circuits I had prepared on the flight over. I figured it looked ok and braced to turn some wrenches… (figure of speech, i’m new skool : i use an impact driver)
3 days, 3 concepts
I am not a coach. I am not and have never been a very strong climber, and I have never competed in a World Cup event. So what the hell am I doing preparing climbers for a major competition. You know what, I have wondered that myself quite a bit. But experience has shown me that, as a route setter I have a unique view on climbers performance. You should hear conversations between route setters during a competition. Usually they are geeking out about some new hold, or tool or gym being built somewhere, one of them glances at the wall at someone doing really well on a climb and goes : “Oh what a shame, I thought she was going to top…” And sure enough 20 seconds later, the climber is off.
We know… or rather, I should say we like to think we know all the answers, we definitely get a bit cocky sometimes, but on the whole understanding the inner workings of the climb the moves, their intensity, their complexity gives us real insight to just how well a climber is doing and often what they are doing wrong.
Interestingly enough, I have noticed that the most common mistakes are not directly related to climbing. Competitors fail not because they didn’t understand the move, but because they were not breathing well enough, they where not focused, they were not listening, they were not relaxed enough, they were too relaxed… the list goes on and on. I decided that these observations, combined with atypical boulder problems, were what I wanted to draw upon for this training camp.
Also I was lucky enough to have been hired by Jacky Godoffe multiple times during the past two years to set training camps for the french national bouldering team. He pioneered the concept (yet another…) of these training camps both to prepare the climbers, but also to allow himself the opportunity to experiment with new route setting tricks or concepts before trying them in real live competitions. He also made it a point to bring in foreign route setters to expose the climbers to different styles. In early 2011, away for a comp, he asked me to set boulders for joint training camp between members of the Austrian team, the Slovenian team that were both visiting Fontainebleau at the time as well as a few french team members. He had specific requests for the circuits and it was one of the best route setting experiences I had in a long time, and one of the reasons for that was it occurred to me how nice it was to set to help climbers to get better as opposed to competitions where we set to make them fall off…
For the canadian camp, I broke it down into three themes that were the title and catchphrase for each day : Adaptability, Put it in a box (thanks to Tim Hatch who used this phrase in a conversation we had, and it stuck in my head), and the Economy of tries. The idea was for the climbers to climb a mock semi-finals round every morning with a bit of theory before and after, and then in the afternoon a more informal bouldering session as a group to climb on the opposite genders blocs and to try and work out unsolved blocs from the morning.
Very fortunatly for me, Jody introduced me to Max Dugal who he had recommended as a forerunner, and he could come around midday on both days to help me test and tweek the climbs. So my goal was to get as many blocs on the wall as I could before he arrived so that once he was there we could session together and make the tweeks as we went.
I knew that with overall the intensity of the climbing added to the number of blocs to test we wouldnt have very many tries per bloc and we would have to save both our skin and energy to go all the way through.
Even though the circuits for the second day were ment to be the hardest in terms of physical intensity, I decided to set the circuits in the order they would be climbed, especially since I didn’t have to do any stripping. Bob and Sharon at Joe’s gave me carte blanche to set on any and all walls, so I could set anywhere I wanted, plus Maria and Aaron at Climbers Rock lent me a bunch of volumes, which really helped. And when I arrived to set, I had a parcel! A whole bunch of Teknik screw-ons : hards, incuts and flaps.
Day one was a bit rough. Jet lag hadn’t completely cleared from my system and I was anxious about just not being able to set that fast. But with Max’s help I managed. In retrospect, the blocs for day 3 where a bit below standard, probably because they where set last, and got tested the least, when we were the most tired. I wasn’t happy with them but they did their job.
Day 1 : Adaptability
As climbers we all have preferences, some prefer boulders, some prefer routes, some technical climbing, some more physical styles. My line for day one was that basically if you’re a competitor, preference is out of the picture, if you want to win, you have to adapt to whatever gets thrown at you. So the day 1 circuit was four very blocs as different in style from one another as possible. So the men’s circuit ran like this : slab – jump (coordination) – contortion – volumes, and women’s : slab – jump (circus trick) – volumes – compression.
Day 2 : Put it in a box
Day 2 was all about how we deal with emotions and how those emotions affect our performance. I suggested that in most cases emotions were so hard to manage in the moment the best way was to save them for after the circuit was finished. In actual fact you’re not really putting them in a box just staying focused on the moment at hand because sometimes the difference between winning or making it to the next round can be one bloc, or even one attempt. Frustration, intimidation, over-confidence, fear, all the flavors of discomfort, so many things to distract you from the inside.
Men (overall intensity : high) = 1 wtf?! (contortion)- 2 balancey/awkward. fingers! – 3 two moves, very hard. – 4 triple jump
Women : (physical intensity : high) = 1 long roof thuggery – 2 wtf?! (mantle) – 3 volumes (off balance) – 4 stupid precision!
Day 3 : The economy of attempts
In recent years the boulder set for competitions are becoming more and more complex, and this complexity takes many attempts to resolve : how to grab a certain hold, to think of latching a toe to slow down a swing on a cut loose, use the momentum of a swing to get to the next hold, put your hand here and your foot as an outside edge and an impossible move becomes a akward but doable V4. On complex boulders like this the climbers have to consciously manage their number of attempts and I compared it with the finacial economy, sometimes you have to dig into your stock to buy a hard attempt but it is in fact an investment that could pay off later. It’s amusing to see how far that analogy goes. What I can tell you was for day 3, the exchange rate between the euro and canadian dollar was high.
Men : 1 dead point precision – 2 all volumes, all grunting (broken) – 3 slab jump – 4 control swing
Women : 1 compression (broken) – 2 dyno (fake) – 3 pinches (by Max) – 4 slab
Although on each day there was a fair bit of talking and theory about what I was trying to convey, I did a whole section called : anatomy of an attempt, breaking a single attempt down into parts, creating a sequence and explaining the importance of each.
I also wanted to raise the climbers awareness about the rules and regulations, about their rights, about what they should be observing. So I would intentionally tape starting positions in ambiguous ways, questioning rules that are in the rule book, to elect reactions and hopefully in the long run, a more informed awareness in a real competition.
On the last day I also tried to intentionally mis-set a boulder problem for each gender.
By this I mean that I intentionally made one bloc for the girls very obviouly reachy and one of the men’s was missing a foot that made an already very hard move almost impossible. What I was intending was to help the climbers realise that their failure is not always their fault, and that poor route setting basically makes you feel bad about yourself or your performance. Although it was an interesting point to make, I did not like the dirty trick feeling it gave me when I confessed to it. I felt as though the climbers didnt appreciate it either, and I didn’t blame them. However my job was to prepare them for a high level competition, and in the words of Percy Bishton commenting on the (awsome) route setting in Slovenia : “I’m not paid to be nice.”
In a few days some of the climbers I had at the camp will be competing in Canmore and I hope that the hardships, and tricks played and information given helps each of them improve the quality of their performance and reach whatever goals they have set for themselves. I also hope I will have more opportunities to set training camps, both with the canadian team, to continue the work we started and with other nations.
Tondé is a nationally certified route setter in France. He has been setting for 15 years in gyms and comps around the world. He is representing Teknik in Europe and is starting up an international route setting company called Ouvre Boite. In 2011 he will be setting for the bouldering World Cups in Eindhoven, Barcelona and Munich.
Following up on my post just a few days ago about ABS Nationals, I wanted to dedicate a post entirely to talk about all the new Teknik sets…
We must begin with the Hulk. I won’t go into too much detail on this, because Zoe already posted an awesome epic – just take a look at this monster and know that – if you buy it, you can’t possibly be disappointed..
The shape speaks for itself, but I think it is important to point out is that while many brands out there have priced some large features well into the $100+ range, even nearing $200+, the Hulk is an affordable giant, and that is because Teknik wants you to be able to enjoy it.
Next – Low and Half Fat Slopers. The idea for this set came after we did a short pour of some of the now already classic Fat Slopers, at the 2010 World Cup in Vail. I told Seth and Zoe how awesome the short versions of the shapes were, and we all thought – why not make production versions!
The LOW FAT SLOPERS are about 1/3 depth of the original Fat Slopers 1 set. They are amazing for low angle, slab, or arete climbing…
Much like the originals – they put a premium on contact strength – but since you can get your tips back towards the wall, these variations allow you to grip with some better surface tension against the wall, or with just a little bit of crimp.
The HALF FAT SLOPERS are about 1/2 depth of the Fat Slopers 2 set. The variations in the grabs make them really interesting to use, because though the shapes look similar from the ground, the subtleties of each shape make them a bit different, and some are definitely better than others.
Along with the LFS and HFS, there are a few other sets that took their inspiration from shapes already in the Teknik line. The rest of the Teknik shapes in the post are brand new creations – from Seth and Zoe.
One set that has always been a favorite of mine, perhaps my overall top pick, is the Meatiums. I had mentioned to Seth and Zoe how much I love those shapes, and that what is so great about them is the little bit of curl you have to do with your fingers, to really get the most bite on the hold – the type of thing you often have to do on rounded sloper crimps outdoors. I thought it would be awesome to have smaller single pad tiny crimps, that emulated this. Seth went right to work and came up with two amazing new sets – the Meatlets and Minimeats.
The MINIMEATS are the bigger of the two sets, and are nearly full pad crimps, with slightly incut tapers back to the wall. Notice the muscle-y texture, just like the original Meatiums.
MEATLETS, smaller than the above Minimeats, are just like the name suggests, cutlet little versions of the real meat. They are half-pad at best – amazing little edges for super technical stuff – vert climbing, lock-offs, etc – these little guys will be unforgiving and honest – they’ll tell you just how much finger strength you do or do not have. They are thin enough that they have a tapered recess for Flat Head bolts, though as with all Teknik shapes, they still have washers, so you can use either type really.
Another pair of sets that I was psyched to see get into production this winter were the LONG METHODS 1 and LONG METHODS 2. While I was up in Edmonton last fall, I got a look at these guys in foam, and was very impressed as always.
I had always talked about how much I love the Methods, but that it would be cool to have similar style pinch-edges, but that could be matched – like Method rails. The end result is a nice combination of shape styles – I look at them and think they are reminiscent of the Dragonflys as well. Both Long Methods sets are perfect for crimp tension climbing.
The next sets of shapes that took their inspiration from popular designs Seth had already created, are the BIG SNEAKERS 1 and BIG SNEAKERS 2. If you know the superb Sneakers foothold set, you know that those 20 holds are some of the most perfect little smooth smear edges out there. Longtime Teknik friend Mike Moeltron had taken to using these for really difficult crimp climbing on the vertical walls at his gym Movement, and told me that a dream set would be an expanded, handhold version of the Sneakers.
Yet again, Seth came up with a brilliant group of 20 shapes – the amazing thing is – these truly are like magnified versions of the 20 original Sneaker shapes. Seth labored for hours on end to create these.
As soon as I brought them to the gym the first time, a bunch of folks started searching for the Sneaker footholds so we could pair them up with their big brothers.
Now onto what I personally think are the most original of the new carves – the Hooded Fangs and the Hoods. Zoe never fails to come up with unique ideas, and these are certainly no exception. The Hooded Fangs are truly roof jugs – they are scooping “hook” shapes that couldn’t have a better name. You’ll have to ask Zoe how she really came up with it – but I’m guessing it’s shaped like a hoodie hood, but well, it’s a fang too – so… HOODED FANGS.
What you can’t tell from these pics is that these guys are super lightweight, because they have an incredible hollow-back. Perfect for super steep walls, and on less steep, I envision them being used really well as sidepull. or undercling grips.
The HOODS are smaller, and do not have any particular “fang” part of the grab, but are more widely tapered.
But like the Hooded Fangs, they will also lend themselves to sidepull grip positions, if you want to create great compression climbing.
They’ll also be excellent for walls in the 45 degree range or steeper, in more horizontal positions, because they will really demand pinch strength and core power.
Lastly, there are two new sets in the line, of the geometric bent. Those of you who remember the classic Mathematics set (soon to return in fact) will recognize the flat angle aesthetic of the Mathematics 2 and the Hard Math.
The MATHEMATICS 2 are definitely the more positive of the two new sets, and a bit bigger overall. They have super hollow-backs, so they are really lightweight. Easily match-able, but everything will be dependent on the wall terrain with these guys. You may want to calculate the degree of overhang you can successfully put these on and still be able to dead hang, before experimenting too much with them. I bet they’ll be great for pulling just over a headwall.
HARD MATH will not be so easy to employ when routesetting for moderate climbing. On each of these five grips, the angle tapers towards the center like a pyramid, so no matter what way you angle these suckers, they are sloper edges.
I would love to set an arete climb up a super tall wall just purely with these shapes, making for pure compression sloper tension, where you’d have to keep your heels squeezing at all times.
And… finally, a parting shot, pairing one each from the Mathematics 2 and Hard Math sets. John Muse, a top USAC Routesetter who this year was on the ABS Youth Nationals crew, was making art on one of his harder climbs. The end result didn’t keep both these holds, but, how often is it that you find t-nut placements so perfect that you can literally turn two holds into one??? The perfect mash-up…!
Shoot us an email if you want to get some new grips! email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep reading below to see details on how a lot of these grips were used in the ABS Nationals…
If you are headed out to Canadian Bouldering Nationals at Climber’s Rock in Burlington, Ontario, I look forward to seeing many of you there.
Competitors – good luck!
It has been a long while since I have had the opportunity to post, but the recent comp madness that ensued here in Boulder at ABS Nationals, and the plethora of new shapes that have been added to the Teknik line – have had me very excited to share.
With Teknik sponsoring the USA Climbing Series, and specifically ABS Nationals – the routesetting crew had loads of new shapes to work with and unveiled many of the new Teknik grips for the competition a few weeks back. Seth and Zoe have produced nearly 100 new designs in the past six months or so, all of which are now in production, but which many people have not yet gotten a glimpse of. I get the first look at the new shapes as they come out of production here in Colorado, and I have to say, I feel lucky that I am often the first to put these grips on a wall and climb on them.
Below are some details of the comp and images (generous thank you to Curtis Bullock – http://www.flickr.com/photos/snwbeast/ – and e-Grips for use of the photos) from the event.
The comp prep began months prior to the event itself, and my good friend Kynan Waggoner is the man who made it happen. John Stack of Vertical Solutions came to Boulder in early January and went like a bat-out-of-hell to get the amazing competition walls completed in time for routesetting.
Another longtime friend of mine, and Teknik’s – master setter Scott Mechler, was the Chief Routesetter for the comp and came in early on to do some construction preparation as well. As soon as we got the new grips in, we began assessing and organizing. I try to go into every comp I do with a bunch of movement ideas and it wasn’t uncommon for Scott, myself, and the other setters on the team to be discussing ideas over the phone or in conversations long before being on-site. But no matter what ideas you have, until you know what you are working with in terms of the wall terrain and holds, you cannot really effectively determine what you will be able to successfully create.
To start off, I want to talk a bit about some Teknik-specific boulders that we set, and I’ll follow the course of how the comp went in action, qualis, semis, finals… to describe some of them.
Qualifiers – One idea I had had for some time was to set a problem with tons of Teknik Fat Slopers. I had played around with variations of this in CATS with other shapes (“Big Balls,” “Small Balls”) but had yet to execute a really good “Balls” style problem in a comp. I ended up setting Women’s Q6 with 13 all orange Fat Slopers, and referred to it as “All Balls.” For how simple they are, Teknik slopers actually make for excellent outside-style climbing, where grip positioning, contact strength and core tension are essential. It turned out to be a quite difficult sloper-tension indulgence, and only Angie Payne, Sasha Digiulian, and Alex Puccio were able to complete it.
(“All Balls” Pic)
Another Women’s Quali problem, WQ3, featured some brand new Teknik shapes…
I never hesitate to use Meatiums, especially on a steep wall, and I put them up for Men’s Q3 which was intended to be pure power – straightforward, to divide the men from the boys. After some discussion, we thought it would be cool to also engage the women in this kind of climbing on one of the qualifiers, and thought we might just use this boulder, but tweak it down to the appropriate grade and height range. A few of the new grips that Seth recently shaped – Meatlets and Minimeats were added to the second variation, to create a crimp/pinch power problem to help split all the strong women. It did its job well, mandating both crimp lock-off strength, which we typically estimate the girls to have a great deal of, along with dynamic power and jump strength.
Qualifiers went well for both genders. It was a goal, over six problems, to create a very diverse set, that would be hard enough to split the middle of the field, but allow the real contenders to strut their stuff a bit. The womens’ round ended up splitting the entire field near perfectly, though on the whole it was a bit stout, with only the APs – Alex Puccio and Angie Payne – both topping all six qualifiers. The men’s was about what we wanted, 11 guys topped all the qualifiers, with 5 flashing all six.
Leading into Semi-Finals, we knew we had to step it up for the men, and that it would be a challenge to divide the top dozen or more, over only three boulders. Anyone who was lucky enough to see the live feed of Semi-Finals, would have gotten a glimpse of the new much-talked-about Hulk Feature on both the Mens and Womens SF1.
The Men’s SF1 was technical down low on vert, to a tricky mantle press with the Hulk and a new e-Grips feature, the Bubble Wrap Beehive.
Women’s SemiFinal 1 was a simple and elegant boulder set by Scott Mechler, with a jump start to the Hulk, great mantle to follow, and drive-by double-clutch move up high to two Fatty Fat Pinches to finish.
Most of the women were able to stick the first jump to the Hulk easily, but the mantle spit off quite a few. Those that did make it up to standing on the Hulk had a difficult sideways jump to encounter and only the strongest women sent.
Many of the men flashed the first boulder, but the second problem proved to be too much. This boulder was heavy on Teknik, with a Pinchtite start to big moves on Geeks, over some of the steepest terrain. A powerful sequence from a Fat Lip to the Bonus hold, and then from the Bonus down to a Blade Runner, really sapped most of the top men. Only a few were able to drop down to match the Blade Runner, and only the machine-man that is Daniel Woods moved a few moves further, campusing up to a Grasshopper, moving through a far-too-difficult pinch sequence, and then falling from the jug finish, heartbreakingly close to what would have put him into finals.
Women’s SF2 was long moves between jugs, and when I say jugs I mean, the biggest jugs known to mankind – the Super Villians. It worked out much better than the Men’s second semi, with most reaching the zone, and a handful of girls getting to the top.
The last problems for each gender, made it especially interesting. Women’s SF3 began with compression on Fat Lips in a horizontal roof, to technique and lock-off strength above a difficult lip section. Again, Alex Puccio and Angie Payne, were the only two to complete it.
Men’s SF3 ended up really shaking things up. 360 pocket spinning led to a very difficult sloper, which, to Woods’ despair, was the Bonus hold. While others worked out the spin sequence, rocked a heel on a Low Fat Sloper, and reached up to hold the Bonus Beehive sloper, Daniel just could not figure it out, and his failure to reach the zone kept him out of finals. Sean McColl, on the other hand, gave the crowd a preview of what was in store for Finals. He was the only climber to gain the two Half Fat Slopers above the zone, and with pure determination, he compressed the grips, slowly raised and set his heel, and exploded to the finish, letting out an enormous scream.
This shows Sean just moments before the loudest moment of the entire competition, his sole send of Men’s SF3 and to my mind, what was one of the most impressive insights into a competitor’s pure mental force, on display physically.
Sean set things up well to be the expected winner for finals, but it’s never over til it’s over… Finals were a blast. It was a tight field for both genders, and ultimately, everything came down to the last boulder, which made for an exciting finish.
Women’s F1 featured powerful climbing out a steep roof to balance and technique up high. Those of you who have participated in or watched climbing comps in the past 6+ years have most likely seen many burly boys engage with the Pinchtite. (Zoe’s best ever shape, in my opinion.) However, it is rare that we’ve seen women squeeze their way through a Pinchtite in a roof, and something we wanted to make happen.
Though the early Pinchtite encounter had bouted Angie, Sasha Digiulian, and Kasia Pietras, and Tiffany Hensley and Alex Johnson fell up high - Francesca Metcalf and Alex Puccio had no trouble at all on Women’s F1. Here’s a little shot of Alex after pressing out the Hulk, working through a couple Crickets and finishing up on the Teknik Logo Pinch.
Women’s Final 2 featured the New Teknik Hard Math set – very technical sloper edges, on vert. This problem turned out to be very important, because though Sasha Digiulian had struggled on F1, she bounced all the way back to be tied for first with Puccio, after this boulder. Sasha lightly cruised her way up the boulder, while all of the other women completed a hard mantle but were then stumped, trying to work through the hardest of the Hard Math. And since Alex Puccio could not complete it, it also left open the possibility that on F3, any of the other girls might be able to step back in and have a chance.
The women then battled through a long and powerful F3. Francesca Metcalf and Angie Payne came achingly close to sticking a hard move past the bonus, but did not have enough power left. Alex Johnson, who seemed out of the running, blew through the power squeezing dynamic section, only to come off one hold from the top on a desperate sloper move. And in the end, no-one could beat Puccio, who, true to form, literally pounced through the hard zone pinch section, and burled her way to the finish jug..
The Men’s Finals were just as exciting, but only after the first boulder, which, though fun to watch, had a finish that was just too far out of reach for the competitors. No-one did Mens’ F1, and so when they all moved on to the second boulder, a volume-centric arete climb, it was wide open.
Men’s Final 2 was all volumes, with the exception of one VERY key hold – a new Teknik Big Sneaker – it may have been the only one of these guys revealed in the entire competition.
Though not without a great deal of effort and a few tumbles from the finish volume, five men preceded Sean in topping the second Final.
Sean walked up as the last climber to attempt it, and knew that it had been sent multiple times. He fell a couple times down low, finally figured out the tricky triple-jump, and then went for the finish with just an ounce too much dynamic movement. He held both hands on the ledge of the last volume, his feet swung out first, testing his core to the limit and lifting and knocking him back off to a hard fall on the mats.
Men’s Final 3 was all that was left. The real dark horse and crowd favorite of the competition was young Alex Johnson, a midwestern kid who now lives in Colorado and gave a strong effort.
On his first attempt at MF3, Alex cruised through the low section of long moves between Fat Pinches and Runts. I don’t know how tell he is but when combined with his overall reach and great strength, he’s going to be a challenge to set for in the future.
From the big moves down low, Alex went up through two Fat Slopers, and powered out right to a Fat Pinch. In a brave move, he then tried to skip straight to the finish with a huge dyno. He was close to making the grab… too close for a routesetters’ comfort.
Most of the other men made good progress through the last final, getting up through the middle, to at least one of the two Fat Slopers, but then struggling through a pinch power section just before the finish. California kid Kyle Owen may have came closest, performing well in his impressive style, but Ian Dory and Matty Hong also did well. Sean stepped up last, knowing he had to flash to win, and promptly destroyed the boulder with a great display of confidence.
As a routesetter, you never know what will happen, but sometimes your instinct and the climber’s actions align, and in this case I felt like I just knew that Sean would flash. The crowd blew up and Sean held on to the finishing Fat Lip hold for a few moments to take it all in, then dropped to the mats below, taking the American title with him.
For the past few years the French Climbing Federation FFME has been building the infrastructure for a French Cup in both lead and bouldering. This gives the opportunity for gyms and clubs with eligible walls to be able to easily set up national level competition.
This year there are 4 stops on the bouldering circuit and I was part of the team that set the first comp held in Limay, a small and unlikely industrial town about 60 km west of Paris. Teknik was a sponsor of the event, and a bunch of kids went home with some of the newest additions to the Teknik range, namely Big sneakers and Long Methods.
Matthieu Dutray, as chief setter & organiser devised a 3 round comp for the adults on the first day with 12 boulders in the qualifying round but only 5 tries max. for each, then semis was the classic 5-minutes-on/5-minutes off, and finals was 4 minutes extendable time (contestant can lift off at the last second and finish his/her attempt) with all contestants climbing bloc 1 before moving to bloc 2. In other words the World Cup finals format.
On sunday 6 youth categories (3 male – 3 female) would also get a 12 bloc / 5 try qualifying round followed by a world cup format finals.
So that is what the setting team had to deliver. We had 5 days to set on the federations’ official boulders. Four very similar, slightly overhanging towers plus the club climbing wall that was anice throwback to all the wall styles of the 80s, with sculpted fiberglass, slick-painted concrete, and resin moulded rotating features. Yay! Matthieu (IFSC certified setter) then chose the team to help him bring this project to life. Knowing that he would be too busy to be a proper chief he chose Laurent Laporte, international setter extraordinaire (Chief in Vienna last year and Vail in 2009), Florian Escoffier and myself from l’Ouvre-Boîte, who were also sponsors for the event, and Pierre Délas, journalist at kairn.com was our trainee validating his national setter course.
24 blocs for qualifiers + 8 blocs for semis + 8 blocs for finals =
40 boulder problems needed for the adults on saturday
24 blocs for 18/19 year olds qualifiers and then 8 finals problems = 32
24 blocs for 16/17 year olds qualifiers and then 8 finals problems= 32
24 blocs for 14/15 year olds qualifiers and then 8 finals problems= 32
= 96 blocs needed for sunday
Grand total of blocs to be set for the competition : 136
With two setters as experienced as Matthieu and Laurent, making our original plan was relatively easy. Laurent had a nice spreadsheet system he used for planning and layout, so we thoughtwe would do well to contract the 24 qualifier blocs for adult men and women down to 18 by overlapping the categories, so 6 blocs would be climbed by both men and women.
This gave us more space on the wall and we were glad to not have to make all the blocs go straight up to gain space. Because of online preregistration, we had an idea that we would have around 250 competitors for the whole weekend so the timetable calculations all worked comfortably and we set out…well…setting.
Those of you who have read my other Travelling Route setter articles know how particular I am about volumes. I like volumes, I like setting with them and using them to surprise climbers and audience by completely redesigning a wall they thought they knew. But mostly I like surprising myself, sometimes when I am uninspired by a particular wall, some quirky volume arrangement can spawn one or several great problems.
In Limay we had a little more than 30 volumes at our disposal, and it’s a good thing since the four towers had near identical faces. The variations were so slight that they might as well all have been identical.
Quality in height, shape and variety of profiles only make it easier for the setters to create interesting and spectacular blocs. Yes I said it : height. Although I complained about the Nor’Easter wall (USA Climbing’s World Cup wall ) being too high, I have to admit that setting on the standard 4.10 meters walls back home felt very short indeed.
However,my reservation was not really height per say, but rather the fact that on a 6 meter wall it takes a lot of moves to get to the top, and if you want to set hard moves, well you cannot set many of them. I like three-moves-of-desperation blocs, I like boulder problems. I find that it is the main and most interesting caracteristic of bouldering is that it takes a stroke of genius to flash or few tries to figure out. I feel as though longer blocs generally require more physical ability, less problem solving.
But if my travels have taught me anything it is that, there is those long powerful blocs americain competitions are famous for are very valid competition proposals. Laurent and I both struggled to get some american style in our comp. The best we could do with given walls was a powerful campus section at the end of mens finals 4.
However, I digress. As a team we put up volumes in order to give each face a distinct
personality. A few smaller volumes were kept aside to be used for setting. We deliberately
left one face completely volumeless. Having set only volumes problems at the Nor’Easter,
my fellow Tekrep Chris Danielson mentioned wondering what kind of blocs I would set
if I had no volumes at all. I realised that out of preference I always defaulted to setting with
volumes, which is easy since they are kinda fashionable these days.
I didn’t like the idea that I was becoming a volume nazi, so in the past months, I have been
making it a point to set styles I don’t usually set. At this comp my pet project was a really
fingery problem with offset feet and deadpoints to awkward little pockets for
women’s adult semi finals and then recycled with a few tweaks for youth qualifiers the
Once our volumes were up, we started hashing out blocs, starting with adult’s finals
and semis. Although the layout for each round was specifically defined, I was glad to
hear Laurent suggest that we just go ahead and set whatever inspired us and then we
could choose which ones would work best as finals blocs and which ones as semis.
I like that there be a structured work plan, but I also like that there be room for the
creative process to trump the plan if it has a better options, better moves, better ideas.
We followed the next day with the 12 of the 18 blocs intended for qualifiers.
My feeling about our work in the first two days : unimpressed. Yes it was
professional, yes the rounds would work, but with the exception of one good
bloc for each of us, that’s 4 out of 20, the overall feel of the climbing lacked a spark.
Also work felt slow, we could only set on the towers as the club retro wall was still
being used by schools. A lot of time was spent (I almost used the verb wasted,
but it really wasn’t) detailing the location of blocs, the grouping of youth categories,
and the grades within each circuit (compounded by the grouping, and the order in
which the categories where to climb, compounded by which blocs where recyclable).
It took forever.
The frustration was palpable, but the work dynamic between Florian, Laurent and
myself shifted into comfortable after spending two late nights in our charmingly
seedy hotel rooms conversing about climbing, climbers, route setting, making holds
and sharing stories that start with : “It reminds me of this one time…”
So on the third day, Laurent took it upon himself to get things squared. He set a tight schedule, listed what had to be done and bang, we got going. An hour later we were pulling on our climbing shoes to try 12 new blocs for youth finals. And the blocs where…really good. More inspired, more diverse and well adapted to the categories they were for. We had more fun climbing and tweaking them than all the previous rounds. And when they were climbed we all agreed that the youth finals rounds were just better than the adults, both finals and semis.
More scary numbers
The fourth day was a day off, because the comp was being held in a municipal gymnasium, and we had to allow the regular sport activities to continue. The fifth day started with some interesting news, the most recent list of participants gave a final tally of 410 participants with the largest category being adult men with close to 160 dudes registered. This created a new problem : time. One of our major concerns was to mange time as best we could so that people would have enough time to do all the blocs without wasting precious minutes waiting in line in front of blocs, a common problem in contests.
Our original idea was to divide all the adults into 3 groups : all the women in one, and then the men divided in two, each given an hour and a half to do their 12 blocs. Which worked with the first estimated numbers, now, we were not so sure especially since, as all organisers know, a lot of people don’t preregister, they just show-up,
so usually you can expect 10 to 15% people more.
By the way, competitors, preregistration? A big help for the route setters. We consult that list religiously (even if we say we don’t) to have an idea of who is coming, not just for the grades, but to know who we are setting for helps adjust the qualifying round so that those climbers who just drove from the other side of the country and
shelled out registration fees can have a good time too.
To solve the time problem many options where discussed. Seriously. Many. In the end what was decided was that the predominant issue was that the blocs where overlapped, more than the time being too short. It was back to the cuing problem. So the winning solution was to set 12 distinct blocs for the men and 12 blocs for the women but on 6 distinct lines, meaning 2 blocs in each location. And then we just made it a 5 hour free for all and hoped for the best.
So 6 extra blocs to add into our adult circuits (plus a complete reorganising, including many swaps and adjusts), and youth qualifiers still needed 54 blocs to be put up, climbed, tweaked, marked and stripped.
Route setting in the 2000s
So as I mentioned at the beginning, Laurent Laporte had introduced us to his great spreadsheet tool to keep track of the work of all the setting. He had shown us the example for last years World Cup in Vienna, complete with pictures of the walls, names and mugshots of the setters, and all the relevant details for each boulder : grade, style, number of moves, location and colour of hold AND a little badge icon on each one to indicate progress status. How could we refuse? It looked so cool… Well… after all the changes I described above I can tell you we where well fed up with the bloody spreadsheet.
Copying and pasting, and moving and selecting cells (oh by the way, those cool little badges are independent objects so you had to move those one by one…).
Worst case scenario a World Cup competition can have 36 boulder problems. All separate.
We had 136, then 96, then 106, with blocs jumping ship from this category to that, and back again but in a different round, or gender, or both… By the time we realised that it was impractical it was too late to change. It was not user-friendly, but the underlying idea was still a good one, so Laurent and I have decided that we need to perfect the interface in order to make it into a flexible tool, that can serve not only as a planning and organising tool for the setters, but that extends as a presentation and communication tool with the judges and organisers. Hopefully we can get it to integrate with the smart phone scoring systems that certain tech savvy judges have being doodling with in certain countries. I thought my design and programming skills would become obsolete
now that I was a full time route setter; turns out I have a new and interesting challenge.
Stay posted for more on the route setting wonder program, now in the works…
The last setting days where long. The night before the comp we finished at 4:00 am because in spite of the colour coding, and badges we still had to manually type the boulder number cards, which by regulation, had to indicate weather the bloc was easy, moderate or hard. It took a lot more time than it should have for information that was already in a computer to come back out again. Again a job for the wonder tool.
A few people came to help with the testing, but with out minds too focused on trying to keep track of all the information (what blocs go where, which ones will be climbed simultaneously etc) we started loosing track of the difficulty. Without realising it I started putting too much stock in what male climbers were telling me about the women’s blocs. The classics : “girls can’t throw, let alone to a sloper…”. Nonsense. And although I campaign strongly against this type of thinking, in a momentary loss on confidence amid the confusion I tweaked, compromised, and diluted a few blocs. Testers are only as good as the setters who use them.
Bad Mojo Judge
Competition day 1 was tense from the get go. The chief judge had showed up the night before, and declared that our time management was no good and had to be redone. That didn’t go down too well with us, fortunately we were informed of this by Matthieu, who spent the rest of the comp doing diplomatic gymnastics to get us the information we needed so that we didn’t ever have to be in contact with him directly.
As if that wasn’t enough, he decided to extend qualification time, delayed isolation leaving the competition hanging on dead time between rounds, and us twiddling our impact drivers waiting for the isolation to close.
We (climbers and setters) waited until we only had 30 minutes to put up finals to get started.
It was maddening because, we had planned otherwise in order to avoid dead time that was completely unnecessary and have sufficient time to have a calm overlook of the blocs and decide weather anything else needed an extra tweak up or down.
The first changeover went smoothly and the climbers started on semis. Both mens and women’s circuits went well, tops with a good balance of tops and flashes. Second changeover was a bit more rushed because the days’ delays had added up but the time at which finals where to begin was not movable because of spectators and VIPs.
So of course that’s when errors in our setting work began to show : the dreaded last-minute-change. In the women’s finals circuit three blocs where too easy from the get-go. The third bloc we might have saved a little more than we did had we not, at the last minute, thrown on an extra foothold AND added an extra hand, AND an
intermediate for the last move. Only one change was actually needed. Semis had gone fine (if anything a little on the soft side, still we didn’t catch a hint!) so there was no need to freak out, especially since there where three climbers who where regular world cup finalists plus the youth bouldering champ. Easy to say now. Time was ticking, we where running on 3 hours of sleep plus a full day of watching climbers attentively, changing boulders on the fly on top of 5 (very) full days of setting and climbing… So experience counts, but put enough rush and pressure on anyone and mistakes will be made.
Fortunately the mens finals round was awesome. The blocs where varied and interesting and made for a great show with François Kaiser dominating the round in front of a strong Guillaume Glairon-Mondet and Fontainbleau dark horse Pascal Gagneux, but he had to work for it.
So after a quick round of podiums, the lights went back on, and we stripped 8 finals blocs changed two volumes and started putting up youth qualifiers. With tape, set screws, and numbers we were done at 2:00 am.
Last round, last minute
The first half of the last day was fun. The climbers seemed to have a good time and the whole vibe filled the gymnasium as did the sunshine. We quickly realised that many small mistakes had been made the night before that fortunately didn’t change the face of the competition. One of the harder blocs I set for junior men was missing black tape to deny the arête, it was still a good problem but as a result it was toned down to a moderate.
Another good one was Laurent, the night before, decided to pre-place holds before screwing in the bolts. First climber on one of the girls blocs kindly handed down the zone hold to the judge before stepping off the boulder. I also removed two of the four holds on one of the harder blocs. Initially, it had been intended as an adult semis problem and I had forgotten that we had switched it in to the youth blocs, so I stripped them thinking that we had forgotten to take down holds from the night before. We kept score between us for awhile of who made the most blunders as a way to relax the atmosphere. I don’t know what the final tally was but I reckon I was pretty
high on the list. Also the overall score for the team was too high for four professional setters.
Although, in the moment, laughing about it was a good reaction to deal with the stress, now that it is over I am trying to analyse how it was that so many things went wrong. For sure there was a lot of variables to handle with so many blocs and adjustments to the organisation.
If we had taken a few strategic decisions sooner our work would have been a little more structured.
For example the order in which we set individual rounds could have been smarter. It should have been adult finals and semis, then youth finals, youth qualifiers and lastly adult qualifiers as they were to be used first. Instead we set all the adult blocs and then all the youth, loosing time going back and forth between rounds. Interestingly enough, although it was impossible to foresee, had we done this, the face that the number of expected competitors increased so drastically could have been managed a lot more gracefully.
But obviously the biggest mistake of all was planning. For such a big venture a precise plan should have been made before we arrived, a lot of time would have been saved, that could have been spent setting and climbing rather than brainstorming around a computer. This is what Jacky Godoffe and I had done for youth nationals the year before and it had been a much smoother session with only three setters. This only underlined for me the fact that as professionals, to have a tool, piece of software to properly structure our work seemed useful.
Girls, girls, girls.
Another suggestion that Laurent made after we observed our fiasco for women’s finals was that someone in the team needs to be in charge of overseeing the girls blocs. It’s true in that correctly adjusting the difficulty of girls blocs is a difficult task in general, but as setters we cannot continually hide behind the excuse that as guys it’s not easy to pinpoint what is difficult for girls. There are numerous other sports where female teams are coached and competitions organised for women by men and that don’t suffer the same problems. It’s just a problem that needs to be addressed. I have yet to see a competition where as much time is spent on the girls climbs as the boys.
Sure the boys blocs are harder and require a certain amount of adjusting, but the girls blocs have the added difficulty of being set by men who need to take that extra time to tweak difficulty, distances between holds, and overall style of circuits. I will definitely be including these parameters with even more insistence than before in the training courses I give for competition route setting all over the world.
The last half of the day was just painful. The chief judge refused to release any results until he had double and triple checked everything which created two problems. One of course was an almost 2 hour delay and the other was, without even partial results, it was difficult for us to overview performance in the qualifying round for six separate categories and anticipate changes in difficulty on certain blocs.
Having nothing to do once the qualifiers where stripped we overheard disgruntled parents in the crowd rightfully starting to complain about the delay. We called an emergency route setters meeting and decided that we had to do everything we could to speed things up. From our own observations we decided to change the grouping for the youth categories for finals, and send them in back to back after a group observation for all the categories.
We also decided to start putting up the finals blocs even before iso closed. Since we were putting up 12 blocs know one would really know who got what, and the benefit of gaining time by far outweighed a few competitors guessing which blocs they were getting. It was not pleasant knowing that we were forcing the chief judges hand since we did not ask him his opinion. But his position was so uncooperative and so procedural that we all agreed that if we left him options he would not take decisions that where for the best.
The kids wanted to climb, the parents wanted to get home early, some had trains and planes to catch.
I feel strongly that respecting a timetable and finishing at a decent time contributes greatly to how a comp is remembered. If it has great setting but finishes four or five hours late, the effect is moot.
Although it is more true of rope climbing competitions, time delays and hanging around in iso is one of the factors that drive both climbers and spectators away from climbing comps, so it is our in best interest to pay serious attention to how we manage time and pace our events.
Thank goodness we got our route setting wits together at the last moment; our decisiveness paid off.
Youth finals was a really nice fireworks to finish on. As I mentioned earlier the blocs were really fun, both to climb and watch. And because all categories were climbing back to back, there were often moments where four climbers where on the wall battling with our problems, the show was stimulating and the thin crowd of parents responded well even after the long wait.
In the end…
Overall, from the competitors point of view, I think it was a good event. On a personal point of view I was a little disappointed with my contribution. I was not in good enough shape to climb the harder problems comfortably, even though it was sufficient for me to do my work. But since I had very recently become a father, it was not a surprise. And although my overall setting ideas where good, for some reason I had trouble with the follow through to finalise and fine tune my blocs in to good competition material.
It was however a great experience. Working with Laurent Laporte was very refreshing. Although he can easily be considered (by his age and years of experience) a setter from the previous generation, his vision and open mindedness challenged a few of my ideas and conceptions. If I have now decided to develop some kind of software tool to help manage route setting a competition, a modern solution, it is definitely his original idea.
Keep your eyes peeled on the Teknik blog for an interview with him about route setting and hold shaping since he is behind many of the classic EP holds of the past 20 years as well as other brands, and most recently his new PU only brand Cheeta.