Routesetting: There’s a method to the madness

FYI – this is a long read, but well worth it to get an idea of the plan for our setting in the near future!

In the last couple of months, there have been some significant changes to Climb Base5’s routesetting. Not only do we now have two facilities that allows our route setting team to keep routes and boulders fresh, while experimenting and trying new things, we have also expanded our team bringing in new setters.

The route setting team have been working their butts off since September. Here’s a run down of what’s happened…

  • In five short weeks at the Coquitlam gym, we have set 70 boulders, 57 routes (10% more than in the past with fewer route setters!), and 37 new custom volumes were built, plus plenty of volumes are now being brought over from the North Shore.
  • Over 1500 holds were swapped between the North Vancouver and Coquitlam. While Coquitlam ended up with better quality holds, we will be continuing to trade and exchange holds to improve setting at both gyms over the coming months.
  • Chloe Earle and Sophie Buitendyk from our Open Performance Team have joined the setting team not only improving our gender balance, but also bringing their wealth of experience as female climbers!

What’s coming in the next few months?

  • Community grading will be back in a big way. We look forward to hearing from the community and getting their input into the grades of routes at both the North Shore and Coquitlam gym.
  • We’ve put in a massive hold order with Rock Candy, Pusher, and Habit Climbing.
  • We’re creating a warm-up/beginner boulder circuit. In addition to the existing bouldering there will be a circuit of 5 to 10 boulders around the gym ranging from VB to V1
  • In the lead up to and following this year’s November Sessions, there will be all new bouldering!


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So friggin excited. #volume #11

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With all that is happening with route setting, we hope the following will help to ease you through these changes and improvements at Climb Base5…

Since September, why did so many routes come down at once?

  • With September being the start of the indoor climbing season, it’s the best time to roll-out a new setting program, which includes taking down routes and putting new ones up all at once.
  • Simon, our new Director of Route Setting, is super excited to be part of the community. He wanted to work with the setting team to come up with as many new routes and boulders as possible in the five weeks since joining Climb Base5.
  • Our team wants to prioritize quality over quantity. While this means dropping the total route count by a couple routes, it also enables them to turn over routes faster and put up better routes overall.

Do the grades feel harder?

  • In climbing there isn’t an official standard to grades as the difficulty in routes is subjective and are based on a climbers experience. With a entirely new setting team at the Coquitlam gym, there are also bound to be differences in how routes are set now compared to how they were set before.
  • We are trying to balance the grades over a wider community especially now that a Climb Base5 membership allows access to both Coquitlam and North Vancouver gyms. North Shore grades have gotten slightly easier and Coquitlam grades have gotten slightly harder. We want to meet somewhere in the middle with the objective of also emulating Squamish grades.
  • We want to help climbers transition from indoor to outdoor climbing more easily, and even between different gyms. By providing a diverse and challenging set of routes and grades, this will ultimately benefit climbers to be able to climb safely in different environments.
  • Living on the west coast, we have the luxury of a world-class outdoor climbing area less than an hour away from Vancouver (i.e. Squamish). As a result, the climbing community here is large and diverse. Improving the grading in our routes and being more consistent about it is a win-win for both new and veteran climbers.

Am I going color blind? There seems to be less colors on the wall in Coquitlam…

  • Yes and no. We’re reducing certain hold colors on the wall. Fewer colours reduce the chaotic look of a climbing wall, increasing functionality making it easier to spot the holds you are looking for.
  • Where did all the orange go in Coquitlam? The colour of the walls in Coquitlam are orange-y making those routes harder to see. Also orange, red and pink are notoriously difficult to tell apart in the right lighting conditions, especially when the holds are covered with chalk… So we’ve replaced orange holds with red ones from our North Shore gym and blue is only used for volumes. Taking blue holds away enables us to keep things simple: Blue = volumes.

Is there a difference between Simon‘s and Andrew‘s routesetting vision?

  • The setting styles of Simon and Climb Base5’s previous Head Routesetter (Andrew) are similar. Simon and Andrew have know each other for 20 years. Andrew was Simon’s coach in the early 2000’s when he was on the Edge climbing Team and has been for the last few years with Simon being on the Climb Base5 Open Performance Team. Andrew taught Simon how to set, and mentored him through his early years as a setter and continues to this day.