Friday, December 9, 2011

Movement Analysis: Hulk-esque Foot Cuts

One of my favorite boulder problems ever is The Hulk, in the Happies. My first trip to Bishop, I gleefully ran laps on it. Feel free to google it - as you can tell from the results, it's a very popular problem.

What makes the Hulk so classic is its uniqueness. It's rare that a combination of holds creates such an intriguing sequence for human physiology. And, while there are multiple ways to go about climbing the Hulk, the original sequence offers a fantastic lesson in routesetting technique.

The spacing of the moves, directionality of the holds and consistent difficulty through the crux sequence are all part of what make the Hulk such a fantastic example sequence to try to set. More than once on this blog I've spoken abouts these, and here's a boulder problem which incorporates all of them in perfect synchrony.

To me, the most interesting move in the standard sequence is a huge cross-through with a toe hook. Many people find this move committing (and frustrating.) It can also be described as reachy, so the move might not be the best for a wide audience. However, for an Open route or a harder route in the gym, it's reasonably enough sized to be worth learning how to set.

Here's a route I set which involves this move. It opens with a barn door and moves through a directional pocket to set up for the toe hook. After the cut move, I've also demonstrated here an undercling cross-through, another of my favorite moves, and finish with a big foot move and a press before topping out.


As usual, the black arrows indicate the general movement direction. Blobs are holds; 2 is directional.

Hold selection:

Hold 1 must be sufficiently large enough to form a good toe hook. Suggestions: Papa Elephant, Pinchtite, Atomik Stalactite.. really, any stalactite hold.

Hold 2 must be directional and unmatchable. Could be anything; a directional pocket is great. A pinch offers the climber some extra compression while positioning their toe hook. Ideally, it's dual tex, and/or placed directionally / around terrain so that it's difficult to use as a foot.

Hold 3 must be a hold that's good enough (and interesting) to cut your feet on. A variety of holds will work for this, although in the example I've used a hold which requires some squeezing with the chest. Suggestions: Pinchtite, QED

Other suggestions: for 1 and 3: De Blocs, the Bubble Wrap wedges/ledges (for moderate difficulty) or just any large, blobby slopers (for extreme difficulty.)

For first timers setting this move, I suggest stalactite-style holds. They make great toe hooks, they can be grabbed from a variety of angles while the climber attempts to understand the move, they're fun to cut feet on, and they give the route some big feet to play with later in the sequence.


This move is generally easier to set in certain types of terrain: some steepness is needed to prevent the foot cut from being grovelly and uncomfortable. Going around an arete helps somewhat with the compression aspect of the toe hook. However, assuming sufficient steepness, the move could be set on everything from a gently overhanging traverse to a fully horizontal (or, for great difficulty, even climbing downwards) roof.

If the terrain doesn't have an arete / convex aspect to it, the majority of climbers will wind up heel hooking hold 1 to make the move. If the wall's not steep enough, the toe hook & release sequence will be scummy, uncomfortable and probably unnecessary. If it's too steep, and especially if hold 3 is placed lower than hold 1, the move can easily become the popular bat hang sequence.


The route is easiest to set if holds 1 and 3 are about even horizontally. They should be too far apart to span between (or at least not without great difficulty.) Hold 2 should be just below hold 3 and within reach of the majority of climbers.


- The toe hook is difficult to maintain: the terrain is improper; the span is not big enough (toe hooking is more difficult the closer to your center of gravity, depending on the positioning of your other foot), or the hold is simply not large enough to fit a solid toe hook.

- The climber can dyno to hold 3: the terrain isn't constricting enough for movement (try using an arete), the span is too small, or (most likely) hold 3 is too positive. Try a hold which requires extremely specific hand placement to stick. Increasing the necessary accuracy of the move will force the climber to use static beta before cutting their feet.

- The move is too easy: Try moving or rotating hold 2 to an undercling position, increasing the span distance, or making hold 3 poorer.

- The move is too hard: Isolate the difficulty and try to troubleshoot one at a time. Is the span too big? Is the swing too hard? Is the movement awkward due to poor terrain choice? etc.

That's all for now - happy setting.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Forerunning, Part I: Guidelines & Basics

One topic crucial to routesetting that hasn't been very well covered in this blog is forerunning. Forerunning is a hard job. Competitors are prepared, well-rested and psyched, dealing with one problem at a time. Forerunners are often tired, stressed, working on multiple problems or routes near their limit at once. Taking the physical and emotional stresses of comp organization into account, it's easy to see why forerunning can easily devolve into egoism and arguments. Last week I touched briefly on understanding movement difficulty and how it can be used to aid effective communication during forerunning, but I thought we might revisit some of the basics before moving into movement critique.

Super quick - what is forerunning? It's simple - running the route beforehand, to help a setter mold the route to perfection. Forerunners are not always required. Basic gym routes that go up every day at most gyms probably get a few test runs at most; world cup problems might get hours of forerunning, tweaking individual moves over and over. However, even for the simplest 5.7, a forerunner can smooth the edges off a decent route and help shape it into something great.

In my experience, the majority of routesetters could benefit from one main skill: Listen. Whether the person climbing your route is a brand new gumby or an experienced routesetter, listening to their feedback and using it to make adjustments is the biggest tool in your arsenal. If you're the only person running your routes, it's easy to get stuck in a cycle of self-back-patting. If others are running it and you simply refuse to value their input, why bother having them run it at all? Drop the ego and listen to what the climbers have to say.

Quick basics

Communicate clearly. Offer descriptions about which moves feel harder and why, and be specific. Don't cloud the topic - be concise, brief and effective.

Movement is the best language. Sometimes it's better to simply let the setter watch you do the moves, and similarly, sometimes it's better to have the setter try the move to see what the forerunner means. It's a movement oriented sport, and even the most eloquent climber can't explain movement. This has another added side benefit: Movement is universal - on the world stage, your forerunners and setters might not always speak the same spoken language.

Leave your ego at the door. Rampant sandbagging, arguing, or going behind someone's back will only detract from the end result quality of the competition.

Don't offer unsolicited advice. In a hectic comp environment, "poaching" someone's route and then offering criticism can be a great way to piss someone off. Let the setters ask for help, or at least be sure that the route is complete and they want your opinion before you open your mouth.

Know your audience. If the route is for Youth D, climb it for Youth D. Even if you're 6'2". Cut your feet when a Youth D climber would. Don't campus moves that female or youth climbers wouldn't campus. If your gym population struggle with a certain style, take that into account when discussing grade and fairness.

Read, run, review. In that order. Don't run the route without reading it, unless the format specifies it. If you aren't sure, run it again. Don't offer feedback before you try (and preferably complete) the route.

Especially for competitions, routesetting is iterative. A route starts rough, and it is never finished. If you're completely 100% satisfied with a route when it's go time, you a) invested too much time in that route compared to others, b) you are missing something or c) you did an incredibly good job with time and resource management. (Or d) you are missing something. After a while, being completely satisfied with a route just tells me someone is going to skip a move or find a new rest..)

Don't offer problems.

This sounds like (and is) a business cliche, but good communication is good communication. A setter working on problem #4 of 15 for the day doesn't need more work. Instead, try to offer solutions:

"That gaston is way too hard" should be "The fifth move would be more consistent with the rest of the route if you turned that hold clockwise a little more."

"The last move is too reachy" should be "Consider adding another foothold for the last move to make it fairer for shorter competitors."

This method avoids confrontation, speeds up the process and makes your opinion more valuable. "Well, I was able to rest a lot and the move at the fifth clip was super hard" is the critique I would expect from any climber in my gym. I have higher expectations of a forerunner - they're an expert, and I want to hear expertise. If you can't think of a solution to an issue with a move, then it's still better to bring it up constructively. Never avoid an issue with a move, just try to have a solution ready before you spray.

Feedback methods

The main two ways I see frequently used in forerunning are to either go in knowing everything, or knowing nothing. I think personally it's important the forerunner know the category of the climb (men's or women's, youth or open, etc) because it should affect the way they choose to climb the route. However, some setters prefer the forerunner to not know the grade or beta, and let them offer their opinion on grade after climbing the route. Others prefer the forerunner to know the intended grade, and provide feedback on its accuracy. Both methods can be used with success.

Work with the format

A forerunner's job is to experience the route from the competitor's perspective beforehand, and offer that opinion to the setter. The format will have some effect on this - for instance, for a flash format, where competitors are given beta, the forerunner simply needs to be someone strong enough to execute the moves as instructed. Redpoint format forerunning may require more time to allow the forerunner to adjust and learn moves the way they would in a competition. If the route is just for general gym climbing, forerunning is still worthwhile! Equitability and consistency can be just as important to your gym population as they are to competitors.

If you're the forerunner, know the format and how it will affect the way a competitor reads the route. For onsight format, remember that the climbers only have a set amount of time to preview the route, and do not have the benefit of being able to ask the setter about beta. Forerunners have to compromise when working redpoint routes, because they have limited energy to run a lot of routes, some of which are expected to require the best climbers to work for a long time. Obviously a climber who only has to work on the 5 hardest open problems is going to have a lot more energy at their disposal than a forerunner who goes into the hardest problem having already climbed 59 others. Work the moves individually and try to get as clear a picture as possible.

If you're the setter, view the forerunner's performance through the lens of the format. How did they do on their first attempt? The first 5 minutes? Did they struggle several times on a single move? Don't expect your climber to work moves in onsight - it's no fun for the crowd to watch a climber not even get close to a move, and even less fun to see a climber give up with 2 minutes left on the clock. Similarly, remember that the climbers will sometimes be stronger, weaker, or have different strengths than the forerunner. Take everything with a grain of salt.

Respect the forerunner's time and energy

As a setter, it's easy to have someone climb your route, then dismiss their efforts with an excuse. "I doubt the climbers will do it that way", "That's not how I intended it", etc. It can be frustrating to put time into a route, then have someone reveal a flaw in your plan. However, try to remain constructive and work with the forerunner to find a solution. Being unbiased about your own routes is a huge challenge, especially during the stresses of competition setting. Just remember that the forerunner isn't trying to fight you - they're trying to help you create a good experience for the climber.

Respect the setter's vision

As the forerunner, your job is similar to that of a translator. Take the climber's intended movement, and help them communicate that to the climber. This is done by offering a physical example, then following up with constructive advice and specific physiological reasoning.

When running skeletons or the base of routes, take moves with a grain of salt, and simply try to understand the moves the setter plans on forcing. The early stages of a route would often be unrecognizable next to the finished product. Expediting that transition is your job as a forerunner. Later on, as the route is more polished, it becomes more important not to compromise the style of the route or alter the fundamental movement. As a route approaches completion, try to maintain the integrity of the setter's route, while making subtle tweaks in directionality and placement to make things more fair and consistent (if possible.)

Respect the climber

Most importantly, setter and forerunner must work together to create an end product that is fair and fun for the climber. Without teamwork and effective communication, this becomes vastly more difficult. The forerunner's performance and communication catalyze this process, and I'll revisit this topic to go into more detail. For now, happy setting!

One other quick note - if you haven't been watching the live streams of the World Cup at, you've been missing out on a ton of great routesetting! The WC guys obviously bust their ass and I've seen all kinds of exciting movement being set. Climbing might not be ready for the global stage, but we as routesetters are the ones who create the spectacle that gets the crowd involved. Tune in and learn something. The next broadcast is June 17/18, from Eindhoven.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Difficulty Analysis: The Ingredients of Movement

"That hold is tweaky."
"That foot is too high."
"That move is huge."

Is it so simple? What makes movement hard? It's easy to try a move, "feel" how hard it is, and simply end your analysis there. However, climbing is a technical activity, and the levels of complexity are almost endless. Many of the best routesetters simply intuitively know what's hard about a move, and over time that skill can be developed. But it will help to have some of the basics down to make off-the-cuff setting, tweaking and offering forerunning advice easier. Here's a few of the basics of understanding what makes a move feel hard.

Mechanical Advantage

Mechanical advantage is the term used to describe a move that can be altered in difficulty, significantly or subtly, by a subtle tweak in body position. Here are the major points of mechanical advantage, and the type of moves for which they might apply.

Straight arms - The quintessential example can be found in every coaches' rallying cry to "straighten your arms!" Straight arms use the musculoskeletal structure as a support system, rather relying on the inferior lactic-acid-vulnerable forearm muscles. Any method that allows the climber to achieve straight arms can provide considerable rest opportunities. Three of the easiest contributors to a rest position are: Holds facing straight up and down with feet directly below them; holds facing inward in a dihedral; and holds facing outward on an arete. These rest spots can be quickly tweaked or eliminated by changing the directionality of the restable hold to something less mechanically preferable.

Hold factors - the "incutness" or depth of a hold can allow for significant mechanical advantage, by giving the climber more breathing room in their body position. Larger holds, even slopier ones, provide some mechanical advantage by letting the climber's larger hand and arm muscles do the work without having to redirect their energy and tension through the smaller muscles of the fingers.

Plumb line potential via body position - a mouthful, but the best way of describing what is essentially "ideal body positioning." The best way to understand is simply to look at two angles when considering a move. Angle 1 is the angle of the climber's arm when holding the hold, or more accurately, the angle of a line drawn from the climber's center of gravity to the center of the hold. Angle 2 is the plumb line of the hold. The smaller the difference between these two angles, the more mechanical advantage exists in the route. Often moves with massive discrepancies between these two angles end up feeling "tweaky" or just plain difficult. Plumb line is without question the fastest way to make a route more difficult. A tiny twist in the directionality of a hold takes only a few seconds (compared to at least a minute to change out a hold or foothold) and can change a move from comfortable to desperate instantly.

Ankles - One sometimes overlooked mechanical advantage is the ankle. The larger the foothold, the easier it is for a climber to use the big muscles of their leg, rather than redirect tension through the complicated and smaller muscles of the foot. Huge feet with bad handholds is a great way to test or train finger strength, but simply won't force the climber to engage their core as much as vice versa. In dihedrals, this mechanical advantage can be a nightmare, as feet usually considered completely awful can be enough for the climber to relax their ankle.


Travel is my catchall word for the physical movement factors of a move. A frequent complaint among shorter climbers is that moves are too big. Being able to watch a climber try a move and understand specifically which part of the move is giving them difficulty can be a powerful asset for a routesetter. Working efficiently with forerunners for competitions and being able to communicate with and appease a gym community will both require cultivating the ability to understand why a move is "big."

Travel time - the duration of time that the climber must maintain or create body tension or momentum to execute a move. Some moves are better done quickly, and some slowly. Generally speaking, more vertical or slabby routes will be forgiving and allow longer duration movement; simply because of the imposed demand on the body to maintain tension, steeper walls require more alacrity. In some cases, such as unwinding from a deep cross through on a steep wall, the movement must be executed in a manner many climbers refer to as being simultaneously slow and fast. In many cases, a move will have a tipping point, where the move can be executed in a static manner up to that point, and the climber must alter their position to create momentum and complete the move.

Travel distance - simply the physical size of the move - but notably, not as it appears to many climbers. For instance, if the left hand is low on an undercling at waist height, and the right hand on a crimp above head height, moving to the next hold a few feet above the climber can be a body-height-sized move. However, if the crimp allows for a match, the size of the move is cut in half. This principle is why matchable holds are a huge no-no for forcing sequences (unless the match is the intended sequence) - and, due to the size of kid-fingers, why it is more difficult to set problems that are equitable for children and adults.

Body Position - the effects of body position on travel can't be easily summarized, but the most prominent effects are:
  • Twisting during travel - some moves will require the climber to twist in or out while making momentum in another direction. This allows the climber to maintain hip-wall proximity, maximize reach, and prepare to create tension in the body position that the next hold necessitates.
  • Traveling with the lower body - ankle, knee, and hip extension are all different factors in creating more distance in a reach during travel. Some moves will necessitate or favor different methods of reach - for instance, with big footholds, many climbers neglect to fully extend their ankle, because it is comfortable in the relaxed position. Climbers who are unused to slab climbing often don't have the trust and tension necessary to extend their ankles all the way. And, contrarily, many climbers on a steep wall will lack the body tension to extend through the knees and hips fully while moving upward.
  • Traveling with the upper body - reaching by extending the shoulders and elbows is a given, but for some moves, proper posture can affect a climbers reach. Often the trunk can be rotated one way at the hips, and another at the shoulders, to provide a bit more reach. This occurs frequently during heel hook moves on aretes and during the opening movement of a big barn door move. Other times, the two work in tandem.


Momentum is a crucial part of any move, no matter how static. Even an extremely secure, slow move requires generating force on a vector. Being a successful climber requires having a robust knowledge of generating, controlling and canceling momentum. Being a good routesetter depends upon being able to force the climber to call on that knowledge.

Generation through the elbows - necessary for some moves, but far fewer than the average climber thinks. There's a good chance if a climber thinks a move feels hard, they're starting with their elbows and following with their legs. Getting climbers out of this habit is an age-old problem for routesetters. For hard undercling moves, elbow generation becomes a necessity, as the legs will often be fully extended just to be in position.

Generation through the shoulders and back - for gym rats with chronic burl-itis, #2 after elbows. On the steepest walls, creating swing before a move, performing come-in moves and many forms of foot cutting movement necessitate shoulder momentum. Often flexing at the elbows first is not possible, as the holds are poor and it will result in a loss of body tension.

Generation through the hips - hip extension is a popular way to start moves, especially moves that trend sideways. Pulling in with the hips to rock over a foot before pushing off of it is also a common use of hip momentum.

Generation through the knees - generally speaking the most powerful momentum generation tool in a climber's toolbox. Many moves start at the knees. Placing feet to the side, angling them obtusely, or otherwise hindering vertical footwork can help to cancel out knee momentum.

Other methods - the "nod" move, notably, is used by some strong climbers with great success. The pogo or "moon kick" would also be a great example of an unorthodox method of momentum generation.

Setting a problem that requires multiple types of momentum is a good challenge for a setter, and can provide a well-rounded power testpiece for climbers.

Accuracy and Precision

How "accurate" a move must be can be a huge factor in discerning why the move is difficult. Major players in the precision requirements of a move can be:

  • Speed and momentum - the more momentum a climber has during a move, the harder it is to hit a hold perfectly, without over- or undershooting.
  • Body positioning - coming out of or in to very specific body positions can be stressful on the accuracy of a move. Hitting gastons can be notoriously picky on body position, and getting the shoulder and hip positioning right can be mentally complex enough that hitting the fingers right on the hold becomes difficult.
  • Hold size, obviously, is a factor in precision. Slapping enormous feature-slopers doesn't usually require a ton of precision, except in cases where overshooting will bring the climber off of their launch hold. Outdoors, slopers can require precision down to the individual grains in the rock. Indoors, requiring that level of precision on slopers is difficult (but possible.) When setting for precision, many setters will automatically retreat to pockets, and the benefits for that tactic speak for themselves.
Other factors

Obviously there are myriad other elements that come into play for movement difficulty - to name a few, I've ignored balance, breath control, endurance factors, and only glossed over the basics like hold size and distribution, countless aspects of foothold placement, etc. But this should be a good start to being able to analyze what makes a move 'hard.'

Morphology in combination with the factors in this article makes the entire topic exponentially more complicated than can be covered in a blog post. Climb with a morphologically diverse group of climbers and you will quickly recognize patterns to which moves each body type struggles on. Developing that intuition is the only way to learn how to do some of the most basic tasks required of a routesetter:
  1. To set movement that is equitable for different body types, and still performed the same (or similarly)
  2. To understand, without having to ask or watch someone try it, what makes a move feel difficult
  3. To be able to accurately and quickly look at, analyze and constructively criticize a boulder problem (an extension to #2 in that it requires actual communication)
  4. To be able to change a move to add or remove difficulty in the most efficient possible manner.
I will probably return to this overwhelmingly complex topic some time in the future. For now, happy setting!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Aesthetics in Routesetting: a Design Primer

Our job as routesetters is to set the stage for a relationship between a climber and the wall. That relationship is the foundation of the rock climbing experience, whether it's indoors or outdoors, boulder or route. Every sensory element in the equation has potential to affect the climber's experience: the fingertips feeling texture, the ears hearing belayer calls or the cheering crowd, and, maybe most powerful of all, the eyes seeking a path upwards.

The main goal of setting a route could be many things: to create enjoyable movement, to give climbers a puzzle to solve, to challenge a climber physically, to separate a field of competitors. Any of these goals can benefit from an element that many new routesetters overlook: the aesthetic. The field of design in general asserts that there are certain inalienable patterns that are pleasing to the eye. Routesetting is no exception.

It's not just holds on the wall - it's part of the experience. Embracing that and adding aesthetics into your setting is not an easy task, and takes practice. Here's a quick primer on some elements to consider incorporating into your setting. Warning: Nerdy and/or subjective design opinions follow.


The figure-ground relationship is fundamental to graphic design, and refers to the use of space as a design element. You know when a wall starts to get cluttered, because the figure-ground relationship dissipates and the wall just looks like a cluster of junk. Nice, open spaces keep the general look of the route balanced and clean. In addition, they make routefinding easier for the climber, and make it easier for a crowd to tell what's going on.

Some of the main elements of good figure-ground relationship in routesetting include:

  • Managing hold sizes - using lots of similar-sized holds, or changing up the hold size proportionally through the route.
  • Movement size and spacing - with an open, clean wall, a large dynamic move will be obvious from the ground to both the climber and the crowd. Cluttered walls make it harder to build drama for a big move. In a dihedral, a massive blank space where the climber has to palm the wall or perform hand-foot matches to get through the sequence can be intimidating from the ground.
  • Clustering holds - the right-left-right-left ladder tends to create a homogenous zig-zag of holds. Break up the movement with sets of holds. Don't let the route wander, but allow spaces in the route to keep it looking organic.


Color is obviously a huge factor in routesetting, and maybe the first design element most setters become aware of. Colors can be used to create similarity or contrast to enhance the route's image. Some experiments with route colors could include:

  • Using color to signify route changes. Use several holds from one set, then several holds from a different set to subconsciously let the climber know that a change in style or difficulty is coming up. Or break up the sets with a feature hold.
  • Tape color is a bigger factor than most setters allow. Black, dark blue and purple tape underneath fluorescent lights become the same shiny dark hue, especially for looking down at feet.
  • Colorblindness is becoming a factor for professional routesetting, and should be noted. Consider not using similar tints of color tape, such as green and orange, next together. Alternatively, using an additional indicator can be useful, such as wider or thinner tape, a sharpie stripe/pattern, or patterned tape (who doesn't love zebra-print tape?)
  • Just using the same color hold for an entire route can be boring, and isn't always possible. Consider using a complimentary or contrasting color, rather than mixing up the few extra holds. I often set a route with a main color, and also one monochromatic grouping of holds - green and black, purple and white, blue and gray, etc. It opens up the creativity, and still keeps the route thematic.


Patterns in graphic design can be the orientation of objects, clustering of objects, textures, angles, almost anything. In routesetting this goes for the movement as well. Setting a route where the climber has to overcome multiple undercling sequences in a row? Adding some basic design principles into that already strong pattern can make a good climbing experience into a great one. Some common patterns include:

  • Hold clustering, as mentioned above, is a good way to create patterns. Make a few big moves, then a complex sequence of small moves on a pair, triplet or even foursome of small holds. Or, cluster together a couple big holds and force the climber to make multiple hand and hand-foot matches in the same small space.
  • Hold type. This is one of the most obvious examples, but if you were to use a full set of similar big holds for an entire route, the design benefits are huge. On the flipside, just grabbing every huge hold you can and using all of them in a row regardless of style, color or grip type tends to look like crap - even if it climbs well.
  • Hold angle. Many routes outside feature left- or right-leaning weaknesses, where the climber moves up primarily with a series of sidepulls and gastons. This can get monotonous and frustrating indoors, but used sparingly it does create a strong design pattern from the ground.
  • Tape angle. This is much-debated, and personally I find that using one tape angle tends to look better only if the route density is very low. Usually I prefer taping for visibility. However, taping for visibility can also wind up looking chintzy and unprofessional. A good rule of thumb tends to be taping at a downward 45 to one direction, and then breaking that system a) only if the original angle can't be seen for a crucial move; and b) only to switch to the opposite downward 45. Many gyms also forego tape completely, but I find that to be a big enough limiter to creativity (unless your hold selection is extraordinarily well-funded) that it isn't worthwhile. Except maybe in the case of CATS-style gyms, where the demographical emphasis is on people training for climbing, not the inexperienced public.


Symmetry can be a more advanced design element in setting, but I have seen it used (consciously or otherwise) with success. It can refer to the physical design symmetry looking at the route from the ground, or the movement on the route.

  • Reflective symmetry. This is commonly found on dihedral or arete/compression routes, where the holds are placed even with each other.
  • Rotational symmetry. A route that traverses slowly can easily have symmetry along the 45 degree line. This can require quite a bit of forethought, but when pulled off, looks great.
  • Movement symmetry. This is a bit harder to do, but setting up moves coming into and out of a large feature can have great symmetry. For instance, make a big move off a sidepull to a flat edge, then power up to a big feature. Match on the feature, move up to a flat edge, then out to a sidepull of the opposite direction. Sort of a movement palindrome.


This is mostly covered under patterns, but changing the scale of a route quickly or slowly can be an interesting design element. For instance, starting the route on big slopers, then slowly reducing the hold size to slopey pinches, down to tiny slimpers for the very top. But laziness isn't a design element. Many routesetters make two big mistakes with scale:
  1. Grabbing all the huge holds, and expecting movement to spontaneously occur.
  2. Grabbing all the tiny holds, because they had a few too many PBRs last night and don't want to haul up a heavy bucket.

Neither of these are criminal offenses, but they both can make for dull movement and route design. If you climb in a gym regularly, you can probably name a setter who overuses one of these two techniques. To use scale well, try some of these ideas:

  • Know how to be consistent. Don't just use all medium-size holds - yes, it gets just as monotonous for the climber to climb on it as it does for you to haul them all up. Use big holds, then a few small holds, then big holds. Brief consistency is still good.
  • Know how to be inconsistent. Intersperse holds that are otherwise similar (such as in texture, rock type, or grip type) but are different sizes. Try a compression route where the left hand is slapping up an arete or large sloper feature, but the right hand is making bumps on smaller slopers. When that sequence ends, do something completely different, then set the mirror of that movement on crimps and a big edge feature.
  • Try changing the scale slowly and consistently, starting with tiny bubbles, then knobs, then normal-size slopers and finally Boss-style features.
  • One great tool for hold scale is screw-ins. Especially when used mounted on volumes or large features, a screw-in can completely change the character of a sequence. Best of all, it can be hard to read screw-in moves from the ground, especially if the routesetter is especially devious with the placement.


The shape of things is another obvious element that can be used. Here are some basic ideas:

  • Most hold companies have at least one set of blocky, geometric holds. Using them together looks great. Using them mixed in with blobby holds looks so-so. Using them in alternating sets or groups, broken up by features and tertiary sets looks fantastic. These block holds are a great way to learn how to mingle hold types.
  • Choose features that compliment (or contrast) your route's structural theme. Setting with pinches? Consider big tufa features. Slopers get big slopers. Crimps get crimp rails or big edges. Pockets get huecos.
  • Keep in mind, most rules exist to be broken. Whether you're striving to make the route completely intuitive or utterly puzzling, it should always be entertaining. It's not as much which holds you choose to use - it's the order you use them in. Set an intro boulder problem on pinches, into a few moves on feature slopers. Then a middle section of mid-size sloper movement. Use a big tufa feature to transition back into a final problem on pinches again. The theme changes, but the climber is comfortably transitioned from section to section.


Design can be a powerful tool for adding to the experience of a route. Learn and experiment with different techniques for intimidating, assisting, or inspiring climbers, both from the ground viewing the route, and while climbing it. "Art people" are all about breaking rules, so don't take anything in this post too seriously.

One rule that probably shouldn't be broken is never sacrifice movement for aesthetics. I'd hazard a guess that most gym climbers aren't going to compliment you on how pretty your latest route is. However, you are likely to get commentary if the movement sucks. So learn and implement as many of these techniques as possible, but don't overdo it. Try one at a time - similar texture, color, type, OR style. Then start mixing and matching. If the "perfect" hold happens to break the theme of your route, don't chuck it aside - try to find a way to incorporate it into your route and make the theme fit the movement.

Happy setting.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Movement Analysis: The Frog Pinch

The frog pinch is a pretty specific move, so I thought it would make an excellent candidate for my next movement analysis. I set this move on accident a few times, but the first time I forced it was at the level 2 USAC clinic, with E-Grips' Myorcan Tufapinch. I was somewhat on the spot, since I was setting it specifically for Chris Danielson himself. However, I didn't struggle with it and actually found it fun and intriguing to set. Since then I've set the move a few times with increasing success. The first thing you need to know about this move is that unlike the last movement analysis, this move might be a bit unintuitive - it's more technique than power. Lots of climbers do not have the hip flexibility and lower body tension necessary to quickly grasp this move when they encounter it. That being said, it's most logical to set this move on a slightly harder route, where climbers are likely to see the move as a challenge instead of a frustration. Gym rats hate this move. Flexible strong females, techy people and Smith junkies will eat it alive.

Basic Summary

The gist of the frog-leg is a move where the climber has to create body tension by compressing their legs towards each other. This means a few things off the bat. First, the hand holds need to be poor enough that the climber will fall if their feet aren't secure. If the climber can dyno or campus past the move, it's a no go. Second, The number of feet available needs to be limited; actually, it needs to be one - the pinch. Third, that foot option needs to have zero upward foothold potential. If the climber can use the top of the foot even as a poor smear, they will drop their other leg and make the move without using the frog.

Black denotes the start holds and route trend.

Generally the move works best when the climber is traversing over the frog pinch footholds, because it's hard to generate upward momentum when your legs are both pinching. Since that upward motion would make the move a lot more upper-body dependent, it could ruin the equitability of the sequence. I have found the easiest way to set the Frog Pinch is by having the climber do a cross move from a wide open position. We're going to have them start on the big pinch and a small right hand crimp by hand foot matching their left heel on the pinch from the ground. This sets the climber up for the frog by having half of the body position implied by the time they get to the move.

Starting position.

After they pull on, they'll bump their left hand from the big pinch to the first left hand sloper (Hold 2.) At this point they are creating compression with the three holds.

The opening move, to the first sloper.

Moving their left hand to Hold 3 is not an option because of distance, so the climber knows they need to move their right hand. The logical option is to create compression to replace the right hand's tension by using their right leg - for some climbers this will mean automatically adopting the frog position.

Creating compression with the feet - the Frog Pinch.

Then the climber can cross through to hold 3. Optionally, an extra (very poor) hold can be added above hold 1 to help this body position transition.

Crossing over - not too much upward motion, mostly moving laterally.

The route can go lots of directions afterward, provided none of the holds used in later sequences are accessible from the opening moves.

Hold Considerations

Basically, we're talking about four holds. One big start pinch, one small start crimp, and two non-matchable directional slopers / sloper pinches.

The right hand starting hold, doesn't matter much, as long as it's poor enough to prevent moves from being skipped. Placing it facing straight up will make the opening move easiest; placing it horizontal to the right will make it quite hard. Straight down or left will make the move (almost) impossible.

Holds 2 and 3 should be semi directionals so they can be easily tweaked to make the move feel more natural. The fastest way to make the move harder is to make the holds face outwards more, making the climber more reliant on compression and less on being able to actually pull down against gravity. I've found the most natural way to set the move is to have Hold 2 be basically straight down or just a bit left (since the climber will be using it the most.) The optional bump hold should face gently right, so the climber will struggle to bump their left hand from the start hold to hold 3, making the intended sequence more obvious. Hold 3 can be oriented depending on your next sequence, but I try to have it face slightly rightward with a decent thumb catch and keep the route trending left. This also makes it harder to skip moves.

The frog-leg foothold is going to be the centerpiece of the route. I'll emphasize again that this pinch can't be smearable! The three holds I've set this move on are the E-Grips Bubble Wrap Pinch, the Tufapinch and the Atomik Granite Pinch. The granite pinch was the most smearable, but also the most comfortable heel hook for the start. The Tufapinch is quite hard on anything steeper than about 20 degrees. There are several other holds that could theoretically be used for this purpose.

Troubleshooting hold choices:
  • Thumb catches can generate a lot more compression than you might think. Consider using holds with no or poor thumb catches.
  • If the climber can't pull off the ground, try moving your centerpiece pinch hold down (or in) a bit, or making your right hand starting hold better by rotation or hold change.
  • If the climber can smear on top of the centerpiece hold, either it's too low or too good, hold 2 and 3 are too good, or your terrain isn't steep enough.
  • If the frog-leg is uncomfortable, watch someone climb it and try to rotate the frog pinch so it points directly at their ideal center of gravity during the move. Just rotate it for fun if nothing else - a five degree shift makes the move completely different. Experiment. Rotating the pinch hold has been the final step of tweaking the move every single time I've set it.
Terrain Considerations

This move works on just about any terrain, but it's easiest to keep the climber from smearing on top of the pinch hold on a wall at least 20 degrees overhanging. Slabs and vertical faces it's just too easy for the climber to forego compression in favor of balance. On a steep enough wall, the hold has to better than the ones I outlined - Lapis volumes are a fun alternative, if you have them; although the move at that point is less like a frog pinch and more like stock gymnastic roof climbing. In fact, I think doing the move on a gently overhanging wall where it feels new and foreign is what makes the move so interesting to set and climb.

Possibly the best place to set this move is on a staggered overhang, if you have one near the ground. In this scenario you can move the entire setup up and down until you find the appropriate average angle to make the move "go." I didn't figure this technique out until I had set the move several times - it's much easier on this type of terrain, so it's a good place to start.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Hold Review - Atomik Font Pinches

I had the pleasure of reviewing the Atomik Font Pinches recently. Here's a primer on how I review holds.

Set Overview / Summary

Two small yellow bubble pinches (quite poor) - I mostly used these as bumps. They'd make for great technical holds on a vertical wall.

One red blob edge - A great directional slimper, great smear foot when used directionally. The most directional of the bunch, and probably my personal favorite.

Big green rail pinch - By far the most positive. A comfortable narrower pinch, with plenty of surface area for hand foot matching or crossed-pinch matching. Possible jug / rest hold horizontally.

Big green - the jug of the set

Big blue pinch, wider, shallower - could make a good, hard match; very comfortable wide pinch.

Big red sloper pinch - probably the trickiest hold. the thumb catches on this one were not as intuitive as most of the others, so it presented more of an actual pinch-strength challenge.

Big blue knobby pinch - vertically, makes for fantastic matching. one of the depressions is a perfect huge thumb catch, making it very easy to force moves that require strong oppositional thumb pressure to cancel barn doors or hold tension.


Pinches are always strange territory for directionality, as they naturally come with more than one plumb line. The setter has to be cautious with the use of feet, and the angle of the pinch. Comfortable pinch plumb line + solid foot in a perpendicular body position = fat rest point. One factor that can make this a bit easier on the routesetter is when pinches are angled slightly triangular, as many companies do these days. (Incidentally this tends to have two other advantages: 1) it makes the hold more ergonomic for the best-case grip; and 2) it offers a much harder, much less comfortable worst-case grip for ergonomically disinclined, crueler routesetters to employ.) All of the Atomik pinches fit this bill except the juggiest pinch. Simply being mindful of the feet around that hold and the travel time of moves to and from that hold made it easy to deal with.

For the hardest problem I set of the day, the red sloper pinch gets the honorable mention. Even with foreknowledge of the move I found my body wanting to contort to get the thumb catch just right. The climbers I had helping me out experienced the exact same puzzle. Once the thumb was dialed, the move followed naturally. Cool.

For pinches, I consider these to have better than average directionality: body positions are forceable, without creating uncomfortable hand positions or requiring excess consideration by the routesetter.


Any pinch worth its weight in urethane should make up for its lack of directionality in versatility and movement inspiration.

Going in to reviewing a pinch set, the big things on my mind were my bread and butter pinch moves - wide open compression, close-in hand-over-hand matches, big crossovers, barn doors. Moves that require using both directionalities of the hold simultaneously to create body tension. The set didn't disappoint, with the red slimper offering just enough forced directionality to diversify against the rest of the set. The green ledge could easily be used as a finish jug or rest hold horizontally, but placed vertically on a gently overhanging wall it required just enough "oomph" to stack up with the slimmer pinches for a hard route.

The yellow holds were great for "just enough" holds, offering easy fixes to bump moves, and each of them were tri-directional for easy tweaks to move difficulty. The difference between a move being possible off the first bump, and encouraging the climber to move to the second bump before committing their other hand was two 120 degree rotations away. Nice.

When trying to set routes with one set, a wide variety of difficulty can be somewhat of a curse. The red slimper-pinch (slincher?) was a good cure every time I found myself set into a corner. This broad difficulty offered a challenge, but one that would quickly turn into advantages when the set's combined with other similar sets, or doubled up.

Best of the bunch: directional, aesthetic, comfortable.

Difficulty: On a vertical wall, could offer V0 with sufficient feet. Severe overhangs would turn these pinches extremely nasty with the quickness. My preference was about V5-7 on a 25˚ยบ° wall.

Movement variety: Great. Nothing I tried to do seemed like it wouldn't go with some tweaking, with the set having a broad mixture of good and poor holds. The only move that seemed dire was to force a frog on a steep wall, as most of the pinches could be smeared on top. Geological discrepancy aside, the set could be combined with a larger pinch like the Granite XXL pinch to force a move like this. A foot-cut to the big pinch (or moving into it off dual tex sidepulls) to cancel out potential feet, followed by delicate slopey pinch moves above the big pinch would be a great sequence, and one I fully intend to get back to.


Shaping: Clearly some thought went into the shaping of the knobby pinch and slopey pinch, as their thumb catches were intuitive and puzzling respectively. Switching out similar holds with slightly different thumb catches is a great alternative for a setter to quickly bump or reduce the difficulty of a move to hit grade.

Structure: The holds were solidly built, with no errors or blemishes. Washers were all set parallel to the wall. I had no issues with spinning or stripping. Bolt depth was good, with all bolts being shallow enough to be ratchet or impact-accessible. (Extremely deep bolts, a la the very old EPS holds, are somewhat of a pet peeve for me - and I'm sure I'm not alone there.)


I had the choice between earth tones and bright colors. Being a route aesthetics junkie, I picked bright. Primary colors look great against the drab beige of climbing wall obscurity. The similar bumpy shape made the routes I quickly set and tore down intuitive and quick to read for my test audience, even though I never taped a problem or even pointed out the holds. This sort of snappy no-tape-required intuition is a huge asset of any hold set's aesthetic. The earth tones would be a good choice for a darker, artificial-tex wall.

As it was, the bright colors were distinctive without joining the ranks of the ubiquitous neon blobs. This also makes the chalk look better on the holds. Yes, I'm a design geek.

As far as shape looks go, this set would look great combined with almost any font set, but the standouts are definitely the Atomik XXL font sloper, which can easily be used as a pinch when placed vertically, creating some style parity. The even bigger font XXXL set at a 90 offers great compression potential, which could be traversed through using the rest of the pinch set as collateral.


Texture: a comfortable in-between point, perfect for pinches. Any slopier on the worst slopey pinch and the two small yellow fellas and I would have wanted a bit more grit. The texture ensured pinch strength was a primary emphasis of any route the set went in to, which is its main job.

Ergonomics: other than the difficulty of the slopey red pinch, all the thumb catches felt great. Edges were well spaced, with pressure falling naturally in between finger joints. None of the holds seemed tweaky or strange to grasp.

Movement: As I said before, I went for an emphasis on moves requiring the use of thumb opposition. My favorite of the quick problems I set was on a gentle overhang: open with a big move from the red slope pinch and red slimper (as an undercling) to the blue knob pinch, requiring immediate barn-door-cancel tension. The red slimper undercling became a smear for a big cross to the green jug pinch. The cross position ensured the green pinch (the best of all) would not be easily used as a rest point on the route. From there a big rockover on a decent foot gave way to the wide shallow blue pinch. Bumping into the first yellow hold allowed a "float" move to set a heel hook on the big green. Another bump to the next yellow hold and then the lip finished the route up.

All in all a pretty solid set. I'd be eager to set with them again.

These holds were provided to me by Atomik for the purposes of this review. Thanks guys!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What Makes a Good Hold?

"Which holds should I buy?" - in a flooded market, this is a common question.

There are plenty of sites and magazines reviewing climbing holds. From the perspective of a climber buying the holds, that's great. People can pick up a copy of Climbing mag or browse the web and figure out which holds are the most ergonomic. Or which holds have the best texture. Some sites cover how the holds were shipped. Can we agree that for a product which has an industry standard of being guaranteed not to break, it's kind of silly to rate how well the holds set and climb based on what ply of wax paper they were lovingly wrapped in?

It's hard to assert that texture and comfort aren't important to the big question above, but I have a hard time seeing those type of reviews as more than one-dimensional. The routesetter is going to look at an ergonomic hold with no directionality and be completely uninspired. If you can't create good movement, the hold might as well have the texture of broken glass.

That being said, my goal in reviewing holds covers the following topics:

Directionality - How does the hold perform in an angular, spatial sense? The biggest factors here are: 1) can you easily and quickly tweak the route by altering the angle of the hold, without compromising the grip style your movement depends on? 2) Can the hold be used to force body positions based on limited grip styles or foot placements? Directionality is possibly the most important concept in forcing good movement.

Aesthetics - An often overlooked aspect of setting. Holds are the building block for good aesthetics. Maybe without even knowing it, routesetters implement fundamental design principles - proximity, alignment, figure/ground, repetition, and contrast. Holds should facilitate pleasant route design elements.

Versatility - On the polar end from directionality we have versatility. How many different functions can the hold employ? Hold size, angle, number of grip styles, potential for foot placements are all factors; general moves like matching, hand/foot matching, toe-ins, etc all require different styles of hold.

Utility - Handles factors related to how much effort it takes to utilize the hold. For instance: Are the washers set evenly and perfectly perpendicular to the wall? How durable is the hold? (hardly a factor for most modern holds, but still relevant.) Is the hold well-constructed and equitable in texture and shape? Does the weight of the hold impact its usability? Does the size of the hold vs its usable space negatively affect available wall real estate? Does the hold sit flush to the wall? Is the bolt hole central enough to the hold to discourage spinning? Basically, a catchall for potential routesetting frustrations.

Climbing - Finally, how does the hold climb? Texture, ergonomics, fun factor. These are relevant elements to the topic but they are discussed at length elsewhere, so for my reviews the hold's "climbability" won't be the headliner.

In summary, I will be aiming to review holds as a routesetter, not a climber.

One more thing, while we're talking about buying holds. The blunt force pision of climbing holds into categories like "pinch," "crimp," etc. is a well-intentioned mistake. A pinch and a crimp/edge are the same thing at the proper angle. I'd say about 80% of holds marketed as "slopers" are really "pinches" - anything smaller than about six inches square and it's very unlikely you're going to prevent people from getting their thumb wrapped around the back of it.

There is clearly no industry uniform for this taxonomy, and it's frustrating to see just how little usability research has been done. The prospect of sorting through all the holds available and picking some based on what little criteria is available is pretty daunting. Telling people the actual (measured) size and weight of the hold is a good start, along with providing a comparison image including a hand actually using the hold. Don't be presumptuous about how the hold will be used. In fact, vague hold "difficulty" is more useful than a blanket category, in my opinion. While it might be up for discussion whether a hold is an "edge" or a "crimp," I think it will hold true across the board that it's tough to hold on to it on a steep wall.

Happy setting for now!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Very Basics: 10 Tips for Efficient Setting

One of the fundamentals of being a good routesetter is being efficient. Efficiency can be a fluid term depending on your setting environment, so for the purposes of this post, let's define being an efficient routesetter as striking a balance between the physical rigors and time constraints of setting, while meeting your specific setting goals.

If your gym has a steep lead wall, you've probably uttered that groan of defeat associated with having to set on it. It can be fun, aiding around and sweating and working moves, but at the end of the day it's exhausting. So what if you have to set another route after the lead wall? What if you have to set five more? What if you only have six hours to get it all done?

Venti quad espresso enema aside, the best solution is to set efficiently. Every small task in routesetting can be optimized and re-optimized until you have the smallest subtleties down to a science. Locking off on a nearby hold to screw in a foot one-handed seems fine on the first route of the day, but if you screw in fifteen footholds per route and have to set five routes, that winds up costing you a lot of time and energy. The goal of this post is to take a high-level look at some basic concepts in routesetting that allow you to be more efficient with these two resources.

1. Jumar. Get one. Use it. Love it. Unless you're masochistic or you need a ton of extra lockoff training, rope soloing is just vastly inefficient by comparison. Nuff said.

2. Use directionals. This can mean either quickdraws on your wall, or rigging up your own. Take a quickdraw, put a hanger through one of the biners. Put a bolt and washer (or t-nut) through the hanger. Now just screw that bolt into the wall wherever you need the directional, and you can clip into the free end of the draw, or clip your bucket to it. Do NOT use this as a reliable means of protection, and always stay backed up. Make sure the bolt is in as far as it goes - I have had them strip out violently before, when I was too lazy to put them in more than a few threads - it's not pretty.

3. Solve the bucket problem. This seems to be the most common thing I see setters (even veterans) struggle with.
  • Best solution: jumar rig to closest rope. It's always nearby, it's not hanging against the wall blocking your ability to run moves, and it requires practically no work to keep it with you.
  • Mid solution: clipping to portable directionals or nearby quickdraws. Not a bad solution if you don't have a rope and extra gear available, but it takes a ton of extra work to keep moving it. Don't forget to back it up with a PAS or daisy when you switch it between draws.
  • Bad solution: clipping it to harness. I get lazy and do this sometimes, but it's really the worst. Except perhaps at the very end of the route when there's nothing in the bucket but feet and bolts, it's just a huge waste of energy and time. It's also horrible for your back to have all that weight dangling on your harness awkwardly.

4. Use the right tool for the job. I won't get into the infamous ratchet vs wrench debate here, because there's a better time and place for that discussion. Just know and use whichever one helps you set more efficiently. And, of course, if your walls can handle it, an impact is your best friend..

5. Be mindful of your body's needs. This one's easy to shrug at, but your body is part of the equation too, and routesetting is tiring. Water and food would be a good idea. I usually chuck my water bottle in one of the apron pockets on my setting bucket. Once again, anything you can do to keep from having to go all the way down and back up is a good idea. Bonus pro tip: Especially on a steep/long wall, visit the bathroom before you tie in.. especially if you took the quad espresso advice to heart.

6. Take more than you need. Bucket aprons are a wonderful invention. It's sometimes a necessary evil, but eventually every gym employee gets tired of tossing stuff to the setter who never plans ahead. Don't leave home without:
  • Extra bolts (a handful of each type)
  • Ten extra feet, easily accessible, appropriate for the grade
  • Extra bits for your drill, if applicable
  • Stopper screws and/or screw-in holds
  • If you're a gym employee and not just a setter, a cordless phone can save you a trip down when someone else wanders away from the desk and the phone rings.
  • Water bottle, as above.
In addition to these things in your apron, you should have all the standards on your harness: draws / portable anchors / daisies, prebuilt portable directionals, wrenches/ratchet, your jumar.

7. Plan ahead. Figure out the sequence, or at least roughly which moves you want to force on which holds. Plan it out on the ground, put a bolt (the *right* bolt, and check the threads) in each hold, and put them in the bucket backwards. Finishing hold on the very bottom. In the sides of the apron, or a separate bucket, put about 20% extra holds of varying goodness, to be used as intermediates and emergency holds, so you don't have to make an extra trip. A good rough guideline is about one piece of tape per foot of wall. If you have less holds than that, grab extras and extra feet. Better to have and not need them, and if you're being efficient with your bucket and protection, the extra weight won't matter much.

8. Back up everything. When stripping routes, clip your drill into a PAS or daisy. Clip the PAS to your harness. Dropping your drill is not only incredibly dangerous and potentially expensive, but it means you have to come off the route to retrieve it. Whether you use wrenches or a ratchet, invest in an elastic wristband. Attach the wristband to the tool. Voila, never another dropped tool. Most important of all, back up yourself. Setting might be less formal than a sketchy trad lead, but the need for safety is the same. Yes, it takes an extra second to tie a stopper in your knot and back up your gri-gri slack with overhands. Consider the counterpoint: it's not very efficient from the gym's point of view if they have to hire a new routesetter because you break your back.

9. Devise and learn tactics. You can use the same portable direction trick to haul a feature hold up the wall. Put the bolt through it, close it off on the other side with a hanger and nut. Tie it in to an overhand. You can use two bucket systems to get rid of holds you wind up not using so you don't have to haul them. Keep your tape on your wrist if it doesn't bug you. Wear proper shoes to forerun the grade (or toss your shoes in the bucket.) These are all relative no-brainers, but employing all of them adds up time and energy saved. Watch other setters and incorporate their techniques into your own arsenal.

10. Embrace the learning curve. Yes, you will be a bit less inefficient for a while as you figure out how a jumar works, or how to rig your bucket properly. And it does take a few minutes to plan your route ahead of time. These little tricks, once properly developed, are vastly preferable to the stressful chaos of chucking shit in a bucket and burling your way through what should be a smooth, clean process.

In summary: Don't work harder than you have to. If you're straining to screw in a hold, sweating your ass off hauling a bucket around, locking off on poor holds to pull up slack on a gri-gri.. simply ask yourself, is this really the best way to accomplish this problem? At the end of the day, just taking a moment to assess the situation is all it takes to find better solutions to problems. Much like in climbing itself, the immediate brute-force option is rarely the most apt solution.

That's all for now. Later this week I'll return with a review of some fresh plastic! In the meantime, happy setting.