CXC: What makes this comp different for you than other comps you may have set for or participated in?
SM: The obvious answer is that it is ALL women…the competitors, the setters, the organizers, everything! Which is AWESOME! I’ve never set with a female only crew, nor have I ever competed in a female only competition, so I really have no idea what to expect. But I think the energy and vibe of the competition could be totally different, and will be interesting to see how it all plays out, I’m pretty excited!
KP: The main thing that is different for me is that I’ve never been a head route setter for an event at such a high level. I think you need a lot of experience to pull something off like this, and I hope I will be able to make it happen. Luckily I have Sydney who has helped at many large scale events and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun working together. Besides that, since it’s all females, I think it will help the sport grow even more!
CXC: What’s your end goal in setting a route or boulder problem?
KP: For me as a shorter climber I try to make sure that everyone can climb the boulder no matter how tall or short they are. I also try to make each boulder have a fun sequence of moves that makes it unique. In the end I want the majority of people to enjoy climbing on the boulder.
SM: For me the end goal is always to set something fun, new, exciting, or thought provoking (in the sense that the sequencing is more intricate than a straight forward, left, right, left, right…). I like finding ways to challenge a climber without making it so hard or tricky that it’s just not enjoyable for someone to climb or work on. Sometimes setting something interesting or challenging can be as simple as forcing the climber to really use their legs or trust their feet. I think if you’re finding ways to teach new movement or techniques with the routes that you’re setting, then you’re doing your job well. From a different standpoint I also know that working in the same environment, on the same walls, with the same holds, etc. you can find yourself becoming creatively stagnant. I think that a good goal for any setter is to continually create new routes, that are not copies of previous routes you’ve set and that do not have mind numbingly dull sequences. It definitely can be a rut that we all fall into at times when creativity is low. So being aware of that and finding inspiration where ever or how ever you need is also one of my goals as a setter. In the end it’s all about putting out a great, fun product for everyone to enjoy.
“For the most part I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to the male/female ratio of route setters, I just see us all as route setters, doing what we love.”
CXC: Does the fact that you’re setting for only females change your approach to setting?
KP: In the overall scheme of things it doesn’t really change much. Just because it’s an all girls event doesn’t mean there will only be crimpy boulders. Everyone needs to be a well-rounded climber to be able to do well at competitions.
SM: I think women can climb a lot of the same types of climbs as men, just with little tweaks here and there. I think the difference is that there won’t be as big of a need for straight, raw, power moves. However, there are a lot of strong women competing, who are super burly, have gnarly contact strength and are not afraid of some dynamic movement. So I don’t feel that we’ll be very limited in terms of what we can or can’t set for these ladies.
CXC:What distinguishes a good finals route from an average one? What are you taking into consideration specifically that is different from setting a regular route for the gym?
KP: I think when you are setting for a finals route or boulder, you want it to be more showy for the crowd, but at the same time you want the climbers to have fun climbing it.
SM: I would say a “good” finals route is one that makes a climber stop and think for a moment. I think some of the more enjoyable routes I’ve climbed at competitions are ones that I have to sequence a few times before it clicks and you go, “THAT’S the right sequence”. In general I would say, a good finals route is one that is progressive, meaning the progressive difficulty is subtle, so there isn’t one move or section that stands out, but rather the pump slowly creeps up on the climber the farther they go, until they’re chicken winged and pumped out of their minds. Your typical, commercially set gym routes don’t HAVE to be progressive, because the goal isn’t to gain separation through various fall points for each climber that tries it. In an onsight final competition that is the end goal, separation, no ties, no bottlenecks, and no count backs if you can help it…
“Just because it’s an all girls event doesn’t mean there will only be crimpy boulders. Everyone needs to be a well-rounded climber to be able to do well at competitions.”
CXC: What’s it like to be a female setter in a male dominated setting?
SM: When I first started setting at a gym back home (Stone Gardens in Seattle, WA) I was pretty intimidated and worried that my routes or boulder problems were not as good as everyone else’s. However, I was lucky enough to have a great group of people to work with who were my friends and/or my coaches that really helped me gain confidence in my skills as a route setter. When I switched gyms and started working at Vertical World (in Seattle, WA and Everett, WA) under my good friend and coach Tyson Schoene, his confidence and trust in my abilities really solidified for me that the work I was doing was something to be proud of and proud to share. I know that I am good at what I do and I’m confident in my abilities to set just as well as anyone else doing my job. Now I’m the Head Route Setter at Evolution Rock+Fitness in Concord, NH, so I’ve kind of come full circle! There are times where it can be frustrating that there are not as many female route setters and definitely USA Climbing (USAC) certified female route setters (not that I can really talk, I haven’t taken any of the certifications either). It will be great if gyms continue to encourage female setters to be a part of their facilities and supporting them by offering to pay for them to take USAC route setting clinics (http://www.usacsetting.net). For the most part I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to the male/female ratio of route setters, I just see us all as, route setters, doing what we love.
CXC: If you weren’t setting for this comp, would you be competing?
KP: I would be competing at the event if I wasn’t setting, for sure. But I was given this opportunity to set, which I’m really grateful for.
SM: Hmm I would like to think that if I wasn’t setting I would be competing, but I’m not sure…over the last few years I’ve kind of taken myself out of competition climbing. Lately I have been either helping set for competitions or helping forerun for competitions instead. I enjoy both sides of competitive climbing, the competing itself and setting or forerunning. But I think my biggest deterrent from competing lately is just not feeling strong. I don’t like going into competitions knowing I could do better if I had trained more…And I’ve been enjoying just climbing for fun the last couple of years, instead of training a ton and trying to keep up with all the big names.
CXC: Looking at the whole event, what are you most psyched on?
KP: I’m most psyched about the end result! I want this event to get recognized and get an even bigger showing next year!
SM: I’m excited to work with an entirely female crew and see what it’s like! I’m also psyched to see what kind of response we get from all of the competitors and spectators. I hope we are able to put on a great show that leaves everyone feeling amped to come back for another one!
Sydney McNair is originally from Washington State, where she started climbing competitively at age 12. She started route setting at age 16, and started coaching youth climbing at age 18. She’s competed at all levels of competitive climbing, in both local and World level events. She helped forerun at USA Climbing ABS Youth Regionals, ABS Youth Nationals, SCS Youth Regionals, SCS Youth Nationals, and in May 2013 helped set for SCS Youth Regionals. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Sports Medicine and a Master’s degree in Athletic Training at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. She currently works at Evolution Rock+Fitness in Concord, NH where she is the Head Route Setter and one of the youth climbing team coaches.
Kasia Pietras has been climbing since 1997 and competing since 2002. When she competed in youth events she represented the United States 5 years in a row at the Youth World Championships which were held in the summer in different locations all around the world. She also competed in Open Nationals since the age of 16 and represented the United States three times at World Cup Events (twice in Vail, CO and once in Munich, Germany). She has been setting at her local climbing gyms since the age of 15; first in Chicago at Hidden Peak then in Chattanooga at the Tennessee Bouldering Authority. In the last year she’s decided to step aside from the competitor’s shoes and work on the setting side. As of now she has taken clinics to improve her knowledge of setting as well as help out at large events such as Dominion River Rocks (held in Richmond, VA). So far she is really excited about this choice, and can’t wait to continue to pursue setting at future events. If you want to learn more about Kasia, check out her blog here.
The complete setting team for The Heist includes: Kasia Pietras, Sydney McNair, Michele Off, Melissa Godowski, Alison Palmer, Melanie Messer and Andrea Brennen. We can’t wait to see what these ladies create. Congratulations to the setters, and the whole team of this competition on being a part of climbing history!
Find out more about The Heist on the official website, and to register to compete (there’s still time!) go to Central Rock Gym Watertown and click on: “Registration”, then “Events” and select The Heist.