Impossible to please everyone. You set for short people and tall people can lank past every move. A bloc should be within its grade with the easiest way of completing it, so it's impossible to always set something that a 5ft 12 year old and 6'5 bloke will climb the same way. I've seen testers despairing because they tried to make it inclusive for their shorter route tester and then a 6footer comes straight along and breaks it.
I've worked at a gym that had a short-reach circuit and been to other gyms where they had rooms that were specifically set for kids and smaller adults. It achieves 2 things: short people moaning that there isn't enough of them and taller punters, oblivious to the parameters, thinking they're hard men because they can climb '7a' by skipping half of the moves.
We also had a setter who was about 5'6 but liked to set big moves. Every time they set, short people would be complaining that our big tall setters had made everything super reachy.
You just have to aim for a sweet spot and hope people enjoy it. A bloody amazing 5 star climb is always the one that is only just possible. You can't set anything only just possible for 2 climbers of equal ability when there's very likely a foot different in their reach.
5'6" isn't small, my wife is even smaller than the article writer and what she says holds true for my wife. Outdoors there are usually more options but indoors if you are sticking to the correct holds you can come up against a dead end due to reach, an unbridgeable gap.
I have done quite a bit of setting at our wall and always find it interesting how often tall men complain that my routes are reachy. I am 153cm tall, also with a negative ape index!
I have very flexible hips and a strong core so many of my harder routes have balancey moves, high steps and rock overs. So the moves which for me have quite a bit of technique often tempt tall men to try and reach past the tricky bit and so it becomes a reachy move.
I enjoy route setting and find it an interesting challenge to set routes with appeal for a good range of climbers.
Another way to look at it is that it tends to make shorter people much better climbers because they have to use different tactics and dirty intermediate holds to progress. You look at the best climbers in the world - they aren't that tall.
What's Steve Mac 5'5? Dave Mac about 5'8? Megos, 5'7? Mitbo, 5'8? Even Sharma and Ondra are only about 6ft, discounting the neck.
Being short makes steeper terrain physically easier. Tall people aren't calling for all the climbing walls to build slabs with spaced edges, are they. Short people love moaning about tall people but we have our limitations too!
It's not just about height though but strength and power, too. Those are all guys and their capability to complete a big/powerful move is likely far greater than what an elite female climber would be capable of (of course, there are myriad instances where female physiology would be advantageous on certain routes - Mélissa le Nevé talking about getting more fingers into the Action Direct pocket before the jump is one - but Ailsa is talking in general terms about indoor setting and at easier grades indoors it's sometimes obvious where shorter climbers have been overlooked). It's just as important for male setters to be aware of their own strength and power, not just their height. Having more female setters and getting male setters to climb with women is really important, I think.
As Ailsa writes, it's impossible for a climb to suit everyone, but it's not a huge ask to try and set a variety of styles and set easier stuff without huge moves across the board.
ETA: also important to acknowledge differences in ability. Sometimes the strongest climbers don't set the best lower-grade climbs as they have poorer perception of the strength and power capabilities of climbers of that grade.
I think this is something most professional route setters are very aware of, I would assume it forms part of training courses?
In the years that I've been climbing (more than 20) setting has improved a lot, as has the variety of holds, volumes and screw ons. My early years were often spent stretching between holds on badly set problems, and I'm not even short (5'10" with a +4 ape). Obviously I'm not going to notice very much about reach personally, but I climb with several short women. Indoors, reach is certainly more often an issue for them than outdoors, and it should be easily mitigated with a few extra footholds and a bit of thought, but it isn't always.
I spent a day belaying at a youth comp a few years ago, which unfortunately had a several routes that were too reachy. It made them quite cruxy, they would have been ok for most adults, but not many 12 year olds.
I'm not particularly tall but I'm taller than all the route setters I know. I climb with someone much smaller than me and they climb much harder than me. I can't recall a single route where my 8" height advantage wasn't brushed aside by greater talent.
While I'm definitely for more diversity in route setting the key argument to the article (it's unfair for the short) is bollocks.
I offer you Steve McClure and Laura Rodrigues as proof.
For those that can't see beyond "lank" consider that body weight scales (roughly) as height cubed and that (in proportion) strength scales roughly as height. If you are tall you need to get much much stronger (and comparatively thinner) to have the same power-weight ratio as the short. If you consider hand strength, hold size, the limits of friction and the lever of long limbs vs core strength then things get worse.
Because of the different average physiques for men and women there are different average "optimal" heights for men and women but a quick glance at comp stats suggests that optimal heights for either sex would not be considered "tall" by anyone's measure - not even by the OPs.
Crap route setting is simply crap route setting and not to be encouraged but you don't get much sympathy for being tall: too bunched up to move, not being able to fold yourself into a tiny space to use the only hold or having sausage fingers ping off a fingernail sized sloper because of the lardage of your large frame.
If my stumpy climbing partner can simply power past each and every span then being short is is not a better excuse than being tall. You're not missing height you're missing talent, get training.
Well set routes are equally difficult for tall folk and short folk like me who can use sneaky high steps or rock overs etc, good skills for newer short climbers to learn and practice. Unfortunately there are still poor route setters who just set yarding between jugs
> I'm not particularly tall but I'm taller than all the route setters I know. I climb with someone much smaller than me and they climb much harder than me. I can't recall a single route where my 8" height advantage wasn't brushed aside by greater talent.
> While I'm definitely for more diversity in route setting the key argument to the article (it's unfair for the short) is bollocks.
> I offer you Steve McClure and Laura Rodrigues as proof.
> For those that can't see beyond "lank" consider that body weight scales (roughly) as height cubed and that (in proportion) strength scales roughly as height. If you are tall you need to get much much stronger (and comparatively thinner) to have the same power-weight ratio as the short. If you consider hand strength, hold size, the limits of friction and the lever of long limbs vs core strength then things get worse.
> Because of the different average physiques for men and women there are different average "optimal" heights for men and women but a quick glance at comp stats suggests that optimal heights for either sex would not be considered "tall" by anyone's measure - not even by the OPs.
> Crap route setting is simply crap route setting and not to be encouraged but you don't get much sympathy for being tall: too bunched up to move, not being able to fold yourself into a tiny space to use the only hold or having sausage fingers ping off a fingernail sized sloper because of the lardage of your large frame.
> If my stumpy climbing partner can simply power past each and every span then being short is is not a better excuse than being tall. You're not missing height you're missing talent, get training.
100% agree with you here.
It's not route setting not being inclusive enough it's poor routesetters ot understanding their customers and market.
And also if a variety of different sizes and shapes can climb a boulder/route and the OP can't maybe the route is too hard for them?
> It's not just about height though but strength and power, too.
Why? If a route has more powerful moves then it will tend to get a higher grade. If men generally have more strength and power then they will be able to climb generally higher grades. Basically, ignoring gender, more powerful people, all other things being equal, will be able to climb higher grades. If a good spread of grades is set there will be plenty to go at for all climbers regardless of strength.
As for the height thing, I don't really see why small people should be moaning more than tall people. If setters are representative of the height distribution in the population and tend to set routes suited to their own height, then setting will tend to favour people of average height with people further from the average in either direction (smaller or taller) being equally disadvantaged. Of course if more setters are male then setting may tend to favour the male average and that would generally be disadvantageous to women (maybe this is actually the problem). Of course a good setter will be able to set a range of routes favourable to all heights.
I actually get the impression that at Ratho, because routes are regularly set for kids competitions and, I think I am right in thinking, specifically for kids training goups, the overall spread might in fact favour small people.
> I'm not particularly tall but I'm taller than all the route setters I know. I climb with someone much smaller than me and they climb much harder than me. I can't recall a single route where my 8" height advantage wasn't brushed aside by greater talent.
> While I'm definitely for more diversity in route setting the key argument to the article (it's unfair for the short) is bollocks.
What would you say to a very high rockover for a tall person (5'10?) to a crimp on a 6b climb that is just not possible to reach with your foot for a 5'2". This situation puts a definite limit on the possibility of that move based on body size, not flexibility or power.
Personally, I don't see why you can't add a very small screw in foothold as a 'smaller person' alternative. It would be small enough to be almost unusable for a larger frame and weight and hard enough that it's still in the grade range for that user.
I agree that the solution isn't always easy but the different between gym walls and outside is that it is very rare indeed that there aren't a whole range of copious small smeary intermediates to use when outside. A blank wall with a single morpho rockover is rare when in climbing walls it seems to be more common.
The longer I've climbed the less I worry about supposed disadvantages due to height, or whatever. Grading is all relative anyway so the more you differ from the average climber, the less reliable you're going to find grading. Best to get on with.
On the other hand I know it can mess up your session, especially on routes. I guess I don't care enough about indoor routes to worry about a solution. I just decided I was going to go rainbow to get around reaches when I'm trying to do some endurance training.
Unfortunately I don't think it's going to be solved any time soon. Customer feedback and competition between walls should help in the long term. More climbers will mean more walls, more competition, more setters.
My girlfriend is 5'1 and rarely fails to find a cunning solution to big moves. There will always be some routes that some people can't climb at the advertised grade, but that applies equally to the crags as well as to indoor walls.
Variety is the spice of life — as long as setters don't exclusive set for the beanpoles or for the shorties, I see no problem.
Some would call 5'8" tall 😂 and 6ft is definitely "tall" in the context of the article I reckon.
I've been to centres ( also not forgetting that it can be individual setters within a centre) that have been badly and well set, the bad ones tend to be yarding on jugs, then to make routes harder the holds get further apart and smaller or slopier. The better set routes tend to make use of little feet and technical movement better (even on powerful moves). I have a 6ft+++ friend who can set amazingly well even for small people considering his height. When I talk to him I can see he cares about his routesetting and is always trying to make good routes (I think part of his good routesetting is that he actually climbs a lot outside)
I meant strength and power in order to be able to complete big moves relative to height. The poster was saying that those elite guys were short, but they still climb hard etc.. In an indoor setting, they would still be able to outperform women by jumping for a hold that's out of their reach using their superior power even if they are the same height as a woman. This relates to my comment lower down about even short guys needing to be aware of their power when setting.
I know it goes both ways and Ailsa acknowledges this. I am quite lanky at 5'8" or so for a woman and I struggled on some moves in IFSC Boulder World Cups (mostly awkward start positions) largely because of my limb length, but of course I had an advantage on other problems. It was good though as I had to learn to climb like a shorter person and figure out new beta. Alex Johnson is very tall and talked about this in a post a while back.
I think at easier grades you're far more likely to get a jug ladder with big moves than you are to get an awkward start with bunched moves, there will be plenty of exceptions of course.
I'm below average height for a bloke, so on the odd occasions I set boulder problems at my local wall, all the routes either involve balancing up the slab on tiny footholds unusable by the clumsy great skidding boots of the tall or weird constricted sit starts that the ungainly legs of the lanky prevent the hands of the lanky reaching.
Since it seems to be mainly those of a taller disposition responding to this and saying height doesn't matter, why not while away an evening going through all your guidebooks and counting up all the instances of such phrases as "harder for the short," "probably a grade harder for the short" etc versus those of "harder for the tall?"
> What would you say to a very high rockover for a tall person (5'10?) to a crimp on a 6b climb that is just not possible to reach with your foot for a 5'2". This situation puts a definite limit on the possibility of that move based on body size, not flexibility or power.
> Personally, I don't see why you can't add a very small screw in foothold as a 'smaller person' alternative. It would be small enough to be almost unusable for a larger frame and weight and hard enough that it's still in the grade range for that user.
> I agree that the solution isn't always easy but the different between gym walls and outside is that it is very rare indeed that there aren't a whole range of copious small smeary intermediates to use when outside. A blank wall with a single morpho rockover is rare when in climbing walls it seems to be more common.
Absolutely agree with all of this. My local wall has started putting a tiny intermediate hold (or sometimes even two) between long reaches so smaller climbers don’t get totally shut down on routes. Done well it doesn’t make the climb easier for the lankmeisters as they generally don’t need to use them anyway, but does allow us vertically challenged ones to get up there too.
I believe it was initially done to help the youth squad train but it’s had the unexpected benefit of opening up more routes for older shortarses like me (5ft 0 when standing up straight with boofed up hair), and I get better at using horrible, crimpy little holds too.
I think it highlights the bigger issue which is gender bias in climbing.
It shows up in route setting, it shows up in outdoor grades too, more so on rock that isn't heavily featured with intermediate feet available. The grades both inside and out are generally most accurate for the average height male (5'10), not the average female (5'4) or somewhere between. It seems even more apparent in bouldering as difficulty is decided by fewer moves.
The further you get from 5'10 the less accurate it gets (taller or shorter). My first ascents have been downgraded by 3 grades, and occasionally upgraded by two, once repeated by someone closer to the male average.
I say this from a position of privilege as a bloke, benefiting from the strength and power that comes with that. At 5'4 I don't mind reachy climbing, I do mind gender bias.
> I think it highlights the bigger issue which is gender bias in climbing.
> It shows up in route setting, it shows up in outdoor grades too, more so on rock that isn't heavily featured with intermediate feet available. The grades both inside and out are generally most accurate for the average height male (5'10), not the average female (5'4) or somewhere between. It seems even more apparent in bouldering as difficulty is decided by fewer moves.
> The further you get from 5'10 the less accurate it gets (taller or shorter). My first ascents have been downgraded by 3 grades, and occasionally upgraded by two, once repeated by someone closer to the male average.
> I say this from a position of privilege as a bloke, benefiting from the strength and power that comes with that. At 5'4 I don't mind reachy climbing, I do mind gender bias.
What a load of Tosh!
Are you really suggesting that guidebooks should have separate grades for males and females?
Or that routes by Brown, Whillans Littlejohn and Dawes should be downgraded because they are less than 5' 10"?
Climbing is the most gender equal sport I know.
FWIW one of my first ascents was upgraded from E3 toE4 because it's harder for taller (5'10") folk
It’s not gender bias, it’s the nature of a grading system based on consensus- the further away you are from 'average‘ (historically 5’10 male), the less consistent you’re going to find grades. Whether you’re a 6ft 2 guy or a 5ft girl. not sure there’s any solution to that so might as well get on with it.
There is a solution to indoors though, set some stuff for the average guy, some stuff for the average girl. (Rather than almost everything being for the average guy).
I think the most blatant heightist thing in route setting is the recent silly trend for building in knee bar rests, which always seems pointless on a training route. I've yet to find one I can actually fit my leg in to. The omission of a no-hands rest typically seems to add a full letter grade.
Speaking as someone who's done a lot of setting it is absolutely thankless most of the time. You cannot please everyone. Its literally impossible.
In my experience generally setters aren't given a totally blank slate. Wall owners will say I'd like this many problems around this grade. They might/will even ask for a certain style. All of the above will be dictated by the footfall that wall is trying grab hold of.
Many Walls want to be "proper climbers only" some will target kids/beginners. This is reflected in the setting.
In nearly any job I can think of diversity and exclusivity will improve the industry. Setting is the same the more influences the better.
However I don't think it's the overwhelming factor that will suddenly get problems more suitable for shorter or younger climbers. That's market forces.
5-10 years ago nowhere really set on mass world cup style hop skip jump double catch problems. (I personally hate these as it's utterly useless for getting better at outdoor climbing) But since climbing has got more and more focused on what looks spectacular etc it's the trend has trickled into setting on mass.
So I'd actively encourage anyone from any background to get into it. But you'll be setting jumps between blobs for a while yet regardless of your age sex height etc. It's what the darlings of Insta want. #double catch😭
> Since it seems to be mainly those of a taller disposition responding to this and saying height doesn't matter, why not while away an evening going through all your guidebooks and counting up all the instances of such phrases as "harder for the short," "probably a grade harder for the short" etc versus those of "harder for the tall?"
While it may be true that guidebooks don't often mention it, I've seen some tall mates get into some well awkward bunched-up positions because their 6'3 frame doesn't quite fit with the holds that are available.
I quite enjoy being 5'8; as a climber it seems a pretty ideal compromise.
Is it Vauxwall that has the excuse-busting book listing professional climbers by height?
> Since it seems to be mainly those of a taller disposition responding to this and saying height doesn't matter, why not while away an evening going through all your guidebooks and counting up all the instances of such phrases as "harder for the short," "probably a grade harder for the short" etc versus those of "harder for the tall?"
When a route is harder for the short it is usually an obvious reach issue whereas when it is harder for the tall it is usually something more subtle.
Of course there is also the fact that the biomechanics of taller people make them generally less powerful for their weight.
Maybe guidebooks should have a general warning in the introduction that grades will generally be tougher for the tall and then, as they often do already, have specific warnings for routes which are harder for the small.
Everything wrong about that article is encapsulated in the following quote, "having to jump for a hold on a 6a because the setter didn't give any alternative footholds for smaller people isn't fun".
There is NO absolute grading scale. Grades are subjective. If you can't do a move on a boulder problem or route, that is what in the 70/80s we called the 'crux'. There's always a crux you can do and your mate can't, and vice versa.
IT IS THAT SIMPLE.
I've yet to go to a wall where a tricky move couldn't be supplemented with a hold of a different colour. Alternatively, make up your own problems. Drop the grades-ego and focus on fun.
> When a route is harder for the short it is usually an obvious reach issue
I know more people UNDER 6ft who can 1-5-9 on a campus board than those OVER 6ft.
I think this is because short people are lighter and so can lock-off much deeper. So not all reachy problems are easier for the tall, especially if the move is 'campussy'.
Hanging more weight on a given hold is obviously harder for the heavier. As tall people tend to be heavier then if there is a campaign to put more holds on a 6a, i want them to be made bigger - all in the name of inclusivity.
I think there’s also an average ape index . I’d imagine most professional climbers have a positive ape index.
For me at 5 ft 5” with a -4” ape index, I don’t struggle with reach as much as wide moves. Foot to hands when I’m completely spanned out are also a general weakness, but I could definitely work on my flexibility to overcome that issue!!
I’m particularly good at undercuts and mantels though!!
> As for the height thing, I don't really see why small people should be moaning more than tall people.
I think it's because being able, or not, to reach a hold can feel quite binary whereas any difference in difficulty because of tallness can blend into the overall problem. E.g. I don't really notice the advantage I might have over a tall person on steep terrain because of my short levers or the hold I can get four fingers onto instead of three. It makes it easy to fall into the trap of thinking everything's harder if you're short rather than identifying certain moves as challenging instead. **ETA** Sorry, I note you'd made this point further down the thread but I hadn't read to the end when I posted!
> Of course if more setters are male then setting may tend to favour the male average and that would generally be disadvantageous to women (maybe this is actually the problem). Of course a good setter will be able to set a range of routes favourable to all heights.
I think this is the problem. As someone a bit under 5'2" I'm quite a lot shorter than even your average short man. The further away you are from the average climber, the more likely it is that you'll have a different experience of the difficulty of a problem/route. On the other hand, I don't begrudge finding reachy moves indoors - I'm a total shortarse and that means there will always be problems I can't do, either at all or at the grade they're supposed to be. I don't think it's reasonable to expect every problem to be set with my reach in mind. It only becomes a problem when it's a common style of setting in a wall, shutting off whole circuits because of unimaginative setters who just equate harder with holds further apart.
N.B. I'm not sure if it's just me but having had quite a bit of time off climbing in the last year or so I've definitely noticed that the weaker/fatter I feel the more reachy moves I seem to find...
> I guess I don't care enough about indoor routes to worry about a solution. I just decided I was going to go rainbow to get around reaches when I'm trying to do some endurance training.
An excellent point. Ultimately indoors is about training and it really doesn't matter. In fact, sometimes I secretly award myself a 'moral tick' for having done everything on a problem apart from a really reachy last move because it's kind of irrelevant unless you're competing.
My daughter started at the age of 6 and we have never once worried about how tall she is. I shudder just being in the same building as people who walk around all session talking about their height. Parents are the worst filling their kids with insecurities instead of embracing the benefits, especially at comps.
Climb at a wall that has variety of setters and you get every benefit Of what’s available in different grades, Hold types and settings without having to cater for specifics.
This reminds me of a climb at kendal wall set by Emma twyford. I think an 8a. Great set, lovely moves but the last move on 25m climb was the bloody crux. The entire climb nailed and the last move, even when my daughter went up fresh to practise like a boulder move, no chance. Neil Gresham went up next and even he couldn’t get it. The move was huge. It happens and it’s the fun of the climb.
> The move was huge. It happens and it’s the fun of the climb.
Yes, when it happens on some climbs. When you get a huge move on every route or problem it quickly becomes tiresome. Unfortunately that's what it's like for shortarses at some walls with unimaginative routesetters.
You must climb at a rubbish wall then. We have been going all over the country since she was 6 (Much smaller than 5’2”) and never have we once encountered a situation where every route or problem has a huge move. Always plenty of variety in grades, hold types and skill set required.
I don't think this article is healthy for climbing, climbers or UKC. If it was a thread (and maybe a little shorter), I would assume it was a troll.
- "Being short is not an excuse, but here I am complaining that being short is the reason some moves are difficult" is just nonsense.
- Finding routes that don't suit your style and trying them anyway might be demotivating because it makes you feel crap. That's your ego talking. If your aim is to progress (and the author has referenced that as the aim in the article) and become a more rounded and able climber then climbing routes that tax your technique, strength, flexibility and endurance are all needed. If you avoid every climb that feels awkward or hard for you, you are only stunting your own progress. If your goal is to go to the wall for some exercise and progression isn't a priority, by all means climb routes by the setter you like (which btw is very much an individual thing, different people prefer routes by different setters, depending on their style, a broad brush "men set reachy/too technical easy routes" is just sexist nonsense).
- I remember a route setter who was frequently accused of setting reachy routes despite being about 5'4". "the next hold is too far away" is a crutch that holds people back and this article just enables that.
- Obviously the writer's experience will be unique but to compare my experience of climbing in the time she was young; people already came from all different walks of life. One of the few things I can wholeheartedly agree with is the suggestion that a better balance of genders among route setters would be a good thing.
- Stopped progress is the plateau effect that every climber has to deal with at some stage if they want to continue to progress, it can happen for a variety of reasons and it is really hard to escape from. I would strongly recommend that the author read around this feature as it sounds like (within the limits of what I can ascertain from the article) that she has externalised the cause of her plateau to reachy routes. Dave Mac has some really excellent advice in his book 9 out of 10 climbers make the same mistakes.
- A smear is a technique that involves using a foot where no hold is available, this might be a technique that could help the author to avoid some of the jumps she refers to.
- A good route/problem tester should be able to give feedback about whether moves are too long without needing themselves to be very small, it appears the author is unaware of this.
- Someone once told me that nothing anyone ever says before the word "but" really counts. Congratulations on writing an article with 25 buts, most of which seem to have been employed with the aim not of diversifying the range of climbs available but of pressuring route setters to set all their climbs in the style the author is most fond of.
- Bad route setters do exist. So do bad teachers, bad lawyers, bad accountants.... The solution is professional progress with route-setting abilities as the author suggests, having a wider range of setters also helps. The lens the author has brought to this article however is so very narrow, focussing on a single feature of route setting about which she has a particular bugbear and as such I find it to be wanting.
My god there are a lot of insecure whiny (probably tall) men on here.
You can quibble about how big an issue reach is, but the fact that it is an issue isn't up for debate. I have climbed harder problems and routes outside for many years now. There are simply more options outside for feet, it isn't rocket science. As numerous people have said above, outside normally has multiple rubbish foot options as opposed to one big lump and a smooth wall of ply that you get inside. This is not a difficult point to grasp.
The power point is also relevant. I think it is abundantly obvious that indoor bouldering setting is hugely skewed towards men who have significantly stronger shoulders and 'pull up strength.' More female setters would be great to address the current imbalance, because many indoor problems become hugely dependent on that kind of shoulder strength once they leave the slabs. This is especially the case where walls have opted for more of a comp style of setting; eg dynos, running starts, campus moves. Again, it isn't up for debate.
Great topic, I wont add to the debate about height - but I will say that routesetters that set specific colours right next to each other (eg. blue and purple are the worst) are also giving the finger to the many semi-colour challenged (blind) climbers myself included.
When you can't tell what colour the hold is half way up the wall its really frustrating! This is generally not too much of a problem when the route is fresh, but when its been up for 6 weeks it definitely becomes a problem. Again its a thankless task from the routesetter but it makes a huge difference. My local wall is generally pretty good with it now but I recall it being quite an issue at older bouldering walls, the ones with the tape on each hold are the worst !
My god there are a lot of insecure whiny (probably tall) men on here
How predictable. Would you feel the same if a man said something similar about women to your comment. It would come across pretty sexist. There have been contributions from shorter men both in support and against without the need. From my perspective I don’t even climb and my points were made 100% in relation to much shorter young female Climber than you are.
Ive read the point repeatedly on here, a good wall with variety of setters and interesting walls has no need to be setting for any specific type of climber.
It might be more useful to target finger strength for exercise but that's because it's a very specific strength that can only be improved through very specific training. Your core is exercised all the time and I'm not sure you'd get very far without it.
Also I'm not convinced that being shorter puts more strain on your fingers.
> Great topic, I wont add to the debate about height - but I will say that routesetters that set specific colours right next to each other (eg. blue and purple are the worst) are also giving the finger to the many semi-colour challenged (blind) climbers myself included.
> When you can't tell what colour the hold is half way up the wall its really frustrating!
I climb with a "colour-challenged" mate and he has to expend a good deal more energy than most to get up a route, since most moves require a preliminary hover of foot or hand over hold while asking, "Is that mine?"
Have a look at my post a above. Genuinely the style of setting isn't/usually down to the setter. The wall will set what the market wants.
Blaming a setter for a style of route in some cases is like blaming the decorator for the colour of your walls. They didn't pick it they just put it on. The size,shape and sex of a setter isn't the driver.
I think the point the article was trying to make was that yes you should accept your weaknesses and that when things are harder for you it's an opportunity to grow, but this should be an equal learning curve for everyone. Taller climbers (5'6 and up say) don't have to learn this nearly as quickly as shorter ones do, especially when throwing out the ego also generally happens later too.
It's an important lesson in order to become a good climber, but it's not necessarily the first lesson a climber should have to learn.
(I'm not talking just reachy, I'm talking jumping to crimps, roof problems with feet miles apart, needing to smear on glassy walls- things where the beta required is impossible/many grades above)
> My god there are a lot of insecure whiny (probably tall) men on here.
I'm am a tall man. I don't whine about being tall; I just get on with it and live with the disadvantages and advantages it brings.
What I do whine about are the pathetic whinging dwarfs*, most often inadequate little men wth a chip on their shoulder, who will tell me, sometimes openly to my face, how easy ALL climbing must be for me because I'm tall. I've had it regularly for nearly 40 years. It's tedious utter bollocks and they can piss right off and shut up or just get on with accepting their height like I do.
*There are, of course plenty of exceptions and it's good to see some of them on this thread.
I tend to agree with the author: even as a taller guy, I get sick of realising I can skip holds and just lank a problem into submission, or else realising that it's pointless working the problem with shorter friends because the sequence is so reachy.
But there are two limits to good and inclusive routesetting beyond ingrained gender inequality: routesetter ability and the nature of climbing holds bolted onto plywood. No offence intended, but many setters just aren't good enough to think up ways of increasing the difficulty beyond spacing out the holds, and not the smallest factor here is that in general holds indoors are far too big. Most problems outside involve spending a good deal of time actually looking for the holds, yet indoors half the holds are four-finger jugs and setting is predictable with holds obviously sequenced: LH, RH, LH, RH, LH, RH. Besides this, I imagine the experience of women is a lot better in bigger, popular centres - rather than backwaters, where the regular male clientele, shirtless and camped out under the overhang, set problems for each other.
In short, I think routesetters complaining about how impossible it is to "please everyone" should be encouraged to up their game - even if there's a kernel of truth in this complaint. But given the awful situation we're in, with walls closed and routesetters and instructors furloughed, perhaps right now is not a great time for this to happen. I don't see walls being likely to splash out on new holds or paid hours spent experimenting with routesetting.
> Tom & Ollie from lattice said their data shows short climbers need to be stronger in every aspect except core strength in order to climb the same grade as a taller climber.
> So, given that the best climbers are not generally the tall ones, it either means they are wrong or else the overriding factor in climbing is small peoples' core advantage.
I always though that this was strangely worded by Lattice. You could easily write this as 'short climbers are stronger' i.e. for biomechanical reasons shorter people generally have strength to weight advantages over tall people. This is one of the reasons why gymnasts (for example) are generally short.
Never understood why anyone believes being tall is an advantage for climbing beyond a very beginner level or on a few specific problems. Just looking at the distribution of heights for top level climbers shows a fairly low correlation of height to ability probably centered around average or slightly below, with noticeably few climbers above 6 foot.
Not that I think this removes the challenges around indoor setting and height, particularly for the very short/children.
What Thomas has said + sometimes as a setter you are limited by the holds, the features etc...
Another reality is how many routes you are expected to set in a day as a commercial setter. Often you just don’t have the time to make big adjustments to routes and getting it right first time takes skills and lots of practice.
At the end of the day you can’t please everyone. I sometimes get totally different feedback on a route from two identically sized people, because they are individuals and therefore have different preferences.
I've never considered myself a taller climber before (!) but when I'm about to complain about not making a reach I try to remember all the brilliant shorties I've climbed with. I never heard Ed February complain, or Jon Read. Most of all, my other half was always a better climber than me and she's 5'2.
I won't complain about ridiculous reaches on walls, if no-one complains if I use the bolt hole as a mono.
It's totally an ego thing. Apart from on comp walls with spaced macro holds, there's rarely a situation where vertical progress is impossible. Yes you might have to use another colour hold but most climbing walls in this day and age are plastered. Shorter people only have a problem with it because they believe they should be able to climb a certain grade or colour and come across something they can't. You see a lot of shorter people just happy to get on with it and some who moan constantly. Its the same as me saying jumpy problems are dumb and not 'proper' climbing because I can't dyno or saying anything that is my anti-style is a sandbag. My fragile ego has trouble accepting that maybe I can't climb everything of a grade that I think I should be able to.
I can tell you why a lot of tall people are reacting so negatively to a thread about inclusiveness too - it pisses me right off when shorter climbers belittle my achievements on account of my reach. I'm not a bean pole by any means (~6ft) but if I can reach a hold then it's 'easy' for me. There's a good chance that the grade consensus has been reached by people not dissimilar to my height. Dear shorties, the climb is hard for you, not easy for me.
It's also how things work outside. I heard there are a couple of routes Bransby can't do at stanage because of the span. Problems well within his grade. I had a very grumpy E1 climbing partner baffled by Powder Monkey Parade at Severe.
To paraphrase a certain stumpy climber, 'there are no reachy routes, only weakness'
I agree with all the points you make, the points you make about gender bias mirror a lot of the conversations I've had with climbing friends (both male and female) over the past few years with regards to the need for more inclusive wall setting. Some walls seem to excel at setting excellent routes for shorter climbers which work for all height/strength climbers without detracting from anyone's enjoyment, whereas other walls still have a way to go.
while I’m not close to an average size (174cm male), some of the problems are too reachy, mainly the fridge huggin’ ones.
But when I was still coaching kids (6 to 8 and 12 to 16), it certainly was a tad problematic at times. Even with good communication (somewhat at least) with the routesetters.
it often simply boiled down to the fact that setting a shortie route simply took a lot more time. It is however doable and even making routes that are equally hard for the short or lanky. I know this as we did (the coaches) a bunch of routes specially for the kids and looked at the Feedback from adults later on.
> I tend to agree with the author: even as a taller guy, I get sick of realising I can skip holds and just lank a problem into submission, or else realising that it's pointless working the problem with shorter friends because the sequence is so reachy.
Yes, such routes are just boring for tall climbers and presumably infuriating for short climbers. It is simply rubbish setting.
I guess the distinction is that a shorter climber is stronger than a taller climber for the same grade. So even if that strength came naturally as a part of being short, it isn't acting as an advantage, it's just getting them to the same place as the taller. Small climbers also have to make more moves than taller climbers to cover the same 30m of rock.
Thing is this is only to a point anyway, and beyond a certain height the advantage will drop off dramatically. I imagine things are just as hard for those beyond 6ft as for those nearer 5ft.
Of course there's tonnes of variables, they also said women need less finger strength vs body weight for the same grade as men, which I thought was really interesting. (there goes me thinking I had strong fingers) The podcast is here if anyone is interested: https://www.trainingbeta.com/media/tom-ollie/
Not disagreeing with your points, but there is a distinction to be made between being a tall man and a tall climber. 6ft isn't beanpole in general, but in a conversation where the height range is ~5ft to ~6ft2 it is top end.
(Still not saying things are easy for you, only from a setting point of view I dont know how often people realise there can be a foot difference between many climbers, not just a few inches)
> setting excellent routes for shorter climbers which work for all height/strength climbers without detracting from anyone's enjoyment
Why only set for height/strength? What about weight?
Being tall is no panacea. Take 100 jockeys and 100 basketball players and put them on a climbing wall and I'd bet a pound to a penny that the jockeys would be climbing harder grades within a year. Once the holds get small, people over ~80kg really start to find it hard.
Edit: we should define 'tall' as there must be diminishing returns once over 6ft 3". Has any one over 6ft 3" climbed 9a? Do the Dutch crush?
To be honest as a relatively tall woman I can't comment on this specific issue. But my "complain" with route setting in general is that it tends to be a bit repetitive in the same gym. The route setters at my local gym seem to like high steps and big "squeeze the refrigerator" moves. I find it very refreshing whenever they have a guest route setter or when I go to a different gym.
Route setting must be so difficult. Before watching the "In isolation" episodes with the route setters and listening to interviews during IFSC events I hadn't appreciated this fine art.
I think the tallest elite male (in terms of indoor climbing) is Ondra at 6'2 but if you see him next to other people you'll see that it's mostly his neck taking him above 6ft. Most elite level male climbers are around 5'7, 5'8 and women slightly shorter at 5'4, 5'5.
These heights could obviously be skewed by the numbers of people close to average height, i.e. it might not be as big of a disadvantage to be taller or shorter, just that by there being less people who are, the chances of all the boxes being ticked to reach elite ability are slimmer.
> You can't set for weight (although other sports account for weight), and you can't set for height ON AN ABSOLUTE GRADING SCALE.
The grading scale may be absolute, but distance between holds is not the only variable, so of course you can set for height. This is just nonsense that relies on capitals to make it sound convincing. As for setting for weight, no one is asking for this.
> The grading scale may be absolute, but distance between holds is not the only variable, so of course you can set for height. This is just nonsense that relies on capitals to make it sound convincing. As for setting for weight, no one is asking for this.
The grading system is NOT absolute - that's the point.
You misunderstood my point about weight. If the OP makes claims a 6a is difficult due to height, why shouldn't others put move difficulty down to weight? It is all relative as we are all built differently. Grades are approximate.
Regarding distance between holds, no one over 6ft 5" can 1-5-9. Those that can are all short (under 6ft 2").
> My god there are a lot of insecure whiny (probably tall) men on here
> How predictable. Would you feel the same if a man said something similar about women to your comment. It would come across pretty sexist. There have been contributions from shorter men both in support and against without the need. From my perspective I don’t even climb and my points were made 100% in relation to much shorter young female Climber than you are.
> Ive read the point repeatedly on here, a good wall with variety of setters and interesting walls has no need to be setting for any specific type of climber.
How, after this year of all years, people don't grasp that the argument 'you wouldnt say that about women/black people/gay people, therefore your comment is sexist/racist/homophobic' is total, unmitigated, ignorant bollocks that show a profound lack of understanding around power imbalances and dynamics. See also 'all lives matter,' 'why are black people allowed to say the n word in songs,' 'gay people use slang terms about straight people', whatever. Its shite, and amounts to telling on yourself.
Back on topic, as I said, you can debate about how much of an issue it is, I agree. Your daughter and various short men (myself included) can disagree about the extent to which it affects indoor climbing. However, it affects indoor climbing - that isn't up for discussion. I also agree that a good wall will include a variety of setters - perhaps this might include women a bit more than it currently does, which is what the article is saying.
There are some great comments on here and a few I strongly disagree with, so I’d like to chip in. I have no illusions of being able to change anyone’s mind but I’ll try anyway
I’m 5ft 7”, so shorter than average but there are plenty of people shorter than me. I have 6 indoor walls with 20 minutes of where I live, so I’m lucky and get to compare setting on a regular basis.
I often run into trouble where I can’t get to the next hold on a problem - I simply can’t reach up or span across. Now that’s fine if I can jump instead, or use more momentum somehow, or if it’s the just odd climb I can’t do.
But sometimes there are new sets and I can’t reach loads of them. I can get spanked by full sets of climbs that are many V grades below my limit.
I moan about this far too much (my friends would back this up!). It often doesn’t matter how strong, how flexible I am, how bold, how much I look for other beta, or how much I train - some climbs are literally impossible. I’ve seen V10 climber unable to climb V2’s because of their height.
This often means that there is no point in me going back to that wall until there’s a reset, or another set, in my desired range, goes up. So I moan about it and go to another wall next time.
My point is that the combination of being short on widely spaced holds can make some climbs IMPOSSIBLE, not just hard.
If you are tall, a climb might be harder but very rarely impossible.
Outdoors I have the options of finding smaller feet, that put me in range of the next hold, but this is usually not an option indoors.
I appreciate setting is a difficult and thankless task but I’d like to see small button style footholds added to make the climbs more accessible.
I’d also like to some of those who talk about ‘whinging dwarf syndrome’ to understand that there is a difference between ‘more difficult’ and ‘impossible’. I fine with ‘more difficult’.
> It’s not inclusive if I can’t hold some minging crimp on a v9.
Joking aside, there’s definitely an argument for putting small screw-on footholds on low grade slabs/ vertical climbs to make them more accessible to a range of heights. It would be a quick win for most low grade routes. Having to smear/ lockoff/ or jump on a low grade route, when your mates don’t have to, must be quiet frustrating.
The way the article is worded (and the focus on inclusivity) makes it a tad troll-like, because most posters here (I.e. regular climbers) will operate in grades where the advantages that come from being shorter (being lighter) will more than offset the height disadvantage (if I weighed as much as the author I certainly wouldn’t have a problem on minging v9 crimps).
> I actually get the impression that at Ratho, because routes are regularly set for kids competitions and, I think I am right in thinking, specifically for kids training goups, the overall spread might in fact favour small people.
Ratho and Eden are particularly good at handling the height issue because the staff are used to coaching competition climbing kids. They often put in a couple of small/nasty holds near the big reach which make it possible for the kids if they have the technique / strength to use the sh*tty holds. If you don't have the skills then you have to do the reach.
In the old days Alien 1 used to be pretty bad for setting moves where small kids had no chance, just a blank bit of wall and no option but to do the big move.
As a bit of an aside to this thread, I have often seen people quote the lattice data in this way. But saying that shorter people who climb a given grade are stronger is surely just demonstrating correlation not causation? E.g. Maybe shorter people are just naturally stronger rather than they have to train strength more than taller people to achieve a given grade which is how I have seen people interpreting this.
It would be interesting to take a random sample of the public of different heights and measure their finger and pull strength etc.
> The way the article is worded (and the focus on inclusivity) makes it a tad troll-like, because most posters here (I.e. regular climbers) will operate in grades where the advantages that come from being shorter (being lighter) will more than offset the height disadvantage (if I weighed as much as the author I certainly wouldn’t have a problem on minging v9 crimps).
That article linked above tells me that my max weighted chin-up involves additional weights heavier than all but one of the World's Top 10 climbers. Furthermore i could do multiple sets of pull-ups with Jim Pope hanging off me.
Have any walls considered having another colour specifically just for additions where a reachy move might shut a shorter person down completely? I'm not talking about setting shorter reach circuits in a different colour, I'm talking about adding a different specific colour to existing colour circuits if there is found to be a stopper move in it for shorties. To me this seems like the best solution, as it means other wall users are under no illusions that they can use those holds and it also makes things a hell of a lot easier for setters.
If setters are currently trying to be inclusive and a short tester/forerunner finds a stopper move, they have to re-evaluate the whole problem. Once they've done that, they may find that the edition or moving of holds has either ruined the problem or made it cheatable for taller people.
It makes sense to me that adding a different colour hold (one that isn't used elsewhere in the centre) would improve things. Taller people are under no illusions that those holds are for them and if shorter people find that they can't make a move for reach reasons then they can use this extra 'cheat' hold to complete the problem at the appropriate grade. That way the problem stays within the grade parameters for everyone, rather than ruining it for either taller or shorter climbers.
But there’s a distinction (which the article doesn’t make) between mid-level climbs where power to weight ratio starts to come into play and very low level routes/ problems where it’s more about just stepping up and grabbing the next hold.
On easier step up and grab the next hold climbs, where you’re power to weight ratio is never really coming into play, reach is important and setters should factor this in.
On your typical v3-5 on a 20 degree overhang reach is much less important and power to weight starts to take over.
And let’s not forget technique... in the photo where the author is struggling to reach the hold she just needs to swap feet and flag and then reach wouldn’t be an issue...
So there must be a reason why, despite their strength/endurance being 'significantly' greater across the board, the shorter climber is only climbing the same grade as the taller climber. Is it because a climb of the same grade is harder for a shorter climber? Is it because the taller people have better technique?
(Note, I don't think the 'is climbing harder for short people' is truly worth having because it doesn't bring the holds any closer (i wish it would) and I can see with my eyes just how much my tall mates suck or crush, I just think the lattice stuff is very interesting, especially when you throw women's weaker fingers into the mix)
I think part of the problem is that men think that their friend setters that are 5ft6 with a huge ape index and 5ft9 reach are “short” and therefore should satisfy all the shorter climbers (mostly women with smaller ape indexes). The truth is that when your “short friend” with a 5ft9 reach sets a reachy move, I (5ft1 reach) end up often having to dyno for crimps. And I’m not even considered a short woman - being the national average 5ft4.
I understand that there are some disadvantages to being really tall as well, especially the weight. However, those guys at least don’t have to dyno for crimps which is likely to cause injury.
I also find the argument “But my short girlfriend who climbs 8b’s had no problem with this reachy move in your 7a...” ridiculous.
As the author said, I also rarely have this problem outdoors, no tall men seem to mind if I use some higher microscopic foothold to do the same move as they did. Why can’t we just listen to people’s comments about newly set routes? And if there’s a move that is completely impossible in that grade for short people, just add a tiny foothold?
> My point is that the combination of being short on widely spaced holds can make some climbs IMPOSSIBLE, not just hard.
> If you are tall, a climb might be harder but very rarely impossible.
> I’d also like to some of those who talk about ‘whinging dwarf syndrome’ to understand that there is a difference between ‘more difficult’ and ‘impossible’. I fine with ‘more difficult’.
Is this not basically what I and others have said: When it is more difficult for short people, it is usually obviously so, whereas when it is more difficult for tall people it is in more subtle and varied ways. "Whinging dwarfs" often fail to realise this; harder for tall people can mean much harder, perhaps all but impossible (certainly at a reasonable grade) and certainly as hard as an "impossible" dwarfish jump.
Out of curiosity I once asked the local wall to do a benchmark 6A. Using the same holds from the same starting hold. But having different hand holds (and feet) for 160, 170, and 180cm person. Perhaps even adding 150 and 190 ”holds”. It would be quite informative, to setters but also other climbers.
That being said, as a mainly outdoors climber I have stopped looking at the grades. I look at the holds and moves. But as was pointed out in the comments, this kind of approach is not really all that nice for n00bs.
I was going to post a graph of global height distribution, but I got an error, however because it had standard deviations we could say that over 95% of population are between 4'11" and 6"4" for both sexes. Which is a large height range to expect a one size fits all approach. If we just want to include the 65% of the population then the span is between 5'2" and 6'1", even then it may be tricky.
That said I fully support the need for a variety of route setters, both male and female. As for me every individual brings something different to a set. So the wider variety of not only male/female, but also setter who specialise/prefer tech,power, slab, steep, etc..., then the better variety of climbs we will get inside. A BMC figure from 2015 suggested female participation at 25%, i would guess that setting currently reflects that at the more progressive walls, but we can definitely do better.
My question is how to you attract people to a career that you to really have at least another part-time job to actually pay the bills?
I don't think you need to attract people to route-setting. I'm pretty sure if you speak to anyone who works at a climbing wall (excluding part-time students perhaps), their end goal will be freelance routesetter.
Before i bow out i want to thank Alisa for a thought provoking article. I might not necessarily agree with it but it's good to see a hive of activity and discussion on a climbing related thread!
I absolutely agree that we need a diverse range of problems/climbs and the best way of ensuring that is by getting a range of people involved in setting them - by height, weight etc... If gender is a proxy for that then it's fine be me.
> So, to summarise, are you saying that this article is basically just another typically tedious example of whinging dwarf syndrome?
Yes. But I wanted to be as explanative as possible and fully elucidate my points of contention as I felt the article warranted it and I was hoping it would make anyone reading my reply actually consider the arguments.
If I had just written 2 lines, I feel there would be a tendency to dismiss my reply with a predictable "you are not a short person, you don't know". (and ofc anyone who knows me will know that I am very not short).
> I think the point the article was trying to make was that yes you should accept your weaknesses and that when things are harder for you it's an opportunity to grow, but this should be an equal learning curve for everyone. Taller climbers (5'6 and up say) don't have to learn this nearly as quickly as shorter ones do, especially when throwing out the ego also generally happens later too.
I am very dubious about this claim that average to tall climbers "don't have to learn this nearly as quickly as shorter ones do". The author alleges that basically everywhere she goes across many climbing centres (and by extension many, many route setters), reachy routes are a big problem; in my experience the tendency to complain about routes being reachy is about an order of magnitude higher than the number of actually reachy routes. I'll qualify that by saying that it has been a few years since I did a lot of indoor climbing but if genuinely true for the author, it means multiple climbing centres have lots and lots of crap route setters and route setting standards have overall massively declined recently despite route setting becoming a proper vocation in the last decade with proper training and qualifications rather than just another thing centre staff do with a minimum training on site by other setters who started in a similar way, like it used to be a decade ago.
It would be very interesting to find out whether progression is better aided by having to throw out your ego earlier rather than later or vice versa; my suspicion would be that having to throw out the ego earlier would make it easier to do psychologically and therefore aid a climbers steady progress better.
To illustrate with a topical issue: When trump says the election was stolen because millions of dead people voted and votes were fraudulent etc. etc. The reality is that there is a grain of truth at the centre. Tiny numbers of fake votes were made BUT not enough to make any difference and very probably just as many for one party as for another.
Reachy routes exist but not in the numbers to make it a barrier to progress for newer short climbers and there are very likely just as many bunched-up moves that make it harder for tall climbers.
If the author is having the exact same problem
> It's an important lesson in order to become a good climber, but it's not necessarily the first lesson a climber should have to learn.
I agree with this. I think the first lesson someone should have to learn is probably what happens when they screw up the belaying.
> (I'm not talking just reachy, I'm talking jumping to crimps, roof problems with feet miles apart, needing to smear on glassy walls- things where the beta required is impossible/many grades above)
On a wall, clearly some routes have a potential height limit. If that happens a lot on a wall, complain to the management or find another wall. But its also possible to set routes difficult for tall climbers - try a two hold move just above the lip of a roof.
But on real rock its very rare for it to be an issue, real rock has detail features not on artificial walls - they are primarily for training for many climbers.
I am 5'8". Does that mean E2/E3 Brown and/or Whillans routes are really E1 or HVS for me? Or what about Redhead or Fawcett routes? Should they be upgraded for people of average height?
I am blessed with small hands. I can get them in finger cracks where people with bigger hands can't.
I am cursed with small hands. Hand jam cracks for people with large hands are desperate off widths for me.
And so on.
If the wall has consistent poor setting complain constructively and help get some more suitable routes set. Otherwise miss out the odd route that needs you to be tall, or find another way of doing it. Didn't think it needed a whole article and some borderline gender nonsense creeping in to simply ask the management or setters at a wall to address a minor problem.
I would add that we are all free to set our own problems. Its easy to get comfortable on a set route at a certain grade and think "that's it". Try taking a route you can do and omitting a hold, or swapping with an alternate hold. You don't have to stick to setters problems, especially on walls with lots of holds. I mean, how many alternate holds are on that wall with the author pic? You can always create your own problems, especially with a bunch of like minded mates.
I think this has been covered above, but many walls aren't really run by climbers or use experienced setters. The walls are effectively activity centres and what appeals in this environment are larger juggy holds. When someone wants a harder route, all they can really do is space the holds further.
The wall I used pre Covid was like this. Even at average height (178) I found it reachy, but plenty of talented kids seemed to manage.
> You must climb at a rubbish wall then. We have been going all over the country since she was 6 (Much smaller than 5’2”) and never have we once encountered a situation where every route or problem has a huge move. Always plenty of variety in grades, hold types and skill set required.
Until you realise that being a freelance route setter is extremely difficult if you aren't a hot shot climbing wad. It takes years of setting experience to get a regular full week of setting work if you're not a sponsored hero. And that's just a week! you're lucky if you can fill the rest of the month. Oh and you have to drive all over the country, Remember how tight climbers are? you're not getting any fuel money. And I'll tell you there isn't much left after you've driven from home to Kendal and then down to Milton Keynes and back. Then gym owners want to keep the cost down so just get in house setters to do the job. There are about 400 walls in the country now. say each one sets once a week as a norm. 3 setters usually. 1200 jobs across the entire country isn't a lot of work for every man and his dog to start doing
It's about the culture in the climbing hall. Either they care about broadening their target group in terms of body sizes, or they don't. Setting for the average person is harder than setting for your setting team and their friends! I was the head setter in a German gym until Corona hit and had a strong female setter in my team who was pretty small. If she couldn't find a way up the route (in her difficulty range) then it had to be reset. This rule didn't apply to every route, maybe 90 % and she was good at judging routes that she couldn't climb. In time we got better at judging how to set for tall and small climbers, with intermediates for example. Some specific moves are extremely hard if not impossible for all body shapes so we might set these moves in different routes in either long or short versions. And yeah it's frustrating to see someone stretch past your sequence but that's their loss to be honest. And if only the tallest can skip a sequence then it means most can't do the route pleases a greater audience.
Sure the taller climbers sometimes complained but our concept was that of inclusivity. A taller climber doesn't have to stretch and skip holds, they can learn a lot by treating each route as a puzzle to figure out how to climb it well, with style.
> Sure the taller climbers sometimes complained but our concept was that of inclusivity. A taller climber doesn't have to stretch and skip holds, they can learn a lot by treating each route as a puzzle to figure out how to climb it well, with style.
As a taller climber, I really dislike routes where I can reach past the difficulty - apart, obviously, from getting abuse from dwarfs, it means there is effectively one less route at my grade to work unless I climb the route in a contrived way. I think it is just unsatisfactory poor setting.
The very best setting will make a route possible for all climbers at a similar level of difficult and interest. I have learnt that it is often counterproductive for me to get beta for an indoor route by watching other climbers - I have sometimes blown flash attempts by being blinkered into attempting the standard sequence set for those of average height. I came close to giving up on two of my last projects at Ratho before covid because I simply couldn't do the final and crux move at the end of 25m of climbing. Eventually I played around on a top rope and came up with different and more complex sequences to set myself up differently to make the moves possible and the send was on. I don't know whether the routes were, in the end, easier or harder for me, but they were certainly very satisfying and, I think, typical Ratho masterpieces of setting.
There's an excellent setter at Redpoint who makes a point of including a tiny intermediate screw-on to allow a short person variation of stretchy crux sequences on particular routes. This is certainly noticed and appreciated by those much more vertically challenged than me, the vast majority of whom are female. I wonder how many setters even think about this. It's the physical work of a minute or two, providing it's been part of the planning. Since I'm a strictly amateur (and shit) setter, I just do routes designed for my particular body type and idiosyncratic weaknesses - but I don't see why such an approach couldn't become part of the mindset for all skilled professionals, whether wall-based or full-time itinerants.
> Yes, but motivation is crucial in training and quality route setting can have a big part to play in that.
Fair enough. That's a good point. I guess different people have different motivators. For me it was always that wall time was about improving my capacity to have deeper experiences elsewhere / get freakishly strong (this never happened. I just got freakishly injured) / make friends / pose and drink coffee. Doesn't mean I didn't enjoy being at the wall!
I suppose it's the same now with my hours of pounding up and down the canal towpath or cycling up and down hills. Sure, I enjoy my training runs but the real stuff - running in proper hills - is the crux of it. It's the real thing.
That said, other people have different motivations. I suppose, for me, the wall was a means to an end and it's different for others
Stay safe all, train hard, don't drink and drive, don't kill each other.
Wall owner and route-setter here, we’re lucky enough to have a fantastic in-house female route-setter so we have a female on every set who is shorter than the stated average, and one of our regular freelance setters is female so we frequently have all female sets. You would probably be surprised to hear that these sets are easily the burliest sets we have and we get roughly (I don’t keep an exact tally) the same amount of complaints from short people even though they have been tested exclusively by short people. Whilst there definitely can be sets and whole climbing walls that set ‘too morpho’ and it is a problem. The view that females climb radically differently from men with less power and more flexibility is reductive and frequently inaccurate. The answer is to get the best setters, male and female as they will be acutely aware of the problem and will rarely set a morpho problem by accident.
> Wall owner and route-setter here, we’re lucky enough to have a fantastic in-house female route-setter so we have a female on every set who is shorter than the stated average, and one of our regular freelance setters is female so we frequently have all female sets. You would probably be surprised to hear that these sets are easily the burliest sets we have and we get roughly (I don’t keep an exact tally) the same amount of complaints from short people even though they have been tested exclusively by short people. Whilst there definitely can be sets and whole climbing walls that set ‘too morpho’ and it is a problem. The view that females climb radically differently from men with less power and more flexibility is reductive and frequently inaccurate. The answer is to get the best setters, male and female as they will be acutely aware of the problem and will rarely set a morpho problem by accident.
Colourblindness is a definite disadvantage at climbing walls. Thankfully the number of people with complete lack of colour vision is small. However there is a large proportion of mainly men with limited colour vision and ideally route setters should be mindful of mixing similar colours (i.e. colours that are commonly confused by the colourblind) in the same area. This is a regular issue for me when climbing indoors and could easily be avoided with a bit of guidance. It is a particular issue when a hold accumulates a lot of chalk and so the colour is less prominent.
Don't agree with the tone and the rest of this comment though. How about being a bit more constructive?
> What about colour blind people? Usually men who therefore don't count within any aspect of enhanced provision.
> Also what about those with big fingers? Again usually men and generally of a larger/ taller nature.
> The list goes on. What a pointless article.
I find it interesting how I don't respond to the article in a way which has me feeling like 'men don't count', and you seem to. I think though the issue of height is 'generally' something which effects females and children/teenagers more than men and the traditionally male route setters, having route setting geared towards difficultly in a way that doesn't make reach the key component of difficulty, would benefit everybody because of routes being technically difficult in ways which rely more on things like flexibility, strength, technique and balance, which would be of benefit both due to being more interesting, and encouraging people to develop as climbers (being more flexible is helpful in life generally too).
Take a route setters that just sets to their strengths or gets carried away in the circuit so instead of a circuit being v3-v5 (for instance) they get bored/excited and half the problems are way harder than stated or are just a load of problems the setter has set basically for themselves. That would be poor setting.
Non inclusive route setting would be a 6ft climber and all their problems suit somebody of the same body type instead. If you get my meanings.
In reply to Euan McKendrick: I can remember when the Edge first opened, talking to a better climber than me who compared them by saying that the climbing in The Foundry was more intricate and challenged one to develop as a climber more than the Edge, with the Edge being more about 'reach and lock off' as he put it. Graham Alderson's routes were always great at The Foundry.
Good example of a team of setters is eden rock. You have at least 2 female setters, one on the shorter side and the other quite tall. One a boulderer and one a roped climber. Then on the Male side you have short, average, tall (really tall). All with different skills, styles and abilities. They often test each other’s problems to ensure they are within the possibility of most climbers with the ability required.
Then you have their grading system which covers pretty much everything from beginner to bloody hard.
I have chatted to them about their setting and questioned them when my daughter is locked down on a climb. They use the vast array of setters to ensure they can meet all their customers needs. 99% of the time it is a misreading, strength or technique issue. Hardly ever do we walk away from a climb saying it’s just too big. That’s for a girl who is 5’3” and was probably more like 5’ 12mths ago.
I have lost count of the times I have seen guys & girls struggle on something and ask my daughter to show them how to reach something. Its always a twist of a hip, a foot placement or having the core strength to be closer to the wall.
Those people don’t need the wall to be reset, they need to pay for instruction. There are plenty of climbs at their grade level to practice techniques to improve and enjoy in pretty much every hold and climb style you could wish for.
Edit for my previous post; I'd agree that there's aspects of society where men do fare worse than women (and the opposite, too), but I wouldn't project that issue onto route setting being made more inclusive for people of different heights (which generally applies to females more than it does to men, but not exclusively).
I think, as it were, one needs to untangle the different elements...
> the climbing in The Foundry was more intricate and challenged one to develop as a climber more than the Edge
Different eras, and a complete tangent, but I did a route at The Foundry once that had me bridging up a chimney, facing outwards. I've only been on a couple of rainy days, but thought that their route-setting was class.
IMO route setting is generally good, but most walls have they high grade routes on overhanging walls. Being fat, I am badly discriminated against! I want more delicate balancing on off vertical slabs, but those walls are always reserved for children's routes! Same as with the lack of cracks and horrible off widths (even though one of the walls I go to has some routes where I could show the wall supervisor how to invert and shuffle upwards feet first!).
More seriously, climb what is in front of you!
My real issue is with vertical walls. Why do so many walls mix tricky, balancy stuff where there is a good chance of slipping with juggy beginner's routes that provide big, protruding holds placed precisely so that you can smash your kneecaps if you slip of the balancy stuff?
It's all subjective, at 5'5" with +2" Ape, I feel I can comment on this thread and hopefully put it to bed.
If a route is to hard to climb because of my height it means just one thing........I'm not good enough for that route yet. A taller climber maybe be able to finish the route who you consider has inferior ability to yourself and this stings sometimes, but if we go down the route of adding extra foot holds then it won't make us better climbers, and further more, should we then adjust bunched up moves on routes to suit the tall climbers ??.........NO !!! because for the same reasons I have mentioned they need to improve thier climbing to accomadate what is easier for the shorter at the gym/crag.
The truth for tall and short climbers is simple..........if you can't make a move you're not good enough for that particular route yet, with indoors this has the pain of never finishing the route if the settings are changed regulary but also the blessing that for the same reasons you'll forget about it until the next route is not set for my height !!! but hopefully a grade up as you will of been trying to overcome the weak spots in you climbing.
Boom !!! sorted whats next ??? I'm here all week ...F~@King lockdown !!!
Why do I feel like this article is using a technical problem as an opportunity to virtue signal? Bad route setting isn't a social justice issue, it's just bad route setting, and is solved by increasing your skills and experience route setting, not by getting more woke. Pretty sure the reason competition routes don't suffer from this problem is because the setters are properly trained in setting routes that are consistent at a grade across participants, not because they've got social justice issues on their mind. A bad route setter is a bad route setter, no matter how conscientious they are about being inclusive and accomodating diversity.
Couldn't agree more with this article. Numerous climbing walls have poor setting and a number of competitions have featured shocking climbs for the category of climber concerned. The arrogance of the routesetters has been breathtaking when they were challenged on the issue. It doesn't take too much thought to make climbs more inclusive without losing the grade; it just takes more effort and that's the problem. Setters rush and the losers are the climbers. Thanks Ailsa for highlighting this issue.
Jobs Climbing Wall Supervisor / Instructor, Southampton
Elsewhere on the site
Podcast Factor Two - S3 Ep.1: Living in the Shadows - Franco Cookson
Fri Night Vid Hidden Masters: A Route Setting Documentary
This week's Friday Night Video is an insight into the job of a competition route setter. Arguably, the job is harder than ever with a huge range of specialisations and the elite level of top climbers. The film looks into the level of...
In Focus Custodians of the Stone
Press Release The Yawn Wall - 9th December at Yonder, London