/ NEW ARTICLE: Climbing the Ladder: Female Routesetters

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UKC Articles 07 Sep 2015
Evie setting a tricky slab problem, 4 kbMorna Middleton interviews some top female UK routesetters and gives an insight into the male-dominated world of the routesetting circuit.

Recently, I have been fortunate to have had access to some of the best and most 'known' female routesetters in the UK climbing scene. Through a selection of questions, they have been able to share their experiences in what remains a somewhat exclusive area to be able to work, regardless of gender, let alone acquire the recognition needed in order to make a living in doing so. I have chosen to highlight their work for being outstanding setters, but they are also formidable women!



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stp 07 Sep 2015
In reply to UKC Articles:

Interesting interview and great answers.

I think the idea of a qualification for setting would be pants because making good routes is more of an artistic, creative and passionate endeavor, rather than about learning a set of fixed procedures. An apprenticeship is not a bad idea though for those with lots of experience climbing outside.

I'm guessing women setters might be better at setting for shorter climbers since they're generally shorter than most men. Having climbed with someone pretty small last year indoors I think that's definitely a problem to look out for. There are just fewer intermediates on indoor routes.
Andy Gamisou 07 Sep 2015
In reply to stp:

> Interesting interview and great answers.

> I think the idea of a qualification for setting would be pants because making good routes is more of an artistic, creative and passionate endeavor, rather than about learning a set of fixed procedures.

Quite right!

It's not as if you can get qualifications in arts based subjects after all. GCSEs, diplomas, degrees - IN ART!!! Preposterous! Should be saved for stuff that requires no creativity or passion - science for example. Thank God Einstein was only able to follow fixed procedures.

I have the oddest fealing that I might have a neg or two swinging my way. Good.

5
Mick Ward 07 Sep 2015
In reply to UKC Articles:

An absolutely fascinating article. Congratulations to Morna Middleton!

I'm guessing the road to routesetting is an arduous one - irrespective of gender. But if you love what you do...

Re gender, surely climbing's come of age where folk are rated in terms of talent, rather than gender? Is it nearly 25 years ago since Lynn Hill showed that a woman could do what no man could then do ?

Qualifications - hmm... Generally I regard them as the royal road to mediocrity but they're probably inevitable. But, as was said, having a qualification doesn't actually make you any good at what you do. It would be a minimum standard, no more.

I only know two people who route set. The first does so locally on an unpaid basis in an environment rich with bureaucracy. I think he has to do wanky courses and is overseen by people who aren't climbers. But, despite this, his best routes are pure poetry.

The other is pretty much the doyen of routesetters, mentioned in the article but he certainly wouldn't want me to name him. He's done it for years, loves it, lives and breathes climbing (in a good, not obsessive way), has climbed to a high standard here, there and everywhere. I'm sure he'd be utterly supportive of good women routesetters (as would be the first person). He's always in pursuit of 'the beautiful move' and when you finesse your way through a beautiful move, you know the routesetter's given you an experience you wouldn't have had otherwise. Whether female or male, you raise your hat to them.

Mick



Leo Woodhead 16 Sep 2015
In reply to UKC Articles: Emma Twyford has recently started setting at MCC in Manchester. Not sure if it's going to be a regular thing, but I sincerely hope she does more routes. In the past week or so her routes have given me the most fun I've ever had on indoor routes. They travel across the wall, you have to think, plan and be tactical. It's been really nice to climb routes that more closely mimic the type of moves you might do outdoors. Bravo Emma!


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Ramblin dave 16 Sep 2015
In reply to Mick Ward:

> Re gender, surely climbing's come of age where folk are rated in terms of talent, rather than gender? Is it nearly 25 years ago since Lynn Hill showed that a woman could do what no man could then do ?

It's a sad fact, but gender bias in employment tends to hang around for a long time after people have got over consciously thinking "girls are rubbish, they'd probably rather be playing with dolls than climbing hard / driving a truck / writing C++."

> The other is pretty much the doyen of routesetters, mentioned in the article but he certainly wouldn't want me to name him. He's done it for years, loves it, lives and breathes climbing (in a good, not obsessive way), has climbed to a high standard here, there and everywhere. I'm sure he'd be utterly supportive of good women routesetters (as would be the first person). He's always in pursuit of 'the beautiful move' and when you finesse your way through a beautiful move, you know the routesetter's given you an experience you wouldn't have had otherwise. Whether female or male, you raise your hat to them.

A while back, someone posted on here about a "routesetters competiton" in the states - a bunch of routesetters set a bunch of routes, punters climb them and pick their favourites and the most winning setter wins, that sort of idea. That seems like it could be a cool thing - firstly it gives recognition (albeit in a slightly haphazard way) to really good route setters, and secondly it flags up for the leisure centre walls and the like that there's more to routesetting than making sure the holds are attached to the wall, and that sending the person who fixes the weight machines on a CWA course and giving them an alan key isn't the same as hiring a proper routesetter.
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David Coley 16 Sep 2015
In reply to UKC Articles:

Qualifications might have a place, but a small one.

What seems to be lacking is a feedback process.

I'm a university lecturer and I sometimes teach on CPD courses to companies. At the end of every lecture (about every hour) the audience will be filling in a sheet scoring the lecture and how it could be improved. On a week long course of 60 in the audience this gives about 360 units of feedback, but with 10 questions per sheet 3600 measures - in one week. We treat this feedback really seriously, it is the basis of how we change courses for industry and ask lecturers to come back, or not. To be honest, it is how we make money and get to charge more than others.

Apart from the odd word in the cafe, I've never been asked which routes are pants and which good down the wall. I've never filled in a score sheet for a route, wall or a setter. This seems strange as the routes and the boulder problems are the key service provided by a wall. Not the tea and cakes. I have however been asked to fill in a form on the condition of the toilets. For the setter I would have thoughts a numeric measure of just how enjoyable their 4+ routes are, from those that climb 4+ would be gold dust.

I've told route setting is expensive for a wall. Not having a solid measure of the fun provided by these routes and of the different setters seems very strange indeed.
Toerag 18 Sep 2015
In reply to UKC Articles:
"Evie setting a tricky slab problem"
Looks like a wall to me!
Ardverikie2 18 Sep 2015
In reply to David Coley:

> What seems to be lacking is a feedback process.

An extremely valid point.
girlymonkey 18 Sep 2015
In reply to Ramblin dave:

secondly it flags up for the leisure centre walls and the like that there's more to routesetting than making sure the holds are attached to the wall, and that sending the person who fixes the weight machines on a CWA course and giving them an alan key isn't the same as hiring a proper routesetter.

Some leisure centres do very well, thanks very much! We regularly get complimented on the interest and variety of our routes in our leisure centre wall! We set regularly and put a lot of effort into getting good routes.

As for the female thing, maybe it's different if you want to work as a route setter, rather than just setting routes (if you get my difference?), but I have never felt that there is any difference between me and my male colleague when we set. In fact, setting as a pair works well as if he wants to check if a reach is going to be feasible for a shorter climber, then he gets me to try it, and if I want to check if a taller climber is going to just reach through my interesting move, then he checks it. We haul up the same number of holds, use the same tools, and set about the same speed as each other. I am not a 'female' route setter, just a route setter.
Ramblin dave 18 Sep 2015
In reply to girlymonkey:

> Some leisure centres do very well, thanks very much! We regularly get complimented on the interest and variety of our routes in our leisure centre wall! We set regularly and put a lot of effort into getting good routes.

Sorry, didn't mean to generalize!
Yanis Nayu 19 Sep 2015
In reply to girlymonkey:

Short and tall seems to be the issue, rather than female and male.

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