I've been to a few walls lately that I thought have had brilliant route and problem setting. Consistently absorbing, technical and creative moves that have felt an awful lot like climbing on rock, and awfully far away from the usual boring variations on lank-and-pull I've come to associate with plastic. In fairness I've hardly climbed indoors for the past five-odd years until recently, so maybe things are just generally better these days, but I thought it'd make an interesting thread.
So, I propose a hall of fame thread. Which walls have had the best setting in your recent experience?
I'll start with a wildcard: I've only visited once so far, but I really enjoyed the Boulder Bunker in Torquay when I visited the other week. Consistently brilliant, inventive and often perplexing problems that felt more like climbing on rock than plastic.
The Quay in Exeter also get an honourable mention for setting amusing and technical routes that require more than just pulling and are nearly always very satisfying to climb. Including a full-on crack route a few months ago.
What are your nominations?
Not been there in a couple of years now (pandemic etc) but we had 2 rainy days up in North Wales and really enjoyed the setting and was willing to try and push it because the routes were fun
We're really spoilt in Sheffield. The Depot, The Hangar and The Works all has world class setting. The Hangar had a lot of 'running & jumping' style stuff & French starts which I'm not overly bothered about but it's definitely interesting 🙂
The Depot has a brilliant balance/smear problem on the comp wall at the minute where being weak is absolutely no excuse lol (it's the green on the right hand side).
I'll second that — I was going to mention them in my OP but it seemed greedy nominating three walls. I was in there for the first time the other week after we got bored of being wet, and had great fun. Also great seeing the majority of people in the wall leading, and the majority of the lines set as lead lines. Quickdraws in every route, which is something I wish would catch on elsewhere.
The Climbing Unit at Derby, and Eden Rock in Carlisle stand out for me recently as having the most interesting, techy problems; thought provoking and satisfying to solve, with the odd memorable move/section (really unusual for me, indoors). Perhaps no coincidence that they both also have a great variety of wall angles/geometry; unlike a lot of large modern bouldering centres
If the Brum Depot is anything to go by, there’s some good stuff but equally there’s a lot of basic ‘pull and go’ steepness and comp style weirdness. The variable quality is made up for by quantity. The real issue though is everything up to the purples gets caked in chalk within a couple of weeks. They need to reset stuff twice as often as they actually do. Planning to check out the Sheff one so will be interesting to see how it compares.
Looks like the standard is high nationwide.
The new Lancaster Wall has excellent setting, helped along by really good wall design.
I'm also a fan of BUK Preston, which is a bit more basic, but still interesting and entertaining. I like a bit of proper pulling on small holds, rather than inventive technical problems (which I think are nothing like climbing on rock) - if I want that "fun" style, Eden Rock is the place to go.
Got to give a mention to Ibex Bouldering in Darlington. Great route setting. Last time I was there Steve M had spent a day or two setting the routes. The problems always feel way longer than their actual height. Super friendly staff too.
>I like a bit of proper pulling on small holds, rather than inventive technical problems
I prefer the boards for this rather than plastic. Nice and basic, on skin friendly holds. Also long term Improvement is easier to keep an eye on.
> The Climbing Unit at Derby, and Eden Rock in Carlisle stand out for me recently as having the most interesting, techy problems; thought provoking and satisfying to solve, with the odd memorable move/section (really unusual for me, indoors). Perhaps no coincidence that they both also have a great variety of wall angles/geometry; unlike a lot of large modern bouldering centres
I had to check this post to make sure I hadn’t written it myself😀
Two of my three favourite walls for route setting. My top wall for route setting is the Climbing works, which at the same time is way down the list for user experience. I’ve been using the Depot mostly the last couple of years because it’s got the space not to get too crowded. I went in this week to the Works with Mrs Paul in Sheffield on a whim, got lucky with numbers in there. Afterwards we both agreed it’s still got it. Brilliant route setting.
I find the setting at forest climbing in the forest of Dean to be top notch. They're really inventive with the space they have and had a great range of routes. Always something to challenge yourself on.
> My top wall for route setting is the Climbing works, which at the same time is way down the list for user experience.
Yep, I love the setting at the works but it gets so busy if I fall off I feel like ill be going crowdsurfing! Not their fault they're so popular though 🙂
Although The Works isonly round the corner from my house I tend to go to The Depot every time as its still great, has plenty of space and opens at 6am.
> I like a bit of proper pulling on small holds, rather than inventive technical problems (which I think are nothing like climbing on rock).
Yes, there is a danger that too many inventive or creative problems, along with all the parcours nonsense, means that good honest cranking to get stronger can seem rather squeezed out.
Both have been mentioned already but The Unit in Derby is great for routes which weave through doorways and under arches making it more interesting than other larger bouldering venues.
Redpoint Birmingham is another favorite and although I don't like the bouldering there as much, the wandering lead routes are excellent and make full use of the available space. The bridge is particularly enjoyable.
Can walls have creative setting? If I may, surely it's the setters rather than the walls that set. Some walls are average a lot of the time then suddenly have a really good set because 'XXX reset last week'.
I know there's plenty of home setters and the standard is improving but I feel this thread misses the point that many of the best setters are not tied to one particular wall.
My old gym Superblock in Duesseldorf had great setting, mostly interesting technical stuff rather than modern comp style dynamic routes. It also had a boulder shaped section with a flat top-out that you had to practice your best slapping, groping, belly-flopping, high-stepping topouts on, good prep for Font trips!
The Climbing Unit is pretty good here, plenty of variety depending on what mood you're in, and some good head-scratching problems that take some time to figure out.
Mike End. It's been consistently good for the whole time I've climbed there. I'll even forgive them for introducing coordination problems which I suck at but get disproportionate pleasure from doing one.
I meet up with people to climb regularly at The Depot who also live over in the S8, S7 corridor but drive over because of the amount of space. I would say that the Depot is more ‘burly’ than ‘techy’ and I was knocked out by how much I missed Climbingworks style setting. Haven’t been to the Hangar yet but am going over later in the week.
If a wall regularly uses average/bad setters then it brings the standard of the wall down. Compared to somewhere that always has a mix of great guest setters and great in house setters. Depends how much investment places are willing to put in, but it really does show in the routes.
I have climbed in some places where it is regularly uninspiring and just feels drab, then climbed at other places where I have enjoyed every route I have pulled on (on multiple trips)
> It would be great if all the walls got together and offered a bundled 'mega-pass'.
> Can't see it happening though 🙂
It would be great, I think that does exist with outfits like Awesome Walls, and some members of certain operators groups I seem to remember.
it looks like 2022 will be the end of living in Sheff/The Peak after 36 years, heading up towards the South Lakes/Dales to live and work. Will be reacquainting myself with Ingleton wall which I used to love, and Kendal wall which I last went to around 2005. I hear the new Lancaster wall is ok.
> heading up towards the South Lakes/Dales to live and work. Will be reacquainting myself with Ingleton wall which I used to love, and Kendal wall which I last went to around 2005. I hear the new Lancaster wall is ok.
Single pass for Kendal (decent lead wall, crap bouldering), Lancaster (excellent big bouldering wall) and Preston (lead and bouldering I think, not been). Having Lancaster makes the not-cheap Kendal membership decent value.
I’m pretty excited about the prospect. I won’t say it too loud on here, but my favourite bouldering has always been in the lakes. Trad too, I might even start climbing trad again.
Had a look at the Sheffield Depot today. Thought it was fairly similar to the Brum one overall, which is to say pretty decent. Fewer ‘pull and go’ jugfests due to not having very large overhangs. Same issue with some of the holds getting really gunked up.
> If a wall regularly uses average/bad setters then it brings the standard of the wall down. Compared to somewhere that always has a mix of great guest setters and great in house setters. Depends how much investment places are willing to put in, but it really does show in the routes.
> I have climbed in some places where it is regularly uninspiring and just feels drab, then climbed at other places where I have enjoyed every route I have pulled on (on multiple trips)
Yeah I suppose that's an average quality argument. I suppose the better off walls can have get good people in regularly. It would be nice to know who set boulders sometimes, lead routes you can l become familiar with certain setters and styles and some setters are better than others.
> The Beacon
> Not been there in a couple of years now (pandemic etc) but we had 2 rainy days up in North Wales and really enjoyed the setting and was willing to try and push it because the routes were fun
Not quite on topic but I'd also give the Beacon a shout for its placement of auto-belays. I had a spare day in N Wales back in September so went over to the Beacon for a session on my own. I loved that they had auto-belays on their main wall. Having been used to the 10m'ish routes at my local wall I was knocked out (and knackered) by the 20m+ routes at the Beacon. Oof.
Honourable mention to Freeklime - the bouldering wall in Huddersfield and my new local. Friendly staff, fair amount of space, good training boards and the setting tends to be interesting and fun. There are a good number of problems that just leave you with a massive grin or excitedly trying to explain the moves through wild gesticulation to uninterested life partners/ friends/ family members/ household pets/ strangers in the street. Also, I quite like that they set circuits within grade ranges, rather than grading each problem, although the only down side is that the same hold sets seem to get used each time for the same grade range.
I quite enjoyed Eden Rock, but I really don't get why people rave about it. It's good, but some people seem to imagine it as a kind of Holy Grail. Is this just down to the pizza and cake? I think Kendal setting is as good or better, and generally very worthwhile if too softly graded. BUK (in Preston) tends to be very good and interesting, but sometimes I just don't quite click with it and the dual texture holds annoy me. I do remember a really good wall near Brighton/Hove, but it's been almost a decade since I visited.
The only thing I'd say against all these walls is that the V0 - V3s are far too easy. V1 should feel like UK 5b, V2 like UK 5c. But, instead, V1s often feel like a ladder and probably lower than VB. You climb a V1 in Langdale and split your finger tips on the small, sharp holds, then begin your warm up inside on a V1 that's easier than a ladder. I realise that easy problems are needed, but don't quite get why VB isn't used more often to denote these. Likewise, sometimes slab problems are given big grades when they're not actually very tough, e.g. V7s and V8s that you end up flashing even though you've never come close to that grade on any other angle. (Conversely... I do remember some tough slabs at BUK!)
I do think people tend to wildly disagree on what consitutes good setting. I like problems that feel "outdoorsy", e.g. they involve sit starts, small holds and can sometimes be "cheated around" with a bit of creative footwork/body positioning rather than always relying on pure power. Part of the reason I like these problems is because I want indoor climbing that helps me to get stronger outside. But, a lot of fun is to be had with things you'd never find outside - or in big moves between big holds.
Sometimes you have to spend money to make money, and setting is certainly one of them. Local bouldering wall over winter resets 1/3 of their routes every 2 - 3 weeks, and every other set is a guest setter, they are very far from raking in the money but also know if they want to encourage people to come in (and pay) they have to reset regularly and well. Their in house setting is also very decent for a punter like me, I think the strong boys might find it is a bit soft but then they put up their own problems. Another local wall (mix of bouldering and roped) resets once in a blue moon (some lines up for a couple of years, although everything does get reset yearlyish now) and you can climb all the stuff you can climb in a visit or 2 and then get shutdown on everything else, which doesn't encourage me to come in.
I thought coloured circuits are pretty standard these days. The Works was probably the first wall to use them (or at least the idea of circuits, can’t remember if they were the same colour and no idea if they are these days). Some walls don’t use them and it’s annoying having to look at the grade tags.
As you say, that does mean a specific set of holds for a particular grade range. The hallmark of really good setting though is being able to swap the circuits around, eg take a set of holds used for a hard circuit and set a circuit which is several grades easier but still climbs well. Partly depends on having the right kinds of holds as well. BBC do that once in a while.
> I know there's plenty of home setters and the standard is improving but I feel this thread misses the point that many of the best setters are not tied to one particular wall.
Some of the worst too. The ones that do the rounds down here are crap.
They'll spend 20 minutes setting the low grade circuits, an hour or two setting some parkour shit for the V3-V8 circuits interspersed with the odd perfunctory crimp ladder, then the rest of their day adjusting a perfect V12 for them and their mates to play on.
I got chatting to the guy in charge at one of the walls and it came up that he wasn't entirely happy with what he was paying for. I encouraged him to make his expectations clearer.
> Setting as in ‘here’s the wall, do your best with that lot’ 😁
Yeah, that's what we had to do at Leeds Uni, Rothwell, Guiseley, Richard Dunne, Barnsley, etc.
Use our own imagination with what DR had provided.
> Yeah, that's what we had to do at Leeds Uni, Rothwell, Guiseley, Richard Dunne, Barnsley, etc.
> Use our own imagination with what DR had provided.
Usually involved someone with a hammer, chipping out the mortar between brick courses. Ruined/improved several problems.
Although I was at a testing session, pre-opening, on the Richard Dunne Wall where DR himself was modifying holds at at the instigation of several local high profile climbers who had been invited.
One thing many people seem to overlook is the importance of good quality circuit board setting, in my opinion very valuable for power endurance which is so important for routes. Out of the Sheffield walls only the Depot seems to get this right
The Brum Depot also has two circuit boards of a similar size. I reckon if a route is set as ‘wide’ as possible (which is about 6m), it’s the best part of 15m long. They often don’t have much by way of rests at the grade either, meaning that they tend to feel tough for the grade, at least until you get them dialled. It’s the best bit of the Depot as far as I’m concerned (the training boards are great as well but I’m too weak / lazy to use them).
In Leeds City Bloc is the only place worth mentioning as consistently excellent. The depot in Pudsey is consistently good. The lab is consistently bad and last sun dance is consistently full of hipsters and students drinking IPAs; they gave up on bouldering as their main draw ages ago.
> In Leeds City Bloc is the only place worth mentioning as consistently excellent. The depot in Pudsey is consistently good. The lab is consistently bad and last sun dance is consistently full of hipsters and students drinking IPAs; they gave up on bouldering as their main draw ages ago.
I have to disagree. I think all of the walls in Leeds are good. The setting at the Lab used to be poor but has been much improved in recent times. And Last Sun Dance has great setting (probably my favourite) and is full of all sorts of people, same as most other places.
> The Depot has a brilliant balance/smear problem on the comp wall at the minute where being weak is absolutely no excuse lol (it's the green on the right hand side).
Love those problems. The harder you pull with your hands, the faster you fall off