The life of a Route Setter

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The life of a Route Setter

You get a lot of stick when you’re a route setter – you can never please everyone and we only hear about it when someone doesn’t like a route! (or sometimes when they loved one!) I like to call it “constructive” criticism. We want you to step into our shoes for a day, so here is an average day as an MCC route setter.

You get up at 6am, a quick 15 minute coffee in the park with the dog, (if you’re Elle) then you’re off to work for 7am. The church is dark and silent when you get in,  get some music on loud, and get the coffee machine heating up, then it is down to start setting up. There is always two of you, one to set and the other for an emergency rescue.

You rack up harness’ and get the static ropes ready, then its up the wall to get going. Sometimes that climb can feel so hard! Your fingers and body are cold and tired, you’ve got loads of gear hanging off you and your dragging yourself up the main wall! about 1/2 way you ask yourself if this is actually any fun!? Then you’re at the top, the ropes are clipped in, and you have got your descender and backup on. you shout down to your belay that you’re safe and they reply with OFF BELAY! and away you go. Whipping all the holds off, sifting the volumes around, hoping you don’t find any rounded bolts or blown tee nuts (they are always in the most awkward places)

By 9am the wall is empty and the dirty holds are being carted off to the wash. Now the fun starts – decide on rough grades, pick your holds, set up your haul lines and grab your ascender. Set a route as you go up, then haul your next holds from the floor to the top, switch over bags and set the next route going down. 6 routes in a day on a big wall or anything up to 9 -15 on the smaller walls.

All your holds are on, now its testing time – You climb all the routes that you set to make sure you are happy with them and to give them a grade. A few tweaks here and there and its time to tidy up and get the grades up. Pack all your kit away and printout the route cards, update vertical life and you’re done.

Its long hard physical work but it can also hugely stimulating mentally and incredibly fun and satisfying. You see people trying the new routes as you’re heading for home, now all thats left is to sit back and wait for the “constructive” criticism to commence.

Blog by Elle Baines MCC Route Setting Manager