Impact Bouldering Competition at BKB
Brooklyn Boulders Somerville will be hosting Impact Boulder Competition on January 26th to address gender disparities in the climbing world by having an all-women routesetting team behind the scenes to make it happen. LCC ambassador, Jennifer Legaspi, had the chance to sit down and listen as the setters explain setting, discuss gender disparities, and share some comp tips for new competitors.
What is Routesetting?
Routesetters, also referred to as “setters,” are more than just people paid to bolt holds on the wall. They may follow some guidelines on the placement of holds for safety and comfort, but they definitely aren’t mailed a weekly set of instructions from the IKEA of climbing on how and where to put the holds. That probably won’t happen anytime soon, but if that idea catches on, I’d like that money to go to the Access Fund. Okay, so if setters don’t follow instruction sets to put up the holds, what is setting and how does setting actually work?
When setters create boulder problems or routes, they keep in mind that a wide variety of climbers will try the climbs. While setters don’t have to ensure that every climber can complete every climb, they do try to give climbers of similar abilities, but different body types, an equal shot at being able to send the climb. Tricks like adding an extra foot for a shorter climber or setting a knee bar for different leg lengths are very useful to setters.
Over time, setters gain knowledge about how different body types might have trouble. Forerunning is when climbers, generally the setters, test out the climbs—and this is where setters gain a lot of experience about body types. Having a group of setters and forerunners with diversity in body types and climbing strengths helps ensure a gym has great climbs for everyone. Women aren’t small men and men aren’t just tall women; women tend to be more flexible and men frequently have more developed upper bodies.
Gender Disparities in Climbing and Setting
Excited about the competition, James explains, “the climbing industry has historically been overwhelmingly male-dominated, and while the industry as a whole is slowly becoming more inclusive, routesetting still lags behind. Very few women choose to make this a career, but the ones that do bring a diversity of perspective to their gyms that benefits the entire climbing community.” James wanted to organize a competition that highlights the immense talent that already exists in the industry, adding, “Our entire community will have a chance to climb a set put up by some of the most talented female routesetters in the industry.”
Tips for new competitors
In climbing competitions, grades are often hidden by their scores. Bouldering grades based on the Hueco scale are often posted after the comp. This gives climbers an opportunity to climb outside of the grade limitations they might unintentionally impose upon themselves.
Bucknam emphasizes, “Everyone can compete! It does not matter if you climb V1 or V11.” Encouraging climbers to try out the competition aspect of climbing, she explains, “competitive climbing is all about learning how to push yourself to try your absolute hardest in a super cool, fun and supportive environment.” On her Instagram, Bucknam is proud to show the falling aspect of climbing. It is critical to success after all.
Crowley says, “as long as you’re competing because you love to climb and because you want to have fun, then you’ll have a great time.”
Climbers will be placed into categories based on the other competitors. Folks in the middle of the pack won’t have much control over which category they will end up in. Climbers who have a “low-gravity, high-friction” day might end up getting bumped up. DePaolis adds, “Unless you’re competing at an elite level, if you’re competing to win, you’re doing it for the wrong reason.” Just have fun and climb the climbs you want!
McNair advises “to come early, scope out potential climbs to warm up on and climbs that will go towards your final score. Then find a place to warm up a bit prior to the competition actually starting.” This useful advice will help you avoid injury and flash pump. She adds, “If you’re completely new to competing, try to enjoy it for what it is and learn as much as you can from your experience.” McNair offers us one last, not-so-secret, tip: “don’t be scared to come say hi to the setters during the redpoint round and see if we have any secret beta for you.”
For more information, check out the event website: http://events.brooklynboulders.com/bkbimpact
Written by Jennifer Legaspi