Late post alert! (oops!!)
All female setters!? What in the what? In August, the women of UNB Rock and Ice took on a brave task: set and prep for a competition all on our own.
Well, with the exception of a couple of women, many of our consistent setters were men. The idea didn’t come from us either. The guys at our gym wanted to see a higher female presence in route setting. Before you jump out of your seat and yell “yay for equality!”, I believe their partial motive was to have more people share the labourious job of filling the gym with problems. Whatever the reason, they had a point!
And it was there that the idea of an all female setting competition was born. The concept wasn’t entirely new to some of us. Carlie, Emily, and I enjoyed travelling down for the Heist at Central Rock Gym a couple of times. If you’re not familiar with the Heist, it’s a competition by women for women, which translates to all female organizers, setters, and competitors. We didn’t go that far with our comp, partly because there wouldn’t be enough women left to compete and partly because we wanted to give our normal setters a chance to climb.
Fortunately we got the go ahead to tear down a few days earlier for this one. Tearing down and cleaning holds was the only portion of our endeavour that involved everyone. It also meant that all holds were stripped, washed, and spread out on the mats for perusing by Sunday evening. Quick work!
Monday and Tuesday proved incredibly productive. Most of us were aware that it might take awhile to fill the walls so we were eager to begin. I realized almost immediately that creating problems from scratch is much tougher than creating a problem with existing holds. To visually prepare a problem in your mind without anything in front of you is challenging, and also time consuming. That being said, we had a nice range of setters from some who had set many times before and some who had never touched a wrench in their life. We made some great progress with the beginner and intermediate problems because that’s what the majority of us climb, but the experts took a little more time.
As a teacher on summer break, I had the luxury of spending copious amounts of time at the wall. As a challenge, I committed myself to putting up several expert problems for our skilled climbers. Seb was competing this time around, and I wanted to stump him oh so badly. On our 55 degree wall, I set a long problem with a high toe hook at the start, and a big throw near the top to a semi good crimp (semi good at that angle). I had a brain block after setting the first few moves until Emily finished it with fresh eyes. She also helped me finish another long slopey problem that had about 15 moves. We felt pretty good about those two. Emily and I could climb sections of each problem but couldn’t link them so we felt confident they would be tough.
Foxman McCarthy-James, a setter from Brooklyn Boulders, Massachusetts, arrived on Wednesday with her full setting kit. Foxman reached out to Carlie after stumbling upon our competition on Facebook. All she wanted was more time to practice her craft, which we found really cool. She fit in immediately and offered some great advice and a new perspective that we definitely appreciated. When something needed tweaking, she knew what to do. She was also really good at setting on slab, which was great because until she arrived our flat wall was bare.
Setting with the girls was really amazing. If we weren’t drilling something into the wall, we were callling each other over to test out a move, or talking through a move we weren’t sure of. Seriously, you could not beat that atmosphere. I bet it helped that we all knew and liked each other already. Still, the support was comforting and allowed us to set some cool routes.
By comp day I wasn’t worried about the over all quality of our routes. We tested the crap out of them, and anything awkward was altered or some holds were added/removed. In the end we had some solid problems. Running the routes to sequence them was tricky, as we were pretty spent by the end of the week. Everything felt hard at that point. But we did it and all was well!
We left Friday night with a few things left to tape in the morning, but otherwise we felt confident in what we had accomplished. There was also a general sense of relief as we saw the light at the end of the tunnel. It was a fun week just hanging out and climbing non stop.