Learning to Set


We’ve created a little home wall, and as we collect more holds, I’m learning more about setting and good places to get holds.

Holds can be really expensive if you’re buying them, but there are some deals available online that really help with obtaining a collection of holds. I recently ordered some factory seconds from Escape holds. Factory seconds are holds that are maybe discolored or off a little in texture. They might not be worth buying for a gym, but for a small home wall that is perfectly fine. I also have purchased some sample holds from Atomik’s deals of the day. The sample holds are a mixed collection that are actually free. There is still a shipping cost, which was a little high, but cheaper than a hold set. Also they have deals like footholds being .50 cents on Fridays. Scanning the web for these deals can really help. It also helps to see what you can make on your own. Even if you don’t have the capacity to make an actual climbing hold, you can use little pieces of wood to make a simple crimp or small foot chip.

Another thing to consider is keeping an eye on your local gym. At some point, gyms will get rid of older holds to replace with newer ones. With the volumes of people climbing each day and the fact that they are a business, it’s better to have holds as new as possible. Usually gyms will sell these old ones for very cheap, but it takes some patience since it’s not all that often. I have only seen my local gyms selling them a handful of times in the past few years. Something to consider, but it might not the best with your timeline.

Right now I’m budgeting the holds by ordering sets each pay check or each pay check that I don’t have a high amount of bills or obligations. It’s taking time, but they are collecting nicely. It also helps to have other people invested. Josh built the wall, and uses it more often so he makes and buys holds too. Depending on your wall location, you could maybe make a deal with friends that they can use it if they contribute. Might be a little harder if the wall is in your home or workplace, but if it’s in a barn outside or something, why not? Getting the bulk sets and finding deals like the factory seconds have been helpful. Some of our holds are made out of wood by Josh too.

Now that there are enough holds to make some climbs, I’ve been working on setting. It’s still a bit limited since our wall is only big enough to do so much with and we don’t have all that many holds yet. It’s really interesting to me how many different ways a person can view setting. Josh sets climbs to replicate outdoor projects as closely as possible. It’s a great strategy when you don’t live very close to them because you can practice often and maximize your efforts in the limited real time you get with the project. Also it helps keep working when the weather is bad, like summer heat waves or freezing winter. It is something I will probably utilize too when the time comes aka I have a project I can replicate.

I’ve been setting climbs to work on certain movement. You might notice in my video that a lot of these climbs have rock overs, heel hooks, and big moves (well as big as they can be). These are things I want to continue getting better at. As I collect more holds, I want to progressively make these movements hard by using holds I struggle with too. I also think of movement I really enjoy like crosses and drop knees. I set one move and then work around it. This works nicely on our wall because the climbs are likely to only be about 3 moves. I think it’s a good way to train my weaknesses.

When I’m climbing something, I really like it to have a nice flow. I like seeing climbers elegantly moving along the route almost like a dance. Some setters are good at this, some are terrible, and some it just might not be their top priority. There are many gym climbs I try that just move very awkwardly and unnaturally. Some of this, to be fair to setters, is in the difficulty accounting for all different body types (tall, short, flexible, etc) and some of it is the climber’s reading ability. I understand that sometimes I just really suck at reading them well, or lack the strength/span/knowledge of technique to do what was intended. In any case, trying to make a nice flow is something I focus on. I’m not the best yet, because I’ve only set like 10 climbs maybe and all of them are only things I climb, but it is a goal I have in mind. I try a certain move and look to see where my hand naturally wants to go out or where my feet naturally want to be. Sometimes I will put a jug in place to test the movement and then progressively use worse holds to make it a challenge. Or I might get an idea of the natural area I’d reach to, but then try to stretch it out a bit to make it bigger or more challenging. The next step will be in making this so it works for people other than myself, since right now my height and ability are all factoring in. Since I’m just starting out this seems like a great way to practice and get thinking about placement though.

Have any of you set routes before? What are some things you think about or tips you have? Feel free to leave a helpful comment below.


2 thoughts on “Learning to Set

  1. I got some free holds when my local wall upgraded. Sounds like you’re on the right track with setting! You can also try setting a short problem with a specific feature move in mind- ex. a heel hook or a lock-off.

    Good luck!

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