So recently I posted a blog about the recent world youth championships that had a bunch of numbers about the event (you can check it out here) It was a pretty huge competition and I left it feeling pretty inspired, but also a little lost.

With some of the most knowledgeable coaches on the planet, most talented youth climbers in the history of climbing all congregating in one place, it is easy to feel start struck. With 4 disciplines running (including combined) everywhere you looked there was something going on. Even in isolation, with so many competitors, the warmup challenges and antics and activities were varied enough you could probably write a book on them (even though everyone has a thoroughband now).



Ben takes a break from one of his qualis

The question that rolls around in my head pretty regularly about almost all of my projects is ‘am I on the right track?’ and inevitably then ‘how do I get there?’ 


I made connections with coaches from other countries, spending most of the time quizzing them on how their seasons run, selection intricacies and how the US boulder scoring works (apparently it’s magic). I spent most of the days walking to or from the wall, pacing warmup areas or coaches spaces in front of walls watching. We slipped in some climbing at the gigantic Austrian facility, but mostly just chatted with fellow coach Kim Kamo about some coaching or setting topic, hashing out an imaginary program or workshop, conceptualised, critiqued and adjusted.


Oceana climbing her way to 9th place in Youth B

For some reason, the way my mind works is to frantically take notes, image snippets, parts of conversations, numbers and a host of other bits and pieces of experiences, roll it around the inside of my skull for about a month, as I come to false conclusion after false conclusion…… until eventually I can output some condensed piece of philosophy that is hopefully useful in my current framework of perception. Or more simply, a direction.


It’s exhausting, to be honest. my poor girlfriend would ask me on my recent week-long holiday (thank you to everyone that made that happen!) what are you thinking? To which I would reply ‘what kind of person I want to be’. The things I do and involve myself in have roots that plunge deep into the heart of who I am. A more appropriate response probably would have been what direction do I want to take my coaching and setting in, but truly that comes back to how I see myself fitting into the world around me.

Anyway, I digress, as is always the case, these big comps seem to leave a big impression. You can easily become bewildered by all the new walls, holds, shoes and ropes that seem to evolve and come out of every crevice and corner. The new talent and training ideas appearing as if from nothing. My god, what are the Japanese teams doing? and how can I get my kids to do that!?

I came back excited but also lost.

Where do you start when you have open athletes that basically have to save up through their full-time jobs to finance any world cup prospects, national youth team members without coaches, mountains of international holds that are anywhere between 150 and 300 euro’s each and a comp scene that is maybe 10 years behind what we are seeing in Europe.  The task seems monstrous.

Luckily, Sport Climbing Australia, in partnership with a host of other hardworking volunteers have been putting time into compartmentalisation of these tasks. Creating committees that deal specifically with each element. Ideas are getting developed and conversations are getting turned into manageable ideas. Obviously, none of which you will likely ever see until finished products are ready to be deployed.

Progress is slow, as with anything, real change takes time and dedication, and of course, I have my own plans as well…….. Think global, act local…….

I suppose after everything, the one thing I figured out that helped me settle is that we are all a little lost. No-one seems to have the one right answer, we just get better and faster at seeing when we are wrong so that we can adjust, side step and keep moving.

It has been a fascinating journey for me as one of the Australian coaches over the past 3 years. Plenty of ups and downs. Going to World events has been eye-opening, meeting coaches that share the same ideas and visions that I do, that have jumped the same hurdles that I face and those that have really forged the way for all of us. Inspiring.


Jesse throwing down in semi-finals

Whether the future still holds national plans for me is yet to be seen, but I am certainly feeling less lost as the excitement for what is to come grows.


I hope your next climb is not your best because I want you to look back in 5 years and think how far you have come.



The training wall in Innsbruck


The largest indoor climbing facility in the world.

They were not joking!


The space


The new Walltopia built indoor climbing facility in Innsbruck Austria is of epic proportions. 4500 m2 of route climbing and 1200 m2 of bouldering, it is unlike anything I have ever seen before. Everything about this place was big. 400+ volumes used for bouldering, around 200 more for lead. Almost 1million euro’s of climbing holds in one place. The event itself was a 12 day epic, with around 1200 individual athletes flying in from around 70 nations, and for the first time, Olympic glory seemed to be on everyone’s mind, with the first global combined event ever (combined is the Olympic format, including Lead, Speed and Boulder).


Jessee Climbing in semi finals

Australia sent 19 athletes in total, 16 competing in lead, 11 in speed, 14 in boulder and 10 in the combined format. Our best result was 9th (Young superstar Oceania Mackenzie, in both combined and lead, also finishing 15th in boulder, special mention to Jesse Ruffini finishing in 19th in boulder).


We had 2 coaches, 1 team manager and too many parents (joking guys, you are all amazing). The team trip took 20 days and covered 2 countries (Austria and Germany).

Queensland had the most number of competitors finishing in the top 50% of the field and their best discipline was bouldering, no idea why…..

All in all, Jacky Godoffe (the chief setter for boulders) still climbs harder than you at 61 and suggested that all in all they set more than 90 boulders for the event.

A less numerically based review will be out shortly…..

The training walls upstairs….



Gyms today are becoming more and more refined, with sleek white walls, LED light-up panels and fine timber finishes. We are really seeing indoor climbing venues pushing the limits and boundaries of what we first perceived as indoor rock climbing. So much so that this world of indoor climbing is beginning to step away from its roots in rocks and cliffs, with concrete walls designed to resemble the local crag, to displays of architectural wizardry and candy coloured polyurethane sculptures. We are trading a beautiful setting of wilderness, for beautiful route setting (and good coffee).

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The new NOMAD gym in Sydney definitely ups the anty, with its slick walltopia design.

Regardless of how you feel about this indoor movement, and despite my lengthy introduction, I think we as climbers can all appreciate beautiful setting. But then, what IS beautiful setting. At this point I should warn you, I intentionally did not sift through hours and hours of blogs and podcasts to synthesise and compress the current industry opinion of what good setting looks like because, to be honest, I’m not sure I care what industry opinion is. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder right? We all know a so and so from our local gym who just raves about that

We all know a so and so from our local gym who just raves about that grovilly corner climb that was set by the most inexperienced route setter in the team, I mean people dedicate themselves to off-width climbing right!? And then there are the world cups that display the most exclusive and illustrious hold brands that seem to be so out of reach to most of us (at least here in Australia), with novel and exciting movements from some of the world’s most famed setters, using features and volumes that are probably more expensive then the car most of us drive. This space begins to feel very elitist very quickly.

So then, what is good route setting?

As aforementioned, it’s a tricky one, because well, we are all different shapes and sizes, we have different strengths and weaknesses and we all have an image of ourselves that drives what kind of ‘climber’ or ‘boulderer’ or ‘dry tooler’ we think we want to be. But then, if we look closer, as a setter, or a facility manager, there is a common theme here and that’s variety. Variety of difficulty, of terrain and of styles. Everything from the majestic roof proj. to the horrendous corner slab weirdness.

From jugs to jibs, VIC state lead titles at Bayside Rock. Maybe one of the best hold collections in Australia?

As a setter, sorry, as a GOOD setter, you should be able to set that variety and willing to take on feedback from the 4ft nothing girl that just wants an extra foot. The routes and the boulders in a facility are driven by the clientele who utilise it. Which means that a good setter responds and adjusts to the climbers who climb their routes. On top of this, it’s likely that as your client base gets stronger, physically and metaphorically, your setters need to continuously adapt and change to the evolving demands on the facility. So not only do they need to set for who you’ve got but depending on the lifespan of your routes, maybe who you WILL have in the future.

We could go deeper here and even suggest that your setting team then influence the development of your climbing community. What they set and how they set changes the way your climbers approach climbs. If your setting is basic and not particularly mentally challenging, your climbers will be strong but not all that smart. The same goes for the other way round. If the emphasis is on technical climbing, your climbers may lack raw power.

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Another one from WA Catalyst, with setters Al Pryce and Will Hammersla checking out the new morphos (and giving them a clean)

Well set out facilities are enjoyable to climb at because they make sense and provide this variety at all levels. It’s a hard thing to achieve (this is where a good head setter comes in), and with the ever changing industry, there is also a push to provide new and exciting experiences to keep your patrons coming back. But this doesn’t change those fundamental components that your setting team should deliver.

This subsequently means that your setting team need to be able to set to a plan. If the aim of the boulder is to provide something technical and delicate, it’s not particularly useful if your setters give you a dyno. I guess this is where the testing and tweaking component comes in. However, I digress, back to good setting.

So, really good setting encompasses a very wide range of actual climbs, difficulties and styles. What it really needs to do is serve a purpose. Good setting delivers a specific thing so that every climber is accounted for. It delivers a concise and specific product. It fulfils it’s brief. Your powerful deadpoint is a powerful deadpoint for everyone, and not static for Tod and dynamic for Jerry. Your accessible climbs are technically and physically simple and your difficult climbs are both simple and technical. I mean, some people like jumping to crimps, and some people like moving their feet 42 times in 3 hand movements.

A little bit of everything in the Bayside Rock Boulder cave

So good setting is like good design (yes I know this has been suggested before). Some of the best designs just ‘feel’ right, like the ergonomics of a drill, or the backrest of a seat. Going further, the BEAUTIFUL design does this in new and interesting ways. Which means that good setters, really good setters, are great designers. Designers of movement AND visual presence. The best setters set the climbs that you need in ways that are both enjoyable (or unenjoyable if that is what is needed) and visually appealing. It’s like designing a new mobile phone every time you set. It needs to be nice to look at, but also intuitive to interact with and ergonomic to hold.

So beautiful setting is like, well, a beautiful piece of product design. It looks good, it feels good, it works good and it does what it’s supposed to do.

Sometimes it’s funny the times when inspiration, optimism and courage hit, as if life is playing some dark joke on you by giving you gifts you have no energy to use….. I find myself sitting in Perth airport writing this, slowly coming down from the high of the last week of setting and competition. It’s nearly midnight and I will be landing back home in Melbourne at 6am, just in time to catch the morning and get ready for another day. I hope and pray that I won’t have a busy day and can maybe nap after lunch, however unlikely, the thought spurs me on.

The climbing scene here (in Perth) is different to the east coast, but different isn’t always worse. It is definitely a younger feeling scene, but there are definitely some serious things gong on.

Catalyst 2017 at The Boulder Hub


I had the pleasure of setting an entire world cup style competition with a guy called Alan Pryce. Just as a little bit of staging, Alan is no stranger to competition setting and is quite the competitor, with a podium at the most recent Australian National boulder championships, so he knows what he’s doing….. like really knows.

In two days Alan and I set, tested, tweaked, marked, stacked and then re-set almost 80 boulders. Running 5 boulder qualifications, 4 boulder semifinals and 4 boulder finals for 6 categories, with each category enjoying completely clean lines. for each and every boulder.

I remember on the Wednesday before we started setting, Alan welcomed me at the airport and we shared the usual formalities of hello’s and how are you’s. Having no real idea of what to expect, except that I was going to help set a comp, I began to ask a few questions about what the schedule would be and how it would work. When he told me, I’m pretty sure I must have choked or gone silent, peering over at Alan to see his rye smile, thinking to myself  ‘that’s nuts’.

For the uninitiated, I’ve now set for a handful of national events, and at last year’s national titles, we had 6 setters and we set around 80 boulders in about 5 days. So to say that this was going to be some work was probably an understatement. In addition to just the setting time pressure, due to the nature of the competition, the boulders had to be pretty specific to the field, with each one serving a very decisive purpose.

To my great surprise and infinite pride, we managed to finish the set almost ahead of schedule, with an enormous amount of help from the Hub crew when it came to stripping and tagging, along with some absolute ripper problems from Alan’s Partner Christina. Surprisingly, however, I don’t really want to talk about the schedule of setting, but the style of setting and the standard that’s hidden away (or so it feels) in the west, that is being driven by Alan and his crew.

Some of the beautiful lines put up over the 2 days of setting


Not wanting to blow my own horn, because to be honest, I think it really came down to Alan and the Hub….. The setting was really good. I mean, from an objective point of view, we had great splits, plenty of tops in the qualifications by the entire field, boulders that were climbed the way they were set (except for a couple, but I mean, that guy was enormous!) and some serious psyched fields that were really just raving about the comp! Like really serious psych! So much psych that not only did the competitors not stop climbing even after their fingers started to bleed, but with bloody tips, they couldn’t stop smiling and raving and being….. well…… psyched! There was some serious carnage too. For anyone that missed the live feeds, we spent a good 15 minutes cleaning blood off of the men’s 3rd final boulder.

And this is where the scene is really something. It’s so amazing to see so many people so psyched about competitions. This world that the Hub is is truly something. I mean, you find psyched climbers everywhere you go. Some are loud and some are quiet, but for the most part, they are all psyched about different aspects of climbing. I know that back home in Victoria there are definitely those that love to climb outside and those that love to crush plastic, but even in that, when it comes to competing, even some plastic climbers stay away. Maybe it’s the people, or maybe it’s the persistent focus of high quality that is pursued here that drives it. I mean, I have NEVER seen this type of comp for 6 categories, run like this ever in Australia. No boulder jam qualifications, no clutter, just clean, exciting lines….. And maybe that’s what it is too. How often do you get to climb on clean, inspiring, uncluttered lines in Australia?

Oceana, the competition winner for Open female, eyes off the next hold


I guess this is where the inspiration and optimism comes in. I feel pretty shattered after the week, following it up with a gym re-set and then a climbing clinic was tough but I just feel psyched. I feel invigorated and I feel optimism for my craft. I’ve found this courage to really want to push the boundaries of what I thought was achievable and the standards and ideas I thought were plausible. Mostly because I have seen the results of it.

There is this huge new movement in Australia and possibly around the world, where ‘normal’ people, people who don’t really align with ‘climbers’ are heading indoors and bouldering. The appearance and sets of movements are inspired, but not limited by rock and so we are seeing some incredible things happen. We are beginning to see setters and boulder gyms become coveted climbing spots and problems, just like world-class outdoor spots were/are. You’d be hard pressed to find an avid indoor boulderer that hadn’t heard of Stunwerk for instance and dreamed of climbing within its walls. This new movement makes the idea that Alan is pushing, and the standards he is setting all the more exciting and important for Australian climbing.

Intermediate semi-finals Sunday morning


Still, I’m happy to be going home after plenty of travel already this year, but I also can’t wait to come back. Alan and the guys at the Hub know what’s up and Catalyst next year I know will be even better than this year, whatever that will look like…. So my suggestion is to book it in your calendar, because if it does for you what it’s done for me, you’ll probably be wrecked, but man you will be motivated!

So Nationals is done, maybe not quite dusted but definitely done.

It took 5 route setters a total of a little over 250 hours to plan, set, test and tweak a handful of routes for the Australian lead Nationals. National head route setter Carlie LeBreton, Aspiring National Head route setter Will (Me), National setter Scotty Pritchard, State head route setter Tommy Kraus and State route setter Kurt Doherty. In my opinion, the setting talent was high along with the quality of the routes.

The format of nationals was relatively simple, with 2 flash format qualifiers, followed by an onsight final. The national speed championship preceded the lead event, with the first pairing of speed routes with official holds ever in Australia.

From my point of view as the head setter,  the setting went relatively well. We had 9 routes to set and with limitations around working space and wall access, setting felt slow. At such a major competition with such experienced setters I found myself at a crossroads when it came to testing and tweaking. It’s probably within my capability to climb every route at the event and then to provide suggestions if the route should be changed or altered to fit the purpose for which it was designated. But then if my hands are on everything do you miss out on the variety that the other setters bring to the table? I definitely have a certain style as well as a particular taste when it comes to the aesthetics of what I find pleasing. Do I impose this on my team if I am the head setter? Is that part of my role and duty? Or should I keep to the organisation and management of the setting team itself, and let the setters set, test and tweak, adding their own flair and design.

Open Male and Female Finals

The head setter has the final say when it comes to revealing the finals during isolation, you are faced with a choice to either leave or alter the finals based on the performance of the athletes during the qualifying climbs. This time, for the most part, the finals remained the same, with no adjustment……. except for the Open A male final. Which under my instruction was altered to make the roof section easier. Ironically, it was the transition into the roof that seemed to be the stopping move for competitors and we had half the final field fall in the space of 2 holds when trying to establish into the roof.

Luckily for us, there was a very good split between the top 7 athletes from the 2nd qualifier, which meant that climbers were split based on countback and not on time. I messaged my partner, complaining about how I’d done a lousy job of the male finals to which she replied – “you can’t predict how people will climb on the day”……. I quipped back….. “isn’t that what we ARE trying to do?” I mean, you set all the climbs before the climbers even get to the =facility. Sometimes, if you’re unlucky, before the climbers even register. This was, I’m sure, a topic of discussion when the setting team set for the 2016 world championships in Paris, on a wall that was subsequently disassembled, moved and then resurrected, climbs and all on site, 3 months later.

Setters being setters, on the ground and in the lift

I wonder if these errors are just the nature of the game? I remember keenly the setting at world youth championships in China last year, with the stopper move in the middle of the juniors 2nd qualifier, as well as the cluster of tops in finals and semi-finals in the Youth B males which resulted in some rankings being based on time.

Still, for me, I aim high. I want that perfect comp with beautiful splits all the way through the field and only a single top on the final route from the final competitor, who knows he has to top from the sound of the crowd watching the penultimate athlete desperately slap the last hold. Good competition route setting is like writing an award-winning drama or thriller. It’s full of commitment, desperation and suspense. We control the crowd, by predicting the performance of the athletes, with our performance ultimately tied to the performance of others, or at the very least our ability to predict the performance of others.

So when people ask me if I’m happy, or if Nationals went well the answer is yes, I am happy, it did go well. It was hard work and we did a good job. But still, we can do so much better. I WANT to do so much better. Just like the climbers pursue the podium, I pursue a perfect climb, the perfect comp, the perfect split, the perfect story.

Beginning, middle and end.

Taking selfies with Tommy and Kurt while we wait for our ‘lift’

As climbing in our country grows we are seeing more and more facility managers, setters and even everyday woody warriors, looking overseas to find and ship the latest and greatest holds, hang-boards and wood grips from Europe and America.
As a setter and a coach myself, I definitely won’t lie, I get pretty excited when I open up the browser and check out some of the amazing things that are happening around the world, like 360 volumes, HRT dual texture holds and psico bloc deep water solo comps.
But what about what is happening at home?
I’ve said it before, that when a climber heads overseas, to Europe and beyond (Get Strong Mantra) they immerse themselves in a world that is totally void of the distractions that living at home hold. Anyone who has ever been on a work trip will understand, you step out the door and onto the plane and you’re working. Even if you don’t want to be, you can’t help but think about what you need to do when you get there, make notes on presentations and get everything done you need to before you head home. It’s the same when you go on an extended climbing trip, you’re usually sitting on the plane thinking with the guide book in your lap.
james on his training wall
James Kassay, owner and shaper of Infinite Holds, on his training wall, filled with many of his own shapes, at his own gym! 
The focus in much of the climbing world is centred around somewhere outside our boundaries, but it feels like this is beginning to change. Over the past 2 or 3 years, the number of quality hold shapers and pourers have increased. Small, single man manufacturing spots have popped up and begun to deliver quality volumes with durable texture like Victoria’s Infinite climbing (see header). Pourers have shifted to polyurethane to build lighter stronger shapes, like WA’s Galaxy holds. CNC cutting wizards have begun to surface like Concept Climbing, able to produce quality timber training equipment like campus rungs, hangboards and a multitude of other devices designed to get you strong.
Concept climbing crag board
Concept Climbing Crag board
The key component now, if we want to see these and others like them flourish, is to support them. The reasons to support them are varied, but I can’t think of anything more important (or selfish) than because it will begin to provide us, in the great down under, with world class, Euro style holds, at home.
Less shipping, easier shopping. Who doesn’t like the sound of that!?
Again, my bias will show here, but providing this support to the people who support our industry, will in turn help it grow. That growth will then put us in a better position to develop and encourage new climbers, plus support and extend our Aussie team elite. We will be able to offer that which they can really only find overseas at the moment, and then who knows? Maybe an Australian World Cup or two?
If you would like more information on any of the shapers or makers mentioned in this blog, please do not hesitate to contact us! 

Let me start by saying that I am bias, very bias. I mean I am a ‘professional’ route setter, in that I get paid (most of the time) to put plastic climbing holds on indoor climbing walls for people to climb on.

Will, Tommy and Josh

For the most part it is a dream job, and I would like to think that I take my craft pretty seriously. I am always striving to get better, learn from feedback and focus on improving safety and processes. I find inspiration from social media, watching world cups and listening to interviews from top international setters. Adidas Rockstars, Hardmoves, Psychobloc, all of it pushing our sport further and further.

route setter looking at wall

I have done my fair share of volunteering, for pretty major competitions too, state titles, nationals even. I am pretty passionate about climbing in Australia, so for the most part I understand that the money just isn’t there yet to pay the setting team, and so many of us miss out. However, sometimes, the lack of funding for our setters is endemic of a mentality that doesn’t value the craft of setting, and this infuriates me. When it comes to competitions and commercial setting, the main product that is being provided and marketed is the setting. Without it, being appropriate, interesting and safe, the quality of the event or gym suffers. If a gym was a person, the setting would be the food it ate. Regular re-sets, would be like eating regularly, and good quality setting would be like a healthy balanced diet. Without good setting and regular re-sets, the gym becomes unhealthy or just fades away and dies.

The other thing about supporting your setters, is that by doing so you support your whole climbing community. It is very rare to find setters that aren’t at or close to the epicentre of any climbing community. Keeping good setters psyched and motivated filters through the local climbing community and motivates everyone to frequent the gym, especially with high rotation of routes or boulders, clients are motivated to finish projects before they get stripped.

Brushing team brushes a hold Ned climbing out of a roof

Finally, people notice quality. No matter the patron, climber, birthday goer or parent. People can see when a gym or climbing facility is well maintained. Holds are clean, gear is put away, movements are enjoyable, holds ergonomic and there is something for everyone. Good quality setting, especially in the easy to moderate grades also promotes good quality movement and a natural learning pathway for patrons.

So show your setters some love. Encourage them to be better, more creative and safer with what they do. And don’t forget that as is the nature of this world, you get what you pay for!


So it has happened. We find ourselves reduced to no more than 3 or 4 actual holds and a handful of volumes. But what glorious amazing movement it has created. Vertical life did an excellent write up of this, discussing how this new change in movement could change the things we see both indoors and out (read it here…..)

Climbers in the IFSC World Cups, seem to have become so strong that if you put a hold on the wall, most will be able to lock it off, or better, one arm chin up on it! So I guess, Enter the Volume….

We are seeing it more and more throughout social media, youtube channels and throughout setting at home and abroad. One of the big inspirations for me was watching the traverse put up at Stunwerk for the German climbing team (see it here…..) Plus all the work Udo Neumann, Jacky Godoffe and the other setters, coaches and visionaries have done to push the sport of climbing to where it is now……

Hold retailers like HRT, 360, Morpho have changed the things we are putting on the wall, with the viral picture of the 360 volume route…. which if you haven’t seen…… oh lordy!

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360 HOLDS volume only climb


But my question is what is next? Who will push it and where will it go? Large volume insets have started sneaking their way into boulder events… is this the way? How will we challenge the worlds best climbers of tomorrow? The further we go down the parkour/gymnastic world, the more we rely on co-ordinated movement both with our hands and with our entire bodies. Udo’s video on campusing with swinging legs comes to mind after watching Jan Hojer (and others) campus in Vail this year….

I have had a number of conversations with climbers and setters as our world becomes more digitalised and interactive. Could we see climbing surfaces alter and change as climbers move and progress up the wall? You pull on a hold harder and harder and your foot holds move further and further away….. Or maybe as you cross over, one hold appears and another vanishes??…….

Well, who knows! But for now….. we find ourselves in the age of the volume…..



So what were your new years resolutions this year?

Apparently 45% of us make a resolution and 66% of those are fitness related. On top of that 73% never reach their goal. Those are some pretty full on odds. To provide a bit of reality to these numbers, if we had 1000 people, 450 of them would make a resolution, 297 of those would be fitness related, of that 297, 80 would reach their goal. That’s not a lot.

Lying on the matts

So if you are in the 30% of people who made fitness based new years resolution this year, how can you become the handful that actually attain their goal? Well the answer, as my mother used to tell me, is to KISS it. KISS it is an acronym that stands for ‘Keep It Simple Stupid’. Maybe originating as more of a joke than actual advise, this, I assure you, is the way forward.

From the start, venturing on any journey that requires hard work and dedication is….. well……. hard. Add complexity to the plan and your chances of success decrease dramatically.

A simple training plan could be 3 – 4 days:

  • Climb
  • Campus
  • Core


The other thing you want to do, KNOW YOUR GOAL. I encounter climbers all the time, whose goal is, ‘be a better climber’. But what on earth does that mean? Do you want to look better climbing, with a flowing style and perfect footwork? Do you want to finish your double dyno to mono pocket project in the Gramps? Or do you want to on-sight old aid lines (if any still exist) at Arapiles. Achieving any of these goals would probably make any of us ‘better climbers’….. but the focus for each I assure you is different. So KNOW YOUR GOAL!!

trad climbing araps

Once you have sorted these things out, you are at least more likely to succeed. Write it down on a big bit of paper and put it up in your room, behind the toilet door, anywhere where you are going to see it and it is going to remind you!

Finally, don’t get frustrated. Life gets in the way sometimes, injuries prevent us from doing what we want. Maybe a friend’s wedding, or school. Don’t get mad, don’t get frustrated, just pick it back up and keep working! The only failure is when you stop trying!

So, if you want to attain your goals this year –

  • K.I.S.S it
  • Don’t get frustrated

Good Luck!


One of the beautiful things about this life is that nothing is ever perfect. Somehow, all these chaotic elements get thrown together and create beautiful sunsets, amazing rock features and hands capable of squeezing, pulling and crimping their way to the summit. Not wanting to step too far into the realms of spirituality and such, these things amaze me. It is this ‘imperfection’ I think that continually drives us to find more, push harder and better ourselves in the areas of our lives that we are most passionate about. Or at least it should.

Dan Gorden on male problem 2
One of the beautiful moments of setting at night

Part of my role as the head setter for the Australian Nationals this year will be to review and reflect on how the setting team performed and how well the ‘problems’ we set fulfilled their intended purpose. If you managed to read my earlier post, ‘#mysetter’ you would have read how impressed I was with the teams performance, especially with all the pressures and confines of the event. Setting for 16 categories in 2 days and 2 nights, with 10 categories having finals and 2 categories having semi finals. That’s 28 sets of boulders put up and taken down for a 3 day comp…………. 

Still, as I stated in my opening paragraph, nothing is perfect, and one of the things that drives me is the pursuit of constant improvement towards that perfection. So that vein, the junior problems were a little hard, but we did not account for how fatigued the athletes would be after 3 days of competing, plus the junior finals were the first boulders we set AND the 8 boulders set had to suffice for 6 categories, spanning from 14 year old girls to 19 year old men……. excusable.

However, the open female boulders, were too hard, too burly, too…. well, male centric. The qualifications were too hard, the semi’s were too hard and the finals were too hard. I failed to rectify the problem in both the second 2 rounds. Tired minds, tired bodies, either way, it didn’t work.

Female Final 1
The Purple volumes were just too tough for the women

It has been something that I have been reflecting on since the event. Ideally, a prefect comp is where all problems get at least one top and competitors are split based primarily on tops and attempts to tops. The first women’s final had no tops. Not one, and the women were as fresh as they could have been. Talking this over with World Cup climber James Kassay, he was pretty blunt….. “so, I need to teach you how to set for women apparently”. I completely agreed. But as we talked we came to a realisation. Where are all the women setters?

I don’t claim to know everyone, but the only person I can think of that has set at high level events is Carlie LeBreton. Further than that, how many female head route setters are there internationally? When was the last female head route setter at a world cup? Has there ever been one? I am happy to be educated here, so please, feel free to inform me. But there is no denying that there is a huge gap in women setters, at the very least in Australia, if not through the international climbing community. We have seen the rise of female climbing globally, again in the words of James “The women on the world cup circuit are really f*#@ing strong. We were working the same problems together”.  So why no female setters?

Ocea, a rising female star in Australian Climbing

Whilst I love self improvement and as I said before, the pursuit of self betterment is one of the things that drives me, pushes me to set in a new way, think in new ways and climb in new ways. But when it comes to setting for women, whilst I would be super excited for James to mentor me…….. I think I want a woman to do it.