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Route Setting: A Behind-the-Scenes Look



When you walk into the climbing gym, you’ll notice several things, including the front desk with our friendly staff ready to welcome you, other climbers enjoying themselves and chatting, and music playing to create a fun, party atmosphere.


But one thing you definitely can’t miss is the main attraction: the climbing walls with their many routes.

You can map each one, from bottom to top, following the same colored holds all the way up. They’re graded for difficulty level, but you might know exactly how challenging it will be for you until you try it yourself. Each route and person is completely unique, with different challenges and advantages that suit different people based on height, strength, flexibility, and more.


HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT ABOUT WHAT GOES INTO SETTING ROUTES?


Before the route setting even starts, consistent research helps our team keep up to date on the most recent global climbing trends in this constantly evolving sport. This is challenging because it’s not always easy for us to access new equipment and supplies (for example, bigger holds are now becoming more popular, but purchasing these and getting them to Kenya is not something that can happen overnight). But it’s also exciting because we love knowing how to bring fresh and exciting features to Nairobi’s climbers.

Setting the route itself requires strategic thinking, creativity, visualization, as well as climbing experience. The route setter has to decide where the crux will be, often working on the crux first and then building the rest of the route out from there. They have to determine how difficult it will be and in what way. A climb can be challenging because it requires a long reach, because of a particular technique that’s needed, because it’s a puzzle that needs to be solved creatively, or maybe because it requires a particular type of strength.


There are an almost endless number of variables that factor into the difficulty of a route, but the RIC scale, which measures difficulty by risk (how scary the climb feels based on the type of moves required to complete it), intensity (how physically challenging it is), and complexity (how difficult it is to figure out the puzzle of the route), is a useful tool for thinking things through. And if you come into the gym while route setting is taking place, you’ll realize how physical it is. There are bolts and ladders and screwdrivers and balancing as each hold is put into it’s rightful place.


Once the routes are set, our team listens for feedback from the climbers who come in. Every comment is considered as we set our next batch of routes. We also try to find a balance when it comes to changing routes, by giving enough time for people to complete it while also keeping things fresh for those who come in regularly.


CLIMBERS COME FOR THE ROUTES


Our routes are our primary product of the climbing gym. Without the routes, there would be no reason to come! So we take it very seriously and work tirelessly to make them as fun, engaging, challenging, and creative as possible.


We have people who come to climb from all over the world, so although we have our own unique offering as the only climbing gym in Kenya, we also need to ensure we maintain the highest possible standards. This relates to everything we do, especially safety, but also the quality of our routes. We want to make sure people keep coming to the climbing gym and the only way that will happen is if the product we offer is high quality and fun!

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