let me set up a scenario for you: you get out early from work or school on friday, perhaps the weather isn’t looking too great for the weekend, and a quick sesh at the gym seems like the best option. you’re super psyched because it’s only 1230 and the gym probably just opened. you pull into the parking lot and see plenty of other cars; maybe it’s already packed in there because everyone else had the same plan as you did. you walk up to the door and pull but GASP…it’s locked! you cup your hands around your eyes to get a better view, and sure enough, there are people climbing in there. you pull again, but yup, still locked. what’s going on?!!?!?!
behind those locked doors are the fearless ROCK’n & JAM’n routesetters, fully immersed in a cave and high volume setting day. these are the days that we take the extra time to set in the lead cave as well as catch up on some easier graded routes that have been overlooked over the past weeks. for example, on friday january 6, 2012, there were 5 setters, ng, jg, cc, la, and khn. between us, 9 routes were set. now i can’t personally take credit for the volume (neither can corey) as we got the cave routes (more on that later). but lucas and keith each bucked up and set 2 routes apiece, while nathan was the real champ racking up 3 routes! he counted up all the holds and found he had bolted 156 holds to the wall. 156! and a lot of the holds that these guys used had to be washed. they went up and down their ropes a lot! after a while, even in the most comfortable harness, limbs start to go numb. plus hauling heavy buckets, filled to the brim with holds, up and down the walls can get a bit tiring, to say the least.
then there are the ladders. they have names at rj1. our largest ladder is a 35 ft extension ladder named ‘widow maker’. i can’t say exactly how heavy this beast is, but a typical ladder of this size clocks in around 85 lbs. and this isn’t a comfortable 85 lbs. our second largest ladder (and the only other one to earn a name) is a 32 ft extension ladder named ‘bertha’. she is definitely the little sister of ‘widow maker’, but is a force to be reckoned with all the same. a typical 32 footer weighs around 70 lbs. now we’re certainly not the largest guys around, but 4 days a week we’re hauling and moving these babies around. you get good at finding balance points quickly, otherwise you’re dropping the ladder onto the mats.
so on a day like january 6, corey and i got to use the big ladders, since we were setting in the cave. i started out with ‘widow’, corey on ‘bertha’. we got them into the cave and started stripping our routes. at this point, you might ask yourself: ‘what about the really steep section of the cave? the wall doesn’t seem vertical enough to get the ladder to prop up against it.’ i was getting to that…you essentially pin the top of the ladder against the roof, and weight it enough to allow it to sink and shift into a stable position. and sometimes it decides to sink and shift a little when you’re higher up which usually induces a bit of terror and a minor panic attack in me. other setters reactions may differ. and it gets really fun when you’re hauling up a heavy hold or a large volume.
once on your ladder, you may realize that the section of wall you need to either strip or set on, is too far away from your ‘comfortable’ perch. so you have to squeeze your upper body through the rungs and lean through to the other side of the ladder. this to me is absolutely terrifying, but sometimes it’s what the job requires. january 6 had it’s fair share of these maneuvers. and we were able to set both of our routes without the use of a rope, which is a rare but exciting feat to accomplish. of course, it required standing near the very top of a fully extended ‘widow maker’. but it’s just another day on the job.
i guess that’s it for this episode of behind the wrenches. hopefully this gives you, our faithful members and guests, a small bit of insight into what goes on during our typical setting sessions. we certainly have off days, sometimes you just don’t feel like you have good moves. it happens. and we do need to hear about it. many times, though, that’s the only feedback we hear. keep in mind that some positive feedback from time to time lets us know what kinds of movement and climbing styles you guys enjoy, and also lets us know that all of the effort we put worth week in and week out isn’t all in vain.