Crafting Climbing Routes: A Guide to Route Setting in Climbing Gyms



Climbing is not just a sport; it’s a puzzle-solving adventure that challenges both the body and the mind. One crucial element that enhances this experience is the creation of climbing routes in indoor gyms. Route setters are the unsung heroes who design and craft these routes, ensuring climbers of all levels have an exciting and challenging time on the wall. In this article, we’ll explore the fascinating world of route setting in climbing gyms.

The Role of a Route Setter

A route setter is to climbing what a chef is to a restaurant. They create the menu of climbs for climbers to enjoy. Their role is multifaceted:

  1. Safety First: Ensuring the safety of climbers is paramount. Route setters must select appropriate holds, create safe fall zones, and evaluate the durability of climbing holds.
  2. Variety: Climbing routes should cater to a wide range of abilities, from beginners to experts. The setter’s challenge is to provide variety in routes that cater to different strengths, styles, and techniques.
  3. Creativity: Route setters are artists, sculpting climbing problems that require creativity and strategy to solve. They must continually think outside the box to keep climbers engaged.
  4. Consistency: Setting consistent routes ensures that climbers can accurately gauge their progress and skill development over time.

The Route Setting Process

Creating climbing routes in a gym involves several stages:

1. Hold Selection:

The process begins with selecting holds from a vast inventory. Holds come in various shapes, sizes, textures, and colors. Route setters choose holds that suit the desired route’s difficulty level, style, and aesthetic.

Aesthetic factor in routesetting


2. Route Design:

Setters create a blueprint of the route on paper or digitally, specifying hold placements, movements, and the overall route progression. They decide on the route’s starting and ending points, as well as any distinctive features.

3. Hold Placement:

With the route design in mind, holds are carefully placed on the climbing wall. Setters must ensure holds are secure and properly tightened to prevent accidents. They also consider the ergonomics and body positions required for each move.

4. Testing:

Once the route is set, it’s tested by experienced climbers or setters themselves. This step helps identify any issues, such as overly challenging sequences or holds that may not be as secure as intended.

5. Tweaking and Adjustments:

Based on feedback from testers, setters make necessary adjustments to the route. This may involve repositioning holds, altering the difficulty, or refining the flow of the climb.

6. Grading:

Climbing routes are assigned difficulty grades, typically ranging from easy (beginner) to hard (advanced). Setters assign a grade to each route based on its perceived difficulty and the intended audience.

7. Rotation and Refreshment:

Routes should not remain static. Gyms regularly rotate and refresh routes to keep the climbing experience exciting and challenging. Old routes are replaced with new ones, and the process begins anew.

The Art of Route Setting

Route setting in climbing gyms is as much an art as it is a science. Setters must balance the technical aspects of climbing with creativity, continually adapting to the evolving abilities of climbers. Each new route is like a story waiting to be told, offering a unique challenge and experience for climbers. The art of route setting is a vital part of what makes indoor climbing an engaging and ever-evolving sport, enticing both beginners and seasoned climbers to reach new heights and explore uncharted terrain on the climbing wall.


Electronics technician, mountaineer and climber, dedicated to sports training and climbing fanatic with more than 15 years of experience., One of the creators of ROAC Climbing Holds (RXCLIMBINGHOLDS). Dedicated to creating high resistance and ergonomic holds as well as designing electronic training programs for climbing.

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