behind the wrenches, an exclusive behind the scenes look

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.

nathan on rope and ladder stripping and re-setting the 5.5, 5.6 and 5.7 on the slab wall

nathan hauling a big feature up the slab wall

gotta make sure you choose good holds. so many options...

5.12+ in the making. just need to come up with a sequence.

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.

corey on 'bertha', in the roof

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.

me through the rungs near the top of 'widow maker', close to the top of the lead cave

corey on 'widow maker'

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.

3 brand new slab climbs (green, white and orange @ 5.7, 5.6 and 5.5 respectively)

straight up the center, red 5.11 (corey) and white 5.12+ (jamie)


Five Quetions: Nathan G.

1) I heard a rumor that you are training to run an ironmam or ultramarathon…why would you do that?

I signed up for the Leadville Silver Rush 50, which is a 50 mile ultra marathon in Leadville. I don’t know why I did that…

2) What do you think about when you set a route?

The other day I set a 5.9 (“Ghosts of Christmas”) in the Horseshoe Canyon at RJ2. After I compiled my bucket of holds, I went to the top of the wall and began dropping the previous route, and setting the new one from the top of the wall, down. As I pulled old holds off the wall I thought, “These holds are really old and dirty, and I wish we could replace all of them with a new line of mini-jugs from Egrips.” I continued to pull them off, and put up new ones. When I was about half-way down the wall I looked at the clock and thought, “Wow, I am setting really fast today- this method of setting from the top down while on a rope is really efficient. I should set this way everyday.” At this point, I looked up and realized that I had just set 10 feet of wall with all blue holds. I now had a bucket of all red and green Egrips mini-jugs, nice. It was three days before Christmas. I spent the remainder of my setting time (on the rope) thinking about where, or even if, I would be able to run Christmas Eve morning. The final touch to my route, which was looking very “Christmasy”, was the addition of three freaky looking holds that were molded into the shape of faces. I wish I could tell you who made these holds, but remembering holds/hold companies isn’t my forte. I used these freaky faces as footholds for the start of my route. LaMarcus walked over and looked at them. I told him, “Lucas, it’s a Christmas route with lots of red and green holds. These freaky looking faces here are the ghosts of Christmas past, present… and future.” Perfect. That worked out nicely. In between all of that, I’m sure many more pointless and uninteresting things passed through my brain.

3) What kind of bear is best?


4) If you could be one character from Tombstone, who would it be and why?

I’ll have to go with Doc Holiday– mostly because he makes smoking, drinking, and dying of tuberculosis look… awesome.

5) What is the maximum airspeed of an unladen swallow?

I believe you mean; what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow? I’m going to guess it’s somewhere around… 7. Whatever it is, I can beat that time on my skateboard.