Home > Indoor Climbing

Indoor Weekly: Five Tips for New Route Setters

Route setting is an art and it takes time to be efficient and consistent at it.

This list of tips is for you climbers who are hoping to to start setting one day and the things to keep in mind.

This list of five tips isn’t about the actual setting, but about how to be a good setter.

Route setting is a physically difficult and mentally exhausting job, so being knowing how to balance the time you have with the type of route is important.

Gyms hire setters to set a certain number of climbs in an allotted time. Some gyms tell you how many routes to set, others let their setters go wild.

The rigors and time constraints will depend on a number of variables. But you need to keep in mind the type of terrain you’re setting: should you set the overhanging lead wall first or the slab top rope wall first?

Route setting is similar to aid climbing, many techniques cross over and you’re hanging on the rope for hours at a time.

Just because you can lock off to screw in the first few holds doesn’t mean you can do it all day.

Never work harder than you have to, don’t strain to screw in a hold, don’t struggle hauling a bucket around, don’t lock-off on poor holds to pull up slack on a GriGri.

Find a route setting mentor and learn the tricks of the trade. Here are five things to know as a new route setter.

Plan and Learn

Plan ahead of getting on the rope. Figure out the sequence and the moves for each hold.

Check all of the bolts and threads to be sure they’ll work. Fill your bucket top of the route holds to the bottom. Last hold should be at the bottom of the bucket.

There’s a steep learning curve to route setting, embrace it. You won’t be the most efficient to start but it will come.

Learn the little tricks and really plan things before heading up.


As a route setter, your mode of transportation is jumaring. Jumars are handles with small teeth that bite into the rope.

They are  movable connections, you weight one while moving the other up, then alternate.

Learn how to use a jumars, become the best at using them, love them and one day you won’t get the inevitable deep pump.

The Gear

Ask experienced setters how they rig their gear, such as their bucket, draws, daisies, directionals, jumars, GriGri, drill, ratchet, wrench and more.

One of the most common struggles for setters is where to hang the bucket. One of the best solution is to connect your bucket to the closest rope with a jumar.

You can jumar with the bucket and clip it to bolts and quickdraws along the way if there’s not other rope around. Don’t clip it to your harness unless it’s almost empty.

Always bring more than you need because things will always surprise you.

Bring extra: bolts, extra foot holds, bits for the drill, screws for screw-in holds, a phone for the front desk if you’re working, water and even snacks.

Your Body

Don’t burn out. You’re a strong climber, but jumaring and route setting is a different beast.

It’s tiring, so you’ll need water and food and visit the bathroom before starting. Maybe climbs a few easy routes before starting to get the blood flowing.

Wear approach or running shoes for jumaring and bring some climbing shoes to fore-run moves.

Your body is going to hurt after five hours of route setting, so take your time and don’t get hurt.

Directionals and Back Ups

Learn how to use quikdraws fixed on the wall as directinoals. Bring extra quickdraws and use them as handles.

Bring an extra bolt and hanger to screw into t-nut holes. You can use these as directionals to pull you away from the direct line of quickdraws.

Keep everything backed-up and clipped in. Have your drill clipped to a daisy and the daisy to the jumar.

For smaller tools like wrenches, wrap elastic bands and create a snug attachment point.

And always back yourself up. Your safety is the most important part of route setting.