They're up with the sun, chain coffee-drinking and working hard to bring you the routes you love to send, project, and crush. 'Touchstone Routesetting' is an industry term for excellence, and each member of the crew brings a little somethin' somethin' to the team. In our ongoing segment, Better Know a Setter, we bring you a closer look at what makes 'em tick. In this weeks installment, we sat down with our newest setter, Kat Gentry.
How long have you been route setting?
This is my third week...
How did you get into route setting?
It's always been something I've wanted to do. It's kind of like my dream job. My goal is to set climbs that people find fun and challenging. I love it when you find a climb that's just your style- but at the peak of your ability and you project it almost every day and never get tired of it. I want to make climbs like that for someone else. I've been climbing and competing for years and setting just seemed like the next logical step for me. I'm taking a year off from school before going to college, so it seemed like the perfect time to start setting.
Can you talk a little bit about your comp climbing experience?
I competed in USA Climbing's Youth SCS and ABS on Zero Gravity Climbing Team for 4 years starting. I've also competed in all the Touchstone Climbing Ceries, which are always tons of fun. Competing in SCS and ABS was nerve-racking at first. It was such an amazing experience to get to climb with some of the strongest, best young crushers in the U.S. I also had extremely talented and supportive coaches (shout out to Scot and Scott and Cicada!), and I have learned so much from them. Throughout my competing years I would train with the team 3 times a week for 3 hours and by myself or with my brother and friends anywhere from 1 to 3 times a week. I improved so quickly because of it! Getting to train and bond with strong climbers my age really helped me to push my limits. It is so inspiring to see what my generation is capable of! As I became a more experienced competitor and got a couple years under my belt I really started to enjoy the competitions and be able to perform on the spot in front of a crowd. Competition climbing is my absolute favorite now because the routes and problems are so carefully set to be fun, exciting and challenging in a way that makes you want to succeed and give it your absolute best. I look forward to becoming a more experienced setter so that I can set really cool comp climbs!
How does your competition and coaching experience influence your setting?
I think it has given me a big advantage, because in order to compete and coach you have to understand the movement really well. I've put in the hours and effort to learn the movement and technique. Competing and training for competitions has taught me how to read routes and find the intended beta. Because of this, I try to be careful about forcing beta when I set a climb--it's harder than you'd think!
Coaching was really an amazing experience for me, mostly because of my wonderful co-coach, Ben, and the amazingly kind and strong kids I got to work with! Being a good coach means you have to really know how to read and analyze a climb from the ground, and try to help a kid figure out a route just by looking at it. Coaching really made me focus on explaining climbing without demonstarting. This helped me out since during a lot of the setting process you are busy drilling in holds and jugging up routes--you save the climbing for the end. So you have to have some idea of what flows without getting to try the movements first.
What is your favorite gym to set at and why?
I actually haven't even set at all of the Touchstone gyms yet! I've never even been to Metalmark, The LAB, The Studio, or Pipeworks! I can't wait to get to check them out! So far I really like setting on the Mission Cliffs expansion wall.
What is in your route setting bag right now?
All my setting gear, my climbing harness and shoes, Advil, tape, and an inhaler.
What inspires your routes?
I try to make my routes fun and challenging. I like to switch things up and break the left-right-left-right ladder sequence. I get inspired by particular climbs or moves I've done in the past and sometimes try to recreate them in my own style. I also get inspired by certain holds or a certain area of the wall that might particularly appeal to me as something with a lot of potential.
What is your favorite memory setting with the Touchstone Crew?
This past Fourth of July I went up to Tahoe with some of the setters to climb and celebrate a birthday. I injured my finger but still ended up having tons of fun. The best part was the rest day we took. We all hung out on a dock on Donner Lake in the sun and had food and good laughs and played on some paddle boards. Definitely one of the best days I've had in a long time.
Where is your favorite place to climb outside?
Maple Canyon, Utah. The rock is conglomerate and creates really cool pockets. There are a lot of massive, super over-hung caves and those are my favorite places to climb. The routes are long and require a lot of endurance but also a lot of strength and burl. It's kind of similar to gym climbing. The rock isn't sharp or slippery like granite or sandstone. It's also a camping paradise. It's this beautiful shady canyon with lots of river and super green trees. It's beautiful. Just watch out for flash floods and thunderstorms!
What is your advice for aspiring setters?
Make it happen! If you think you'll like it and are passionate and willing to work HARD, it's probably the job for you. Just keep in mind that it can be extremely exhausting at first, as I am now experiencing first-hand. But is also extremely rewarding. Learn from everyone around you: be observant. One of the most important things is to be able to learn and grow as a setter, which means you have to be good at listening and receiving feedback.
One thing I found I love about it is how much we work together as a team. We're always doing favors for one another--it would be so much more difficult if we all tried to fend for ourselves! Don't be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help or clarification. It's always best to double-check even if you think you know the answer to your question. Don't get discouraged if you set a turd. Keep working at it and before you know it, you'll have created a gem!
Do you have any advice for female route setters?
Yes! Be confident in yourself and your voice. If you are a female route setter or aspiring route setter, you are in a small minority, which means it is easy to get intimidated or shy--especially when you are also the youngest and the one with the least amount of experience..... like me! Know that being confident and standing up for yourself does not mean you are being cocky or full of yourself. As long as you are also able to take feedback and responsibility and admit when you are wrong, confidence and strength is a good thing! Be confident that you will improve with time and hard work.
Also, don't let colorful jokes and constantly being made fun of get the best of you! It's part of setting with a large crew of 20-some males. Remember it's not a competition or a race. Take your time setting to make sure your routes are quality. Finally, trust yourself and find your own style! Play around with it until you get in the rhythm of things, and switch it up every so often to keep things fresh. Every setter has their trademark moves, favorite holds and preferred terrain. Ultimately, setting is not about who can climb the hardest or do the most pushups. It's about improving through hard work so that you can set some fun, quality routes for your fellow climbers!
How many burritos do you eat every week?
One to two since I started setting! I used to only have about one per every two months!
How many cups of coffee?
At least 2. Setting is exhausting work to say the least! It's important to keep yourself energized not only by drinking lots of coffee but also by eating healthy and often, drinking lots of water, and getting lots of sleep! Since I started setting, I've been going to bed between 8 and 9:30 every weeknight! I think it will get less tiring overtime, though.