Remember when I said I didn't keep up with blogging very well?  Well, half of that statement is true in this case but the thoughtful elegance I desired my words to have were just not being produced in my mind.  However, with more than two months past one of the best setting experiences of my career and Nationals already over, my literary brilliance would have to be saved for my next groundbreaking post about impacts or what shoes I wear.

People say that Facebook is a waste of time.  They say that my face glued to the phone in the RA group makes me seem obsessive, that I'm trying too hard.  It's shocking because if I was surrounded by a group of routesetters,  would you not expect me to completely geek out and just brain dump everything I wanted to share about my experiences?   This isn't unlike my personaility, love it or hate it.   But, for some, it has been told to me that they can look past the freqeuncy, focus on my words, and realize that this is produced based on pure enthusiasm for what I have chosen to make my career.  This time, a name that I was familiar with for only the name itself,  posted in our favorite routesetting venue that he was looking for full time routesetter, preferably a woman, to join The Front's team with their first appearance at 2015 Divisionals.  While I knew that a change of scenery full time was impossible with a lease and another person and career to consider, I took a shot in the dark and contacted Mike Bockino for the first time.

And after only a couple of sentences, and the unofficial "ask around" background check on me, I was off to Ogden.

On Monday, upon arrival to The Front Ogden for the first time, I was pretty psyched.  Vertical Solutions just knows how to create a beautiful looking wall and it was only getting better and better as they were still working hard to perfect the already amazing new section.  A quick briefing before pulling out the impacts would put my mind at the point into a constant fury of stress and excitement.   I realized how long it really had been since I had set for a major competition and getting my brain clicked back into formats and schedules and earplugs after years of mindless commercial setting was like starting an old Evinrude motor.   It needed a couple of yanks.  We each had predetermined sections, grades, and youth categories laid out for the entire competition and Mike made sure to give us an opportunity to set for every category.  Finals problems would be the first to go up, then foreran, then eventually taken down the very next day and plugged with specific colored earplugs representing whether the problem was in the morning or the afternoon.  Then throughout the week we would set and forerun our Qualifers problems.

Mike picked a team from all over the country including Kyle Van House from Seattle, Nohl Haeckel from SoCal, and Kasia Pietras from Chattanooga.

And we were off.  I felt like for a solid hour I hadn't moved because I was still overwhelmed with new holds and new walls while everyone grabbed every Main Dish and Pinchtite they could find.  I decide instead of trying to attempt something I wasn't confident I could pull off that I would set good flow sequences designed to break the field.  I struggled however with most of the competition (I don't think you could see it on my face) because I felt that in the shadow of the amazing team I was setting with, my contributions didn't hold a candle to what they were producing.  I'm going a little backwards in time but I figured it is easier to describe my problems in the order they were climbed and not how they were set.


The biggest decisions made for me surrounded MYD/FYD/FYC Qualifer #1.  We were setting Qualifiers on Wednesday so I had already gotten my feet wet and had a good feel for this particular wall angle, which was the same as what I had set my MYA/JR problem earlier.  I decided I wanted to choose all similar/same themed holds, I wanted it to look clever, and I wanted it to be a lot of fun as this was the first problem these little guys would touch in the entire competition.  It's hard, in retrospect, to go back and say I liked what I had put up.  I know I did at the time and I know after climbing on it, that it was a lot of fun to climb.  Unforunately, at the time, no one had said anything about it not looking like a competition problem.  This is what I first set, climbing from left to right.

Looking at it now, it wasn't the worst thing I've ever put up.  Without getting into detail, after a conversation with David back at home (who gives it to me straight) and a little push from Kyle, I texted Mike and told him that I wanted to reset the whole thing and I asked if he could bring volumes from the SLC location.  "No problem!"  The next morning in about an hour, I stripped it all down and transformed it into something that could look more worthy of being in a competition with a much more interesting sequence.  This is after:

Maybe because I think it was the unofficial most improved boulder and the mental struggle surrounding it, I thought it was probably the best boulder I put up.  The most difficult part next was making some last minute tweaks to it for the C girls, who ended up being worlds stronger than the Ds in which I had a hard time finding worst holds and simple tweaks in order to keep the scoring and sequence the same but take it to the next grade.  The crew stepped in and helped, find the more efficient tweaks quickly and easily.  The Geofins turned into pinches and we took off the final crimp before the finish hold in order to really force the mantle.  I think it made for a great first push into qualifiers.  Here's a video with the tweaks:

My next qualifying problem would be the easiest for the MYA/JRs in the entire competition, a V5 that I decided to make very minimalist;  the curves on the wall would make it very difficult to put many large holds or volumes so I went very far from that.  Instead of going with small crimps to create this minimal effect on that wall, since the boys at that age just take up an enormous space on the wall, I wanted to make them move around with lots of tracking with incut mini jugs.  They all had to be the same, so I chose the Rock Candy Buckets MD for a majority of the route, finishing off with a few balancy moved on rounded Atomik Small Simple Crimps and a dynamic lunging move to the finish hold.  I thought it accomplished the task at hand;  if you didn't control your feet, because you thought it was easier to campus on jugs, you got pumped.  By the time some of the guys got to the two crimps, some were too tired to commit to the large finish jug.  It got tons of flashes but generated more falls that I would have expected, proving successful in the break up of the lower half of the field.  Best of all, it didn't require many (if any) tweaks!

As I will mention later and elaborate on, I love setting for MYC/FYB as it is one of my favorite categories and I wanted to set something creative for them.  Because this one was on the roof too, and I would say that roof problems would be a setting weakness of mine because we don't have much of it at the BRC or even back in FL.  I found a pair of huge Habit Calimero volumes (and by huge I mean together they probably weigh as much as I do!) and without putting a terrible amount of thought into it, put them on the roof and decided to build the route around them.  With a roof, those little guys are usually going to swing around, which is fun for them to do and fun for people to watch.  I started the problem utilizing the corner and having them stand up into this flat sloper that they would have to lay back on into the mini jug section featuring eGrips Remarkable Rocks Finger Buckets.  Here, as you see Colin do in the video, I wanted the kids to get on the jug section and swing around, doing what they do best.  My hope was that they would just go at it without thinking about sequence, making it more interesting if they got twisted around, had to match, etc.  The Calimero volume has a smooth flat lip at that angle, taking them away from super incut holds and ramping up to the sloper section.  No longer would the kids be able to just let their feet cut when transitioning to the Nicros Sweet Potato.  And you could do this a number of ways; heel hooks, toe hooks, bicycles, it was all very accommodating to different sizes.  This section and moving to the next slopers and up to jug-pinch would be the cruxiest section, especially if they were not comfortable on slopers.  I had a great time watching this one.  Here's Colin Duffy doing what he always does, figuring out his own beta and making it look like nothing.

The last problem I set, which took me the longest to choose but the fastest to put up, was the hardest qualifier for the FYA/JRs, also on the roof to the right of my previously mentioned red problem.  I got behind with tweaks and at first, decided I would put up the problem on the last day of forerunning.  The suggested grade of this problem was V9, which I knew that I was being pushed for being selected for this grade.  This was well beyond my sending ability and I believed this would have been a test piece for me.  On Thursday night, our ride to take Kyle and I "home" in Ogden was stuck doing managerial tasks so while Kyle took a nap, I decided to put this time to use and at least put something on the wall.  The ladies had Mike's crimpy blocker-athon, Kasia dyno/dynamic moves on big holds and Kyle's (I believe...) technical dihedral to thugfest.  So, I decided to throw up something that had a little bit of everything.  The roof provided a jungle gym of crimps and pockets, with an undercling to toss over the lip in what I wanted to be more drive-by fashion.  Between A and JRs, we decided to make the undercling better as it seemed to be too much of a stopper move, but then made the move a little more static.  After getting pumped out on the roof, I let the end be open to interpretation, with two Teknik Methods to get you up to the heinous thumbdercling finish.  I had to pick some comp style gimmick that you either love or hate...

Finals Problems

Like I said before, I kind of messed up the chronological timeline of these routes.  Finals were set on Monday and Tuesday.  It was pretty easy to choose what problems I wanted to start off with first:  Two of them were on unfinished walls that I would come back to later.  I started with a problem that I confidently knew the age category, Male C/Female B's easiest climb of the day and their first problem.  The reason I am so comfortable with that particular age categories was because I'm about the exact same size and reach of most of the smallest C Boys, so reach was an easily determined factor.  For some reason, pink holds just spoke to me and I quickly set a fun and simple sequence that would only separate the lowest field of climbers. With the B girls, like Brooke and Ariana, I knew that the rest of the problems would sort them out later and expected them, and plenty of other girls and boys, to easily flash this almost warmup.  While forerunning, I realized I set a really fun V3 with nothing stopping any of them.  We decided that the simplest tweaks would be to make the feet worse, turn the holds worse and let it ride.  Here, you can see Brooke makes pretty quick work of it, as expected but it did end up separating some of the field pretty early to my surprise.

FYB/MYC Finals #1 - ABS Divisionals 2015 @ The Front Ogden from Aubrey Wingo on Vimeo.

I had to chuckle a little bit when I saw that I was also setting the first Male Youth A/JR problem at around V7ish for the main fact that forerunning my own problem would be laughable.  Not too familiar with everyone in this category save a few, I decided to set something that I knew
would potentially challenge the taller competitor.  My terrain, a basically flat wall, would limit what moves I would set.  I didn't want their opening problem to be a total crimp fest which I feel on that surface would be kind of a cop out.  I took a Mike Helt piece of advice before I got too flustered and
put a start hold on the wall.  Bockino's FA/JR problem sharing the same wall for the afternoon already incorporated volumes that I felt I had to take advantage of so the key was building a sequence in between.  The only main tweaks were worse holds on the volumes, which went from crimpy pockets to sloping knobs and to keep the techy tension I wanted to create, the team suggested that instead of a super jug finish that these boys would have to balance hard on their feet and match another sloping wedge.  The end result actually came out much more creative, having to rely on a key heel on the flat ledge earlier in the problem.  In retrospect, I would have blocked out the bolt hole to make them really have to try.

MYA/JR Finals #1 - ABS Divisionals 2015 @ The Front Ogden from Aubrey Wingo on Vimeo.

My favorite category to set for includes the little guys and growing girls: Male D, Female D, and Female C.  I looked around to based a bit of my problem around what hadn't been set for them, to give them something different.  They had a great overhanging climb of just power and sequence, the crowd favorite crimp loop and bat hang finish and a powerful last problem that I knew I didn't want them completely wrecked for.  At Regionals, I had seen the kids' dynamic ability at that age and wanted to put them to the test once again.  Using a lot of the Myorcan sets from Egrips, from arete to volume, I gave them a two handed dyno that I felt was straightforward, reachable if they wanted it enough, and an exciting move that would light up the crowd.  Obviously, at this age group, I second guessed myself every time I looked at it, afraid that it would be unfair but I felt I gave enough feet options that I let it ride.  You can see below how it actually turned out, but here is Campbell, who is probably the tallest D girl, making it look natural.

Last I chose one of my favorite holds sets to be the stars of the show for the Female A/JRs, Rock Candy's Sledges.  I felt like out of all my finals routes, this potentially felt the most commercial but I wanted to put aside the big flashy moves and push their strength on their weakness with open handed flat ledges and compression.  It would be their last climb of the day so I felt that testing their strength after three boulders previous boulders could really separate the field as I didn't feel their was any specific crux.  As you can see in the picture, I had a pretty big canvas to fill.  At first, I had the finish continuing back over to the left of the top panel, but after forerunning the moves by myself, the beginning moves were sustained and being their last problem of the day, I worried more of them tiring out early without seeing any sends.  I chose keep the beginning, following the overhanging arete and ended straight up.  In retrospect, looking at the problem, I pretty much set the same move ever and over again and it wasn't as aesthetically pleasing as I would have hoped, but I still think it was a solid climb and help further split the field. In forerunning by myself however, I thought that it felt difficult enough without adding a bunch of unnecessary moves. The problem itself also looked better without the unnecessary clutter.

How It Went

Qualifers work pretty well for us.  We didn't have many ties, and we were confident in our finals problems and knew that they would be broken up.  As mentioned in most of my routes above, some of my problems were definitely ramped up and some holds had to be backed off a little on others.  Pretty standard and we celebrated the success had.

After finals, we ended up with no ties.  We celebrated at Slackwater while waiting for our flights.  If you weren't familiar, there is always a debrief done as a group, a chance to talk about how things went and give and receive feedback regarding the entire competition.  I had been in one before, back in Florida after SCS Divisionals, and I knew the anxiety I felt would feel about the same.  One by one, we talked about how we felt things went, and when it came to my turn, I felt as if all routesetting knowledge was forgotten.  But I was honest.  I thanked the team and talked about how I felt, most similar to thing you've already read here.  But there are things I didn't realize that were quickly pointed out.  My red MYA/JR separate the field in both categories right off the bat.  Everyone was happy and impressed, regardless of the reasoning behind it, that I changed the MYD/FYD/FYC Qualifier #1.  And one of my main strengths was the ability to set beyond my climbing level.

My criticism?  Deja vu.  I need to be able to climb harder to forerun more efficiently.  With a busted ankle, I slacked off and didn't train on the side and I knew it. 

So what did I learn?  Specifically, at this level of competition, I shouldn't look to have my hand held and that my learning will comes from my routes, how they are received and how they turned out.  I learned that Youth D and C kids will rarely look graceful on the wall, so their problems should be more "pretty" on the wall and vice versa for the older categories.  I learned that just because I'm not being directed to do something, it doesn't mean I'm useless.  This competition was probably the greatest learning experience so far in my career and I am ready and stronger mentally, and hopefully physically, for the next event.  I truly do it for these kids as much as love doing it myself

Below I've attached more footage and moments from other amazing climbs and heart pounding moments from the competition.  Thanks for reading!

MJR/MYA Finals #4 - ABS Divisionals 2015 @ The Front Ogden from Aubrey Wingo on Vimeo.

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