Setting the Mammut Bouldering Championships 2009 part 1: Backstory and Rainproofing

Like most climbers, I make a measly living through an amalgamation of several different jobs, including working the front desk at The Spot Gym in Boulder, setting routes at the Spot, taking photos and writing bits for magazines and websites, and occasionally routesetting for major competitions.  Unlike some banner years in the 80s and 90s, these days competition routesetting can hardly be considered a way to make a living in terms of $ made for hours worked.  With rare exception, any given pro comp will require a straight week of 12-20 hour days of setting, tweaking, and forerunning.  In return you might get travel money, a hotel room (often shared with several other people) a food stipend, and sometimes a little bit of money for your trouble.  In addition, the people are great, the comps are fun, and the climbing week after your 2-5 post comp rest days is a good time to send your projects with all the strength you've built up from forerunning. The gigantic eye and other parts of Walltopia's Prometheus.

This summer was the third straight year the Mammut Bouldering Championships was set atop the parking garage at Shiloh Inn in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah.  This tradeshow comp used to be called Sendfest, and the first two years I helped set it was held by The Front Climbing Club and USA Climbing.  In 2007 NE2C out of the northeast took over and began holding a two location comp with qualifiers at The Front and finals atop the parking garage.  The wall for finals has been different every year, with a modular Pyramide wall in 2007, four beautiful curved plywood walls in 2008 made especially for the event by John Stack and Vertical Solutions out of Salt Lake, and the 2009 Walltopia Prometheus with huge streaked features and a gigantic red eye.

Setting the Walltopia Prometheus

The eye was supposed to have four huge black eyelashes above it, but they were too easy to use as volumes and would have made it difficult to set really hard final #4 problems, so we only used one of 'em.

One of my very best friends and fellow Flashed climber Joel Zerr came along for the second straight year to help set the event.  Our friend and amazing setter Kyle McCabe, NE2C head Jason Danforth, Jason Kehl, traveling French World Cup Setter Tonde Katiyo, photographer and Flashed athlete Brian Sweeney, underrated genius Paul Handlen, and skinny white boy Bret Johnston from Seattle rounded out the setting group, though we got help from the wonderful people at The Front and the dedicated volunteer employees of NE2C as well.

Joel, Bret and Kyle playing with a rose move off the lift.

We set finals first, spending mornings and evenings (until way after midnight) atop the garage.  We couldn't set all day because from around 3-7 the sun was directly on the wall and the heat was too much to bear.  The holds were new (i.e. very textured) and the wall was an aggressive fiberglass, so forerunning was especially brutal, especially when the holds were still hot from being in the sun all day.  Bret sustained an especially bad wall burn on the inside of his right knee that he whined about for days afterward.  We were lucky to have a lift to set the tops of the very tall wall, and the lift also helped a bit when we had to set up a rain-proofing system on the back of the walls in case it rained (like it did last year).

Tonde and Kyle strapping a plastic roll to the back of the wall.

Our system turned out to be rudimentry, it was hard to set up (cause the backs of the walls were black and often in the sun when we were working on it) and made of thin plastic and strapping.  The idea was that if it did start to rain we'd remove the strings and the plastic sheeting would unfurl like a red carpet down the back of the wall and keep water of the back of the wall and therefore from running through the bolt holes (also like it did last year).  We weren't positive it'd work, and the plastic sheeting was thinner than we thought it'd be, so we were delighted when, in the middle of our last forerunning session, the strings holding one section up untied themselves and we heard the plastic rolling down the back of the wall and hitting the ground.  We looked and it was covering the wall, and hadn't torn.  Success!  Sort of.

We were lucky it didn't rain.


Here is a picture of Paul holding up the eye with a piece of strapping.  It's a good thing he was there, or nothing would've gotten done.

Next week, part 2: setting qualifiers!