Interested in seeing the inside story on ROUTES and other PROJECTS at the gym? Check out Adventures in Routesetting.
Rocktown currently has 12 rooms with multiple routes of varying difficulty in each room and ranging in height from 15 feet to 90 feet. In addition we have a number of outdoor routes which not only challenge but allow for spectacular views of downtown OKC.
Routes vary widely in difficulty to allow everyone from the beginning climber to expert climbers to find something to challenge them.
In addition we have an incredible bouldering room that is 14 feet in height and has a custom padded floor system. The bouldering room has problems ranging from "V-easy" (1 star on the Rocktown scale) to "V-sick-hard" (5 stars on our scale). In fact, you will always find a few "project" problems that have yet to be done or are rumored to have been done by so-and-so from (insert State).
ROUTES - Rocktown uses a star rating system ranging from 1 star being the easiest and 5 stars being the most difficult. These star categories also correspond to the Yosemite Decimal Scale (YDS) commonly used in North American rock climbing.
BOULDER PROBLEMS - Sure we like the V-Scale (what's the V-Scale?) but sometimes it's just easier to say "easy," "medium," or "hard." Hence our 5-star rating system - much easier to comprehend.
"Routesetting" (aka "coursesetting") is the term used to describe the art and/or science and/or philosophy of taking plastic shapes called "holds" and attaching them to a climbing surface in such a manner as to create a unique climbing experience. That experience varies depending on the audience (i.e. the novice climber, the intermediate climber, kids, experts), and the intended purpose of the route and style of the route. There is quite a bit of creative thought that goes into routesetting. A good routesetter will draw from their own climbing experiences both outside and inside and has an eye for visualizing movement and creating sequences that blend the feel of climbing with the excitment of discovery. We take pride in creating unique, challenging and fun routes.
Setting routes in concrete silos is much different than setting in a traditional climbing gym. In our gym there is no walking behind the wall to replace a t-nut, there is no throwing up a route on a moments notice, and we can't use just any hold in the bucket. There is much more manual labor that goes into setting a route. We start by spending several hours hanging from a rope drilling hundreds of 1/2" x 2" holes with a hammer-drill. To create a 90 foot route we may drill as many as 500 holes. Then we hammer in and set (using a setting tool and hammer) concrete drop-in inserts in each of the holes, these allow us to attach the bolt-on climbing holds. Because we are limited by the depth of the hole and length of the drop-in anchor each bolt must be carefully selected to ensure that it is long enough to go through the hold and into the drop-in but not bottom-out. If the bolt is too long the holds cannot be tightened and this creates the dreaded "spinner."
The creative process of selecting holds and attaching them to the wall begins only after all these other factors have been addressed. There are some limitations on the types of holds we can use on our curved concrete walls. Holds with a lot of surface area will not sit flush due to the concavity of the wall. And holds that are brittle, weak or have any flaws (such as air pockets or poorly placed washers) will crack with ease. For this reason we have to carefully select holds that provide the challenge we are looking for but are extremely strong and somewhat flexible. We are moving towards holds made of polyurethane rather than the old-school polyester resin because urethane holds have enough flexibility to sit flush on our walls. And while urethane looks to be the future for us there are still a few ultra-bomber resin holds made by companies like Metolius and Nicros that have lasted for years and seem to be unbreakable.
Aaron Gibson creating "Supercell" - Photo by Sherwin Tibayan
Aaron Gibson, co-owner and head routesetter keeps a routesetting blog called Adventures in Routesetting in which he highlights the laborious task of turning wrenches and attaching holds.
Aaron Gibson on his route "Xodus" - Photo by Andy Chasteen
Another very unique feature of routesetting in an entirely concrete facility is our ability to hand-carve or sculpt routes. Using a hammer-drill, chisels, a hammer and other tools one can set incredible climbs by creating pockets, edges, slopers, and cracks. In fact, our most difficult route and one that has gotten the most positive feedback over time is an almost entirely drilled pocket climb called "Quarry Daze." The route is 90 feet long and likely checks in at 5.13, though there haven't been enough people to climb it to establish a solid grade. The drawback, of course, is that these routes once set are permanent. But if it's a great route that's not a problem.
We are in the process of expanding our facility and adding new features such as overhangs, slabs, and some diamond-shaped features that can be attached to the walls. This will enable us to have more angles than our standard vertical walls.
ContactRocktown Climbing Gym
200 SE 4th Street
OKC, OK 73129
PO Box 643
OKC, OK 73101