Silosetting – Creating the Routes You Climb

HoldsPic-BWLook up “routesetting” in your favorite search engine and you’re likely to get a variety of articles and blogs about tips and techniques in setting routes, climbing movement, and updates about what’s new in the local climbing gym but little about the actual job of routesetting which remains a nuanced position and rarely understood  by the everyday climber and even more cryptic to the outsider first entering a climbing gym. Going a step further, and I’ve written about this before in Adventures in Routesetting, setting in a grain silo offers even greater challenges to the average wrench-turner. First and foremost, the silos are quite a bit taller (I’m sure you noticed). That equates to using a lot more holds. Thirty feet of climbing in a standard climbing gym may mean using 30-50 holds. Ninety feet of climbing at Rocktown – that’s anywhere from 80-150 holds on a single route! Load up the haul bag and get ready to pull.

So what makes a good route? Everyone is going to have their own perception but on average it’s putting together a series of movements (or sequences) that “works,” that stays true to the nature of the climb (the target grade for the target audience) and culminates in being enjoyable and/or rewarding. Not everyone climbs for the same reason, in the same way, or seeks the same types of routes. So in a climbing gym routes variety is very important. There needs to be different difficulty levels of climbs (very easy to very difficult), emphasis on various techniques (jug-hauls, laybacks, stemming, footwork), variety in types of holds (slopers, crimpers, edges, pockets…) and just different route personalities. Variety. When done correctly there should be a well-rounded selection of climbs that caters to most. That doesn’t mean some climbs won’t be reachy or that all the climbs are going to be suitable or enjoyed by everyone. There will be choices for the climber to make in terms of selecting what routes are appropriate for them and their skill level.

But back to the task of putting the holds on the wall: the routsetter’s job involves hanging on a rope, selecting the “right” hold in the “right” position for the movement and difficulty trying to be achieved for a given climber. Sometimes a lot goes into this decision. Sometimes the routesetter’s job is very creative, sometimes it is more practical. You might place three or four different holds in a given spot before finding the one you’re looking for. Setting a 90 foot route can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Generally, the more practice you’ve had setting routes the more efficient you are and the faster you can set a quality route.

We have thousands of handholds and an unlimited number of ways to position them on the wall. Give 100 different routesetters the same 50 holds and section of wall and you are going to get 100 very different routes. But therein lies the joy of creating routes and of climbing them.

At Rocktown, our wall space is overwhelmingly vertical, versus other gyms that might have more overhangs and features. But we have the advantage of height and of being able to build sequence upon sequence rather than having to be limited by getting particular moves in a short amount of space. This allows us to build-in the endurance factor, to have multiple cruxes, and to create complex sequences and climbs that move around.

Rocktown is unique in that many times people hate when we change a route. At other gyms people complain when routes don’t get changed within two weeks! But routes at Rocktown take on more personality – more like an outdoor climb – and when one disappears it seems like you’ve lost your favorite climb at your local climbing area. What I always tell people is that we created that climb and you liked it, right? Well, maybe the next one you will like even more!

So the next time you hop on a route in the gym consider the added complexities of visualizing it, selecting the holds for it, and placing each individual hold in the position its in to create the sequence that either caused you to fall, or allowed you to challenge yourself and reach the top.

Ice Corridor News

Ice Corridor photo

Photo from NewsOK. Cruz McCarty scales a sheet of ice while doing ice climbing on the outside of an old grain silo at Rocktown Climbing Gym in Oklahoma City, Okla., Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013. Rocktown takes advantage of the cold temperatures to created a sheet of ice to allow customers to get the opportunity to ice climb in Oklahoma. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman

Rocktown opened its ICE CORRIDOR on Sunday, Dec 8 to anxious ice climbers, novices and experts alike. The Ice Corridor featured a 50 foot wall of ice containing three top-roped lines and numerous route variations.

We received some great press during the 5 days the ice climb was open. Here are some of the highlights:

Story on NewsOK

Story on KFOR segment Is This A Great State or What

Google+ Photo Gallery Featuring the Ice Corridor

Press Release – Young Oklahoma Climber Wins US National Championship


Chloe Massenat in first place position on the podium at US Nationals in Atlanta, GA

When thinking about Oklahoma, rock climbing is not generally something that comes to mind. That may change thanks to a young climber from Oklahoma City. On Sunday, July 7th, 2013, Chloe Massenat, 13, climbed her way to the top of her field and secured first place in the USA Climbing Sport Climbing Series (SCS) National Championship held in Atlanta, Georgia at Stone Summit Climbing Gym. Chloe’s victory is not only her first national title but also a first for the Oklahoma Climbing Team and the state.

The USA Climbing SCS Nationals is held annually and features the most talented young climbers in the country. Climbers must advance through local, regional, and divisional competitions in order to qualify for the four-day event held on July 4th through the 7th. Scores are calculated based on the height a climber progresses on each climb. Every day of climbing features increasingly more difficult routes and those in the top half of the field continue to semi-finals and then finals.  Chloe ranked 7th after qualifiers then in semi-finals advanced to 1st place. The final round was on Sunday July 7th, and she was the last climber in her category.

“She climbed last,” said her dad Laurent Massenat, “so she had no idea how the other girls climbed. When she reached the top of her climb she had no idea. Then when she came down everyone gave her big hugs. Her friends told her she was the national champion!”

Despite having no idea how the previous competitors in her field climbed, Chloe made her way through the overhanging terrain and multiple crux moves to reach the highest hold before falling.

“I was really close to the top, I thought that one other person or two had gotten a hold or two higher. So I was unsure about how well I’d done,” says Chloe.

During the semi-final and final round of competition, the climbers are held in an isolated warm-up area (climbers call it “iso”) and brought out one-by-one for their single attempt to complete a difficult climb they’ve just seen. Chris Yates, Chloe’s team coach at the event, noted that waiting in the warm-up area was pretty intense because Chloe was anxious to climb.

“It’s hard waiting,” Chloe said.


Emily Cole, Chloe Massenat, Coach Chris Yates at US Nationals in Atlanta, GA

“She didn’t warm up a lot. She was saying her hands weren’t feeling too good,” Coach Yates said. But all of that went away when Chloe stepped on the wall.

“She’s gotten a lot more patience and that has helped her climbing. On the wall she was able to figure out a better solution for her size. She just climbed it beautifully,” Chris says of the finals route.

“Chloe is so serious and focused,” says her dad, “she gets in the zone.”

As an added accomplishment, Chloe also took fifth place in Speed climbing.

“Her time improved almost a full second with each try. Her final speed climbing time was 9.05 seconds,” says Laurent. Her time was just one-one hundredth of a second shy of tying for fourth place.

Chloe began climbing and has been a member of the Oklahoma Climbing Team since 2009. The Oklahoma Climbing Team began in early 2008 with the goal of introducing youth to the world of rock climbing and climbing competitions. Aaron Gibson, 39, founder and head coach of the team, began climbing as a teenager, himself, and was drawn to competitive climbing because of the challenge and as a means to experience grace under pressure.

“Competition climbing requires immense concentration, physical ability, and determination. It’s the perfect balance of the three. That’s what I see in Chloe’s performance. She has worked so hard and participated in national competitions several times. This achievement is just representative of her talent and efforts,” says Aaron.

The Oklahoma Climbing Team practices twice weekly at the Rocktown Climbing Gym in downtown OKC. Climbers work with coaches on technique, strength building, and mental exercises. The competitive climbing season consists of the Bouldering season in the Fall and the Sport Climbing Season in the Spring. Currently there are 12 climbers on the Team. There is also a coached Club level team that works with brand new climbers in preparation for the possibility of joining the competitive team.

So what’s next for Chloe? Sometime this year she will attend a special climbing training session for the US National team. She will receive a USA Climbing Team jacket and hopefully a sponsorship, “with La Sportiva [climbing shoe brand],” says Chloe.

Of her overall experience and feeling about the event, Chloe simply says, “I feel pretty happy about being in first place.”

Silo Art Project at Rocktown

If you have been to the gym lately you may have noticed that Rocktown is in the process of getting a new paint job. But this is no ordinary paint job – this is a massive collaborative effort with artist Rick Sinnett, a native Oklahoman that has been painting murals along Route 66. Rick’s work can be found on large structures in Tulsa, Bristow, Mustang, and El Reno. The Silo Art Project occurring at the silos of Rocktown will be the largest in his series of murals.

Currently there is a fund raising campaign being held on Kickstarter to raise the necessary money to complete the project.

We here at Rocktown are grateful for Rick Sinnett and his passion to see this project through to the end.

Lately the Silo Art Project has garnered some good press and some very positive feedback from people around OKC. Check out this story on CNN iReport:

Make sure to follow the Silo Art Project progression and developments on this site.

Happy Holidays from Rocktown

We’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy Holiday season. We’ve had a number of great things going on at Rocktown this year and we’re looking forward to more positive developments and expansion of climbing in 2013. We thank you for your patronage and value your support over these past years.

Couple of things we’d like to share:

ticklist_logo2First we have an email newsletter called the Tick List that we put out every so often. This will keep you up-to-date on recent developments and some fun stories and facts about Rocktown, our climbs, and our staff.

Here’s a link to the latest issue:

Also we wanted to encourage everyone to check out our ever-expanding selection of climbing gear on our online store.









And there’s been much discussion about the prospects of having ice climbing this year.

You can read more about that here.

Oklahoma Climbing Team Member Reaches Finals at Nationals!

On July 4-8, 2012 Oklahoma Climbing Team member Chloe Massanet, her dad Laurent and coach Aaron Gibson traveled to Atlanta, Georgia for the USA Climbing Sport Climbing Nationals event. Chloe qualified for Nationals after placing 2nd at Divisionals in Grapevine, Texas. During Nationals Chloe flashed Qualifier #1 on the first day, fell high on Qualifier #2 on day 2, and was 9th place going into semi-finals on Saturday. During semi-finals Chloe climbed very strong and fell high on the route – enough to earn her 7th place and a spot in the Finals! During the Finals route Chloe fell low on the climb due to a tough and long move (for her height) from an overhanging section of the wall. As a Finalist, she placed 11th in her category – which means she is 11th in the USA for her age group.

For speed climbing Chloe qualified for semi-finals and placed 17th overall.

It was a fantastic competition and the first time an Oklahoma Climbing Team member has made it to Finals. The Oklahoma Climbing Team finished 44th out of 73 teams – which is impressive considering our team size is only 12 members and we had just one climber qualify for Nationals.

We are very proud of Chloe and all of her hard work. If you see her at the gym make sure you give her a pat on the back and tell her great job!

For all the photos of the comp click here.

Complete competition results are posted here.

Oklahoma Climbing Team – Sport Climbing Season Update!

The Oklahoma Climbing Team has been hard at work practicing, climbing, and competing at a number of climbing competitions this season. Already, it’s clear that the kids on the team have stepped it up a notch or two! All of them are lead climbing – which is quite an achievement. In fact, last weekend in Arkansas, four of them did their first outdoor lead climb! But now we’re jumping ahead so let’s back up for a sec…

On March 31tst, Rocktown hosted its annual Sport Climbing Competition. Those results are posted here. But just to highlight a few of the results: Theo 5th Male-Youth D, Chloe 1st Female-Youth C, Nicholas 4th Male-Youth B, Bibi 5th Female-Youth B, Caitlin 6th Female-Youth B, Alec 1st Male-Youth A, Emily 1st Female-Youth A. Overall, it was a great showing at our home gym!

Next up was a local competition at Summit Climbing Gym in Grapevine, Texas on April 14. The format was “onsight” and quite a bit more pressure and difficult in terms of steepness of the routes. The Summit Gym comp is always a tough one. Those results are posted here. Of note from this competition, Chloe placed 6th, Nicholas placed 7th, Alec placed 4th, and Emily placed 6th.

On April 28th we visited Little Rock, Arkansas for their Rock Madness Climbing Competition. We always have a great time in Little Rock and the team members usually climb really well. It was no different this time as we had a number of first-place finishes: Chloe placed 1st, Theo placed 1st, Nicholas placed 1st, Alec placed 1st, Emily placed 1st, and Hannah placed 1st. In addition, Caitlin placed 2nd and Bailey placed 4th in their categories.

As per usual, the next day was spent in the Ozarks climbing outside. This time it was a visit to Horseshoe Canyon Ranch. We lucked out with dry and cool weather. We arrived on Saturday evening and a few of us went night climbing. On Sunday we spent the entire day enjoying a variety of climbs. Some of the kids learned to clean anchors, some lead climbed. And a couple even ventured off to a few lesser known crack climbs and off-widths (!). It’s pretty awesome to me, as a coach, to watch these young people develop as savvy and talented climbers – both indoors and out.

This week we are in the process of preparing for Regionals which will take place on May 12 at Canyons of Frisco in Frisco, TX. Then it’s on to Divisionals and later, Nationals.

Rocktown Closed March 31 for Competition

Hello everyone,

As most of you know, Saturday, March 31 is our annual Sport Climbing Competition at the gym. The gym will be closed to all regular business (both public and members) and open only to competitors and spectators. This is a once-a-year event for us and the only time other than holidays that we actually close to the public. We understand this may be an inconvenience for some because, hey, it’s Saturday and you want to climb – so forgive us this one time. Please. Thank you.

Now – for those of you that are competing in the event….


The Concrete Classic is the name of this year’s competition and the theme is “construction.” So dig out your work boots, find a yellow helmet, and a reflective vest and pay attention to all the DETOUR signs on the way to the gym.

We’ll see you guys Saturday.

News and updates from Rocktown Climbing Gym