Fundamentals of Routesetting [Book Review]

Most of the time, you pick up a guide book and get what you expect. If I pick up a map, I am hoping for a layout of an unfamiliar territory. Other times, you acquire a book ….. and don’t get what you wanted. While you did acquire some insight, it’s still not what you really intended, and the lack of satisfaction makes you disappointed overall with the purchase. That was my feeling with Fundamentals of Routsetting, by Louie Anderson.

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Routesetting, the art of making routes for climbing gyms and competitions. What do you think you would get out of this novel? How about the a technical list of unique tools and holds utilized? What about the different combinations that holds can be mated to bring out different techniques and test a climber’s balance or specific muscle strengths? Maybe a couple examples of set routes, or even a look-up table to help mix up your route setting portfolio?

Unfortunately, this book BARELY covers any of these topics, and it seems to give me the task to figure these tasks all to myself. This alone is flawed, because I (like many others) are limited to my local gym(s) and the preferences that my local routesetters utilize on the walls I climb there. I’ve been to other gyms during my travels for work, and I can tell the different variations utilized in how to tackle different climbs, let alone the different wall shapes that each gym is restricted to.

In general, most of the stuff in the book is already public knowledge to any climber that has been consistently working out at a gym for 6+ months. I’m over 2 years now into gym climbing, and I wanted a more technical “deep dive” approach.

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Most of the book is more about ethical or emotional challenges that a routesetter will encounter. For example: You should set routes so that you give a positive experience for your local climbers at all levels of skill.  Routesetters need to limit their own ego and openly accept the negative criticism that the users of the gym have on the current routes.

………Duh……it’s a business! Of course you need to balance route difficulty and customer expectations to keep the money flowing in. I wouldn’t still go to my gym if I didn’t enjoy it and feel a sense of self-improvement with the available routes.

There were a few topics that I did find insightful, though not really pertaining to the main theme. A major one is on competition setting, with side topics on budgeting, promotions, and side-activities (….not really routesetting, is it?). The last sections are more “expert advice” chapters from experienced professional setters, with some nice advice despite that it’s scattered and unorganized from the rest of the book. This makes the knowledge difficult to reference from a guidebook perspective.

The last 26 pages of the book are just flashy advertisements from various rock climbing hold manufacturers. Mostly eye-catching pictures with a couple images of what they make…..

I mean….. Seriously? If you are going to show off how you got prior advertisement funding for your book (instead of hiding product placement like most books and movies do these days), at least sort them by specialty and make it a useful look-up for us!

As you can tell, I’m not pleasantly proud of this book. I’ll probably keep on my bookshelf for now, just as a conversational starter for house guests to show off my interests in rock climbing. However, I still wouldn’t recommend this guide book.

 

Note: While not necessary, it doesn’t hurt that there’s plenty of eye candy throughout the book….

…. but remember this: deep attraction isn’t based on how someone’s body looks, but on the amazing feats that an individual can do with it! Physically and mentally…….

Make it a goal to always keep improving yourself.

 

 

 

 

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Wild [Book Review….well, kind of]

I love backpacking. And that’s why I’m having surgery next month to get rid of that stupid plate on my right clavicle. I spent a week (5 nights) in Shenandoah backpacking, and almost every step irritated that obvious obstruction on my skin-tight shoulder. If I want to extend my future backpacking vacations without the pain, it has to go.

In addition, I’ve been wanting to read two well-known books on long-distance backpacking. The first is A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. He’s the same author of A Short History of Nearly Everything, which is a completely different book altogether that I reviewed around a year ago (which brings me back to good memories of road trips across the American West). While that book takes place on the Appalachian Trail, the other book takes place on the other side of the United States. This book is titled Wild.

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Yes…..that’s a Mountain. They make great bookmarks and good conversational starters on airplanes.

Wild is a true story about the author and what brought her into the world of long-distance backpacking and her encounters along that journey. My interests initially laid in learning more about some of the technical aspects of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), including mail orders, route hazards, and hitchhiking insights, but there’s a fair bit more emotional insight that I wasn’t expecting in the novel. Cheryl Strayed, the author, grew up in a very atypical lifestyle. Living paycheck to paycheck, even as a child. Growing up in the neck of the woods with no power. But the strongest aspect was the lack of a close-knit family during the beginning of the story. After her mom dies from cancer during Cheryl’s early 20’s, she finds her life falling apart socially …. and almost mentally in a way. What made life beautiful and worth living, at least in the way she previously did, was no longer there.

Note: While I do feel compassion for Cheryl’s unfortunate unraveling as her stepfather and siblings slowly distanced themselves from her, I cannot truly understand her reasoning to crush her amazing, and almost self-sacrificing, husband for adultery and  hard drugs. It’s like if she couldn’t have half of a family, she would rather have none at all. Personally, my only real deep desire in life is to have that single companion, one that you can truly experience life with and where nothing else matters. I think that’s the most hurtful part….. when someone gives up the one thing I dream of but my six digit salary could never buy. And still, I can’t ignore the strong similarities that Paul and Cheryl had between themselves during their divorce that I experienced from my divorce with Kristina over three years ago.

But I cannot judge individuals based on their actions, because I am not them. And I will never be able to truly understand what she went through (considering that I have been blessed with a lot more in life). And in a way, the strong variations in individuals is what makes the human race …..beautiful. You can see such variations in nature and appreciate it just the way it is ….  without judgement or prior expectations. How the rocks shift over time, the various shapes of greenery adapt to their local climates, and the instinctive nature of wildlife behave in search of food, safety, and survival.

Sometimes it just takes a long absence from your daily comforts to truly appreciate what you have…….

And for some, it involves hiking over 1,000 miles at a rate of 15-20 miles/day to hit that reset button in your life. Not to learn how to “undo” what has been done, but to come to peace with the present and “efficiently” (or maybe “peacefully” is the better word here) move on. Cheryl found that in the PCT, along her marked route below.

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Her journey starts in the south near Mojave. The routes are tough, the distance between water sources are scarce, and the climate varies a lot due to the elevation changes. Cheryl has ran into bears, a bull, a llama, numerous rattlesnakes, and other (sometimes unidentifiable) animals. But none of that was life-threatening. Beside the couple scenarios where water was scarce, it’s funny to think that the most hazardous objects Cheryl ran into were other humans. While most are nice, there are still the few encounters where you can’t tell what the others’ intentions were …… especially when you hike alone ….. away from the “safety” of civilization.

Otherwise, most people do treat you with respect. Well, at least when you are a single, attractive woman. There are your supportive fellow backpackers, trail angels, empathetic locals that give you hospitality and meals, and the single sexual affair half-way through Oregon. Hence, her trail name being “The Queen of the PCT.” Because (just about) everyone wants to give her something…..

When doing long distance hiking, there’s a break-in period of 1-2 weeks. It’s not just the physical endurance of toughing up your feet and calves (which Cheryl never really recovered from during her hike). There is also an emotional shift. It takes time to no longer being perturbed to every unplaced sound at night. In addition, there may be a shift from loathing the social isolation to embracing the feeling of being alone.  I’ve noticed that I enjoy the feeling of only having to worry about two things during my backpacking trips: 1) where I would be sleeping and 2) how am I going to be getting there. No social obligations or media distractions. No mental dependence on other’s acceptance of my presence or opinions. It’s easier to build a sense of self-awareness and personal worth that way.

Otherwise, there’s a decent amount of planning required before adventuring out. Packing multiple boxes of food, spare clothing, seasonal tools, and spare cash being one the main requirements. And don’t forget to look at the long-term weather forecast…..so you don’t end up skipping the most beautiful part of the trail system!

Duly noted!