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.


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.


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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