Sunday, 8 January 2017

My 2016 Route Setting Diary Highlights

So 2016 has been another busy year for me with competition route setting. I love it! The highlights have to be setting for the IFSC Lead World Cup in Briancon and being chief route setter at both the British and Irish lead Climbing Championships. There are of course other smaller fun comps that I love setting for and would like to include them all but then this blog would go on forever, so here are a few of the highlights 2016 had for me in route setting.

 Getting some Volumes on For a Comp Final © Paul Alexander at Tokyo Magic

February was the bouldering comp called the "Superbloc" which was held during the Guardian Outdoor Show 2016 at the massive exel exhibition centre in London. We set all the problems in a aircraft hanger 2 weeks before the competition because the wall was only installed the day before the actual comp! There was an impressive line up of British climbers from all around the country and a huge crowd of climbers and non-climbers to watch the show, the atmosphere was great. It's sad to hear that it will be cancelled from the Outdoor Show for Feb 2017!

 Shauna Coxsey Getting the Only Top on My Female Final 3 at Superbloc ©Chris Prescott

In March Evie and I were asked to come back to Boulder Brighton to set their 3rd birthday party comp, "BB Three". We are regulars setting for this event now and we feel like part of the family, and every year it gets better and better. This year during the setting we were interviewed and videoed whilst we were working. You can watch the full video by clicking on the picture below....
© Think Again Productions - March 2016

For sure the highlight of my route setting year was setting the IFSC Lead World Cup in Briancon France in July. I love this place and I could move there one day! I was on a great team with Marcin Wszolek, Paul DeWilde and Julien Gras. The weather was quite rainy for the finals but they went ahead and the show was great! It always impresses me how dedicated the spectators are to wait out the finals in rain. They love the sport there! It was an impressive double Slovenian win to Domen Skofic and Janja Garnbret.

Testing one of the Women's Qualifier Routes Before the World Cup - Photo by Marcin Wszolek

So for the semi-finals the IFSC chief commentater Charlie Bascoe realy wanted a route setter to co-commentate with him. This is not something I ever thought I would do but the other route setters decided that my English was the best so they put me forward for it. I was so nervous but it went well. You can watch the whole thing by clicking on the image below...
©International Federation of Sport Climbing - July 2017

So September began with White Spider's annual boulder comp called "Send!" which coincided with their 4 year anniversary of being open. I set this with Gaz Parry. White Spider is my local wall and I work there almost every week so it's great to be involved in their biggest event of the year.This year could have been the best yet!

Setting at White Spider - © Paul Alexander at Tokyo Magic

October brought me to Norwich. Every year Highball climbing centre in Norwich put on a really great three day climbing festival with the main event being the Big Flash boulder competition. Even though the centre is quite out of the way, the festival is so good that many big name make the journey to get there. This is great from a setting perspective because the climbers have more experience so as well as the really fun basic boulders I get to set some really intricate problems.

 Me on the left, (Jason on the right) Setting the Men's Semi Final Slab... only Scarpa shoes got up it ;0)

Back up to Awesome Walls Sheffield in September as chief route setter for the British Lead Climbing Championships.This is the 5th year in a row that I have set the BLCC's and the 3rd year in a row that I am chief. This year was a slightly different format with all the qualifications for both juniors and seniors happening on one day and all the finals on the following day. This definitely made the Sunday finals day a lot more exciting and more streamlined from a route setting point of view. It's getting busier every year and can't wait to see what 2017 brings.

Male Senior Champion Jim Pope Getting Ready Before the Jump on the Final Route - ©Phil Borodajkewycz

So over to Ireland in November where I went to be chief route setter for the second year in a row at the Irish Lead Climbing Championships at the Foyle Arena in Derry. On the setting team were myself and two Irish route setters Brian Hall and Ricky Bell. Evie flew over to meet me for the comp and she was a judge for the semis-finals and finals.

Irish Champion Lucy Mitchell on her Second Qualifier and Executing a Rose Move © Paul Dunlop

So to finish up the year in December I decided at the very last minute to actually compete in a boulder comp for a change, instead of always setting them. The comp was Blokfest. I thought it would be a good experience to feel things form the other side, and a good chance to properly try out the new Scarpa Chimeras. There were a lot of very strong climbers there that train nearly every day of the week specifically for comps, including British team members, so I didn't expect much of a result. To my surprise I made it into the finals. There was a massive crowd watching which was nerve wracking and isolation was tense for me because I'm not used to being the competitor. I believe the experience has stood me well for my comp route setting though, and I believe now that it's quite important for perspective.

I might even train a bit and do a few more in 2017! ;)

 Problem 3 in the Finals of Blokfest - Photo by Alex Fry

Sunday, 13 November 2016

The Joy of The First Ascent

On Monday 31st October I did the first ascent of a 40m F8b+ route called "Un Chateau dans le Ciel". This was only the second time I made a first ascent and the the first time I have done one at my home crag "Baderne" in Burghundy, France. It made me proud.

So I arrived just over a week earlier and met up with a friend Denis Roy who is a local climber, and one of the main developers of the Baderne crag. He told me he had bolted a route there that would be good for me to try. He said it was long, steep, and physical with a boulder problem crux at the end. I was curious to have a look. He said that he wasn't sure of the grade but that it felt harder than F8b.

 My Home Crag called "Baderne" in Burgundy, France.
©Yann Genoux 2016

On the first day at the crag I had a quick warm up on a F7b and then got straight onto the project. I really enjoyed the movement on the route, there were lots of the kinds of ingredients l like to climb on. It started with a slabby section moving into a technical crimpy section, followed by the roof with a jump to gain a ramp full of big crossthroughs then into the headwall boulder problem crux to the finish.

Catching the Jump in the Roof Section
©Chon 2016 

I did all the moves on my first time on it and they felt good, and most importantly I really enjoyed the climbing. I knew before I got back to the ground that it was doable for me and I wanted it. It was game on. It felt for sure like it was harder than F8b but not F8c in my opinion.

On the Ramp Section of "Un Chateau dans le Ciel"
©Chon 2016 

I had only ever done one other first ascent before on a 7b+ called "French Connection UK" that I bolted on Portland, Dorset in the UK 10 years ago, so it was pretty exciting to get the chance to try something of this calibre and at my home crag too. I was psyched.

 "French Connection UK" First Ascent F7b+
©Theo Elmer 2006

I repeatedly fell at the boulder problem crux just before the anchor. I started feeling a bit of pressure as it wasn't going down as quick as I thought it would. Day 5 and day 6 were tense because I knew I could do it but it hadn't happened and I had to get back to London in a few days time. Up to the crux was already F8b in my opinion and I needed something a bit extra to get me though the boulder problem. At the end of day 6 I refined my beta for the crux boulder at the top and found a variation on a mono in a bad sidepull flake and instead of going deep into the mono I crimped the edge of it and got more contact with more fingers. Day 7 and I tried the new beta and sent the route on my first go of the day, by the skin of my teeth!!

Moving towards the Crux Boulder Section just before the finish.
©Chon 2016

This year as well as F8c, I have climber 5 F8b's in 3 different countries and all varied in style. None of them took longer than 2 days. So with this experience I decided to grade the route at F8b+. The name "Un Chateau dans le Ciel" which translates in English as "A Castle in the Sky", was given to the route by Denis Roy as he bolted it and cleaned it.

I want to say a huge thank you to Denis for bolting and cleaning the route and mostly for giving me this beautiful opportunity for the first ascent.

Sunday, 22 May 2016


I wanted to climb an 8c at the Tor for a while. Mecca Extension to me was the logical choice for an 8c because the 1st pitch is an 8b+ that I did last year and so had that part dialed. I love the moves and didn't mind climbing it again because the moves are crimpy, technical, balancy and you don't just need to be pulling hard, it's about climbing well. I tried the route a few times last year and decided that this year had to be the year!

So Raventor is a small roadside limestone crag in the Peak District. It has some of the country's hardest sport routes including Hubble, the worlds first 9a climbed by Ben Moon. The crag has a particular style that takes a while to get used to. This style suits me.

It is a 3.5 hour drive north form where I live, so it took a bit of commitment to get a good amount of time there. From about the beginning of April I was driving up every weekend and sadly the route wasn't dry. The heavy rains were causing seepage and the top section just before the last crux was wet every weekend. I kept my spirits high though and kept fit on the first 8b+ part of the route because as soon as the extension became dry I wanted to be ready for it!

Photo: Luke Dawson

In fact by the time I actually climbed the whole route Mecca Extension I had done the bottom 8b+ section clean 19 times! Even using a towel on a wet undercut (kindly donated by Meera Dog).

So last week I was setting at Awesome Walls in Sheffield from Wednesday to Friday so it was a perfect opportunity to get on the route after setting as I was already up there.
Back at the Tor on the Saturday, instead of 3 holds being completely wet there was only one hold wet this time. I decided to just go for it anyway, I was just happy to be there and whatever happens - happens. I had a kitchen roll and when I went up to put the quickdraws in, I stuffed the kitchen roll in the wet undercut that was on the extension part.

 Photo: Ben Bransby

I then came down, belayed my climbing partner Ted Kingsworth on his project, warmed up again, and got ready for a burn without any expectations. I got throught he 8b+ part, shook out, moved on, pulled the kitchen roll out of the undercut, moved on, but something felt different than any previous redpoint, I felt calm, not shaky on the tiny foot holds. I clipped the last draw, reached up the left hand (horrible small sidepull) that had been my high point, and managed to close my hand properly on it this time witch allowed me to get my heel on the flake. At the point, I knew I had a good chance to finish the route as long as I could keep my focus for the next couple of moves. Luckly, I kept it all together, did the last couple of moves and screamed with happiness as I grabed the final jug!

Photo: Ben Bransby

 Also wanted to say a big thanks to Evie to put up with me ;-), all those patient belayer I had and people helping me with advice, inspiration and motivation like Jim Pope, Ted Kingsworth, Ethan Walker, Sam Whittacker, Luke Dawson, Ben Moon, Keith Sharple, Ben Bransby, but also my friends Tim, Emma and Meera dog :-) for kindly letting me crash at their place and many more that I'm sure I forgot to mentioned!

Route done,just on time a week before a little climbing holiday in Tenerife for Evie's birthday, happy days :-) !

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

The Big 3-0 in Spain

So I'm back from one of my most enyoyable trips so far. I turned 30 and I spent it in Spain and at one of my all time favourite crags, Oliana. Late last year Evie wanted to plan something special for my 30th birthday this Feb. So she asked me if there was one place that I could wish to go back to where would it be? It didn't take long to say Oliana. 10mins later she booked our flights and we were going to leave on Monday 15th Feb, the day of my birthday :)

 "30 is just like being 18, but with 12 years of Experience"

We would have left earlier, like the Friday before but I was setting for the "Telegraph Outdoor Show - SuperBloc Bouldering Comp" in London, and the comp was that weekend. The comp went really well, the setting team was great. We had a perfect split for the podiums. One of my favourite problems I set was the female final problem that you had to do a cat-like jump over to another volume. Hats off to Michaela for her power to do it statically! My problem got one top from Shauna, which is great from a setting perspective because it splits the group.

Shauna with the only Top on my Female Finals Problem. © Chris Prescott

Here is a nice write up on the event on UKClimbing.....

The next morning was my birthday and it was on to Oliana. I booked an apartment right in Oliana so every day it only took 10mins to get to the crag. The weather was perfect every day and we were sharing the crag with some amazing climbers, Chris Sharma, Dave Graham, Danial Woods, Klemen Becan, Said Belhaj, Matty Hong and a lot more great Climbers. I have to say, for them I am nobody but they are all so friendly and fun. They are great ambassadors to the sport.

Then on to Barcelona. I was booked for some setting at Chris Sharma's new wall in Barcelona, and luckily it fell within one of the weeks I was already in Spain! The wall is awesome and I got to set with house setter Roque who is such a cool guy. We set a mixture of blocs over two areas in a variety of grades.

Setting at Sharma Climbing BCN - © Evie Cotrulia 2016

The feedback was great form the blocs and it felt awesome to have so many amazing climbers on my problems and liking them. :) They were in town for the PETZL party the following weekend at Sharmaclimbing BCN.

Getting the Thumbs Up from Ondra and Usobiaga was Awesome

Back to the crag and back to business. I started making good progress on my project, Fish Eye. Evie and I climbed every day without a break, in the sun, happy. I wish this was my life! We also bumped into old an old French friend from London, Nicolas, who runs the Abella Eco Refugio and he invited us to dinner one night. This is a really nice place to stay and it was awesome to hang out with other psyched climbers. Thanks for the hospitality, we recommend going to stay there....  He also took some great pictures.....

Getting High on "Fish Eye" - © Nicolas Durand 2016

Evie had to go home after just one week for Emily and to work, and my good friend Tom (the fairy) came out. Lots more climbing and the links on the project were getting better. We also did a day at Terradettes and I climbed "Occident" f7c second go after punting off the last move on the onsight warm up, and "Primera Linea" f7c+ onsight.

Then on Thursday we went to the PETZL party at Chris's wall. His wife Jimena put us on the guest list which was really kind. We got there a bit early because we wanted to make sure we got parking. All the PETZL athletes had just finished setting and were about to start testing. Chris asked if I would like to test with them...! Hell yeah...! It was so surreal to be climbing with so many of my heros and they were all so down to earth and friendly. "Surreal" was the best work to describe it, all these faces I'd seen in climbing videos when I started climbing, and here I was testing with them. I'm not a punter but next to these guys I felt like I felt when I stated climbing, but that didn't matter, the vibe was great. The party after was so much fun with Dave Graham on the decs and we didn't get home until 2am. No surprise, we didn't climb the next day.

So back home now and full on back at the setting, I've actually hardly been home! I set the BMC Open youth last week up in Liverpool and this week is the Boulder Brighton 3rd Birthday Party Comp. Its always a fun comp so if you're not heading up to CWIF come to Brighton :). The weekend after is setting the BMC Youth Climbing Series with Gaz and Evie and White Spider.

For Info and Tickets... Click Here

Hope to see you somewhere along the way!

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Comp Season

It’s been a wile since my last post, the comp season is well under way witch is why I have been working quite hard and not had so much time, but I use this occasion of the od day off to try write about it.

I’ll start of by the British Bouldering Championship that took place this year in Sheffield at the Climbing Works.
We had quiet a big setting team, with Percy Bishton, Jamie Cassidy, Andy Long, Rob Napier (chief), Roan and myself.
As usual with those guys it’s pretty simple, we started setting the finals by covering the Comp wall with volumes, and setting our problems.
My Final bloc was for men, problem 3, was a technical jump on triangle volumes.
Then, after stripping those, we set the semi’s. My bloc was for men also, a steep powerful, but also technical problem, starting on 2 big slopers and a tricky knee bar in between followed by some crimps to  a big jumpy slap and a more press move to  finish.
The next day, we set the qualifiers. The wall was a bit too short, so Longy and Percy built an extended bit of wall to the slab!
I set again for the men, two similar powerful and tricky problems on steep walls, and a balance problem for woman on the slab.
Setting Finals At The 2014 British Bouldering Championships

The actual comp went very well in a sweaty atmosphere, as it was very hot under the glass roof, but every problems topped apart from one and a perfect split ! Big well done to Michaela Tracy for winning the woman and Dave Barrans for the men.

The next big event for me after that was the IFSC lead world cup in Briancon.
I used to live there , I started climbing there and it was so exiting to go back to set this event.
It was also very exiting to be part of the legend setting team such as, Adam Pustelnik, Jan Zbranek (the chief) and Paul Dewilde.
The Briancon World Cup Setting Team (from left) Adam, Jan, me and Paul

It was actually the 25th anniversary of the Mondial De L’escalade whitch used to be held in Serre Chevalier a few years ago. This event before becoming a World Cup only a few years ago was a legendary international climbing competition.

I teamed up with Jan to set the Men lead final, Adam and Paul teamed up to set the Woman lead final.
It was very flattering to get so much responsibility from Jan, Adam and Paul whitch got me so psyched! The route was really fun, with a really cool start standing up on a stalactite fixed to the stage and jumping to a huge volume fixed to the wall, then some more normal climbing but still really fun moves to lead to a big sideway dyno to finish.
 Testing the mens final

After finishing setting them we started testing and tweaking. When we finished with that we switch the teams on the other route to get more opinions on the moves and make sure we got the right level.
Day two, we spent more time testing the final to be sure just before stripping them ready to set the Semi’s.
I teamed up with Paul to set the Men one , Jan and Adam went on the Women one.
Again a really fun route with a crimpy steady start leading to a more boulder finish on some beautiful perfectly round slopers witch we made us named the route after Pamella ;-)!

Pamella on the left and me setting on the right.

For setting the qualifiers, it worked out perfect with a team of 4, we set one route each and I choose to set set woman quail 2. 

Two weeks separated the setting to the actual comp, so I stayed around Briancon for a few days of climbing with my friend Sam before going back to London for some more setting.
An 8a route in the vallee of Fressiniere.

I came back to Briancon for the comp dates with my dad, witch made me really happy and proud to show him my work.

The comp started of pretty good but maybe on the hard side with the qualifiers, so we decided to tweak the semi’s a little easier on the first half of the route.
Due to a bad weather forecast for the next morning when the semi’s should have been on, the IFSC decided to move them to the evening of the quali’s witch gave us not so much time to do the changes on the routes.
Luckly, we managed to stay on schedule and the semi’s went amazingly , with a really good crowed and atmosphere witch felt just like a final!
The next day, we had all day until the evening to reset and adjust the finals.
Lot’s of tweak and testing again as we really wanted a top on both routes and a to make really good show.
Unfortunately, the bad weather forecast came back with a really bad storm. The finals had to be cancelled!

Here is a little video link of the storm:

 The results were given from the semi's , so  I will finish this post by a huge big up to Jain Kim winning the woman dropping the semi final route from the very last hold and Sashi Ama winning the men semi final in the best style by loosing his chalk bag half way up the route and still making it to the second to last move!!!

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Easter 2014 in Switzerland

After long winter working hard and trying to train a little when not too tired, Evie and I set of for Magic Wood in Switzerland again.  13 hours of driving and 5 hours at most of bad sleeping in a French services later, we arrived at the campsite of Magic Wood. There was a bit of snow left and some boulders were dry but not the one I was interested in. Waking up to the sound of rain the next day made us decide pretty quickly that the place wasn’t going to dry fast and we would be better of  going somewhere else! Chironico seamed like the obvious place to go, only 1hour 30mins away. We found the really nice little bar restaurant called ‘Pizzo Forno’ that the owner of Magic Wood campsite and Guest house told us to go to find the guide book.

 The Goat, topping out!
 After a quick drink, we couldn’t wait any longer! We went of for a walk in the boulder area ‘Boogalagga’ and I got really attracted to a line called ‘Saludos Amigos’ font7b+. A group of Italian lads were trying it with already a lot’s of pads which seamed like the perfect occasion to try it too. So exited to be in front of real rock again I forgot to warm up and went strait on it for a flash attempt. I got to the second to last move, but I wasn’t able to close my hand into the crimp position I needed! That was my fault for not warming up! Second go, the boulder went a lot easier, thanks to all the Italians for the spots and pads.

The next day, I wanted to try a boulder called ‘Komilator’ f7c+, I had previously seen videos of it and it looked really cool. On the way to find it, we did a couple of warm ups then finely found it. In my first few goes I got to the last move but I didn’t managed to finish if as my skin was starting to hurt. We needed a rest day after that, it takes time to get your skin in shape for granite when you mostly climb on plastic!

 Me on 'Souvenir' font 8a
 Day after the rest day, I went back to ‘Komilator’ and finished it in a few goes with an awesome little jump on the last move. After that , I wanted to try a boulder called ‘Souvenir’, font8a from ‘Fred Nicole’ . First little play on it I got shut down, so we went to find an easier but amazing line called ‘Tomahawk’ font7b. I flashed it, thanks to Evie for beta, then I wanted to go back to ‘Souvenir’ to see if I could find better beta. I did find much better beta, more suited to my body and to my surprise, I almost finish it falling of the last move L!

 Me on 'Souvenir' font 8a
 I went back to it the next day after 4 coffees and managed to finish it feeling pretty broken! The day after that was our last day in Chironico, I went with Evie to spot her on her project before heading back to London via a weekend stop at my Parents in Burgundy. This trip has got me really psyched for bouldering again, and I can't wait for my next trip !

Monday, 2 September 2013

Magic wood

Magic Wood

Hi everyone,
I have just been to Magic Wood for the first time with Evie and Emily. I heard so much about this “Magic” place that we had to see it for ourselves. 
 Yann on "Octopussy" 8a
As you all know, It’s been pretty hot recently and I wasn’t too sure if this boulder trip was such a good idea as we were driving down, melting in the van! Finaly, after a day and a half of driving, “we have reached destination” on a late Sunday afternoon, parked up, paid in advance for the “road-site”, sorry I meant “camp-site” (!!!) and as expected, no way we were going to sleep without at least touching some of those rocks! So we grabbed our pads quickly and as we crossed the famous little bridge and I was instantly relieved about my main worry, “the HEAT”. I can now see why they call this “Magic” Wood. It was cool.
Emily Sitting by the River at Magic Wood
The next day we set of for a full day of boulder after Jetboilling a few eggs for breakfast.
Couple of warm ups later, Evie sends very quickly a font 7a+ called “Freiwild”! I was impressed, a big slap to a sloper, that’s my girl!
Evie on "Freiwild" 7a+
Then we headed to the bloc “Octopussy” for me to have a look. I have never climbed a proper font 8a before apart from an 8a traverse in Zillertal witch wasn’t a real one in my eyes. After quickly figuring out all the moves, I am now ready for a try but get stopped by a patch of sun right on the crucial sloper :( Oh well, maybe next session.

After that, it was Emily’s turn to climb too! She got her compression fridge project with a brave pop to the top :)
Emily on her project
A day and some swimming in the river later, we return to “Octopussy”. Some desperate tries and always the bloody heel keeps coming off!!! Then it just clicked to me, move your heel hook a couple of centimetres to the right, and that was it, “hey presto”. 4 tries later and I send, really happy.
Yann on "Octopussy" 8a
I also climbed a lot of other easier classics, just to name a couple: “Supernova” 7c, “Grit deluxe” font 7a+/b (flash)… Evie did her favourite bloc of the trip "Panzerknacker" 7a.
Evie on "Panzerknacker" 7a

Now time to celebrate at the Magic Wood guest house before visiting friends in Bern and family in the French Alps