Stronghold’s own Elly who sat down with our wonderful inhouse setter Jen and our ever regular external setter Emma Twyford (who happens just to be one of the best all round climbers out there) to get an insight into the routesetting life – how to get into it and what exactly does it entail.

You can read part 1 of our interview with Emma & Jen on the website here.

—- PART 2 —-

What excites you about setting in a new centre?
Jen – I’m so excited to set somewhere new, as I’ve only worked in the old Stronghold. I’m excited for new angles and new holds. New holds are so exciting for a route setter, and I know we have plenty coming in!
Emma – What’s nice about being freelance, is going in and getting new angles and a fresh perspective. New holds is always fun though, as Jen said, every setter sees them as new toys.
It can be hard to step away from a set you’ve done before, especially if the wall is similar. It is easy to go with what you know, rather than trying to do something new, and when it’s a new centre you can get away with it to an extent. I did notice when I first started, someone would set a style of boulder on the wall, then subconsciously you mimic what they’ve done, so have to go back and change it, everyone does it to an extent but you have to just remember to keep it fresh and new.
Jen – I have set the same style, easy and hard version of same set on the same day without realising.
Emma – You can get within a theme for the day, then realise when you look back over, you realise they’re too similar. Thankfully this doesn’t happen to often!


Stronghold Tottenham Hale

Brand new walls of Stronghold: Tottenham Hale

Stronghold London Fields

Brand new walls at London Fields ready to be set

Clearly, you both decide on the setting when you’re on site, but can you give us any hints of what to look forward to?
Emma – Seeing the new toys will determine quite a lot of what I do. But I’m excited to see it’s quite wavy and there are some gradual, varying angles. There will be some cool compression styles, steep stuff and techy bits, but it will always depend on the holds. It looks like there will be plenty of variety!


Words of wisdom for someone who wants to start climbing and/or setting?

Emma – Both for setting and climbing, just give it a go if it interests you. With setting, as Jen did, just having the confidence to ask can get you a long way. Women often have a lack of confidence to ask or give it a go and don’t be intimidated, so fair play again to Jen for doing that.
It’s one of the reasons me and Evie (Cotrulia, together they set up ‘Creative Climbing’ workshops to inspire more ladies into the industry.) started Creative Climbing. We wanted a safe space for women to learn and get into climbing, and it’s great to know there are more female setters within London because of that. The two things I would say are 1. Give it a go, you might love it, you might hate it and 2. Be prepared to work hard. It’s physical and hard labour but with a fun creative side. The main thing is don’t be work-shy and people will respect you for it.

Jen – Echo those sentiments entirely. I can see how both climbing and setting can be intimidating for women. The climbing side of things has improved a lot in the last few years, and I see way more women at the wall, which is great. It’s common to see a group of women together working at hard problems together, and it is less intimidating than it used to be, but there are still more men climbing on the whole. As a beginner, walking into a centre, the first thing you notice is the strong shirtless man, eating up an overhang. I think that creates a strong image in people’s mind about what the sport is about, but it’s not all about that.


Jen – It’s important to create spaces for women, where they can learn to enjoy it with people they can relate to.
For setting, I still feel intimidated. I’m a beginner, but the more I do it the more conformable I grow. And I’ve realised this is something you learn and adapt to, and always encourage women to try it.
When people look at setters they think they need to climb V12 and be super strong, but I don’t think that’s necessarily true, especially in the commercial setting scene.


Emma– Yeah, you can be a lower climbing ability, and have a better understanding of lower sets if you are at a V6 level rather than someone’s whose a super strong V9 climber, who might not understand how to set for a lower ability level, because testing it will be really easy for you.

Jen – There’s a misconception about setting that you have to be an amazing climber, but I don’t believe that and I think being good at understanding and visualising movement, and as Emma said it’s about being creative.

Emma– Just be comfortable setting up to a certain level. If you climb V5, and set a V6, it’s about understanding what you need to be doing to achieve that climb. You don’t have to be the strongest person or able to complete that climb, obviously it helps, but just being able to visualise and understand what movements you should be doing can be enough.
You will over think when you first start out, but my advice would be to just get it on the wall, then you have time to tweak and change in testing. Don’t waste time fretting on one move, which you will inevitably end up changing later. It all comes with experience.

Favourite place to climb outdoors and why?

Jen – This is the hardest questions ever, I’m going to list multiple places…For the UK, 100% north Wales, it’s a climbing playground. There’s a great variety in styles and rock type and it’s world class on all levels, and it’s beautiful. My 2nd would be Verdon gorge in France and 3rd would be Squamish in Canada.


Emma – I love north Wales for diversity. I’m so lucky to have so much within a 5 or 10 minute drive. If you have the knowledge of areas, you could climb every day without getting caught in bad weather. Amazing trad, great bouldering, good sport climbing, a bit of everything. I’m spoilt here, and I moved for a reason, it’s one of my favourite places to climb. Combined with Pembroke in South Wales, they are my favourite places, and I could climb in those places for the rest of my life and not be bored. Abroad, I would say the Dolomites. Alpine climbing is a new addition for me, but I was blown away by the beauty of it all. The dolomites were really special for me. Really good climbing, but adventurous, sporty style with some trad. The rock is good, and it’s a beautiful location. Italians are friendly, and the coffee is great…It ticks all the boxes.