The route setters are the people who make or break a competition. For La Sportiva Legends Only we have four of our best guys at work to build the five problems.
Jocke, you’ve been in the game for a while. How many Legends Only have you set?
All but one. I didn’t set for the first female competition as I was on vacation… bouldering in Brione. I got home in time to watch the competition though.
This is the first time you set for the female edition then. Is there any difference?
It’s really exciting! Not much of a difference though… I mean the problems are just as difficult. It’s a bigger challenge though I’d say. I’m pretty tall and have a style that’s…it’s mostly that I’m tall actually, making it more difficult to judge the moves.
The girls aren’t as tall as I, and it’s easier for me to set for guys like Jan Hojer or Jimmy Webb as we have more or less the same reach.
But when it comes to style etc you don’t feel there’s really any difference?
No, not at all.
Do you have anything you’ve already decided you want to set?
No…not exactly. I have a few ideas. A few things I’ve been thinking about that would be fun to realise. Something I’ve never set before… I’ll try to be a bit creative…innovative perhaps.
And what is your style compared to the other route setters?
My style is…it varies a lot! After, what is it now…17-18 years of climbing, it feels like my style is something that is constantly changing and progressing!
Would you say it’s impossible to define at all?
It changes a lot! I tend to focus on one thing for shorter or longer periods of time, both when it comes to my climbing and my setting. It could be that I ONLY want to climb and set technical slabs with tiny chips and boxes…
What about right now?
Right now…what I think I can bring to this team is setting coordination moves and dynos. This is also something I’m quite good at myself. Sketchy stuff…
In this kind of redpoint competition, we can make more of this kind of moves. Even if it’s a power move or a dyno, you still have to find the exact correct body position to be able to do it, where in a normal competition there wouldn’t be enough time to find the right feeling
Coordination moves that are super hard even when you do them correctly?
Exactly. That could be it.
Or, it could be something that feels really hard, but after a while, when you get it right, all of a sudden it feels easy. This is something I like myself. That’s interesting.
In a normal competition, it’s more about intimidation… I mean when it comes to dynamic moves, you need to dare go for it…take chances. This element is of course removed in a redpoint competition.
Well not entirely. This year we have one onsight problem, remember?
Yes, that’s right! That’s really good! It will make it more exciting for sure. We’ll try to create something really special, we have to! This is something new, a new concept.
It will be interesting to see the competitors as well. I mean sure, they’re all excellent onsight climbers, but what’s fun with Legends is that some tend to surprise us…redpoint bouldering is very different to onsighting, and now we have both!
Maybe this means you have to be even more of a complete climber to win.
I hope so.
What makes setting for Legends so special?
When you set for a “normal” competition, at least a national one, the difference in level between the competitors, even in a final, is quite big, whereas in this competition (Legends), everyone is on an extremely high level. So, it’s a real challenge to separate them.
How does the fact that they get to work on the problems change the game?
Well you can set considerably harder problems of course. Mainly because everyone can take the time to figure out a method which suits them the best for each single problem without having to worry about the time.
In other competitions you have a very limited time and have to decide rather quickly what to do and there’s a significant risk you won’t find the best solution for you.
What is your strength as a route setter? What do you bring to the table so to speak?
Well, every route setter has his or her own style and I hope that my style is different enough compared to Stefan’s, Jocke’s and Hannes’.
I mean it’s not like we set one problem each. We set all of them together and all the different styles are going to affect the outcome of the product. That’s why it’s good to have route setters with different specialities.
So what’s your style then?
I hope I can set very technical and intricate problems. Full on power is something I’m quite bad at myself…
Do you have any ideas already?
I have some ideas, yes … I think that’s something that think about more or less constantly on some kind of subconcious level. But then again we haven’t received the holds yet, and we can not start the real process until we have them.
And what do you think about the change in format we’re making this year?
I think it’s really good!
Before it’s mostly been about who’s the best climber on that particular day. According to me…I mean all of them are so good. It often comes down to who has the best day and who manages to keep it together.
This adds an element where you have to be able to climb onsight or flash, and to me that’s an important part of climbing.
Route setter for La Sportiva Legends Only since 2012
What is your strength as a route setter?
I’m usually good at getting the climbers in to difficult…awkward positions. I don’t want the climber to ever feel comfortable on the wall, and that’s of course one part of setting for competitions, but Legends is special. I mean there isn’t really anything similar.
I think I have a good feeling for making things difficult in the right way, not just brick hard, probably because my strength as a climber has never been brutal power, but rather the technical side. This is also why I want to challenge the competitors technically to see who is the most versatile…who’s got the biggest repertoire.
What is it then that makes setting for Legends so special?
At a normal competition, you try to perhaps intimidate the climbers a bit, set complex sequences, low percentage moves…and basically none of that works here as they can work the problems before the competition.
I mean if we set this super complex sequence, obviously they will solve it in the work session. Same thing with low percentage moves with weird body positions. They’ll have time to practice that, making it very difficult to find the balance…because you can’t simply set straight hard moves as it’s close to impossible to find the right level between too easy and too hard. Either everyone does it, or no one…
This is also why it’s so stressful to set for this competition…
Considering everything you just said. Which is the best Legends problem so far according to you?
Oh…that’s a difficult one… There are actually three problems that I’d like to mention, but the best… It could actually be the very first problem I set for Legends back in 2012. It was the first problem of the competition and almost entirely made up of boxes.
I had had this idea in my head for a month or so and I set it with the help of Robban (Robert Rundin). We managed to create exactly what we wanted and the result in the competition was perfect as well. The climbers were facing the spectators for half the problem, which is always cool, and the problem was unique in the sense that it’s very seldom you can realise an idea like that without having to change that much…
Another problem that I really liked was the double-double dyno from the very first year. At the time this was a kind of move you rarely saw.
And then there’s this problem from 2013 which…it wasn’t actually a very good problem. In fact it was far from one of the best problems we’ve set, but this time we managed to find the exact difficulty on a simple hard problem. Only Jimmy Webb managed to do it, and this is why he won that year. Thus made it unique.
Do you have any ideas for this year already?
Yes, I have one idea which I’ll try to realise. We always try to come up with something new every year. I mean all possible moves in climbing are already done more or less, but it’s still possible to be innovative with combinations, holds, positions and the walls…they’re not used to the walls.
What’s your take on the change in the format we’re making this year, where the fifth problem is secret until the very end?
I think it’s good, because it adds something. Like I said before, it’s different when the climbers can work on the problems and this certainly adds a twist to the end of the competition. Also I think it’s good as it adds some insecurity…the climbers don’t know exactly what to expect.
Otherwise they know exactly what they’ll have to do, and if they have the day, they’ll just go out there and execute.
How many times have you set for the la Sportiva Legends Only?
Uhm…I think this is the third time. Yes, it’s the third.
So, for this edition, have you had time to think and plan anything?
To be honest…that would be a no…I haven’t really had time to think that much about it, and then I realised this is actually rather fun. You know, to try to sort of freestyle it a bit together with the others, or come up with ideas depending on what’s needed or lacking.
Is there any major difference between the editions?
Well, the biggest difference is that last year we were at Akalla, where we’re going to be this time as well (the first five competitions were at Telefonplan), and that was actually the very first time I set there. For me, it’s always more fun to set on new walls. It feels like it’s easier to come up with new stuff when you’re not used to the walls…
Since then, I’ve only set there once, so it still feels fresh. To me that’s inspiring and motivating.
Do you think there’s a big difference setting for men, like last time, compared to women, like this time.
But on the other hand… I mean generally speaking, there’s a big difference, but when it comes to these Legends Only competitions, I guess there’s not that much of a difference after all as everyone is so incredibly strong and great all round climbers.
So, in conclusion, I actually don’t think the difference is that big. You can throw more or less anything at them and they’ll climb it, haha.
This year we’ve tweaked the format a bit, adding this secret problem. what’s your take on that?
I think it’s great and I’m really psyched about that! It’s almost the most interesting part when you’re setting for a…normal onsight competition, this unknown element. On the other hand you want to be able to mess with their heads a bit, you know, try to get rid of one or two on each problem, by tricking them… but these guys have so much routine… It’s very difficult to come up with solutions they won’t find.
What’s your super power as a route setter? In what way are you different to the others?
Well, except for Jocke, haha, I’m more into dynamic, powerful climbing with a little bit less finesse than the others. Lots of power!
As route setters, of course you know the style of each competitor. Does this mean that, if you wanted to, you could actually decide the winner with your setting?
Hm…yeah, that’s something you could almost…definitely do, yes, haha.
You can definitely increase someone’s chances, that’s for sure.
Will you do that?
Anything else you want to add?
Yes, I’d like to say that this time we, the route setters, got to choose which holds we wanted. This is of course very cool!
Although it does also add some extra pressure. I mean we only have ourselves to blame if we don’t succeed…
Okay, so David is not a route setter. Or he is, usually, but at Legends Only he focus on another part of the competition.
Alright, David…let’s start with what it is you actually do?
Well, I guess you could say I’m in charge of electricity, which means lights and music…
Electricity does sound a bit lame David, isn’t it more like you run the actual show?
Ok, yeah…I guess a little bit, absolutely.
Or quite a lot?
Everything that shines or sounds, that’s me. Not only for the competition itself, but also to create a nice atmosphere in the whole gym.
And for how long have you been doing this?
Is this the seventh year we do Legends now?
Ok…I didn’t do the first edition, and then I didn’t do the first Tierra (Boulder Battle), but since then I’ve been involved.
Is there any difference…or rather: what’s main difference between then and now?
The difference is that…(long pause)…the chaos has become way more controlled… I mean in the beginning, I mostly did the rigging and played music, more like classic DJ:ing
At this point it’s probably a good idea to mention you’re the DJ as well.
Before it was more like, Björn…you, ordered all the stuff and we tried to piece it together, but nowadays I’ve taken over that part and made plans about how we can optimise what we can do with the amount of current we have in the building.
So, how do you think…what’s your vision here?
My vision is that everything, I mean lights, music, atmosphere, will work together to create a turbo effect which sort of amplifies the experience of watching the athletes on the problems.
The music should never take over, but like I said…it should make the experience of watching the climbing stronger.
Are you usually satisfied after the show?
That’s very rare, but I guess that has more to do with me…
Do you think you’ll be satisfied this year?
I hope so!
The most difficult part of this is the timing. It’s always the timing… We can’t direct what people are going to do when they’re climbing.
It would be so easy if we could be like… “ok, so you hear this is common time, right? So, on “one”, you start climbing, because that’s when I’ll start the beat”…it doesn’t work like that and they’ll just start whenever they feel like it, and that’s how it should be…while at the same time, this is what makes timing so difficult.
Also the communication with the MC:s…even if we’ve made this schedule…like when you say this or do this interview, you must stand over there and so on…all of a sudden they start freestyling doing some unplanned interview because it’s the right thing to do in that moment for whatever reason…
People are bad at following your plan?
Exactly! We set the lights according to this plan, and as we only have stationary light, because it looks so much better, we cant move around that much. So,if the interview all of a sudden is somewhere else,we have to improvise and that’s…difficult. It really is!
Do you have any idea how much time you invest in planning the music?
Well that varies from year to year, but I’ve been thinking about it since this summer. I haven’t done that much though because I’ve been experimenting a bit with new equipment… I think I’ve decided to take a step back maybe…I don’t know… My idea was to play even more “live” than before, but now I think it will be a bit of a combination of what I’ve been doing the last three Legends, I mean the piecing together of a lot of music and use of lots of various loops…and now I want to be able to sort of play more…we’ll see if I get there.
The last three, four weeks before the show it’s a lot of work with this.
It always tends to become darker music for the female edition…I don’t know, but it always tends the become lighter, more happy music for the guys. It’s like I don’t dare make it too happy for the women… it has to be heavier..darker. I guess I worry about people thinking “he’s playing happy music just because they’re girls…”, or something…
Does it change anything for you that the last problem is secret?
Uhm…no… I already have…and this may sound boring, but I’ve already decided. I see it as a show..the intensity of the music goes up and down and this flow must be decided beforehand. I can’t play too hard or intense music too early…
You create a dramaturgy with the music?
Yes, exactly! You can’t drop the heaviest beat whenever…you want to save something to the end, the grand finale, right… and you can’t just play super hard music all the time as there’s no effect without contrast.