What is the profession of lead setter, these bouldering artists?

“It’s a fairly atypical profession that only exists in climbing”, explains Grégoire de Belmont, co-founder of Arkose, one of the French leaders in the field. With the rock climbing boom, which has been particularly popular since its arrival at the Olympic Games, the route setter profession has developed in recent years. These are the people who place the sockets on the walls to create different routes. In the show France movesthe entrepreneur adds that these paths need to be renewed regularly.

In reality, regular customers “need to have new paths to change a little, to vary the pleasures and always have an interest in coming to try”, affirms Grégoire de Belmont at the microphone of Elisabeth Assayag.

Professionals who create “works of art”

In the twenty rooms available to the company in France, the courses are renewed several times a week by the setters. “These people are not only very strong climbers, but also very creative. It’s a work of art to manage to position the holds in the right places so that it’s pretty to look at, and that you want to go there”, says the co-founder of Arkose.

“In addition, these courses must be ‘homogeneous'”, continues Grégoire de Belmont. “We have several levels of difficulty, we can come and climb as a great beginner or very expert, and therefore we differentiate (the courses) like the ski slopes. Each color represents a difficulty”, explains the entrepreneur.

A specially dedicated training center

This particular job of opener is not suitable for everyone. The person must be able “to open for a great beginner as for someone from the France team, it’s a very difficult job”, admits the co-founder of Arkose, whose company had to open a dedicated training center to recruit new setters. “The rare pearls who do this job no longer exist because there are a lot of climbing gyms, and they are hired.”

The training, recognized by the competent bodies, takes place alternately. “People are with us on fixed-term contracts for six months, they are paid. During this time, we train them and at the end of this contract, we hire them, barring an accident”, specifies Grégoire de Belmont, referring to the case of people who finally want to do something else after the training.

Be a good climber and imagine the route in 3D

To become an opener, you have to be “a good climber and know how to represent yourself in 3D because you have to imagine the passages you create on the walls. You have to know how to question yourself because it’s a lot of humility. You can realize after the day’s work that in the end, this passage is useless or does not work, and therefore you have to start from scratch. And you need passion.”

In general, ushers work two days a week in a room. “They arrive at 8 a.m., they find a section of walls that has been completely cleaned and emptied of its sockets overnight. It’s a blank page on which they will create twelve new passages together, for eight-nine hours of work”, explains the entrepreneur. A well-paid job according to him, however, “these people can’t do it full time because it’s a super intense muscle job”.

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