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Kingdom Crowns Top Routesetter

Setters choose their holds at the Kingdom Games
Setters choosing holds at the Kingdom Games. Photo: Kingdom Climbing

It’s common for routesetters to think they are the best at what they do, but this past Saturday at the Kingdom Games the world found out who really is the best route setter, at least in the southern California region.

The Kingdom Games is a one-of-its-kind routesetting competition that tested the competitor’s overall routesetting ability. The setters were tasked with setting three boulder problems and were judged on their technical abilities as well as the aesthetics, function, creativity and fun of their problems.

The event was organized by the Factory Bouldering Gym in Orange, California and Kingdom Climbing, a new climbing hold company that was using the event to introduce routesetters and gyms to their new line of holds. The twenty-four setters that competed at the event were invited from climbing gyms in the Los Angeles and San Diego area, as well as Arizona. Each gym was asked to send one competitor to represent their gym.

Before the event started, 900 brand new Kingdom Climbing holds were separated into sets with 8 – 14 holds each. The setters drew numbers and were then allowed by turn to pick three different sets of holds. Each set was pre-assigned to a specific wall sector and difficulty level (easy, medium or hard).

Setter, Dean Privett.  Photo: Kingdom Climbing
Setter, Dean Privett. Photo: Kingdom Climbing

The setters had just under four hours to set their problems. Kyle Mrohs, Head Setter at Top Out Climbing Gym in Santa Clarita, CA said that the competition was like “a microcosm of everything that we go through setting on a daily basis or setting for a big climbing competition, but boiled down into just one four-hour session.”

After the setting portion of the event thirty three climbers were brought in to judge the flow, fun and aesthetics of each problem. This “real world” judging was extremely stressful for the setters with many cringing as climbers skipped their intended sequence or skipped their boulder problem entirely in favor of a more aesthetically appealing problem down the wall.

Each of the boulder problems was also evaluated by the event’s two technical judges: Louie Anderson, owner of the Factory and renowned hold shaper and climber; and Mike Helt, a USA Climbing Level 5 National Routesetter (and editor-in-chief of this publication).

Many of the setters praised the Kingdom Games for the chance to work with other setters from the area. “It was amazing, definitely unique. It was a little bit nerve wracking at first, kind of like that nervous excitement that you get with competing,” said Dean Privett from Santa Barbara Rock Gym. “And as soon as I started setting it was just like I was at work again, but more fun because there were twenty four setters instead of just two. So it was twelve times more fun!”

Ryan Chung from The Stronghold in LA said, “It was nice because you got to mingle with other setters and it was a really good way to expose yourself to what’s going on in other places.”

The Routesetters

Anthony Tarascio Rockreation
Aaron Couzens Mesa Rim
Chris Mayo Solid Rock
Chris McCole Bridges
Czar Goss Hangar 18
Danny Mauz Beta Bouldering
Dean Privett Santa Barbara Climbing
Devan Gutierez Rock City
Isaac Palatt Boulderdash
Justin Wagner Focus
Kyle McCoy Hangar 18
Kyle Mrohs Top Out
Luis Fallero Vital – Murrieta
Matteo Daboub ClimbX
Nathan Sharpe Vital – Carlsbad
Nick Ciotti Rock Fitness
Noah Peller LA.B
Paul Phelps Phoenix Rock Gym
Randy Casillan Sender One
Ryan Chung Stronghold
Samuel Monsalve Slo-Op
Sean Crozier Vertial Heaven
Steve Gaspar Rockreation
Trevor Arndt ACG
The battlefield at The Factory.  Photo: Kingdom Climbing.
The battlefield at The Factory. Photo: Kingdom Climbing.

King for a Day

The winner of the first annual Kingdom Games, with an overall score of 40.04 out of a possible 50 points, was Noah Peller representing the LA.Boulders in downtown Los Angeles. “I thought it was really fun. My favorite part was probably the new holds. There are some awesome shapes, and it made it hard to set anything bad,” Peller said before the winners were announced.

Peller proved his point by dominating the event with wins in the Function and Technical categories. He also won the Fun and Flow category that was judged by the climbers. Peller was also chosen by the participating setters as the winner of the coveted Setters’ Choice award.

Nick Ciotti representing Rock Fitness took the win in the Aesthetics category and Aaron Couzens took the Creative prize with his forced bat-bar (an upside down knee-bar) to knee-bar sequence.

Coming in at second place with a score of 39.06 was Dean Privett from Santa Barbara Rock Gym and right on his heels at third place was Couzens from Mesa Rim with a score of 39.04.

Setter, Nick Ciotti.  Photo: Kingdom Climbing.
Setter, Nick Ciotti. Photo: Kingdom Climbing.

A Kingdom Near You

Mark Bradley, co-owner of Kingdom, and Louie Anderson are now looking to take the Kingdom Games on the road. Bradley said after the event, “It went really well. This was kind of the test run, and I think it succeeded to the point that we want to continue with it.”

They’ve had interest from gyms in the East coast, Canada and even the UK, so routesetters in all quadrants may have the chance to test their skills at another Kingdom Games near them.

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