French Setter Remakes Seattle

Photo: CBJ

The Seattle Bouldering Project in Seattle, Washington is America’s largest bouldering-only climbing facility. Like many gyms in the US their routesetting program was good, but nearly two years after their grand opening the routesetting program felt a bit stagnate and needed some updates, perhaps with some help from an outside source. But unlike most other gyms the SBP owners were determined to do something about it.  

So, earlier this year co-owners Andy Wyatt and Chris Potts put a world-wide call out for a new Head Routesetter. After interviewing several US-based routesetters with good credentials they still felt like they were not getting the caliber of setter they wanted. That’s when Tonde Katiyo showed up. After reviewing Katiyo’s resume — which includes stints on several World Cup setting crews and numerous gigs helping to train national teams in Asia — and holding several lengthy interviews over Skype, the partners decided to fly Katiyo from Paris to Seattle.  This would be an on-the-job interview to that entailed setting a local on-sight comp with the SBP routesetting crew.

After the comp the owners knew they had their setter, and Katiyo was excited about the opportunity. But a very big obstacle stood in their way: red tape. To hire an employee from overseas requires thousands of dollars in fees and relocation costs. On Katiyo’s side he needed to get married to his long time partner to pave the way for her and their toddler daughter to join him in the US. None of this was easy but the owners and Katiyo worked through the immigration process and in February 2013 Katiyo and his family moved to Seattle to become Seattle Bouldering Project’s newest Head Routesetter.

Luckily it seems that the effort is paying off.  “Tonde has an amazing vision for what he wants to do here.  There’s also a lot that he wants to do here,” says Wyatt.  From building hundreds of new volumes to eliminating tape on the boulder problems to adding circuits, Katiyo has started to implement a number of radical changes to the routesetting program. At first the members didn’t know what to make of all these modifications, but it seems that the owners and Katiyo have found a way to remake their gym while keeping their customers happy.

Check out this original video from Climbing Business Journal to learn what Katiyo has in store for the Seattle Bouldering Project’s routesetting.

Video correction: In the video we state that Seattle Bouldering Project is 25,000 sq feet.  In fact it is 35,000 sq. feet.