CWA Summit Session Spotlight: Routesetting Industry Data

CWA Blog ,

Routesetter routesetting in climbing gym

Ever wondered what routesetters are paid, on average? What about workload expectations, or benefits? These data points are hard to qualify and only become more necessary as the indoor climbing industry marches into the future.

Fortunately, the 2022 CWA Summit will feature the hard work of two industry leaders researching these questions, and much more.

Justin Wright, of Edgeworks Climbing + Fitness, is working with Foxman McCarthy-James of Alta Climbing & Fitness on a two-part session presentation diving deep into the sea of data analysis in the routesetting field.

2022 CWA Summit Session Spotlight Series

Routesetting Industry Data Part I & II

  • Speakers: Foxman McCarthy-James, Alta Climbing & Fitness; Justin Wright, Edgeworks Climbing + Fitness
  • Who Should Attend: Routesetters, upper gym management, future owners
  • What Will You Learn: Two part series on data in the routesetting field, as well as safety best practices across the U.S
  • Where and When: At the 2022 CWA Summit, May 18-20 in Salt Lake City, Utah!
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Jake Byk, Marketing Coordinator:

Tell me about your background in routesetting and why you wanted to team up to present at the CWA Summit?

Foxman McCarthy-James, Alta Climbing & Fitness:

We've been working together for a number of years now and have similar focuses in the way that we approach a lot of aspects of life, particularly data-driven. I like numbers a lot and I find 'em very informative. Justin has always been a great person to work with.

Justin Wright, Edgeworks Climbing + Fitness:

You can't go onto any sort of website like salary.com and type in ‘routesetter’ as much as you can for a teacher or a lawyer. We're just trying to collect a whole bunch of information to present to routesetters, to gym owners, to managers – just to help produce results. 

Foxman McCarthy-James, Alta Climbing & Fitness:

We're getting data comprehensively about what setting programs look at, or look like in individual teams. So overall workload, how many routes are you setting? How many boulders, how big are your walls? What tools are provided for you by the gym? A big comprehensive look at what each routesetter’s life looks like on an average day, average week, average month. It's a lot of information, a lot of numbers.

Foxman McCarthy-JamesFoxman trying a problem. Photo: Katie Jo Myers

Jake Byk, Marketing Coordinator:

How is the 2022 CWA Summit the opportunity for the two of you to disseminate this really important information you're gathering?

Foxman McCarthy-James, Alta Climbing & Fitness:

The CWA Summit is one of the bigger gatherings of climbing wall professionals in the country each year. What better place to disseminate information and start a conversation going about what setting programs look like?

Justin Wright, Edgeworks Climbing + Fitness:

Yeah, it's effectively the biggest stage that we could think of that would be able to reach the most amount of people at once.

Jake Byk, Marketing Coordinator:

So your session is split into two presentations. What should we expect from both? Why are they different?

Foxman McCarthy-James, Alta Climbing & Fitness:

We had a lot of information. It was originally going to be one presentation on workload, salary, and safety. That's a lot for one presentation. So we split it into workload and salary for one and safety [for the other presentation]. We will be coordinating with another presenter for the safety presentation.

Interested in adding your gym to the data set?

The presenters are still gathering data and would love to hear from you.

Jake Byk, Marketing Coordinator:

What data is the most important for gyms to examine and why?

Justin Wright, Edgeworks Climbing + Fitness:

I think it completely depends on what the program that currently exists is doing and in what ways they want to shape and update. Some owners might be thinking about how to create more sustainability in their team, and they might look to how many boulders the expectations should be, or whether they need a lift in their facility...I think there's a lot of different avenues and I think it would be hard to distill it into one thing.

Jake Byk, Marketing Coordinator:

Would you say that gym owners and routesetters that will be attending are going to learn how to make decisions about what data to collect themselves?

Foxman McCarthy James, Alta Climbing & Fitness:

The goal right now is...to put together a comprehensive list of data. We are nowhere near close yet. There are a lot of gyms in this country. But we're looking to start creating that baseline of information and continue to grow upon that, so that we can be a resource for anybody who's looking for a particular data set.

Jake Byk, Marketing Coordinator:

Who would you say that your session is for?

Justin Wright RoutesettingJustin Wright routesetting.

Justin Wright, Edgeworks Climbing + Fitness:

I think that there's a wide range of people who should or could attend this and get value out of it. I think your everyday routesetters and leadership, routesetting departments (like head routesetters and directors). I think gym owners and managers, depending on the scale of the gym and who's making the decisions...We're sort of trying to capture a little bit from everywhere so that the value is across the board.

Jake Byk, Marketing Coordinator:

When we talk about safety at your second session, are we talking about safety for routesetters or safety for the climbing public, and how would those two interact?

Foxman McCarthy James, Alta Climbing & Fitness:

Mostly looking at safety for routesetters. The data that we've gathered is fairly cut and dry. Does your gym do this, or does it do this? Is it mandatory or optional? Some of that does of course interact with the public. So if you don't have the designated work zone, then you have a hazard to the public.

Jake Byk, Marketing Coordinator:

Give me the three sentences about why this is valuable to the CWA audience.

Foxman McCarthy James, Alta Climbing & Fitness:

Data has been collected about routesetting before, but this is one of the first times that we've started to look at how workload and salary interact in a meaningful way. We've always viewed the climbing industry and routesetting in particular as kind of the ‘Wild West' with no standards. And it's very easy to perpetuate that if nobody is documenting what anybody's doing.

Jake Byk, Marketing Coordinator:

What are you most excited about for the CWA Summit?

Justin Wright, Edgeworks Climbing + Fitness:

I'm excited! We were supposed to have it last year and it all got canceled. I'm excited to see all the faces that I haven't seen in a long time and continue to professionalize the industry as a whole.

Foxman McCarthy James, Alta Climbing & Fitness:

I'm gonna copy that almost word for word. I'm excited to see a lot of faces that I haven't seen in a while and continue the conversation. I always learn so much from everybody that I meet while I'm there.


About the Author

Jake BykJake Byk is the marketing coordinator for the Climbing Wall Association. He's an avid hiker, mountaineer, lover of hard-to-reach places and long drives. He's spent four years as a journalist, then a public lands advocate, documenting the Great Plains and Mountain West before joining the CWA.