Hiring Gender Diverse Routesetters: LCO Case Study

CWA Blog,

indoor climbing gym holds

When it comes to working with local climbing organizations (LCO’s), often the first thing that comes to mind are organizations that primarily focus on access to the outdoors. However, there are LCO’s out there who are working toward expanding the indoor climbing community. 

Article At A Glance

  • Writer: Jess Malloy, head coach at the Crag Nashville. Jess has written about coaching, management, and routesetting for the CWA.
  • Who Should Read: This article is for routesetters, and those in upper management with routesetting experience.
  • What Will You Learn: How and why working with LCOs can diversify your setting community.
  • Tie-Ins, Resources, or Further Reading: Jess has written similar but crucially different work on working with LCOs. Check out our archives!

One organization that has quickly made a big impact in the indoor climbing industry is Bolt and Revolt, a rapidly growing 501c3 dedicated to educating and uplifting women and non-binary people in the routesetting industry.  

Bolt and Revolt started in late 2022 in response to an event hosted by a gym that offered a women’s routesetting clinic taught by a man.  

This event highlighted an issue within the industry that is often ignored— while a variety of genders are present in gym memberships, there is an ongoing imbalance of gender when it comes to opportunities for routesetters—in other words, more men are represented in the industry than any other gender.  

This is when Raae Lorton, owner and artist of Crag to Crux, started asking peers if there was a community page or resource for women in routesetting. When she discovered there wasn’t, she and her friend, Kayla Perkoski, recognized a need and stepped up despite not being routesetters themselves. Raae also knew that setter voices needed to be behind this newly formed community and so joined together with Jackie Hueftle, routesetter and owner of Kilter, and Val Gross, a head routesetter in Pheonix, AZ.  

What Bolt and Revolt Does 

Far from being just an Instagram page highlighting women routesetters and non-binary setters, Bolt and Revolt has collaborated with several indoor climbing gyms to organize routesetting clinics specifically for women and non-binary people. What makes this so great is that the organization goes to great lengths to foster successful events through direct support through marketing and promotion.  

In addition to marketing support, she said they also can help make connections with experienced instructors if one is unavailable, and they also offer scholarships for attendees if pricing is an issue.  

This organization also includes mentorship programs as personal development opportunities and has become a go-to resource when it comes to finding experienced routesetters who are gender diverse.  

Hosting a Routesetting Clinic 

Bolt and Revolt has had great success with their partnered events.  

“We work with the gym to make a fair price and make it affordable. A lot of it is talking with the gym and seeing what they’re comfortable with,” Raae said.  

While the attendance for these events is intentionally kept small, the result is a high satisfaction rate from attendees. These clinics can range around 6-8 hours long and can be either a 101 clinic or an Intermediate clinic depending on the resources and need.  

If a gym cannot provide an in-house setter to teach the clinic, Bolt and Revolt can help coordinate bringing in a setter to teach the class, one of the many perks of working with a non-profit like this.  

Hire Trained and Diverse Routesetters 

Collaborating with an LCO might start as a one-off event, but it can create bigger opportunities for the gym's future. Educational clinics like this can also often lead to job opportunities for those who attend. 

“We’ve had a few people be able to get hired from our Intro Clinic and we had some really good feedback from our Intermediate Clinic that we hosted with Kilter,” says Raae.  

Getting started as a routesetter can be a challenge, but hosting a clinic that introduces the basics can bridge the gap and spark interest in potential new employees.  

We often see many people with the same body type on a setting team, which can cause uniform setting that only caters to that body type. Bringing on people of different genders can be one way to add variety to your routesetting product in a way that more accurately reflects the membership base. 

Teaching women and non-binary people how to set is just one way to encourage a broader spectrum of people to apply for positions in the gym and to create a more satisfactory experience for all members.  

Mentorship as Personal Development 

Mentorship has long been the way of expanding the climbing community. Long before there were competitive climbing coaches, head setters, and large commercial gyms, there were mentors.  

Bolt and Revolt has tapped into this important element of climbing by connecting those who want to be mentored with those who want to teach. Whether you’re a manager or owner who is trying to look for continuing education opportunities for your setting staff or if you’re a new setter looking for guidance, the mentorship program could be exactly what you need. The mentorship program allows experienced setters to pass on what they’ve learned to someone who is in search of support in the industry.

CWA Series on Mentorship in Indoor Climbing Gyms

This ends up being personal and professional development for both people involved. The mentor can test their knowledge through teaching and take on a leadership role while the mentee can more quickly advance their knowledge of setting.  

As of now, this service is free on the Bolt and Revolt website and is an excellent way to get started with improving your community.  

Expand Your Community 

In Raae’s own words, “Women and genderqueer setters bring so much to the table. Diversity needs to be in the gym. Representation is key to getting opportunities as well as education.” 

One thing that seems to really make an organization like this valuable is that it helps attendees feel less like an island, provides hands-on experience, and offers the chance to learn in an environment where they feel safe to explore, ask questions, and improve their skills.  

The ability to confidently apply for a job and feel capable is invaluable and is a great way not only to expand a gym’s community, but to provide a pathway for internal growth and to employ a more educated and gender diverse setting team. 

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About the Author

Jess Malloy HeadshotJess Malloy is the Head Coach at at The Crag Climbing Gym in Nashville where she also dabbles in routesetting. She has worked in five climbing gyms in the past sixteen years, is a certified Wilderness First Responder, and has accumulated years of experience as a climber, coach, setter, yoga teacher, and as a published writer. She is the owner of @yoga.for.climbers a small business where she can combine all her passions into one. She loves runout slab and trying to static dynos. She gets nervous on pumpy overhanging sport but can always commit to the last move on tall boulders. When she isn’t climbing, she skateboards, reads books and comics, and does yoga. She also hangs out with her eight-pound rescue pup, Beta, who despite her name is not a crag dog but is an excellent cuddler.