Climbing has seen a surge in popularity over the years, with indoor climbing gyms becoming hubs for fitness enthusiasts seeking both a safe place to climb and a sense of community. However, one area where the climbing community can still make strides is in diversity among route setters. In most gyms, route setting is a male-dominated field. Over the years, there has been a growing recognition of the need for diversity and inclusion in this crucial aspect of the climbing experience. This article explores actionable steps and initiatives that can be taken to foster inclusivity, encourage representation, and bridge the diversity gap in climbing gym route setting.

Promoting Inclusive Climbing Culture:

Climbing gyms can actively contribute to bridging the diversity gap by promoting an inclusive and welcoming climbing culture. This involves not only creating climbing facilities that provide inclusive spaces but also fostering an environment where climbers from diverse backgrounds feel comfortable and valued. Gyms can organise social events for underrepresented groups that celebrate diversity, encourage new climbers, and showcase the accomplishments of diverse climbers and route setters. ICP Boulder Hall regularly hosts social climbing nights just for Womxn and recently invited route setters from all over South East Queensland to participate in a special “Womxn’s Setting Social”.

“Thank you for running an amazing set day! Everyone was lovely, the structure of the day was super fun and engaging and we really valued the talk on women’s injury prevention and warm-up routines. We were also very sad to leave early because we were having so much fun.”
Angel Freeman, Co-founder of Flow Bouldering

Education and Awareness Programs:

To bridge the diversity gap, climbing gyms and organisations can implement educational programs aimed at introducing underrepresented groups to the art of route setting. These programs can include workshops, seminars, and mentorship opportunities, providing individuals from diverse backgrounds with the knowledge and skills needed to pursue a career in route setting. By actively reaching out to underrepresented communities, climbing gyms can create pathways for individuals who may not have considered route setting as a viable option. ICP regularly hosts route setting classes for climbers and route setters from all backgrounds and skill levels. We are passionate about growing the climbing industry for everyone.

Diverse Hiring Practices:

Climbing gyms play a pivotal role in shaping the composition of their route-setting teams. Embracing diverse hiring practices involves actively seeking candidates from various backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. By prioritising diversity in the hiring process, climbing gyms can cultivate a setting team that reflects the richness of the climbing community itself. This can be achieved through blind recruitment processes, partnerships with diversity-focused organisations, and open calls for applications that explicitly encourage individuals from underrepresented groups to apply. The collective route setting knowledge as whole needs to increase for this to advance. The goal for organisations should not just be to hire a diverse team, but to provide equal opportunities and training for underrepresented groups to hone their skills and enter the climbing industry.

Training and Skill Development:

Investing in training and skill development programs is crucial for addressing the diversity gap in route setting. Climbing gyms can look to upskill their staff and organise comprehensive training sessions that cover not only technical aspects of route setting but also emphasise the importance of creativity, communication, and inclusivity in creating climbing experiences for a broad audience. These programs should be designed to cater to individuals with varying levels of experience, making route setting an accessible and inviting endeavour for everyone. ICP can help with training for your whole route-setting team, contact us to find out more.

Bridging the diversity gap in route setting is a collective responsibility that requires intentional efforts from climbing gyms, and the climbing community as a whole. It is important to note that Australia has come a long way in the last few years, some progress has been made and diversity has increased. Several climbing facilities and community groups around Australia are hosting events that push for inclusivity. Additionally, incredible achievements have been made by female Australian route setters on the international stage, such as Head IFSC route setter Carly LeBreton. However, more can be done to further progress. By embracing inclusivity in hiring practices, providing education, investing in training programs, fostering mentorship, and promoting an inclusive climbing culture, the climbing community can work towards ensuring that route setting reflects the diversity and richness that defines this dynamic and evolving sport.