We've been delighted this week to welcome Niklas Wiechmann to Britain's sunny shores for a 3 day setting workshop with our in-house team. Niklas is head routesetter at Stuntwerk Cologne and ever since we visited this amazing climbing gym in April last year we've been wanting to bring the man over to show off his work at The Arch. Niklas and our team have collaborated to create some amazing new boulder problems at all three centres this week including a complete makeover on the Biscuit Comp Wall for Friday nights #Tamru charity climb event. In between tightening bolts and testing boulders we grabbed Niklas for a few words to learn his approach to setting the perfect problem and some thoughts on what we've learned this week from setting manager Scott Bishop.
“I wanted to share my vision, my style of setting. The two main components of my setting are firstly the boulder itself, the movement and what it means to make a good boulder. Secondly, I wanted to show how I work and how I set differently to perhaps the way The Arch do. To work with an established group makes it easier because they already have a set work flow. Also it makes it really easy to work with The Arch team because they are an established group.
The group responded really well despite my different approach. When it comes to setting, the first boulder I set has to be the gem so I start with putting up one single boulder problem which will include lots of volumes. After the problem is set I test the problem straight away and re-arrange the volumes ever so slightly until the problem works. It's very important for me that the problem be visually appealing and very inviting for everybody but the functionality of the problem is of much greater importance than the look. I want every problem to have a soul that you engage with so that's why I try to set very tricky, often balancey or dynamic problems because once you know how to do the move you should be able to complete it and climb it again. it's a bit like learning a new trick.
Quality means everything to me. I'd rather one really inviting problem that entices you to try it over and over again because the movement is difficult but not necessarily powerful. I set very powerful, pumpy climbs as well but the main focus for me is that the climbers engage in the move and flow. For me it's really important that the climber return to the gym confident that the boulder problem is achievable and that it isn't necessarily based on strength alone.”
“It's been a great 3 days with Nik and the team. Nik, is very easy to get along with and - despite banging on about the merits of surfing and skating - is obviously a very experienced and passionate climber, which comes through with his setting and instruction. His predominant style of what we like to term (cue the mock German accent) 'superflowy' blocs has offered a great way of approaching both setting and climbing, with an emphasis on the technicalities of balance and momentum.
With an in-house team of varying experience, this has proved invaluable for all of us taking part, and has given me food for thought as head setter here. Although I appreciate we cant necessarily have the independent king lines explored here on a full-time basis, there is no doubt scope for exploring this to varying extents in the future. The actual structure of the workshops themselves have also brought out some effective teaching methods that can definitely be adapted to get the absolute best from our setters in the future… watch this space!”
On behalf of all of us at The Arch we thank you Nik and we look forward to another visit soon!