Setting for the Future

Video by Jon Vickers and Ben Neilson / Story by Zoë Zulauf Ware /

Jenna St. Germain has worked just about every job in a climbing gym besides owning one. While picking up extra hours washing holds, she started to notice the variations in shape and form, observing the different subtleties of each grip. As the power washer blasted away the remnants of old chalk, she imagined the ways she could create unique movements and utilize holds in a way they had never been used before. She reached out to the head setter about becoming a routesetter, and the rest is history.

John Muse, the Events Manager for USA Climbing, was one of Jenna’s first mentors in climbing, and returned to Momentum Katy for a Level 1 routesetting clinic this spring. The clinic teaches fundamentals of routesetting skills for both new setters and veterans alike and focuses on commercial- and competition-specific setting with feedback from peers and experienced instructors. Creative movement, aesthetics, efficiency, forerunning, the “tweaking process” involved in perfecting a route, and youth routesetting are all emphasized in the curriculum. As it turns out, Jenna has a special passion for creating climbing movements for “tiny humans,” our next generation of climbers.

Jenna and the setting crew at Momentum Silver Street.
Jenna and the setting crew at Momentum Katy. Photo by Jon Vickers.

Her creativity process is inspired by the climbers she sets for––especially the up-and-coming generation of kids that call Momentum home. When routesetting for young climbers, setters don’t just add intermediate holds to routes designed for adults; they think of the climber first and design the movement, spacing, and flow around them. The result is thoughtful, challenging routes for the young guns giving their all at local competitions. For Jenna, the day of the competition is the culmination of all the creativity, passion, and effort put into the setting process––seeing competitors lower off routes with psych is what keeps her looking forward to the next comp.

In the early days of indoor climbing, John Muse recalls how setting used to be more of a hobby, a way to work in the gym environment and climb for free. With the evolution of the sport, routesetting has continuously become more of an art form, and it now provides a technical vocation for those who possess the talent, work ethic, and commitment needed to succeed. More and more, talented woman routesetters are emerging on the scene, offering new perspectives and vision in the trade. “It’s amazing to have women on a route setting crew,” says John, “they add a different element to the environment. Diversity in all walks of life is great to have.” Momentum is proud to have passionate setters like Jenna on our team, and if you’re in Texas, check the route tags for a “JSG,” because we know you’ll feel the love she pours into every set.

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