Route Setting

What is route setting?

A route is a specific path or “problem” using textured holds and features bolted onto the climbing structure and marked or flagged by tape. These are “set” by our route setting crew. We at the River Rock have something for all ability levels, from beginner to advanced climbing options.

Every other week we strip a section of the gym to clean and reset new routes. The gym is continuously being turned over by our routesetters. This turnover gives guests and members new challenges and combats route stagnation.

Upcoming Setting Schedule

Week of

Area(s) to Set

8/8/2018 Coliseum
8/22/2018 The Slab
9/5/2018 The Cove
9/19/2018 Orange Oswald and The Pillar
10/3/2018 The Beach and New Wave
10/17/2018 Waterfall Wall
10/30/2018 Big Lick Showdown Boulder comp set
11/6/2018 filling in the bouldering area
11/21/2018 The Arch

Routesetting is about movement. Smaller holds placed farther apart does not constitute a “hard” climb. It is about sequencing movement. Climbing is not like running, where you have the same repetitive movement over and over. It is a combination of physical movements to “solve” the problem (or route) that the routesetters have developed. Our routesetters have been USA Climbing Level 1 certified. This training has improved our quality and overall variety of routes in our facility.

What are climbing grades?

Each climbing route has a difficulty grade. The main purpose of a grade is to help you determine if you should try a route or boulder problem and help the climber better assess their ability. Grades are opinions and vary by facility and routesetter. Here at the River Rock our routesetters grade routes after forerunning each other’s problems to gain a consensus of grade. Our goal is to be consistent with grading throughout our facility.

The Yosemite Decimal System

Our top rope and lead climbs are rated using the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS). YDS grades are made of two numbers separated by a decimal point. The number before the decimal describes the class of movement. A well-established trail or paved path would be 1st class, and a scramble on an exposed ridgeline might be 3rd class. All of our routes are 5th class because our hands and feet are required for upward movement and a rope is needed to arrest falls. The number after the decimal denotes difficulty within 5th class. It ranges from zero to infinity. The easiest 5th class routes outside are 5.0. The hardest that exist today are 5.15, but next year that number could go higher! In the River Rock we offer from 5.5 to 5.13.

Routes are often broken down into groups as follows:

  • 5.0–5.6 Easy
  • 5.7–5.9 Intermediate
  • 5.10–5.11 Difficult
  • 5.12–5.13 Very Difficult
  • 5.14–5.15 Expert

The Hueco (or V) Scale

V-grades originated at Hueco Tanks near El Paso, TX in the 1990s. Bouldering legend John “Vermin” Sherman is given the credit for this scale. V-grades are the predominant grading system here in the United States. Similar to YDS, the system is not a closed system. Current routes range from V0- to V16. In our gym we have added a VB for basic or beginner routes.

Comparing Grading Systems

A quick web search will bring up more than a dozen different grading systems used in various parts of the world. We try to avoid the mental mathematics required to convert a British grade of HVS (Hard Very Severe) to a French grade of 5b to a YDS grade of 5.8 to a Ewbank grade of 16 to…. Well, we’re sure you get the picture. Instead, we’ll stick to our homegrown grading systems. The following table loosely compares the two main systems used here in the United States and the River Rock.

River Rock Grade Comparison Chart

Roped Climbing


5.5 VB
5.6 VB
5.7 V0
5.8 V0
5.9 V1
5.10- V1
5.10 V2
5.10+ V2
5.11- V3
5.11 V4
5.11+ V5
5.12- V6
5.12 V7
5.12+ V8
5.13- V9
 5.13 V10