Evie Cotrulia is a woman of many talents: as well as being an excellent climber and a big part of Team Scarpa, she is determined to close the gender gap within the climbing industry. Alongside acting as fantastic role model for aspiring female climbers, Evie and her friend and colleague Emma Twyford have set up a new business, Creative Climbing. Creative Climbing’s goal is to provide workshops to teach route setting to women. The inaugural workshop was held in March with great success and aplomb.
Read on to find out more about the ideas behind the inception of Creative Climbing and a report on the first workshop and what the future holds for women’s route setting.
Words by Evie Cotrulia
Friday 16th March was the first Ladies Beginner Route Setting workshop provided by Creative Climbing, a new business set up by myself and Emma Twyford to introduce more females into the route setting profession.
“Apart from Emma, Leah Crane and recently Gracie Martin, there aren’t any (or any I know of) female setters on the UK freelance circuit, I wanted to find a way to change that.”
I’ve been setting for about 7 years and I have been a setting manager/head setter for 5 and a half years. Part of what I do is schedule sets and book freelance route setters. I started out by having to book 16 setter slots per month at one centre, and that has now grown to a whopping 55 setter slots across three centres. Including scheduling myself, I am lucky if 5 of those 55 slots are female which vastly under-represents how many females are climbing now. Apart from Emma, Leah Crane and recently Gracie Martin, there aren’t any (or any I know of) female setters on the UK freelance circuit, I wanted to find a way to change that.
I was frequently approached by females in climbing walls whilst I was setting, telling me that they would love to try setting but that they felt too intimidated to ask with it being mostly an all-male environment. Some said that all the route setting courses are provided by men for men and they didn’t feel comfortable signing up on one. Some said that they didn’t know how to use a drill/impact driver and that they were too embarrassed to ask for help or even that they just didn’t think that it was something that females did until they saw me! I don’t think that this should put a block on these ladies creative ideas. So really the idea for the ladies workshops was born from those ladies and the lack of bookable female setters.
Emma and I had been setting together for a couple of years by then and I asked her if she would be interested in starting up basic workshops with me for ladies to get them into route setting. I believe we make a great freelance setter/setting management balance. Emma is a full-time freelance setter and on the road pretty much constantly. As well as setting, I book and manage over 25+ freelance setters and I am very aware of health and safety, national guidelines, and I know what walls are looking for and how they (or at least I) like to be approached to give new setters experience. Emma was keen thankfully so we put our heads together and over the course of a year, Creative Climbing was born.
We call the day a “workshop” and not a “course” intentionally, we put a lot of thought into that and I want to make the reason clear. We don’t want to fool the ladies into thinking that they are automatically route setters upon completion of the day.
“Route setting is something that I believe should be approached more like an apprenticeship if you can be lucky enough to get someone to take you under their wing.”
As a setting manager, I get quite a few emails from people that have done a route setting “course” without previous work as a setter and they expect that they can automatically be paid top dollar and get work automatically upon completion. Not so, route setting is something that I believe should be approached more like an apprenticeship if you can be lucky enough to get someone to take you under their wing. Work hard, watch the professionals, don’t be cocky, and learn from them. In the beginning, I worked for free for a year to get experience and gain skills and I’m still learning now.
Our workshops get the very intro level stuff out of the way so when one of our ladies gets a chance at a wall for some experience she doesn’t have to ask the busy setters for absolute basics to be shown to her. Amongst other topics, we cover safe ladder use, lifting, drill use, bolting holds on, screwing holds on, pinning, and very basic setting. The aim is to empower the ladies with the confidence to take the first step and ask for experience at their local walls and being able to hold her own with these basic skills to hopefully get the ball rolling into a new profession.
Boulder Brighton was host to our first workshop. We decided it would be a trial for us to see how it went and decide whether or not to take it from there.We had a lovely group of ladies and we spent the whole first half of the day on safety and basic fixing techniques, then the second half of the day setting and testing and we didn’t have one blown t-nut!
“We have lots of notes now on how to refine what we provide and make it even better, and we can’t wait to go again!”
The day went fantastically and was so much fun. It felt like we were doing something right to be sharing our experience with these psyched ladies who possibly otherwise wouldn’t have tried route setting. We have lots of notes now on how to refine what we provide and make it even better, and we can’t wait to go again!
We had so much support from brands getting behind us and offering support that it was almost overwhelming. Even offers of climbing holds! We are very grateful to Scarpa, DMM and Friction Labs that helped us put together some lovely goody bags for the ladies on the day which they loved. Thank you also to Paul Alexander who came and took photos on the day.
Evie is currently working on some future dates for further Ladies Setting Workshops in and outside of the UK. Full details will be posted soon on their Creative Climbing Instagram and Facebook pages, make sure to follow them to keep up to date.