Odd Job: Rock climbing route setter - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Odd Job: Rock climbing route setter

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ESSEX, Vt. -

Peter Kamitses collects the tools of his trade in a shopping cart, wheeling the colorful pieces across the gym. The task ahead of him requires vision, creativity and efficiency. Piece by piece, he creates his puzzle, bolting hand and foot holds to an indoor boulder.

"I'm looking for some kind of consistency," he explained.

Peter is a rock climber, head route setter and part owner at Metro Rock Climbing Center in Essex. His job is to create challenging ways for climbers to get up and across the faux cliffs. Each path is called a route.

"It's second nature. It's what I do. I just look at holes and see them in a way on the wall and put them on the wall," he said. "You're like the puppet master and they're eventually going to do the sequence you built."

Peter caught the climbing bug in the early 1990s, scaling some of Vermont's most beautiful terrain. During college, he moved inside, learning to build routes in the state's first climbing gym. It's a hobby that became a career.

"The way it's physical and mental is, for me, what's so addicting about it. If it's an addiction, which for me it kind of is," Peter said.

For him, climbing is mind over matter, an exercise in complete concentration. Many climbers visualize their path before they even touch the wall. Some seek routes that put their bodies in challenging climbing positions. Others prefer a smooth climb where no one move is harder than another. A successful route setter will have a vast repertoire.

"It's like an art installation that the user is interacting with physically and mentally," he explained.

Peter and his colleagues test each other's routes before they're debuted to the public. They're looking to identify awkward spots and make tweaks on the fly.

Metro Rock offers 80 rope routes and 100 boulder problems. Peter has built about 40 of those sequences. Each route setter initials, dates and grades the difficulty of their routes, so climbers can provide feedback.

"Sometimes it takes people a long time to figure out the best hand and foot sequence to use," he said.

To keep the courses fresh, Metro Rock is always choreographing new routes. Rope routes have an 8-10 week life span. The bouldering area is swapped out about two weeks sooner. Building a new path on the boulders will take Peter 15 minutes to an hour, but the longer, steeper rope walls can take 4-5 hours.

"Watching people try your route and seeing how they do it, seeing what was hard or easy for them, their reaction to it, is one of the most enjoyable parts," he said.

He says the goal is to climb from the bottom of the wall to the top without falling or resting. If that happens, you've officially "sent" or mastered the route.

"If you can walk, you could climb up one of the walls in here. If your brain lets you," Peter said.

With zero climbing experience, I put Peter's theory to the test, trying one of his beginner routes. Halfway up, one misstep sent me flying. Determined not to let the wall win, I gave it a second shot, with Peter coaching me every step of the way, and made it to the top.

An odd job challenging climbers of all abilities to reach the next level.

Peter says an entry level route setter typically earns $10-$15 per hour. Pay increases with experience.

Jennifer is always looking for new odd jobs. If you have one or know someone who does, send us an email at news@wcax.com.

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