Boulderz BETA Series Part 6: Ian MacCrimmon Ready, set, dyno – Ian’s climbing journey and commitment to facility development


We caught up with Maintenance Manager & Assistant Head Setter Ian MacCrimmon for the next profile in our BETA series.

Let’s start with how you got into climbing.
Before coming to Boulderz, I was an arborist for six years. So I had lots of experience climbing (in a different way of course!). I started coming to Boulderz with a friend, and I loved it right away. I think I’ve come almost every other day since then, except for the start of the pandemic.
When did you start working at Boulderz?
I joined in Spring 2017, and for the first few years I mostly worked with the youth programs and private lessons. Boulderz has one of the largest youth programs in the country! And then, with my background in maintenance and safety from my time as an arborist, it was a natural transition into the job of Maintenance manager. In that part of my role, I am in charge of the upkeep of all the equipment and planning what we’ll need in the future.
OK great, and what about Assistant Head Setter? What does that entail?
After I’d been at Boulderz for about a year, I started talking to the setting crew a lot to hear about their job, and I volunteered to fore-run with them to gain experience all on my own time. (Fore-running is when we test the setters’ routes). I really wanted to get into setting so I watched a lot of videos and did a lot of climbing, as well as continuing to volunteer with the setting team.
After sometime I was offered the chance to start setting about once a month. And then the pandemic hit. During the lockdowns when the gym was closed, l was able to get a lot of experience with setting and I really ran with it.
I even recently set my first provincial competition! It was a great experience. It’s also great that competitions are starting back up again. In fact, one of our setters just competed in BC and came in 2nd place!
How does a person become a setter? What is the community of setters like?
There isn’t just one path to get into setting. Sometimes people come to us with lots of experience, and other times we train people on the basics. It’s really based on what we want and need for the team. But if a person wants to get involved, I’d say volunteer whenever you can with a setting team! I really enjoy working with our newer setters to develop their skills. Setting is the best job!
We have about 8 people on our setting team, and setting happens 3 days per week. Most of the other setters are coaches in our programs. It’s important that we have a mix of climbing styles and that we can hit all of our target difficulties. It’s very much a team effort.
In terms of the setting community, it’s a tight knit group, and we’re all passionate about what we do. Our head setter Dru and I are excited about a new idea of a setter exchange program with different gyms. Hopefully it will get off the ground soon. It will give us a chance to experience different styles at different gyms.
And how did you do in terms of getting through the pandemic lockdowns?
Well at first I couldn’t climb as much, although I do climb outside year-round. But during that first lockdown I went on a personal journey and really got into woodworking. When Boulderz reopened in the Summer of 2020, I was offered the Assistant Headsetter position. And then in the next two lockdowns, while we had to close to the public, we were able to keep working. We totally stripped the whole gym in both locations to clean everything including all of the holds. We were able to do a full reset, and plan out what we wanted in which sections. And we could also sell old holds for people to use in their own gyms at home. Thankfully we were still able to climb! I got in great shape, and also focused on climbing outside friends and with my wife. We even went on a few climbing trips.
What is the best thing about working here?
The people! It’s such a great group of people, the other employees as well as the people who come here to climb. We all share a love for climbing.