For May, we interview Boybi Sarmiento—a prominent figure in the Philippine climbing scene. He has been a route setter for several competitions including the nationals, and has been developing some of the most beautiful crags in the country.
Photo by: Alex Espina
Hello! Let's start off with the essentials, when and where did you get into climbing?
Boybi: I had my first rock climbs in the crags of Montalban. That was in 1999. We had fun roaming around the gorge having all these epics and misadventures. The thrill of doing something new and that feeling of invincibility when you’re younger often leads to interesting situations because we sometimes take on something out of our comfort zone. I think these early experiences made lasting impressions that endeared me to the sport.
Any favorite climbing areas?
Boybi: The Km. 4 bouldering area in La Trinidad, Benguet. I always feel at home climbing there. Too bad we can only climb there a few months every year.
What other hobbies do you have outside of climbing? How do you juggle between them?
Boybi: I started playing Ultimate frisbee last year so that is what I mostly did for the whole year before I got back climbing again last December. I will get back to playing again when the current climbing season ends. And there is always those video games and books.
"The thrill of doing something new and that feeling of invincibility when you’re younger often leads to interesting situations because we sometimes take on something out of our comfort zone"
A few interviews back, we asked Cali and Kindred about their bouldering experience in Baguio. Do you have have more tips about bouldering in Baguio?
Boybi: You can check out ClimbPhilippines.com for more info on Baguio/Benguet bouldering :)
Do you have projects you wish to take down soon?
Boybi: I have a few that I consider personal projects. Given the quantity of routes/problems I have tried and weren't able to finish. I have some that I'm either attached to, or have invested some time on.
There is that Outcast Project in Capitol. Nice setting and good landing on a gently overhanging boulder with a big move from a terrible pinch to a slopey crimp coupled with bad feet and a swing. Been trying it for a couple of years and still feels very hard for me everytime.
Then there is this newly bolted route in Quirino I've been trying these past few trips. You start with relatively easy climbing for a few draws then a couple hard moves to a stopper move - and all points dyno to an OK hold. We have tried other betas on that seemingly blank section but some of the holds seem too small or the move too hard to be feasible. I hope someone will send that one soon.
Photo by: RL Abella Altomonte
In the coming months, what is to be expected with regards to climbing in Baguio?
Boybi: The climbing season here in Baguio will be over in a month or two, so we are trying to go out as much as we could. Cleaning up new lines, trying to send projects if we can and basically cramming all the climbing we can get out of the remaining time left before the rainy days hit us. As for exploring new areas, I let other people do the exploring and then me reaping the rewards later (evil laugh) ;)
So let’s move on to route setting. For the benefit of everyone not familiar with this aspect of the sport, can you give a brief narration about what a route setter does?
Boybi: A route setter is someone who is responsible in making climbing routes or bouldering problems in an indoor/gym setting. One can liken them to a choreographer who sets what and how movements should be done in a routine.
"A good route can bring out the best in a climber"
What got you into route setting?
Boybi: I sucked at competing and I realized that the next coolest thing to do besides winning comps is to torture those who are trying to ;)
You set for the nationals, how long have you been doing this?
Boybi: I started getting invited to set for nationals a few years ago so I still consider myself a newbie compared to other setters I have worked with. I hope they will keep on inviting me for years to come.
Route setting at the Nationals. Photo by: Arjun Actub
Many of our readers would like to know what goes on behind the scenes of the national competitions. Please share what the typical workflow is during these events.
Boybi: Typical flow would be setting and forerunning the Qualifiers a day before the comp. Then come Day 1 or the "Qualis" we can be seen setting up routes in between categories, spotting competitors and cleaning/brushing holds on our respective routes if it's a bouldering comp. When Day 1 is done for the competitors, we then try to set the routes for Day 2 (the semifinal and the finals) during the night. Set, Climb, Spot, Set, Drink and repeat.
When setting, do you prefer technical or do you prefer powerful climbing?
Boybi: In the past, I tended to lean towards more powerful type of movements, but as I gained more setting experience and wisdom I am consciously trying to set routes that balances both styles. But one can always resort to thuggy routes/problems when the clock is working against you.
If you could set on just one angle, what would it be? Why?
Boybi: 20 degrees overhanging. You can set either power or technical movements on that angle and even balancy ones using volumes.
Favorite type of hold?
Boybi: Screw-ins all the way. They are so versatile you can always find new ways to use them.
What are the necessary tools for a route setter? What’s one tool you cannot go without?
Boybi: Definitely WOODSCREWS. I cannot imagine a comp without them.
Any proud moment or milestone you would like to share during your climbing and/or setting career?
Boybi: Anytime I see someone struggling with my route and then finally topping out is a proud moment for me. It means you've given them something challenging and forcing them to dig deep for the send.
In addition to the previous question, what’s the most frustrating? :)
Boybi: Misjudging the difficulty of the route... either too easy or one move too difficult.
Photo by: Dennis Diaz
Do you think there is a need to bring more awareness to route setting in the country?
Boybi: Yes. A good route can bring out the best in a climber. Not just in competitions but also in the gym setting. Route setting can either make or break the confidence of a climber. I have worked with setters and met individuals that are very talented and enthusiastic about routesetting. I dont think we are lagging behind in terms of creativity and the ability to make do with what resources we have. But I think a formal training from someone experienced setting abroad can greatly help our current mindset with regards on how to approach, and execute setting on par with the current international standard.
Is there a difference between setting for difficulty and bouldering? Which do you prefer more?
Boybi: For me you need to have a nice steady flow of movement when you set a route [for difficulty]. You need to make sure to give the climbers a good buildup of pump and a way to somehow recover on certain parts of the route. Wherein bouldering you can set a more dynamic kind of style with a lot of insecure grips and body positions.
Anyone can bolt holds onto a wall, but proper route setting is about designing and forcing movement. Do you have tips for those aspiring to learn how to set, especially for national comps?
Boybi: You can tweak the difficulty with your footholds. If the move is too hard you can make the feet more positive and vice versa. Be open to suggestions and ask others for their opinion. I have learned so much from collaborating with fellow setters.
At the Philippine National Games. Photo by: Hugo Rafael
You've been helping develop crags in the country, does indoor route setting help out when you go out and bolt new lines?
Boybi: For me it’s the other way around. I get inspiration and ideas from the rock climbs I've done and tried.
Before we close, what’s in your route setting/climbing schedule for this year?
Boybi: Next stop is Dumaguete Bouldering Nationals and then back home to try and send some more projects before the current season ends.
Once again, thank you for accepting our invitation to this interview. Any closing remarks before we end this interview?
Boybi: Thank you LIME! Of course thank you SCAPI for inviting me to set. Shoutout to the legends Mackie, Gax and Simon who have inspired and influenced my climbing one way or the other. To friends who crushed on rocks and the socials, ABANTE!