Changing up your climbing routes: Why you should do it, and how often

If you’re just opening a rock climbing gym, or you’re building or managing climbing walls for schools, recreation centers, resorts, or other facilities, you may not be very familiar with the concept of route setting. Route setting is the act of taking down old climbing routes from your wall and replacing them with new ones. Most gyms do this in cycles, with sections of the gym coming down one at a time. This ensures that something new is always going up, yet allows patrons to keep working on older, harder problems at the same time. It also means you never have to strip the entire facility at once, which is a huge undertaking.

Some wall managers never change their routes, from the day the wall is built until their business closes its doors. These facilities often complain of low traffic and low revenues. We at Eldo Walls highly encourage changing your routes often to avoid these issues, and we’re here to tell you why it’s important and to help you figure out how often you should be resetting your walls.

Why you should change your routes over time:

Changing your routes means that every time your members come back, they get to try something new and exciting. This keeps them from getting bored, and ensures they always have something new and challenging to work on. By doing this, you create a loyal group of members who are active about returning to your facility for more climbing.

You can create news and buzz around your new routes. When you change a route, you can post about it on your website, blog, social media, and newsletters. Then, if you’ve set good routes, your patrons who come in to try what’s new will spread the buzz with word of mouth to their friends, thus hyping up your gym and encouraging more visits.

Changing your routes is a good way to keep traffic always flowing through your doors and for preventing your gym from becoming stagnant and dull. What gets people hooked on rock climbing even more than the physical benefits is the fun and challenge in solving a puzzle and figuring out how to get up the wall. Provide them with new puzzles, and they’ll repay you by returning and becoming lifelong members.

How often should you change your routes?

How often you should change your routes is a much debated topic. Forums and blogs across the internet will tell you anywhere between five weeks and six months. In some forums, you can find people claiming their gyms only change their routes once a year – those are also the same people usually complaining their gym doesn’t change its routes often enough. To avoid your patrons becoming bored and discontent, we suggest never leaving a route up longer than six months.

The time to leave a route up on your wall also depends on the demographics of your patrons and the quality of your routes. If you have a lot of new and beginner climbers at your facility, you might be able to keep routes up longer to give people a chance to complete them. By comparison, if your gym is located in a very fit, outdoorsy market (think cities like Boulder and Portland), you might find higher demand to change routes more often as dedicated, experienced climbers conquer your problems quicker.

When deciding when to change a route, it’s also important to keep an eye on how popular and worked each of your routes is. If a route is keeping people’s attention and interest, and if patrons are constantly working on it, it may be worth keeping up for a while longer. These routes are still doing their job, even if they’re approaching the date you were planning on taking them down – they’re keeping your climbers interested and excited, so you might want to consider keeping them up a little longer.

On the other end of the spectrum, if a route is constantly ignored, it may not be well set or very interesting. If a route is hardly ever being climbed and is boring your membership, it may be time to switch it up, even if originally you had planned to keep it up a few weeks more.

In conclusion: if you want to see a steady growth and retention of membership, change up your routes and increase excitement and buzz about your gym. Change routes every few months, and keep an eye out for popular routes that are doing good things for your business and routes that are dragging you down and may need to be changed sooner than planned. If you follow these basic guidelines, you’ll see an energy in your gym that wouldn’t exist otherwise.

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