Emma Horan keeps busy within the industry– climber, boulder gym operator, and an amazing routesetter. With 15 years of experience behind her, Emma was recently selected to set for the Salt Lake City IFSC World Cup. EP is grateful that she took the time to answer some questions about setting at such a high level, and being one of two females selected to set at this back-to-back weekend of competition climbing.
How did it feel to set at this event versus competing?
I think my passion has always been in setting verses competition, so unlike for many others, elite competition was almost a stepping stone for me into World Cup setting.
What’s unique about setting for World Cup Events compared to others?
I think the uniqueness of setting for a World Cup is in the design of our sport. How many other sports are so heavily weighted on human intervention for the basic design of the field of play? These athletes have built their lives, careers and income off this sport and that responsibility is somewhat in the hands of the setters to not eff it up and simultaneously continue to expand and provide new and exciting ways to challenge these athletes that still provides a fair playing field for everyone.
“How many other sports are so heavily weighted on human intervention for the basic design of the field of play?”
What was your favorite boulder problem from the SLC World Cups this year and why?
I would probably have to say Women’s Final 4 from the first event — the campus swing foot stab.
What was your favorite moment from the SLC World Cup? (doesn’t have to be route related)
For me, it was Jessy Pilz’s buzzer beater top on Finals 1 in the first World Cup, juxtaposed by Brooke’s devastating time out.
Any thoughts, comments, reviews on the Double Bubbles or other EP holds / volumes you’ve set with?
I think anytime you have nice, appealing new shapes that the athletes don’t know how to use is great and creates equity within the field. I know as a climber from Australia, for a very long time it was really hard to get access to holds from the international market, which made training super hard and gave the European and American competitors such an advantage in events
The Double Bubbles were a lot of fun to set with. I sometimes feel like holds will direct you how they want to be set, and when a new line is released you tend to see a theme of their use, and that’s how I felt with the Double Bubbles. Just the sheer size of them before anything else, the holds seemed to direct the boulders more so than the setter. Don’t get me wrong we still saw diversity in the boulders that were set with them, but a big underlying theme from the holds was the ability to compress and keep tension, which in the truest sense of a sloper is what you want… They are an unforgiving hold, which in competitions is perfect.
“I think anytime you have nice, appealing new shapes that the athletes don’t know how to use is great and creates equity within the field.”
Were there any beta breakers, or surprise sequences that you didn’t expect from a boulder problem at the World Cup?
There’s always whacked out beta from competitors that sometimes works and a lot of the time really doesn’t… It happens to every setter, and when it does happen, the whole team is equally disappointed. In commercial setting, there is the idea of letting the climber experience the boulder for themselves and in turn this allows for more creativity and play from the climber; however, for competitions this doesn’t translate because the ability to set fair boulders means we, as setters, need to be aware of all the possibly variables and limit them so no matter the climber that gets on the wall the experience is a close to the same as possible.
Finally, I think a lot of the time people see beta breaks as an easier version; however, being on the back end of events I can assure you, not all, but a lot of the time the competitor has done a substantially harder version of the boulder with the break.
How does the SLC World Cup compare to other World Cups you’ve set at, attended or watched?
I really love when events are reflective of the landscapes they are hosted in, and I felt there was a few instances throughout the two events where the styles of the natural landscape within Utah made an appearance on the comp wall, and I love the reminder of rock climbing to competitors even if they are climbing on wood and plastic. So, I think that’s what I like about the SLC World Cups — it’s so close to so much amazing rock, and I love to be able to pair those two things together, it feels very unified when events are in iconic outdoor locations.
Favorite hold types / shapes to set with?
New shapes, no matter how much we try and create new experiences with the climbers, if you have watched, set or climbed on a shape before you have a preconceived notion of the use of the product. When we are given completely new shapes, as I already stated, you almost need to let them guide you.
What’s your mindset when going into a comp to set for some of the world’s best climbers?
Self talk – “You’re a bad bitch Emma.”
Kidding. But big scale events are in my opinion, not the place to try and bring new concepts. The stakes are too high, so it’s just about reminding yourself to do what you are good at.
What’s next for you? (next comp, next step, next goals, e.g.)
Open some gyms this year, then next year hopefully get back on the circuit to set some more events.
You were one of two women selected for the SLC setting team. How, if it all, did this dynamic affect your experience at this event?
Obviously, women and gender diverse people are needed on more in World Cup setting teams, and obviously, we are moving in that direction. It would have been great to be there as a soul female on the team, but to be paired with another female, made it an increasingly more productive experience.
I was tempted to say it was a ‘pleasant experience,’ but it isn’t just nice to have more than one women or gender diverse setter. It is essential to the harmonious dynamic of the team. When we have a safe environment that we feel supported in, which only needs to come from one other person, we will feel safe to speak up more and share our opinions. I don’t know if I would have done that as much without Moe there to support me. And it’s not even the idea that women back other women regardless of the concept that they are discussing. Moe and I disagreed about things. It’s more about the concept that regardless of the idea, I know that this person will have compassion for my position because they have been in it as well.
“It would have been great to be there as a soul female on the team, but to be paired with another female, made it an increasingly more productive experience.”
Did you miss the SLC Boulder Finals?
See the results and watch the replays here.
Also, don’t forget to give Emma a follow! @emmawarriorprincess