An Interview with Selena Wong, Route Setter at Blocs in Edmonton, Alberta’s Biggest Bouldering Gym
In September, Edmonton climbers gathered for the opening of Alberta’s largest bouldering-only gym called Blocs. The 12,500-square-foot location in south Edmonton, 8761 51 Ave. NW, features a custom climbing wall which was created by Walltopia in Bulgaria and installed by a team from Canada and Europe. The wall was so heavy that it made a hole in the parking lot when it was unloaded.
The modern bouldering facility will feature more than 200 problems, which was perfect for the 200 climbers who turned out early to see the new space. The gym offers $18 day passes, $85 monthly prepaid memberships, $ 60 monthly recurring memberships, and $ 610 annual memberships. Canadian climber Selena Wong is the gym’s head route-setter who will be in charge of refreshing the routes.
Wong has been climbing for more than 15 years and first started climbing at Vertically Inclined in Edmonton. We touched base with Wong shortly before the new gym opened. Is gym climbing training for outdoors, or is it an end in itself?
I think gym climbing is whatever you want it to be. I love that people come to the climbing gym not only to train for outdoors or competitions, but to stay fit, to learn and improve, or just to socialize with their friends. One of the things I enjoy most about commercial route-setting is interacting with all the members and helping them with their various goals. There are so many different ways to challenge yourself to provide climbers with the opportunity to train, move, and learn something new.
Are you more of a boulderer or a route climber?
Boulderer. Definitely a boulderer.
How did you get into setting?
When I started climbing, my friends and I would set boulder problems with existing holds on the wall. I also used to tag along with my husband, Terry Paholek, to help set and forerun at local competitions. I used to compete as well, but more and more, I found myself on the setting side. After Rock Jungle opened, Dan Archambault, the owner, asked if I was interested in heading up the setting there, and the rest is history.
Could you set great routes right away or did it take time?
It definitely took time and I’m still learning. When I first started setting, I couldn’t put a complete problem on the wall. I would have a great idea, spend forever putting up a few holds to create it, and then wouldn’t know how to start or finish the problem. Hopefully, I’ve gotten a bit better since then. I’m always trying to improve, and that’s what makes route-setting so rewarding. You get to watch climbers interact with your boulder problems, and whether they have fun, get frustrated, break a sequence or find alternate beta, there’s always more to learn.