I didn’t know much about him going into the day, and I can’t say I know much about him now, but I can say I got peek. Sometimes a peek is all that matters.
Morgan Young is a savant when it comes to route setting. He’s set for comps at all levels all around the United States. He has been a head route setter for different gyms as long as I’ve known him to exist. Morgan Young delves deep into his craft. When Morgan’s setting, or teaching others how to set, or forerunning, or even just looking at a blank wall, there is no distracting him. It’s just Morgan and his craft. The rest of the world just melts away, as an artist finds inspiration starring at a blank canvass.
Morgan Young is one of just a handful of route setters in the world with an official line of climbing holds, crafted by Kilter Grips. (These holds are SICK!)
My first personal interaction with Morgan came when he visited our local gym as a guest setter for a USA Climbing Competition. I was working on sending my first V5, I had the entire route memorized and every move I needed to do along the way. It was the last thing I thought about before I went to bed and the first thing I thought about in the morning. I had it down, I just couldn’t do it. This route, this V5 would exist for just one last day, as it was being replaced for the upcoming competition. I pleaded with Morgan to give me some beta for two days before he finally cracked. “Try bumping instead of crossing” he said as he walked away. That’s it, that’s all it took, first V5 was in the bag. Morgan never climbed that route; he just looked at one attempt, and knew. While that was only a V5, I have seen the exact same thing happen on V10’s, 5.13’s, and every grade in between. He’s a visionary!
It was later announced that he would be staying on full-time as the new head setter. The crew and I were pumped, his style is so clean, his routes so fun, but sharing beta is not something that would come readily. Figuring out a climb is part of climbing and Morgan doesn’t like taking that away.
I’ve known Morgan for a few years now, and so I asked if I could shadow him for a day of setting, kind of like a day in the life of. He agreed, and so it began1.
Morgan Young: Let’s meet early for pancakes!
Carrot: Morgan I’m just here to observe, you do you and I’ll take notes.
Morgan Young: IHOP I-45 at 8.
We sat in the same booth, but didn’t say a word as I watched Morgan devour full stack after full stack of never ending buttermilk pancakes for $4.99. Sometimes he used syrup sometimes he just ate them dry. He must have noticed the strange look on my face as he tried to justify his eating style.
Morgan Young: You don’t need forks for pancakes; they’re built for holding.
He mostly holds them like a taco, and dips into syrup like it’s a bowl of salsa, but this time Morgan makes a pancake sandwich and chomps away.
*chomp chomp chomp*
Morgan Young: Carla is it possible to get another full stack of buttermilk pancakes?
Waitress: Coming right up Morgan.
They know him by name.
Morgan continues to devour another stack as he’s finally hitting his pancake threshold.
Morgan Young: I’m about done; I’ll just pay and meet you at the gym.
The other route setters at the gym today are Jerrica, Andrew, Cameron, and Drew. They’re waiting and ready to set as Morgan arrives. Once Morgan reaches the group they go over what routes they’re setting, the grades they’ll set and where they’ll set them. Immediately, everyone was off and setting. It was like watching five honeybees, knowing exactly where to go and what to do…the gym was being pollinated!
*buzz buzz buzz*
Andrew: Morgan smells like syrup, it’s going to be a good day, I bet we finish early.
WTF does that mean? Can we predict the day based on smells?
Andrew was right, the routes were flying up, everyone was in a good mood, climbers were coming in like salivating hyenas waiting for the section of new routes to be open, peering around the corner drooling for that first ascent. This doesn’t faze the setting team one iota, there is still work to be done, it’s time to discuss and tweak. Morgan and the crew aim for perfection!
Morgan Young: Nice routes, but try doing this, try doing that, move this hold here and that hold there.
Perfection was coming!
As a team everyone gave their input on how to improve each route, and they got back to work. In a matter of a few more hours, they were done. Morgan disappeared to a back office and returned with a blue folder.
Morgan Young: Nice work guys.
Morgan opened up his folder and pulled out four pancakes, one for each of his setters, as a way to thank them for putting in a good day. I figured it was a joke, but they just scarfed these soggy folder pancakes down as if it was just what setters do at the end of the day.
I wanted to ask…but I was just there to observe!
Carrot: Morgan, what typically happens from here?
Morgan Young: Normally I’d get ready for coaching the youth team, but they’re off for the week so the night is ours…a group of us are going to Barbs if you want to come.
Barbs AKA Barbarellas is a Houston based dance club. Surprisingly Morgan Young is also a very good dancer.
Carrot: I’ll check it out, but just to observe.
Lucky thing for me that I was in observation mode, because the DJ at Barbs keeps it loud, also keeps it real, mostly keeps it real, it’s a dance vibe! What unfolded was a group of superior rock climbers crushing the dance floor. Drinks, laughs, hugs, dancing, it was a really fun time. As the night came to a close, I went to say goodbye to everyone and thank Morgan for letting me tag along all day.
It looked like Morgan was about to hit me with a hug, when instead he reached into the front pocket of his short sleeve button down shirt, and pulled out a pancake.
He gave me a fist bump, and proceeded to use his pancake like a steering wheel, driving himself right back onto the dance floor, taking little nibbles off the pancake wheel along the way.
I may have missed out on the rest of the night, but I heard that after the dancing stopped, the entire crew ended up at…
You guessed it…IHOP!
Morgan “Little Nibbles” Young – Rock Climber, Route Setter, Dancer, Pancake aficionado.
- There are portions of this interview that I may not have used total creative poetic license on.
For more from Morgan Young and theDIHEDRAL team check out theDIHEDRAL Podcast, new episodes monthly! Click HERE