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After we made Russian subtitles for Fladhod's film about Meiringen, we decided to talk with one of the heroes of the video. So now SKALOLAZ.PRO team proudly presents the interview with Manuel Hasler, Fladhold co-owner and international routesetter. Thanx to Mathieu Achermann for communication and to Marc Daviet for cool pictures! Enjoy!

Photo by Marc Daviet

Let’s start with the question about the routesetting at the Olympics. You set the boulders in Tokyo, right?


Please tell a few words about the routesetting team.

There were four of us. The chief routesetter Percy Bishton, Garret Gregor, Romain Cabessut and me. We also had two additional testers – Tsukuru Hori and Gen Hirashima. I know these guys very well, I set a lot of comps with them, especially with Gen. I think the team was great.

What was the difference between World Cup setting and the Olympic setting?

I think the pressure was a bit different, especially for the competition days. We were there for three weeks. We were setting during the first week and then we have one and a half weeks with nothing to do. This time was really complicated for all of us. This gap was not good for the competition, we forgot the things that we were talking about when we were setting. Then the pressure came on the first day of the competition, not before it.

It was very hot and humid in Tokyo, but not as bad as I thought. It was still possible to climb the whole problems. In the beginning, I thought we would set move by move, but it was still possible to climb.

I set in Mumbai twice and it was way worse. We could only do two moves in a row in Mumbai. In Tokyo, we could do more.

What can you say about the wall? Did you like it?

Yeah, it was pretty good. Maybe not the middle part of it, though it was perfect for the men’s final, the second boulder. Otherwise, it was not easy to set something interesting on it. But in general, I like it a lot. Maybe it is not a good wall to set several time on it, but for one time it’s pretty good.

What was wrong with boulder #3 in the men’s final? It was beautiful but nobody did the top.

It’s true, it was beautiful, a kind of flower, but was only beautiful. Not very interesting for climbing. That’s what I said to the setter who did it. I said: “It is beautiful but nothing happens on it”. Well, one thing happened but they did not understand. After forward climbing at the beginning you came to the pinch, then you have to cross, switch your right hand and cross again. It’s not really complicated. They climb way more complicated problems. On the top, it was more interesting and more dynamic but nobody got there. So we never know what can happen there. If that problem would be good and working I think the round would be good. Even if the slab was too easy, but at least Adam did a try. But it ended up more like a shitty round.

Photo by Marc Daviet

In the film bout Meiringen you have shown the new Flathold products – big volumes that can be tuned easily. Please tell us about them.

It’s an idea I had maybe for two years in my head. It came from the setting. I was always thinking about a system, which allows you to make the tweaks easier. Without changing the whole thing every time. That’s why I came to this idea. I’m really happy about it, it works. It is still not finished, I’m finishing the last pieces right now. It will come out this autumn. I guess we will show it at the trade show if it will happen. I think it is the best thing I ever did. Maybe it is a little bit complicated to understand how it works for the first time. But once you understood it is pretty simple. You don’t need to put a lot of crews and destroy the material, you just use the central screw to tune it.

I’m more thinking in this direction now. I want to develop systems that allow you to be faster in setting and which is different than holds. I was making some pockets last week and it was not very interesting to me. In the market, you have so many different things now and everybody does good things. Everybody can do nice products now. The problem is that it is pretty similar altogether, so there are too many same things in the market. So you don’t know what to choose. In the end, I don’t know how customers choose the stuff, maybe by the price.

So I think it is a good moment to develop something new to go ahead of this “all the same” market. I have a lot of ideas in my head, so at least for the next five years a have a lot of things to do. Otherwise, I wouldn’t shape things, I think. I need this to continue.

The next question is about Flathold films about the routesetting. How did the project start?

We always wanted to do something at some point. But we didn’t know the right people for it and we didn’t search for them as well. Then we found Mathieu Elie, the Canadian guy who made some movies about climbing and routesetting at Block Shop, the climbing gym in Montreal. We really like the style of his films, so we contacted him. The owner of Block Shop invited me to the Block Shop Open for the routesetting. Mathieu (Acherman, co-owner of the Flathold company) and me decided to go together for doing the comp and for doing the filming with Mathieu Elie. It was the first project that we made together. We build a good friendship with him that time, and then we decided to invite him for Meiringen. He did it the second time in Hachioji.

Mathieu was really motivated about the filming as well, he bought a camera, programs and all the stuff for it. Then he did the last movie and I really like it. So it’s a bit less expensive now because it’s in the Flathold community and we don’t have to pay someone for coming and filming. I thig it’s really good for a brand if you can do it in your team. You are independent and you can do what you want.

Do you have a favorite World Cup event?

Not really. Maybe Meiringen is a good one because we always have some new material to set. Every year we try to present something new on this competition. I also really like the walls they have, maybe not the color but the shapes.

Some years ago at some events, the materials could be not really good. But you always can do something good with any material, even if it’s not perfect. But having good material is helping a lot as well.

How many days does it take to set problems for the World Cup event?

Five days.

It’s pretty fast.

Yeah, it’s true. We did it several times in four days. There were more people there, but having more people is not always better. I prefer to be in a team of 5 people. In Vail and Hachioji we were 9 or 10. But if don’t know the setters very well it takes you more time to set. Maybe the setting itself is faster, but the whole process of talking, climbing, and tweaking is longer.

Photo by Marc Daviet

How did you start setting?

It’s always been the same for many years. Before the competition, before I come to the venue, I try not to think about it. I wanna be able to come to the venue with an empty head. It also takes me off a bit of pressure, it is good and it works very well. Then the ideas come mostly very fast. I’m just looking at the wall, having too many ideas, and I have to decide which one I will set. I look at the material and it gives me ideas as well. Sometimes you do have not the specific material for the specific move, and this changes the idea you have.

Then the setting process is very quick. I more thinking than setting probably. I can think for one hour without doing anything, looking at the holds and the profile. Then the idea comes and in my head and I can set it in 20 min, and then it is on the wall and you can climb. Then the process takes much longer because it never works directly as you want. You can spend a day working on the idea that works almost, but not really. Then the question appears: “Do I have to change my idea or keep working on it?” In Tokyo for example I set a really good problem for the qualification. It took me two days to finish it. I really wanted to make it work.

Which problem was it?

It was not on the wall at the end. Somebody in a park was filming it from a long distance and put in on YouTube. It was horrible and then we have to set something new. So my boulder went to the trash, but it was a really good one. Well, things like that can happen.

When did you start setting and who was your teacher?

I had a very old gym which I built up with my friend. I think it was 2000. We organized three events there. That’s where I began to set. Then I did a lot of national competitions but without any teacher. It was a good time. Then I did my first World Cup in Grindelwald in Switzerland as well. It was in 2006. Then I met Laurent Laporte.

At this point, I knew I want to do this. I was studying music during that time and a bit before it. So I stopped everything and went into routesetting in 100%.

I did all the jobs I could have, and it was not well paid. I just could survive with the money I got but not much more. I did the international routesetter course the same year and since that time I set several World Cups every year. I did the three first ones with Laurent, and then with Jacky Godoffe as well. So I would say Jacky and Laurent are my teachers. I think more Laurent than Jacky, because we have more same mindset with him. But they are both very good teachers. And I remember when I was 14 I was in France with my parents and I bought the book about Jacky Godoffe. That’s where I knew him. And many years later I met him and we worked together. It was pretty cool.

Text: Yury Birilov

Photos: Marc Daviet


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