The Rise of Khan

The Rise of Khan

The Khans, in reference to the character in the Jungle Book, Shere Khan. 

There are many reasons this hold line is called what it is. Back in 2018 I took my first trip to Switzerland and I was fortunate enough to climb one of the best boulder problems in the world. The boulder is called Jungle Book; many of you probably know of it. The shape of the rock, the movement between the holds and the grips a person has to grapple with in order to succeed on this climb is unlike anything I had done in the past. On the boulder there is one sequence where you are on the right arete and you have to move way out left to a sloper. This is the very hold that inspired the Khans. The climber ends up having to match this hold 5 times, because there is only one spot that is good enough to move off of. Brilliant! 


After tagging the hold with the left hand, the climber crosses under, to the “good” part of the hold. After this the left hand goes above the right hand, the right hand leaves the “good” part of the hold, so the left hand can be in this spot to make the move to the lip. After this experience, I was inspired. As a hold shaper it took me years to develop a hold that could simulate this experience on plastic, and I finally feel that I have. If you set with these holds as a downpull on a vert panel, they’re going to be good in every aspect of the usable surface, but when set in a directional position, on slightly overhanging to very overhanging terrain, these holds only have one point that is usable to move off of. 


In Route Setting we become hyper focused on movement styles. There are various ways of communicating different movements, such as Risk ,Intensity or Complexity. As a Chief Setter in comps, I will use these terms endlessly. There are other ways, more fun ways to articulate movement. Years ago I equated movement types to 4 animals, the Crane (very technical and slow) the Ram (all in the feet, pure trust) the Cobra (always ready to strike) and the Tiger. The Tiger represents hunger, the way some boulders need to be attacked with force, from the ground up as if one's life depends on it. This is the other aspect I see in these shapes. Surely the grips will allow setters to express themselves in whatever style they desire but this movement is what I was visualizing while shaping. Hence why I chose the Tiger in the story of the Jungle Book to be the name. 


In many ways, these holds represent who I am as a climber. I’m not the most powerful although I do love to throw at things. I’m not the most technical although I love to be humbled. If I had to describe my strength it would be control. Something between hyper technical and power. You’ll have to be the judge, but I feel these shapes will demand this aspect of control out of it’s users. A hold that you can't just jump to and simultaneously one cannot just “do the move better” to succeed.  


All of this to say, in Route Setting once a climb is “ready” we run the round or open the set. When we can’t make any changes we see what we have made, in how the climb performs. It’s an incredible guessing game that few get to experience. So it is with shaping. Ultimately you will be the judge. 




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  • Everett Russell