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Aaron Raby – Staff Highlight

January 24, 2022
Behind The Walls

Aaron Raby is a designer, explorer, developer, author, former route setter, motivated rock climber, and integral part of the Vertical Solutions team.

Aaron and his family moved from Texas to England when he was a child, where he first discovered climbing on a school trip to a local crag at the age of ten. Not long after, Aaron found himself addicted to a state-of-the-art treadwall in a nearby arcade. It changed angle while on the wall and sped up or slowed down based on the difficulty of the section.

Eventually, Aaron returned to Texas to attend San Antonio University and study architecture. During this time, he studied architecture while working at The District Bouldering gym as a route setter and helped get the setting programs off the ground at nearby universities.

Aaron joined the Vertical Solutions team in March of 2018. In the time since, he estimates he has designed the walls for over 20 gyms, in addition to pad and special project design.

“Although I studied architecture, I really love industrial design. At Vertical Solutions, we don’t design buildings, we design a product that goes in the building,” he said.

Aaron is incredibly excited about his work on the up-and-coming Crux III, one of Vertical Solution's largest builds ever.

“It’s really big,” he said. “We've been given a lot of leeway in the creativity and design of the gym and have been able to think up some really cool features.”

Images: A design rendering and finished product for Brooklyn Boulders Lincoln Park.

Aaron’s favorite part of the design process is the direct communication and collaboration with clients.

“I just did a design with a customer in California. We spent three of four three-hour sessions per week designing the walls together—choosing angles, where the overhangs best fit, and where slab would be a better choice. That is the most fun part.”

Our customers tell us they love his work just as much as he enjoys doing it.

His experience as a route setter has given Aaron a better understanding of how end users will interact with the walls, and how he himself would engage with the walls were he responsible for setting them. This perspective allows Aaron to create fun, exciting features and walls that don’t lend themselves to repetitive setting or have sections that would not be maximally utilized.

Primarily a strong boulderer, Aaron’s love for climbing extends far beyond his work. An avid explorer, Aaron has been designing a guidebook for a less-traveled area in Utah.

I got tired of explaining where things were to everyone. People kept asking me, ‘Where is this, what’s the grade, what does this look like?’ so I just started writing a guidebook for the Swell

The Swell is the San Rafael Swell in South Central Utah, a desert sandstone area about a three hours' drive from Salt Lake City. Since there is so much rock with so little developed, Aaron aims to have a developer’s guide published by May of this year. This will contain information about open projects, cleaned and uncleaned lines, landing zones, as well as established problems. As climbers come and send the projects, Aaron will be able to continuously update the guide with new first ascents. Once he's sent most of the problems, he can finalize the guide.

Having already spent roughly 150 days in the Swell since moving to Utah in 2018, it’s curious why Aaron doesn’t spend his time climbing classics in well-trafficked areas like Triassic or Joe’s Valley.

I’ve always had more fun exploring, finding a beautiful line, cleaning it, and trying to send it more than following a guidebook and mobbing boulders alongside everyone else, not that there is anything wrong with that. I just really enjoy the adventure of finding new lines, putting in the time and effort to clean and prepare a problem, whether I climb it or not. Most of the problems I’ve cleaned are well beyond my grade range.

Aaron estimates he has cleaned at least a couple hundred problems and has seen a few hundred more that he hasn’t yet cleaned.

We can’t wait to see the finished guidebook and explore some of Aaron’s problems! Thanks for being such a valuable, talented member of our team, Aaron.