Route Setter Profile: Donny Martin

Donny Martin, General Manager and Route Setter

Donny joined the Boston Rock Gym six years ago as the Route Setter and has since added General Manager to his title.

His first climbing adventure was at 18 years old when his Ipswich High School gym teacher led an excursion to Gloucester’s “Red Rocks” in Mount Ann Park. However, Donny wasn’t able to continue getting to know the ropes until 10 years ago, since he joined the military straight out of high school. He returned to climbing when a friend suggested he join an excursion. Drawn in by the community, “a really cool group of people,” Donny hasn’t looked back. Holding a few odd jobs while he gained his footing in the industry and started developing an understanding of the sport, Donny “got to learn from some of the better guys in the game” at BRG.

Donny explains how he developed his skills and understanding as a route setter:

“BRG has a lot of history, and some greats like Tim Kemple and Joey Kinder came through this gym. Al Puerto was the driving force in how I set and how I learned what rock climbing was all about. He had a great sense of what a gym needs to offer for a clientele. He taught me what I needed to know and also let me have my own creative freedom. Then Max Zolotukhin, [a former head route setter for BRG,] brought it to a different level. I could see what 5.14 movements and bodywork looked like, and I learned the fine tuning and intricate details of setting from Max.”

Route setting is learned in stages, and at first Donny’s routes were basic and he found it hard to take any criticism. But he explains, “once you learn about flow and techniques, they become original and allow a lot of change all the time. You can’t change the walls in the gym, you can only change what’s on them.” It is the changing routes that allow a person to continue to challenge themselves in this single person sport, and Donny enjoys getting to teach people and challenge more experienced climbers with his routes. He loves route setting for its creative possibilities and describes it as a creative outlet that “lets you get your hands on something and then other people get to play around on it [your route].”

Donny’s most memorable climb is standard route Legolas in California’s Joshua Tree National Park. His first outdoor big wall climb, he did it once and that was enough!

He lives in his hometown of Ipswich, and when not at BRG he spends his time with his girlfriend and dog.  His enjoys fishing as a hobby, and his favorite local eat is sushi from Oye’s Restaurant & Bar.

Donny Martin Route Setter Profile


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