Planet Granite offers a warm welcome to our new Director of Setting, Bret Johnston!

Coming to us from Seattle, Bret just got into town three weeks ago. With the launch of Bloc Party 2014 it’s been a whirlwind of activity and non-stop action for him.
A perfect introduction to life in the Bay Area!

Eliot Carlsen, Manager at PG San Francisco, sat down with Bret for a good ol’ fashioned interview. Without further ado we give you the “man behind the drill”. Enjoy!

Q – Ok let’s start at the beginning. Where did you start climbing?  Seattle?  What are some of the areas up there that you love?

I started climbing at Vertical World in Seattle. I literally grew up in the gym! I also spent a fair share of time training for climbing comps while on their youth team. When I was over the competition scene I grew a love for all of the climbing in the Cascades in Washington, like Gold Bar and Leavenworth. 

But….. I have to add-in that although I have a lot of love for my home state, my favorite place to go climbing is still Bishop!

Bret outdoors

Bret bouldering at Leavenworth, WA. Photos by Mark Malijan.

Q – Hah Bishop’s awesome! And that’s a great way to rack up brownie points with your new community!… What attracted you to climbing in the first place?

My father was in the climbing gym industry when I was born so I really had no choice! After being exposed it just took me a little bit of time to realize that it was actually my passion. I tried other sports like baseball and basketball, but after a while climbing took over full time and it’s been nonstop since then.

Q – When did routesetting enter the picture? 

I’ve been setting for about ten years now. When I was on the youth climbing team my coach, who is also the head setter at the gym, handed me a set of wrenches and told me to set a route. The rest is history!

Ten years of retail setting, and over ten National level competitions later, here I am, setting for the great people of Planet Granite.

Bret setting indoors

A man and his drill. LEFT: Bret setting for the 2014 SCS Open Nationals at SenderOne. RIGHT: Bret at PG Sunnyvale for the launch of Bloc Party 2014.

Q – Yeah, we are pretty great aren’t we!  Ok here’s an important question… We recently went to a Giants game together, now that you live in the Bay Area are you going to be embracing our superior sports teams?

Haha. Ummm who won the Super Bowl last year? I have to say I’m a big Seattle sports fan, but I can embrace the love (hate) from San Francisco fans. There is an awesome sports fan culture down here and I can definitely appreciate that!

I’ll root for the Giants because they’re in the National league so they don’t deal with the Mariners too much… Until they’re facing each other in the World Series that is, then I have to wear white and blue. Sensitive subject though, thanks for throwing me under the bus already Eliot!

Q – Haha well you passed that test with flying colors! Now that you’re here, how are you liking the Bay?  Any climbing destinations you’re really looking forward to visiting this Fall/Winter?

I love living in the Bay so far. I’ve spent some time here in the past and it is really one of the few cities I would ever consider moving away from home for. I’ve never climbed in Yosemite so I’m sure I’ll be spending a healthy amount of time there. Other than that I am just really excited to see new things!

Bret PG setter Chris

Bret sampling Cali rock at the Castle Peak boulders in Tahoe/Donner with PG setter Chris Sinatra (askew). Photos by Sydney McNair. 

Q – Wow I’m excited for you to get to the valley!  Yosemite granite lives up to its reputation for sure!  What about clipping bolts at Jailhouse?  Do you own a kneepad yet?  And for the valley, how are your widget placing skills?

Never been to Jailhouse and I don’t own a knee pad, but there is a lot of duct tape at PG so maybe I can cook something up! My widget placing ability is subpar and I’m definitely looking to improve in that area. You’re going to have to take me climbing Eliot!

Q – You’re on!  Once you have some free time that is! … Your first couple days working for Planet Granite you ran one of the largest bouldering competitions in the country, and certainly the biggest comp PG has ever seen; what were your thoughts running that comp?  Was that a surprise for you?

Well, they told me there were going to be a lot of people there, but WOW! There was an unbelievable amount of competitors and spectators!  

It was a really great way for me to be introduced to the climbing community at PG and I’m really excited to continue setting at these competitions for the member base. Comps are such awesome community events and that genre of setting is an area that I feel I excel at.

Q – Yeah that comp was off the hook! Great way to meet our community at PG. How are you liking getting to know everyone?

Everything is moving very fast right now, but everyone I’ve met has been super nice! I like how open people have been with me. They know I’m the new guy in town and they aren’t afraid to ask me questions.

I encourage all members and guests to approach me and ask any questions they would like! Climber feedback is essential to a successful routesetting program and I’m always open to listening and chatting about it.

Q – That’s perfect because our community loves our setters! Especially learning about what goes on behind the scenes… What are you looking to bring to PG in regards to your setting style or experience?

I hope to bring all of the experiences that I have to PG –  setting at Vertical World and at national competitions, climbing at destinations around the world – all of it will help me implement a fun and efficient routesetting program for Planet Granite.  I have a lot to give and our team is already full of many talented and hard-working setters. Together we’ll continue to provide an amazing climbing experience at all PG gyms. 

Q – Well I know I speak for our fellow staff and members and guests, that we’re all super excited to have you join the team Bret! … But now that you live in Cali you might have to give up the flannel…

Well it was a little cold in San Francisco this morning so….

Seattle boy at heart

Seattle boy at heart – flannel on flannel on flannel! Bret striking a pose at PG San Francisco.

IMG_3416Written by Eliot, Manager of PG San Francisco – A native of Sonoma, Eliot’s dad introduced him to camping, backpacking and mountaineering at an early age. After taking a rock-climbing course in Leavenworth, Washington, he immediately became hooked. While studying the last few years at UC San Diego, Eliot made the granite laden foothills of Mt. Woodson a home away from home. He’s always looking for enthusiastic climbers to share a rope or crash pad.