Taking advantage of the Thanksgiving break from school and the comforting feeling of being done with the very last college application, GWPC’s own Teen Team, The East Betas ventured out to Bishop, CA for an extended weekend of bouldering. The list of crushers included some seasoned team veterans (Grace Gibbon, Elise Buser, Thalia Barr-Malec), new-to-climbing up-and-comers (Alia Kabir, Will Hornbeck, Eli Spitulnik), and the “adults” (Ryan Moon, Ari Oppenheimer, Arien Malec).
For most, this trip was a first experience with Bishop and for some it was a first experience on real rock. Knowing that the brutal winds and bitter Winter conditions of California’s Eastern Sierras were an experience far more extreme than what can typically expected from any East Bay season, the teamsters were warned over and again that they should come fully prepared and how important every last down filled item was an absolute must. Unfortunately, there’s no amount of reminders that can guarantee that everyone will follow through. In fact, the very first day in the Happy Boulders only two out of the eight people present brought water, one coach forgot a jacket for the trip altogether, and more than once a coach forgot his headlamp. Not the best start to a trip…
The drive out had some of the teamsters in awe as they had never seen the true glory of the Eastern Sierras up close. The next shock was the sheer number of boulders in some of these canyons. With surprises continuing, some of the teens experienced and humbling climbing session as some of the boulder problems they worked hard to get to the top of were sometimes only half of the V-points they usually climb at GWPC and about twice as high. Although V-point expectations were low psyche was at an all time high. The coaches had never seen the 15-17 year olds try so hard! In addition to the teen “try hard’ that had never before been seen was parent-in-tow, Arien, letting out battle cries here and there not letting the excuse of “I could have given a little more effort” be muttered by anyone. Warming up on ‘Heavenly Path’ (V1) set a good tone for the weekend and a nice reminder of how important it is to stay focused off of the deck. Moving on to some of the more classic, lower to the ground lines the team cleaned shop on ‘Solarium’ (V4) and wrapped up the day on ‘Bleached Bones’ (V4). As the sun was setting and it was clear that there was only time for one more boulder problem, the team took notice to a virtual billboard for tableland rim climbing: ‘Black Magic’ (V4). Elise road the confidence of a “best day ever” by capping the evening with a flash ascent of the classic highball. Just as the light was fading and the day was coming to an end, Eli sent the line on what was believed as his 25th or so try.
After an epic end of the day stuff your face with Mexican food session at Las Palmas in town, the next goal was cruxier than the boulder problems tried that day: finding a campsite. The Pit was completely taken over, Pleasant Valley Campground had just as many people, but the infiniteness of the tableland BLM lands proved perfect for freedom camping. With strict orders from the coaches to gather as much brush as humanly possible for the night’s fire, it wasn’t long before a roaring spectacle of camp fire was in full effect. Smores were devoured as stories circulated of the day’s sends and punts. Last, but not least, the crew headed down to the Sad Boulders for a late night headlamp romp ending in a tennis shoe team slab ascent.
The trip was capped with a day out to one of the best bouldering spots in the country — The Buttermilks. The day opened up by following along with the highball theme set during the previous climbing days by a nice long warm-up session on the Sunshine Slab. The problems hosten on the Green Wall boulder were quick to get attention especially by the folks looking for some a little more technical than what the tablelands had to offer. ‘Green Wall Left’ (V2) presented some serious challenge as it seemed as if somebody had buffed off all the abrasive surface on the rock face leaving nothing but glassy, impossible to use footholds. In true East Betas form, complaining turned to highpoints and highpoints turned to sends. Last on the list was a one-woman show from Elise on the mega-classic ‘High Plains Drifter’ (V7). Although attempts resulted in a highpoint making ‘drifter move’, the summit was still just out of reach.
The combination of impending weather and a long, long drive home brought the day to an early end. The drive back was full of opinions about best/worst boulder problems, Robyn sing alongs, and the fear that maybe the coaches had less snow driving experience than they had stated…
The week after the Bishop trip was special in two ways: there was an obvious difference in the climbing effort put forth by anybody who had attended the trip and ABS Regionals at Dogpatch Boulders was only a few days away. A handful of teamsters had been preparing for Regionals for months with tons of physical and mental training. A nice mix of first time competitors and seasoned veterans gave a unique feel to group. Conveniently all five girls competing were nearly back to back in the roster so one could watch as the entire team almost swept the category. The DJ gods seemed to be smiling upon them that day with a Bishop trip throwback of Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own” just as a reminder. Fresh from Bishop, Elise Buser seemed in top form flashing five out of six problems (chalking up on nearly every move) and securing her spot as ABS regional champion. In the end, four out of six competitors were invited to Divisionals in Reno, NV!
Whether you’re hanging stockings above your yule log, flippin' latkes and lighting your menorah, or dancin’ round your festivus pole, TIS the season.
And while sure, you’ve been dropping subtle hints to your significant other about how much you’d both benefit from a jetboil, the best part of the season is seeing look on someones face when YOU give your gift.
But where to start? The ‘mall’?! Please. It’s not 2001. Amazon Prime? Accessible, sure. But you KNOW it’s just not going to look like it did online. So where is the one place to shop that isn’t out of your way, where you can find a gift that you can be sure your friend, neighbor, mom, landlord... will love?!
Why, your friendly neighborhood Touchstone Climbing gym of course!
We have gift cards! Load em up with however much cash money you’d like, and BAM. Holiday shopping done. Here is a handy list of things the gift-getter could be enjoying come boxing day.
An intro to climbing class for 2! $60 on a gift card means an AWESOME day for 2 people. This will cover their day pass, their rental gear, and an hour of instruction at any of our rope climbing gyms! Adventure made!
A new pair of climbing shoes! Climbing boots run anywhere from $90 to $160. Any amount of cheddar loaded on to a gift card will go a long way to helping your friend-crusher get the latest and greatest in shoe technology.
Prana, Patagonia, Black Diamond, Mountain Hardwear ootd’s! Sure, they COULD put your generous gift into time with a personal trainer or finally commit to 6am yoga… oooooorrr they could get some sweet threads from their favorite outdoor brand. The choice is theirs.
Fitness class passes! Do you know your mom has been dabbling in afro-yoga youtube videos, or your brother has been talking about getting back into boxing? Many of our gyms offer a variety of fitness classes. Your gift card can be used for drop in fitness classes for the worthy recipient of your choice.
Aaand.. much much more!
No matter who you’re shopping for or how much gas money you’re willing to part with, a gift card is the perfect choice this gift giving season. It’s convenient, flexible, and creative. Pick up a gift card at your local gym today! If you’re out of the area and would like to order a gift card over the phone, please call the gym of your choice before 3pm. The front desk will be able to assist you.
Happy Holidays from Touchstone Climbing!
Cuong Phu Trinh submitted this write up to the Touchstone Blog. Awesome story!
I received a Tweet from friends asking if I wanted to climb at the non-Touchstone climbing gym closest to my Southern California home. I declined as I was packing up for a trip up north and mentioned my plans to climb at other Touchstone facilities, given those awesome L.A. Boulders member perks.
Over the course of four days I climbed at six Touchstone facilities surrounding the San Francisco Bay. Since I used a plane to start my journey to finding a job, I needed a way to get around. Besides renting a car and footing a gas bill, at my disposal were a bicycle and mass transit.
At 33, I’m an adventurer and I like to travel on a budget. My car is turning 15 as of next month and I’m searching for a relevant, economically viable career opportunity anywhere in the world. I was displaced from my prior journalism career by changing consumer media demands along with steep budget and personnel cuts when the bottom fell out from the economy. At that point I found that graduate school was the only vehicle to a career change. What I do now for my hometown of Rancho Cucamonga is to encourage people of all ages to walk, bike and use transit through Active Transportation and Safe Routes to School programs.
An average human can walk 1/2 mile or bike 2 miles in 10 minutes’ worth of time. I looked at bicycles and transit as a more efficient way to get around, as I didn’t have the time or desire to match bus with train schedules (and vice versa). My graduate research and culminating thesis for my master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning covers bicycle and transit integration.
Wherever I travel, I practice what I preach. Whenever I show up to out of area job interviews, a recurring question asked is what mode of transportation I used. Based from all you’ve read so far, the answer is clear. In October I pedaled 24 miles using a fixed gear bike to an interview from the East Bay across the Dumbarton Bridge to the City of Palo Alto. Rock climbing came to me by accident. A friend I had met while in graduate school offered me her climbing guest but all that came to a crashing end. I fractured my wrist and dislocated my finger in a bicycle crash, which meant I couldn’t climb or bicycle for many months. After nine months I tried climbing again. Every second I held myself to the wall was downright difficult but I continued to fight the pain to rebuild my atrophied muscles.
After buying punch cards at several gyms to see how long I could hang I purchased a membership at a climbing facility near my suburban home. All was going well until that friend told me about the largest bouldering gym ever, being Dogpatch Boulders. I was awestruck on how much larger, cleaner and nicer it was compared to any other bouldering gym I had ever seen prior. Then I went to check out the skeleton of what became L.A. Boulders and signed up on the spot. Now I’ve got two memberships.
Since LA.B opened its doors I’ve climbed at every Touchstone facility (except Sacramento Pipeworks) and used my guest passes to bring more friends into the climbing world; two of which signed up for LA.B memberships.
So how far are Touchstone climbing facilities from transit?
- Great Western Power Company = 1 block/ 19th St. Oakland BART
- Mission Cliffs = 10 blocks/ 16th St. Mission BART
- Dogpatch Boulders = 2.5 mi/ 16th St. Mission BART or 5 blocks/ 22nd St. Caltrain
- Berkeley Ironworks = 1.5 mi/ Ashby BART or 4 mi/ GWPC/ 19th St. Oakland BART
- Diablo Rock Gym = 2.5 mi/ Concord BART or 3.3 mi/ Pleasant Hill BART
- The Studio = 1.2 mi/ San Jose Diridon Caltrain
- LA.B = 1.5 mi/ Los Angeles Union Station
At least 4x/month I bicycle six miles from my suburban SoCal home to a Metrolink train station, ride it 40 miles into downtown LA and then pedal 1.5 miles to LA.B. My drive to drive less while using both my Touchstone and (my hometown) gym memberships is keeping me in the best shape of my life and I’ll continue to post about my journeys on social media.
“This is so exciting,” Randy Puro said. A half dozen climbers threw themselves at an undone boulder problem near the Merced River. They could barely get off the ground until someone discovered a match and wild hamhock maneuver. They climbed higher until a hold broke. They stayed with it despite the setback. They all wanted the first ascent of the giant granite boulder.
Touchstone athlete Joey Kinder works Maquina Muerte 5.14+. Kinder bolted the route a few years ago and then spent this winter sending the route
One of the best parts of rock climbing is the ability to do a first ascent. Finding a path up a mountain, a cliff or a boulder requires a mixture of athleticism, creativity and tenacity. There only gets to be one first ascent, which makes it special. Finding an unclimbed route can be difficult in popular areas. Unclimbed rock often requires an adventurous spirit. There’s always a reason the route hasn’t been done yet.
“FA's are harder because they require a lot more work (cleaning a boulder, bolting a sport climb, trundling choss in the alpine...) and because they require a lot more belief in the possibility of the challenge,” said Ethan Pringle, who has established new boulder problems in Vegas, new sport routes in China and made first ascents of Yosemite Walls. “Once you know something's been done, it's a lot easier to do it yourself. Monkey see, monkey do.”
Paul Barraza attempts to repeat his boulder problem Post Send Depression on the B1 Boulder at the Sentinel
“With the expedition FA's there was also a bit of that apprehension of the question of whether or not it was possible,” said Pringle of his expeditions in Greenland and China, “but also just the shear amount of work that went into getting to, and then up those walls in style (onsight FAing 5.11 or 12 terrain on sometimes dirty and crumbly rock with minimal pro, getting to a stance at the top of the pitch and having to drill one or sometimes two bolts by hand, making sure everything was super safe the whole time...)
In 2013, Nik Berry and I established The Final Frontier, a 900 foot 5.13b route on Fifi Buttress in Yosemite. When I first climbed on the aid route, it was questionably whether it would go free. The route required an exhaustive amount of brushing, cleaning and bolting. Then there was the actual climbing, which required work as well. Deciphering the moves became more problematic than the cleaning for me.
Eric Bissel helps to refine the beta on the 5.13a traverse pitch on the Final Frontier
“I really like the problem solving part,” said Beth Rodden of doing first ascents. Rodden’s established first free ascents of El Capitan, 5.14 trad routes and difficult boulder problems in Yosemite. “I think it makes climbing super fun and unique, rather than just the physical part of sending.”
“Also, the feeling of luck that comes with getting to be the first one to climb a perfect piece of rock that seemed to have been made to climb,” said Pringle in regards to his first ascent of a 5.14d at White Mountain in China. “With the Spicy Dumpling, it was something I'd fantasized about for months and months before trying, so it was a dream come true to go through all the motions of struggling with the concept that it was even possible for me, then after I'd realized it was, battling with it and trying to finish it off before I had to leave.
James Lucas makes the first ascent of Stanley's Arete at Happy Isles
A week later, Puro returned and made the first ascent of the Leevee’s Break, adding another great boulder problem to Yosemite Valley. The possibilities of first ascents exist across California. You just need the spirit of adventure.
The American Alpine Club (AAC) is pleased to announce a speaking tour by legendary speed climber Ueli Steck. Presented by Mountain Hardwear, with proceeds to benefit the AAC, the highly acclaimed “Swiss Machine" will present a visually stunning and interactive slideshow about his experiences climbing the world's largest mountains, setting speed records without oxygen, training in the Swiss Alps. Ueli Steck, a climber with free ascents of El Capitan, is best known for his mountaineering, with solo speed climbs of the infamous Eiger Nordwand, the Matterhorn, and more recently, the south face of Annapurna.
The Slideshow will be playing on:
December 16th, Yoshi's in San Francisco Ca
December 17th, Mountain Hardwear in Richmond Ca
Thanksgiving offers a perfect time of year for a climbing trip. Most people have a long weekend that can easily be extended by a day or two. The options for California climbers are numerous. Amazing bouldering and unbelievable sport climbing sits within a short drive. Unfortunately, the weather in Yosemite looks a bit wet for the weekend but there are some other great options for those looking for a holiday climbing trip.
The weather will be good for the next few days in one of the most beautiful climbing destinations in California. Sunny with highs in the 60s and low 70s this week, Joshua Tree offers great trad climbing as well as amazing bouldering. Hidden Valley Campground provides ideal camping as many of the climbs and boulder problems are mere yards from the campsites. The drive to southern California can be a bit long, the rock in the park can be sharp and the campsite may be crowded but Joshua Tree is a gorgeous place to climb.
California's premiere bouldering area offers great climbing at the Buttermilks and the volcanic tablelands. For those interested in climbing on ropes, the Owen's River Gorge provides a great place for sport climbing from 5.10 to 5.12. The weather on the East Side should be quite inviting with temps similar to Joshua Tree. Expected temps in the high 60s and low 70s for the week. The amenities around Bishop are quite nice but Thanksgiving is the most popular time of year there and climbers flood the boulders and sport destinations. The bakeries in Bishop are not to be missed though.
An equidistant drive as Bishop, Smith offers some of the best sport climbing in the United States. The technical nature of Smith makes it a great option for climbers looking to improve. While the weather report calls for a slight chance of rain, the rock at Smith dries quickly and the desert climate means that percipitation is minimal. Smith also has far fewer climbers than Joshua Tree, Bishop or Vegas. It's a perfect place for those looking to get away from the hoards.
With affordable plane tickets, Vegas makes a great place for a long weekend climbing trip. The casino's provide lots of entertainment and places to stay. The weather there will be nice with temps again in the high 60s and low 70s. There is a significant amount of sport climbing and bouldering close to Vegas in Red Rocks but better than that the limestone of Southern Utah sits a mere hour away. For those looking for a bit of varied sport climbing, the Vegas/Mesquite area makes a great option.
The temperatures in Yosemite Valley have been slowly dropping. The fall storms have been light and sporadic. Conditions have been slowly improving in America's best granite bouldering destination.
One of the best parts of bouldering in Yosemite this fall has been climbing on all of the newer boulder problems around the Valley. Since the last printing of a bouldering guide, the volume of problems in Yosemite has nearly doubled. Areas like Bridalveil have been developed by the BetaBase crew and have yielded awesome moderate and difficult climbs.
Bridalveil Pogo sits just a few hundred feet from the parking lot on the massive boulder. A heel hook to an undercling, a huge slap to a sloping hold and a difficult jump mark this height dependent classic. The problem's dynamic nature marks a stark contrast from the traditional static style of most Yosemite boulders. Further up the hill are the awesome Meat N Potato climbs.
The left arete, Meat features a difficult move over a bulge, surmounted with either kneebar trickery or a calf hook. The climbing afterwards involves balancey liebacking up the arete to a good hold. At V4 and just up the hill from the Bridalveil Pogo, this is another not to be missed Yosemite problem. The adjacent Potatoes (V5) is also quite good.
Outside of the Bridalveil circuit are more new problems like Avocado. Slab crusher Beth Rodden made the first ascent of this Curry Village slab testpiece, clocking it in at a very conservative V6. A few climbers have repeated the problem guessing it to be closer to the V9 range. In this photo, Ironworks manager Lyn Barraza crimps down on the tiny holds high above the pads. This problem is another great new addition to the Valley slab circuit.
Beyond the new problems are the old Camp 4 classics like The Force. Jerry Moffatt established The Force during a trip to Yosemite in the mid 90s, naming the line after one of the first lines in the Michael Jackson hit "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough." In the chart topper, Michael sings, "Because the force, it's got a lot of power." In this picture, Robin Puro is climbing The Farce, a slight variation to the Force. Moffat started just left of Thriller and climbed straight up, making a powerful move and then gastoning a reinforced hold. Most climbers now use the second hold on Thriller, which splits hairs and makes the problem a bit easier.
One of the classic and often overlooked aretes in Yosemite, Fish Eye arete rests just next to the Hexentric at the Cathedral boulders. Orginally given the sandbagged V4 rating, the problem sees very few repeats. Here, Tommy Caldwell shows how it's done. He sit starts the problem, goes high right hand to a crimp, slap the arete then crushes to the top.
The temperatures are dropping low this weekend and conditions will only continue to improve. Head out to Yosemite soon to see the best new problems and some of the classics.
Join the Bay Area Climbers Coalition, the Cal Hiking and Outdoor Society (CHAOS), and Cal Climbing for the first annual Berkeley Triple! On Saturday, November 8, 2014 from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, the groups will be participating in an Adopt-A-Crag at Indian Rock, Mortar Rock and Cragmont in Berkeley.
These three organizations will be joining forces to take on the cleaning of three (yes three) of the Berkeley Rock Parks in one day - Indian Rock, Mortar Rock, and Cragmont Park - and you are invited to join us!
Sign up for the event at Event Brite
It is extremely important that the climbing community support our outdoor climbing areas - the maintenance and conservation of these areas is our responsibility. These types of stewardship events go a long way in maintaining relationships with land managers and ensure our continued access.
Please be sure to sign-up for which "team" you want to join: Indian/Mortar - Volunteer - No Experience Required - we will train you
Cragmont - Volunteer - No Experience Required - we will train you
Cragmont - Trail Building - Experienced Trail Builders Only
Volunteers are needed to help with the following projects at the three sites:
Glass and Trash Clean-Up
Clearing of Pathways Around Park
Trail Maintenance and Building - Experience Required for Cragmont
General Park Beautification and Landscaping Work
Where are these Rock Parks?
Indian/Mortar Rock = Mountain Project website provides a great overview and directions.
Cragmont Park = Mountain Project website provides a great overview and directions.
Safety - We are HUGE on safety! There will be a safety talk at 10am on the day of the event. Please note that we require all participants to be present for the safety talk and wear closed toe shoes. Unfortunately, we cannot allow anyone to participate that does not wear closed toe shoes and/or attend the safety talk.
Parking - These crags are nestled within the neighborhoods of the Berkeley Hills - so while the parking is free, it is limited. Our suggestion would be to try and carpool. If this is not possible, please be patient and know that you might need to park a block or two away - the walk over will be a great warm-up.
Food - Lunch has been graciously sponsored by BUILD Pizzeria in Downtown Berkeley. Their pizza is amazing and we encourage all of you to check them out and support the business that support our community.
Water - There are drinking fountains available at Indian Rock and Cragmont Park - please be sure to bring a water bottle.
Tools - we will be getting tools and gloves from the City of Berkeley Parks department, you are also welcome to bring your own lucky shovel, push broom, or gloves.