An Artisans Crag

By Anthony Lapomardo

The heavily rotted gates that guarded the horse ranch hung haplessly off withered hinges. The car rolled slowly from the pavement to the uneven dirt trail and meandered downhill and into the high grass. Rolling over the first cattle guard, the sounds of 4 stroke engines broke the silence as two cyclists came into view and ripped up the hillside. The surrounding hills showed nothing but stickers and mud, nothing thus far would convince those in the car that they had not been deceived. They had been promised great climbing, steep, fully equipped and north facing.

After another 100 yards of crawling across the uneven dirt, the low belly of the vehicle dragging across high-spots, the car rolled to a stop beneath a sagging oak. Steeping down from the car, the sole of our shoes met the plastic of empty shot-gun shells and crushed BBs. Looking across the way, two beer can snipers were attempting to blow a hole in the side of a Pabst Blue Ribbon with a small handgun, oblivious to our arrival.

Pulling our gear from the car, I led the group down a lightly treaded path that wove into the canyon. Within minutes a large shadow began to block out the heat of the morning sun and pointing into the steep over-hang that shaded our group I introduced Owl Torr.

Rising at a 45 degree, with bright metal chains decorating its face the over-hanging conglomerate crag is the creation of a group of outdoor artisans, who took a largely unusable wall and carefully crafted it into their home crag. The lines that make up the crag range from 5.10d-5.14b/c and require massive upper body strength coupled with elastic-like tendons. The walls made up of a cobbled conglomerate offer stark contrasts to our group of climbers. Each line has an engraved metal plate sitting beneath the opening holds, a personalized marker not found in nature.

Tying in the first climber of our group eyed the wall and began to make her way up the route, plugging into deep two finger pockets and pinches with comfortized thumb catches. The movement pushes her to lose and regain her footing several times as she makes powerful stabs to good holds. Nearing the top she takes an extended stem position and fires for the last two finger slot guarding the chains and finds herself falling quietly into the large void beneath her. Her limbs flailed, swimming through dead air until she stopped at the 5th draw and swung into the wall. The fall broke the tension for the group and the rest of the afternoon was spent addressing the air while pawing for foot holds and stretching their core tension.

steven

Steven Roth above the abyss on Better Than Life 5.13c

Gabby rope

Gabriella Nobrega working through The Power of Eating 5.11d

Ben

Ben Polanco working through an open project

Wes rope

Wes Miraglio Hell of the Upside Down Sinners 5.12b

Owl Torr is located 25 minutes south east of San Luis Obispo off the 166. The climbing is gymnastic, the scenery always changing, and it is a great spot for those looking for a steep crag, powerful routes and the best outdoor "route setting" available.

For more information check out Mountain Project.

Keys for Staying on Your Feet: Slab Secrets Revealed

Technique is for the weak. Or so seems when you see the footloose climbing in the gym. Unfortunately, big muscles and an ability to campus do little on harder routes. Precise footwork and an ability to climb well will get you much farther. One of the best ways to improve your footwork is to slab climb. While climbing lower angle rocks isn't in vogue, it can be really really fun. Take the time to learn proper technique and the steep routes will be easier with your precise footwork.

slab

James Lucas tries hard to keep from skinning his knee while slab climbing in Squamish

Position your body

You want as much downward pressure on the balls of your feet as possible. Leaning too far into the wall may lead to sliding right down the rock.  Keep your butt out and your hands in front of you. This style burns your calves but offers the best position.  

Smear your feet

Use the friction between your shoes and the rock to hold you in place. Get as much weight onto your foot as possible. Look for tiny edges, ripples and other dimples in the rock. The smallest wrinkles can be an excellent place to smear your foot and make some upward progress."Trust the rubber because the rubber is way better than it was in the 70s,"  said master slab climber Hayden Kennedy.

Gleason2 1 of 1

Jon Gleason climbs Xenith Dance in Squamish, a classic 5.10c slab route behind the campground

Move Confidently

Moving well on slab routes requires stepping up. Usually the moves aren't physically taxing but require intense balance. Place your foot on a hold and commit to the process, shifting your weight over and then onto your foot quickly. Slabs become easier when you move confidently. "For me it helps looking to your left and right and try to stand up as straight as possible," said El Cap free climber Lucho Rivera. "Always remember to stand on your feet and don't overgrip. Its easy to do on slabs. And relax if possible, tho sometimes thats a hard one."

"Be stoked to go for it even if you're going to fail." said Kennedy. Having confidence and a willingness to be bold helps with the difficult mental game of slab climbing. Slab climbing becomes easier when you climb fast and confidently.  Also, Remember that slabs are way easier in the shade.

10689647 10101449118461848 3875117239866162880 n

Kevin Daniels moving quickly on Dancing in the Light, one of the test piece slab routes in Squamish.


Wear Good Shoes

Stiffer shoes work much better on slabs. Make sure your soles are clean. Slab climbing requires strong feet and solid calves. After intense slab climbing, some climbers complain of sore feet. Stiff shoes help alleviate this problem and make standing on small edges easier. Check out a good pair of TC Pros for really tough slabs.

There's lots of great places to go get your slab climb on. Try the Dike Route (5.9) in Tuolumne, FreeBlast (5.11b) in Yosemite, or Initial Friction (v1) and Blue Suede Shoes (v5) in the Camp 4 boulders. There's amazing slab routes in Squamish as well. At Ironworks, there's a great slab in the back of the gym as well as a wall in the front.

Better Know a Setter: Eric Sanchez

They're up with the sun, chain coffee-drinking and working hard to bring you the routes you love to send, project, and crush. 'Touchstone Routesetting' is an industry term for excellence, and each member of the crew brings a little somethin' somethin' to the team. In our ongoing segment, Better Know a Setter, we bring you a closer look at what makes 'em tick. In this weeks installment, we sat down with a Touchstone institution, Eric 'McLuvin' Sanchez. 

How long have you been route setting?

I think in total I have been setting for 6 years, 3 of which is setting for Touchstone.

How did you get into route setting?

I set for 3 years at my home gym, the late Sunrise Rock Gym in Livermore before I started started setting for Touchstone. I grew up doing the youth competitive competitions and from there it was only natural for me to try to set myself something fun to climb in Livermore. Once I graduated high school I started working full time for Touchstone and it grew into something that I always want to do.

20223 416055285129387 126037191 nWhat is your favorite gym to set at and why?

My favorite gym has to be the LA.B for bouldering, because they have the best hold selection and the walls are great. For ropes it has to be the Mission Cliffs expansion. The angle of the main wall is perfect for a fun gymnastic climb.

What are you route setting pet peeves?

If you ask anyone on the crew the would probably say my biggest pet peeve is bad tape angles, which I hate, but I think someone setting the same sequences constantly is something that bothers me a little bit more.

What is in your route setting bag right now?

Crap… I don’t even know where it is...

What inspires your routes?

Competitions, videos of other gyms setting, and learning from what the more experienced setters do inspires my routes. I tend to like the climbs that break from the ladder mold and have a good aesthetic quality.

What is your favorite memory setting with the Touchstone Crew?

It has to be setting Divisionals at Mission Cliffs with Jonathan, Jeremy, and two PG setters. I learned more about route setting in that one week than all my other setting experiences combined. It was really great to see 9 year old girls crushing my finals route, which I think I fell on.

Where is your favorite place to climb outside?

Mortar. Definitely Mortar. Mortar Rock is one of the best climbing areas I have ever been to, anyone who says differently is a hater. Yosemite is pretty good too, if your into that type of thing.

What is your advice for aspiring setters?

Just go to as many gyms as possible and look at what the setters are doing at each one, there is no better way to learn how to set.

How many McNuggets do you eat everyday?

Roughly 40.

How many cups of coffee?

At least one pot to leave the house, two when I get to work, and two more at lunch. And then usually one or two more to make sure I’m awake for the drive home.

 

Dreams of White Porsches - 5.13b - Eric Sanchez from Alton Richardson on Vimeo.

Chalk, Tape, and Rubber

Why I Climb

By Marie Schwindler

unnamed-12It is a warm summer night, and the air tastes slightly of chalk. I stare at my hands after attempting one of my projects at the gym. No use in asking me how many times I have attempted to send this problem because I've lost count. Damn! Another flapper! Well, that's why tape is one of the next best things to chalk. I find myself here at the gym for the third time this week, and it's only Tuesday. Knowing that if I don't come at least another four times this week, chances are, I'll probably be twitching through out the weekend. I promised my partner that we would spend the weekend together. Even though I love them deeply, I yearn to climb. It's already August, and there may be only two more months to attempt the route that I've been working on since last summer. My climbing partner and I have visited the route multiple times this season. With each visit, we come back with the feeling of achievement throbbing on our fingertips. We've already come so far!

Thing is, this isn't my first project, and well, it won't be my last. I go through months where I am almost completely consumed with climbing. At times I have felt like I am almost living in two separate worlds. After a productive weekend of climbing, I've been known to show up to work with bruises, scrapes, cuts on my hands, and dirt deeply embedded under my fingernails even though I swear I've washed them. My co-workers don't seem to appreciate the epic achievements that I rave about, nor the trials that I have overcome as I climbed and clawed my way up the rock. They say things like, "You're crazy!" or "Is that what you consider a vacation!?"

unnamed-11Truth is, I can't imagine any other way to spend my free time. Contemplating on such comments, this question seemed to arise, "What is it about climbing that has me so captivated?" After meditating on this question for some time, I concluded on this. When I climb, I feel a sense of focus. On the wall, I don't think about work, the laundry, or about what waits for me at home. Rather, I find my mind consumed with what my next move or gear placement will be. With rock climbing, I push my body and my mind to places that would be hard to achieve in the security of my sheltered metropolitan life. Thus, it also offers me the beauty of adventure and insight to my own determination. And of course, how can I not mention the view, the air, and tranquility of the mountains that comes with such adventures!

Through being challenged with this self posed question, I found that my perception of climbing took on a slightly different form. All those nights at the gym, all the minor deformities that come with cramming your foot into a shoe that is obviously too small, all the falls, the takes, and days of being so completely shut down, it all just seemed so rightfully justified. Through this understanding, my love for climbing only expands. So, when the seasons turn, and it gets cold and rainy, and the mountains that I love so deeply are kissed with snow, you will find me at the gym (often).

There, with my community, we climb, and push ourselves for the preparation of next season.

Mock Leading: Prepping to Climb 5.13d X

Climbing traditional routes can be terrifying. Will the gear hold? Will you be able to do the moves? Breaking into a different style of climbing can be quite hard. One of the best ways to get into traditional climbing is to mock lead. While this may seem like an elementary climbing skill, it's still used by the best climbers.

Sonnie2 1 of 1

Sonnie makes the crux move on Gunslinger (5.13d R)

A few days ago, traditional climbing guru Sonnie Trotter made the third ascent of Gunslinger, a 5.13d R route at Murrin Park in Squamish. While solid cams protect the crux of the route, the moves to the anchor involve a difficult deadpoint and a potential for hitting the ground. Trotter employed mock leading tactics to make the ascent happen.

The first step to climbing the scary traditional route involved hiking around to the top of the cliff and setting up a toprope. Sonnie wired the moves on toprope, figuring out the difficult sequence, where he needed to rest and the best way to hold the rock.

Sonnie1 1 of 1

Sonnie preps for the mock lead by wearing all the necessary gear including a kneepad and helmet.

He lowered down the route and inspected the crack for possible places for protection. Making a mental note of where and how he would place gear, he prepared for a mock lead of the route. He climbed the route on toprope with another rope attached. He placed the gear and clipped the rope into the protection, checking the rope drag, how the pro would go in and what he would hold on to while he placed the gear. He even pretended to get short roped to simulate the experience.

Sonnie3 1 of 1

Sonnie nears the top, where the action is.

After a rest day, Sonnie returned to the difficult route. He padded the base with a dozen crashpads in case he fell on the final difficult move. He didn’t want to hit the ground and ruin his career as Canada’s best looking climbing. When he finally led the route, he made a flawless ascent, placing the gear well and executing the moves for a great ascent of the route.

 

Bag of Tricks for Climbing

Half of the time, granite climbing stumps me. The other half of the time, I’m unsure what to do. Despite spending years climbing in Yosemite, Squamish, Index, Tahoe and granite crags across the US, I am almost always perplexed by the best method to climb the features. The main lesson I’ve learned in granite is to make sure to have a huge arsenal of tricks. Here’s a few ideas for how to approach different climbing.

Stem Corners:

Corners offer some of the coolest climbing around and unbelievable aesthetics. Stemming provides the best way to climb these features. Paste your feet against the walls, trust the rubber and use your palms to slowly move your feet up the wall. Unfortunately, I’m horrible at stemming. I have the flexibility of a steel girder. Granite master, Tommy Caldwell developed a technique to beat the calf pump of stemming. Caldwell climbs the corners like a chimney, putting his back against one side and feet against the other. Though more physical than stemming, the technique saves your calves and can be easier. Numerous difficult crack climbs have fallen to the advanced chimney tactic including Book of Hate (5.13d).

Shadow 1

Walker Emerson stemming on the Shadow in Squamish (5.13-)

Shadow 2

Vancouverite Allen Roberts chimneying the same section that Walker stemmed.

Offwidths:

Is that crack too wide? Are you struggling to get inside? Beat the offwidth dance by laybacking the feature. Climb faster by pasting your feet against the wall and hurdling up the rock. Just be extremely careful doing this. I have core shot my rope twice laybacking and falling out of the Harding Slot and then on the Scotty Burke offwidth on El Capitan. Yikes! Laybacking can be hard to place gear as well. Be sareful and think about toproping if you want to layback the offwidth

astroman 6

Laybacking the Harding Slot on toprope. I attempted to lead the pitch like this because I hated being inside the squeeze chimney. I should have been a little more prudent with my rope.

Astroman 5

Underclings:

Is that undercling just a bit too big? Try stuffing your knee in the crack. The technique is not just for sport climbing. The University Wall in Squamish features a number of offset wide cracks and kneebars. The Enduro Corner on the Salathe, which many people layback and stem, can be dumbed down by kneebars. Underclinging and laybacking  provides a great way to ascend the rock but kneebarring can offer a more static and arm saving way to get up the route. Learn the skill through sport climbing and apply it to granite.

Uwall1

Walker kneebarring his way up the University Wall

Slabs:

Are the holds way too far apart? Try dynoing! Actually, I’m kidding. There’s no good option to get up a smooth granite slab other than to use your feet. But if you plan on campusing up a Yosemite slab, let me know. I’ll make you a YouTube sensation.

Better Know a Setter: Zach Wright

They're up with the sun, chain coffee-drinking and working hard to bring you the routes you love to send, project, and crush. 'Touchstone Routesetting' is an industry term for excellence, and each member of the crew brings a little somethin' somethin' to the team. In our ongoing segment, Better Know a Setter, we bring you a closer look at what makes 'em tick. In this weeks installment, we sat down with our summer setter, Zach Wright. Zach returns to school this fall, but will be wielding a drill again in 2015. 

unnamed-6How long have you been route setting?

I started setting for Touchstone at the beginning of this summer. Before that, when I worked desk at The Studio, I would finagle my way into setting a boulder problem here and there when the setters came around.

How did you get into route setting?

Before I worked for Touchstone, I coached a competitive climbing team, so imagining/training competition style movement was part of my job. Getting to see the routesetting at the national level was always inspiring; there's a level of aesthetics, hold selection, and movement variety you rarely see in commercial gyms. Being exposed to that level of routesetting and working with a competitive team made me want to try my hand at creating the routes, rather than just consuming them.

What is your favorite gym to set at and why?

LA Boulders. They have the best hold selection and the best walls of any gym I've set at.

What are you route setting pet peeves?

That moment where the bolt is too short, and then the T-nut is stripped, and I left my drill on the ground, and my tape won't tear quite right, and my tape angles are off, and none of my moves are forced, and I missed my grade, and my route is a turd.

What is in your route setting bag right now?

Several beers, a pint of gelato, an episode of Breaking Bad, a puppy and 8 hours of sleep.

What inspires your routes?

Mega-slappin' beats, Gregor Pierce's winning smile, caffeine, the weekend.

unnamed-7What is your favorite memory setting with the Touchstone Crew?

My first time setting Pipeworks. It was my 5th day on the job and I ended up having to set the steepest line out of the arch. I had never set on a steep wall in my life. Basically I struggled harder getting through that arch than on any climb or day of work in my life. I distinctly remember getting stuck in an aid bolt in the roof, and I'm there and struggling and trying to like, lift my bag with one arm and get myself out of the bolt with my other arm, and I'm just spinning in the roof and I'm like “Literally I'm gonna puke in this roof, 40 ft. off the ground and then pass out.” But I didn't. I made it through, eventually. Then I went home and drank beer and ate gelato and passed out at like 8 PM.

Where is your favorite place to climb outside?

The bouldering areas near Truckee are pretty dope, and of course Bishop is rad in the winter. But I'm also psyched to hit up Mortar and session with some friends and then hit the skatepark or something. They're all fun for their own reasons.

How many burritos do you eat every week?

No burritos. I rock the Berkeley Bowl specialty sandos. The turkey club panini is on point, I basically live off of those.

How many cups of coffee?

2 espressos minimum to get out the door in the morning, then however much I need to be like, a functional human being for the rest of the day. And hella kombucha, cause I like to stay cultured.

What is your advice for aspiring setters?

Routesetting gets easier once it stops being so damn hard. Also, don't take yourself too seriously. Seriously.

 

Moon on Blackwater: How to send your outdoor project

Ryan Moon stepped on the granite edge, curling his fingers on polished granite. The Ironworks employee crimped his way to a bulge. The sequence above stumped him. He went right hand. Then left. He fought the crux and the lactic acid in his forearms. A few minutes later, Bay area hardman Jordan Shackelford stepped up to the crux. Their different climbing styles and knowledge of the route led to a big difference in outcomes.

Moonblackwater2 1 of 1

The Squamish Select Rockclimbing guide lists Blackwater, a 5.12a at Murrin Park’s Petryifying Wall, as one of the top 100 routes in the Sea to Sky corridor. With amazing granite edges on a vertical wall, the climb features technical climbing and well spaced bolts. The initial section involves pumpy edges to a difficult polished crux, a hard redpoint move and then cruiser jugs to the anchors. 

JordanBlackwater1.1

Ryan ended up hanging on a bolt below the crux. He deciphered the difficult moves then climbed through to the anchor. On his way down, he felt the crux holds again. Ryan usually climbs routes a lot before heading on a route climbing trip but he wanted to focus on bouldering for this trip.

Jordan Blackwater 2

Jordan Shackelford recently returned from Ten Sleep, where he had been climbing on a number of technical routes. Jordan’s endurance helped him greatly when he started climbing. He also received helped from the Beta Fairy, who hung on a rope next to the route and gave guidance on which holds to grab.

Jordan climbed faster to the crux than Ryan and arrived less pumped. With knowledge of the crux holds and encouragement from the Beta Fairy, he grabbed the correct holds and fought through the difficult sequence. At the redpoint crux, he piano keyed his fingers onto a granite sidepull and managed to pull out a solid ascent. Good thing the Beta Fairy brought the camera because Jordan brought the Flash.

Ryan base2 1 of 1

A few minutes later, Ryan attempted the route again. One the ground, he practiced the crux sequence, remembering the moves so he could execute them well. With a dialed sequence and experience from his previous attempt, he climbed faster and arrived to the crux less pumped. Before the redpoint crux, he shook out and moved through the difficult upper section with authority.  

Moon Blackwater 4

Having the sequence figured out, climbing faster and having the draws hanging all made the ascent much easier for Ryan. Jordan’s route fitness and the Beta Fairy helped him succeed. Take some tips from these two Bay area hardman and send your next project.

Tips on Learning to Trad Climb

Traditional climbing offers the chance to scale large formations, to take a set of gear and climb to the top without the need of another party establishing the route. It is one of the most exciting types of climbing- summits, self reliance and huge formations. Trad climbing can be very intimidating though. There’s a lot involved and when many experienced climbers start placing gear they feel like they’re learning how to rock climb all over again. The climbing requires a significant amount of technique and finding adequate protection gear can be challenging. There are a few things you can do to make the transition to trad easier.

Untitled 2

Find a good route

Many traditional routes have run outs, difficult moves and hard to place gear. Do a bit of research and find a route with straightforward placements and climbing within your limits. Leading 5.10 sport may rarely translates well to 5.10 traditional routes. Set the bar low and move up.

Walker Flight2 1 of 1

Practice the gear on toprope

This tactic stays true for routes of all grades. Bay area rock star, Walker Emerson climbed Flight of the Challenger, a 5.12c in Squamish, but practiced placing the gear on toprope first. He fiddled with the cams, deciding where he would need the small gear and where he should save the bigger pieces. After he dialed out all the gear placements on toprope, he lead the route.  

Climb with an experienced partner

Learning from a veteran trad climber makes and enormous difference. They can help you make the decision between using a cam or placing a stopper. They can evaluate your gear placements. If things go array, they can also escape the belay and provide instruction on how to retreat safely.

Pang 4

Be prepared

Wear the correct type of shoes. Bouldering and sport climbing shoes are significantly different than trad shoes. Your feet will be happier and you’ll be able to climb better with appropriate footwear. Minimize the amount of gear dangling from your harness. Keep the experience as simple as possible. Climb in the shade on hot sunny days to maximize friction. Head to the sun only if it’s cold outside.

Untitled 3

Have Fun

Trad climbing can be scary. There’s a ton of new things to learn- the gear, the climbing, the anchors, etc. Be relaxed and have fun. It will make things go way smoother. 

Better Know a Setter: Kat Gentry

They're up with the sun, chain coffee-drinking and working hard to bring you the routes you love to send, project, and crush. 'Touchstone Routesetting' is an industry term for excellence, and each member of the crew brings a little somethin' somethin' to the team. In our ongoing segment, Better Know a Setter, we bring you a closer look at what makes 'em tick. In this weeks installment, we sat down with our newest setter, Kat Gentry.

How long have you been route setting?

This is my third week...

How did you get into route setting?

It's always been something I've wanted to do. It's kind of like my dream job. My goal is to set climbs that people find fun and challenging. I love it when you find a climb that's just your style- but at the peak of your ability and you project it almost every day and never get tired of it. I want to make climbs like that for someone else. I've been climbing and competing for years and setting just seemed like the next logical step for me. I'm taking a year off from school before going to college, so it seemed like the perfect time to start setting.

246785 10151123324974926 1603640846 nCan you talk a little bit about your comp climbing experience?

I competed in USA Climbing's Youth SCS and ABS on Zero Gravity Climbing Team for 4 years starting. I've also competed in all the Touchstone Climbing Ceries, which are always tons of fun. Competing in SCS and ABS was nerve-racking at first. It was such an amazing experience to get to climb with some of the strongest, best young crushers in the U.S. I also had extremely talented and supportive coaches (shout out to Scot and Scott and Cicada!), and I have learned so much from them. Throughout my competing years I would train with the team 3 times a week for 3 hours and by myself or with my brother and friends anywhere from 1 to 3 times a week. I improved so quickly because of it! Getting to train and bond with strong climbers my age really helped me to push my limits. It is so inspiring to see what my generation is capable of! As I became a more experienced competitor and got a couple years under my belt I really started to enjoy the competitions and be able to perform on the spot in front of a crowd. Competition climbing is my absolute favorite now because the routes and problems are so carefully set to be fun, exciting and challenging in a way that makes you want to succeed and give it your absolute best. I look forward to becoming a more experienced setter so that I can set really cool comp climbs!

How does your competition and coaching experience influence your setting?

I think it has given me a big advantage, because in order to compete and coach you have to understand the movement really well. I've put in the hours and effort to learn the movement and technique. Competing and training for competitions has taught me how to read routes and find the intended beta. Because of this, I try to be careful about forcing beta when I set a climb--it's harder than you'd think!

Coaching was really an amazing experience for me, mostly because of my wonderful co-coach, Ben, and the amazingly kind and strong kids I got to work with! Being a good coach means you have to really know how to read and analyze a climb from the ground, and try to help a kid figure out a route just by looking at it. Coaching really made me focus on explaining climbing without demonstarting. This helped me out since during a lot of the setting process you are busy drilling in holds and jugging up routes--you save the climbing for the end. So you have to have some idea of what flows without getting to try the movements first.

What is your favorite gym to set at and why?

I actually haven't even set at all of the Touchstone gyms yet! I've never even been to Metalmark, The LAB, The Studio, or Pipeworks! I can't wait to get to check them out! So far I really like setting on the Mission Cliffs expansion wall. 

1922501 10203207239884177 1028478298 n-1What is in your route setting bag right now?

All my setting gear, my climbing harness and shoes, Advil, tape, and an inhaler.

What inspires your routes?

I try to make my routes fun and challenging. I like to switch things up and break the left-right-left-right ladder sequence. I get inspired by particular climbs or moves I've done in the past and sometimes try to recreate them in my own style. I also get inspired by certain holds or a certain area of the wall that might particularly appeal to me as something with a lot of potential.

What is your favorite memory setting with the Touchstone Crew?

This past Fourth of July I went up to Tahoe with some of the setters to climb and celebrate a birthday. I injured my finger but still ended up having tons of fun. The best part was the rest day we took. We all hung out on a dock on Donner Lake in the sun and had food and good laughs and played on some paddle boards. Definitely one of the best days I've had in a long time.

Where is your favorite place to climb outside?

Maple Canyon, Utah. The rock is conglomerate and creates really cool pockets. There are a lot of massive, super over-hung caves and those are my favorite places to climb. The routes are long and require a lot of endurance but also a lot of strength and burl. It's kind of similar to gym climbing. The rock isn't sharp or slippery like granite or sandstone. It's also a camping paradise. It's this beautiful shady canyon with lots of river and super green trees. It's beautiful. Just watch out for flash floods and thunderstorms!

What is your advice for aspiring setters?

Make it happen! If you think you'll like it and are passionate and willing to work HARD, it's probably the job for you. Just keep in mind that it can be extremely exhausting at first, as I am now experiencing first-hand. But is also extremely rewarding. Learn from everyone around you: be observant. One of the most important things is to be able to learn and grow as a setter, which means you have to be good at listening and receiving feedback.

One thing I found I love about it is how much we work together as a team. We're always doing favors for one another--it would be so much more difficult if we all tried to fend for ourselves! Don't be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help or clarification. It's always best to double-check even if you think you know the answer to your question. Don't get discouraged if you set a turd. Keep working at it and before you know it, you'll have created a gem!

1499603 10203207238964154 1509501643 n-1Do you have any advice for female route setters?

Yes! Be confident in yourself and your voice. If you are a female route setter or aspiring route setter, you are in a small minority, which means it is easy to get intimidated or shy--especially when you are also the youngest and the one with the least amount of experience..... like me! Know that being confident and standing up for yourself does not mean you are being cocky or full of yourself. As long as you are also able to take feedback and responsibility and admit when you are wrong, confidence and strength is a good thing! Be confident that you will improve with time and hard work.

Also, don't let colorful jokes and constantly being made fun of get the best of you! It's part of setting with a large crew of 20-some males. Remember it's not a competition or a race. Take your time setting to make sure your routes are quality. Finally, trust yourself and find your own style! Play around with it until you get in the rhythm of things, and switch it up every so often to keep things fresh. Every setter has their trademark moves, favorite holds and preferred terrain. Ultimately, setting is not about who can climb the hardest or do the most pushups. It's about improving through hard work so that you can set some fun, quality routes for your fellow climbers!

How many burritos do you eat every week?

One to two since I started setting! I used to only have about one per every two months!

How many cups of coffee?

At least 2. Setting is exhausting work to say the least! It's important to keep yourself energized not only by drinking lots of coffee but also by eating healthy and often, drinking lots of water, and getting lots of sleep! Since I started setting, I've been going to bed between 8 and 9:30 every weeknight! I think it will get less tiring overtime, though.

Climbing the Wide with Pride: The Freschl Special

Imagine seeing your fifth grade teacher inverted inside a horrendous wide crack in Yosemite. What kind of homework would she give you? For many students this would be just your normal nightmare. For the kids in Christina Freschl’s fifth grade class in Layfette, the homework must be horrible.

unnamed

Christina Freschl, a 31 year old Berkeley resident climbed in Yosemite for the first time in 2004. While battling on English Breakfast Crack, a 5.10c at Arch Rock, Freschl became excited and confused by the idea of squeezing into the notorious wide climb. “I got my first bloody elbow and was hooked.” Over ten years, Freschl amassed a solid resume of Yosemite offwidths: Twilight Zone, 1096, Mental Block, Blind Faith, Death Crack, Easy Wind. She spoke with the Touchstone blog a bit about her love.

Why are you obsessed with offwidths?

Maybe because I am a little masochistic... No, but seriously it is a demanding full mind and body challenge. It also requires no crimp strength, which I literally don't remember how to do. Also, the community is pretty great, small but psyched. Last October, I went to an offwidth weekend hosted by some local Fresno climbers. We climbed at Balch Flake on Jay Anderson's Wide World of Sports. I got to go right after Jay, himself went.

unnamed-6

How can someone improve at OWs?

When you are first learning how to climb the wide, remember, it will hurt. You are doing movements that your body has probably never done before. Once you successfully move in new ways, your body remembers and it gets less painful. Learning the correct ways to tape your hands, ankles, cover knees and elbows,can also greatly increase your pain tolerance and can make the whole experience more enjoyable. Yes, I did say enjoyable:)

unnamed-5

Do you have any tricks to keep your legs from bruising?

Knee pads work amazingly well. I have two pairs, one for squeeze chimneys (volleyball ones with a hard pad) and thinner, tighter ones, for the cracks between 5-6 inches. Be warned, don't wear these in #4 cracks or even #5 cracks if you have big knees; your knee will get stuck.

 

unnamed-1

What gym training can you do to prepare for the wide?

Core exercises are the best thing to do. Also, seek out the most physically grueling, awkward, big-sloper, bouldering problems. Don't be afraid to use your whole body, knee included and definitely avoid crimps:)

What are the best spots to practice wide climbing?

Just look in the guide book for any 1 star dirty things and go climb them. They are most likely offwidths. Yosemite is pretty close to the bay and you can start by toproping some things, Generator (climb it twice, each side in) Bad-Ass Momma, Then climb everything at Arch Rock and Cookie that has wide. English Breakfast, Entrance Exam, Vendetta, Twilight Zone, Midterm. Each climb will teach you something new about how to move in an offwidth and you will be super fit from carrying around all those big cams.

Better Know a Setter: Ryan Rougeux

They're up with the sun, chain coffee-drinking and working hard to bring you the routes you love to send, project, and crush. 'Touchstone Routesetting' is an industry term for excellence, and each member of the crew brings a little somethin' somethin' to the team. In our ongoing segment, Better Know a Setter, we bring you a closer look at what makes 'em tick. In this weeks installment, we sat down with Sacramento Pipeoworks setter Ryan Rougeux.

spRyan2How long have you been route setting?

Officially about 2 1/2 years, but I started learning with the old school crew of Andreas, Craig and Peter back in the day at Pipeworks.

How did you get into route setting?

I've worked the desk since 2007, and kept bugging the setters to teach me their magical craft.

What is your favorite gym to set at and why?

The future Pipeworks bouldering expansion will be my favorite.

What are your route setting pet peeves?

When climbers would rather try grabbing a foot chip then learning how to climb slopers. The gym exists so you can work on your climbing weaknesses in a controlled environment, don't gravitate to what you're good at! 

What is in your route setting bag right now? 

Random Stone Age holds, some bolts, maybe a step ladder and ascender.

What inspires your routes?

Climbing outside on real rock and the motivation to stump the regulars on my routes. It brings me great inner joy to watch someone fall off my routes.

unnamed-16What's the hardest thing about route setting?

Staying motivated and being creative. Imagine spending 8 hours in the gym setting routes... and then spending another hours putting your own time into training for climbing. I live at the gym.

What is your favorite memory setting with the Touchstone Crew?

Many years ago after a rope comp at Pipeworks the keg still had beer in it (sounds crazy right?) and Fernando and Josh did their part to try and empty it. Eventually Fernando felt 'motived' decided to lead the 13b comp route and broke a hold at the 2nd clip that sent him cartwheeling upside down to josh. We threw a helmet on him and he promptly sent the hardest route in the gym.

Where is your favorite place to climb outside?

Right now it's a few secret boulders I'm trying to develop around Donner Summit, there are still so many unclimbed blocks out there.

What is your advice for aspiring setters?

Don't get discouraged. Your routes will be bad for a longtime. Even when your routes start to get better we're still going to tell you they're awful. It's a tough-love tactic. 

How many cups of coffee do you consume on a weekly basis?

All of them.

Past blog entries can be found at  http://touchstoneclimbing.blogspot.com/

Facebook

comps

Latest News

  • TCS2014 Bouldering Finale THIS Saturday MORE >>
  • An Artisans Crag MORE >>
  • Trip Report: Bagels to Burritos - Gunks Edition MORE >>

Latest Routes

  • MM 3 Routes, 5.10d-5.12a
  • MM 4 Routes, 5.5-5.11c
  • MC 15 new boulder problems V0 - V7

Touchstone's Instagram

Tag your instagram photos with: #touchstoneclimbing