Meeting Team Touchstone

We are proud to be supporting Team Touchstone, a comprehensive and competitive youth climbing team. Interesting in our youth climbing program? We sat down with head coaches Zach Wright and Scott Cory to find out more. 

Zach Wright, a 22-year-old philosophy undergraduate student at UC Berkeley and Bay Area native, and Scott Cory, a 24-year-old Pleasant Hill resident with an extensive background in competing and coaching in the USA youth circuit, will be acting as the Co-Head Coach of Team Touchstone with a focus on the competitive team.

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“The aim of Team Touchstone is to provide a comprehensive climbing instruction experience that will enable young climbers to progress as far as possible in the sport,” said Wright. “The new team will allow climbers to enter into Team Touchstone at any level and receive excellent climbing instruction, whether they are brand new to the sport or looking to compete at the highest level.”

That translates into 3 levels of youth climbing teams: recreational, intermediate and competitive. With 75-100 youth climbers spread through the Californian gyms, there will be a program for climbers at any level. “By having a multiple level team, we can ensure that each climber is on the appropriate team to facilitate learning,” said Cory.

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The Recreational team will be ideal for climbers looking to develop a love for the sport while addressing the basics of technique and becoming a well-rounded climber in a social, relaxed environment. The intermediate team provides a training environment for climbers who want to become more serious with the sport. This team will focus on technique, strength, and strategy development while maintaining a fun, social climbing experience. Climbers on the intermediate team will have the option of attending competitions to see if the competitive team is right for them. Try outs and coach recommendation are suggested for the intermediate level.

The Competitive team climbs in the USAC (USA Climbing) competition in the bouldering series in the fall through winter and the sport/speed climbing in the spring and summer. Competitive climbers travel extensively on a state and national level with an opportunity to compete globally. The team is for highly dedicated climbers who want a challenging training environment and are prepared to attend all levels of USAC competitions. The team focuses on technique development, strength training, and competition strategy.

To find out more email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for further details.

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“With the introduction of our team, Touchstone will establish itself as the cornerstone of our local youth climbing community, as well as a strong presence in the competitive climbing scene,” said Wright. “We're in the process of opening three more gyms in Southern California, and I'm aiming to get the Southern California component of our team up and running as soon as possible. Going forward, we will continue to provide a platform for any local youth climbers who want to push their climbing as far as it can go. My aim within the next few years is to have climbers competing internationally, proving that we truly have a world-class program here at Touchstone.”

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Dawn Wall Update

Two men are making history on El Capitan. For over two weeks, the 36 year old Estes Park resident, Tommy Caldwell and the 30 year old Santa Rosa local, Kevin Jorgenson have battled up El Capitan’s Dawn Wall in the hopes of making the first free ascent of the world’s hardest big wall free climb.

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The pair began climbing on December 27th and made steady upward progress. The normally wet lower pitches, the climbing ropelengths, were dry. Temps were cool ensuring ideal friction. Jorgenson split a tip, damaging his finger tips, but remained undeterred. They dispatched the initial 1200 feet to their basecamp. Then the climbing became hard.

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I brought bell peppers, cucumbers, pasta, and tea for Tommy. I brought bourbon and sour Skittles for Kevin. I shouldered the 40 pound haulbag and made the 1200 foot commute to their basecamp, where I dropped off the goods for the men. They were in solid spirits a week ago.

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Caldwell managed to dance carefully across a huge white dike feature, connecting two features. Kevin fired it as well. Caldwell dispatched the next few pitches in the dark. His experience having freed a half dozen other free routes on El Cap shone. He dispatched the continuing hard climbing.

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But Jorgenson struggled. His skin split more. He kept failing at the end of the dike. The razor blade holds sliced his fingers. He could barely hold on. Caldwell could have gone to the top, easily making a succsful ascent. Instead, he supported the man who had worked on the route for the past six year with him.

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A few days ago, with tape covering his finger tips, Jorgenson stuck the credit card holds. He then made an enormous 8 foot sideways leap to join into Caldwell’s section.

"Momentum is a powerful force," posted Jorgeson on Facebook. "When it's on your side, everything feels a bit easier."

The pair have a few more days, and the trials are far from over. When and if they top out, the pair will have cemented themselves as legends of climbing, having established the world’s hardest big wall free climb.

Team Touchstone

We're happy to announce that starting February 1st Touchstone Climbing will be launching our own competitive youth climbing team in Northern California. 

Touchstone Climbing has always supported the next generation of climbers in our gyms. Each of our nine locations has one or more youth teams, and while our focus has primarily been on making climbing an accessible and fulfilling after school activity, we see that some of our young crushers are moving in the direction of competitive climbing - and we need to move with them!

We are pleased to announce that in February, we will be the proud parents of Team Touchstone, our own competitive climbing team. Led by Zach Wright and Scott Cory, Team Touchstone is perfect for youth climbers and their parents who are ready to make the significant time commitment required to compete at their highest potential.

Not sure which team is right for your child? Here is some helpful information to consider when choosing which team to join. 

RECREATIONAL TEAM:

This is a great team for climbers who are just starting out, but know that they are super excited about improving at climbing! The main focus of this team is to help climbers develop a love for the sport, while addressing the basics of climbing techniques and becoming a well-rounded climber. This team provides a great opportunity to climb with other young climbers in a social, relaxed climbing environment.

Contact your home gym for practice schedule. 

INTERMEDIATE TEAM:

The intermediate team is designed to provide a challenging training environment for climbers who want to become more serious about the sport. This team focuses on technique, strength, and strategy development while still providing a fun, social climbing experience. Climbers on this team have the option of attending competitions with the competitive team in order to see if competition climbing is right for them. Climbers from the intermediate team can eventually join the competitive team (by invitation) when they have demonstrated the requisite technical proficiency and level of commitment. Tryouts/coach recommendation required.

Contact your home gym for practice schedule. 

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COMPETITIVE TEAM:

What is competitive climbing?

Competition climbing allows climbers to compete against each other climbers in their age categories in the main climbing disciplines: bouldering, sport climbing, and speed climbing.

The governing body of youth climbing competitions in America is USA Climbing (USAC). Climbing competitions occur according to specific seasons:

• ABS is the American Bouldering Series which takes place from September-February,

• SCS is the Sport/Speed Climbing Series which takes place from March-July.

These competition seasons include local competitions at Bay Area gyms, as well as championship events that take place around the country. Climbers on the competitive team are expected to travel to competitions on the weekends, and compete in national-level championship events. The USAC competition circuit provides climbers with the opportunity to compete against the very best young climbers in the nation, and it is truly a world-class opportunity for any climber who wants to put their climbing abilities to the test.

Who should be on the competitive team?

This team is for climbers who are dedicated to competition climbing and want a serious and challenging training environment. Climbers on this team are expected to attend USAC climbing competitions and compete at both the local and national level. This team focuses on technique development, strength training, and competition strategy. It is expected that climbers on the competitive team are aware of the time, travel, and financial commitments that are required to take part in the USAC competition circuit.

Meets M/T/Th 4:00-7:00, invitation only. To find out more, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

What are the time/financial commitments for a competitive climbing team?

Parents and climbers should be aware that competitive climbing requires a substantial time/financial commitment. Time commitments (beyond normal practice hours) include: traveling to local, regional, and nation-level competitions on the weekends, attending extra practices during peak competition season, parent volunteering at competitions, etc. Financial commitments include: purchasing a USAC membership, paying competition fees, travel fees, etc. While this is a substantial commitment on the part of climbers and their families, the reward is participating in a world-class competition circuit as a Team Touchstone climber!

 

 

Jailhouse Projecting

Picture one of the United State’s best climbing crags just a few hours from San Francisco with perfect winter temps and a long season. Jailhouse is the ideal place for projecting. The regular climbers hit the crag every weekend, on breaks from work and on the occasional sick day. They obsess over the steep basalt.

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Terrence hikes his side project, Burrito Supreme (5.12c)

Jailhouse, a 200-foot enduro cave, boasts nearly a hundred showstopper routes, from 5.11+ warm-ups to Brad Johnson’s recent 5.14+, Yoga High. The best and largest concentration of grades is in the 5.13 range. The setting is pleasantly rural, and though the rock is admittedly fractured and scruffy looking, the athletic style of climbing is great. Hummingbirds buzz between California fuchsias, pollinating the brightly colored flowers. The skies are filled with swallows, osprey, turkey vultures, hawks and crows. Horses graze the surrounding land and blue herons fish in the waters of nearby Tulloch Lake.

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Cathy works out the moves on Line-up 5.12b

The atmosphere adds tranquility to the mind numbing process of trying a climb at your limit. There are a few stages of projecting. In the initial stage, you shop for a project. You try this route. You hop on that route. You decide that route is too tweaky. This one has too many kneebars. The second stage of projecting begins when you find a route you want to send. Then you begin working beta. You decipher the moves, find the rests, brush the crux holds, and refine your beta. Then you begin the arduous process of redpointing, which can take days, weeks or in some cases years. Luckily there are a ton of routes to choose from and great conditions.

“Jailhouse has one of the best concentrations of hard routes in the country, as well as one of the best climates. You can climb there any day between September and June without even having to check the weather. It's an amazing crag,” said pro athlete and Sacramento climber Alex Honnold. The end of September to the middle of December is the best time of year. The temperatures are ideal for sending. Though dry during storms, the winter rain of January and February makes the crag seep a few days after storms. March through the beginning of May are the best time for spring temps, though the crag may still seep if it has been an especially wet year. The summer months are climbable if you like triple digit temps and a desire to work on your tan.

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Christophe puts in a redpoint burn on Violated, almost getting the short and difficult route.

One of the most important parts about projecting Jailhouse is the necessity for kneepads. Jailhouse’s three-dimensional basalt encourages climbers to press their thighs into the wall, both to rest their arms and to ratchet their bodies higher to better holds. Every route at Jailhouse has a kneebar, knee scum, or some kind of leg press. Show up at the crag without basic kneebarring skills and it’s showing up in Yosemite without knowing how to handjam.

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Donn takes down Violated (5.13b)

“We’re like adult babies,” said Brad Johnson, who has established a half dozen 5.14’s here, referring to the style of climbing. “It’s a lot of crawling.” Projecting at the house starts in jeans, moves to shorts with pads and then into glued pads. Having stiff shoes can help with pressing into kneebars.

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Hiking out of the crag after a long day

The Jailhouse community is relatively small with a core crew of twenty climbers. Many commute two hours from the Bay area to frequent the crag every weekend from fall to spring. These locals are extremely passionate. During an extremely wet season, one desperate climber waded through the four foot flash flooded river to clip a towel to a bolt on The Juice (5.14a) to dab the wet spot on a hold. The obsession with a project can take over your life. One day you’re an upstanding citizen and the next, you’re running up and down hardware store aisles looking for duct tape and glue. Jailhouse offers a great place for projecting, for pushing yourself into the limits of your climbing. It's worth a visit for any passing climber.

Getting Your Gym Psyche

The gym intimidates me. Tons of shirtless dudes and waif girls run about crushing the plastic problems, bench pressing huge weights, pounding out miles on the treadmill and pretzeling into a million yoga poses. Still, I want to get in shape for an upcoming trip to Spain. I took a tip from body builder Ronnie Coleman who said, “Ain’t nothing to it but to do it.”

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I’ve hit the gym pretty hard the past week and a few things have helped me more than Coleman’s simple quote. As the January post holiday rush comes to the Touchstone gyms. It helps to keep a few things in mind.

Have a plan

My first day in the gym after a long time away can be disorienting. I spend a bit of time figuring out where the jump ropes are, what happened to the hangboards and how to figure out the latest yoga class schedule. I putt around and always feel unsuccessful. My second day in the gym tends to be way better. I warm up jumping rope. I know which exercises I’m going to do, which boulder problems I’m going to try and when the yoga classes are. I take the time to build out a longer term plan. Two days a week, I train strictly power. I do two hard moves in a row and focus on that. One day a week, I do as many moderately hard boulder problems as I can and another day I do a pyramid.

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Stick With It

“80% of life is showing up,” said Woody Allen. He’s not far from the truth. Going to the gym can be hard when it’s raining out and the weather’s cold. Break it down into smaller steps. Make it to the car. Drive to the gym. Go inside. Walk over to the jump rope. Stumble to the yoga class. You’ll be psyched you did it. Tenacity goes a long way into getting fit in the post holiday season.

Add Variety

Keep from stagnating by changing things up in your work out routine. If you always go to yoga, try a spin class. If you only climb routes at the gym, try bouldering. The changes make the gym a lot more fun. Every facet of the gym has an entirely different subculture as well. There’s lots of people to meet. The new challenges can help you advance in your other athletic pursuits. Yoga compliments cycling. Weight lifting helps bouldering. There is a ton of crossover. Switch your training regime to include something a bit different every time you head in.

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Have Fun

Make sure to have fun when going into the gym. This will keep you returning for more. You’ll stay psyched if you have a good time in the gym when you go.

Yoga for Climbers

I picked up my medieval torture devices, a foam block and a strap, and flopped into the corner of the Berkeley Ironworks yoga room. The next 75 minutes could kill me.

“Do you think yoga helps with climbing?” I asked a few of my friends. In the past week, I attended five different yoga classes in an effort to become a better climber. My friends bounced back and forth about the worthiness of yoga. 

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Nelly high steps through the redpoint crux on Beerrun (5.13a) at Rifle

“I kind of doubt it,” replied professional climber Alex Honnold. “Maybe for you it might help since your flexibility isn’t so good. Of course no amount of yoga is going to bend the rod in your back.” Honnold believes that only climbing will make you a better climber. 

 Katie Lambert, an Eddie Bauer climbing athlete, seemed to have a more positive approach towards it. “I will say it helps by 1) increasing flexibility 2) helps focus on the breath while in hard to hold positions- super helpful for climbing 3)helps balance the body 4) helps with small stabilizing muscles. ” 

“Only if the things that yoga improves are a weakness of yours,” replied Kris Hampton, a professional climbing trainer.

“Only if the style of yoga you choose makes use of a finger board,” quipped Smith Rock master climber Bruce Adams.

Over the course of 15 years of climbing, fellow rock jocks have asked me if I wanted to perform some sun salutations at the crag, hit up the local yoga studio or enjoy some Saturday night Bikram. When asked to joing these yoga adventures, I’ve always responded, “Nah, I’mma stay.” Yoga scared me. It seemed so difficult and intimidating. I knew if I wanted to grow as a climber, I would need to branch out. What was the worst that could happen?

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Lil Ben shows his flexibility on the Egg (v11) in the forest of Squamish.

On my first class, my eyes darted across the room, searching for how to put my left leg over my right arm while standing on my fingers. The instructor went through pidgeon pose, warrior 2 and other stretches. Across from me, a tank top clad yogi with pushed from a handstand into a split. The instructor put her hands on my, twisted my arm, swiveled my ankle and straightened my hips. The stretch felt brutal. I wanted to leave the class immediately. I could be shoveling the pig pens out at the farm in Sonora. I could be free soloing El Cap. I could be doing anything easier and less terrifying than these yoga moves.

The Touchstone gyms offer a variety of Vinyasa, flow, power and acro classes. The morning classes, afternoon and evening classes made it easy to work into my constantly changing schedule. After a few classes, I learned the different teachers styles and who some of the regular students were. 

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Coping a stem rest and splaying the feet out on the crux pitch of the Vortex (5.12+). Gabe Mange photo.

The second class felt easier. The third class felt even better. By the fourth class, I knew the basic poses. I felt slightly less rigid. My climbing seemed to be improving a little. It’s difficult to tell if the yoga caused this or if it was because I was climbing more in the gym and being more specific about my training. The classes certainly made me feel better. My body felt a lot more limber and I was breathing better while climbing. While these may not translate directly to climbing, they help with my overall health and being healthy means being able to climb harder.

At the end of class, the instructor demonstrated savasana pose. Translated to English this position means “nap time.” I decided Yoga wasn't so bad. 

 

East Betas in Bishop

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…

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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!

Gift Cards at Touchstone Climbing

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.

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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!

Commuting by bike with Cuong Phu Trinh

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

About First Ascents: Climbing the New Lines

“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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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 AAC and Mountain Hardwear present Ueli Steck: The Swiss Machine

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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 Climbing Options

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.

Joshua Tree:

Joshua Tree - Intersection Rock - South Face

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.

Bishop:

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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.

Smith Rock:

Smith

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.

Vegas/Mesquite:

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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. 

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

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