Summer in Squamish

Ten years ago, on my first trip to Squamish, I free soloed up a 5.11 slab route on the Apron thinking it was 5.8. I got 1/3 of the way before some helpful Canadians turned me around. Two weeks ago, I free soloed up a 5.10 on the Apron thinking it was 5.7. I was 1/3 of the way before some helpful Canadians turned me around. Again. There's a lesson to be learned from these experiences.

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Ryan Moon on Black Water 5.12a at Pet Wall and Jens Holsten on Sentry Box 5.12a at Nightmare Rock

This summer I spent 5 weeks in the Canadian climbing town, repeating boulder problems and routes that I had done on my first trip to Squamish. The differences between the 22 year old James Lucas and the 32 year old version seemed small. Ten years ago, I slept in a cave behind the campground. This time I bivied in my new minivan. My first trip, I fell leading Pipeline, a 5.10d offwidth on the Squaw. This time, instead of going 30 feet onto a number six and a wood block, I climbed it like a hero. I laid it back on toprope. In the previous decade, I told bad jokes in the back of my friends truck. This time, I did a 5 minute standup show at YukYuks in Vancouver. Here's a video of the ceiling while I do my routine. I was older, fatter and a little more experienced.

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I used to sit in Tim Schaufele's truck and tell jokes. Here he attempts Division Bell 5.13d at Chekamus

I repeated a few routes in better style. I climbed Dancing in the Light, an 11b slab route on the Apron, with Alex Honnold in 2006. He rope gunned me up the route. This time, I swung leads and led the crux pitch. The scary friction climbing felt a bit easier. I toproped Flight of the Challenger on my second try, a route that had taken me 13 tries to send 10 years ago. I repeated Tea Bag Undies, which is a contender for one of the hardest V4s in Squamish. I climbed Freeway a couple of times, and did a 90 meter pitch of 5.11+.

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Kevin Daniels climbs the first 5.11 slab pitch on Dancing in the Light

One of the best parts of any Squamish summer is hanging out with the other climbers. Touchstone represented with Ryan Moon, Lauryn Claasen, Jordan Shackelford and Diane Ortega all coming to hang out in Tim Horton’s and eat way too many donuts. The posse of climbers in Squamish is always fun, and I got a chance to hang out with some good old friends and make some new ones.

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I climbed Timeless a few years ago. This summer I went out there with Alex Honnold, Stacey Pearson and photographer Michael Pang to do it again. I had dinner at the brewery with Alex for his birthday. It was the third time we had a birthday dinner for him at the brewery.

The weather in Squamish stayed fairly moderate for most of my trip. There was a few days of rain. Towards the end of the month, the rain became horrendous and so I left for Smith rocks. I guess the good friction and features of the granite come at the cost of having to deal with wet weather sometimes.

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Hand fanning at work in the boulders of Squamish.

Ten years ago, I downclimbed Unfinished Symphony and found Diedre. This summer I down climbed Two Scoops of Delicious and found Banana Peel and the Squamish Buttress Light. There’s a lesson to be learned from these events, how I’ve changed over the past ten years. I just don’t know what it is.

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Ryan takes on his nemesis, the Crescent

First Look - Touchstone Climbing in Hollywood

Sneak peek Friday! ...That's a thing, right?

Behold the juicy innards of what will soon be the largest bouldering only gym in Southern California! Climbers at our Hollywood location will have over 11,000 sq ft of climbing at their disposal. We're excited to also offer an additional training and fitness area for programing, classes, and getting swol. 

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We're excited about the natural light the the building provides, as well and the open layout. We are currently in the design phase of the project, and our team is working with Walltopia to create some never before seen bouldering terrain at this location. Get psyched people! 

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Want to stay up on the play by play? Be an insider? Sign up for our BRAND NEW EMAIL NEWSLETTER. We promise to only send you stuff we think you'll love. 

Climbing with Cerebral Palsy

Recently, Andrew McAleavey sat down with the Touchstone blog to talk about his experience with climbing and Cerebral Palsy. The Berkeley Ironworks Kid's Camp director will be at the American Physical Therapy Association’s pediatrics conference in St. Louis to discuss how cerebral palsy affects muscle development. Read a bit about his climbing experience.

“I don’t...I don’t know if I’ll be able to climb, but…but I just wanted to look around and…”

The man at the desk has long, dirty-blond curls and a strangely compelling gravitas. He looks past my stammer-babble, regards me with a kindly intensity, and says, sure, I’m welcome to have a look — as long as I stay off the blue mats. This is my second time at Berkeley Ironworks; the first time, I drove by but was too scared to go in. With permission granted, I wander off, stumble around the gym, and decide that even if I’m never able to climb, the energy of the place is just so good that I want to be a part of it. I come back the next night for intro to climbing.

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I have Cerebral Palsy. I’m brain damaged, my leg muscles are too tight and too weak, and my walking is, in a word, funky. There’s still no real treatment for brain damage, so they treat CP orthopedically — physically rearranging the muscles and bones to compensate for the faulty signals from the brain. As a child, my left femur and right ankle were broken, re-aligned, re-set. My hamstring and Achilles tendons were lengthened. My quads were rearranged. Some of the best surgeons in the country wanted to make me better, faster, stronger. They succeeded — and then they ran out of ideas. Cerebral Palsy is a lifelong, non-degenerative condition, but it’s too often considered a pediatric problem. Children with CP often face what George W. Bush once called "the soft bigotry of low expectations.” Adults with CP don’t often get follow-up and fade into obscurity with their ability to move declining. Rock climbing is not on anyone’s list of things that people with CP “should be” able to do.

I was 34 when I walked into Berkeley Ironworks that night, about 18 months ago. I’d spent at least 20 years in physical therapy, the previous 8 years draining my savings to work with some truly innovative physical therapists and athletic trainers. I was bored, and broke, and under orders from my athletic trainer to find something in the fitness world that I really wanted to do. Only then, he implied, would I really progress. Only then would my heart truly be in it.

The first night I tried climbing, with Jerome smiling from the desk at my reappearance and Jeffrey Kosoff belaying and encouraging, I made it fifteen feet up a 5.4 before exhaustion hit. I barely had the range of motion to get my feet on some of the holds, and as there wasn’t enough power in my legs to push up very effectively, I was doing most of it with my arms. I felt pure joy. I was hooked.

It took me a month to finish a 5.4. It took months more for my range of motion to show permanent improvement. I tried harder and harder routes and spent almost every night at Ironworks. I found a partner who knew exactly when to encourage and exactly when to tell the most egregious, hilarious “cripple” jokes I’d ever heard — at my expense. Every night, the desk staff had a nugget of advice, a word of encouragement. The small kindnesses piled up. “Ok,” Dani Kottman warned me one afternoon after volunteering to belay for me in a few minutes of free time, “I’m going into coach mode!” What followed was an incisive and thorough dissection of my technique and everything that needed to be done to improve it.

As I started to take classes—anchors, trad, technique—I realized that some of the staff had biomechanical instincts rivaling those of the best physical therapists I’d worked with. During a trad clinic, Chris Ahlgren realized, without a word from me, that I’d exhausted myself just standing on the cushy flooring for an hour. The next night, for the next clinic, he dropped a thick, hard block of foam in front of me: “Here!” he said, “Stand on this tonight. It should help!” I managed my first 5.10a, then another, then another. I tried climbing outdoors at Cragmont Park in Berkeley. I’m working on a 5.10c now.

I love children, and when I found out that Ironworks was looking for a kids camp director, I applied. The interview was short; the paperwork was handed to me. With no small amount of trepidation, I decided to take the job. I’ve been chasing children around the gym almost every week since. It’s wonderful. “You’re just goofy!” one of the staff members said during summer camp this past summer, “And you’re, like, nine years old!!” Right and right. Sometimes, I worry that I’ll run out of things to teach the kids; I worry that I won’t be able to correctly demonstrate technique for an overhang, or a good backstep. Then I quiet my fears. I show them how much climbing means to me. I show them how much I love them and want them to succeed. Somehow, it works out.

By happenstance, I found a professor of physical therapy in Connecticut who was interested in “long term outcomes” of people like me. I’d been climbing about six months at that point, and as I told her tales, she slowly got interested. First, she asked me to sit on an advisory board for a grant of hers. Then she came to the conclusion that she should study me. We made plans — in March of 2014, a full-on computerized movement analysis, the same technique that had been used to plan my surgeries as a child. In June, my collaborator, Mary, came to visit me, to see and record my climbing and workout routines. Lyn Barraza, the Ironworks manager, was kind enough to give me the run of the gym as an entourage followed me around and recorded my every move. I tethered our photographer on the rappel platform, rappelled down, and climbed back up again. I did every stretch I could think of for the cameras. At this point, all of it was routine for me. I didn’t think about how unusual it might be for someone with CP to do all of the things I was doing until Mary broke into tears watching me walk across the padded floors — and then almost fell down trying to follow me.

In October, I’ll be giving a talk with my two professor-collaborators at a meeting of the American Physical Therapy Association, essentially a master class on exercise and training for climbing for people with CP. The talk begins with the basic science, explains what happens to the structure of muscles in people with CP, and goes from there. The short version: climbing has improved my strength and range of motion, prevented serious declines in function, and kept me extremely happy doing it. In the slides for the talk, I’m wearing my favorite Ironworks shirt — and there’s a huge grin on my face.

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.

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Steven Roth above the abyss on Better Than Life 5.13c

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Gabriella Nobrega working through The Power of Eating 5.11d

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Ben Polanco working through an open project

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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

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