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.
Can 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.
What 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!
Do 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.
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.
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.
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:)
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.
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.
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.
How 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.
What'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.
On August 8th, Clif Bar held a $30,000 drag race between 32 of the world’s best climbers in Park City Utah. The second annual PsicoComp pitted climbers in a head to head battle on a 55 foot tall wall above an Olympic pool. With former winner Sasha Digulian on the mend with a finger injury, the women’s field was an open to dark horse climber Claire Branff, last year’s winner Delaney Miller and power house climber Alex Puccio. In the men’s competition, everyone wondered if Sharma would win his own comp or would it be incumbent Jimmy Webb, or World Cup winner Sean McColl. Regardless of who won, the comp promised to be more action packed and spectator friendly than any other climbing competition in history.
The PsicoComp idea originated from Chris Sharma and Mike Call, who were deep water soloing in Mallorca Spain four years ago. The climbers realized the excitement of climbing high above the water and wanted to transport the experience to a US audience. When the opportunity arose to use the ten foot deep Olympic pool at the Park City training area, the pair seized the opportunity to build a 55 foot wall over the water with Walltopia.
Within six months, the PsicoComp established an amazing event. 5,000 people watched live with and an audience of 55,000 viewed the excitement online, making the PsicoComp the most viewed climbing competition in history. This year’s PsicoComp promised to be better with the increased sponsorship and support. The Louder than 11 production crew ran a half dozen cameras over the pool and wall, shooting between amazing shots of the climbers and the commentators, Brian Runnels and Chris Weidner. Jonathan Thesenga returned to MC the event while two DJS spun beats to the climbers.
Spanish climbing legend Dani Andrada and the Godfather of Deep Water Soloing, Miguel Riera set the 5.13 route for women and 5.14 route for men. They set for a much deeper and more elite field of climbers including Chris Sharma, Nalle Hukatavalle, Ashima Shiraishi, Sasha Digulian and other. “The route was hard at the top,” said World Cup winner Sean McColl. “It was perfectly set,”
The style of the climbing is “Not like a route climbing comp,” said executive producer Mike Call. “Or like a long boulder problem comp. It’s a new comp genre in terms of length and fitness. If you want to win you have to climb the wall multiple times and faster than the other person.” The climbers will be raced elimination style.
The women’s field started with young Texas climber Claire Buhrfiend racing Salt Lake local, Jacinda Hunter. The women fought up the wall, completing the route in approximately 3 minutes, hitting wild gaston moves and feet cutting dynos. Claire pulled away to the top and advanced to the next round.
In the first round thirteen year old, Ashima Shirashi seeded against Alex Johnson, a woman twice her age and height. Despite the big differences in size and age, Ashima pulled away, giving the incredible V13 crusher a pass into the next round.
In the last light, Alex Puccio beat out Ashima. In one of the most exciting matches of the night, Buhrfiend raced Puccio in semi finals. The pair topped out a second apart and judges referred to Louder Than 11 footage to catch Buhrfiend’s half second win.
In a rematch of last year’s women’s finals, Redbull forgot to give their sponsored athlete Sasha Digulian wings. Delaney Miller crushed Digulian and advanced to meet fellow Texas climber Buhrfiend for women’s finals.
The first race for the men pitted Isaac Caldiero against Sean McColl. Caldiero suffered a bad fall the previous day. When he fell from high on the wall, he flipped and smashed into the water, hitting the side of his head. He left the pool with poor equilibrium and holding his ear. A doctor diagnosed him with a ruptured ear drum. Despite the injury, the doctor cleared Caldiero, who raced with a large earplug in. The falls rattled some of the competitors. The next day, Daniel Woods suffered serious bruising on his arms from not tucking his arms in when he fell from the wall. There was a serious need for the climbers to fall well into the water. The crowd did countdowns from the top of the wall and many of the competitors did pencil dives into the pool. Climbing on the wall was extremely terrifying to say the least! But at the same time it's exhilarating and a ton of fun. Especially in front of the crowd during finals! “ said Kyra Condie, As the sun set in the quarterfinals between Ashima and Puccio, the women topped out and then down climbed the head wall together to shorten the jump. The heights obviously affected the climbers.
“It's a little bit scary,” said Sean McColl who took a spinning fall the day before. Despite the obvious dangers of the climbing Sean Mccoll dropped his chalkbag at the base and left the competition in his dust. Where the women had completed the route in two minutes, the men ran up the wall in 60 seconds and less. McColl clocked in times of sub 40 seconds on the wall. In a race against last year’s winner Jimmy Webb, McColl campused across the top.
Racing against favored winner, Chris Sharma, McColl performed a footless cross 40 feet above the water. Sharma must have felt the pressure. He threw for the last hold and made a huge splash into the pool.
Racing neck and neck in Men’s semi finals, Daniel Woods barely pulled ahead of Carlo Traversi. This pitted him against McColl for the prize of the Men’s 2014 PsicoComp championship.
In the women’s Delaney Miller fought to take first this year against Claire Buhrfiend to win the women’s. The pair topped out seconds apart. They stood on top held hands and jumped into the water together. Buhrfiend swam out of the pool the winner of this year’s PsicoComp while Miller made a strong second place.
The Men’s final came to McColl and Woods. McColl showed off his consistent performance. He climbed fastest on his last lap on the wall and handily beat Woods for the win.
The PsicoComp brought thousands of climbers to Park City and tens of thousands more watched the live broadcast. The excitement of watching some of the world’s best climbers race up an overhanging wall made the event popular. The competition ran much smoother than last year’s and if climbing can continue on this path, it stands a strong chance of being in the Olympics soon.
Sonora’s Gold Country contains an amazing variety of climbing from limestone bouldering to traditional basalt cracks to blocky sport climbing. Spring and fall are the best times to climb in Sonora but the overhanging rock of Jailhouse stays dry in even the most savage winter storm. In the summer, escaping the heat can be easy at the columns of the Grotto. With solid weather throughout the year and an awesome range of climbing, Sonora offers a perfect destination for a long weekend on the rocks.
Day 1 Columbia College Bouldering
The Gold Rush of 1940 unearthed a large amount of precious minerals in the Sierra Foothills. The hydraulic mining also uncovered a mother lode of highly compacted marble boulders near Columbia College in Sonora. The hundreds of problems in the labyrinth of boulders require body tension and a solid ability to climb on sloping holds in a wild setting. "It's like walking through the Castle Grayskull," said Kim Groebner, a Berkeley boulderer.
Triple Cracks (V6), which John Sherman described in The Stone Crusade as “possibly the best single limestone problem in the country” sits below the college. Great problems like The Gold Wall (V4), Lobster Claw (V4), and the All American Finger Crack (V2) reside just meters away. The high concentration of boulder problems requires a fair amount of navigating and Columbia College Bouldering by Dean Fleming helps significantly.
Poison oak guards many of the boulder problems at Columbia and remains an issue around Sonora. Be aware of what the plant like and remember even the leafless winter branches can cause an allergic reaction.
For more info also check out: Columbia Bouldering
Day 2 The Grotto
The Grotto features amazing basalt cracks and blocky sport climbing just outside of Lake Melones on Table Mountain. The BLM land trail outside of Jamestown takes climbers drops them thirty feet into a pit with routes surrounding them. With trad routes on one side and sport routes on another, the Grotto provides a perfect opportunity for climbing.
The classic compression route AC Devil Dog (5.10c) involves refrigerator style wrestling up a perfect double arête. Go With the Flow is a perfect 5.9 hand crack to warm up for Rawhide (5.10d). For those looking for more of a challenge, there are extensions that climb the basalt columns and into steeper terrain as well as short challenging routes surrounding the Grotto. There are a number of more moderate sport climbs as well that provide a great opportunity for the budding lead climber.
The Grotto stays much cooler than the area around it because of its recessed nature and offers a perfect summer escape.
Check the MountainProject page for online reference.
Day 3 Jailhouse
One of California’s best sport crags remained locked on private land for years until the Access Fund negotiated with landowners for permanent access. Now California climbers have nearly a hundred overhanging routes in a giant basalt amphitheater to keep them busy. The climbing at Jailhouse remains difficult with the easiest route being 5.11d and the average route checking in at 5.13.
Check out the power endurance route Fugitive (5.13a), the sustained Alcatraz (5.13b) and the heart breaking ending of Jailbait (5.13c). Climbers in the 90s invented kneepads, sticking stealth climbing shoe rubber on neoprene pads, to help conquer the overhanging blocky terrain of Jailhouse. Once seen as a form of aid, kneepads are a standard and almost necessary part of climbing at Jailhouse.
Due to the easement agreement with landowners, a gate code is required to enter the park. Check in at the Access Fund website for the code.
For those that want to skip out on the hardman sport climbing, head back for another day of bouldering at Columbia, try more lines at the Grotto, or go swimming at Natural Bridges located off Parrots Ferry Road and across the bridge from Lake Melones.
Mountain Project Jailhouse
How to Get There
Located in the Sierra foothills, Sonora sits two hours east of San Francisco. Follow the 580E to Highway 120, which merges with Highway 108 and heads directly into Sonora.
For the Columbia Boulders, drive north through Sonora on highway 49 for 2.3 miles. Head north on Parrots Ferry road for a tenth of a mile before turning east on Sawmill Mill Flat Road. Follow signs for 1.2 miles to Columbia College, and purchase a one-dollar student-parking pass. Campus maps will provide directions to the Lower Arboretum.
To get to the Grotto, drive southwest on highway 108 from Sonora towards Jamestown. Turn onto Rawhide road and drive west for two miles before turning south on Shell Road. Drive through two horse gates with a high clearance vehicle at the end of Shell Road or park outside and the gate and walk to the BLM parking area and pit toilet.
Park in student parking Rawhide to shell and a couple horse gates you can park outside the horse gates
To get to Jailhouse, follow the 108 south for 8 miles, turn west on O’Byrne’s Ferry Rd/ CO Rd E15, this is less than a mile after the Yosemite Junction, where Highways 108 and 120 diverge. Drive 3.7 miles and turn right at a double gate. Enter the gate code and close the gate behind the vehicle. Do not park outside this gate at any time, as the owner does not want to draw attention to this gate. Turn left and follow the dirt road ¼ of a mile to a fenced parking area on the right and close the gate after entry. Horses graze the land surrounding Jailhouse. Be considerate of the animals.
Where to Stay
First settled in 1848 by Mexican miners, Sonora remains a bit of a rough and tumble town with a historic feeling. Century old brick buildings line downtown. The town offers modern conveniences and provides a solid feel of California Gold Rush times.
The Sonora Inn in downtown offers nice hotel rooms ranging from $60 to $80 a night.
Tuttle Town Campground, located above Lake Melones, charges a more modest $22 and provides flush toilets, showers, drinking water, picnic tables and fire rings at each campsite. Bring a tent and sleeping bag for the car camping there.
What to Bring
A crash pad or two would be ideal for bouldering around Columbia College. For the roped climbing, a sixty-meter rope, climbing shoes, harness, belay device, and a set of quick draws will get you up the majority of the routes at the Grotto. A double set of cams and some stoppers will help with the traditionally protected routes. A seventy-meter rope will allow you to lower off most routes at Jailhouse. Bring kneepads for the overhanging rock. 90% of the routes are fixed and only a dog draw is necessary.
Wear lightweight long pants as the Sonora area has a significant amount of poison oak.
Sierra Nevada Adventure Company, located on Washington Street in downtown Sonora, offers great supplies for climbers and hikers. SNAC sells copies of A Climber’s Guide to Sonora Pass by Brad Young, which offers route topos to the Grotto, Columbia College Bouldering by Dean Fleming provides navigation for the limestone bouldering, and Bay Area Rock by Jim Thornburg contains an overview of each area as well as the only topo to Jailhouse.
Food & Drink
The Diamondback Grill, located on Washington Street in downtown Sonora, offers steak, salmon, great burgers, vegetarian options, and the best dining around the area. Mellow with a solid range of beer and wine options, The Diamondback Grill provides a perfect post climb dinner. Washington Street’s Bagel Bin provides great breakfast sandwiches, bagels, and coffee. A few Mexican restaurants dot Sonora and C & C’s taqueria in Jamestown offers cheap eats near the Grotto. Groceries and supplies can be purchased at the grocery stores in Sonora.
The Quick & Dirty
Where to Climb: The Grotto
Where to Stay: Tuttletown Campground
Where to Eat: Diamondback Grill
Happy Monday! ...Or as it has come to be known here at Touchstone Climbing, Happy New Gym Announcement Day!
That's right people, we have secured a location for a state of the art indoor climbing gym in Hollywood, California. This will be our 3rd project currently underway in the Greater Los Angeles Area. Once again, Touchstone worked with the team at Creative Space to find a ‘needle in a haystack’ location that addressed all of the unique requirements of a Touchstone climbing gym. The Hollywood gym is located near the 101 and will offer over 17,000 sq ft of climbing terrain, making it the largest bouldering-only gym in Southern California.
For those following along at home, we announced that we had found a location for a Pasadena gym in January, and a Culver City location last week. “Now that we’ve been here for 6 months and people can really see what we’re made of, announcing other locations is HUGE,” said LA Boulders General Manager Remi Moehring. “We’ve set the bar high and people know what we mean when we say a Touchstone gym is coming to town.”
"Our goal in coming to Los Angeles was not to simply add a gym, which we did with LA.B this year. Our objective is to be a catalyst in the development of an indoor climbing community, said Touchstone Climbing CEO Mark Melvin. “It takes multiple exceptional gyms in close proximity with reciprocity, to do the job right, and this new location is essential. We are very excited to be in the greater Los Angeles area."
Offering the climbing and fitness community a network of gyms is a pillar of our success in Northern California. And now it's only a matter of time until our Southern California members can enjoy the same perks! “We are hopeful that we can open both Hollywood and Culver City in the first half of 2015,” said Sr. Manager Markham Connolly.
We will once again be working with our friends at Walltopia to design the walls, and Flashed Climbing to build the state of the art flooring. #dreamteam
Creating a network of gyms in the LA Basin will not only increase the number of gyms and amount of terrain for the climbing and fitness community, it allows Touchstone to ramp up their infrastructure in the area. “I'm really excited to develop a crew in LA that will bring the Touchstone caliber of route setting to the climbing gym scene,” said Head Touchstone Routesetter Jeremy Ho. “I’ll be hiring full time setting crew that will set at all four locations, bringing our quality and cohesive style to each gym.”
Touchstone is currently working through the permitting process on their 3 newest projects in Pasadena, Culver City and Hollywood and will have more information come fall. Keep it tuned here for more information!
Recognized as one of the premier cycling events in America's West, The Death Ride tours California's Alps. The five pass ride includes 129 miles and 15,000+ feet of lung busting climbing. This summer, Touchstone cyclist Deborah Georges completed the brutal race through the Lake Tahoe region. She wrote a bit about the event for the Touchstone blog.
Bikers climbing over Monitor Pass
First off, if you love bicycling and are looking for a difficult yet doable challenge, the Death Ride is for you, and a must! This was my second time riding in this "exclusive" bicycling event! What draws me most to the Death Ride is that it allows me as a competitive athlete to realistically evaluate how fit I really am, how much power I can generate on my own accord over long distance, and how tough I am mentally to keep my body moving when the going gets unbearably rough.
The Death Ride is a chance in a lifetime experience. Located in Alpine County/the Lake Tahoe Area, the natural environment and breathtaking scenery stand in sharp contrast to urban/city living. Completing the entire 129 mile course entails riding 5 extremely diverse and not-so-easy mountain passes: Monitor Pass (front and back), Ebbetts Pass (front and back), and Carson Pass. Each Pass has a character all its own, making the Death Ride an awe-inspiring, life-changing, unique athletic experience.
The downside of the Death Ride derives from accommodation logistics. Markleeville, where the Death Ride starts and ends, is sparse in lodging accommodation. Because of this, many riders either stay in Gardnerville, Nevada where economy motels are a plenty and yet entail a 45 minute transportation drive to the start come ride day, or vey like heck to reserve a camping site nearby. To manage my personal stress, I chose to park my Toyota Rav4 on route 89 in front of Turtle Rock Park, Headquarters of the Death Ride, and camp inside my vehicle. This is the ideal situation. It makes no sense to go to a motel, when one can easily erect a tent or sleep in one's vehicle free-of-charge right at the start!
Start times for the Death Ride vary according to a rider's desire. I personally did not want to start off in the dark so I chose to get on the road at the break of dawn slightly before 5:00 a.m. That said, slower or more ambitious riders opt for a 3:00-3:30 a.m. start with the more popular start option commencing between 4:00-4:30 a.m.
Monitor Pass is an ideal route to begin the course. Its road is wide, open on both right/left sides, and not particularly steep. I enjoyed "warming up" on Monitor to get my "climbing legs" primed. The backside descent to Topaz rest stop is fast, technically "moderate" in terms of difficulty, and overall what I label "a joy ride"! Beware, it gets unexpectedly windy flying down Monitor Pass. Regardless of how warm the temperature might seem, the knowledgable rider dons a wind jacket to keep from shivering prior to making the long descent!
With two mountain passes notched on one's belt, the next challenge becomes the majority of a cyclist's favorite - Ebbetts Pass. Quite distinct from the openly expansive Monitor Pass, Ebbetts is more introverted in the sense that it lies within a forest of sorts surrounded by subtle creeks, calming burbling waters, and aesthetically beautiful tall-trunk trees that indisputably have been digging their roots in the earth's soil for centuries. I encountered absolutely no difficulty climbing Ebbetts Pass quickly, descending the back side swiftly to Hermit Valley, and then climbing back up to the top in order to make a very fast descent to the rest/lunch stop at Wolfcreek by 11:10 a.m.
Wolfcreek lunch stop is pleasurable because it affords one the opportunity to mingle and exchange riding stories with other cyclists. I lunched at a table full of guys who interacted with me and with each other in an enjoyable "we're in this together" way!
With four mountain passes tucked securely behind me, I now faced the final "dreaded" Carson Pass. In defense of Carson which largely gets a negative rating from the majority of riders, I came to understand this time around what really sours me from what otherwise would be a positive response to this particular Death Ride pass. Carson, sadly, is not beautiful or aesthetic or naturally attractive. Located on a well trafficked motor vehicle county road, the asphalt is torn up in many parts making it impossible for a cyclist to hold a straight line. In terms of coverage from nature's elements, there is none to speak of. The route up Carson Pass to the end rest stop of the Death Ride is wide open making cyclists extremely vulnerable to the sunshine and heat. Simply put, it's not a particularly memorable experience one will opt to talk about with family and friends in a positive tone after the Death Ride is completed. Knowing that Carson Pass was going to be the most physically challenging for me after having successfully ridden 94 incredibly breathtaking and delightful miles, I determined to reach deep inside myself to tap the final reserves I had left to make it to the top of Carson in strong form!
Indeed, I made it! I accomplished my goal of completing the Death Ride without the Death Ride beating me! At the Carson Pass final rest stop, I ate the traditional ice cream sandwich with a tremendous sense of accomplishment. The ladies "manning" the finish line, hugged and congratulated me not only for having successfully finished, but more so because I was the fifth woman to get to the top shortly after noon among the larger majority of men who dominated the 2014 Death Ride! It's both sad and incomprehensible to me that more women don't aspire to taking on the challenge of the Death Ride. With determination and training, the Death Ride is doable for anyone. It's a chance in a lifetime open to all!
Riding the final 21 miles back to my car stationed at Turtle Rock Park after an exhilarating descent from Carson Pass rest stop, I was astounded to find that I had completed the 129 mile end-to-end course in 8 hours and 42 minutes! If memory serves me correctly, I had completed my first Death Ride saddle time in 9 hours 55 minutes. Imagine knocking off an entire hour two years later the second time around! Woot woot - pom poms furiously shaking!
I wish to thank my sister Wendy, for always standing by me and encouraging my athlete endeavors, my Berkeley Ironworks/Touchstone spinning buddy Marty Kaplan, for both teaching and educating me on how to be a safe and skillful descender, and Pat Ross, an extraordinary competitive cyclist whom I highly admire and would gladly trade places with in terms of strength, skill and ability! These three individuals have served me the most over the years in bringing out the best of me in terms of my athleticism.
Cheers to all, happy safe riding, and get your asses over to the Death Ride at some point - you won't regret it!