TCS2014 Scores

The Touchstone Climbing Series, AKA TCS2014, has been bringing beer, pizza, climbing, prizes and 'da party' to each of our six of our nine gyms over the past year. The comp series rotates back and forth between rope climbing and bouldering, with on-sight finals at Mission Cliffs and Dogpatch Boulders.

There is one last Friday night comp left at Great Western Power Company in Oakland. Be sure to come on Friday, August 22nd ftom 5pm-10pm to compete. As always, this comp is FREE to our beloved members and only $10 for guests.

If you weren't around for the finales last year, here is a breakdown of what to expect. 

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The bouldering comp and on-sight finals will be held a Dogpatch Boulders on Saturday, September 27th. It will be an open comp from 12pm-5pm, which is just like any other comp you've come to know and love. Anyone can compete in beginner, intermediate or advanced categories. There will be pizza, beer, food trucks for snacks, and more. 

Once the clock strikes 5, it's finals time! We will select the TOP 3 advanced climbers from the entire series, and the top 3 climbers from the day, to go head to head in On-sight finals. 

There are three finals problems and the top 6 male and female finalists will have 5 minutes for each of them. "It's pretty exciting," said Routesetter Ben Polanco. "Bouldering finals at Dogpatch are super fun to watch."

There is a cash purse of $1,000 for 1st place men and women. $600 for 2nd place, and $350 for third. 

Prizes will also be awarded to the overall winner in all categories. So the more comps you went to, the better your chances of reaching the podium!

To check your overall rope standings, click here:

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The roped comp and on-sight finals will take place on October 25th at Mission Cliffs. The new expansion walls lend themselves perfectly to competition climbing and spectating. 

The comp will function in the same format. Open climbing will take place throughout the day between 12pm and 5pm. We will select the TOP 3 advanced climbers from the entire series, and the top 2 climbers from the day, to go head to head in On-sight finals.

Each competitor will have 1 chance to climb 1 route, and the climber with the highest 'highpoint' wins. If there is a draw, there will be a tie breaker route. 

There is a cash purse of $1,000 for 1st place men and women. $600 for 2nd place, and $350 for third.

Prizes will also be awarded to the overall winner in all categories. So the more comps you went to, the better your chances of reaching the podium!

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For bouldering and roped standings, we take your top two or three results, respectively, for the series, add them together, and rank you within your computed category. If you were ever bumped during the series during a bouldering/roped comp, you are "bumped" for the series.

For the series standings, we take each of your scores, divide it by the maximum possible points for that competition, and multiply it by 10000. That is your "normalized" score for the competition. We take your top 5 normalized scores, add them together, and that is your series score. Then you are ranked by gender and category.


Better Know a Setter: Jeremy Ho

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 Head Routesetter Jeremy Ho.

DSC 0257-2-EditHow long have you been route setting?
5 years

How did you get into route setting?
I had been working at Berkeley Ironworks for a couple years and always wanted to try out setting. Eventually there was an open spot on the crew, I applied and was hired. It was all down hill from there...

What is your favorite gym to set at and why?
I'm a big fan of setting at Dogpatch Boulders. I'm predominantly a boulderer but lately I've been excited about setting routes and the Mission Cliffs expansion space is top notch for that.

What are your route setting pet peeves?
As the Head Routesetter, my biggest setting pet peeves are spinning holds (under tightened holds) and tape angles being off. As just a routsetter aesthetics are really important to me, matching hold sets and similar feet make a huge difference to me.

What is in your route setting bag right now?
Makita 18v impact driver, Ratchet T-wrench, Metolius Waldo big wall harness, Petzl Sama sport harness, At least 2 Petzl Grigri's, Petzl Pro Traction, Multiple locking and non locking carabiners, Petzl Ascender, Metolius 4 step aider, 2 Metolius Quick Fix, 2 quick draws, A tap, Multiple bits (for set screws and regular 5/16 hex head bits), Chalk bag with brushes, my NEW SoiLL Bucket... Oh and sharpies out the wazoo

What inspires your routes?
Rock climbing. I love everything about it and route setting allows me to create movement for others that will hopefully get them to love the sport as much as I do. Watching people enjoy something you set is a great feeling.

What is your favorite memory setting with the Touchstone Crew?
Probably Eric Sanchez shucking the pole challenge at Dogpatch for the first time.

You recently set at SCS Nationals in Atlanta. Tell us about that.
It was incredible. It was an amazing opportunity and it's inspiring to know that the Touchstone standard of routesetting can hold up on a national level. It was great learning experience to spend so much time around a great group of setters from all over the US.

And we hear your route won 2nd place in a peer review?
Yeah, I only lost 1st place by ONE vote! Note to self; next time I need to vote for my own route! 

Where is your favorite place to climb outside?
I really love the climbing in Bishop and the eastern Sierras are just beautiful. Yosemite Valley is real close to the top too.

What is your proudest send?
Definitely topping out Evilution Direct ground up (a 60' boulder problem on the Grandpa Peabody boulder in Bishop). I think only a handful of people have climbed that thing without checking out the top section on a rope. (my only claim to fame. HA!)

What is your advice for aspiring setters?
Don't get discouraged. Your routes will likely be bad at first. Nail down the basics before trying to set crazy technical moves. Keep you mind open to suggested changes to your routes and learn from your mistakes. Continue to learn as much as possible about rock climbing movement and stay active in setting (you CAN get rusty.)

How many Kombuchas do you drink per week?
A sh*t ton. At least 2 per day. But that's a secret don't tell anyone. 

Your secret is safe with us, JHo!


Building a Pyramid for Better Climbing

Every year I stare at the enormous formations of Yosemite Valley. They tower above me. I know that I want to climb them. I also know to do so I need to become a much better rock climber.

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Bouldering on Tatonka in Squamish

Bouldering provides one of the fastest ways to improve technique in climbing. This summer I plan on bouldering in Squamish British Columbia in preparation for the fall Yosemite season. Attacking the boulders haphazardly and receiving enormous gains in my climbing would be awesome but is also unrealistic. The best way to steadily improve at climbing is to build a pyramid. The idea of creating a route or boulder problem pyramid has been around for two decades. In 1993 Dale Goddard and Udo Neumann wrote about using a route pyramid to structure progression through the grades in Performance Rock Climbing, “Experience shows that improvement progresses best when the difficulty of routes you have done forms a stable pyramid”.

My goal while climbing in Squamish is to send a V7. To make a bouldering pyramid involves knowing first what you want to accomplish. I’ll be in Squamish for five weeks. The weather may be funky and I might end up climbing routes some days so I decided to make the top of my bouldering pyramid be a V7. My bouldering pyramid would look something like this:


V6 V6

V5 V5 V5 V5

V4 V4 V4 V4 V4 V4

V3 V3 V3 V3 V3 V3 V3 V3

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Climbing on Drone Militia in Bishop

The problems fall into three different categories: Projects, Volume problems and Warm-ups. My projects would be the first and second levels of the pyramid, the V7s and V6s. My Volume problems would be the second levels of the pyramid, the V5s and V4s. My Warm-ups would be the bottom of the pyramid, the V3s.

A few days ago I met with Steve Maisch, a climber with 23 years experience and a long time working as a climbing trainer. Maisch provided me with a bit of insight into bouldering specific pyramids. “On a bouldering trip it is usually necessary to take more rest days for skin and general strength reasons. A three day a week bouldering schedule is probably more effective. Also because doing a boulder problem takes less time more problems can be done and attempted in a day. More rest days and the ability to do more problems in a given day allows for the boulderer to project and do volume on the same day.”

Maisch suggested Day 1 I work on Hard bouldering. I warm-up by doing a few easy Warm-up problems and then a warm up problem. Then I try a top of my pyramid project. “Once you start to power down on the project stop trying and go back to camp,” said Maisch who said that it only causes worn skin.

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Colton climbing in Yosemite at Happy Isles

I take a rest day and let my skin regrow.

Day 2, I warm up and try my second tier projects, my v6s. If I finish them, then I continue onto my volume climbing and building out my pyramid.

I take a rest day.

Day 3, I warm up and then try my top tier project. Even if I don’t finish it, I try my second tier projects.

I then take two days of rest and repeat the cycle.

I have utilized a pyramid style climbing structure on a number of climbing trips. I saw great results in Hueco, in Ten Sleep and in Rifle. I may go to Squamish and find out that my goals are over ambitious so I will bump my pyramid down a letter. Or I may find that I easily dispatch my pyramid so I can bump my pyramid up a little. Either way, I'll be building a solid base to becoming a better climber. While I have less outstanding climbing days, I do manage to perform on a consistently improving basis.

For more information check out Maisch’s training page.


Touchstone Climbing in Culver City

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Well, folks. Big news. The Touchstone family is about to get even bigger...

We are thrilled to announce that we have secured a location for a state of the art indoor climbing gym in Culver City. Our first Southern California location, LA Boulders, opened in the Arts District of Los Angeles in late 2013. We're happy to have found a location that will bring a Touchstone Climbing caliber gym to the West Side. The exact location is still hush hush, but let's just say it's VERY close to the 10. 

“LA Boulders has changed the climbing gym market in Los Angeles,” said Sr. Manager Jeffery Bowling. “This new gym allows us to serve Culver City, Santa Monica, and beyond. We’re very excited about the location of the gym and thrilled by the warm welcome we have received from the L.A. climbing community.”

The Culver City gym has a 25,000 sq ft footprint, which would make it one of the largest indoor climbing gyms in the country. “We are still in the planning stages of the project, but we know we are building a very large bouldering gym. We are still exploring the idea of raising the roof to add a rope climbing area,” said Touchstone Climbing CEO Mark Melvin. 

Culver City will be a full service gym, with designated areas for programs rooms, fitness equipment, and a training area. “Offering premier climbing, fitness, and classes like yoga and kickboxing has become synonymous with the Touchstone Climbing brand,” said Director of Marketing Lauryn Claassen. “Bringing a full service gym to Culver City will be huge for both the climbing and fitness communities.” That's right people. Your climbing gym membership can also be your yoga studio membership, which will double as your home away from home!

We will once again be working with Walltopia, a leading climbing wall manufacturer and our BFFs, to build the gym. "This is our 5th project together and our partnership with Walltopia becomes stronger with each gym,” said Bowling, who visited Walltopia headquarters in Bulgaria in June. “We are ready to bring something truly innovative to the greater Los Angeles area.”

“We are cautiously confident that this project can be completed within the first half of 2015,” said Melvin. (!!!)

The Culver City gym will be the our 11th location in California. As you may remember, we announced a Pasadena location last March, which is still in the planning phase. “We are continuing to work with the city and will be announcing our progress in the coming months,” said Melvin. “These three locations give us a good start on serving the entire L.A. basin climbing community. Multiple locations in close proximity is one of the things that separates Touchstone from its competitors. When completed, one Touchstone membership will provide access to over 50,000 sq. ft. of climbing within a 20 minute drive."

Boo. Yah. Get ready for a REALLY exciting year. 



Managing Fear on the PsicoComp Wall

I grabbed the sloping hold three times but failed to commit. The twenty foot fall into the water below scared me. As I pawed at the hold, I thought about how I swam like a stone. My legs quivered a bit. I down climbed and stepped off the wall, never committing to a move that I knew I was capable of.

The PsicoComp Wall in Park City offered Mason and I a great opportunity to climb outside and escape a bit of the oppressive Utah heat. A half dozen routes from 5.9 to 5.13 climbed half way up the fifty foot wall. The upcoming PsicoComp wall provided an awesome summer treat but also served as a great reminder of one of my biggest weaknesses in climbing. I get scared.

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Mason Earle on right, climbs high on the comp wall.

Fear can be described in two types: Rational and Irrational. Rational fear is when you are in an actual dangerous situation like you’re in over your head on hard climbing with no gear. Irrational Fear is when you get scared for no reason like when you’re sport climbing and can’t climb above your bolt. Irrational fear can be quite frustrating because despite knowing that a situation is safe, like taking a twenty foot fall into water, it is psychologically debilitating.

“One of the really useful things I think was to approach things mindfully. As in to be fully aware of what you're doing and why,” said noted free soloist Alex Honnold when asked about how he deals with fear. “So if something is dangerous, you evaluate it and decide whether or not you actually want to proceed. And if it seems too dangerous, you retreat with no doubts.”

There are times when even Honnold gets scared though. I asked him about how he manages his fear. “I don't think it's so much about managing my fear, as not getting fearful to begin with. With routes like Ambrosia (a forty foot highball in Bishop California) and long solos you deal with all the uncertainty and fear before you start. You manage all that stuff on the ground. Then when you climb the route it's already taken care of. So while you're climbing, you don't get scared,” said Honnold.“But sometimes when I'm onsight soloing or even just doing stuff on gear I'll get gripped for whatever reason. Then I just do what everybody else does, take some deep breaths and try to keep it together.”


Rosie takes a practice plunge off the wall

A few of the other climbers at the pool took practice falls from lower heights. They became used to the idea of falling into the water and realized that much of their hesitance in climbing was from Irrational Fear. I noticed that climbing faster would get me to the crux less pumped and I'd be more prepared for the crux. "Fatigue makes cowards of us all," said Vince Lombardi.

I fell in a few times low on the wall and then I stared at the wall. Mason encouraged me to “just go for it.” Before leaving the ground, I chalked my hands thoroughly and committed to climbing well. I moved high on the wall, grabbed the sloper and moved into the next hold. I fought through a series of good pinches towards the top and threw for the last hold. I came up a few inches short. I screamed and splashed into the water 25 feet below. I swam back up, ready to try again.

The California Death Ride with Deborah Georges

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!


Carson Pass

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!

Crag Etiquette 101

While many find the Climber’s Book of Etiquette to be thin and flimsy, the actual nuances of proper climber behavior are plentiful and important. A faux pas at the crag can mean the difference between getting helpful beta from locals or having them throw rocks at your head. The majority of climbing etiquette comes down to basic courtesy, safety and genial human behavior. For those that need a few extra hints, below are a few extra tips.

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Fun times at Cathedral outside of Las vegas

Minimize Your Impact

Picking up Clif Bar wrappers, climbing tape, and keeping chalk in your chalk bag remain the basic essentials of crag etiquette. Tiny bits of tape easily escape people’s fingers and back packs. As do old tape gloves. When leaving the crag, sweep through and pick up the little bits of debris, the ends of the rope, the banana peels, and other trash. Showing up and leaving trash everywhere is what people do at their parent’s house. It’s unacceptable at the crag. Carefully dispose of human waste. Never use the bathroom underneath a route or boulder problem. That just stinks. When arriving at a climbing area, keep from throwing your crash pads, back packs, and ropes in the vegetation. Stay on trails when hiking to and from the climbing zone. Protecting the climbing area will ensure that people welcome you back.

Turn Down The Volume

Many climbers head to the crags to escape the loud grind of their daily lives. Noise remains one of the most over looked forms of crag pollution. From bumping the latest Miley Cyrus twerking hit to screaming beta, loud climbers affect the people around them. If you want music at the crag, wear headphones. Providing tips on how to do a move on a route can be helpful but screaming them across the wall annoys everyone around you. Know when your beat spray is unsolicited. Not every climber wants to hear the nuances of the route you’ve been projecting for five years. Unless you’re sport climbing at the Virgin River Gorge, where the sound of sound of a four lane highway and jackhammers will drown your screams of “Mono, mono, gaston!,” keep the volume to a minimum. Throwing wobblers, emotional temper tantrums, is never acceptable. It’s just rock climbing. Keep the crag peaceful by turning down your volume.

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This is a climber's truck that exploded due to excessively loud beta spray. Keep the volume down

Know the Area

Every crag has a specific style and etiquette. At some crags, the locals will scald you for breathing through your mouth in a cave. “It increases humidity!” They’ll scream. Other areas, locals will wonder why you forgot to bring the circus of pads, videographers, and production assistants. Know the history of the area and who the locals are. Treating the locals with respect helps avoid problems. Also, be especially considerate when making a first ascent. Gluing, cleaning rock, and bolting are all hugely important to the local community. The majority of climbing guides contain a section on local ethics in the introduction. Read these tiny nuggets and they’ll help you stay out of trouble. Being informed about the area you’re climbing at will help minimize social blunders.

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Ron learns a little about batting practice after a lengthy discussion of local ethics.

Consider Other Climbers

Think about other people climbing on the same routes as you. If you’re out bouldering, put chalk on your hands before you touch the holds. This keeps the rock from getting greasy after you finished your salami sandwich. Brush the holds after you climb and erase tick marks. Most people like the adventure of deciphering a climb. Tick marks can be confusing and an eyesore. If someone is climbing below you on a trad route, be careful not to drop anything or kick loose works. Keep from rappelling onto their heads. Be as organized as possible when meeting other parties on routes, this will facilitate the process of moving around each other. Pick routes or problems that you will be able to climb quickly and efficiently to avoid congestion on popular routes. Leaving a top rope on a climb all day can be serious poor form. If you have a rope on a route, be actively climbing on it. Also, be willing to share anchors with other parties on nearby routes. Separate your gear as much as possible to avoid problems. Being considerate of other climbers will allow them and you to enjoy the climbing more.

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Tyson heads to The Grail to avoid crowds and have a mellow experience.

Be Patient

The most popular routes often have a ton of people climbing on them. If there are other people in line to climb a route, think about trying something different. This goes for climbing long traditional routes as well. Be considerate of the queue. Climb the most popular routes on weekdays to avoid crowds. Climb something different if there are people already on the route. Avoid congestion at the warm-ups by starting your climbing day early. If you decide to climb a route with another party on it, be patient. The climbers ahead of you have the right of way. Keep from chatting too much with the belayer as this often causes them to lose focus and could lead to an accident. Enjoy the outdoors and be patient while you’re out climbing.


Hayden relaxes on a weekend, going for a bit of a later start to the crag to avoid the crowds.

Control Your Junk Show

Having three crash pads, two stick brushes, and eight chalk buckets directly below the start of a boulder problem aggravates everyone who wants to climb. Keep your climbing gear orderly and in a central location. Keep control of your junk show. If you bring an animal to the crag, make sure your pet is leashed and on good behavior before you take them out. Dogfights at the crag stink for everyone involved. There can be vet bills and general chaos from the fights. If you’re dog is nosing around in other climber’s gear, tie it up. I’ve seen dogs eat climber lunches. This makes for a horrible situation, as there’s nothing worse than a starving sport climber. They get really angry. Just like with human waste, clean up dog poop at the crag and pack it out. If you’re bringing children to the crag, make sure they are quiet and obedient. Crags are dangerous places with rocks and gear falling constantly. Be careful with your children. Keep a handle on your equipment, your pets, and your children to avoid trouble and irritating other climbers.

Better Know a Setter: Wes Miraglio

DSC 0203-2They'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 Wes Miraglio. 

How long have you been route setting?
5 years total, 1 year with Touchstone this September.

How did you get into route setting?
My friend, Chris Bloch. Thanks buddy for giving some punk kid a chance to learn.

What is your favorite gym to set at and why?
Dogpatch and LA Boulders. Yeah, the floors and the boards can be heinous at times, but I think the terrain and layout of the gyms are cool.

What are you route setting pet peeves?
Striped bolts and t-nuts. It's the hate.

What is in your route setting bag right now?
Wrench, harness, drill, charger and extra battery, shoes, chalkbags for bolts and regular chalk, headphones, gri gris, jumar and aider, dogging draw, sweatshirt, extra shirt, shorts, phone charger.

What inspires your routes?
I don't know. I just strip and screw for a living. Seriously. I wish I could say "Oh this route inspires this moves or that problem got me psyched to try this" but I can't. I maybe have a thought then forget it. It's kinda bad.

What is your favorite memory setting with the Touchstone Crew?
The Bishop trip last year. Just don't let Flea get a hold of a BB gun...

Where is your favorite place to climb outside?
Anywhere in California really, specifically Bishop and/Tahoe areas. Hueco is cool, but you have to put up with the restrictions and being in Wanda's World and the rangers. Colorado you have to deal with the snow the attitude of the Boulder climbers. Vegas is a shitshow. I'd say California has it pretty much made. Tahoe, Yosemite, Tuolumne, Eastside, and other areas make it hard on other areas.

What is your proudest send?
You mean something I'm proud of? On a rope it's easily "Warp Factor"( 5.13a) at Donner Summit. But whatever. On to the next one.

What is your advice for aspiring setters?
Ask questions, be open to change. And take credit for your not so good routes. Turds happen from time to time. But in reality, don't ask me. I don't know shit.

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Taking Better Climbing Photos

Taking good climbing photos can be quite difficult. Most professional photographers snap around 100 pictures for every 1 decent shot. They spend days scoping lines they want to shoot, finding climbers and aligning everything. For most of us, taking a good picture of our weekend adventure can be fun enough. A few pro climbers offered up tips on making your climbing pictures just a little bit better.

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“Stick with shade or sun but not a mix,” said Eddie Bauer adventure photographer Ben Ditto. Knowing your light helps immensely with photos. Capturing the golden glow of a sunset on the rock makes a low angle slab turn into a beautiful scene but on an even more basic level, stick to one style of light. Mixing exposures creates blown out backgrounds or a difficult to see subject.

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Andrew Burr, a Climbing Magazine photographer, offered sage photo advice for me in Indian Creek earlier this year. “Make sure your fingers not in front of the lens.” After getting that basic down, he told me to be prepared for a day of taking pictures. “Make sure your camera is charged before heading up.” Take the time to order your equipment before getting in position to shoot.


National Geographic photographer Mikey Schaeffer offered the advice to use the Rule of Thirds. Placing a grid of 3 x 3 squares on your photo, the subject matter should reach the intersection of these. This creates a greater sense of tension in your pictures. Crop your pictures well for Instagram, Facebook or a framed gift for your mom.

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“I want to see the eyes,” said Yosemite photographer Gabe Mange. Capturing your subject's face will add emotion to the scene. Make sure they are looking towards the feature they are climbing. The viewers eyes will follow.

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Other good tips include: getting all four limbs and face in a climbing picture. Shoot from above or to the side of the climbing to show where the climber is and what they are doing. Go heavy on the edits. Most importantly, take lots of pictures. Use your SLR, use you’re your point and shoot. Get out there with your iPhone. Snap lots of pictures and you’ll start to make great ones.

Climbing on Everest

Touchstone member and Bay area resident, Gulnur Tumbat spent much of the spring 2014 season on Everest this year. She wrote a bit about her experience for the Touchstone blog.

Getting ready for an 8000-meter expedition is a big deal. It is even bigger for someone like me who has a day job and doesn’t get to climb big mountains too often. Extensive financial commitment, months if not years of mental preparation, time off from work, organization of the life left behind including the apartment and the dog etc for 2+ months… In the midst of this craziness, which I am not doing justice here in any way, one has to be physically training really hard.

Everest Base Camp

Professional mountaineers always say the best way to train to climb a big mountain is to climb big mountains. Period. They are wise. But living a rather “normal” life makes it too difficult if not impossible for someone like me to regularly climb real mountains. Now it was my time to go climb Everest. I am an endurance athlete. I run, bike, and rock-climb. I work out 5-6 days a week. Mostly I run long distances. Aerobically I have been in fantastic shape. Yet big mountains are a different story. You need to be strong, really strong.

Everest from Pumori Basecamp

While searching and trying work-outs to achieve more of that for years in the city, I discovered a boot-camp class very randomly at my climbing gym, which is a full-facility gym with all kinds of classes but none got my attention before. Kristine Rios, the super experienced trainer, knew what she was doing. Proper warm-ups and intense crazy work-outs were capped by proper stretching. I was impressed by how she took every step seriously and paid attention to improper forms if any. She did everything with detail to minimize injuries. Every class she’d come up with something different and interesting for people like me who really wish not to be in a gym. Nothing became repetitive or boring. She has everything for you including some Cross-Fit-like moves without the irritating cultness associated with the name. I was able to observe how much stronger I was getting and felt fantastic after only the first 6-months. I am thankful to her for that.

Climbing Half Dome with James Lucas and Christina Freschl

My toes dangled over the ledge. I pushed against the tiny sidewalk and shuffled with my back against the wall, staring at the 2,000 foot drop. I fought into a chimney at the end of the narrow “Thank God Ledge.” A few more feet and I’d be done being scared, I hoped.

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In June of 1957, Royal Robbins, Mike Sherrick and Jerry Gallwas made the first ascent of the The Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome. Using pitons and tenacity they fought their way up one of the greatest technical rock climbs of the time. The large granite dome remains one of the more difficult rock climbs in Yosemite and an excellent challenge for rock climbers.

The previous day, while I rested and enjoyed riding my bike around the Valley loop, Christina Freschl, a Bay Area teacher and Touchstone crusher, attacked the Cedar Eater, a notorious offwidth boulder problem near Happy Isles. The wide climbing did little to deter the Oakland teacher's psyche and the next morning we biked towards Mirror Lake at 5 am.

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I spent the first two hours complaining about the hike as we marched to the base of Half Dome via the infamous Death Slabs. The trail features a number of fixed ropes and requires hiking through a gully. A large white scar on Half Dome taunts climbers hiking up. About a decade ago, a few thousand pounds of rock came off the formation and smashed into the gully, nearly killing two climbers on their way down. I kept complaining and hiked faster to the base.

A small spring runs seasonly at the base of the route and we filled our water and hydrated. Christina took off on the initial pitches, leading the first large chunk of the climb. The route follows alpine rock with difficult route finding through a short bolt ladder and cracks to a large traverse section. I grabbed the rack and hustled through. Christina had been on the lead for nearly four hours.

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We swung across a series of bolts, climbed a long section of chimneys and kept pulling on gear through the steep Zig Zags. I wanted to climb the route to scope the potential of free climbing the formation later this year. I realized that I was awfully tired from all the hiking and though the Zig Zags were quite good, the hiking left something to be desired. We continued along the top across the infamous Thank God Ledge. I left my aiders on the ground and pulled on gear when I felt like the free climbing was too hard. We topped out the formation in eight hours. As soon as we began the descent, I started complaining about the hiking.

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At the base, a squirrel had attacked my pack, despite my hiding it under rocks. I should have hung it in a tree. We had lost our precious chocolate and nut trail mix. Christina remained in good spirits but I complained as we hiked down the trail. We reached the base in the early evening and celebrated by going to the Ahwahnee bar for dinner. We ate hungrily. Christina headed back to the Bay area the next morning to climb in Tahoe for the weekend and I returned to toiling in Yosemite.

Climbing the route was an awesome adventure with a good friend. Christina got a chance to learn a bit more about jumaring, moving fast over varied terrain and climbing efficiently and I got to complain about the six hours of hiking to the eight hours of climbing we did. And have a great time!


Brotherhood of the Traveling Sombrero Racing at Hood River

The Brotherhood of the Traveling Sombrero, a Touchstone Climbing sponsored down hill mountain biking team recently raced the first round of the Oregon endure series held at Hood River. Enduro, popularized in a last few years, is a race format that involves timed downhill stages taking between 3-8 minutes each and untimed transfer stages involving the majority of the climbing. After 2 days of racing and 8 stages, the lowest combined time reins supreme. A few of the team members spoke about the race.

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Wow! All I can say is what a race! Driving 8 hours on Thursday and another 2.5 hours to arrive at the Hood River Enduro on Friday around 11:00 was a speedy trip. I did not know what to expect from an endure race. Having raced downhill races, cross country races, dual slalom, and super D I had a little bit of a background to racing but I didn’t know how I was going to tackle 8 stage races within two days! Friday we got shuttled up to the top of the mountains behind Hood River and followed other riders to the beginning of stage 1. We got a little confused and lost but ended up riding stages 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, and 8. By the end of just the first shuttle run, all three of us were pretty dead tired and didn’t feel like going back up to ride stages 3 and 4 deciding to save our energy for race day tomorrow. Saturday came and so did the race excitement! Going into the first stage I decided to hold back just a bit thinking I was going to not be able to recover my strength between stages and saving some for the last stage. I was wrong. I learned I could go all out each stage and be able to recover pretty much 100% in between stages. On stage 2 I got a flat tire but that didn’t slow me down; I peddled it out to the end of the stage and quickly changed my flat. Stages 3 and 4 we ran blind having not practiced on them. Stage 3 I got a good time but stage 4 I ended up crashing, bending my handlebars, brake levers, and seat! Stage 4 wasn’t a proud moment. All in all, the first day of racing enduro I learned a lot: you can ride as fast as possible and be fully recovered by the next stage and to peddle every chance you get!

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Sunday came with a new mentality: ride fast and be dead tired after each stage. We rode all stages for Sunday and I knew that they were more downhill oriented which gave me a bit of an advantage having raced downhill quite a few times in the past. The first race of Sunday, Stage 5 was a long one but very fun! Stage 6 had a very steep section that felt like home to me on the bike; steep is where I gain speed! Stages 7 and 8 were both very fast and I ended up finishing 22 out of 50 riders for the entire Hood River Enduro Expert Men 19-39. I’m very satisfied with my results and added onto my bicycling racing experience. I can’t wait to ride my next enduro race knowing what I’m in for.

-Andy Goldman

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The race was great fun; the whole vibe of the event was low key, and surprisingly Happy-go-lucky. The whole thing felt like a long ride with friends. That said, the expert men 19-39 field was fast, very fast. With lots of mistakes throughout the 2 days including 2 pedal ejects on rock sections, 2 off track excursions, and thinking stage 6 ended 800 feet before it actually did, meant I had to settle for a 27th. But cold beer on tap, and free lunch helped sooth the fact that my compatriots beat me. On to the next one!

-Daniel Melvin

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The first Oregon Enduro Series was definitely one of the most fun races I've ever competed in. Probably the most epic part of the race were the trails at Hood River. I had never ridden there before, so showing up to race on unknown territory was a little scary. What we found were trails that were similar to those of our home territory in Marin County. There was ton of flow, some sweet techy sections, and a lot of fast and dry corners. My favorite stage probably had to be the first one- the first half of it was super dry corners with tons of rocks. After a harsh little climb, you then went into a super fast flow section that shot you out into the finish, creating a fun ending to the race- I ended up in 5th on this stage. I'm super pumped we made it out there to the first Oregon Enduro Series and I definitely plan on competing in at least one more this summer. The whole enduro scene is pretty amazing and very chilled out, making it an epic experience each race day.

-Daniel Thompson


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