In late April five members of the Touchstone’s family ventured to Colombia for a little adventure and a healthy dose of climbing. Justin Alarcon the manager of Dogpatch Boulders, Lauryn Claassen the director of Social Media and Marketing, and Ryan Moon from the Berkeley Ironworks team were joined by Justin’s wife Becky and longtime member and friend Eric Vergne. Justin, Lauryn, and Ryan offer some insights into their travels.
How’d this trip come about?
Ryan: After pretty much committing to a trip to Kentucky's Red River Gorge, I bumped into a BIW member friend of mine (Camilo Lopez) who had just returned from Colombia. He mentioned the price of the plane ticket, how far the US dollar goes, and last, but not least, the adventure.
Lauryn: You know [when] people are talking about a trip, but nobody is pulling the trigger... it's just not meant to be. After Ryan ran into Camilo tickets were booked within the week. I love spanish, collecting passport stamps, and trips that include exploring new cultures along with climbing.
What did you know about Colombia before departing?
Justin: Aside from a little soccer history and a dangerous reputation, not much. Of course I researched the climbing as best I could before we left but there is not a ton of information out there. A few videos and trip reports, but that’s it really.
Ryan: I literally had very few expectations. The general lack of information I had about Colombian climbing had me feeling pretty in-the-dark about the experience as a whole. However, I knew whom I was traveling with (awesome girlfriend + great friends) and that Colombia had become MUCH safer than it's reputation suggests.
How were you surprised on the trip?
Lauryn: I was surprised by how friendly every. single. person. in Colombia was. EVERYONE. People would just ignore you and let you go about you day, until the moment that you stopped to ask for directions or needed help. Then they would go out of their way to help you out. I was also surprised how safe I felt. Walking down the street in the booming metropolis of Bogota or the small town of Sesquile, it didn’t matter. This country is amazing and everyone should go and feel bad about thinking it's a dangerous place.
Ryan: I forgot what 9,000 feet of elevation felt like. I had heard that Colombians were super nice, but they even were nice than that. Unfortunately, unpleasantly surprised at how lack luster the food was. Although it wasn't "terrible", sampling local cuisine on travels abroad is one of my favorite things to do. I can eat chicken and french fries back at home.
Justin: We did have two amazing meals in Bogotá.
How did you like the climbing? What would you recommend to other climbers looking to travel to Colombia?
Justin: We spent all of our climbing time in Suesca. The rock quality was great, but lines weren’t worth writing home about in my opinion. Unfortunately, due to the short duration of our trip and a combination of lost luggage and poor planning we weren’t able to check out some of the many other areas in Colombia that, in my opinion, look far better than Suesca.
Ryan: The climbing was, dare I say "fun". Unless I'm cleaning boulders, it's not very easy to get me on a rope. Although a lot of the climbs were pretty short by sport climbing standards, this made switching gears into endurance mode a wee bit easier. It seemed like most of the climbs were fairly easy moves separated by hard-ish boulder problems and get-everything-back ledge rests. While quality of rock was high, quantity was low. I most likely will not be revisiting Suesca (the climbing area) having done most of what I can do.
Lauryn: If you're going to go on a climbing trip to Colombia, you should bring gear. We only brought sport gear by accident, but we needed cams too.
What were some non-climbing activities you would most recommend?
Lauryn: Museums! Bogota! Lake filled with gold! Practicing Spanish! Watching soccer! Buses!
Justin: Plan to spend at least part of your trip in Cartegena. Take the gondola to the top of the mountain in Bogotá for amazing views of the city and get your picture taken on the back of an alpaca.
Ryan: Check out the Botero museum — best paintings of chubby people ever!
Did anyone eat any bad empanadas?
Justin: Two of us caught a belly demon towards the end of the trip.
Ryan: Bring extra underwear.
The Valley big wall season is kicking into high gear. The Touchstone Climbing gyms have just received a great new guide to Yosemite.
Recently, Erik Sloan and Roger Putnam put together a comprehensive guide to all of the Yosemite big wall routes. The full color book features over 300 routes, which is five times what the Supertopo features and twice what the previous Don Reid book contained.
An example overlay of Liberty Cap
Over the course of five years, Sloan and Putnam put together the 376 page color guide using the topos of hundreds of Yosemite locals and travelers. A dedicated Yosemite climber, Sloan has been described as “possibly one of the best in the world at aid climbing 5.8.” While Putnam has never drank a King Cobra.
The pair created a companion website, www.yosemitebigwall.com updates and free topos are available. “This is the new guidebook paradigm - we created a free online library, where you can research topos or find out the latest beta, which is supported by book and Ebook sales,” said Sloan.
The thirty dollar book features amazing color photos of big wall routes throughout Yosemite. It offers great adventure for any Yosemite climber. It's now available at the Touchstone Gyms.
The Touchstone community fosters a number of great projects from climbers. Recently, Andrea Jensen started Beyond the 100th, a company that produces climbing chalk bags.
Jensen, a seven year veteran at Berkeley Ironworks, climber began making the unique style of Beyond the 100th chalkbags in early 2013.
Using material from old synthetic and down jackets, Jensen sews together stylish and functional chalk bags. “I wanted to have a unique style and just happen to wear puffy coats,” said Jensen. “I garnered feedback from a few friends who are designers for outdoor clothing companies and they loved the idea
The locally crafted bags have gathered a solid following in the Bay area climbing community with climbers in the south and north part of the bay climbing at Cosumnes River Gorge, Castle Rock and across the state with the bags. Jensen has been able to see her hard work in action. “Its a proud moment knowing that I took an idea and saw my idea through the design,” said Jensen, “sourcing of all the materials and finding someone that could sew the bags locally for me! It's been a lot of fun, but a lot of work “
Beyond the 100th refers to beyond the 100th meridian or longitude. “This signifies the American West and where we find adventure in the outdoors,” said Jensen. “Coincidentally this is also the name of a Wallace Stegner book about John Wesley Powell's trek down the Colorado River.”
The bags area available through Beyond the 100th Facebook page where she posts pictures of the bags in action.
Mike Papciak, a well-known Bay Area climber and bodyworker, has been a longtime member of the Touchstone community. Born in Detroit and growing up in Atlanta Georgia, Papciak traveled and climbed across the western United States before arriving in 1992 at Diablo Rock Gym Manager Hans Florine's Bay Area home. Mike has climbed for more than 30 years and has helped climbers with their bodies for the past six. He spoke with the Touchstone blog about climbing and bodywork.
John Vallejo snapped this photo of Mike climbing at Mortar Rock
When did you start climbing?
1983 during the Atlanta years. Westerners might not know it, but Atlanta is in fact a great climbing town. I wish I had more time there.
How did you start climbing?
My high school youth group took a bus trip around the U.S. after freshman year. This included a few days in Yosemite. I saw dudes bouldering in Camp 4 and that was it. We also hiked Half Dome and looked over the edge and that was it, too. I went back home and used the Rockcraft books and the Sierra Club book that was shot at Indian Rock, and taught myself how to climb from those. Mostly bouldering, because there were some funky jungle-covered boulders within biking distance. Usually I climbed alone, no pads, just me and the skeeters. This is probably how I fell in love with The Move. Eventually I found a couple partners and mowed enough lawns to buy some Goldline, a Whillans harness, and some hexes. There were no gyms and we were always keen to climb, so we did weird, nerdy stuff like free-solo skyhooking on the sides of brick buildings, rappelling off the high school at midnight, lots of buildering and traversing on retaining walls. A couple times a month we could take the car and the rain would stop and we'd get out to the excellent crags of North Georgia, Alabama, Chattanooga, etc. My first love has always been bouldering: simple, powerful, social, solitary. I'll never quit.
What are some of the highlights from your climbing career?
France in 1993. I spent a month there, mostly at Ceuse, which is one of the best and most gorgeous crags in the world, at a time before internet media, when little was knowable in advance about these almost-mythical places. Most of the homies who went to France back then did so with a crew of other Americans. They'd rent a house and a car together, climb with the same partners they climbed with at home, and have lots of bickering and drama. Fine and good, but I wanted the cultural sink-or-swim experience, so I went alone, took a train down south from Paris, hitchhiked to the crags (I got an epic ride thru the Hautes-Alpes in a convertible Maserati), and climbed with random Euros. I did some 7c onsights and a few 5.13s in a couple tries each. Brilliant routes on immaculate rock in an exotic setting. Hueco in the late 80s/early 90s was another highlight: open, empty, and quiet. A secret that hadn't been spoiled yet. You would actually be psyched to run into other climbers in the park, because it was so rare, and because it was so cool to run into other climbers who came all the way to west Texas to go bouldering. Like meeting members of the lost tribe. My indoor highlight was winning a couple comps in the mid-90s, which showed me that people who were too cool to talk to you beforehand would come up to you after you won, and kiss your ass -- lame! Locally, my highlight is the second ascent of The Kraken at Mortar in March 1997. Over thirty years of climbing, my first ascent record has been undistinguished: a couple forgettable routes in Arizona and a few eliminates on the local choss around the Bay Area, the best of which is probably Hoop Dreams -- all five feet of it. I'm noticing that all my highlights are from last century! Hilarious and pathetic. Time to go climbing.
Mike doing body work in Berkeley
What do you do for work?
I'm a bodyworker. The paperwork says "massage therapist," and that term is correct if you want to use it, but there's some baggage around the word "massage" that I don't like, and it also suggests an approach and style of working that's different from what I do. The term bodywork has been in use for a few decades and I like its literalness: I work on bodies. I work with all of your contractile and connective tissue -- muscles, fascia, tendons, ligaments -- to unravel the stored tension, adhesion, and neuromuscular dysfunction that we naturally accumulate with the stress and exertion of modern life. I help with pain or discomfort if you're injured chronically or acutely; I help optimize performance if you're a performing artist or athlete; and I help give you more ease and relaxation in your body. Working closely with different kinds of people and their experience of embodiment is truly special. I love it. My practice is diverse: in a given week, I might see a pro climber, a retiree training for the AIDS ride, a computer professional with hand and wrist problems, a choral singer who needs more ribcage mobility, a yoga teacher, an exhausted parent or two, and a couple folks who are refugees from mediocre massage and want some expert, precise, thorough bodywork, and deep relaxation. I also teach individuals and corporate groups how to self-treat their own aches and pains. I call this muscle hygiene: just like brushing your teeth, you can, in a few minutes' time maybe twice a day, live with less pain, more comfort, and better performance. Take care of your musculature and you will reap astounding benefits.
How does bodywork apply to climbing?
One of my basic messages is: your body's probably not as injured as you think it is. But it needs maintenance. Maintenance takes time, effort, and money. Many climbers and other athletes come to see me after months of despair over what they assume is some kind of slow-healing tendonitis or joint-related problem. Often it turns out that the tendon healed long ago, and the joint is undamaged. Their lingering pain, weakness, and restriction comes from adhesion, dysfunction, and compensation in the surrounding neighborhood of contractile tissue. When those areas are restored to full functionality, the supposed tendon problem dissipates. Another basic message is: even the good stuff makes us tight. This includes our exercise -- climbing, running, even yoga. It's not that these things are bad, or as climbers like to say, "hard on the body" -- our bodies evolved beautifully to do things like run and climb. Instead, where many of us blow it is in the aftercare. We don't do that maintenance. We might do a hasty warmup, throw a few stretches at our hamstrings now and then, and do some pushups, and think we're being all sophisticated and preventing injury. Those pushups won't do anything to release tension from overloaded and imbalanced shoulders. And stretching can actually make us tighter. (This is not to be confused with yoga, which is so much more than stretching. Yoga is one of the best technologies I have encountered for staying healthy in your body, and it is a shoulder re-education like no other. I predict that in the future, yoga will be considered essential cross-training and injury prevention for climbers.) What's missing from many climbers' programs is release work. This is my generic term for therapies that release tension and adhesion in the musculature: bodywork, massage therapy, chiropractic, self-treatment with foam rollers and other tools, etc. I'll leave you with this thought: A tight muscle is a weak muscle. It takes much more effort to use a muscle that's stiff and dysfunctional than to use a muscle that's pliable and responsive. Tight muscles are also slower, less coordinated, and more prone to tearing, spasm, and injury. An athlete who's not getting regular release work from a practitioner and/or doing it on their own is hobbling their performance. Loosen up!
Has climbing helped with your bodywork, and has your bodywork helped with your climbing at all?
Yes in both directions. They're great cross-training for each other. Climbing keeps me strong for working on bodies. Working on bodies five days a week is a kind of manual labor, so after some years of decline, I'm getting stronger again. Now I just gotta take a climbing trip!
Find out more on mikepapciak.com, and Like Mike Papciak Bodywork Facebook to ask questions and receive occasional content about bodywork and your health.
There's just something different in the air. Spring has already sprung, graduate students are looking even more stressed out than usual, and the Tioga Pass is about to open. This could only mean one thing, SUMMER IS HERE!
Over at Touchstone land, we know that summer is a time where everything happens a little differently. Perhaps you're a student back in town for the summer, or a teacher who final has a little 'YOU' time. Whatever the reason, we've got an awesome deal on NOW.
Presenting... our 3 month Summer Membership. This pre-paid special membership is available now at every Touchstone Climbing gym. Stop by, check it out, and make the most out of your summer!
In early April The SF Park and Recreation department shut down climbing at the 'localest of local' crags, the Beaver Street Wall and Glen Canyon. While a reasons are unconfirmed, we are hoping to work with Bay Area Climbers Coalition, Access Fund and other local climbers to help re-open these areas.
Bay Area climbers Matt Ulery and Tresa Black have been working with the Parks and Rec department to set up a meeting and discuss how the climbing community can work with the city to preserve and protect these areas. "Sure it's small crag," said Ulery. "But if we let the little ones go, then what happens when a larger area is threatened?"
Touchstone Climbing has created post cards with the following text that are available at Mission Cliffs and Dogpatch Boulders.
I am concerned about the proposal to eliminate or prohibit rock climbing activity at Beaver Street Wall and Glen Canyon. Recreation in urban environments like San Francisco is limited, almost non-existant for rock climbers. These are valuable resources to the climbing community. Whether reported complaints are substantiated or not, the climbing community is as firmly against any form of modification to the rock or the associated environment as anyone. We can be part of any solution, if there really is a problem. Please don't restrict rock climbing at Beaver Street Wall and Glen Canyon.
We will be collecting completed cards to present to the Parks and Recreation Department. Please consider stopping by the gym to express your support and try to keep responsible outdoor climbing in San Francisco a reality!
Never been to the crag? Check out the description from Mountain Project:
Located in the city of San Francisco, this area is part of the San Francisco Parks system, so access is not a concern. You're in San Francisco, so the weather can be wonderful, but is most likely going to be foggy and windy. This small area holds some interesting climbing on very glasslike rock, that can be quite tough on the hands, and in places almost impossible to smear. On the harder routes, if you can find it a grip, finger hold, nub, anything, you'll probably need it.
This crag contains some great balancy moves, despite it's limited number of climbs. The area holds several climbs that are topropeable, and also several could potentially be climbed trad, though it would be a frightening lead on the tougher routes. To setup a toprope, walk around the left side of the rock and climb the loose rock in the trees for 20 feet or so. This will lead you to fence and a path, which will lead up to some rusty (but solid) chains that are directly above the main crack. Conceivably you could also top rope other sections using the fence for an anchor. If you're not comfortable with the 20 ft scramble and traverse over potentially slick grass and mud, the chains can be reached via a staircase and walk that ascend toward the Randall Museum about 5 or 6 houses south from Beaver Street. Just bear right as the Museum comes into view above the tennis courts.
Touchstone Climbing will be hosting SCS Youth Climbing competitions at three different locations this spring, bringing USA climbing to the Bay Area! We are excited to be trying something new and we’re thrilled to be able to make it a very exciting comp season for both youth competitors and our members.
Here is the schedule for the Spring SCS Comp series at Touchstone:
Locals: April 12th at The Studio Climbing
Regionals: May 10th at Berkeley Ironworks
Divisionals: June 14/15th at Mission Cliffs
“We’re really excited to be able to host these events and support our young climbers,” said Head Routesetter Jeremy Ho. Touchstone route setters will be setting the comp routes for the event with two guest setters. “Comp setting is different from our usual style of setting. You can expect more volumes, more mantles, and more intellectual movement. The setting doesn’t necessarily focus solely on the strength of the climbing, but on the mental growth in climbing.”
What Youth Competitors need to know:
Get psyched everyone! For the first time in [possibly] your whole lives, Touchstone Climbing will be hosting climbing comps right here on your home turf! This means that you’ll have the home field advantage while competing in local, regional, and divisional competitions.
These are USA Climbing events, which means to compete you need to register and pay an entry fee ahead of time.
Locals: The Studio Climbing The Studio Climbing is located in downtown San Jose and is built inside of an old movie theater. The route walls are over 45 ft high and the unique layout of the building makes it an awesome gym to climb and spectate.
Regionals: Berkeley Ironworks BIW is one of Touchstone’s oldest gyms and the lead cave is the stuff of legend! With plenty of free parking and Berkeley Bowl only a few blocks away, it’s a very commuter friendly gym to compete at. If you didn’t compete at two local comps, you can still compete at regionals, however you will not be able to move on to divisionals.
Divisionals: Mission Cliffs MC’s recent expansion added 5,000 square feet of brand new terrain to the gym, and boy oh boy do those new colors POP! Located in the Mission District of San Francisco, we are walking distance from a BART station and on several bus lines.
What members need to know:
Don’t worry loyal members, we haven’t forgotten about you! While the gyms will be a big of a zoo on the days of the comps, we will still be open for business as usual. Feel free to come by and climb, workout, or cheer in the little whipper snappers who are campusing your project.
But the real fun will be the day AFTER the comps. You know, when the kids have gone home but there are still a plethora of comp style routes…?! Yeah. We’ll be hosting events at each location the day after the SCS comps, so us big kids can have a shot at the routes! We’ll have scorecards, prizes, and vendors to make it a big event. Be sure to mark your calendar and come test your comp climbing skills!
We will have events at The Studio Climbing, Berkeley Ironworks, and Mission Cliffs.
“Comp style climbing at a Touchstone Climbing Comp? Yes Please!” said long time Touchstone Climbing member Alex Witte. I’m so excited to see the exciting movement that our setters comp up with!”
On March 13th, the world lost an amazing man in Zion National Park in a base jumping accident. Sean “Stanley” Leary was well known in the climbing world. In Yosemite, he had climbed El Capitan more than 50 times and established new rock routes across North America. He explored new lines in the Arctic, Patagonia, Baffin Island, and Venezuela.
Dean Fidelman photo
Beyond his climbing achievements, Stanley was an accomplished BASE (buildings, antennae, spans and earth) jumper. He often flew in a squirrel suit, a specially designed wing suit which increased glide ratios. He established new exits around the world and helped revolutionize BASE jumping.
Born in San Joaquin County on Aug. 23, 1975, Sean Leary grew up in the small Northern California town of Pine Grove. More recently, he lived between his family home in El Portal and with his ophthalmoligist wife, Annamieka in Sacramento.
Climbers from across the world, gathered in Zion National Park to help with the recovery. Because Sean didn't just rock climb and BASE jump, he touched people's lives.
While climbing The Zodiac on El Capitan with Bryan “Coiler” Kay, Sean neglected to bring a real wall climbing hammer. Instead, he dug through his draws in El Portal and produced a humble carpenter’s tool, a Stanley hammer. The nickname stuck.
I met Stanley in 2001, when I first arrived in Yosemite. He invited me to boulder with him in Curry. Over the years, we climbed together, we laughed together, we became friends.
Years ago, I pulled brush and tossed it in a pile. Stanley ran around the yard, sawing trees at random. A Yosemite local hired Stanley to clear the brush for fire hazards. I was there because Stanley had been complaining. He loved to complain. His hot wife wanted to have sex with him so he had to drive all the way from Yosemite to Sacramento. The upcoming Arctic expedition meant he’d never get strong enough for his Jailhouse sport project. Stanley could transform gold to iron.
“The owners are paying me a ton of money to not climb,” Stanley said. I knew Stanley could use the money and I needed a climbing partner. If we finished the job, then we could both go climbing. We spent half a day working before Stanley lost motivation. Stanley hated work, preferring to live.
“I’ll give you money when I stop by the ATM,” Stanley said. I shrugged. Stanley agreed to climb the West Face of the Leaning Tower with me. That’s what I wanted. Snow fell while we worked the route. Stanley freed a steep section of granite, a thousand feet off the ground. He climbed behind a white curtain. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. Stanley sent the route the next week. I worked on the route for a while and eventually, I freed it. Stanley sent me an excited congratulation note, my hero telling me I was rad.
A year later, we stood by the Yosemite lodge. I’d recalled his climbing through the storm, having long forgotten about the job. He’d inspired me.
“Oh yeah, I finally made it to the ATM,” Stanley said. He opened his wallet and stuffed money into my hand. I laughed.
“1…2…3…go!” Stanley said, laughing. In the summer of 2013, Stanley hit the stop watch and I started running up steep granite. Sickle. Stove Legs. King Swing. I looked down. Stanley was fifteen feet below me staring at the birds swooping by. Great Roof. Changing Corners. Bolt Ladder. I looked up. Stanley was at the top, shouting for me to run run run. I touched the tree. Panting hard. Stanley laughed. I wasn’t sure what happened in between. I’d been attached to a bullet. We’d just climbed the Nose of El Capitan in 6 hours.
Stanley climbed fast. On El Cap, at Jailhouse, at the climbing gym, his gazelle-esque climbing style helped him establish numerous difficult free ascents and set speed records. When we climbed the Nose, all I wanted to do was go home and eat elk burgers. Stanley wanted climb more at the Cathedral boulders. He had a circuit there on lock down and could dispatch the classics easily. We would joke about going to "onsight" the Cathedrals. He would quickly tick away the problems. Stanley had an unbridled, manic energy.
Stanley owned two dogs. Nexpa looked like Stanley- thin and fast. He loved her dearly and would coo, “Oh Nexie.” Then he would end her shivering by wrapping her in his down jacket. Stanley found her as a puppy on the side of the road near El Potrero Chico, Mexico. Her throat had been slit. He nursed the dog back to health. Her scar remained. More recently, Stanley showed up at Mortar Rock with an energetic puppy. Bravo darted around with Stanley’s unbridled energy. Stanley and Annamieka rescued a second dog so Nexpa could have someone to lord over. They also wanted to add a little to their family.
In 2010, Stanley married Annamieka in El Cap meadow. The wedding was small and intimate. I had met Mieka in the parking lot of Toulumne years before. Quiet and beautiful in the rain, she’d smiled and been very nice to me. After dropping off his truck at the mechanics in Mariposa, getting medicine for Nexpa, and doing a bit of climbing, I dropped Stanley off at his place that he shared with Mieka in Berkeley. She smiled when I saw her and was very nice to me. Seeing Stanley with her, I saw their love for each other.
Beyond his many climbing brothers, Stanley was expanding his family. Mieka recently became pregnant. Stanley was nervous about having a child but he was nervous about all the important things in life. He would have made a great father. Mieka is due at the end of May.
Last week in Zion, climbers from across North America rallied to help search for Stanley. It was an intense time. I cursed Stanley for making me bush whack through the cactus in the desert furnace. It was an adventure that he wasn’t on. I loved him for allowing me to meet his family- his mother, his sister, his brothers, to spend time with Annamieka. Mostly, I missed him. He was a great person to have had in my life.
A memorial account has been set up for Annamieka and the baby.
Mountain America Credit Union
Sean "Stanley" Leary Memorial Fund
P.O. Box 9001
West Jordan, UT 84084