After 9 months, 9 gyms, and over 5,000 competitors, the Touchstone Rope Series 2014 competition ended with a bang last Friday at Mission Cliffs. Over 400 men and women came to compete in beginner, intermediate, or advanced categories at our origional gym in the heart of San Francisco. Climbers had 5 hours to climb their hardest, with the top men and women competing in on-sight finals at 6pm.
Head Routesetter Jeremey Ho, who leaned back in his chair and thoughtfully stroked his fu manchu beard when we asked him for comment said, "It went about as smoothly as it possibly could! Through our recent USAC experiences, we've learned a lot about the organizational aspects of running on-sight finals."
Check out the on-sight finals in this awesome video by member Matt Grossman.
Between 5pm and 6pm emcee extraordinaire Zach Wright kept the crowd entertained as the route setters worked to unveil comp routes for men and women. Huge thanks to Blue Water Ropes, prAna, evolv, Stone Age Climbing, Alite, Boreal, and many more for donating prizes to raffle out to anyone who competed. It definitely paid big time to climb in the event!
"Mission Cliffs was the perfect venue for the ropes finale," said manager Donna Hawkins. "I can't remember how we used to do it before our Walltopia expansion!" The expansion of the gym, which added over 9,000 sq ft of climbing to Mission Cliffs, allowed competitors to spread out and decreased waiting time between comp routes. Huge thanks to staff, routesetters, management, and our many members and guests to came out to make this finale one for the books. We're so happy to be able to host such a popular comp series, and we wouldn't be able to do it without you!
To check your scores from the comp - click here.
To check out the full gallery of photos by Jeff Rueppel - click here.
The Touchstone Climbing Series Rope Finale is this Saturday at Mission Cliffs! Read on to find out 10 fun facts about our comp series!
10. The logo was created by our Graphic Designer.
Heather Campbell, who is the bees knees, created the baller logo and t-shirt design that can be seen on the backs of climbers all over the state, nay the WORLD!! We've given out over 2,000 comp t-shirts this year... one for every competitor.
9. We're trying to make the comp a zero waste event.
All cups will be recycled. All pizza crusts, paper plates and napkins will be composted. Nothing needs to go to the landfill! We'll have signage up around the gym if you don't know what goes where.
8. Yes, you need a paper waiver in hand.
Even if you're a member. Even if you've signed an electronic waiver. Everyone gets a new waiver on comp day. You can print one HERE. We'll also have them avaible on the day of the event.. but if you come prepared we'll let you skip the line.
7. Your 3-letter comp code is yours forever.
Like a finger print. Or an embarrassing Facebook photo from High School. If you've competed in a Touchstone Climbing Competition in the last two years, you have the same 3-letter comp code. If you've forgotten it, or if this is your first competition, find it here: http://bit.ly/1uLvTZj
6. 3 overall advanced finalist and 3 finalists the day of the comp will compete in on-sight finals.
You've climbed your heart out, now sit back, sip a beer, and watch the big guns compete for cash prizes!
5. Beer will be provided by Strike Brewing.
Our buddies over at Strike will be pouring their tasty brews starting at 4:20pm. For the 21 and under crowd, don't worry. We'll have beverages for you to imbibe as well.
4. There will be prizes.
Big ups to BlueWater Ropes, prAna, SoiLL, Maxim Ropes, Five Ten, Evolv, Alite and many more or donating comp prizes. If you climb in the comp and turn in a score card, it becomes your raffle ticket. Stick around till 5pm, and you'll be in the running to score some sa-WEET shwag.
3. The Access Fund and The American Alpine Club will be there.
As much as we love pulling on plastic, we REALLY love ensuring that our wilderness areas remain as awesome as they can for as long as they can. Stop by their tables to say hello, sign up for a membership, and learn more about how to get involved.
2. It takes 29 routesetters to get the gym ready for the comp.
8 setters on the first day. 13 setters on the second day. And 8 guys on the third day. Our full time routesetting team is the largest in the country, so even during comp week when they are literally resetting an entire gym, satellite crews are maintaining the schedule at other locations. It's a crazy job but somebody's gotta do it.
1. The comp is FREE to members and only $10 for guests.
Comps are always free for members because we L-bomb you, for reals. And it's only $10 for guests, which is the cheapest day pass in existence, because we bet you're pretty great too. You can RSVP via the 'book, tell your friends on twitter, or call them on the telephone to invite them. See you Saturday!
Trip Report: Bagels to Burritos
Part 1, Gunks Edition
By Maxine Speier
The Shawangunk ridge, or the “Gunks,” rises 200 feet above the tree line. The exposed cliffs stretch across the horizon, a swath of white-grey rock. When we are there in early September, most of the trees are still a lush and vibrant green, but within a few weeks, as temperatures drop, the leaves will change to golden yellows and reds and the Hudson Valley will be transformed.
Fall is the best time to climb in the Gunks, while the days are growing shorter, before the first snow comes. Summer’s humidity has lifted and a dry coolness sets in. Leaves crunch underfoot, but the rock is not numbingly cold yet.
Jeff and I drive into New Paltz in the late afternoon. It is the first stop on our road trip, a trip that took shape back in San Francisco, where the two of us (both native New Yorkers) wandered up and down steep hills, eating tightly rolled food truck burritos, talking about the correct way to cook a bagel, and waxing nostalgic for the vibrant change of seasons—the humid summer heat-waves and the winters where the snow is too deep to shovel.
Jeff is a full time route-setter for Touchstone who moved to California from a small town in upstate New York over three years ago. I moved from Brooklyn exactly a year ago. The trip was initially intended as a chance to visit home and see our families, but the more we talk and plan, the more it becomes clear that if we’re going to take any time off from work, it’s going to be to go climbing.
New Paltz, a bustling college town filled with students, climbers, and retired hippies, was founded in the 1600s and lies just east of the Gunks. The prominent cliff line is visible from the main street of town.
“There it is! There it is!” I’m giddy with proximity as I look out at it. Both Jeff and I have been to the Gunks before; it’s where he learned to trad climb when he was an engineering student years before, and it’s where I led groups on hiking trips for my college Outing Club (before I’d ever considered trying to climb).
The familiarity of the ridgeline is a relief. Any trip home is filled with so many little inconsistencies: new businesses that have sprung up, neighbors who have moved away, old-hangouts that have lost their luster, even the faces of close friends and family reflect the time that has passed. But the view of the Gunks is the same as I remember it.
We pop into the local gear shop, Rock and Snow, to pick up some last minute slings and rent a helmet for Jeff, who left his back in California. At the entrance to the shop is a row of cabinets filled with climbing relics. Arranged chronologically, the gear in the cabinets shows the evolution of climbing: pitons, chocks, hexes, cams, different styles of shoes, and rappel devices. The older gear is both impressive and terrifying; it serves as a reminder of how far the sport of climbing has come, and how much creativity and thought have gone into preserving the spaces and the knowledge of a crag.
That first afternoon, with just enough daylight for one climb, we drive from New Paltz to the Trapps parking lot. The Gunks is located in the Mohonk Preserve, a 6500-acre network of fields, hiking trails, and old carriage roads. The Preserve is a non-profit organization founded in 1963 to protect the land and to enter you must either pay a day fee ($17 for climbers) or get an annual pass ($55).
The Trapps is the most popular climbing area on the ridge, and the parking lot gets extremely crowded on weekends. Climbers drive up from New York City (just two hours away) and will sleep in their cars just to be the first on the cliffs. Luckily, we’re there in the middle of the week, and though we see plenty of other climbers, we don’t have to compete for parking. From the parking lot, it is just a quick walk up to the carriage road that runs along the base of the cliff.
Following the flat, gravelly carriage road, you can access roughly 500 routes, as well as some truly excellent bouldering. It is easy to hike to the top of the ridge and set up topropes for some of the climbs, but the Gunks is most famous for its multi-pitch trad routes. Formed of hard quartz conglomerate, the rock features long horizontal striations and cracks. As we walk down the road, Jeff keeps his eyes on the cliffs, looking out for the famous High Exposure (5.6) arête.
High E is a 250-foot, two-pitch climb that has consistently been called the greatest 5.6 in the world since it was first climbed in 1941: a Classic (with a capital C) in an area jam-packed with classics. Having left the guidebook behind, Jeff relies on his memory to find the start. “I think this is the line,” he says and with that he’s off. The first pitch is a straightforward climb up the left of the arête, to a spacious belay ledge. As I follow him, I spot plenty of opportunities to place gear, which is what makes this region so exceptional for people learning to lead trad. Heading up, you can high-step from one horizontal crack to another, finding secure footing and holds as you go, and placing as much protection as you want.
The second pitch of the climb is what everyone raves about. You breathe, step up to the corner of the ledge, and reach for a jug just out of sight to pull yourself up over a roof. As you find your way on the arête, there is air all around you, and the name of the climb clicks in your mind: this is definitely high exposure.
Climbing in the Gunks is beautiful. It is simple, and straightforward, and stunning. The rock is beautiful. The turkey buzzards and hawks that whoosh their wings overhead are beautiful. The trees beneath you are beautiful. And the view that opens up, of forests and fields that stretch out into the distance, is beautiful. Standing up on the expansive belay ledge after the first pitch of High E, you find the kind of beauty you want to soak in and store for later, to draw on when you are stuck in traffic, or having a bad day at work. You want to hold onto the memory of the landscape, and of the rock beneath your fingers.
Over the next two days, as we walk up and down the carriage road, picking out climbs and taking our time on them, as I follow and then finally lead my first trad pitch, and as we hike out with our headlamps each night, I continue to find an exhilarating serenity in the Gunks. This seems like it should be an oxymoron, but is the truth. There is a dizzying, breathless rush to these climbs, even the 5.5s and 5.6s. But there is also a peaceful quietude in the Gunks. The rock looks and feels timeless, and for a few moments, you are a part of that.
Mission Cliffs, which is about to celebrate it's 20th anniversary, has been undergoing a massive expansion project for the past two years. The gyms has added 9,000 ft of roped climbing terrain, gained a stretching and viewing mezzanine, moved the front desk, and is currently finishing construction on two brand new programming rooms. "It's been a crazy year," said General Manager Donna Hawkins. "But it's so cool to be able to grow with our membership base. The Mission Cliffs expansion has transformed the gym from what was the best 20 years ago, to what will be the best for years to come."
We knew that with such a dramatic change to the physical gym, the logo could use a little makeover as well. So of course, we turned to our friends Mark Fox and Angie Wang of Design is Play.
Mark has been climbing at Touchstone Gym's since 1993 and the two of them joined Mission Cliffs in 2009. Not only are they regular crushers around the gym, they are talented designers as well. They have worked with us to design the identities for our past four gyms; MetalMark 2010, The Studio Climbing in 2011, Dogpatch in 2012, LA. Boulders in 2013, and now Mission Cliffs in 2014. The MetalMark, The Studio, and the LA. Boulders identities all include original typeface.
We're also proud to find out that their trademark for Dogpatch Boulders is included in the Graphis Design Annual 2015!
"Out of all nine Touchstone Gym logos, you can definitely tell which ones Mark and Angie designed," said Sr. Manager Markham Connolly. "They are clean, bold, and easily identifiable. You can really see that that each unique logo is a part of the same company."
The two are highly renowned designers in the Bay Area. Mark was President of the San Francisco chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) from 1995–1996, and served on the board of the Architecture + Design Forum of SFMOMA from 1998–2000. In 1995 Fox chaired the Design Lecture Series: “5ive Iconoclasts” featured Tibor Kalman, Vaughan Oliver, the Guerrilla Girls, Jenny Holzer, and Diller + Scofidio. In 2004 Fox was designated a Fellow of the San Francisco AIGA for personal and professional contributions to the San Francisco design community.
Fox is a Professor of Graphic Design at California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco where he has taught since 1993. He served as Chair of Graphic Design at CCA on two occasions, from 2003 to 2007, and most recently from 2013 to 2014. He earned a B.A. in Fine Arts from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1985, graduating magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa.
Angie's work for March Pantry, Anson Mills, One Catering, and others has won numerous awards from the Type Directors Club, Communication Arts, Graphis, AIGA, and Print magazine. In 2013, Design is Play was one of forty-four design firms interviewed for Steven Heller and Lita Talarico’s book Design Firms Open for Business (Allworth Press).
More recently, Angie is quoted in Design School Wisdom, an anthology of tips from veterans in the industry (Chronicle Books). Her work is also featured in New Modernist Type (Thames & Hudson); Typography Essentials: 100 Design Principles for Working with Type (Rockport); and Typography Sketchbooks (Princeton Architectural Press.) In 2014, Angie served as one of five jurors for Communication Arts’ Design Annual, an international competition of the best design created over the last year.
Angie is a Senior Adjunct Professor at California College of the Arts in San Francisco where she has been teaching in the Graphic Design Program since 2005. She has taught “Typography 3: The Book,” created the curriculum for the foundational course “Typography 1: Form,” and co-taught the Summer study abroad class “Amsterdam: Dutch Utopia” with Mark Fox. She graduated magna cum laude from UC Berkeley, and with distinction from the California College of Arts and Crafts (CCAC). She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
"We climb at Mission Cliffs, as do our children Elias, Cate, and Lukas," said Angie. "MC is a bit of a second home for us, so to design an identity for a place and a community of people that we have an affinity for is an honor"
We asked the pair to give us a bit of insight to how they tackle the task of creating our gym logos. "Our process is fairly simple: we sketch at a small size. If a sketch works at half an inch, it typically works well as a finished symbol. Extraneous details are eliminated, and the essential structure of the symbol is clearly established," said Mark. "Once a sketch shows promise, we refine it further and then ink the refinement at a size of 3.5 inches with a Rapidograph pen. We then build the symbol in Illustrator for presentation; if the client selects it, we typically hone the design further, reinking the symbol at a size of 7 inches, and rebuilding it in Illustrator. Our process is laborious, but we believe it yields superior results."
"One final note: we can’t do great work without great partners. We have to thank and acknowledge Mark Melvin, in particular, for entrusting us with this assignment," said Angie.
Several of the original concepts were presented to a team at Touchstone, who then decided on the winning design. "Working with Mark and Angie to select the final identity for Mission Cliffs was such an honor, said Touchstone Graphic Designer Heather Campbell. "Their experience and professionalism really shone through. I can't WAIT to use this new logo!"
The new logo, which will be unveiled in the coming months, has an urban, industrial feel: concrete floors, steel Ibeams, and that massive crane hook—20 tons of capacity! "We thought the identity should feel empathetic and so we relied on simple, constructed forms," said Angie. "The design is the kind of nononsense trademark that could be stamped out of metal, or stenciled on a machine."
We owe a HUGE thank you to Mark and Angie for not only working with us on our previous gym identities, but for taking on the challenge of re-creating an existing logo. We're SO happy with the final product and we can't wait to see it in use.
...So do you want to see the new logo?!
Patience young padawans. It's coming soon!
Monday is YOUR day, dear members. After a long weekend of hosting SCS Youth Divisional Championships, we are gonna be SO psyched to see all your bright and shining faces again. Let's celebrate!
We will have BRAND NEW COMP ROUTES for you to project and crush, along with score cards so you can see how you rank next to a 12 year old girl who crushed over the weekend. And since we know you're into this kind of thing, we shall have a SPANDEX Contest. That's right. Don your tights, step into our photo booth, and let the good times roll. Prizes go to the best, the worst, and even some lucky winners in between.
So come one, come all, to the greatest rope gym in the greatest city in all the land.
We know what you're thinking... 'gee wiz Pah! Brand new comp routes, a spandex costume contest, AND a photo booth? It's doesn't get any better than that!'
WRONG! IT DOES GET BETTER!
Monday Funday will also be a double your pleasure - double your fun membership night! Our good friends at the Access Fund will be at the gym to sign you up for a membership with an awesome deal that also gets you an Access Fund t-shirt! Normally $50 and above memberships get a free Access Fund t-shirt.....but since we love you so much, it will be $35 tonight!
Being an Access Fund member is like raising your hand and saying, 'Yes. I love climbing' and then putting yo' money where yo' mouth is. It also happens to be a great way to join a Touchstone gym. #winwin
Access Fund Members can join any Touchstone Gym for only $25 initiation. Any day. Any gym. 'Cause that's how we roll.
So let's recap. Come to the Monday Funday event at Mission Cliffs for the fun and frivolity, and walk away with an Access Fund AND a Touchstone Climbing membership for only $60*. That's a savings of $90. And don't even get us STARTED on what you could do with an extra $90 in your pocket.
Spread the word! If you've got friends who are thinking about joining the gym - let them know today is the day to join up for less, and get more.
If you're already a Touchstone Climbing Member but not an Access Fund member - Consider signing up! A membership gets you tons of great discounts and you'll feel all warm and fuzzy by helping support the Access Fund's Mission.
If you've ever visited Mission Cliffs on a busy Thursday night, then you've seen our bike parking.. situation. When the gym was first built in 1995, bike parking wasn't taken into consideration. When we first embarked on the Mission Cliffs Expansion project, we knew that having amazing climbing terrain, killer classes, and a fantastic fitness area wouldn't be enough. We had to provide a designated bike parking area for our members and guest to safely park their rides.
We're happy to announce that after months of working with the city, our plans have been approved! We are excited to be able to move forward with our plans to build the largest outdoor bike barking area in San Francisco! "I'm so excited that we are able to provide our neighborhood with such a large public bike parking area," said Mission Cliffs manager Donna Hawkins. "It's great for our members and great for the city's bike culture."
"Our many trips to city hall have paid off," said facilities manager Russell Olson. "We're excited to begin work on the outdoor structure." The bike parking area will be 108 ft long, and located directly in front of the new entrance to the gym. Not only will visitors be greeted by our bright Walltopia climbing walls, they'll see how our members got to the gym; on their bikes!
Stay tuned for more Mission Cliffs Expansion updates. Once the front desk moves to the north side of the gym, we'll begin construction on our programs room! We owe a huge thank you to our members as we work to build something truly spectacular in San Francisco.