This summer Ryan Moon had his eye set on a project. He submitted this report to the Touchstone Blog.
Me: Wanna go out and try Endless Bummer with me this weekend?!
Potential Sport Climbing Partner: No thanks, that thing’s way too bouldery for me.
Potential Bouldering Partner: No thanks, sport climbing sucks.
These were the conversations that were most popular when trying to try Endless Bummer out near Mickey’s Beach on the California coast. It was my first time trying a sport route for more than one visit (or more than one try) and finding a partner was almost as hard as climbing the route itself. At the time of my first attempt, I had been working at Berkeley Ironworks for 2(ish) years and had heard local cat artist and co-worker, Scott Frye, go on and on about the route. Although I normally only sit in a harness to clean boulder problems, something about Scott’s enthusiasm and the fact that it was “bouldery” got my attention.
What I remember most about my first attempt was the horrifying experience of being on top of the 'surf board'. It's a feature on the climb near the end of the route, where gale-force coastal winds, the inability of your belayer to hear your whimpering or requests to take or give slack, and the fact that you’re crouched atop a surface no larger than an ironing board with a short overhanging wall literally pushing you backwards, makes it memorable. It feels like there’s a decent chance of you losing your balance and bashing your teeth out on the edge of the rock.
Are we having fun yet?
What was most interesting about the projecting process of EB is that what was sometimes more important than having your beta sussed out, was knowing the ideal conditions. As a boulderer, I’ve mastered the art of complaining about temperatures and wind speeds. It’s part of the game. This was a different beast altogether. I've taken time to compile a list of the only beta you’ll need for this specific route:
DON'T GO IN THE SUMMER
Anyone living in the Bay Area long enough can recall wearing a down jacket to most Fourth of July BBQs because the marine layer has spoiled any chance of them sporting the tank tops they purchased at the end of May. It’s hella cold. Too cold to climb! Your best bet is trying during the Indian Summer while the sun is shining and the marine layer has subsided.
TAKE CAREFUL NOTE OF WIND SPEEDS
Anything faster than 10mph wind speeds will send your quickdraws spinning like an airplane’s propellers. There’s nothing lamer than watching a climber pump out on the third bolt of his or her project because it looked more like they were trying to catch butterflies than clipping draws.
DON'T GO WHEN IT'S TOO HOT
Lemme guess. You’ve been stymied by the wicked winds and freezing temps of the “summer” conditions, so you’ve been fooled into thinking that hotter is better. Wrong. Remember, this is a bouldery route. Anything hotter than 75 degrees is going to make your burns feel like you’re desperately clawing at an overhanging wall made of melting butter.
And the most important, non-weather related factor…
I’m pretty sure that after almost every failed session out at Endless Bummer I muttered (sometimes yelled) the phrase “I’m never sport climbing again!” Although this was obviously a lie, there were about a thousand times when I wanted to give up. Even in the countless bouts of frustration, I was always able to enjoy the projecting process.
And for a long time... I didn’t send.
Every time I didn't send, at least I had spent the day climbing a boulderery route in one of the most beautiful spots in California. On almost every visit I was able to point out seals, a multitude of different birds, dolphins, and on a very special day, a whale and an unforgettable view of the Farallon Islands. Ending every session with a beer, a sunset, a new highpoint, and subsequent ‘failure milkshakes’ (originally intended to be ‘send milkshakes’) almost makes me miss not sending.....
On a rare ‘perfect’ day out on the coast with BIW manager, Lyn Barraza, something strange happened. I warmed up by hanging the draws and doing the slab-overhang boulder problem a few times, as I usually do to begin the session. After a nice gossip-filled rest, I was ready for my first redpoint burn of the day. Just as I clipped the fifth draw a familiar feeling set it in: I’m going to fall, I’m going to fall, I’m going to fall. In a freak moment, I stuck the stab move to the slopey pinch with tension for the very first time. I can’t recall another time in rock climbing when I literally climbed the hardest section of a route or boulder problem smiling ear-to-ear, but there I was, grinning like an idiot on the way to the top of my project.
There’s something special about trying a route so many times that everyone you know and work with wants an answer to the same question:
“Well…did you send?”
I’ll never forget the overwhelming support from my friends and coworkers as I answered this question, every time bearing a guilty smile followed by 'yup'. The only thing better than projecting on the California coast around dolphins, your best friends, and a tall cold one at sunset, is the invigorating feeling of completing a project.
And ‘send milkshakes’.
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Be sure to click through Ryan's gallery of his multiple attempts on the route. Congrats Ryan!
Chances are, without knowing it, you've climbed in an area that Access Fund has protected and kept accessible for climbers. With regionally significant successes as the Jailhouse Rock Conservation Easement of 2010, Access Fund has been hard at work keeping the gates open to our favorite crags. This is no easy task, and as with most organizations of this nature, raising money can be a daunting task. That's why Berkeley Ironworks is calling November 'Access Fund Month' with a goal of raising $10,000.
We know, it sounds tough.
If you've been to BIW recently, you may have noticed some tables near the front desk. They represent three ways you can donate to our Access Fund Month' AND get a little sumptin'-sumptin' in return. Here's what they've got going on:
The Touchstone Climbing routesetters are parting with old grips, and our loss is your gain! You won't find a better or cheaper way to get SWEET holds for your home climbing wall.
Did we catch your eye with the amazing goodies on this table? Donate a mere $5/ticket to get a chance to win, win, WIN!
SILENT AUCTION (last, but not least):
Have you seen these faces? Of course you have. They want to climb with YOU! They really, really do. For a small/medium/big bid, you can experience the rare opportunity to climb with a literal 'rock star' and have him/her share their almighty technical advice. Athletes include Alex Honnold, Beth Rodden, Joe Kinder, and Ethan Pringle!
Get it while you can! Remember, this all goes towards an organization that keeps the future of climbing alive! Bidding ends December 1st!
Amanda, a native Californian and former Berkeley Ironworks desk staffer, recently moved to London to pursue a graduate degree at the London School of Economics. She submitted this report to the Touchstone Blog to share a bit about what the transition has been like for her.
Something very alarming happened to me today.
I’ve tried to shake it, tried to get my mind off of it. I’ve buried myself in my reading. I took a bath. Nothing has helped.
At this point I’m at a loss for what to do, and the last thing I can think to do is to write. So here we are.
Someone told me today,
and I quote,
“I don’t believe you’re a rock climber.”
Maybe her first words were, “you don’t look like a rock climber.”
I cannot remember which was said first as my mind was a whirling mess of outrage, confusion, and sadness – this feeling is reminiscent of the time my dad killed a spider and he told me she was just sleeping. I knew down to my core that it wasn’t true and the only words I could come up with at the time were “you killed Charlotte” before I ran to my room. I was six years old. I do not like that feeling now any more than I did then.
At some point she elaborates, telling me that I didn’t look “Tomboyish” enough.
My course mate, who had unsuspectingly walked into the uniform wearing, agro-offensive and hyperactive room in my brain, was going to suffer the consequences. You picked the wrong door, friend.
My first response in a triage of actions that I am consciously and systematically planning is to whip my phone out and bring up my top 100 favorite climbing pictures of 2013. Immediately this makes me think that I might have been better off joining the Army (or at least more successful).
Now let’s stop here for a moment. This seems socially inappropriate, to say the least. There are very few instances in which I would personally be excited to see the top 100 pictures of anyone’s anything, let alone a single year highlighted edition. And god forbid she press the issue further – don’t think I don’t have year by year, location by location chronologies organized by climate, alphabet, and most appropriate type of climbing shoe. (Now these are my top 500 pictures from places where my La Sportiva Solutions were most suitable…).
The reasonable part of my brain, speaking in a very small voice, is attempting to subconsciously tell this friend to smile and placate me. This is going to ensure the fastest and most desirable outcome for her and unless someone came up behind me with a horse tranquilizer, I am not going to stop on my own accord anytime soon.
As I’m typing in the password to my phone very deliberately, my hands moving like they are made solely to navigate the iPhone quickly and effectively, I am saying all sorts of things to the effect of -
I love camping.
I love climbing.
It’s who I am.
This is what matters to me.
It’s not just about climbing, you see, it’s what climbing brings to my life, how it pushes me. It’s about the dew on my tent in the morning and the sound of the zipper as it lets in the first wave of crisp air for the day. It takes you by surprise at first but once you’ve crawled out and started the stove for coffee, it feels like you were born to be here.
It’s about the projects and the failed attempts and the successes and the friendship and camaraderie and the simple things.
It’s really about the simple things.
It’s about the beauty.
It’s about my soul.
....Kind of a heavy monologue for a friendly conversation while waiting for the next available teller in the bank.
All of a sudden I am rudely interrupted by one of the ladies sitting behind the glass wall in front of us.
“NEXT!” she (rudely) says.
This friend gives me the kind of look that says “well, what can you do?” and steps forward.
Now I am alone with my thoughts and with my iPhone in hand with “Bishop 2013” armed and ready on the screen.
I feel alone and sad and I can’t quite figure out why.
It’s on my journey on the tube back to my flat when I have calmed down enough to start to attempt to understand my gross… we’ll call it overcompensation, to be nice.
In reality I know that I am not defined by climbing. I like to do a lot of other things too. In fact I spent much of my time for the past two years defending those other parts of me that did not involve climbing, for fear that I would be perceived as just a climber. (Nobody is just a climber, for the record. Nobody is just anything. This is part of a larger internalized identity struggle with which I’m sure some of you can relate).
So why did I feel the need to not only justify that climbing was incredibly important to me but to perhaps overstate its role in my life? It’s not who I am, like I so assuredly informed this friend who probably could not have cared less.
After some thought and a lot of vanilla rooibos tea, I’ve come to the conclusion that climbing is not who I am but it does represent a large part of what I value. It’s true – the feeling I have waking up to the White Mountains as my backdrop, the crunch of sand and rock beneath my feet on the approach to the Buttermilks, toping out on a three pitch climb at Lover’s Leap and looking over the forested mountains of Lake Tahoe – and everything else that comes with the sport and the relationship with the outdoors, means a great deal to me.
It has, in fact, shaped a lot of who I am.
But I have taken on a different identity here in London. This has been out of both necessity and convenience. I was prepared for that internally, but I was not prepared for how it would make me feel when I was no longer perceived as being something with which I identify so strongly.
I wanted to burst out laughing when this friend told me I don’t look “Tomboyish” enough.
You’re kidding me.
Don’t you understand that I’m more comfortable with sweat on my face than with makeup? Don’t you know that I feel nothing short of an impostor in high heels? I’m pretty sure for the entirety of the two years that I worked at Berkeley Ironworks none of my friends believed I owned anything other than Patagonia outdoor apparel (don’t judge me, we got a discount).
Of course all of this is ridiculous.
We are who we are. This can change with time and with context. Just because I’m not a climber now does not mean I’m not a climber in general or that I won’t be a climber again.
So, I’m lowering my weapon and looking forward to some quality time lapping routes at Berkeley Ironworks this winter when I come home to visit. I’ve got my tent booties ready and waiting for a cold trip to Bishop. I’ll be wearing a down jacket and long underwear and I’ll have a headlamp instead of a calculator.
And no one will think that is strange.
Sometimes we fill certain roles for a while, and in the end those roles provide us with just another way to know ourselves.
I will say, however, that some of the strongest and most talented women climbers I know could fool you into thinking they were modern day Mary Poppins on the cover of Cosmopolitan if they felt like it. Preconceptions never feel good – and that’s something that I have to remember, too.
So a final word to the wise? Don’t push us. We will send your project in a dress.
Here at Touchstone Climbing, we're lucky to be surrounded by crushers of all kinds. Today Berkeley Ironworks staffer Ryan E. Moon sits down with a fellow co-worker Steven Roth to find out more about developing a new route at Mickey's Beach, what it's like to be from Florida, and his legal troubles with Nickelodeon.
RM: How long have you been climbing?
SR: I started climbing competitively about nine years ago, but had to take off a few years due to pesky injuries and bad luck.
RM: How long have you lived in the Bay Area?
SR: I moved out to the Bay about a year ago from Florida to go to Cal.
RM: What’s your favorite thing about Berkeley living? Bike boulevards? Berkeley Bowl? Hippies? Indian food? Passive aggression?
SR: Well, there’s nothing like the average hipster looking Joe being able to hike your projects. The food’s tasty, but not really for me.
RM: Tell us about climbing in Florida, aka not climbing?
SR: How do you compare the Bay Area scene with the Florida scene? The climbing in Florida is limited to plastic. Even so, the indoor scene there has produced some big names like Matt Segal and Megan Martin. People in the Bay Area actually assume that I’m a climber when I tell them I climb rocks rather than what I get from Floridians: “What do you climb, palm trees?”
RM: How far back can you trace the Jimmy Neutron joke? Would you prefer that people call you that from now on?
SR: After suing Nickelodeon and losing, I was forced to change my name from Jimmy to Steven. It’s sort of a sore subject, I try not to talk about it too much…
RM: What’re some of your favorite routes/boulder problems in the area?
SR: Climbing on Meldicott Dome in Tuolumne this past summer with Ben Polanco was outstanding. As for bouldering, I almost exclusively boulder at Mortar Rock in the Berkeley hills. Castle Rock is pretty stellar and my complete anti-style. I hope to get out more this fall for some bouldering in Yosemite and that awesome looking Columbia area.
RM: How do you like working at BIW? Isn’t Ryan just the BEST?!
SR: I love it! It allows me to maintain a flexible schedule for school and for climbing trips. And yes, Ryan is pretty great.
RM: Do you do anything to train besides belaying children?
SR: My training pretty much consists of of core workouts, ring exercises, bouldering at Mortar Rock, made up problems at the gym, and going rope climbing outside on the weekends. A non-rigid regime and rests keep me from getting burned out.
RM: Belaying isn’t all you do for Touchstone though, right? Don’t you also coach?
SR: I am one of the coaches for the East Betas at GWPC which is really exciting. I basically act as a climbing partner for the kids while giving tips and insight.
RM: What do you like about coaching?
SR: It allows me to pass on helpful advice that I learned when I was young(er).
RM: Is it true you’re on the ‘Colorado Diet’?
SR: Yup! My typical dinner is three pieces of air popped popcorn, salt for flavor, gauze pads for filling, and a stick of gum for dessert.
RM: What originally drew you to ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’?
SR: From Surf Safari and Endless Bummer, the Emperor Boulder sits down the hill near the water. It’s impressively tall (around 60ft) compared to the routes up the hill. The line itself became obvious to me because of the big jug ledge about 10 feet off of the ground. I figured the start would be a ‘Superman jump’ to the beginning hold which turned out to be true and AWESOME! The line hugs the obvious arete up the middle of the boulder. All in all, the beautiful scenery and the orange lichen speckling the rock make for an unforgettable experience.
RM: How long did it take you to clean it?
SR: I spent quite a while hanging in my harness. Prior to cleaning, I top roped the line and thought that it would go a certain way. About 12 hours later, after cleaning and sussing, the route was totally different.
RM: How many redpoint burns until the FA?
SR: I figured out all of the moves during the cleaning process and worked the sections quickly on self belay. By the time it was bolted, I was optimistic that I would get it on my first redpoint attempt, which I did. The process emphasized that really figuring out and remembering body positions and beta in little sections is the key to efficient climbing and huge gains in progress.
RM: Any plans for new routes in the future?
SR: On the Emperor Boulder there is a spectacular 5.10+/5.11- that be an instant classic once it’s bolted. That route alone would make a trip out to the coast well worth it. I’m also working on a climb that hasn’t been done on the Main Rock at Mickey’s Beach. Challenging large moves on small holds has kept it from being climbed so far. I hope that I can be the one to do it as it’s the first route I’ve been truly interested in projecting.
RM: What’s the secret to getting big hands and long fingers? Over zealous high fives? Chinese finger traps perhaps?
SR: Definitely the Chinese finger traps. Those things get the job done for sure!!!
It was a day like any other East Bay summer day...skies gray with fog and cold weather clothing abound. There was something different about this day though. More than just the marine layer in the air was the smell of cookies, pies, cakes...and climbing shoes.
Read more: Flash Mob Team Bake Sale
Recently Chris Ahlgren, who works at Berkeley Ironworks, climbed the West Face of Leaning Tower. After a eventful and successful climb, Chris submitted this report to the Touchstone Blog to talk a little bit about something we all face in climbing; fear.
Fear on the West Face of Yosemite’s Leaning Tower (V 5.7 C2F)
There was something profoundly terrifying about watching my climbing partner’s left shoe float away from his twisting body and fall a thousand feet onto the boulder field below us. The nut Will Skinner was standing on had just pinged out of the crack and Will was falling backwards in what seemed like slow motion. After having just back-cleaned the last two placements, he was going for a ride. Presumably tripped by the rope, which had ripped his off shoe, Will was in the middle of a back dive that may have been beautiful had he been headed for a pool.
Instead, it was horrifying! Perhaps the scariest fall I had ever witnessed. Due in part to the steep overhanging nature of the Leaning Tower and due in part to a dynamic catch, Will’s back contacted the wall with no more force than a hearty slap. Besides being a bit shaken and wearing only one shoe, he was fine. I sent him up one of my shoes on our tag line and he finished the pitch in proud fashion.
This was not the first fall of the day. Earlier that morning at the outset of the third pitch and my first lead, I too had taken a whipper. The pitch began steep and technical, too hard for me to free-climb, but I was looking for my opportunity. You see, one reason Will and I chose this route was to dial in our aid climbing skills in an attempt to speed up our sluggish pace. One way to speed up aid climbing is to get out of your aiders whenever possible and climb free, even if only to make a few moves.
About 25 feet from the belay, I reached a decent enough looking bolt near a shallow dihedral that allowed me the stance I needed to bunch up my aiders. From there I could attack an otherwise tricky section of C2 aid using good ol’ fashion pull power. The free-climbing felt great even in the absence of protection. After about 15 ft., I reached a roof that began a mean section of overhanging 5.12d. I opted to get back on aid. Balancing precariously on thin edges in my clumsy approach shoes I plugged a small offset cam in what looked to be a tight but flaring pod.
Now came the tricky part-- transitioning from aid to free and back to aid which is more awkward than it sounds. It became apparent that this was an aspect of my big wall game that needed some work. As I fumbled the twisted mass of aid ladder and daisy chain, I hung one-handed, a la French free, from the offset cam in the roof above my head. CRUNCH! I was airborne. The rope pulled taunt and I swung towards the wall. As the rope steched, Will was hoisted from his meager stance, and I contacted the wall lightly with both feet. Safe. Looking down at my left hand I had a white-knuckle death grip still wrapped around the webbing of my failed cam. I was scared, but managed to force the fear to the back of my mind. I re-worked the free moves, got a better placement in the roof and finished the pitch.
By early afternoon, Will reached the top of the sixth pitch which was to be our high point for the day, and rapped back to meet me on Guano Ledge. The sun was on us now and besides the occasional cover from scattered clouds, we were cookin’. Instead of cleaning the pitch then, I suggested laying low to conserve water during the heat of the day. I suggested cleaning the pitch nearer to sunset. I’ve never slept well on the walls I’ve climbed and until we laid down to nap I’d successfully suppress the fear that was building through the course of the day. Closing my eyes brought horrible images of Will in free fall, his shoe drifting above his body then disappearing to a dot below, and the sound and feel of my cam ripping from the wall. Sleeplessly, I writhed, baking in the afternoon sun.
By the time I was ready to clean, ascenders locked into place, fear had thoroughly permeated my body. My heart was racing, my palms were sweating, and my mind would only let my feet shuffle along the ledge, .The first move off of the ledge involved a pendulum that required me to swing into space leaving me dangling with nothing but air and the boulder field far below my feet. I moved slow and shaky but managed to make it back to the ledge before dark.
Did I mention a thunderstorm was in the forecast? As if I wasn’t rattled enough already, clouds full of electric potential began to flash to the west just as we slid into our sleeping bags. As I “slept”, my nightmares included being soaked in a downpour and struck by lightning in addition to the usual dreams of rock avalanches and free falls.
The next morning I spilled the beans. “I’m feeling rattled dude,” I confessed to Will. “I slept like s**t. I don’t know, my head’s not in it.” Much to my relief he admitted to feeling the same way. Simply talking about the fear and knowing that I wasn’t alone really helped take the edge off. I jugged to our high point and set out on my first lead. I planned to link pitches 7 & 8 and by the time I reached the top of the the 7th I was feeling much better. Before me ran a series of beautiful cracks that seemed climbable. I was so psyched to get out of my aiders that I free climbed the entirety of pitch 8. When I reached the belay I felt refreshed. I could relax knowing that was my last lead. Will led pitches 9 & 10 , I cleaned, and we hugged it out on top feeling the way that only finishing a big wall can make you feel-- like an f-ing champion!
When people asked me how the climb went, I’ve taken to this one line response: “It was the most psychologically demanding route I’ve ever done.” Since coming home I’ve thought a lot about what caused such a visceral fear response. I’ve certainly taken and caught my share of falls in the past, so that alone couldn’t have been it. The overnight lightning show certainly added a thrill, but naw, that wasn’t it either. It must have been the exposure. For so much of the route the very base of the wall was in plain view, pulling on my psyche. Watching Will’s shoe plummet let me imagine my own long freefall. Honestly, this is a safety paradox since it was the steepness of the wall that kept my and Will’s fall so clean. Clearly the effect was psychological.
Ultimately, climbing Leaning Tower was a lesson in fear management. Lying down on the ledge and replaying the falls in my mind that afternoon had allowed the fear to take hold. That began a snowball effect that culminated in my secret wishes to be home with my girlfriend and beautiful baby girl. On the flipside, climbing free and focusing on the logistics of big wall belay management allowed me to regain my focus and enjoy the climb.
Coincidentally the week before our climb I began reading a book called The Fear Project by Jaimal Yogis. In the early chapters, Yogis delves into the neurobiology of fear. Does it help to know that fear emanates from the amygdala? I don’t know. Perhaps more importantly Yogis goes on to describe modern experimentation in overcoming fear. Specifically the research indicates that exposure to the object of fear in a safe and reassuring setting can help the brain overcome the fear response. On the other hand, simply thinking about the object of fear, without action, will only reaffirm and further cement the fear response. More exactly, it seems possible to train our advanced human neocortex to dull the fear impulse that emanates from our primitive reptilian brain. Unwittingly I had made things much worse by lying on that ledge when I thought I was simply taking a break. Conversely, by continuing to climb I was reliving my fearful experience but overriding the experience of fear with the more familiar experience of the joy of climbing.
Rock climbing is always going to be scary. Fear of heights is what experts call a primitive fear (versus an acquired fear), but that doesn’t mean we have to allow that fear to control us. Go climbing. Be sure to build a solid foundation of positive, safe-feeling experiences so that the fearful moments are fleeting and never allowed to take root. Most importantly, don’t forget to have fun.
See ya on the cliffs.
Want to go climbing and help save lives? (The correct answer is 'YES!')
On Saturday, May 25 Berkeley Ironworks is hosting a Climb-A-Thon to raise funds for the Women's Cancer Resource Center and the HERA Foundation. This amazing event is all thanks to the hard work of long time desk staffer Clari. "I've lost three sisters to cancer, and when I was diagnosed it came as a shock. Combining my love of climbing with raising money for such an important cause is my way of fighting back." Clari has been in remission for over a year, and is doing well!
The Women's Cancer Resource Center creates opportunities for women with cancer to improve their quality of life through education, supportive services and practical assistance. The HERA Foundation seeks to stop the loss of women from ovarian cancer by promoting Health, Empowerment, Research, and Awareness. Both organizations have provided countless services to women with cancer and are important to support.
"This event will be a fun chance to get in a ton of climbing for a great cause. Remember Jog-a-thons? The structure is very similar," said Clari. To participate, climbers can collect pledges per climb, or a flat amount for participating in the event. Pledge sheets, along with envelopes for money, are available at the front desk at Berkeley Ironworks. Register, collect sponsors, and then climb or boulder your heart out! You can register as a group or individual. A minimum of $50 per participant must be turned in at the time of the event.
if you are interested in volunteering for the event.
When it comes to raising money for cancer - everyone is a winner. But Touchstone Climbing will be offering prizes for those who raise the most money to sweeten the deal.
1st Place- 3 months free membership
2nd Place- 2 months free membership
3rd Place- 1 month free membership
We're so happy to be hosting such an important fundraising event! Encourage your friends to come out and climb to CRUSH cancer!