By Jon Kennedy
When planning a bouldering trip in June, climbers usually place Bishop last on their list of potential destinations. For those unfamiliar with Bishop climbing, it is a fall or winter destination if you want those optimal sending temps. I love the look you get when you mention you’re going to the Buttermilks in June. With temps in the 90s and up, leaving climbers running for the shade, Bishop in the summer can be a climber’s worst nightmare. But the sound of no crowds lured a few Average Joe climbers to the high desert in mid-June...
As we left the Bay Area, we got our last glimpse of city life and the “thrill” of sitting in rush-hour traffic. A few hours later, we reached Yosemite National Park, flashed our annual pass and headed towards the higher elevation of Tuolumne. Seeing the beautiful lakes and inspiring domes of YNP were the perfect primer and helped get us psyched for some granite climbing.
After several hours of driving down 395, we decided to make a short detour in the interest of a little rest & relaxation. The combination of the full moon and the cool evening sky created a perfect setting for taking in the local hot springs.
(NOTE: The springs are easily found right off of 395. Once you see the big green church, continue on for a few miles then take a left and head down the road until you pass the second cattle gate. From here, make a left turn onto an obvious dirt road and park at the turn off. There’s a wooden path that leads you right to tub.)
If you’ve never been to the hot springs off 395, it’s worth every minute of the short drive/approach to be able to relax under the stars and the moon surrounded by the mountains and good friends. After a restful night’s sleep, “Team Average Joes” were off to crush some real rock and see some beautiful sights. But before we headed up to the boulders, we needed to fuel up at Erik Schatt’s bakery – which has good coffee and the best baked goods on the whole East Side. Our first climbing destination was Way Lake, where the high elevation ensures that the temps are usually perfect in June. Since no one in our group had ever been to Way Lake, we didn’t quite know what to expect. After hiking around a bit searching for boulders, we realized we were on the wrong trail without a climbable boulder in sight. Instead of getting disappointed, we shifted gears and ended up enjoying an incredible day of alpine hiking, which satisfied our wanderlust. After a pit stop at Mammoth Brewery, it was back to the hot springs to relax and plan out our next course of action. It was an easy decision to settle on a night session, so we headed towards the Buttermilks, since we knew there were a couple of decent boulders there.
Night climbing in the ‘Milks is amazing. When you pull up to Grandma and Grandpa Peabody and the whole area is peacefully deserted, you know it’s going be a fun night. We got the pads out and ran towards Grandma Peabody. The back of Grandma has a bunch of skin-friendly jugs to warm up on. After a brief warm-up, we attempted a who’s who of popular Buttermilks moderates, including Go Granny Go and Ironman Traverse, climbs that commonly attract heavy crowds during the peak season. Fortunately, we literally had them all to ourselves. Thanks to our JOBY torches, the climbs were easily lit up, making night climbing very easy and safe. After a few sends and lots of flailing we headed back to town for a good night’s sleep (In a bed; worth it if you want to sleep like a boss).
After another lazy morning, which downtown Bishop accommodated perfectly, we waited out the hottest part of the day with a little yoga and reading at the local park. After the temps started to drop, we headed out for Rock Creek.
Rock Creek is a special place. Located at 8500 to 9000 ft, there are beautiful granite boulders and a lovely creek flowing with clear water and some happy fish. Finding and approaching the boulders at Rock Creek was a dream. You park your car, walk 5 minutes, and you’re at the first incredible boulder. The rock quality is excellent – smooth granite with aesthetic lines and comfortable holds. We tried a few moderate problems, which required precise footwork and solid technique. Rock Creek bouldering is very similar to what you’d find in Yosemite – very smooth rock, littered with small/slippery feet and not much for handholds. The Rock Creek area doesn’t have vast amounts of bouldering, but what it lacks in sheer quantity, it made up for with its beautiful alpine forest setting. My favorite problem that we tried was called “Groove and Arete”, a fun V4 arête with a big move to an edge and some dicey top-out holds.
The next day, we again waited out the hottest hours of the day – this time by checking out the local climbing shops. One of my favorite ways to kill time in Bishop is going to Moonlight Gallery and checking out the beautiful pictures from around the world. The gallery also has a few books showcasing climbing history, something every climber these days should look at. The history of this sport has always amazed me. Looking at the pictures of the “Stone Masters” defying gravity without the benefit of guidebooks or modern-day gear has always been inspiring.
Around 3pm we headed to the Milks for an afternoon session. The first stop was the Birthday Boulders, with some fun warm-ups and a pretty stout V3 face climb called “Birthday Direct”, with small crimps and high feet. Because we also had a first-timer with us, I wanted to show her all of the “easier” classics, like Buttermilk Stem, Birthday Mantle, Robinson Rubber Tester, Good Morning Sunshine slab and the Green Wall. Being a first-time climber in the Milks, you realize that even the V0s are hard – very humbling. A perfect example is the holdless slab of Robinson Rubber Tester, which I’ve seen completely baffle and shut down many strong gym climbers. After a fun afternoon of climbing, we headed to the Happys, where big holds and big feet make for some fun gymnastic climbing.
In the Happys, we found a few good boulders with some fun V0 – V2s and just went to town. Our Bishop rookie quickly acclimated herself to the area, topping out 8 or 10 problems in our short session. She liked this style of rock a little better than the unforgiving granite of the Buttermilks. We climbed until sunset and then headed to the Tablelands to setup camp, where we enjoyed dinner before drifting off to sleep under the starlight.
The next morning, after packing up the car, we made another stop at Schatt’s bakery for goodies to bring home, paid a visit to the smokehouse for some jerky, and were on our way.
This was one of my favorite trips to Bishop. No crowds, tons of new sights and boulders, and a lot of time soaking in the springs. Leaving Bishop is always a sad time – your skin is sore, your body is sore, and you realize you’re leaving one of the best spots in California. Keep it a secret, though, people. Bishop is too hot in June. Spread the word.
By GWPC member Donna Ball
If you are familiar with CrossFit you know that there are a number of workouts (WODs) named for heroes who have died in the line of duty. Most of these are named for military members who have lost their lives, but there are also hero WODs for firemen and policeman and other heroes as well. Murph is named for Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, a Navy Seal who lost his life on June 28, 2005 in Afghanistan and it has become symbolic to do this workout at CrossFit boxes around the country on Memorial Day. Murph is a brutal workout but it’s fitting that it should be hard and require determination to finish:
Doing a hero WOD has special meaning if you have ever served or know someone who has. Both my son and my daughter served in Iraq and the worst days of my life were the days I said good-bye to them not knowing if I would ever see them again and the days and nights spent worrying whether they would come home. The best days were when they landed once again on American soil. Thousands of American military families with loved ones serving in Iraq and Afghanistan have not been so fortunate and I can’t even begin to compare my worst days with theirs. I will always carry sadness in my heart for those families and I will try to honor them for the rest of my life by remembering their sacrifice in any way that I can. CrossFit hero WODS give me one opportunity.
I have been doing Crossfit for less than two years and still can not do a pull-up and can only run-jog the mile but I came to the box today determined to do the best Murph I could and to finish even if it took me all day. I slogged my way through the mile runs thinking of Murph’s mother, I did jumping pull-ups in place of ‘real’ pull-ups, and when I thought I couldn’t do another squat I thought of Murph and those like him who didn’t give up even as they faced death. I managed to give it my best today not only for Lieutenant Murphy and all of those who have served and died, but also for Murph’s mother and father and the families of all of those who haven’t returned. And I finished.
To find out more about CrossFit V16, visit their website or ask us at the front desk!
Trip Report By Avram Pearlman
Tioga Pass is Open! I know there are many other ways into the eastern Sierra, but there is nothing like driving through Tuolumne Meadows to get to a near endless supply of sport, trad and bouldering. Oh, and did I mention free camping and hot springs? And, unlike Yosemite, dogs are OK too...
To make the drive home a little easier after climbing in the Gorge we checked out a spot called Clark Canyon. The approach is easy (15 minutes on a slight incline) and the routes are nestled in the trees providing shade and a wind break as needed. The Canyon was chock full of moderate sport climbs (for me that means the 5.7-5.9 range), and many more in the 5.10s as well.
The rock is volcanic tuff, with a slight orange patina. Lots of pockets for hands and feet, as well as some decent cracks. We set up in a section called Area 13 and completed three routes each in an afternoon.
On the Center Wall we started with a 5.8 called Chop Chop. A combo of face climbing, side pulls and cracks that could be climbed clipping the bolts or placing gear (smaller pieces only). We set up a top rope and then climbed the route about two feet to the left, a dihedral 5.8 crack line called Scorpio. Towards the top of Scorpio, the crack got a little bigger and there was a perfect hold (out of sight) right where I needed it to be!
Finishing the day with a super fun and mellow 5.7 four star route called Ugly, Fat and Mean, Come to Mammoth, Be a Queen. Nine bolts to anchors with an amazing view! The bolts and anchors on all the routes were in really good condition, at most a few years old. Next time we head back there I would like to try a two-pitch 3.5 star 5.10a route called Cholito. It looked like a sweet line, with 17 bolts.
The parking area for the Canyon is less than an hour to the Mobile station in Lee Vining. In fact, Google maps estimates five hours and fifteen minutes from Touchstone's own Great Western Power Company to the trail head. Most of the forest service road was fine, but there was one section of road that we were glad to have a high clearance vehicle.
Big Springs Campground is only a few miles from the Clark Canyon trailhead, and is a free, established campground if you don't mind being close to your neighbors. Clark Canyon is all Inyo national forest so dispersed camping is allowed. The brush is thick in places, but there are plenty of flat spots for a truck or tent.
The staff at the gear shop in Mammoth dropped rumors of a new version of Mammoth Area Rock Climbs, by Marty Lewis and John Moynier. The coming book is to include many of the now established lines not listed in the 3rd edition. After being pressed for a release date for the guide, the guy behind the desk just shrugged. “Who knows when it will be out, we are talking about climbers here...”
On March 22nd, a crew of GWPC Climbers ran through the streets of Oakland as part of the Oakland Running Festival. GWPC member, Ari Oppenheimer talked a bit about the group's race for the Touchstone Blog.
Anyone who has dedicated any real time to climbing knows just how incredibly fun it is. The pleasure to be had in moving upwards weightlessly transcends all disciplines and distinctions in the climbing community; it is what unites us. Many people walk into climbing gyms looking for access to an activity that can compliment weight lifting or other (regular) fitness activities, but stay for climbing–realizing that they haven’t touched a weight in months.
But climbing’s “funness” is a double-edged sword. It is so fun that it’s easy to overdo it and get injured or burnt out. To keep the psyche high and your body healthy, it’s important to take small “excursions” from climbing. For a small crew of climbers at Great Western Power Co, the Oakland Running Festival was one such excursion.
Despite the casual, “excursion from climbing” approach that the crew took to training for the race, (almost) everyone walked away feeling great with either a PR or a solid debut half-marathon. Bianca Taylor and Mike Maloney both crushed it, running 2:18 and 1:37 respectively for their first half marathon. Distance running veterans Valerie Ann, Sarah Winter, Melanie Barnes, and Maxine Speier had solid performances, running 1:49, 1:58, 1:52, and 2:15. And I managed to limp away with a time of 3:17 and an overall position of 38th for the full marathon.
After the race, Maxine and Mike met me back at Great Western to recover with a sunny rooftop foam-roller session and a few sausages at Rosamunde. Even though our psyche from the race was running high, and despite our engagement in activities that stemmed from running, our conversations rarely departed from climbing. While we were running the race, and while we walked around Oakland with our bib numbers, it would’ve been easy to assume that we were just a group of runners. But the reality is that we are, and always will be, climbers.
By guest blogger and yoga instructor Avram Pearlman
In yoga, there is a concept called the edge. Think of it as the limit of your practice in the present moment. Even if yoga is not part of your weekly routine, visualize a place between reaching a little farther and falling over while stretching. This place is your edge.
Another way to think about the edge is to do an image search for yoga on the Internet. You get these pictures of people doing amazing things, and you can imagine trying these things. There will be a point where you just can't get your leg into that position you see on the screen no matter how hard you try. The bad news is your edge is somewhat closer than the edge for the person in that picture, but the good news is it might not always be that way.
The edge is not unique to yoga, think about a boulder problem you are working on that keeps making you look like a barn door at the gym. The moment we fall when bouldering, on lead, or even on top rope is the moment right after our edge has been reached. Perhaps what defines us is our personal sense of what we can and can't do. What is it about ourselves we can find when we are looking so closely at our limitations?
One of the great things about the edge is it exists only in the present moment. Your edge is not stationary, and was likely different years ago when that 5.9 got you so pumped it was your last route of the day. When the edge becomes clear, we can look back, measuring how far we have come and start inching forward.
Perhaps when we know our edge we can approach it slowly, and work on reaching beyond in a constructive way. When the edge is reached, we are clear and focused. Sometimes the greatest possible outcome is to know this place and push the envelope little by little. Breathing, nothing else exists besides you and that next move.
Perhaps when we get to this point, there is an awakening of the self to know what is possible. Perhaps this question might sound familiar: Why? Why do I always loose my balance when I stand on one leg? Why does my hand always slip off that third hold on the V6 I am working on? If it's my flexibility in yoga, or if it's my balance on this sloper that I can't hold onto, then my work is clear. What can I do to get past this point?
Awareness is a great start, but action is the key to success. If you know your edge, then you have a clear view of your limitation. Now it's time for some hard work. And I don't mean throwing yourself at your project repeatedly without thought, instead ask yourself how you can work on your limitations in a constructive way. Is it possible to look at the problem from a different angle? Maybe it's not your hand on the sloper, but the position of your feet...
The greatest reward comes from doing something previously thought to be personally impossible. Challenge yourself but don't get discouraged. The feeling of success that comes from pushing this edge is beyond measure.
Avram teaches Yoga at Great Western Power Company in Oakland, California. Be sure to check out one of his classes! Thanks so much for contributing Avram!
Great Western Power Company is starting off the New Year right by forming a team to run in the 2014 Oakland Half Marathon on March 23rd, 2014. GWPC will be selecting 10 lucky members and paying for their entry fees! "After seeing the huge success of the running program and training team that came out of the Berkeley Half Marathon, we couldn't resist forming our own team," said GWPC manager Jeremy Yee. "We're so psyched to be able to support our members and have some fun at the same time!"
The Oakland Half Marathon course will take runners around the heart of the city, and will start just blocks from the gym! Ari, a GWPC and BIW staff member, noted that even though he grew up in Oakland, he's still constantly shocked at how 'friggin' big of a city it is. "I’m psyched to see a lot of it on foot!"
The Half Marathon isn't the only options for runners who want to strut their stuff around town this March. The event also includes a marathon, a 5k, a 4-person relay, and a kids run. The Oakland Running Festival was voted "best marathon" in the Pacific West Region by Competitor Magazine's online readers and social media followers from around the country!
Ari will be heading up an optional training runs for the 10 lucky runners and anyone else who'd like run as a team. The running group will begin running in late January. "I wanna keep it pretty casual," said Ari. "We’ll probably alternate between long trail runs during the week and hard track work on the weekends, often followed by [optional] beer."
When asked why he was started the running team, Ari replied, "I like running and pushing myself, and sharing that experience with others."
by January 31st! Good luck!
Team bonding is a science, and one that we don't take lightly here at Touchstone. This Summer Jeremy Yee, the manager of Great Western Power Company in Oakland, lead his staff on a 10.5 miles torture slog, otherwise known as the Tough Mudder Race. The whole team crossed this finish line with arms linked and camaraderie high.... but it's what happens in between the starting line and the finish line that brought them closer. Read on for first hand accounts of the Tough Mudder from each competitors perspective.
Jeremy Yee - After 4 hours and 10.5 miles of scaling 12-foot high walls, crawling through submerged or buried tunnels and something else called an 'Arctic Enema' (sounds amazing, I know) we'd finally reached the last and final barrier. Locking our arms together, we collectively braced ourselves for the conclusion of our ordeal; hundreds of dangling wires, each charged with thousands of volts of electricity (10,000 to be exact).
I kept telling myself "I didn't sign up for this!", except the truth was that I did, voluntarily. I even paid money for the privilege of subjecting myself to this "challenge" (ed note: torture). If you’re the one person who hasn’t heard about Tough Mudder yet, it’s the probably the largest of a growing wave of hardcore obstacle course races that essentially serve as grueling, endurance-based adult playgrounds… ones that require participants to sign a death waiver.
Founded by a former British counter-terrorism agent, Tough Mudder was made to combat the monotony of other endurance races like marathons and triathlons by adding cramped & buried tunnels, mud pits, wall climbs, fright inducing jumps, and live electrical wires. As philanthropic as it is challenging-to-its-competitors, each race donates a portion of its proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project, raising over $5 million.
My team was composed of some of the best & brightest that GWPC has to offer. I was joined by fellow masochists "AJ" Andrew Jackson, Stephanie Jim, Zev Gurman & Jon Kennedy. Using the underrated technique of alternating between running, jogging, walking and complaining, we completed the course at the Northstar California resort in Truckee, CA in just over four hours.
The challenges were extremely fun, and just challenging enough to give competitors a sense of accomplishment (or failure). My personal favorites were the Arctic Enema (basically a dumpster full of ice that we had to wade through both partially & completely submerged), Everest (a giant quarter pipe – you had to run up the ramp and vault up to the lip), and Just the Tip/Berlin Wall, where we got to show off our climbing skills!
John Kennedy -There where a lot of good things about the race. I was psyched when I heard the race would be in Tahoe. Going in, at least I knew the race would have some good views, and fresh air. The whole race for me was really fun, especially since we didn't take things too seriously; making jokes and laughing the whole way. My favorite obstacle had to be "Everest", the 12' quarter pipe that you had to run up and top-out. Go Team!
Zev - An object's properties can only be measured through direct interaction, and that interaction tends to alter the state of said object. We all know this is true. From science....or something. As climbers, we reach out to our limits in order to measure ourselves, and in doing so, we (sometimes unwittingly) expand our limits. Whether we're sending our first V-Hard or climbing a new wall, as climbers we welcome new challenges as new metrics by which to measure our inner dimensions.
When our awesome manager, Jeremy, asked what kind of mud run we'd be interested in, I knew that we had to run a Tough Mudder, because we had to test our limits. (For science!) Everything else on the list was just too short or too painless. Though the crowd was a little bit more bro-y than anticipated, the challenges were tough, and the course was muddy. Thousands of volts, hundreds of feet of mud, a few ice baths, and 10.5 miles later I reflected that I had explored new limits that day as I explored a familiar refreshing, hard-earned adult beverage. Most of all I was happy to be exploring those new limits with friends. In the same way that climbing a few new pitches with a partner makes that bond stronger and exposes new bits of his/her character, working through the Tough Mudder with Andrew, Jeremy, Jon, and Stephanie brought us together as a team more than months of working side by side could have. I never would have run that thing on my own.
Stephanie - Tough Mudder was overall one of the toughest things I've really ever done. It was one of those courses where you really have to be physically and mentally fit - both of which, I'm ready to admit that I'm not. But now that the dust has settled, I am so happy to have finished it. Even though I feel weaker than usual, I found I do have inner strength to pull from. I loved all the climbing-related challenges because I got to show a lot of men that women can be strong too! I really liked the monkey bars because even though I was definitely hesitant to do it, it was like riding a bike and finishing that challenge brought me back to the days when I was queen of the playground. Finally, doing this with my amazing coworkers just made me feel all warm and fuzzy - maybe some of those fuzzies came from from our finale challenge where we linked arms and ran through the 10,000 Volt Chandelier of Pain (aka, "Electroshock Therapy"). Although it was painful, it was a fitting symbol of our unity here at GWPC: we started together and ended together. There's no better feeling than that - except for maybe piggy back rides from your boss in the partner-carry challenge.
Andrew - I felt like this race was a real team building experience for us all. I felt like this race really reinforced the rapport that we have as coworkers & teammates. A lot of the obstacles required you to lend a helping hand (or even just some encouragement) to your fellow Mudder, and we seemed to do really well in those ones. That's why my favorite obstacle, was the log climb ("Lumberjacked") where you had to climb over the top of a log that was suspended about 6-8' off the ground. We really had to help one another out on that one. All in all, I would definitely do the Tough Mudder again... Minus being electrocuted.
Jeremy - The bottom line – it’s a challenge, but it’s a fun challenge. You can push yourself as far as you want... and then some, but the odds are very good you’ll come away with a smile on your face. I particularly enjoyed the camaraderie and fellowship with my coworkers as we emerged from our icy baths, or whilst charging down the mountain and screaming our battle cry for all to hear.
....I guess you had to be there.