Every Spring and Fall, Great Western Power Company, our Oakland location, hosts “Girlz Climb On”, a climbing adventure program for young women, administered and organized by GirlVentures. Since they have another session coming up this Fall, we decided to check in with the GirlVentures Team to learn more about this amazing program!
Can you describe your program (Girlz Climb On) to someone who isn't already familiar with it?
GirlVentures’ signature after-school program provides meaningful one-on-one mentorships and rock climbing experience for girls in grades 6-9. Trained female volunteer mentors and girls meet after school for 2.5 hours a week for twelve consecutive weeks at two Touchstone ClimbingGyms, GWPC in Oakland and Mission Cliffs in San Francisco. These mentors coach girls on both climbing skills and the transference of character-building experiences of climbing into girls’ broader lives. Girls learn trust, perseverance, self-confidence, communication/self-express and team collaboration. They enjoy improved self-esteem and gain access to a nontraditional, male dominated sport that is financially inaccessible to many families.
How many kids do you service in this program? Are there any requirements/qualifications to participate?
We serve 20 girls from 6th-9th grade (10 at GWPC, 10 at Mission Cliffs) twice a year during our fall and spring sessions. There are no requirements for participants except for an eagerness to learn!
Are there scholarships available for families who cannot afford the program fees?
Yes! To ensure that ALL girls have the opportunity to participate in our programs, we award financial aid to two-thirds of all participants.
What types of skills do the girls typically learn? Is it just a climbing program, or are there other elements to it?
Each week we work on developing technical climbing skills: everything from tying a figure-8 follow-thru knot and belaying to techniques like smearing and edging. We also focus on issues that connect rock climbing with a strength a girl already has or would like to improve on like building relationships with friends, trust, leadership, self-expression, working as a group, communication and resolving conflicts. We begin with a one-day ropes course at Fort Miley, practice indoors for 10-12 weeks, and conclude with a weekend outdoor climb at Castle Rock State Park.
Where do your program mentors come from? Is there a way for interested members to get involved with this program?
GirlVentures mentors are a diverse group of women from all walks of life and climbing experience. Generally, we seek mentors who have the following qualifications, though they are not required:
Coaching, teaching or mentoring experience with adolescents
(informal experience with friends & family counts...) Diversity/anti-oppression training or experience
(women of color strongly encouraged to apply) Passion for empowering young women
(i.e.: a desire to share your belief that girls can do anything) Climbing/belaying experiencing
(if you have belayed and/or can climb a 5.8 or higher we are already impressed)
Strong candidates without climbing experience are considered IF they are able to commit to taking a belay class AND practice climbing at the gym a few times prior to the start of the program.
Touchstone members can certainly get involved! Interested members can learn more about the mentorship role and commitments here. Girlz Climb On for mentors begins on September 16, 2013 and for girls on September 21, 2013. The program runs for 10 weeks from 4-7 p.m. on Mondays at Mission Cliffs and Wednesdays at GWPC.
Fresh from raising $700 in a bake sale, GWPC teen team, The East Betas, trudged up the Berkeley Hills to test their plastic beast strength on the polished boulders of Indian Rock and Mortar Rock. All the typical gromits were in full attendance led by the good looking, super talented coaches Ryan Moon, Sam Schwartz, and Ari Oppenheimer. Moon, perhaps the MOST modest of the crew, submitted this trip report to the Touchstone Blog.
Read more: East Betas at Indian Rock
Working at the front desk at the gym means you hear this question a lot. 'How do I find a belay partner?' While bouldering is easy to jump into, finding a belay partner to rope up with can be more of a challenge. "It's such a shame when people cancel their membership because their belay partner has moved or is injured," said Berkeley Ironworks staff Monica Aranda. "Especially when I know we get requests for belay partners nightly. I can't think of anyone who wouldn't be psyched for a new climbing partner!"
Stephanie Jim, who works at Great Western Power Company as the Kids Camp director, is trying to tackle the problem. "When I was younger, I loved watching the TV show Cheers," said Stephanie. "It made me happy to see a place where someone knows your name. I see this gym as my very own Cheers. It's a not just a work out facility or my job, it's a community. I want everyone to feel like a part of it." This was the motivation behind 'Partner Parties'; fun events where members and guests can meet new climbing partners.
If you're interested in participating, the next Partner Party at GWPC is on May 22nd from 6pm-8pm. If you're a member, swipe your magical membership card and you're in! If you're a guest, simply pony up for your day pass and no one will be the wiser. To get started, head over to the smoke stack in the middle of the rope walls. There, you'll find snacks to lure you in, and new friends to keep you coming back for more!
"One you pick up a partner card, and write your name on the top," explains Stephanie. " For each new person you climb or belay with, you'l write their names down and check in at the partner table to get a raffle ticket." Boulderers are also encouraged to come out! For each new person you meet in the bouldering area (ie. give beta to, high five, etc), add their name to the card and exchange it for a ticket. Raffle winners will be announced every 20 - 30 minutes. You'll win anything from a t-shirt to a chalk bag!
This is just one example of the fun events that Touchstone employees put on for their communities. "Wouldn't it be great if the minute you stepped into the gym, you recognized 5-10 friendly faces that immediately made you feel at home?" said Stephanie. To find out more about the upcoming Partner Party at GWPC, be sure to check out the Facebook page and invite your friends.
Other partner finding events are on the calendar at The Studio in San Jose, Berkeley Ironworks, Mission Cliffs and Diablo Rock Gym. Find new partners and make the gym a place where everyone knows your name!
Need a boost in your climbing? Want to be a little stronger? Great Western Power Company's system wall offers the perfect opportunity to train harder with HIT strips.
Over a decade ago, climbing training author Eric Horst developed a program to greatly increase grip strength. Hypergravity Isolation Training (HIT) utilizes high intensity exercise, identical finger holds, and climbing with weight.
In this video, accomplished boulderer Sam Schwartz demonstrates how to affectively use the HIT strips.
Read more: HIT Strip Training
Bouldering season is in full effect. In between weekend trips to Sonora and Bishop, the gym provides a great place to train. The campus board provides an ideal training surface.
In this video, Touchstone's Sam Schwartz provides instruction on how to effectively use a campus board.
Read more: Campus Board Training
Daniel O'Shea joined the GWPC community 2 years ago with the intent (like many others) to change his life and get healthy. For him, the means to this end was CrossFit. Since starting CrossFit in February 2011, Daniel has dropped 80 pounds, and more than doubled his strength gains. He recently performed a strict pull-up for the first time, which was one of his personal fitness goals for 2012.
GWPC spent a few minutes with Daniel to talk about his physical journey, training regimen and opinions on “The Sport of Fitness”.
GW: Daniel, first off thanks for agreeing to meet with us, and congratulations on getting your first pull-up!
DO: Thanks, it was one of my last fitness goals for 2012, so I’m glad I was able to get it before the end of the year.
GW: How did you find out about our CrossFit Program?
DO: I had been curious about CrossFit for a while, since I have some friends who had tried it and seen very good results. I was initially pretty reluctant to try it because it seemed very intense, I was so out of shape, and I thought I would hurt myself. I knew that to be successful, I was going to need help, especially since it had been 5+ years since I had worked out with any sort of intensity/focus, and I wanted one on one instruction to see if CrossFit was right for me. While I was still looking for a gym/trainer, I found the CrossFit East Bay website (crossfiteastbay.com), and got in touch with Max Lewin (CFEB Owner & Program Manager at GWPC). He responded really quickly, and since the gym was close to my office, I walked over the next day to check it out and loved the place. I signed up for a membership on the spot.
GW: How long have you been doing CrossFit?
DO: I started in February 2011, so almost 2 years. My weight when I started CrossFit was 265 lbs. and I am currently at 185.
GW: What’s your favorite workout?
DO: My favorite workout is “Karen” (150 wall ball reps with 20# ball to a 10’ target for time) because it was the first workout that I could do Rx (as prescribed).
GW: A lot of folks are intimidated by CrossFit, especially given the aggressive nature of the workouts. What would you say to someone who asked you about the culture of CrossFit and more specifically, the CFEB community?
DO: I’d say that it’s just that, a community. I’ve found the people to be highly supportive and encouraging. Of course it helps that we have similar fitness goals, but outside of that, most of the people I’ve met have just been good people.
GW: Do you have any goals for 2013?
DO: Well, there are 3 “core” skills that I still haven’t gotten yet: Double Unders, Handstand Pushups and Muscle Ups. Ideally I’d like to get all three next year, but if I were able to do any of them, I’d still be psyched. Also, I’d like to try climbing (bouldering) next year.
GW: Thanks again Daniel, we’re psyched to have been a part of your transformation, and wish you continued success with CrossFit (and hopefully soon, climbing)!
DO: No problem, thanks to all my trainers and workout buddies at CrossFit East Bay and GWPC!