Summer Membership at Touchstone Climbing

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! 


Member of the Month: Brad Sandoval

There are often times in life when you enter into an assignment or situation believing that you know exactly how something will turn out, only to find many surprises along the way. These unanticipated circumstances may bring stress to set deadlines, but in the end may yield very exciting and unexpected results. For example, take the story of this month’s member, Brad Sandoval.

When you first lay eyes on Brad, it seems natural to categorize him as a formidable presence with an overwhelmingly serious demeanor. Off the mat, he is a humble and approachable man living with no computer and making time for the things closest to his for Jiu-Jitsu and enjoying good food.

As the deadline for my story quickly approached, I anxiously checked my email time and time again only to find nothing there. The questions I wrote remained unanswered, and I watched as April was drawing to a close. I almost felt as if the interview would never come to fruition, and THEN THEY CAME!! Brad showed up at the last minute of the last day before the end of the month with 9 pages of torn out yellow notepad paper with his handwritten responses. Each answer was crafted with a genuine heartfelt explanation that could only be attributed to someone who loves what he does. In this case, it was talking about Jiu-Jitsu with you and I, the readers. I can guarantee that once you read the interview, you will want to know more about this man, Brad Sandoval, and the martial art that he holds so dear to his heart. His experience, knowledge, and instruction is offered to you weekly just for being a member at Sacramento Pipeworks! Stop in, take a class, and say “hello”.

Brad Sandoval Image 2Bove: What does a typical Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class consist of and what can I expect if it were my first experience with the sport?
Sandoval: A normal practice session is 1 ½ hours, including a 10-15 minute warm-up/stretch incorporating many of the same movements we use in Jiu-Jitsu, followed by 30-45 minutes of instruction/practice with a partner, aka “drilling”. The last 30-45 minutes we “roll”.

Bove: How would I prepare for the class from a fitness perspective?

Sandoval: As far as physical preparation, I would suggest being well hydrated, because you will sweat! Aside from that, having an open mind and willingness to learn would be at the top of my list. Jiu-Jitsu is like chess in the way that you first learn how each piece moves before you develop strategies to checkmate other players...or a musical instrument where, you practice scales and chords repeatedly to develop mind and muscle memory; with enough practice, you can create music.

B: Is it something suitable for all ages and abilities?

S: Jiu-Jitsu is for all ages, however, at Sacramento Pipeworks we only offer classes for adults. Hopefully, in the future we will expand to offer classes for children. That being said, if a young person is mature enough to take the class they are welcome.

B: Would it make a difference if I wore normal workout clothes, or is there something specific that I should wear to class?

S: We practice with both the Gi (Kimono) and without Gi. For example, shorts and T-shirts. (Please check our class schedule for “Gi” or “No Gi” specification, days and class times.)

B: Is there a martial arts lifestyle and/or philosophy involved in the culture of the practice?

S: When you learn to see Jiu-Jitsu as a whole, you learn to accept a victory or defeat, to forgive your adversary, and to be more humble and balanced.

B: From a historical standpoint, can you tell us more about Jiu-Jitsu and its origin? What makes Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu different from other styles?

S: Mitsuyo Maeda was a Judo expert and a member of the Kodokan Judo Institute in Japan, and a student of Jikoro Kano, Judo’s founder. Unlike many members of the Kodokan Judo Institute who believed that the art should be demonstrated mainly through teaching and performing Kata, Maeda advocated demonstrating through actual combat. While Judo tends to focus more on throws and takedowns, Maeda’s style highlighted grappling in which Maeda was a specialist adding his innovations and philosophies. Maeda would compete in challenge matches against fighters from around the world, where he was more often than not the smaller combatant. Eventually stories spread of a smaller Asian man defeating larger, stronger opponents of many disciplines,including boxing and wrestling with little effort, rightfully earning Maeda the nickname, Mr. Impossible. Maeda traveled the world making a living through Judo demonstrations and prize fights.
In 1914, Maeda arrived in Brazil where he was befriended by a politician named Gastao Gracie, who at the time was helping Japanese colonies migrate to Brazil. Out of appreciation, Maeda offered to teach Judo to Gastao’s 14 year old son Carlos, who would in turn teach his brothers. Maeda not only passed along his techniques, but also his philosophies on combat. These techniques and philosophies would lay the foundation for Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. The Gracie family would go on to reveal the mysteries of Jiu-Jitsu to the world. Mitsuyo Maeda would never know the impact he made by giving us the gift of his martial art. THANK YOU MITSUYO MAEDA!

B: Where did you study and who was your mentor throughout the years?

S: I began practicing Jiu-Jitsu with Gi in 2001 in Wildomar, CA under then brown belt and great instructor, Jeff Bolton. That gym closed around 2003, so I began training No Gi (without Gi) Jiu-Jitsu, Muy Thai Kickboxing, and wrestling under UFC & Pride Fighting Championship Veteran, Chris Brennan of Next Generation Fight Academy in Temecula, CA until 2005. In 2005 he moved his Academy to Texas, which was unfortunate for my training. It was at this time that I decided to move back to my hometown of Sacramento, where 2003 World Champion professor Cassio Werneck runs his Academy in Citrus Heights. I have practiced at Cassio Werneck’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu academy from 2005 to the present.

B: How and when did someone with your experience and competitive prowess come to be an instructor at Sacramento Pipeworks?

S: About 2 years ago, my friend and fellow student under Cassio Werneck, Wayne Gregory (AKA the white Dave Chappelle), whom I am sure that many of you know from climbing here at Sacramento Pipeworks, asked if I would be interested in teaching here. I said, “Absolutely!” and was introduced to Vaughn Medford, General Manager Extraordinaire of the greatest gym in the world! The rest is history.

B: Do you have any rewarding moments and/or stories about yourself that you can share with us?

S: Some of my most rewarding moments include seeing my students improve and reach their goals.

B: What time/day can we join your class, and how many other people are normally present?

S: We have class Monday-Friday at 6 PM. An average class has 5-10 Jiu-Jitsu players give or take, and growing.

B: If you could be any type of animal, what would you be and why?

S: I would be a Na’vi (Avatar) cool would that be?!

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SCS Regionals at Berkeley Ironworks

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On May 10th we will welcome youth climbers from across the state to compete in the SCS Youth Regionals Competition at Berkeley Ironworks.

What Competitors Need to Know

Get psyched kid crushers! 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 regionals this year. This is a USA Climbing events, which means to compete you must have competed in 2 Local comps registered online. 

For those visiting from out of town - welcome! Berkeley Ironworks is easily accessible and has ample street parking. On the day of the event, we'll be on hand and answer any questions regarding parking or food options. 

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We're very excited to be hosting the event, and we've heard a lot of positive feedback from Touchstone Athletes who are preparing for the comp! 

I want to tell you how grateful we are that Touchstone agreed to host SCS Regionals! It is so nice for all the climbers and their families in Northern California to stay at home and avoid the time and expense of traveling for the comp. I also know our friends in the Pacific Northwest are also looking to coming here for the comp, climbing in a new gym and spending some time checking out the City. I’m excited that other climbers will get to check out our 2 favorite ropes gyms. Our kids have been wearing Touchstone on their uniforms for years. Now they get to compete there. Thanks!! - Jim Rogers

Thank you, thank you! We are so thrilled that Touchstone is hosting the upcoming youth Regionals and Divisionals. This not only gives us a chance to show off our fabulous home gyms, but it also is a great advantage for our home team - Zero Gravity. In recent years, our team members have had to get up before 6 am to drive to comps, or even worse, fly somewhere and stay in a hotel. This time they get to sleep in their own beds and climb in their own beloved gyms. And they are going to crush it!!! Thanks a ton! - Annie Leonard

Having regionals at Ironworks is a huge improvement to our region as far as gyms go. The walls are perfect for competition, the setters are all quality setters, and the spaciousness of the gym allows for a relaxed environment rather than a closed-in room. Touchstone being so close is another plus, as well as the familiarity of the place for Zero Gravity and the other local competitors. -Nick

What Members Need to Know:

You are more than welcome to come to the gym in Saturday to watch the young guns crush your proj. But be warned: The gym will be very busy and while bouldering and climbing on the back slabs will be open.. this miiight be a day to visit another gym. But be SURE to come to the gym on Sunday, May 11th. (Be sure to call your mother first and wish her a happy Mother's Day!)

We'll have an informal self-scoring ropes comp so all us big kids can take the brand new competition style routes for a spin. We will also be BBQ'ing out front so bring your game face for the comp routes and your hungry face for the BBQ. RSVP on our Facebook page so we know how much grub to grill! 


Save San Francisco Climbing

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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! 

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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.

Big Day Climbing Tips

The spring season brings longer days and bigger plans for many climbers. Moving faster and more confidently on big days requires a bit of strategy, planning and preparation. If you're getting ready for a big Yosemite climb, here are a few tips to make things move smoother.

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Fuel Well- Many climbers eat big dinners the night before a big climb. Packing in all that food makes sleep difficult and eating in the morning becomes a chore.  A better approach is to eat a large lunch and then eat lightly at dinner. Sleep comes easier and in the morning, you'll wake up hungry and able to digest food for the day. While climbing, eat light foods when leading.  Energy gels and shot blocks digest quickly.  When you have a chance to rest, eat some real food like a nice sandwich.  Give your body plenty of time to digest.  Make sure you are eating and drinking after each pitch.  

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 Move Efficently- Diablo Rock Gym manager, Hans Florine offers some of the best advice for big days of climbing. "Start off fast, just won't last.  Start off slow then go, go, go!" Running to the base of a climb, or bolting up the first pitch sounds like a great idea for getting up a route faster but this strategy will tire you out quickly.  Climb slowly and be efficient.  Having a plan before blasting off the ground can save significant time and prevent problems.  Most epics come from poor decision making.  Give your plan some thought before executing.  30 seconds of thought can prevent you from an hour of epic. 

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Look at the weather- Knowing when to go for your climbing objective can be crucial for success.  A slight chance of rain can be ok if you are comfortable with bailing. The clouds can provide a pleasant relief from the blistering sun. Avoid climbing in the middle of the day, if warm. Good temps make climbing easier. Make sure to make the most of them. Mid day heat can be exhausting. The sun will burn the stoke right out of you. Check the route the day before for conditions and know what they mean. A dry route but snow on the top might translate into a very wet climb the next day. I made that mistake this morning. From the meadow, El Cap looked perfectly dry but the next morning, it seeped again. Whoops! The 3:30 alarm was a few days premature!

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Be Comfortable- Become confident in your ability to bail. Not that you want to bail but bailing should be a non-issue. Knowing that retreat can be quick and easy is relaxing. Be confident on the terrain as well. Knowing that you can easily dispatch all of the pitches makes any impending storm easier or difficulty easier to handle. Learn to get off your hips at each anchor. Hanging in a harness will wear your body down. Take every chance you can to escape harness rash. Rest on ledges and then push through hanging belays. Being efficient at belays and making quick changeovers will help minimize your time hanging in your harness. Sometimes it takes longer to go down than to go up. Be comfortable with either.

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 Have Fun- Chances are you're in a beautiful place high off the ground with a good friend. These experiences are few and far between. Enjoy the moments that you get out climbing. Having a good attitude and keeping morale high will help things move significantly smoother.

Mesquite Trip Report

Touchstone Blogger, James Lucas checks in to recount about his recent trip to Mesquite Nevada.

Located between Las Vegas and Zion, Mesquite offers perfect limestone climbing between the two sandstone meccas. For the months of February and March, I traveled in the area, sampling many of the best crags and bouncing between the long sandstone route of Las Vegas and the splitter cracks of Zion.

The desert surrounding Mesquite contains a few different climbing areas. The VRG resides a few miles east of the town. The Cathedral and Wailing Wall sit twenty minutes north east from town as do the Gorilla Cliffs and Black and Tan Wall. Each area offers a vastly different experience.

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Dan Mirsky works on Route of All Evil at the VRG

The Virgin River Gorge provides roadside cragging on some of the best limestone in the United States. The VRG holds a high concentration of difficult sport climbs from 5.12 to 5.14 and was one of the primary haunts of Touchstone Stock Boy Scott Frye. The crimpy, technical nature of the climbing combined with the bold style makes the area difficult. Perhaps more bothersome at the crag is the highway. Sitting above a four lane highway with semi-trucks barreling down, hearing your climbing partner yell above the noise proves to be one of the cruxes of the climbing experience. Despite the noise, I managed to eek out the two 5.11 warm-ups at the crag and then injured myself by falling out of a heel-toe cam. Whoops! I spent a fair bit of time punting on the classics before realizing that the VRG was a great place to project difficult climbs but not the best place to have a fun and leisurely day of rock climbing.

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Mary-Kate Meyerhoffer cruises up Pocket Line at the Wailing Wall

The Cathedral and Wailing Wall provide a significantly better setting. While the rock quality pales in comparison to the VRG, the areas host a variety of sport climbs from 5.10 to 5.14. I spent the majority of my time climbing on the more technical Wailing Wall as apposed to the steep cave of the Cathedral. The limestone edges strengthened my fingers. Getting to the crag is a bit of an ordeal as it involves driving from Mesquite to Beaver Dam then continuing on a small highway to ten miles of dirt road and an arduous forty minute hike to the crag. I spent the majority of my time climbing at this area with the goal of climbing all the 5.12 and under routes at the Wailing Wall. I accomplished my goal but not without breaking a few holds, lowering off slung limestone horns and doing enough on route gardening to make Martha Stewart impressed.

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Matt Pincus cuts loose at the Black & Tan Wall

Beyond the VRG and the Cathedral area, the climbing around Mesquite has a number of smaller often overlooked crags. The Black and Tan wall offers VRG quality limestone in a significantly more boulder style. The routes required ballistic power. As do the short route of the Gorilla Cliffs. Just outside of town is an area known as Lime Kiln Road. The Grail, which is a large limestone diamond, sits a few minutes outside of town and has a number of longer, slabby sport pitches. Exploring each of these areas provided significant adventure. I found little to no information on the routes at the Grail Wall and did a fair bit of vision questing, hoping that the routes I climbed on would not prove to be over my abilities.

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One of the best camping spots ever is located on the BLM land outside of Beaver Dam

While the limestone is awesome around Mesquite, the town leaves something to be desired. The town sits on the time change of Nevada and Utah. One moment the clock reads nine am and the next moment it says 8. The constant time change coupled with the casinos gives the town an odd, broken feel. Mesquite offers amenities in terms of a large Walmart, a decent grocery store and a number of bad Mexican restaurants. The public library provides the only free Wi-Fi and the aquatic center in town sells $5 showers.

Overall, the climbing around Mesquite is some of the best limestone in the states. The variety as well as the density of a number of the crags makes it an awesome fall through spring destination.

BOSS Bookdrive

Berkeley Ironworks in conjunction with Leadership East Bay has been holding a book drive for a local women and children’s center run by Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency (BOSS). Established in 1971, BOSS serves over 1,500 homeless families and individuals with barriers to self sufficiency. “BOSS provides comprehensive services that help homeless families and individuals move from homelessness to homes ~ with improved skills and knowledge of resources so they can stay healthy and housed,” reads BOSS’s mission statement. The book drive, which  Leadership East Bay member Aaron Juchau organized, hopes to provide much needed reading material. Ironworks members are encouraged to drop off their extra reading material in the bins provided in the lounge area of the climbing gym.

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Indian Rock Spring Clean-Up


Where: Indian Rock - Castle Rock State Park, Los Gatos

When: Saturday, April 26

Hosted by: Bay Area Climbers Coalition

Details: Indian Rock (in the South Bay) is one of the premier Bay Area crags with amazing bouldering, top rope, and sport climbs. Many climbers know it as the "sweet free parking spots for Castle Rock" but many more know it as home to some of the best boulder problems in the greater Castle Rock area. Support your local climbing area and come to the Indian Rock Clean-up.

 Volunteers are needed to help with the construction of a trail from upper to lower Indian Rock. The current trail is causing erosion issues, and in general is unsafe and unsightly for climbers, hikers, and other users of the park space. We will also be doing general clean-up of glass and trash around the different climbing areas.

Join the Bay Area Climbers Coalition in partnering with the Santa Clara County Parks department to take on some needed cleaning and maintenance around Indian Rock. Besides all the awesome work that we will be doing, there will also be tasty free food, VIP/reserved parking, sweet raffle prizes, and post clean-up event sloper crushing!

For complete info, visit the Facebook Event Page and Pre-Register Here!

Every hour of time you donate to a crag helps show land managers that climbers are responsible stewards. Grab some friends and a pair of work gloves and spend a day giving back to the sport you love! We hope to see you there!

Spring Break ’09 - Cabo San Smith Rockas

Earlier this spring, a group of Berkeley climbers headed to one of the best rock climbing destinations in Oregon. Ben Steel wrote a bit about the group's trip for the Touchstone blog.

I suppose the first thing I should do is apologize to you for the misleading title. I haven’t been hiding this trip report away for 5 years just so I can spring it on you now; it’s just that “Spring Break Oh-Nine” has a much better ring to it than “Spring Break Twenty-Fourteen” when you scream it along the base of the crag. Or at least that’s what “Red Ben” Corbett said the first day we were there. We had heard some other spring breakers screaming the chronologically correct, age-old mantra of college students everywhere and he thought it could use some sprucing up.

Regardless of how we titled it, we were on spring break from UC Berkeley, and were up at Smith Rock to sample some of the United State’s finest “sport” climbing. I put sport in quotations since the bolt spacing at Smith is a far cry from the gym. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy small runouts; they induce a moderate level of terror and make the climbing take on an adventurous feel, which is ironic seeing that I was often clipping pre-hung draws after a 5-10 minute walk from the car. The great Cal Climbing herd and all around madhouse.

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Photo Ben Steel

Anyway, for this trip we managed to bring along quite a large number of folks from the Cal Climbing Team. I believe the final tally was with 27 people, 15 tents and 7 cars, all crammed into one sweet (not) group campsite. Since only two people in our group had ever been to Smith before it was everyone else’s first time there. And, as with most of our group trips, this one involved a lot of other “firsts” as well. There were a handful of “first times climbing outside”, “first leads”, “first harness purchases”, “first trad leads”, and even my personal favorite “first time freezing your ass off in that insufficient sleeping bag you brought.” This is one of my favorite parts about being on the climbing team, being able to introduce new people to climbing outdoors and new types of climbing that they may not have been able to experience had they not come along on one of our trips. For example, a couple of people on the team had never climbed more than single pitch routes, and they got to climb this sweet multipich 5.7 along with some of the more experienced leaders.

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Riding the arête on The Last Waltz 5.12c. Photo Casey Zak

Climbing at Smith was quite different from the trips I’m used to taking to places like Yosemite or the Needles. In the valley we usually (always) end up hiking (way) farther than we anticipated for some climb that’s not necessarily on the beaten path. Smith on the other hand is a 6 minute drive from the campground and a 7 minute walk from the parking lot, has nicely built and maintained trails, and has toilets at the crag! That’s right, if you had to cut down to sending weight before your next burn you didn’t even have to make the 7 minute walk back to the bathroom at the parking lot, you could just saunter over and take care of business in comfort and privacy. Also, the main area is literally littered with classic climbs of all grades. There are 5.14’s two climbs away from 5.10’s, which are four climbs away from 5.12’s, which are right next to 5.6’s. My climbing partner Casey always says that one of the things that makes climbing so great is how elite climbers are so accessible and easy to interact with for the everyday climber. Now it’s not as if I swapped belays with Ondra or anything, but basically climbers of all levels were climbing within spitting distance of each other all day. I always find watching climbers who are better than me is a great way to generate psych, and I must say that it helped me to try hard on my routes when I knew that right around the corner someone was climbing 5.14.

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Ana Stirniman on Chain Reaction 5.12c Photo by Casey Zak

But I’m getting ahead of myself. With an alpine start time of 8:30 PM, we drove through Friday night, crammed into Casey’s Pathfinder (affectionately named Lonestar) like a bunch of sardines. We were so wrecked by the drive we couldn’t really sleep much, but were up and getting ready to climb by 8am. In terms of being comfortable and well rested for the trip I’d say we nailed it.

Apparently a lot of schools had spring break that first weekend so the main area was packed that first day! The full range of climbers, from crusher to first timer, was out in full force and basically every route with over 2 stars had a line to climb it. On top of that, the beautiful scenery attracts non-climbers from far and wide. With 2 hours of sleep and a swarming mass of climbers, dogs, children, backpacks, hikers, runners, walkers, joggers, and families to contend with I felt okay with only climbing 5 routes over the span of 8 or so hours. However, we did manage to get on some pretty cool stuff that day. The highlight was when Casey flashed a notoriously stiff 12a that was essentially a long series of slopey crimps that sucked away all hope as soon as you touched them. Somehow he held on through the crux and battled his way up the top headwall to the anchors for a proud send. Back at camp that night we were so exhausted we went to bed at 8.

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Casey: stoked to climb on our first day or delirious from lack of sleep? Photo Ben Steel

The second day we decided to ditch the crowds and climb on the Monkey’s Face instead. Unlike many climbing destinations, at Smith, avoiding crowds is as simple as walking to the other side of the formation. The Monkey’s Face is one of the most iconic sights in all of Oregon and is definitely worth the extra 15-minutes of hiking (did I mention how much I liked the approaches at Smith?). It’s a super rad formation that, depending on the angle you view it from, looks either like a perfect monkey’s face (duh) or disturbingly phallic.


Guess which view this is! Northwest Corner (green) and The Backbone (red) on the Monkey’s Face. Photo Ben Steel

Casey and Steven climbed the Backbone (13a) while David and myself tackled the Northwest Corner (12a). The Northwest Corner was frickin’ amazing! The first two pitches can be led in one massive 50-meter pitch up through the band of red rock to end on the biggest cave/ledge you can imagine. The route involves long reaches between perfect fingerlocks and sweet laybacks on gear with 3 bolts sprinkled into the mix. After a fun and semi-cruiser bottom section I ended up making it through what I thought was the crux and was able to catch my breath on some okay jugs with bad feet. Once somewhat recovered, I launched into the “easy” section above only to find the actual crux of the route, get pumped out of my mind, and take a nice big whipper to put me in my place. Trying it again, I soon found myself shaking with fatigue above a couple of well-spaced and suspect cam placements while staring at a bolt guarded by a mantle-highstep move with a smeary foot…It was a full exhilarating (read: terrifying) minute before I committed, scrunched my knee into my face, and got to better holds. The rest of the day was a blast, except when some other party dropped the rope that I had left fixed so Steven and Casey could do a double rope rappel from the top of the formation. Luckily I saw it happen and nobody ended up stuck on top of the Monkey. I will say, whenever you come across a fixed line, provided it’s not dangerous, you should always leave it where it is and simply be thankful that you can speed up your rappelling.

Over the next few days we checked out the Lower Gorge, which has some simply amazing basalt column climbing, took a rest day in Bend where we sampled the local brews, and tried to get on as many of the classic climbs in the main area as we could.

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For me, one of the most memorable and impressive parts of the rest of the trip was watching fellow Touchstone employee Steven Roth put in some hard work on Scarface, the first 5.14 (now 13d) done by an American (Scott Franklin in 1988). It climbs a shallow corner in this really cool, sweeping wall, before pulling onto a scary looking slab above. The movement is really cool looking, involving massive moves between two finger pockets. The only thing is, Steven’s fingers are so thick that for him it’s massive moves between monos. In an overhang. With bad feet. I guess that’s why it’s 5.13+/14-. Watching him climb was one of the craziest displays of strength I’ve ever witnessed, especially when he made some of the aforementioned moves look relatively casual.

We ended the trip on Thursday, since I had work Friday and the weather was supposed to take a massive dump on Smith the next day. Once again, we drove from 8PM to 5AM, and once again it was one of the most uncomfortable 9 hours I’ve ever spent. However, I’d gladly endure that heinous car ride again since Smith is definitively one of the best climbing destinations out there.

If you ever do find yourself at Smith (and you should), here’s a list of the climbs I’d put on the must do list:

9 gallon buckets (5.10, morning glory wall )

Churning in the Wake (5.13a, morning glory wall) Supposedly the extension, Churning in the Sky is even better and still only 13a

The Last Waltz (5.12c, the dihedrals) Super rad!

Northwest Corner(5.12a, monkey face) also Mega rad!

Pure Palm (5.11a, lower gorge)

The Pearl (5.11b, lower gorge)

Chain Reaction (5.12c, dihedrals)

Crossfire (5.12b, dihedrals)

Spiderman(5.7, three pitches)


The Lost Coast Trail with Eric Nakano

Recently, Dogpatch Desk Staffer, Eric Nakano stepped away from running the kids after school camps for an amazing hiking trip along the Lost Coast trail from Usal Camp to Nadelos Camp. He wrote about his adventure for the Touchstone Blog.

Distance: 29.19 miles

Elevation gain: 10,475 ft.

Elevation loss: 8,699 ft.

Climbing: didn’t find too much.

It was 11:45 PM when we pulled into Garberville. I slowed to a nice 35 MPH pace to avoid any chance of a speeding ticket, and to ensure we wouldn’t accidentally drive past our rendezvous point and end up back on the 101. The last text I received from my friend Matt read, “…Should be in Garberville in about an hour and a half. Gonna check out the local scene…I’m at the Blue Room. It’s towards the north of town.” – Thur, Mar 20, 7:11 PM. As I had imagined, the Blue Room turned out to be the quintessential small town bar, and the only establishment open at that hour. Matt wasn’t hard to spot, even from outside of the bar looking through the front window. He was seated at the center of the bar, staring off into space, with a lowball glass of whiskey on the rocks, and the only other person I could see inside was the bartender shuffling around behind the bar. It was late, so we chose to forgo grabbing a drink, and instead spent the next two hours lost on backcountry roads with no cell reception before finally reaching Nadelos Camp (the northern trailhead) where we spent our first night.

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Trip Tip: If a friend is renting a car for the trip, make sure you are the leader of the caravan. Something about that $9 damage insurance will turn an average driver into the Jeff Gordon of the Hyundai Veloster.

Because we chose not to shell out $400 on a shuttle service, the next morning required us to all pile in my car and drive down to Usal Camp (the southern trailhead) to begin our trek.

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The stretch of trail from Usal Camp to Wheeler camp features a good amount of hiking along the cliffs of the coast and winds through a number of forest areas with beautifully lush fern growth. We arrived at the first of a handful of beach access trails around midday and were immediately greeted by a nude man who brought us to the rest of his group on the beach. This group will henceforth be referred to as Pasty White and the Seven Nudes (and yes, there was only one female in the group). We spent some time resting, snacking, exploring the beach for any good bouldering, and decided to get back on the trail just as the Greek wrestling was winding down. It was pretty clear we were not in the same state of consciousness as Pasty White’s group. There was a substantial presence of poison oak along the thin sections of exposed trail and upon arrival at Wheeler Camp we all felt it appropriate to take a dive in the ocean. This is where things started to get a little weird. Brett (an avid surfer) came walking up the beach after taking his turn in the water and called up to us asking Jeff whether he was going in. There was no one named Jeff in our group…So either it was a combination of exhaustion and freezing water scrambling up his brain, or he took whatever our nude friends on the beach were indulging in that day.

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The next day we hiked from Wheeler Camp along a portion of the trail featuring almost entirely dense forest and fern undergrowth until the trail opened up into wide bluffs upon reaching our camping destination at Jones Beach. The terrain was much more mellow than the first day, and we had the opportunity to hang out with a herd of elk as the trail cut through a meadow leading down to Bear Harbor and we were to witness part of the herd playing chicken with the waves coming in on the beach. This was the day that sparked the quote, “You went from Elmer’s Glue to bedroom wall.” – Brett regarding Wolf’s tan, and when we learned that Matt had been keeping track of how many people we had seen since we parked the car at Usal Camp. The total for the trip was 48.

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The third and final day of the trip included dark, foggy, sinister forest to sunny coastal desert with Manzanita. Additional highlights of the day include: Ice cold Eye of the Hawk at the end of the trail, and somehow fulfilling everyone’s insatiable craving for Taco Bell on the drive home. Honestly, aside from the natural beauty of the trail, that’s all I can really remember of this day.

Trip Tip: Always keep beer and salami in a cooler at the end of the trail for motivation.

This happened to be a first time backpacking trip for my friend Wolf, and I believe this would be a great trip for anyone who is fairly new to backpacking and looking for a nice challenging three day trip just about four hours north of San Francisco.

GWPC Climbers Take on Oakland Running Festival

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.

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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.

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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.

The Train in LA

Recently, LA.B member Joyce Tam wrote about one of the most under appreciated transportation service to the climbing gym.

Sometimes I'm positive I'm the only person that rides the train because most of the time folks are shocked to hear there is a train in LA. But yes, I speak the truth when I say there is a train in LA, sometimes it even goes below ground (subway, if you’re fancy). And no, I have not been the victim of unspeakable crimes aboard the train.


I take the train and a bus to the LA.B and you can too. Sometimes I look outside the window and chuckle to myself at all the suckers I witness in a parking lot on the road. Don't be a sucker. Fare is a measly $1.50, which compared to most of the other major metropolitan areas in America is a drop in the bucket. It's fairly easy to access any of the train lines from most parts of LA and all the train lines feed into downtown.


I understand coming from the West side can be a big deterrent, nobody wants to waste their life fighting traffic. There isn’t really a winner on that front. But most train stops have a parking lot you can leave your car, while you hop onto the train for a blissful period of leisure. What you do with your time here is up to you. I won’t ask questions if you don’t. Once you emerge from the little known underbelly of downtown Los Angeles, you have the option of doing lots of things that I won’t get into because that is a story for another day.


There are any number of buses departing from downtown that go up, down, around the Lab. The 18, 53, 62, or 720 will take you where you want to go, in addition to a few others. Pay the fare with your tap card ($1.50) and hop aboard. I’ll warn you now, don’t make eye contact. It can get a little seedy as you pass below Skid Row, but there are plenty of working class individuals dozing on here as well. The trip I take is usually a little less than an hour, which is just enough time to make good headway on a book.


The bus deposits you probably closer to the LA.B than if you were to hunt for parking in the vicinity. If you’re familiar with the establishment next door and their tow policy, you’ll be glad you don’t have your car today. I have this impression of rock climbers as a more adventurous lot than the typical citizen. I have the utmost confidence in your public transit abilities and look forward to seeing you on the train.

Past blog entries can be found at



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