Happy Monday! ...Or as it has come to be known here at Touchstone Climbing, Happy New Gym Announcement Day!
That's right people, we have secured a location for a state of the art indoor climbing gym in Hollywood, California. This will be our 3rd project currently underway in the Greater Los Angeles Area. Once again, Touchstone worked with the team at Creative Space to find a ‘needle in a haystack’ location that addressed all of the unique requirements of a Touchstone climbing gym. The Hollywood gym is located near the 101 and will offer over 17,000 sq ft of climbing terrain, making it the largest bouldering-only gym in Southern California.
For those following along at home, we announced that we had found a location for a Pasadena gym in January, and a Culver City location last week. “Now that we’ve been here for 6 months and people can really see what we’re made of, announcing other locations is HUGE,” said LA Boulders General Manager Remi Moehring. “We’ve set the bar high and people know what we mean when we say a Touchstone gym is coming to town.”
"Our goal in coming to Los Angeles was not to simply add a gym, which we did with LA.B this year. Our objective is to be a catalyst in the development of an indoor climbing community, said Touchstone Climbing CEO Mark Melvin. “It takes multiple exceptional gyms in close proximity with reciprocity, to do the job right, and this new location is essential. We are very excited to be in the greater Los Angeles area."
Offering the climbing and fitness community a network of gyms is a pillar of our success in Northern California. And now it's only a matter of time until our Southern California members can enjoy the same perks! “We are hopeful that we can open both Hollywood and Culver City in the first half of 2015,” said Sr. Manager Markham Connolly.
We will once again be working with our friends at Walltopia to design the walls, and Flashed Climbing to build the state of the art flooring. #dreamteam
Creating a network of gyms in the LA Basin will not only increase the number of gyms and amount of terrain for the climbing and fitness community, it allows Touchstone to ramp up their infrastructure in the area. “I'm really excited to develop a crew in LA that will bring the Touchstone caliber of route setting to the climbing gym scene,” said Head Touchstone Routesetter Jeremy Ho. “I’ll be hiring full time setting crew that will set at all four locations, bringing our quality and cohesive style to each gym.”
Touchstone is currently working through the permitting process on their 3 newest projects in Pasadena, Culver City and Hollywood and will have more information come fall. Keep it tuned here for more information!
The Touchstone Climbing Series, AKA TCS2014, has been bringing beer, pizza, climbing, prizes and 'da party' to each of our six of our nine gyms over the past year. The comp series rotates back and forth between rope climbing and bouldering, with on-sight finals at Mission Cliffs and Dogpatch Boulders.
There is one last Friday night comp left at Great Western Power Company in Oakland. Be sure to come on Friday, August 22nd ftom 5pm-10pm to compete. As always, this comp is FREE to our beloved members and only $10 for guests.
If you weren't around for the finales last year, here is a breakdown of what to expect.
The bouldering comp and on-sight finals will be held a Dogpatch Boulders on Saturday, September 27th. It will be an open comp from 12pm-5pm, which is just like any other comp you've come to know and love. Anyone can compete in beginner, intermediate or advanced categories. There will be pizza, beer, food trucks for snacks, and more.
Once the clock strikes 5, it's finals time! We will select the TOP 3 advanced climbers from the entire series, and the top 3 climbers from the day, to go head to head in On-sight finals.
There are three finals problems and the top 6 male and female finalists will have 5 minutes for each of them. "It's pretty exciting," said Routesetter Ben Polanco. "Bouldering finals at Dogpatch are super fun to watch."
There is a cash purse of $1,000 for 1st place men and women. $600 for 2nd place, and $350 for third.
Prizes will also be awarded to the overall winner in all categories. So the more comps you went to, the better your chances of reaching the podium!
To check your overall rope standings, click here:
The roped comp and on-sight finals will take place on October 25th at Mission Cliffs. The new expansion walls lend themselves perfectly to competition climbing and spectating.
The comp will function in the same format. Open climbing will take place throughout the day between 12pm and 5pm. We will select the TOP 3 advanced climbers from the entire series, and the top 2 climbers from the day, to go head to head in On-sight finals.
Each competitor will have 1 chance to climb 1 route, and the climber with the highest 'highpoint' wins. If there is a draw, there will be a tie breaker route.
There is a cash purse of $1,000 for 1st place men and women. $600 for 2nd place, and $350 for third.
Prizes will also be awarded to the overall winner in all categories. So the more comps you went to, the better your chances of reaching the podium!
For bouldering and roped standings, we take your top two or three results, respectively, for the series, add them together, and rank you within your computed category. If you were ever bumped during the series during a bouldering/roped comp, you are "bumped" for the series.
For the series standings, we take each of your scores, divide it by the maximum possible points for that competition, and multiply it by 10000. That is your "normalized" score for the competition. We take your top 5 normalized scores, add them together, and that is your series score. Then you are ranked by gender and category.
At Berkeley Ironworks, we have always believed in serving and reaching out to our Bay Area community. As one of the largest indoor climbing gyms in the area—with towering, 45-foot climbing walls and a caring, supportive staff—we have a unique facility, and we love to share it with community organizations like yours.
We offer organizations who work with underserved, special needs, and at-risk youth (and other qualifying groups) heavily subsidized, fully staffed group events – no strings attached. Our only goal is to get your organization climbing! Over the last few years we have worked with organizations like Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program (BORP) and Lighthouse for the Blind, hosted children with incarcerated parent and served Soccer Without Borders, an organization that connects newly arrived immigrants to one another and to the community.
Here are some testimonials from groups that have visited Berkeley Ironworks in the past year.
"There was so much encouragement and energy for each other that it made it great to see how much you all have grown to care for each other and see the value in the success of someone else. That was amazing."
Trooper Johnson, BORP.
"The students were given freedom to explore and boulder as well as try climbing on rope. It was not only the first time for all of the kids to climb, it was some students' first time outside of Richmond. The environment, patrons of the gym as well as all the staff were highly accommodating and supported us feeling safe and capable of trying new things, taking on personal challenges and allowed the students to have an incredible experience outside of their typical daily lives. We thank Ironworks and the staff for the wonderful opportunity to give us a place to explore and reach new heights!"
Katherine Bruce, Gateway Project
"Those of us who have rock climbed with kids know that it is one of those activities that immediately draws them in, gets them excited and challenges their minds and their bodies. What happens when you bring a group of recently arrived refugees and asylum seekers from all over the world to a climbing gym? Fun and adventure."
Dan Robinson, Soccer Without Borders
As a lifelong climber, I can attest to the challenge, excitement, and joy that is rock climbing. It is a physical challenge appropriate for all ability levels and a mental challenge that requires and develops problem solving skills. It offers a sense of accomplishment and the opportunity to confront and conquer our fears. It fosters social connections, helps build trust, and is a wonderful team-building tool.
If your organization is looking for a new activity—and a new challenge—in a controlled, fun, and supportive environment, contact us!
They're up with the sun, chain coffee-drinking and working hard to bring you the routes you love to send, project, and crush. 'Touchstone Routesetting' is an industry term for excellence, and each member of the crew brings a little somethin' somethin' to the team. In our ongoing segment, Better Know a Setter, we bring you a closer look at what makes 'em tick. In this weeks installment, we sat down with Head Routesetter Jeremy Ho.
How long have you been route setting?
How did you get into route setting?
I had been working at Berkeley Ironworks for a couple years and always wanted to try out setting. Eventually there was an open spot on the crew, I applied and was hired. It was all down hill from there...
What is your favorite gym to set at and why?
I'm a big fan of setting at Dogpatch Boulders. I'm predominantly a boulderer but lately I've been excited about setting routes and the Mission Cliffs expansion space is top notch for that.
What are your route setting pet peeves?
As the Head Routesetter, my biggest setting pet peeves are spinning holds (under tightened holds) and tape angles being off. As just a routsetter aesthetics are really important to me, matching hold sets and similar feet make a huge difference to me.
What is in your route setting bag right now?
Makita 18v impact driver, Ratchet T-wrench, Metolius Waldo big wall harness, Petzl Sama sport harness, At least 2 Petzl Grigri's, Petzl Pro Traction, Multiple locking and non locking carabiners, Petzl Ascender, Metolius 4 step aider, 2 Metolius Quick Fix, 2 quick draws, A tap, Multiple bits (for set screws and regular 5/16 hex head bits), Chalk bag with brushes, my NEW SoiLL Bucket... Oh and sharpies out the wazoo
What inspires your routes?
Rock climbing. I love everything about it and route setting allows me to create movement for others that will hopefully get them to love the sport as much as I do. Watching people enjoy something you set is a great feeling.
What is your favorite memory setting with the Touchstone Crew?
Probably Eric Sanchez shucking the pole challenge at Dogpatch for the first time.
You recently set at SCS Nationals in Atlanta. Tell us about that.
It was incredible. It was an amazing opportunity and it's inspiring to know that the Touchstone standard of routesetting can hold up on a national level. It was great learning experience to spend so much time around a great group of setters from all over the US.
And we hear your route won 2nd place in a peer review?
Yeah, I only lost 1st place by ONE vote! Note to self; next time I need to vote for my own route!
Where is your favorite place to climb outside?
I really love the climbing in Bishop and the eastern Sierras are just beautiful. Yosemite Valley is real close to the top too.
What is your proudest send?
Definitely topping out Evilution Direct ground up (a 60' boulder problem on the Grandpa Peabody boulder in Bishop). I think only a handful of people have climbed that thing without checking out the top section on a rope. (my only claim to fame. HA!)
What is your advice for aspiring setters?
Don't get discouraged. Your routes will likely be bad at first. Nail down the basics before trying to set crazy technical moves. Keep you mind open to suggested changes to your routes and learn from your mistakes. Continue to learn as much as possible about rock climbing movement and stay active in setting (you CAN get rusty.)
How many Kombuchas do you drink per week?
A sh*t ton. At least 2 per day. But that's a secret don't tell anyone.
Your secret is safe with us, JHo!
Mission Cliffs, which is about to celebrate it's 20th anniversary, has been undergoing a massive expansion project for the past two years. The gyms has added 9,000 ft of roped climbing terrain, gained a stretching and viewing mezzanine, moved the front desk, and is currently finishing construction on two brand new programming rooms. "It's been a crazy year," said General Manager Donna Hawkins. "But it's so cool to be able to grow with our membership base. The Mission Cliffs expansion has transformed the gym from what was the best 20 years ago, to what will be the best for years to come."
We knew that with such a dramatic change to the physical gym, the logo could use a little makeover as well. So of course, we turned to our friends Mark Fox and Angie Wang of Design is Play.
Mark has been climbing at Touchstone Gym's since 1993 and the two of them joined Mission Cliffs in 2009. Not only are they regular crushers around the gym, they are talented designers as well. They have worked with us to design the identities for our past four gyms; MetalMark 2010, The Studio Climbing in 2011, Dogpatch in 2012, LA. Boulders in 2013, and now Mission Cliffs in 2014. The MetalMark, The Studio, and the LA. Boulders identities all include original typeface.
We're also proud to find out that their trademark for Dogpatch Boulders is included in the Graphis Design Annual 2015!
"Out of all nine Touchstone Gym logos, you can definitely tell which ones Mark and Angie designed," said Sr. Manager Markham Connolly. "They are clean, bold, and easily identifiable. You can really see that that each unique logo is a part of the same company."
The two are highly renowned designers in the Bay Area. Mark was President of the San Francisco chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) from 1995–1996, and served on the board of the Architecture + Design Forum of SFMOMA from 1998–2000. In 1995 Fox chaired the Design Lecture Series: “5ive Iconoclasts” featured Tibor Kalman, Vaughan Oliver, the Guerrilla Girls, Jenny Holzer, and Diller + Scofidio. In 2004 Fox was designated a Fellow of the San Francisco AIGA for personal and professional contributions to the San Francisco design community.
Fox is a Professor of Graphic Design at California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco where he has taught since 1993. He served as Chair of Graphic Design at CCA on two occasions, from 2003 to 2007, and most recently from 2013 to 2014. He earned a B.A. in Fine Arts from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1985, graduating magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa.
Angie's work for March Pantry, Anson Mills, One Catering, and others has won numerous awards from the Type Directors Club, Communication Arts, Graphis, AIGA, and Print magazine. In 2013, Design is Play was one of forty-four design firms interviewed for Steven Heller and Lita Talarico’s book Design Firms Open for Business (Allworth Press).
More recently, Angie is quoted in Design School Wisdom, an anthology of tips from veterans in the industry (Chronicle Books). Her work is also featured in New Modernist Type (Thames & Hudson); Typography Essentials: 100 Design Principles for Working with Type (Rockport); and Typography Sketchbooks (Princeton Architectural Press.) In 2014, Angie served as one of five jurors for Communication Arts’ Design Annual, an international competition of the best design created over the last year.
Angie is a Senior Adjunct Professor at California College of the Arts in San Francisco where she has been teaching in the Graphic Design Program since 2005. She has taught “Typography 3: The Book,” created the curriculum for the foundational course “Typography 1: Form,” and co-taught the Summer study abroad class “Amsterdam: Dutch Utopia” with Mark Fox. She graduated magna cum laude from UC Berkeley, and with distinction from the California College of Arts and Crafts (CCAC). She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
"We climb at Mission Cliffs, as do our children Elias, Cate, and Lukas," said Angie. "MC is a bit of a second home for us, so to design an identity for a place and a community of people that we have an affinity for is an honor"
We asked the pair to give us a bit of insight to how they tackle the task of creating our gym logos. "Our process is fairly simple: we sketch at a small size. If a sketch works at half an inch, it typically works well as a finished symbol. Extraneous details are eliminated, and the essential structure of the symbol is clearly established," said Mark. "Once a sketch shows promise, we refine it further and then ink the refinement at a size of 3.5 inches with a Rapidograph pen. We then build the symbol in Illustrator for presentation; if the client selects it, we typically hone the design further, reinking the symbol at a size of 7 inches, and rebuilding it in Illustrator. Our process is laborious, but we believe it yields superior results."
"One final note: we can’t do great work without great partners. We have to thank and acknowledge Mark Melvin, in particular, for entrusting us with this assignment," said Angie.
Several of the original concepts were presented to a team at Touchstone, who then decided on the winning design. "Working with Mark and Angie to select the final identity for Mission Cliffs was such an honor, said Touchstone Graphic Designer Heather Campbell. "Their experience and professionalism really shone through. I can't WAIT to use this new logo!"
The new logo, which will be unveiled in the coming months, has an urban, industrial feel: concrete floors, steel Ibeams, and that massive crane hook—20 tons of capacity! "We thought the identity should feel empathetic and so we relied on simple, constructed forms," said Angie. "The design is the kind of nononsense trademark that could be stamped out of metal, or stenciled on a machine."
We owe a HUGE thank you to Mark and Angie for not only working with us on our previous gym identities, but for taking on the challenge of re-creating an existing logo. We're SO happy with the final product and we can't wait to see it in use.
...So do you want to see the new logo?!
Patience young padawans. It's coming soon!
Every year I stare at the enormous formations of Yosemite Valley. They tower above me. I know that I want to climb them. I also know to do so I need to become a much better rock climber.
Bouldering on Tatonka in Squamish
Bouldering provides one of the fastest ways to improve technique in climbing. This summer I plan on bouldering in Squamish British Columbia in preparation for the fall Yosemite season. Attacking the boulders haphazardly and receiving enormous gains in my climbing would be awesome but is also unrealistic. The best way to steadily improve at climbing is to build a pyramid. The idea of creating a route or boulder problem pyramid has been around for two decades. In 1993 Dale Goddard and Udo Neumann wrote about using a route pyramid to structure progression through the grades in Performance Rock Climbing, “Experience shows that improvement progresses best when the difficulty of routes you have done forms a stable pyramid”.
My goal while climbing in Squamish is to send a V7. To make a bouldering pyramid involves knowing first what you want to accomplish. I’ll be in Squamish for five weeks. The weather may be funky and I might end up climbing routes some days so I decided to make the top of my bouldering pyramid be a V7. My bouldering pyramid would look something like this:
V5 V5 V5 V5
V4 V4 V4 V4 V4 V4
V3 V3 V3 V3 V3 V3 V3 V3
Climbing on Drone Militia in Bishop
The problems fall into three different categories: Projects, Volume problems and Warm-ups. My projects would be the first and second levels of the pyramid, the V7s and V6s. My Volume problems would be the second levels of the pyramid, the V5s and V4s. My Warm-ups would be the bottom of the pyramid, the V3s.
A few days ago I met with Steve Maisch, a climber with 23 years experience and a long time working as a climbing trainer. Maisch provided me with a bit of insight into bouldering specific pyramids. “On a bouldering trip it is usually necessary to take more rest days for skin and general strength reasons. A three day a week bouldering schedule is probably more effective. Also because doing a boulder problem takes less time more problems can be done and attempted in a day. More rest days and the ability to do more problems in a given day allows for the boulderer to project and do volume on the same day.”
Maisch suggested Day 1 I work on Hard bouldering. I warm-up by doing a few easy Warm-up problems and then a warm up problem. Then I try a top of my pyramid project. “Once you start to power down on the project stop trying and go back to camp,” said Maisch who said that it only causes worn skin.
Colton climbing in Yosemite at Happy Isles
I take a rest day and let my skin regrow.
Day 2, I warm up and try my second tier projects, my v6s. If I finish them, then I continue onto my volume climbing and building out my pyramid.
I take a rest day.
Day 3, I warm up and then try my top tier project. Even if I don’t finish it, I try my second tier projects.
I then take two days of rest and repeat the cycle.
I have utilized a pyramid style climbing structure on a number of climbing trips. I saw great results in Hueco, in Ten Sleep and in Rifle. I may go to Squamish and find out that my goals are over ambitious so I will bump my pyramid down a letter. Or I may find that I easily dispatch my pyramid so I can bump my pyramid up a little. Either way, I'll be building a solid base to becoming a better climber. While I have less outstanding climbing days, I do manage to perform on a consistently improving basis.
For more information check out Maisch’s training page.
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.
Recognized as one of the premier cycling events in America's West, The Death Ride tours California's Alps. The five pass ride includes 129 miles and 15,000+ feet of lung busting climbing. This summer, Touchstone cyclist Deborah Georges completed the brutal race through the Lake Tahoe region. She wrote a bit about the event for the Touchstone blog.
Bikers climbing over Monitor Pass
First off, if you love bicycling and are looking for a difficult yet doable challenge, the Death Ride is for you, and a must! This was my second time riding in this "exclusive" bicycling event! What draws me most to the Death Ride is that it allows me as a competitive athlete to realistically evaluate how fit I really am, how much power I can generate on my own accord over long distance, and how tough I am mentally to keep my body moving when the going gets unbearably rough.
The Death Ride is a chance in a lifetime experience. Located in Alpine County/the Lake Tahoe Area, the natural environment and breathtaking scenery stand in sharp contrast to urban/city living. Completing the entire 129 mile course entails riding 5 extremely diverse and not-so-easy mountain passes: Monitor Pass (front and back), Ebbetts Pass (front and back), and Carson Pass. Each Pass has a character all its own, making the Death Ride an awe-inspiring, life-changing, unique athletic experience.
The downside of the Death Ride derives from accommodation logistics. Markleeville, where the Death Ride starts and ends, is sparse in lodging accommodation. Because of this, many riders either stay in Gardnerville, Nevada where economy motels are a plenty and yet entail a 45 minute transportation drive to the start come ride day, or vey like heck to reserve a camping site nearby. To manage my personal stress, I chose to park my Toyota Rav4 on route 89 in front of Turtle Rock Park, Headquarters of the Death Ride, and camp inside my vehicle. This is the ideal situation. It makes no sense to go to a motel, when one can easily erect a tent or sleep in one's vehicle free-of-charge right at the start!
Start times for the Death Ride vary according to a rider's desire. I personally did not want to start off in the dark so I chose to get on the road at the break of dawn slightly before 5:00 a.m. That said, slower or more ambitious riders opt for a 3:00-3:30 a.m. start with the more popular start option commencing between 4:00-4:30 a.m.
Monitor Pass is an ideal route to begin the course. Its road is wide, open on both right/left sides, and not particularly steep. I enjoyed "warming up" on Monitor to get my "climbing legs" primed. The backside descent to Topaz rest stop is fast, technically "moderate" in terms of difficulty, and overall what I label "a joy ride"! Beware, it gets unexpectedly windy flying down Monitor Pass. Regardless of how warm the temperature might seem, the knowledgable rider dons a wind jacket to keep from shivering prior to making the long descent!
With two mountain passes notched on one's belt, the next challenge becomes the majority of a cyclist's favorite - Ebbetts Pass. Quite distinct from the openly expansive Monitor Pass, Ebbetts is more introverted in the sense that it lies within a forest of sorts surrounded by subtle creeks, calming burbling waters, and aesthetically beautiful tall-trunk trees that indisputably have been digging their roots in the earth's soil for centuries. I encountered absolutely no difficulty climbing Ebbetts Pass quickly, descending the back side swiftly to Hermit Valley, and then climbing back up to the top in order to make a very fast descent to the rest/lunch stop at Wolfcreek by 11:10 a.m.
Wolfcreek lunch stop is pleasurable because it affords one the opportunity to mingle and exchange riding stories with other cyclists. I lunched at a table full of guys who interacted with me and with each other in an enjoyable "we're in this together" way!
With four mountain passes tucked securely behind me, I now faced the final "dreaded" Carson Pass. In defense of Carson which largely gets a negative rating from the majority of riders, I came to understand this time around what really sours me from what otherwise would be a positive response to this particular Death Ride pass. Carson, sadly, is not beautiful or aesthetic or naturally attractive. Located on a well trafficked motor vehicle county road, the asphalt is torn up in many parts making it impossible for a cyclist to hold a straight line. In terms of coverage from nature's elements, there is none to speak of. The route up Carson Pass to the end rest stop of the Death Ride is wide open making cyclists extremely vulnerable to the sunshine and heat. Simply put, it's not a particularly memorable experience one will opt to talk about with family and friends in a positive tone after the Death Ride is completed. Knowing that Carson Pass was going to be the most physically challenging for me after having successfully ridden 94 incredibly breathtaking and delightful miles, I determined to reach deep inside myself to tap the final reserves I had left to make it to the top of Carson in strong form!
Indeed, I made it! I accomplished my goal of completing the Death Ride without the Death Ride beating me! At the Carson Pass final rest stop, I ate the traditional ice cream sandwich with a tremendous sense of accomplishment. The ladies "manning" the finish line, hugged and congratulated me not only for having successfully finished, but more so because I was the fifth woman to get to the top shortly after noon among the larger majority of men who dominated the 2014 Death Ride! It's both sad and incomprehensible to me that more women don't aspire to taking on the challenge of the Death Ride. With determination and training, the Death Ride is doable for anyone. It's a chance in a lifetime open to all!
Riding the final 21 miles back to my car stationed at Turtle Rock Park after an exhilarating descent from Carson Pass rest stop, I was astounded to find that I had completed the 129 mile end-to-end course in 8 hours and 42 minutes! If memory serves me correctly, I had completed my first Death Ride saddle time in 9 hours 55 minutes. Imagine knocking off an entire hour two years later the second time around! Woot woot - pom poms furiously shaking!
I wish to thank my sister Wendy, for always standing by me and encouraging my athlete endeavors, my Berkeley Ironworks/Touchstone spinning buddy Marty Kaplan, for both teaching and educating me on how to be a safe and skillful descender, and Pat Ross, an extraordinary competitive cyclist whom I highly admire and would gladly trade places with in terms of strength, skill and ability! These three individuals have served me the most over the years in bringing out the best of me in terms of my athleticism.
Cheers to all, happy safe riding, and get your asses over to the Death Ride at some point - you won't regret it!