Sneak peek Friday! ...That's a thing, right?
Behold the juicy innards of what will soon be the largest bouldering only gym in Southern California! Climbers at our Hollywood location will have over 11,000 sq ft of climbing at their disposal. We're excited to also offer an additional training and fitness area for programing, classes, and getting swol.
We're excited about the natural light the the building provides, as well and the open layout. We are currently in the design phase of the project, and our team is working with Walltopia to create some never before seen bouldering terrain at this location. Get psyched people!
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Recently, Andrew McAleavey sat down with the Touchstone blog to talk about his experience with climbing and Cerebral Palsy. The Berkeley Ironworks Kid's Camp director will be at the American Physical Therapy Association’s pediatrics conference in St. Louis to discuss how cerebral palsy affects muscle development. Read a bit about his climbing experience.
“I don’t...I don’t know if I’ll be able to climb, but…but I just wanted to look around and…”
The man at the desk has long, dirty-blond curls and a strangely compelling gravitas. He looks past my stammer-babble, regards me with a kindly intensity, and says, sure, I’m welcome to have a look — as long as I stay off the blue mats. This is my second time at Berkeley Ironworks; the first time, I drove by but was too scared to go in. With permission granted, I wander off, stumble around the gym, and decide that even if I’m never able to climb, the energy of the place is just so good that I want to be a part of it. I come back the next night for intro to climbing.
I have Cerebral Palsy. I’m brain damaged, my leg muscles are too tight and too weak, and my walking is, in a word, funky. There’s still no real treatment for brain damage, so they treat CP orthopedically — physically rearranging the muscles and bones to compensate for the faulty signals from the brain. As a child, my left femur and right ankle were broken, re-aligned, re-set. My hamstring and Achilles tendons were lengthened. My quads were rearranged. Some of the best surgeons in the country wanted to make me better, faster, stronger. They succeeded — and then they ran out of ideas. Cerebral Palsy is a lifelong, non-degenerative condition, but it’s too often considered a pediatric problem. Children with CP often face what George W. Bush once called "the soft bigotry of low expectations.” Adults with CP don’t often get follow-up and fade into obscurity with their ability to move declining. Rock climbing is not on anyone’s list of things that people with CP “should be” able to do.
I was 34 when I walked into Berkeley Ironworks that night, about 18 months ago. I’d spent at least 20 years in physical therapy, the previous 8 years draining my savings to work with some truly innovative physical therapists and athletic trainers. I was bored, and broke, and under orders from my athletic trainer to find something in the fitness world that I really wanted to do. Only then, he implied, would I really progress. Only then would my heart truly be in it.
The first night I tried climbing, with Jerome smiling from the desk at my reappearance and Jeffrey Kosoff belaying and encouraging, I made it fifteen feet up a 5.4 before exhaustion hit. I barely had the range of motion to get my feet on some of the holds, and as there wasn’t enough power in my legs to push up very effectively, I was doing most of it with my arms. I felt pure joy. I was hooked.
It took me a month to finish a 5.4. It took months more for my range of motion to show permanent improvement. I tried harder and harder routes and spent almost every night at Ironworks. I found a partner who knew exactly when to encourage and exactly when to tell the most egregious, hilarious “cripple” jokes I’d ever heard — at my expense. Every night, the desk staff had a nugget of advice, a word of encouragement. The small kindnesses piled up. “Ok,” Dani Kottman warned me one afternoon after volunteering to belay for me in a few minutes of free time, “I’m going into coach mode!” What followed was an incisive and thorough dissection of my technique and everything that needed to be done to improve it.
As I started to take classes—anchors, trad, technique—I realized that some of the staff had biomechanical instincts rivaling those of the best physical therapists I’d worked with. During a trad clinic, Chris Ahlgren realized, without a word from me, that I’d exhausted myself just standing on the cushy flooring for an hour. The next night, for the next clinic, he dropped a thick, hard block of foam in front of me: “Here!” he said, “Stand on this tonight. It should help!” I managed my first 5.10a, then another, then another. I tried climbing outdoors at Cragmont Park in Berkeley. I’m working on a 5.10c now.
I love children, and when I found out that Ironworks was looking for a kids camp director, I applied. The interview was short; the paperwork was handed to me. With no small amount of trepidation, I decided to take the job. I’ve been chasing children around the gym almost every week since. It’s wonderful. “You’re just goofy!” one of the staff members said during summer camp this past summer, “And you’re, like, nine years old!!” Right and right. Sometimes, I worry that I’ll run out of things to teach the kids; I worry that I won’t be able to correctly demonstrate technique for an overhang, or a good backstep. Then I quiet my fears. I show them how much climbing means to me. I show them how much I love them and want them to succeed. Somehow, it works out.
By happenstance, I found a professor of physical therapy in Connecticut who was interested in “long term outcomes” of people like me. I’d been climbing about six months at that point, and as I told her tales, she slowly got interested. First, she asked me to sit on an advisory board for a grant of hers. Then she came to the conclusion that she should study me. We made plans — in March of 2014, a full-on computerized movement analysis, the same technique that had been used to plan my surgeries as a child. In June, my collaborator, Mary, came to visit me, to see and record my climbing and workout routines. Lyn Barraza, the Ironworks manager, was kind enough to give me the run of the gym as an entourage followed me around and recorded my every move. I tethered our photographer on the rappel platform, rappelled down, and climbed back up again. I did every stretch I could think of for the cameras. At this point, all of it was routine for me. I didn’t think about how unusual it might be for someone with CP to do all of the things I was doing until Mary broke into tears watching me walk across the padded floors — and then almost fell down trying to follow me.
In October, I’ll be giving a talk with my two professor-collaborators at a meeting of the American Physical Therapy Association, essentially a master class on exercise and training for climbing for people with CP. The talk begins with the basic science, explains what happens to the structure of muscles in people with CP, and goes from there. The short version: climbing has improved my strength and range of motion, prevented serious declines in function, and kept me extremely happy doing it. In the slides for the talk, I’m wearing my favorite Ironworks shirt — and there’s a huge grin on my face.
Here it is, ladies and gentlemen. The moment all you pebble wrestlers have been waiting for... The Grand Finale of the 2014 Touchstone Climbing Series Bouldering Division! It's been nine months in the making, and over 1000 boulderers from across the state have competed in comps at Berkeley Ironworks, The Studio Climbing, or La Boulders. Saturday will see the same fun-filled competition structure that you've come to know and love, along with a high intensity on-sight finale with the top climbers from the days competition.
Nervous? Never fear! Here is a handy 3 step guide to your Saturday.
1. Get Psyched.
FUN! Seriously. While some people might hear the word 'competition' and get S.A.T. nerves, tranquillo amigo! Putting on Touchstone Comps is our way of saying thank to our members for being awesome. This is a FREE event for Touchstone members. Guests pay ONLY $10. (Which is a screamin' deal) The party, er, we mean open comp, starts at noon and ends at 5pm. You can stop in any time and we'll welcome you with open arms.
Competitors get a score card in beginner, intermediate or advanced categories, and self-score their climbs as the day goes on. Sure, you need a witness, but that's what your spotter is for!
Once you've climbed your brains out, the REAL party starts. Everyone in attendance gets an awesome T-shirt, pizza, and beer from our friends at Triple Voodoo. (21+, duh) There will be raffle prizes, music, photos and all your favorite people.
From 5pm-6pm we'll let the Touchstone Climbing Routesetters work their magic and they hustle to transform the gym into a thunder dome for the on-sight finale. While they are hard at work, we shall be eating and drinking.. and getting psyched!
At 6pm, On-sight finals begin! We will select the top 3 advanced climbers from the series' bouldering comps, and the top 3 climbers from that DAY, to go head-to-head in the finals. There are three finals problems and the top 6 male and female finalists will have 5 minutes for each of them. There is a cash purse of $1,000 for the 1st place man and woman. $600 for 2nd place, and $350 for third. That's no chump change!
Prizes will also be awarded to the overall winner in all categories. So the more comps you competed in, the better your chances of reaching the podium!
2. Come prepared
Don't worry. It's not that hard. If you ignore this step and skip right to #3, we'll still be psyched to see you.... we'll just send you to the back of the line.
To get a score card, you need a 3 letter Touchstone Comp Code. To get a Touchstone Comp Code, you need to register. You can do that here. It's going to look like this:
If you've been to ANY Touchstone Climbing Comp in the past 2 years, then you're already registered! Click 'Lookup' to find your 3 letter code. If this is your first time, don't worry. We'll be gentle. Click on 'Register' and it will be over before you know it. Now's the tricky part. You've got to remember the code, or all this was for naught. If only there was a piece of paper that you needed to bring to the comp anyways that you could write the code on, as to not forget it......
Thank goodness for the waiver. Print it here. Fill is out. Write that code somewhere we can find it and BAM! You're ready to go.
3. Invite all your friends
Seriously, how bummed are your buddies gonna be when they see their feed blowing up with photos of you having the time of your life and you didn't invite them. It's an awkward and avoidable conversation to have. Let the people know! RSVP to the event on the 'book. Post a photo. Hashtag #TCS2014. Call them on the telephone. Do whatever it takes.
By Anthony Lapomardo
The heavily rotted gates that guarded the horse ranch hung haplessly off withered hinges. The car rolled slowly from the pavement to the uneven dirt trail and meandered downhill and into the high grass. Rolling over the first cattle guard, the sounds of 4 stroke engines broke the silence as two cyclists came into view and ripped up the hillside. The surrounding hills showed nothing but stickers and mud, nothing thus far would convince those in the car that they had not been deceived. They had been promised great climbing, steep, fully equipped and north facing.
After another 100 yards of crawling across the uneven dirt, the low belly of the vehicle dragging across high-spots, the car rolled to a stop beneath a sagging oak. Steeping down from the car, the sole of our shoes met the plastic of empty shot-gun shells and crushed BBs. Looking across the way, two beer can snipers were attempting to blow a hole in the side of a Pabst Blue Ribbon with a small handgun, oblivious to our arrival.
Pulling our gear from the car, I led the group down a lightly treaded path that wove into the canyon. Within minutes a large shadow began to block out the heat of the morning sun and pointing into the steep over-hang that shaded our group I introduced Owl Torr.
Rising at a 45 degree, with bright metal chains decorating its face the over-hanging conglomerate crag is the creation of a group of outdoor artisans, who took a largely unusable wall and carefully crafted it into their home crag. The lines that make up the crag range from 5.10d-5.14b/c and require massive upper body strength coupled with elastic-like tendons. The walls made up of a cobbled conglomerate offer stark contrasts to our group of climbers. Each line has an engraved metal plate sitting beneath the opening holds, a personalized marker not found in nature.
Tying in the first climber of our group eyed the wall and began to make her way up the route, plugging into deep two finger pockets and pinches with comfortized thumb catches. The movement pushes her to lose and regain her footing several times as she makes powerful stabs to good holds. Nearing the top she takes an extended stem position and fires for the last two finger slot guarding the chains and finds herself falling quietly into the large void beneath her. Her limbs flailed, swimming through dead air until she stopped at the 5th draw and swung into the wall. The fall broke the tension for the group and the rest of the afternoon was spent addressing the air while pawing for foot holds and stretching their core tension.
Steven Roth above the abyss on Better Than Life 5.13c
Gabriella Nobrega working through The Power of Eating 5.11d
Ben Polanco working through an open project
Wes Miraglio Hell of the Upside Down Sinners 5.12b
Owl Torr is located 25 minutes south east of San Luis Obispo off the 166. The climbing is gymnastic, the scenery always changing, and it is a great spot for those looking for a steep crag, powerful routes and the best outdoor "route setting" available.
For more information check out Mountain Project.
Trip Report: Bagels to Burritos
Part 1, Gunks Edition
By Maxine Speier
The Shawangunk ridge, or the “Gunks,” rises 200 feet above the tree line. The exposed cliffs stretch across the horizon, a swath of white-grey rock. When we are there in early September, most of the trees are still a lush and vibrant green, but within a few weeks, as temperatures drop, the leaves will change to golden yellows and reds and the Hudson Valley will be transformed.
Fall is the best time to climb in the Gunks, while the days are growing shorter, before the first snow comes. Summer’s humidity has lifted and a dry coolness sets in. Leaves crunch underfoot, but the rock is not numbingly cold yet.
Jeff and I drive into New Paltz in the late afternoon. It is the first stop on our road trip, a trip that took shape back in San Francisco, where the two of us (both native New Yorkers) wandered up and down steep hills, eating tightly rolled food truck burritos, talking about the correct way to cook a bagel, and waxing nostalgic for the vibrant change of seasons—the humid summer heat-waves and the winters where the snow is too deep to shovel.
Jeff is a full time route-setter for Touchstone who moved to California from a small town in upstate New York over three years ago. I moved from Brooklyn exactly a year ago. The trip was initially intended as a chance to visit home and see our families, but the more we talk and plan, the more it becomes clear that if we’re going to take any time off from work, it’s going to be to go climbing.
New Paltz, a bustling college town filled with students, climbers, and retired hippies, was founded in the 1600s and lies just east of the Gunks. The prominent cliff line is visible from the main street of town.
“There it is! There it is!” I’m giddy with proximity as I look out at it. Both Jeff and I have been to the Gunks before; it’s where he learned to trad climb when he was an engineering student years before, and it’s where I led groups on hiking trips for my college Outing Club (before I’d ever considered trying to climb).
The familiarity of the ridgeline is a relief. Any trip home is filled with so many little inconsistencies: new businesses that have sprung up, neighbors who have moved away, old-hangouts that have lost their luster, even the faces of close friends and family reflect the time that has passed. But the view of the Gunks is the same as I remember it.
We pop into the local gear shop, Rock and Snow, to pick up some last minute slings and rent a helmet for Jeff, who left his back in California. At the entrance to the shop is a row of cabinets filled with climbing relics. Arranged chronologically, the gear in the cabinets shows the evolution of climbing: pitons, chocks, hexes, cams, different styles of shoes, and rappel devices. The older gear is both impressive and terrifying; it serves as a reminder of how far the sport of climbing has come, and how much creativity and thought have gone into preserving the spaces and the knowledge of a crag.
That first afternoon, with just enough daylight for one climb, we drive from New Paltz to the Trapps parking lot. The Gunks is located in the Mohonk Preserve, a 6500-acre network of fields, hiking trails, and old carriage roads. The Preserve is a non-profit organization founded in 1963 to protect the land and to enter you must either pay a day fee ($17 for climbers) or get an annual pass ($55).
The Trapps is the most popular climbing area on the ridge, and the parking lot gets extremely crowded on weekends. Climbers drive up from New York City (just two hours away) and will sleep in their cars just to be the first on the cliffs. Luckily, we’re there in the middle of the week, and though we see plenty of other climbers, we don’t have to compete for parking. From the parking lot, it is just a quick walk up to the carriage road that runs along the base of the cliff.
Following the flat, gravelly carriage road, you can access roughly 500 routes, as well as some truly excellent bouldering. It is easy to hike to the top of the ridge and set up topropes for some of the climbs, but the Gunks is most famous for its multi-pitch trad routes. Formed of hard quartz conglomerate, the rock features long horizontal striations and cracks. As we walk down the road, Jeff keeps his eyes on the cliffs, looking out for the famous High Exposure (5.6) arête.
High E is a 250-foot, two-pitch climb that has consistently been called the greatest 5.6 in the world since it was first climbed in 1941: a Classic (with a capital C) in an area jam-packed with classics. Having left the guidebook behind, Jeff relies on his memory to find the start. “I think this is the line,” he says and with that he’s off. The first pitch is a straightforward climb up the left of the arête, to a spacious belay ledge. As I follow him, I spot plenty of opportunities to place gear, which is what makes this region so exceptional for people learning to lead trad. Heading up, you can high-step from one horizontal crack to another, finding secure footing and holds as you go, and placing as much protection as you want.
The second pitch of the climb is what everyone raves about. You breathe, step up to the corner of the ledge, and reach for a jug just out of sight to pull yourself up over a roof. As you find your way on the arête, there is air all around you, and the name of the climb clicks in your mind: this is definitely high exposure.
Climbing in the Gunks is beautiful. It is simple, and straightforward, and stunning. The rock is beautiful. The turkey buzzards and hawks that whoosh their wings overhead are beautiful. The trees beneath you are beautiful. And the view that opens up, of forests and fields that stretch out into the distance, is beautiful. Standing up on the expansive belay ledge after the first pitch of High E, you find the kind of beauty you want to soak in and store for later, to draw on when you are stuck in traffic, or having a bad day at work. You want to hold onto the memory of the landscape, and of the rock beneath your fingers.
Over the next two days, as we walk up and down the carriage road, picking out climbs and taking our time on them, as I follow and then finally lead my first trad pitch, and as we hike out with our headlamps each night, I continue to find an exhilarating serenity in the Gunks. This seems like it should be an oxymoron, but is the truth. There is a dizzying, breathless rush to these climbs, even the 5.5s and 5.6s. But there is also a peaceful quietude in the Gunks. The rock looks and feels timeless, and for a few moments, you are a part of that.
Technique is for the weak. Or so seems when you see the footloose climbing in the gym. Unfortunately, big muscles and an ability to campus do little on harder routes. Precise footwork and an ability to climb well will get you much farther. One of the best ways to improve your footwork is to slab climb. While climbing lower angle rocks isn't in vogue, it can be really really fun. Take the time to learn proper technique and the steep routes will be easier with your precise footwork.
James Lucas tries hard to keep from skinning his knee while slab climbing in Squamish
Position your body
You want as much downward pressure on the balls of your feet as possible. Leaning too far into the wall may lead to sliding right down the rock. Keep your butt out and your hands in front of you. This style burns your calves but offers the best position.
Smear your feet
Use the friction between your shoes and the rock to hold you in place. Get as much weight onto your foot as possible. Look for tiny edges, ripples and other dimples in the rock. The smallest wrinkles can be an excellent place to smear your foot and make some upward progress."Trust the rubber because the rubber is way better than it was in the 70s," said master slab climber Hayden Kennedy.
Jon Gleason climbs Xenith Dance in Squamish, a classic 5.10c slab route behind the campground
Moving well on slab routes requires stepping up. Usually the moves aren't physically taxing but require intense balance. Place your foot on a hold and commit to the process, shifting your weight over and then onto your foot quickly. Slabs become easier when you move confidently. "For me it helps looking to your left and right and try to stand up as straight as possible," said El Cap free climber Lucho Rivera. "Always remember to stand on your feet and don't overgrip. Its easy to do on slabs. And relax if possible, tho sometimes thats a hard one."
"Be stoked to go for it even if you're going to fail." said Kennedy. Having confidence and a willingness to be bold helps with the difficult mental game of slab climbing. Slab climbing becomes easier when you climb fast and confidently. Also, Remember that slabs are way easier in the shade.
Kevin Daniels moving quickly on Dancing in the Light, one of the test piece slab routes in Squamish.
Wear Good Shoes
Stiffer shoes work much better on slabs. Make sure your soles are clean. Slab climbing requires strong feet and solid calves. After intense slab climbing, some climbers complain of sore feet. Stiff shoes help alleviate this problem and make standing on small edges easier. Check out a good pair of TC Pros for really tough slabs.
There's lots of great places to go get your slab climb on. Try the Dike Route (5.9) in Tuolumne, FreeBlast (5.11b) in Yosemite, or Initial Friction (v1) and Blue Suede Shoes (v5) in the Camp 4 boulders. There's amazing slab routes in Squamish as well. At Ironworks, there's a great slab in the back of the gym as well as a wall in the front.
Oh boy, have I got a story for you! I love that each month I get the opportunity to introduce the readers to someone that I feel is an integral part of our community. I have had the pleasure of knowing Phil Buerk for a number of years now. I am constantly impressed by his accomplishments and grateful for the gift of his friendship. He is (in no particular order) a father, husband, gardener, chef, music & art aficionado, creator, designer, art director, and all-around great guy! You will find yourself in his presence one day, and realize what a treasure he is to have around. For now, I will let you read some of his story...in his own words. Enjoy!
Member of the Month: Phil Buerk
Bove) I am so excited about this interview; I don’t know where to begin. How long have you been in Sacramento, and what keeps you here?
Phil Buerk) We’ve been in Sacramento for almost 13 years and enjoy the people, the trees, and the definite seasons as opposed to same season Southern California.
B) My meeting you was largely due to your wife, Linda Wagner, who works as a yoga instructor here at Sacramento Pipeworks. Her Anusara style class takes place a couple of times a week, and is inspirational to many attendees (including myself). Can you tell us how you two met, and is yoga a part of your daily routine?
PB) Linda and I met through our work in advertising and graphic design. She was a professional photographer, and I was a designer/art director. We met while we were on an assignment. I did learn yoga while we were in Japan and enjoy it still as I am able, but walking has always been my thing...when Linda taught at a studio near Land Park I used to walk 5.3 miles during her 1.5 hr Saturday A.M. class. I do miss that.
B) Do you have family that live in the area, and if not, where are they residing now?
PB) I have an older sister living in the East Bay area and 3 children and 3 grandchildren (from my 1st marriage) live in Southern California, New York, and New Hampshire.
B) As we know, California is a hotbed for gardening and farming. I have learned over the years that you have been quite an advocate of sustaining a garden of your own to grow crops to feed yourself and your family. Is there a particular vegetable that you would recommend we plant here in Sacramento that is both easy to care for, and delicious to consume?
PB) We have had good luck with summer squash, strawberries, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant and tomatoes grown in raised beds, with minimal drip irrigation.
B) Like many of us, Walt Disney has had a large effect on my upbringing and life. Can you tell us about your experience working with such a diverse company?
PB) My Disney history dates way back to high school. My senior year, I volunteered to help decorate the floats for the Pasadena Rose Parade, and that particular year the parade theme happened to be Disney. So, almost every participant had at least one Disney character on their float. I ran into a Disney creative director who found out I was creative. He asked me to help him run a team of adults who, along with him, would do all the faces of each Disney character (because they had to be spot-on correct or Walt would not agree to allow them to be used). Our team covered each and every character face out of rose petals to get the skin colors, as well as the expression just right. I guess the Disney guy liked my abilities, because he invited me to meet with him at the studio, which I did, and toured the set of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. He offered me a job when I graduated. If I had taken that job, I’d probably be a millionaire by now from all the stock splits and bonuses! 30 years (or so) later, successfully spent in advertising, I was hired by Disney to head up their Asia Pacific Creative Department in Hong Kong. After 2 years of establishing that, I moved to Tokyo to be Creative Director of Walt Disney/Japan. There, I headed up a group of 42 character artists, illustrators, and designers (most of which had been trained at Disney, US), and many of which were bi-lingual. It turned out to be the best job I ever had--the most fun, most interesting, and most challenging way I can imagine to wrap up a creative career!
B) Do you have a favorite Disney character/creation, and why do you find them to be so intriguing?
PB) Oh yeah, I do! Bambi, of course, and Dumbo (‘cause I had big ears as a boy too). But, my favorite was Jiminy Cricket (he was Pinocchio's conscience) and I guess he sort of became mine, along with my paternal Grandmother who looks down on me from on high.
B) I know that you enjoy music, and find ways to weave it into your daily life. Are there any particular genres of music that you are consistently drawn to?
PB) I love classical music, jazz, some rocky top, and some western and mountain music. I’m still drawn to 50s modern jazz, Brubeck, etc., and some contemporary folks too, like Sting etc. But, I always seem to go back to the classical for real enjoyment!
B) If there were a major shift we could make as a civilization in regards to new technology, which way would you like to see the changes go? Why?
PB) Part of me thinks that we may have come too far, too fast. While society loves the instant gratification, I’m not sure any of us is prepared for the eventual colossal cost of what we have lost. I long for simplicity in life, and I think that’s one reason why I like cooking. It’s “hands on”, requires simple concentration, creativity, decisions, and proven methods, and you get to eat the results. Bingo!
B) Do you have a favorite artist or illustrator? What do you enjoy most about their work?
PB) I like Andrew Wyeth’s work and most of the Impressionist Artists and Sculptors. Probably as a result of being in-and-around advertising and design for much of my life, I also enjoy American illustrators such as Norman Rockwell (and too many others to mention). Most of these artists speak to me on such a personal level that I feel as though I knew them. I usually have a good time in a decent museum, like the Crocker.
B) If you could be any cartoon character, what would you be and why?
PB) Probably Donald Duck, because he is so irascible, and some days I can really get behind that. Know what I mean?