Bike Parking at Mission Cliffs

If you've ever visited Mission Cliffs on a busy Thursday night, then you've seen our bike parking.. situation. When the gym was first built in 1995, bike parking wasn't taken into consideration. When we first embarked on the Mission Cliffs Expansion project, we knew that having amazing climbing terrain, killer classes, and a fantastic fitness area wouldn't be enough. We had to provide a designated bike parking area for our members and guest to safely park their rides.

We're happy to announce that after months of working with the city, our plans have been approved! We are excited to be able to move forward with our plans to build the largest outdoor bike barking area in San Francisco! "I'm so excited that we are able to provide our neighborhood with such a large public bike parking area," said Mission Cliffs manager Donna Hawkins. "It's great for our members and great for the city's bike culture."

IMG 0789

"Our many trips to city hall have paid off," said facilities manager Russell Olson. "We're excited to begin work on the outdoor structure." The bike parking area will be 108 ft long, and located directly in front of the new entrance to the gym. Not only will visitors be greeted by our bright Walltopia climbing walls, they'll see how our members got to the gym; on their bikes!


Stay tuned for more Mission Cliffs Expansion updates. Once the front desk moves to the north side of the gym, we'll begin construction on our programs room! We owe a huge thank you to our members as we work to build something truly spectacular in San Francisco. 

Your Edge

By guest blogger and yoga instructor Avram Pearlman

In yoga, there is a concept called the edge. Think of it as the limit of your practice in the present moment. Even if yoga is not part of your weekly routine, visualize a place between reaching a little farther and falling over while stretching. This place is your edge.

Another way to think about the edge is to do an image search for yoga on the Internet. You get these pictures of people doing amazing things, and you can imagine trying these things. There will be a point where you just can't get your leg into that position you see on the screen no matter how hard you try. The bad news is your edge is somewhat closer than the edge for the person in that picture, but the good news is it might not always be that way.

The edge is not unique to yoga, think about a boulder problem you are working on that keeps making you look like a barn door at the gym. The moment we fall when bouldering, on lead, or even on top rope is the moment right after our edge has been reached. Perhaps what defines us is our personal sense of what we can and can't do. What is it about ourselves we can find when we are looking so closely at our limitations?

One of the great things about the edge is it exists only in the present moment. Your edge is not stationary, and was likely different years ago when that 5.9 got you so pumped it was your last route of the day. When the edge becomes clear, we can look back, measuring how far we have come and start inching forward.

Perhaps when we know our edge we can approach it slowly, and work on reaching beyond in a constructive way. When the edge is reached, we are clear and focused. Sometimes the greatest possible outcome is to know this place and push the envelope little by little. Breathing, nothing else exists besides you and that next move.

Perhaps when we get to this point, there is an awakening of the self to know what is possible. Perhaps this question might sound familiar: Why? Why do I always loose my balance when I stand on one leg? Why does my hand always slip off that third hold on the V6 I am working on? If it's my flexibility in yoga, or if it's my balance on this sloper that I can't hold onto, then my work is clear. What can I do to get past this point?


Awareness is a great start, but action is the key to success. If you know your edge, then you have a clear view of your limitation. Now it's time for some hard work. And I don't mean throwing yourself at your project repeatedly without thought, instead ask yourself how you can work on your limitations in a constructive way. Is it possible to look at the problem from a different angle? Maybe it's not your hand on the sloper, but the position of your feet...

The greatest reward comes from doing something previously thought to be personally impossible. Challenge yourself but don't get discouraged. The feeling of success that comes from pushing this edge is beyond measure.


Avram teaches Yoga at Great Western Power Company in Oakland, California. Be sure to check out one of his classes! Thanks so much for contributing Avram!

Hiring Full Time Routesetters

Here in Touchstone Land, we pride ourselves in creating a healthy and supportive environment for fitness enthusiasts, CrossFitters, and yogis. But let's be real. We love climbing, and we'd be nothing without our routesetters. We are grateful to have the largest full time route setting crew in the nation. But with 9 (soon to be 10) facilities in California stretching from Los Angeles to Sacramento we have a growing need for quality, experienced route setters.

1926264 10152186025582023 836480597 o

"Route setting at Touchstone is something we take pride in," said Head Routesetter Jeremy Ho. "We are looking for experienced route setters with a solid grasp on quality of movement and hold selection wanting to provide the best possible commercial setting for our massive member base. With a focus is always on safe, comfortable, consistent, fun and fair route setting, our goal is to have our members walk away happy and wanting more with each session they put in on our walls."

A typical day on the job involves working with a crew numbering from 5-10 at one gym per day. All applicants must be comfortable working with numerous setters buzzing about. (It's one of those 'embracing the chaos' things that we're sure as a climber you already know and love.) Our Bay Area crew is required to travel to all 6 Bay Area locations with occasional trips to our satellite gyms in Sacramento, Fresno and LA. And of course, compensation for travel is provided after a probation period.

1000371 441933492571846 2145395892 n
The Nitty Gritty:

Requirements: We are looking for strong climbers to fill this position. All applicants must be able to redpoint 5.12 and V7. Any USAC certifications are a plus but not a guarantee of employment.

Compensation: Hourly wage based on experience. Relocation incentive available for qualified applicants. Plus perks! 

If you're ready to join the largest crew in thr country, please email jho at touchstoneclimbing dot com to apply. We just keep getting bigger, so we'll always need quality guys and gals on the team. 

Good Luck! 

To Fall or Not to Fall

Reader Q and A

In a blog post last week entitled 'Learning to Sport Climb,' we included the following statement when giving tips on climbing routes. "..Feeling relaxed on a sport route is essential. Breathe well. Move efficiently. Despite 13 years of climbing, I still get terrified climbing. To overcome my fear on a difficult route, I test falls. “Every time I fall, I get less scared,” said Mary-kate. Being comfortable with the falls will help you move fluidly and well."


After the post, a reader reached out with the following question:

I wanted to ask this in message concerning your recent blog post. One of the things mentioned was 'test' falling. Everything I have read on climbing contradicts this idea. "If you fall, you fail" is what I have always heard. The equipment is a safety net, not an aid, and resting on your harness/anchor puts undue strain on it. Plus, you never know how good the bolt is unless you placed it yourself. Am I reading your blog post wrong, or am I mis-informed? Thank you for providing the gyms as a great place to learn.

We wanted to really tackle this interesting question that mixes safety, ethics, and climbing culture. Justin Alarcon, manager of Dogpatch Boulders and avid climber jumped at the chance to respond.

I'll offer you two answers, a short one and a long one. The short answer is that in the past falling was not okay because it meant you were likely to get hurt. Even to this day a climb is not considered a free climb unless it is done without the use of aid (including hanging on the rope) except at belay stances. In modern sport climbing and top rope climbing falling is a regular part of the activity, though one should not claim a free ascent of a route if they had to hang on the rope before making it to the top.

Long answer, and forgive me if I ramble here because there is actually a lot to say on this subject.

In early climbing history climbers had very little to protect themselves with. They climbed using static goldline rope tied around their waists and very little protection in the rock (if any) to protect a fall. If they somehow managed to escape a fall unscathed but were left hanging on the rope it would quickly start to crush their rib cage and make it difficult to breath. It wasn't a pleasant experience. This is why the 'do not fall' mentality is so ingrained in climbing culture even to this day.

As climbing technology improved, dynamic ropes were invented, nuts supplemented bolts and pitons, swami belts and eventually harnesses replaced a rope tied around one's waist, falling became less hazardous. Climbing standards went up as a result. No longer was 5.9 the limit. Still, the old mentality persisted. Yo-yo-ing a route was a technique that was born out of these developments. 'Yo-yo-ingA climber could try a difficult route, one that they might expect to fall on, but the ethics of the day dictated that they would then be lowered to the ground where they could begin again without having to pull the rope or all the gear they left on the climb.

The next development in climbing tactics was the 'hangdog' technique whereby a climber would fall, hang on the rope and try again to sort out the moves. Once the moves were learned they would lower, pull the rope and gear, finally starting again from the bottom with the intention of climbing it from bottom to top without falling.

In the early 1970s Kurt Albert of Germany started a free climbing revolution by developing a technique now known as 'redpointing' or 'Rotpunkt' in German. Kurt realized that by using hangdog techniques over a long period of time he could master very difficult climbs that he would never be able to climb first try, without any prior knowledge of the route (a style we now call 'onsight').

So, fast forward another 40 years and here we are today. There are a lot of people that really hold dear the old-school belief that onsight climbing is the purest style of climbing. These die-hards are the ones most likely to propagate the adage 'falling is failing' and they're not wrong in so far as the pursuit of their goals. Other climbers are more interested in testing their limits by climbing the most difficult series of moves they can possibly climb. Almost by definition, these climbers must rehearse the climbs they're trying, which means falling and hanging on the route. Neither camp is right nor wrong, they're just different.

As far as safety is concerned there are several things to consider. If you are sport climbing, bolts should be free of corrosion, nuts should be tight and bolt hangers should be the same type of metal as the bolt. Unfortunately, its impossible to know how well the bolt was placed, but with modern drills it is pretty easy and you can reasonably assume that a popular route with no signs of corrosion probably has decent bolts. For traditional climbs, even those with a few bolts, there are other considerations. The bolts on these routes (especially old routes) are often crappy and could snap or pull if they are in poor condition. If you are using cams or nuts you have to consider the quality of the rock and the quality of the placement. Even a well placed cam in fragile rock may fail. Conversely, a skinny nut on a thin wire placed in a perfect crack with solid rock can be as strong as a well placed bolt.

Regardless of what kind of climbing you're doing, you'll always want to be aware of the condition of your rope. A high quality rope can last a very long time and hold a ton of falls without any noticeable dip in performance. That said, even a brand new rope can be cut in half by a sharp edge on the very first fall if one isn't careful.

If you are climbing in the gym don't worry too much about the ethics of it all. Just have a good time and do what feels right.

I hope this helps, and wish you good luck in your climbing adventures.

Member Profile: Sariah Crull

If you are already a member of the Touchstone family, you know that there is an instant community of individuals similar to yourself to hang out with. You may have also found out by now that we have some of the best teachers in town to guide you through our many fitness classes offered daily. This month, I am pleased to introduce you to another one of our very talented and unique instructors, Sariah Crull. Although it took a while to encourage her to talk to me about herself, I am grateful that I had the opportunity to steal a few minutes and write about such an inspiring human being!

Teaching fitness in and around Sacramento is nothing new for Sariah, from step aerobics, spin, bootcamp, kickboxing to acrobatics. However, she is a recent addition to the Sacramento Pipeworks team, and let’s just say that we could not be happier!

Throughout the day, Sariah wears many hats ranging from a busy mother of two children to a multi-faceted fitness instructor and photographer. She is also a noted AcroYogi and founder of The Handstand Nation, a local platform for classes, Acro meet-ups, and other upside down fun! Knowing the importance of a well-rounded workout, she teaches a playful style of Vinyasa flow yoga at Pipeworks that has an equal balance of both yin and yang elements to help with overall mobility, greater range of motion, and complete mental and physical fitness. 

What motivates Sariah in daily life becomes a part of her practice on the mat, where she shares her wisdom with students. Her all levels class makes yoga accessible to everyone, regardless of shape, size, and ability. Sariah’s clientele through the years have been very diverse including everyone from lay people to active duty soldiers, combat veterans and firefighters. In honor of her service to combat veterans, Sariah was awarded a plaque by the Department of Defense. She considers her style to be a moving meditation, with emphasis placed on how the pose feels and not necessarily how it’s “supposed to” look. Sariah says, “I do yoga to have fun and feel good...Come play with me!” If you were wondering what the next step is for you to achieve a new level of fitness, I would personally recommend Sariah Crull. Please check the calendar for class times. There are smiles to be had, and a new outlook on health and complete wellness to be achieved. I’ll see YOU in her class!


Climbing Harder on Gear

Moonlight Buttress in Zion is one of the world's best crack climbs. With four hundred feet of fun sandstone followed by six hundred feet of amazing crack climbing, the exposure, consistency, and aesthetics make the route nothing short of amazing. Free climbing such a difficult route seems daunting but it is fully possible. While Zion may be a bit far for your next weekend trip, these tips can help you on your next long, difficult Yosemite route.

Big Wall Toproping2 1 of 1

Most professional climbers who want to send a difficult traditionally protected climb at their limit start by getting the rope to the top.  Sometimes that means aiding or French-freeing, pulling on gear. Other times, climbers rappell into the crux.Do what ever is the most efficient.  Conserve your energy for the climbing instead of the toiling. The hardest part of climbing big routes is the hiking and carrying gear. Once you have the rope up there, begin interrogating the route.  

Topropehero 1

Toprope, toprope, toprope.  Start by finding the crux of the route. Figure out the difficult moves. Next, decipher the climbing into and out of the crux. Are there other spots where you might have a section of unprotected climbing or where there are hard moves?  Finally, find where you can place gear on the pitch.  Take the time to find stances, good locks, or stems where you can jam in some gear.  Having the moves figured out can help significantly with being confident when you're leading.  It becomes easier to punch through difficult sections high above gear if you are confident on the climbing.  Some people rope solo routes to decipher the moves. On steeper traditional routes, it is easier to lead climb them. This is true if finding partners will be difficult as well.  In that case, make sure you're going to send the route quickly. 

Scotty Burke 2

Set yourself up for success. When you're leading a pitch only carry what you absolutely need. Going light helps you climb faster, easier and keeps you out of bad weather.  You should be keeping tabs on the weather report anyway.  Climb in the shade or when conditions are best.  Conserve your energy as best as possible.  Often, tagging a thin line and hauling a small bag with extra water and gear can save time and eneregy.  Use a Guide ATC or Petzl Reverso to hand haul the bag.  Sometimes, it is easier to lead in blocks, where the leader leads a few pitches in a row.  Swinging leads can be taxing because the follower climbs then leads. However you decide to climb, do so in the style that gives you the most satisfaction. Make sure you're efficient at belays and can make quick change overs.  A huge amount of energy can be spent hanging at belays.   


Train before the route.  Chances are that climbing a big route with a difficult pitch will make you weaker. The best way to fight this is to be extremely strong before heading out to the crag. Boulder and sport climb in the winter before your spring trad climbing. It's hard to gain strength on the wall. Make sure you're fit before hand. 

Most importantly, be willing to try. Climb as hard as you can and if that doesn't work, try again.  

What Girls Think (about climbing with dudes)

1559867 10153673091415573 1562941967 nBy guest blogger Georgie Abel

"You're pretty strong for a girl," he says to me. I clench my jaw. I'm sitting around a campfire in the Buttermilks with three of my closest male friends. The apparent attempt at a compliment comes from a guy we met earlier that day. The space between my shoulder blades aches from multiple burns on my project and I'm mentally exhausted. I tilt my beer back, trying to muster the energy to come back with some witty response, even though I just want to pretend I'm one of those girls who isn't bothered by a comment like that. My eye catches a glance from one of my friends. His brow furrows and his mouth looks tight, he does not approve of what the dude said. I know in that moment that I shouldn't either.

"That's a really weird thing to say," I say to the guy. "That compliment was spiked with something that feels pretty demeaning." My friend's face softens and he nods, the other guy doesn't know what to say. He doesn't climb with us the next day.

Being a climber and a writer naturally makes me a curious person. Being a woman in a sport that is ruled (for the most part) by men makes for a lot of gender-related experiences, all of which I find to be really interesting. I knew that other female climbers were interested in this too, and that they had stories of their own about being a woman in the bro-ed out world of rock climbing. I wanted to hear their stories. So, I asked.

I asked almost 100 female climbers of varying ages and ability levels to tell me a story about a notable experience they had while climbing with a male. Most of the women are from the San Francisco Bay Area, some are from elsewhere in the United States, and a few are overseas. I have kept their names anonymous, mostly for the sake of the men who their stories are about.

I have arranged this article in the same manner that the responses were received. Initially I was told about moments when women felt degraded, looked down upon, or judged. Then, slowly, the positive stories started coming in--stories of empowerment, inspiration, and recognition. You'll find those accounts toward the end of the article. No matter the age, strength, or experience level of the woman, the themes of their negative experiences could easily be grouped under a few main categories. I decided to share only a fraction of the stories I received, selecting the ones I did because they echoed what many other women had expressed, or because they were particularly hilarious.

These are the true stories of female climbers--from five-year old girls who only climb the routes in the gym that have purple tape, to professional female climbers who have established routes on multiple continents, competed for national titles, and ticked countless 5.14s. And of course, all of us in between.

Here is what we've experienced while climbing with the boys.

Making Assumptions:

  • There was no conversation about who would lead what pitch, he just assumed I didn't want to lead at all.
  • He told me not to worry because there were some smaller, easier boulders down the hill, unaware that I was completely comfortable with highballs and trying hard boulder problems.
  • He set up a top rope on a climb I had led as a warm up several times in the past and told me it would be a little heady for me.
  • He kept on shouting beta to me on a climb that was like five V-grades below what I usually climb.
  • This guy was spotting me on Acid Wash, a really low climb in the Happy boulders. I really didn't want a spot because it's so low and I had enough pads, and he wasn't spotting any of his guy friends.
  • One time a boy said I probably couldn't do the one he did because I don't play any sports.
  • All of my friends had to leave Smith, so I met up with this guy who was a mutual friend. I had never climbed with him before. We got to the wall and he started teaching me how to tie a figure eight knot. This was the day after I sent my first 5.13.

Discouraging women from trying hard, heady, or powerful climbs:

  • He told me I should stick to vertical climbing because girls aren't built to climb anything steep.
  • We were climbing at the Red and he said I shouldn't try anything in the Motherlode because women don't usually like those kinds of routes.
  • My boyfriend was belaying me on Pope's Crack in Joshua Tree and some random guy walked past him and said, "Bro, I hope you know this isn't one of those easy climbs. She probably shouldn't be on that."
  • The same dude at Dogpatch tells me not to even attempt a problem because it's too hard for me because I'm short.
  • I like climbing with girls because they say, "Good job! You're almost there!" And they cheer me on. Boys don't usually say that stuff.
  • A guy told me I probably shouldn't try any highballs because women are all afraid of heights, and the only reason why they climb heady stuff is because they want to be seen as a badass.
  • My climbing partner never encourages me to try anything harder than what he can climb.
  • One time this guy I barely knew told me that if I was going to try this certain route that I should be very careful because it's sandbagged, has tricky pro, long runouts, and insecure feet. I did the route and yeah, it was hard, but none of what he said was true.
  • He discouraged me from climbing a certain boulder problem because he said if I sent it, it would probably get downgraded.

Being Bro-ey, Cocky, or Douchy

  • When I said that I wanted to onsight a route he started racking the quick draws on to his harness and said that putting up the draws was the only was he could control the situation of me leading.
  • One time at a birthday party there was a boy who climbed all the routes I couldn't get to the top of and then he told me about it a lot.
  • He told me that I need to wear Lululemons to do a high step.
  • I was warming up in the gym and this guy started tickling me while I was climbing.
  • I don't think I'll want to climb with boys when I get older because I usually don't like people who show their nipples in public.
  • About five other girls and I were trying Go Granny Go in the Buttermilks and this guy came and did it in his approach shoes and then did pull ups on the finish jug.
  • When we were climbing in Joshua Tree he asked me and my friend if our boyfriends had given us enough pro for the climb we were about to do.
  • I climbed with a boy once and he got mad because he couldn't get to the top.
  • I was climbing a boulder problem in the local climbing gym and about four guys were watching me climb, but none of them pulled the mats underneath me. I fell and landed on the floor, which is cement.
  • There is this one guy at the gym who follows me around and only climbs the boulder problems I try, even though he is much stronger than me.
  • One time one of the boys in my climbing camp was belaying me and I looked back at him and he wasn't looking at me so I got really scared. I think he was looking at his friend doing a handstand.

Attributing our strength to something other than...our strength:

  • I overheard a guy say that the only reason why this girl sent Tales of Power in Yosemite is because she has tiny hands.
  • He told me that I was better at slab climbing than him because having my center of gravity lower on my body gives me an advantage.
  • After I sent my project, he said that it was probably easier for me than him because I weigh less.
  • Whenever I send something that climbers typically think of as "girly" (slabby, balancy, delicate, or crimpy) he always mentions that I did it because I'm a girl.
  • If I can climb a crimpy boulder problem he can't, he says it's because I have small hands.
  • One time when I was climbing with a male, I suggested that we avoid a certain pitch because I had a bad feeling about it. It looked like it could be chossy and maybe even wet. We ended up doing a variation that led us to the left of the line we were originally planning to do, and as we climbed we could see that it was in fact chossy and damp. He asked, "Who told you to avoid that pitch?" totally assuming that I couldn't have predicted the bad conditions all on my own.

So there you have it. To be honest, when the stories started rolling in, I cringed a little (after laughing out loud in a coffee shop and nodding my head in agreement). I so badly didn't want to write some man-hating article that bashed on dudes and didn't address the fact that men can be valuable climbing partners. But, that's not what I was hearing from the girls. I thought to myself: where are the stories of that time you sent your highball project because you had some burly dude spotting you? What about when that guy said, "You're gonna crush this," even after he flailed? What about when he asked you if you thought you guys should rappel down or walk off the back, because you're always good at judging that kind of stuff? What about that time it wasn't about gender at all, what about when it was just rock climbing?

Slowly, I started hearing about these experiences. I didn't have to ask for them. It usually happened like this: a woman would tell me about a time a guy did something totally degrading, and then a few minutes or days later, she would come back and say something such as, But I have a lot of male climbing partners who don't act like this. Many of them treat me no differently than their guy friends and recognize that I bring something unique and valuable to the table, that they can learn things from me that they can't learn from male climbers.

Yes, how true that is: women experience this sport in a way that is so different from men, and we all have a lot to learn from each other. All of the negative stories were that of men assuming we had nothing to teach them. That's the common thread.

I received one story about a positive experience while climbing with a male that captures the spirit and character of all the other stories as well. Here is it:

I'm all racked up. My shoes are on, uncomfortable as always. They feel tighter than normal. The brisk Squamish air bites at the back of my neck. I tuck the remaining stray peices of hair behind my helmet. I take a deep breath and look up at my climb. I think of turning to my partner and telling him to go ahead. Tie in to the sharp end, I want to say. Lead this pitch. Lead all of the pitches. It's not that hard. You're much better than me anyways. My pride or my stubbornness stops me. My male counterpart is a much stronger climber than me and he's much more experienced - perhaps not in trad climbing, but he's certainly been exposed (and exceled) at this sport much longer than I have. Squamish used to be his stomping grounds anyways and for more than one reason I feel like I haven't earned my spot here. I feel pre-emptively embarassed and also that I have something to prove. You've got this, he tells me. Against almost exactly 50% of my will, I slip my hand into the crack. I make a fist and feel the granite against my knuckles. Right, I think. This is about climbing. Four pitches later and we're at the top, looking over a beautiful deep blue sky filled with clouds and mountains. I stopped being concerned with if the climb was hard enough or if my technique was good enough a long time ago, somewhere on Pitch 1. I looked at my partner and his male-ness did not concern me, impress me, depress me, or intimidate me. In fact it did not enter into my mind at all. It was just beauty and human-ness that filled my soul now. Weeks later we are sitting in his father's kitchen, recounting details of our Canadian explorations. He says, completey seamlessly, that I'm actually the better climber in a lot of ways. I think he's insane but that is besides the point. He tells of how he respects the way I push my limits, how I deal with my fear. He is being genuine. Honest. His ego isn't in the room and though he could walk up boulder problems I could only dream of one day touching, he isn't concerned with that. He's not trying to prove anything. I didn't need his validation; certainly not in the way that I as a female would want validation from a male. It's not about who the better climber is and in what ways. It never really is about that, for me at least. I didn't need his encouragement as a male, only as a climbing partner. And yet. I have to admit that I've had enough experiences as a female climber that make me weary; weary of being judged, weary of being undervalued, weary of being categorized by something other than my experience or my ability. I'm not afraid because I'm a girl. I'm afraid because I'm 30 feet up on a highball and this crimp is fucking tiny. I'm not sending my projects - not because I'm a girl, but because I haven't been training. You can go ahead and include me in the list of people who would like to lead this pitch. I'm a girl and I'm also capable of placing gear. Sometimes those dynamics are real and sometimes they are imagined. But what a nice experience to have had, a really lovely break from the chain of stereotypical bro-yness that can wear us ladies down sometimes. I'm sure we have our own stereotypes to break too. I've tried my best to let go of taking too seriously the gendered aspect of climbing now. There are those experiences that will re-affirm the great things about climbing with guys and there are the experiences that will inspire us to prove them wrong. It's kind of a win-win if you ask me.

A sincere thank you goes to all of the women who contributed their stories. You are the authors of this article. I'll leave you with more of their words; this is very important and overdue: To the males respecting and encouraging the females out there, a big thank you. We know you need the respect and encouragement too and we've got your back.


Learning to Sport Climb

Mary-Kate fought through a series of pockets. At the last bolt, she grabbed a sidepull, pressed her foot onto nothing and made a delicate mantle to the anchors. Ecstatic, she clipped the anchors of Pocket Line, a 5.11 at The Wailing Wall, sending her hardest sport route to date.


Mary-Kate, a long time boulderer, has enjoyed the new transition into sport climbing. “It’s humbling and super fun,” said Mary-kate. One of the best parts about trying a new aspect of climbing is the quick acceleration. The learning curve moves quickly. No matter what your experience level, learning to sport climb can be a challenge. Below are a few tips on beginning to sport climb.

Warm Up Well

Some crags have plenty of warm-up routes and picking a suitable route is easy. At crags like Jailhouse, the warm-up can be a project. Make sure to warm-up properly. Hang if you get pumped to avoid the dreaded flash-pump, where your forearms fill with lactic acid and recovering becomes impossible. Climbing the bottom of a route several times can be a good way to loosen your muscles. Traverse the base, do a short run, swing your arms, or be like Ethan Pringle and bring a jump rope to the crag.

Joey 3

ABS- Always Be Sending

Sport climbing can send people deep into project mode. You try a route once then suddenly you’re spending days interrogating the route for better beta. You focus only on sending that one route and each day at the crag becomes a routine. Escape the bad habit of total route fixation. Make sure to mix it up a little bit and climb easier routes that you can complete quickly. This will teach you how to fight to redpoint and give you confidence on your project. “Climb at a place where you can succeed,” said Mary-kate. This will keep your confidence high, a crucial ingredient to climbing hard. It will also increase your technique for climbing other routes as well.


Be Comfortable

Feeling relaxed on a sport route is essential. Breathe well. Move efficiently. Despite 13 years of climbing, I still get terrified climbing. To overcome my fear on a difficult route, I test falls. “Every time I fall, I get less scared,” said Mary-kate. Being comfortable with the falls will help you move fluidly and well. Make sure you know where you’re clipping from. It’s easiest to clip when the draw is at your chest or waist. Depending on where the good holds are, you may need to clip from lower or higher. Be aware of which way the carabiner gate faces and clip quickly.

Jstarr1 1 of 1


There’s a ton of strategy involved in sport climbing. To redpoint the most difficult routes involves being extremely efficient. Learn the basics of dogging up a route, how to rest well on holds, and how to memorize long sequences of beta. If you fall onsighting a route, make sure to figure out all the beta so that you can climb it better your second try. Also climb where and when conditions are good. Sometimes that means waking up early. More than anything, the best sport climbers are tenacious.  Get after it!

Preparing For A Comp

On Friday March 21st, Berkeley Ironworks will hold the second comp in the 2014 Touchstone Climbing Series. Touchstone started these events to help build community and to provide climbers with an opportunity to socialize. The comps also provide a great chance to learn how to climb in a comp setting, a challenging facet of rock climbing.

6179967775 7fdef3b7ee b

Preparing for a comp, a day of climbing when you perform your absolute best, can be difficult. Justin Wood, a Salt Lake City climbing trainer with Maisch Training, provided solid advice for preparing the Ironworks bouldering comp. “Warm up really well. A lot of people get excited and they get flash pumped or beat up.” Take the time to stretch, and do lots of easy climbing. The Touchstone setters reset huge sections of the gym, which translates into amazing problems including great moderates. Warming up well will allow your muscles to relax and perform at their best.  Check out all the new problems.  

During the comp, take the time to relax. Enjoy the atmosphere and allow your muscles to recover. “Rest more rest than you think,” said Wood. “Watch people between the burns. Then give the problems good redpoint goes.” While resting, you could meet a new climbing partner or see another climber provide you with crucial beta on the problem you’re having difficulty with. Hydrate well and be ready to climb when your chance comes. When you do pull onto the problem, climb with intention. Execute the moves and do your absolute best.

6180240814 0ece427048 b

If you want to train before the comp, climb a lot of problems with a focus on onsighting and finishing problems in as few tries as possible. You want to conserve strength and use it efficiently over a long period of time. Wood pointed out the need for significant stamina. “Schedule a bouldering pyramid where you’re doing lots of hard problems,” said Wood.

6180371336 fc95e82baf b

Forget about your performance in terms of the people around you. Earlier this year, former Zero Gravity member, Josh Levin competed in a half dozen comps across the east coast this fall. He provided some excellent insight into the mentality of comp climbing. “As hard as it may be, trying not to base your own performance on how other people do is absolutely key to succeed. If you lay down the absolute best performance of your life, but still do not come out on top, those people deserved to beat you that day. The results may not reflect your personal desire to do well, but it is important that you realize the true value of your efforts,” said Levin in his blog. “Conversely, if you win a comp but you know you didn’t perform at your absolute best, you should still be openly happy with your performance, but reflect on what you could’ve done better for future events. I’ve found that the true victories are the ones that don’t come easy.”

Most importantly, have fun at the event. After you’re done climbing, enjoy all the free pizza and beer that the gym has to offer. Train hard before the comp and then have a good time in the moment. The Touchstone Comp Series provides an excellent mixture of athleticism, community, and a good time.


Member of the Month: Racquel

Member of the Month

Racquel from The Studio Climbing

She first got “dragged” into bouldering at the old San Jose Touchstone Climbing gym back in 2006. After that, she quickly adapted the climber’s life, connecting with other Touchstone climbers and cranking boulders and routes outdoors. She claims to have just “begun to tap into the world of trad climbing,” but no doubt – she’s a strong and graceful climber indoors and outdoors. She’s even getting new grades in Charles “Swoll Chuck” Chang’s 5.12 class this month. Regardless, Racquel loves the challenge and pay-off of the hard work of climbing, a world of potential that pushes her to strive.

She climbs with goals in mind these days: technique, endurance and strength. “I try to hone in on the techniques I want to practice or build on rather than just climbing as hard as I can indoors. Right now I am building up my endurance by lapping walls at easy grades in order to get more time on the wall. Building up my core and grip strength slowly and sustainably is going to allow me to climb with skill and endurance on the outdoor stuff.  Why climb? Because I want to get out and do fun and challenging stuff outside. There is nothing more rewarding than the feeling of reaching the top of a wall you have spent all day climbing just in time to watch the sunset.”

For Racquel, there’s always a reason to climb. She started climbing for fun, but it became a way to overcome fear of heights and motivate herself past personal limitations. Beyond being just a reason to get outdoors, it “has become a refining tool to get on more big wall stuff.”

“I like to live life day by day and I try to give each moment my full attention.  When I am on the wall that brings it all together.  There is no where else my mind can go to but the next hold.  If there was one thing I could wish on everyone it would not be to be happy all the time, but rather to just be honest about how you are, where you are, and how you feel.  That is all there is to show and all anyone can expect of you.”

Fun Facts:
Climbing shoes: Anasazi VCS Golden Tan size 8 -  of the stinky variety
All-time Favorite Route at the Studio: A pink 5.11 comp route © June 2012
Favorite time to climb:  Mornings for training and evenings for socializing... any day I can make it to the gym.
Favorite Climbing food:  Coconut Strips and chocolate
Favorite climbing music: Ratatat
Secret identity: Rocky Raccoon
Hidden Features:  A secret tattoo
Side projects:  Conquer Serengeti, V5 in the Happy Boulders of Bishop, CA this year!

Thanks for bringing your positive attitude to the gym and the boulders! You are part of what makes The Studio Climbing such a great place to climb! 


A Beginner’s Guide to Childcare

By Narinda Heng

So. You’ve made a tiny human! Does this mean no more climbing gym time? No!

You may have noticed that door between the drinking fountains and the men’s locker room with the “Childcare” sign above it. Here’s what’s inside:

2014 Cleaned Toys

Berkeley Ironworks offers childcare for children age 6 months to 6 years four days a week:

Tuesdays & Thursdays 4:00pm - 8:00pm

Saturdays 10:00am - 1:00pm

Sundays 2:00pm - 5:00pm

The pricing is pretty incredible at $7.50/hour for members and $10.00/hour for non-members.

(You’ll still be on diaper & potty duty, though, so keep an ear perked for the intercom in case those needs arise.)

I’ve been one of the childcare staff since August 2013, and I wanted to offer some hints and tricks for parents leaving their babes for the first time:

1. You may be called back to the childcare room for soothing. The first visit or two might be a little rough for those kiddos under three. They get worried. They think you’re never coming back. They start crying. Desperately. We’ll try to soothe them with toys and books and videos, but if that doesn’t work, we’ll ask the front desk to call for you over the intercom. It’ll happen less and less with each visit!

2. Sometimes it’s so hard to say goodbye that it’s better not to. Some babes mainly have trouble with the letting go part. It helps to let the childcare person know what your child is excited about playing with, so that they can distract them as you quietly leave the room to go climb your project, take a yoga class, or run a few miles on BIW’s super-fancy new treadmills.

3. The more the merrier! We can have up to six children in the childcare room at a time, and the babes tend to do better when they have other kids to play with. Play/belay dates are highly recommended. Are you a part of a pair of parents taking turns watching the little ones? Are your toddlers good pals? Set them on a play date in the childcare room so you can all get your climb on. Everybody’s happy.

4. There’s no place like home, but the toys don’t have to stay there. We have plenty of different toys for varying ages, but it’s great for them to have more familiar happiness- making things to play with, or a favorite book to read. Bring a few along. Here some creative tikes integrated their set of Squinkie toys with our map play rug:

2014 Squinkies on Rug

The four year old’s had a grand ol’ time.

 Weekday evenings can get a little wild at the gym. You can pay ahead for childcare time so you can just scan your member card and then come straight to the childcare room, where you can sign off the amount of time (in 1/2 hour blocks) that you’d like to use. Precious minutes saved! And it lets BIW know that there are folks interested in the childcare service, so we can keep it going for the parents yet to come.

These are some things I’ve noticed since I joined the childcare team. You know your child better than I do, of course! You never know whether this will be a good fit unless you try, right? What’s the harm? You wouldn’t want to leave us to sit alone polishing the toys all shift long, would you?

Dogpatch Boulders - How To Video

in lieu of a boring FAQ page... our favorite home town hero/pro climber/ MH model Ethan Pringle and coach/blogger/crusher Georgie Abel stopped by Dogpatch Boulders to help spread the word about proper gym etiquette. "I can always tell when it's someones first time in the gym," said Dogpatch Boulders manager Justin Alarcon. "And it's not their climbing that gives them away. It's not knowing how to fall or to see where a route is going before they jump on!" 

Climbing is inherently dangerous. But this video will give you tips and tricks on everything from falling safely on our lovely Flashed Climbing flooring, to spotting in the gym. If you're new to bouldering or just want to be a more educated climber, this is a must see! 

This video was shot and edited by the modern day Jean-Luc Godard, Joe Kinder, and finished off with the lyrical stylings of Michael P Hershburger. Thanks everyone! Happy climbing! 

Past blog entries can be found at



Latest News

Latest Routes

  • MM 2 Routes, 5.9-5.11a
  • MM 2 Routes, 5.10a-5.11c
  • DRG 3 Routes 5.10a - 5.10b/c

Touchstone's Instagram

Tag your instagram photos with: #touchstoneclimbing