Rappelling for a Cause

climbing treeRemy Orvis, a front desk staffer from The Studio, will be participating in an awesome event in Downtown San Jose. She submitted this report to the Touchstone Blog.

It’s a powerless feeling to know someone with a real addiction and not be able to get through to them. It’s even worse to watch them slowly slip into a deepened abyss away from family, friends, and everyone who ever depended on them for support.
As climbers, we can relate to relying on people because we are dependent on our belayers to catch us when we fall. And I fall often because I keep climbing things that are a bit dangerous. So what’s that old saying? Beat addictions with addictions? Let’s do that.
On December 5, I am going to rappel down the Marriot building in San Jose to help families of real addiction. Please join me in raising $500 to support them with Shatterproof – a nonprofit organization paired with Canadian-based Over the Edge that aims to create a country too tough for addiction through pledges and exciting events, such as descending city structures.
It is money that families need to get through tough times, and the rappel is a symbolic act to show that Touchstone Climbing and the Studio are in the battle against addiction. That’s why the rappel-for-a-cause trend in San Jose is so great! What better way to emphasize our love for those lost to addiction by rappelling down the side of a major city skyscraper? And what better way to show those that we might lose to addiction that we care by rappelling down the side of a major city skyscraper?
Call me crazy, I think it’s romantic. Also, I really want to rappel down the side of a major city skyscraper.
So join me, Touchstone Climbing, and Shatterproof for the amazing outreach opportunity by pledging for these families so that they may become shatterproof against addiction!

Click here to donate! Thanks Remy!

CrossFit V16 Grand Opening BBQ

CrossFit V16, Great Western Power Company’s new CrossFit affiliate, is in full swing at the Oakland gym. For the past three weeks, Oakland gym program manager, Rafael "Raf" Vega has been working as the new program manager, developing and creating the work-outs that the instructors are teaching from. To celebrate the new affiliate, there will be a member’s BBQ this weekend.


Rafael Vega photo

“As an affiliate, my objective is simple: I want to build a community of amazing athletes, bound by sweat as thick as blood,” said Raf. Raf, who lives in Emeryville with his wife and two year old child, has been teaching Crossfit classes at the Oakland gym for over 2 and a half years. Raf and the CrossFit V16 instructors will be teaching up to 8 classes a day during the week as well as classes on the weekend. “Now that CrossFit East Bay is moving to a new location at Jack London Square, I have the opportunity to stay behind in their old space —inside Great Western Power Company, a climbing gym in Uptown Oakland— and start my own affiliate. It’s a chance to do more of what I love on a larger scale, as the head honcho.”


Rafael Vega photo

On Sunday November 17th, Crossfit V16 will hold a grand opening BBQ for members at GWPC from 12:30 to 3:30. Bring anything you’d like to grill or share. The grill, some food and drinks will be provided.

BUILD Towards Success

Recently 8 students from BUILD, a 4 year program for low-income high school students, went to Mission Cliffs. BUILD uses entrepreneurship to re-engage students in their education who are at-risk of dropping out and set them on the path to college.  "These students work with mentors--volunteers that Build recruits from the community--to develop and manufacture a unique product/business idea,"said Hannah Rosales, a BUILD employee. The program has served 560 students in the Bay area and over 1,000 students nationwide.  

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 "Effective working relationships, trust, and motivation drive our challenging and exciting work with the young people we serve. Rock climbing is an excellent way for our team to practice what we preach with our students - challenging ourselves, learning new skills, and having fun while climbing to new heights!" said Tarik Scott who works with the Oakland office team. "BUILD believes the power of student ideas in action drives youth to reach their fullest potential in school and beyond. That’s why we help our students develop their own business ideas, write business plans, pitch to funders and launch real businesses. As they reap the rewards—from keeping their profits to gaining self-confidence—they clearly see the connection between the classroom and career success."

The BUILD students will be selling their products at the 7th Annual Holiday Sales Bazaar which will take place Thursday, December 5th at the Scottish Rite Center in Oakland. They will also be back at Mission Cliffs, motivating themselves towards success.   


Fitness Webinar for Touchstone Members

Touchstone Climbing is partnering with Dr. Felicia Gomez to host a live webinar on November 18th at 7pm. The webinar will focus on 'Getting Through the Holidays Fit and Trim.' Dr. Gomez earned a Ph.D. in Exercise Metabolism and Nutrition from the University of Guelph, Canada in 2000 and formed Pinnacle Training Systems in 2009 to help individuals and companies reach their health, fitness, and athletic goals. With over 20 years of experience in the fitness and wellness field, Dr. Gomez has helped individuals as well as professional teams reach their fitness goals. We're happy to be working with her to help our members with their goals over the holidays. 

Thurigen mtns stage 6As athletes, we want, at the very least to maintain our fitness during this time of year, but face increased obligations that eat away at our already limited training time. There is also the temptation of sweets and goodies that are everywhere! So how do we survive and come out of it at the other end with our sanity and our fitness without needing to buy a new wardrobe? The focus of the webinar will be discussing practical ways of making it through the holiday season with minimal weight gain and maximum fitness, while still enjoying the festivities.

Dr. Gomez's passion for fitness developed from her successful career in elite sports as a professional cyclist and duathlete. She is currently an Associate Professor at Fresno State in the Department of Kinesiology and has over 20 years teaching at the undergraduate and graduate level. She has published several articles in peer-reviewed journals and presented at National and International Conferences on topics related to nutrition, supplements and exercise performance. She balances her work with community service, putting on events to benefit charity such as the Pinnacle Pup Run, which raises money for local animal shelters.

The webinar will last 1 hour and is $20. It's interactive, so come with questions and be ready to learn helpful information. Be sure to sign up now to take advantage of this unique opportunity! 

Open House at Mission Cliffs

For the past two years, Touchstone has been hard at work planning the expansion of San Francisco’s Mission Cliffs. After dealing with the hurdles of building permits and securing the location next to the current gym, the Mission Cliffs expansion is set to dramatically change the face to Touchstone's original gym.

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Read more: Open House at Mission Cliffs

Women's Empowerment at Pipeworks

The Touchstone Gyms have had amazing opportunities to transform people's lives through fitness. "Sacramento Pipeworks has been working with Women's Empowerment since 2004," said Pipeworks manager Vaughn Medford. "They are headquartered only a couple blocks away from the gym, so it is not unusual to see a group of women 10-15 power walking over to the gym on Fridays. They use the gym to work out in the weight area and do cardio. The members have become accustomed to seeing the group, and we're all supportive of such an important cause."

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Read more: Women's Empowerment at Pipeworks

Manager's Favorite: Buttermilk Stem with Diane Ortega

Every climber has a Project; a route or boulder problem that exposes your weaknesses and shuts you down. For Diane Ortega, the manager of The Studio in San Jose, that project is the Buttermilk Stem in Bishop, California. The problem is graced with slopey holds, requires tons of flexibility, and has sharp rock that bites back. It's a classic, and to some the Buttermilk Stem is a fun outing. But to most, it is a series of frustrating moves.

Buttermilk Stem 1


When Orgeta is asked about her the project, she affectionately refers to the Buttermilk Stem as her nemesis. The problem has thwarted her since she first tried the problem in October of 2009 while on a trip with Ryan Moon and Jake Nelson.

Located in the middle of the Buttermilks, the stem features hard palming up a wide groove to a pinch and a few large huecos. The area is gorgeous but the rock can shred your palms. "I think the Buttermilks are the most beautiful area of Bishop, but I hate climbing there. It hurts my feelings. But I keep coming back for more!"

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Other climbers have had a similar experience. It took Touchstone Blogger and big wall free climber James Lucas years to eventually send the vexing problem. "I think they forgot to add a 1 to before the 0," Lucas said of the modest V0/V10 grade. "After a few years of work and serious Kodak courage, I finally sent."



"I have tried this problem every time I have been to Bishop for 4 years," said Ortega, who plans on heading back to Bishop for Thanksgiving and New Years. "Its become a big joke to most of my friends. I even had a session where everyone who go to the top (even random strangers who happened to be there) yelled out my name at the top."

Ortega's climbing at The Studio will doubtlessly pay off. Best of luck to her as she tackles the nearly impossible problem! 

Belaying Techniques

Nothing in climbing is more important than belaying. Belayer's hold their partner's life. While many people are cavalier about belaying, it's an essential to pay attention and belay properly. They are significant differences in belaying a sport route, a long traditional climb, or an aid climb. The single most important tenet of belaying is to never let go with the brake hand.

Belaying well involves more than just holding the rope for your partner. Using an ATC or GriGri requires a significant amount of attention to the activity of the climber. It's important to pull in and feed out rope at the correct times. In this instructional video, Adam Barczack demonstrates the proper way to belay.

Even with an autolocking device like a GriGri, it is essential to hold on to the rope. Keep your brake hand close to your body to avoid letting go of the rope. Make sure to establish a set of commands before leaving the ground. The climber's knot should be tied perfectly and the belay device needs to be locked and properly loaded. Also, keep your eyes on the climber at all times.  

The Touchstone Gyms offer solid instruction on how to belay. Ask the front desk staff for more information.

Taping for Success

The Salathe Headwall on El Capitan, the North Six Shorter in Indian Creek, and Dog Leg in Joshua Tree are all beautiful routes. These obvious cracks are some of the most enticing lines in climbing.  

Crack climbing is beautiful but it also hurts. Anyone who has stuffed their hand into a parallel splitter has probably gobied their hand a few times. The small abrasions on the back of your hands or fingers stem from the sharpness of the rock and systematic wear from jamming.

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Read more: Taping for Success

TIps For More Efficient Climbing

The short days of fall are here and many climbers are still chomping at the bit to climb big Yosemite routes  Whether maximizing the number of pitches at the crag or moving quickly over a long trad route, the key to fast climbing is efficency. Diablo Rock Gym manager and author of Climb On! Skills For More Efficient Climbing, Hans Florine offered great advice about how to move faster.

Paul Hara photo

Communicate clearly with your partner before and during the climb. This will save more time and make you more efficient, then any other tip. Ie: say: yes and no, not Yeah and Nay. Follow commands with your partners name if there are other climber near by to avoid confusing situations. Know before you leave the belay what the plan is for following the next pitch, hauling sequence etc..

Lynn Hill Traverse

Place Gear Well When free climbing or mostly free climbing, place gear at your chest or below. It makes clipping in much faster and less effort.  Make sure to minimize rope drag.  The second to extend a piece will save minutes pulling up extra rope to fight the drag.

Paul Hara Photo

 Be Organized The time taken to organize rope at each station is almost always shorter then the time taken to feed an un-organized rope.  Organize the rack big to small or reverse, or in the order you will need the pieces on the upcoming pitch. Don't bring gear on lead that you cannot use.

Florine's last bit of advice is to "Chuck safety to the wind...just kidding."  Being safe on a route will help you climb more confidently

Tim Guffin Photography at Mission Cliffs

If you've been to Mission Cliffs recently and admired the photographs adorning the walls, you'll be happy to know that they are the handy work of our very own member Tim Guffin! His work is also on the cover of Rock&Ive magazine! We caught up with Tim to find out a bit more about his background.

20130908-IMG 0766-EditI am a self-taught photographer who has a passion for traveling to wild places and exploring nature with a backpack on my shoulders and a camera in my hands. I started climbing 7 years ago at Mission Cliffs in San Francisco. I didn't even know something like that could exist in a city...I was totally blown-away and hooked right away. I improved little-by-little over the years, met some fantastic people, learned how to use my legs (drop-knees!), got my lead-card and started taking climbing trips. I could never have imagined that in my first year of photographing climbing semi-seriously (more than just butt shots of my friends) would I be published on the cover of my favorite climbing mag!

My photography background is a bit of a twisty road. While studying Ecology at University I spent a semester doing biological field-research in Costa Rica, and that's where I began to explore the craft of documentary/nature filmmaking. This led to work as a camera assistant on dozens of Hollywood films over the past 15 years. But I've always admired the still photographers, and I've continued to hone my photographic skills with frequent road trips near home as well as during climbing trips to Asia, Central and South America.

Tim has lived in and explored the cities of New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, and is now happy to call Squaw Valley home. He enjoys its closeness to the Bay Area, access to incredible mountains, alpine lakes, skiing, rock climbing and the other countless breathtaking locations Northern California has to offer.

Be sure to check out his work the next time you're at Mission Cliffs Climbing Gym in San Francisco to gain a little inspiration for your next trip! Awesome work Tim!

Past blog entries can be found at  http://touchstoneclimbing.blogspot.com/



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