Educate Ethiopia Climb-A-Thon

On September 7th, Diablo Rock Gym will be hosting the Educate Ethiopia Climb-A-Thon. Patagonian ambassador Majka Burhardt, a well-known climber and dynamic inspirational speaker, will be presenting a speaker/slide show in the evening. Along with a raffle and silent auction with gear from The North Face, Patagonia, Mountain Hardware, and the AAC, there will be Ethiopian food and an awesome presentation.

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Mountain A La Mode: Rifle Climbing and Pie Baking

Touchstone Blogger James Lucas spent the past summer in Rifle, climbing and baking pies for the annual Carbondale Pie Baking Contest. He wrote a bit about his exploits for the blog.

“She’s a psychopath,” Ryan said. The Carbondale local introduced himself over beers at the Pour House bar when he heard talk of the pie baking contest. “My mom’s been judging the contest for years. I’ve heard of Judy Harvey. She’s absolutely obsessed. If you win, she may kill you.”

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Two years ago, I was Fruit Number 1. During a summer of Rifle sport climbing, I dropped off a butter crust Granny Smith apple pie, the first entry into the fruit category at the Carbondale Mountain Fair annual pie baking contest. I dreamed of being on the cover of Martha Stewart’s Home Living, wearing an apron and holding an apple pie. I dreamed of being a handsome climber boy killing it in the kitchen.

This spring, my long term girlfriend and I broke up. To deal with it, I threw myself at free climbing a new big wall route in Yosemite. I toiled, tried, and worked. After a few months, the route fell to my tenacity. With no goals left, no girlfriend, and no direction, I felt lost.

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Remembering my dream, I packed quick draws, a harness, shoes, a rolling pin and my pastry blender into my Saturn station wagon with plans of returning to Colorado. The competition in Carbondale would provide direction in my life, somewhere to invest my energy, and a chance to be a cover model.

Before leaving, I prepped for the contest by baking a chicken pot pie in Yosemite. Traveling east, my friends in Salt Lake City loaned me their kitchens to bake a mixed fruit pie, an apple pie, and a strawberry rhubarb pie.

On the road, I studied endlessly, listening to an audiobook version of the Joy of Cooking and searching the ends of the Internet for recipes and pie baking tips. On July 1st, The New York Times published an article about tarts, crisps and most importantly, summer pie recipes. I read the piece fifteen times. In Salt Lake, my friend’s mom provided beta on cold butter, on shredding apples and how to crimp the edges for the best presentation. When she was out of the kitchen, I snapped pictures of her grandmother’s 100 year old apple pie recipe.

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With a solid technical foundation, I drove to my friend Hayden’s house by the confluence in Carbondale. Hayden’s kitchen provided a perfect place to bake a second apple pie, a bourbon pecan pie and a chocolate bourbon pecan. I tailored my Rifle climbing towards pie baking.

The steep limestone routes provided core training. The small edges allowed me to crimp until my fingers cracked. The sidepulls worked my hand strength. By the end of the month, I used an ab roller to press out the pie crust. I crimped the edges of the pie to perfection. I broke apples in half. Beyond the training, I sought advice from master bakers.

For the past 20 years Judy Harvey has dominated the Carbondale Mountain Fair pie baking contest. White and dark chocolate mousse. Boysen berries. Caramel coconut creams peaked with translucent amber spikes of macadamia nut brittle. Judy mastered these recipes and the subtleties of pie baking. In 2005, the Aspen Times featured Judy in an article about the contest. Her husband, Roger spoke of Judy’s determination describing trial run pies stuffing their garage refrigerator and inviting friends over at all hours to test the pies. On competition days, Harvey wakes at 4 am to begin baking. I wanted her obsession.

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The Carbondale phone book provided her number. Judy shied away when I first rang. “My family is setting up camp for the 4th of July. Can I call you back?” she said. After 3 days of silence, I dialed again. The call went straight to her voicemail. The master baker ignored my pie enthusiasm.

Despite Judy’s reluctance to share pie secrets and the rumor of her homicidal tendencies, my mission to bake the perfect pie held true to course. A climber’s BBQ offered a chance to serve a strawberry rhubarb pie and a third apple pie. Jen and Andrew, a pair of local Rifle climbers, invited me to bake a peach pie at their house. I baked until I only saw imperfections in the pies. I obsessed on the crust that Andrew left, the extra peaches that Jen pushed to the side, and the fact that Hayden stopped. I baked until I hated pie. My climbing schedule, my life revolved around my next chance to bake. I transformed into the obsessive Judy Harvey.

In between baking pies and climbing rocks, my headlamp lit the trail around Thompson Lake. The summit ridge to Mount Sopris, the highest peak in Carbondale’s Elk Range, hid behind the impending sunrise. A week of insomnia wrecked me. The alpine hiking helped alleviate my angst and aimlessness. While wandering lost around the lake at 3am, I fixated on a conversation a fellow lifestyle climber and I had.

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“Don’t you think it’s weird that you just climb all the time?” Colette asked me. Sopris filled the skyline above the confluence, where we split the last piece of chocolate bourbon pecan pie. A full-time climber, Colette had begun a transition towards a career, a life beyond rock. I poked at the pie crust, unsure of how to answer. This trip was supposed to be about more than just climbing. My travels east, the pie baking contest were supposed to provide direction, to provide a distraction while I found something more permanent. After the contest, I’d be back where I started- driving my car to climb at another sport crag, to find more boulders, or explore new big walls. Climbing, like pie baking, is amazing but ultimately pointless. There must be more to life than rock climbing and pie baking. What was it?

On Saturday, July 28th at 6 am, I hustled over to Hayden’s house, where I preheated the oven. The butter cut into the flour perfectly. The chocolate melted over the pecans. Maple syrup provided sweetness and the bourbon gave the pie kick. For an hour, the 9 inch pie pan full of Kentucky Derby pie baked. At 10:30, I joined a half dozen entries in the exotic category at the Carbondale Mountain Fair Annual Pie Baking Contest. A meat pie with hotdogs woven into the lattice seemed suspect. The other pecan pie appeared weak next to mine. The meringue. That looked good. The fruit category contained nearly a dozen pies from apple to cherry to pear. The crème category held just a few pies. I nervously waited for the judges results.

That night, climbers from across the US gathered in a Carbondale barn for Jen and Andrew’s wedding. Thunder, lightning and afternoon showers dissipated moments before the ceremony. Jen’s father walked her down the aisle. Andrew’s father gave a heart felt speech about new love and old love. The two climbers made a life long union, they were making more of their lives than just the rocks they climbed. It was beautiful.

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The wedding offered me a chance to stop fixating on the contest. Watching these two friends in love helped me realize that perhaps there was more to life than climbing and baking. Jen and Andrew discovered something special in their relationship. Climbing, while pointless, had brought the two together. My respite ended quickly. In between the ceremony and the dancing, a dozen different climbers asked me about the competition.

“Did you win?” “Did you beat the blue-haired grandmas?” “You send the gnar at the fair bro?”

“No.” “No.” No.” I answered, explaining the training, my alpine start, and performing my best. Baking pies while living out of a station wagon proved difficult. My lackluster excuses did little to negate my loss. The hard part to explain was my desire, not to win, but to find direction. If I’d been asked if I was still aimless, then I could have answered, “Yes.”

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For six weeks, baking and climbing consumed my life. I expected an answer to my aimlessness, one that would come without having to consciously think about why I was wandering. I expected an epiphany while rolling out pie crust. Flashes of inspiration happen slower than that. They are the product of circling around an idea, drawing closer and closer to it.

While Judy Harvey sat in her kitchen shuffling through recipes for next year’s contest, I packed my Saturn station and prepared to orbit another climbing destination. I buried my pastry blender beneath my ropes. I left my pie pan at Jen and Andrew’s house. The weather in Yosemite would cool soon. I drove east from Colorado knowing Judy and I would continue our pointless obsessions. Maybe someday, we’d figure out why we did it.

The Saturn
 

 

Tips on Better Onsight Climbing

One of the best feelings in climbing is walking up to a piece of rock and climbing it onsight, going from the ground to the top without falling and without any knowledge of the route. Onsight climbing, though the ideal style, is one of the hardest parts of climbing to master as it involves solid mental and physical strength. There are a few things that can help with your next onsight.

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Beth Rodden on her impressive onsight of The Phoenix a 5.13 crack in Yosemite

Read more: Tips on Better Onsight Climbing

Climbing with Kids

Climbing with your kids can be one of the most rewarding experiences out there. Watching your youngster scramble up the boulders on their way to being the next great climber can be amazing. But there’s lots to consider when taking your child out to the crag.

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Find a Third

Having a third kid-friendly person is essential to actually climbing. This way there’s always someone to watch the child while the parent belays or climbs. Heading to the crag with another family can help this situation immensely as you can take turns climbing and watch the kids. Susie Christensen has climbed with her daughter Ainsley from Yosemite and the Grotto in Sonora to the Verdon Gorge in France and Wilderswill in Switzerland. " It makes a huge difference to have a minimum of one extra person available to commit their attention to the kid. When Ainsley was a baby it was really critical to have an extra person who wasn't climbing or belaying that could hold her or feed her if she was crying. Now that she's older, a third person is helpful to keep her from wandering to dangerous areas (under other climbers, steep rocks/slopes, poison oak) and to keep her entertained."

Read more: Climbing with Kids

Slab Climbing Secrets

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.

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James Lucas tries hard to keep from skinning his knee while slab climbing in Squamish

Read more: Slab Climbing Secrets

Pipeworks Member Profile: John Martinez

Recently, Pipeworks manager Vaughn Medford sat down with long time Touchstone member John Martinez, who has undergone a huge transformation at the Sacramento gym.  Check out the great write up about John.
We are sad to bid farewell to our friend and long-time member John Martinez, who is being asked to relocate out of town for work. John started his career with the California Conservation Corp in 1978 and for 30+ years he has been promoted through the ranks, spending a good portion of that time at CCC headquarters located here in Sacramento. Recently however he was offered a big promotion: managing a field office and crew in the CCC’s brand new facility located in South Lake Tahoe.

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Read more: Pipeworks Member Profile: John Martinez

7 Signs Your Partner Just Isn't Into You

You saw the climber from across the gym.  Maybe they set up the pads perfectly beneath that Bishop highball. Maybe they were crushing that spicy trad route at the Cookie Cliff in Yosemite. However you saw them, you realized that they were the perfect partner. Looks can be decieving though and reality can be even harsher.  Sometimes. despite your best intentions, your partner may not be that into you. Here’s a few signs to look out for.

1.Your partner claims they’re not ready for committing routes

This is a classic escape route. While the step from climbing at Dogpatch Boulders climbing gym to five days on El Capitan is big enough to scare anyone, most partners should be willing to commit to some adventure. If a partner tells you they’re not ready for a committing climb, what they really mean is that they’re not into a committing climb with you. For whatever reason, they don’t see you as a solid partner. Don’t stick around hoping that things will change. They may move into longer routes some day but you probably won’t be holding the rope.

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Is this a familiar scene?  Don't settle for a supporting role.

Read more: 7 Signs Your Partner Just Isn't Into You

Flash Mob Team Bake Sale

It was a day like any other East Bay summer day...skies gray with fog and cold weather clothing abound. There was something different about this day though. More than just the marine layer in the air was the smell of cookies, pies, cakes...and climbing shoes.

Teen Team

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Making the Most of Summer Climbing Trips

Summer is a great time for climbing trips. The alpine climbing in the Sierra, bouldering in Squamish, big wall climbing in Yosemite, traditional climbing in the Needles, and sport climbing in the far off regions of Rifle are all in great condition. Fill the car, grab a plane ticket and you're off to the climbing. Making big plans are easy. Making them happen are a little bit harder. Here's a great set of tips to make your climbing goals happen.

Read more: Making the Most of Summer Climbing Trips

Tough Mudder with GWPC

20130713 122324Team bonding is a science, and one that we don't take lightly here at Touchstone. This Summer Jeremy Yee, the manager of Great Western Power Company in Oakland, lead his staff on a 10.5 miles torture slog, otherwise known as the Tough Mudder Race. The whole team crossed this finish line with arms linked and camaraderie high.... but it's what happens in between the starting line and the finish line that brought them closer. Read on for first hand accounts of the Tough Mudder from each competitors perspective. 

Jeremy Yee - After 4 hours and 10.5 miles of scaling 12-foot high walls, crawling through submerged or buried tunnels and something else called an 'Arctic Enema' (sounds amazing, I know) we'd finally reached the last and final barrier. Locking our arms together, we collectively braced ourselves for the conclusion of our ordeal; hundreds of dangling wires, each charged with thousands of volts of electricity (10,000 to be exact).

I kept telling myself "I didn't sign up for this!", except the truth was that I did, voluntarily. I even paid money for the privilege of subjecting myself to this "challenge" (ed note: torture). If you’re the one person who hasn’t heard about Tough Mudder yet, it’s the probably the largest of a growing wave of hardcore obstacle course races that essentially serve as grueling, endurance-based adult playgrounds… ones that require participants to sign a death waiver.
Founded by a former British counter-terrorism agent, Tough Mudder was made to combat the monotony of other endurance races like marathons and triathlons by adding cramped & buried tunnels, mud pits, wall climbs, fright inducing jumps, and live electrical wires. As philanthropic as it is challenging-to-its-competitors, each race donates a portion of its proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project, raising over $5 million.
My team was composed of some of the best & brightest that GWPC has to offer. I was joined by fellow masochists "AJ" Andrew Jackson, Stephanie Jim, Zev Gurman & Jon Kennedy. Using the underrated technique of alternating between running, jogging, walking and complaining, we completed the course at the Northstar California resort in Truckee, CA in just over four hours. 

The challenges were extremely fun, and just challenging enough to give competitors a sense of accomplishment (or failure). My personal favorites were the Arctic Enema (basically a dumpster full of ice that we had to wade through both partially & completely submerged), Everest (a giant quarter pipe – you had to run up the ramp and vault up to the lip), and Just the Tip/Berlin Wall, where we got to show off our climbing skills! 

John Kennedy -There where a lot of good things about the race. I was psyched when I heard the race would be in Tahoe. Going in, at least I knew the race would have some good views, and fresh air. The whole race for me was really fun, especially since we didn't take things too seriously; making jokes and laughing the whole way. My favorite obstacle had to be "Everest", the 12' quarter pipe that you had to run up and top-out. Go Team!

Zev - An object's properties can only be measured through direct interaction, and that interaction tends to alter the state of said object. We all know this is true. From science....or something. As climbers, we reach out to our limits in order to measure ourselves, and in doing so, we (sometimes unwittingly) expand our limits. Whether we're sending our first V-Hard or climbing a new wall, as climbers we welcome new challenges as new metrics by which to measure our inner dimensions.

When our awesome manager, Jeremy, asked what kind of mud run we'd be interested in, I knew that we had to run a Tough Mudder, because we had to test our limits. (For science!) Everything else on the list was just too short or too painless. Though the crowd was a little bit more bro-y than anticipated, the challenges were tough, and the course was muddy. Thousands of volts, hundreds of feet of mud, a few ice baths, and 10.5 miles later I reflected that I had explored new limits that day as I explored a familiar refreshing, hard-earned adult beverage. Most of all I was happy to be exploring those new limits with friends. In the same way that climbing a few new pitches with a partner makes that bond stronger and exposes new bits of his/her character, working through the Tough Mudder with Andrew, Jeremy, Jon, and Stephanie brought us together as a team more than months of working side by side could have. I never would have run that thing on my own.

Stephanie - Tough Mudder was overall one of the toughest things I've really ever done. It was one of those courses where you really have to be physically and mentally fit - both of which, I'm ready to admit that I'm not. But now that the dust has settled, I am so happy to have finished it. Even though I feel weaker than usual, I found I do have inner strength to pull from. I loved all the climbing-related challenges because I got to show a lot of men that women can be strong too! I really liked the monkey bars because even though I was definitely hesitant to do it, it was like riding a bike and finishing that challenge brought me back to the days when I was queen of the playground. Finally, doing this with my amazing coworkers just made me feel all warm and fuzzy - maybe some of those fuzzies came from from our finale challenge where we linked arms and ran through the 10,000 Volt Chandelier of Pain (aka, "Electroshock Therapy"). Although it was painful, it was a fitting symbol of our unity here at GWPC: we started together and ended together. There's no better feeling than that - except for maybe piggy back rides from your boss in the partner-carry challenge.

20130713 180103Andrew - I felt like this race was a real team building experience for us all. I felt like this race really reinforced the rapport that we have as coworkers & teammates. A lot of the obstacles required you to lend a helping hand (or even just some encouragement) to your fellow Mudder, and we seemed to do really well in those ones. That's why my favorite obstacle, was the log climb ("Lumberjacked") where you had to climb over the top of a log that was suspended about 6-8' off the ground. We really had to help one another out on that one. All in all, I would definitely do the Tough Mudder again... Minus being electrocuted. 


Jeremy - The bottom line – it’s a challenge, but it’s a fun challenge. You can push yourself as far as you want... and then some, but the odds are very good you’ll come away with a smile on your face. I particularly enjoyed the camaraderie and fellowship with my coworkers as we emerged from our icy baths, or whilst charging down the mountain and screaming our battle cry for all to hear.
....I guess you had to be there.

 

Downhill Mountain Biking

The Brotherhood of the Traveling Sombero, a team of down hill mountain bikers sponsored by Touchstone Climbing, recently completed their first race at Northstar with solid results. We caught up with them this week to get the scoop on the race. 

“Northstar, which is infamous for dust and rocks, did not disappoint for the first race of the series,” said Touchstone rider Daniel Melvin. “It's a rather short course, lasting around three and a quarter minutes, with two bottom-bracket-smashing rock sections and two long flat sprints.... It was far from relaxing!"

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Read more: Downhill Mountain Biking

On the Road in Rifle

James Lucas has been climbing in Rifle Colorado, and submitted this trip report to the Touchstone Blog along with some great photos.  

Rifle Colorado offers some of the best sport climbing in the United States. The two mile canyon hosts hundreds of steep limestone routes. The approach to the crags vary from a short thirty second walk to a grueling five minute hike. Sitting at nearly 8,000 feet, the canyon with its easy access, offers a great spot for a summer climbing trip.

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I left Yosemite in the beginning of June and made a circuitous drive to Rifle, stopping in Tuolumne, Las Vegas, Maple Canyon and Salt Lake before finally reaching Colorado. While in Maple, I slipped clipping the second bolt on a warm-up. The rope wrapped behind my leg, burning my thigh. I hit the ground, landing on my back. I sent the route and then limped out of Maple to hang out in Salt Lake City for a few days. When I reached Rifle, I got food poisoning the first night. Two days later, a fire in the nearby town of Rifle threatened to burn the entire canyon. The park was closed for a few days while firefighters worked to contain the blaze. It was a less than auspicious beginning to the trip.

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After a few days, the fire cleared up. My food poisoning dissipated and my rope burn healed. Touchstone athlete, Ethan Pringle, showed up with his Norweigian lady friend Trine. At night we listened to Carl Hiaasen’s new audio book Bad Monkey. During the day, we climbed. Trine hiked the classic Feline (5.11a) and Ethan managed a strong show, putting down Cryptic Egyptian (5.13c) his second try, onsighting Sometimes Always (5.13c), and sending Present Tense (5.13d) in just a few efforts.

“Midgets Remain Indoors,” Ethan suggested. For the week that Ethan and Trine climbed in Rifle, we guessed at the acronym MRI that marked every port-a-potty.

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 Ethan and Trine stayed for a week and I kept climbing. Two years ago, I spent three weeks climbing in Rifle and did many of the easier 5.12 routes. This trip, I’ve focused on climbing some of the harder routes for me. I managed to send Hang Em Higher (5.12d), Slaggissimo (5.12d), Pump-O-Rama (5.13a), and Vitamin D (5.12d), and Hand Me the Canteen Boy (5.12d). In typical Rifle fashion, I’ve also one hung a few sport routes too.

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One of the routes I’m most psyched to climb is the 8th Day, which is a mega long technical 5.13a. In the picture is Martin, a crazy Bulgarian who hangs tough in Rifle during the summers. Martin managed to tick the route in a 2 hour ascent.

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American Sport climber Colette McInerney climbing on Cryptic Egyptian.

The summer weather in Rifle is hot. When Charlie Barrett arrived, I outfitted him in the proper attire.  (Notice the Berkeley Ironworks tank!)

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Tank tops are essential in the heat. Look Good Climb Good. In between the heat, afternoon thunder showers kept the humidity high. I often confused climbing in Colorado with pulling on limestone in Laos. There's a nice river that goes through the canyon, which makes for a perfect place to swim during the heat of the day.

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Isabelle sending Quickdraws (5.12c)

There’s a constant roll of climbers coming through Rifle. There’s been a crew from Quebec who scream French when they fall.  This photo shows Stephane Perron falling going to the anchors on the Project Wall classic Apocalypse (5.13c).

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Former Touchstone member, Isabelle Rittberg has been crushing in the canyon. Rifle is also the former stomping grounds of Ironworks Stockboy, Scott Frye. Frye established some of the best routes in the canyon including Beer Run (5.13a), and Living in Fear (5.13d).

River Party
 

One of the best parts about Rifle is sitting around the river in the afternoon, when the day is hottest.  The river is shallow but really cold and perfect for freezing your body after struggling up one of the hard routes.

Project Wall

This last weekend was the Rifle Rendez-spous, which is the annual park clean up.  A ton of climbers came out for the event.  Chris Sharma gave a slide show and there was a really fun bbq.  I managed to get to the anchors on the 8th day twice.  The first time, I climbed to the top in the pouring rain.  I still have another week and a half in Colorado. I’m looking forward to more crushing!  Hopefully the 8th day will go down!

 

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

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