Amanda, a native Californian and former Berkeley Ironworks desk staffer, recently moved to London to pursue a graduate degree at the London School of Economics. She submitted this report to the Touchstone Blog to share a bit about what the transition has been like for her.
Something very alarming happened to me today. I’ve tried to shake it, tried to get my mind off of it. I’ve buried myself in my reading. I took a bath. Nothing has helped. At this point I’m at a loss for what to do, and the last thing I can think to do is to write. So here we are. Someone told me today, and I quote, that “I don’t believe you’re a rock climber.” That’s right. Or wait. Maybe her first words were, “you don’t look like a rock climber.” I cannot remember which was said first as my mind was a whirling mess of outrage, confusion, and sadness – this feeling is reminiscent of the time my dad killed a spider and he told me she was just sleeping. I knew down to my core that it wasn’t true and the only words I could come up with at the time were “you killed Charlotte” before I ran to my room. I was six years old. I do not like that feeling now any more than I did then. At some point she elaborates, telling me that I didn’t look “Tomboyish” enough. HAH. My course mate, who had unsuspectingly walked into the uniform wearing, agro-offensive and hyperactive room in my brain, was going to suffer the consequences. You picked the wrong door, friend. My first response in a triage of actions that I am consciously and systematically planning is to whip my phone out and bring up my top 100 favorite climbing pictures of 2013. Immediately this makes me think that I might have been better off joining the Army (or at least more successful). Now let’s stop here for a moment. This seems socially inappropriate, to say the least. There are very few instances in which I would personally be excited to see the top 100 pictures of anyone’s anything, let alone a single year highlighted edition. And god forbid she press the issue further – don’t think I don’t have year by year, location by location chronologies organized by climate, alphabet, and most appropriate type of climbing shoe. (Now these are my top 500 pictures from places where my La Sportiva Solutions were most suitable…). Yikes. The reasonable part of my brain, speaking in a very small voice, is attempting to subconsciously tell this friend to smile and placate me. This is going to ensure the fastest and most desirable outcome for her and unless someone came up behind me with a horse tranquilizer, I am not going to stop on my own accord anytime soon. As I’m typing in the password to my phone very deliberately, my hands moving like they are made solely to navigate the iPhone quickly and effectively, I am saying all sorts of things to the effect of - I love camping. I love climbing. It’s who I am. This is what matters to me. It’s not just about climbing, you see, it’s what climbing brings to my life, how it pushes me. It’s about the dew on my tent in the morning and the sound of the zipper as it lets in the first wave of crisp air for the day. It takes you by surprise at first but once you’ve crawled out and started the stove for coffee, it feels like you were born to be here. It’s about the projects and the failed attempts and the successes and the friendship and camaraderie and the simple things. It’s really about the simple things. It’s about the beauty. It’s about my soul. ....Kind of a heavy monologue for a friendly conversation while waiting for the next available teller in the bank. All of a sudden I am rudely interrupted by one of the ladies sitting behind the glass wall in front of us. “NEXT!” she (rudely) says. This friend gives me the kind of look that says “well, what can you do?” and steps forward. Now I am alone with my thoughts and with my iPhone in hand with “Bishop 2013” armed and ready on the screen. I feel alone and sad and I can’t quite figure out why. It’s on my journey on the tube back to my flat when I have calmed down enough to start to attempt to understand my gross… we’ll call it overcompensation, to be nice. In reality I know that I am not defined by climbing. I like to do a lot of other things too. In fact I spent much of my time for the past two years defending those other parts of me that did not involve climbing, for fear that I would be perceived as just a climber. (Nobody is just a climber, for the record. Nobody is just anything. This is part of a larger internalized identity struggle with which I’m sure some of you can relate). So why did I feel the need to not only justify that climbing was incredibly important to me but to perhaps overstate its role in my life? It’s not who I am, like I so assuredly informed this friend who probably could not have cared less. After some thought and a lot of vanilla rooibos tea, I’ve come to the conclusion that climbing is not who I am but it does represent a large part of what I value. It’s true – the feeling I have waking up to the White Mountains as my backdrop, the crunch of sand and rock beneath my feet on the approach to the Buttermilks, toping out on a three pitch climb at Lover’s Leap and looking over the forested mountains of Lake Tahoe – and everything else that comes with the sport and the relationship with the outdoors, means a great deal to me. It has, in fact, shaped a lot of who I am. But I have taken on a different identity here in London. This has been out of both necessity and convenience. I was prepared for that internally, but I was not prepared for how it would make me feel when I was no longer perceived as being something with which I identify so strongly. I wanted to burst out laughing when this friend told me I don’t look “Tomboyish” enough. You’re kidding me. Don’t you understand that I’m more comfortable with sweat on my face than with makeup? Don’t you know that I feel nothing short of an impostor in high heels? I’m pretty sure for the entirety of the two years that I worked at Berkeley Ironworks none of my friends believed I owned anything other than Patagonia outdoor apparel (don’t judge me, we got a discount). Of course all of this is ridiculous. We are who we are. This can change with time and with context. Just because I’m not a climber now does not mean I’m not a climber in general or that I won’t be a climber again. So, I’m lowering my weapon and looking forward to some quality time lapping routes at Berkeley Ironworks this winter when I come home to visit. I’ve got my tent booties ready and waiting for a cold trip to Bishop. I’ll be wearing a down jacket and long underwear and I’ll have a headlamp instead of a calculator. And no one will think that is strange. Sometimes we fill certain roles for a while, and in the end those roles provide us with just another way to know ourselves. I will say, however, that some of the strongest and most talented women climbers I know could fool you into thinking they were modern day Mary Poppins on the cover of Cosmopolitan if they felt like it. Preconceptions never feel good – and that’s something that I have to remember, too. So a final word to the wise? Don’t push us. We will send your project in a dress.
Remy 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!
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.
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.
"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.
Recently, GWPC manager Jeremy Yee headed to one of the world's best bouldering destinations with a crew of Touchstone members and employees. Located on the East side of the Sierra, Bishop hosts an amazing collection of granite and volcanic bouldering.
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.
As 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!
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.
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."
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.
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!"
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!
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.
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.
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..
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