On March 22nd, a crew of GWPC Climbers ran through the streets of Oakland as part of the Oakland Running Festival. GWPC member, Ari Oppenheimer talked a bit about the group's race for the Touchstone Blog.
Anyone who has dedicated any real time to climbing knows just how incredibly fun it is. The pleasure to be had in moving upwards weightlessly transcends all disciplines and distinctions in the climbing community; it is what unites us. Many people walk into climbing gyms looking for access to an activity that can compliment weight lifting or other (regular) fitness activities, but stay for climbing–realizing that they haven’t touched a weight in months.
But climbing’s “funness” is a double-edged sword. It is so fun that it’s easy to overdo it and get injured or burnt out. To keep the psyche high and your body healthy, it’s important to take small “excursions” from climbing. For a small crew of climbers at Great Western Power Co, the Oakland Running Festival was one such excursion.
Despite the casual, “excursion from climbing” approach that the crew took to training for the race, (almost) everyone walked away feeling great with either a PR or a solid debut half-marathon. Bianca Taylor and Mike Maloney both crushed it, running 2:18 and 1:37 respectively for their first half marathon. Distance running veterans Valerie Ann, Sarah Winter, Melanie Barnes, and Maxine Speier had solid performances, running 1:49, 1:58, 1:52, and 2:15. And I managed to limp away with a time of 3:17 and an overall position of 38th for the full marathon.
After the race, Maxine and Mike met me back at Great Western to recover with a sunny rooftop foam-roller session and a few sausages at Rosamunde. Even though our psyche from the race was running high, and despite our engagement in activities that stemmed from running, our conversations rarely departed from climbing. While we were running the race, and while we walked around Oakland with our bib numbers, it would’ve been easy to assume that we were just a group of runners. But the reality is that we are, and always will be, climbers.
Recently, LA.B member Joyce Tam wrote about one of the most under appreciated transportation service to the climbing gym.
Sometimes I'm positive I'm the only person that rides the train because most of the time folks are shocked to hear there is a train in LA. But yes, I speak the truth when I say there is a train in LA, sometimes it even goes below ground (subway, if you’re fancy). And no, I have not been the victim of unspeakable crimes aboard the train.
I take the train and a bus to the LA.B and you can too. Sometimes I look outside the window and chuckle to myself at all the suckers I witness in a parking lot on the road. Don't be a sucker. Fare is a measly $1.50, which compared to most of the other major metropolitan areas in America is a drop in the bucket. It's fairly easy to access any of the train lines from most parts of LA and all the train lines feed into downtown.
I understand coming from the West side can be a big deterrent, nobody wants to waste their life fighting traffic. There isn’t really a winner on that front. But most train stops have a parking lot you can leave your car, while you hop onto the train for a blissful period of leisure. What you do with your time here is up to you. I won’t ask questions if you don’t. Once you emerge from the little known underbelly of downtown Los Angeles, you have the option of doing lots of things that I won’t get into because that is a story for another day.
There are any number of buses departing from downtown that go up, down, around the Lab. The 18, 53, 62, or 720 will take you where you want to go, in addition to a few others. Pay the fare with your tap card ($1.50) and hop aboard. I’ll warn you now, don’t make eye contact. It can get a little seedy as you pass below Skid Row, but there are plenty of working class individuals dozing on here as well. The trip I take is usually a little less than an hour, which is just enough time to make good headway on a book.
The bus deposits you probably closer to the LA.B than if you were to hunt for parking in the vicinity. If you’re familiar with the establishment next door and their tow policy, you’ll be glad you don’t have your car today. I have this impression of rock climbers as a more adventurous lot than the typical citizen. I have the utmost confidence in your public transit abilities and look forward to seeing you on the train.
Touchstone Climbing will be hosting SCS Youth Climbing competitions at three different locations this spring, bringing USA climbing to the Bay Area! We are excited to be trying something new and we’re thrilled to be able to make it a very exciting comp season for both youth competitors and our members.
Here is the schedule for the Spring SCS Comp series at Touchstone:
Locals: April 12th at The Studio Climbing
Regionals: May 10th at Berkeley Ironworks
Divisionals: June 14/15th at Mission Cliffs
“We’re really excited to be able to host these events and support our young climbers,” said Head Routesetter Jeremy Ho. Touchstone route setters will be setting the comp routes for the event with two guest setters. “Comp setting is different from our usual style of setting. You can expect more volumes, more mantles, and more intellectual movement. The setting doesn’t necessarily focus solely on the strength of the climbing, but on the mental growth in climbing.”
What Youth Competitors need to know:
Get psyched everyone! For the first time in [possibly] your whole lives, Touchstone Climbing will be hosting climbing comps right here on your home turf! This means that you’ll have the home field advantage while competing in local, regional, and divisional competitions.
These are USA Climbing events, which means to compete you need to register and pay an entry fee ahead of time.
Locals: The Studio Climbing The Studio Climbing is located in downtown San Jose and is built inside of an old movie theater. The route walls are over 45 ft high and the unique layout of the building makes it an awesome gym to climb and spectate.
Regionals: Berkeley Ironworks BIW is one of Touchstone’s oldest gyms and the lead cave is the stuff of legend! With plenty of free parking and Berkeley Bowl only a few blocks away, it’s a very commuter friendly gym to compete at. If you didn’t compete at two local comps, you can still compete at regionals, however you will not be able to move on to divisionals.
Divisionals: Mission Cliffs MC’s recent expansion added 5,000 square feet of brand new terrain to the gym, and boy oh boy do those new colors POP! Located in the Mission District of San Francisco, we are walking distance from a BART station and on several bus lines.
What members need to know:
Don’t worry loyal members, we haven’t forgotten about you! While the gyms will be a big of a zoo on the days of the comps, we will still be open for business as usual. Feel free to come by and climb, workout, or cheer in the little whipper snappers who are campusing your project.
But the real fun will be the day AFTER the comps. You know, when the kids have gone home but there are still a plethora of comp style routes…?! Yeah. We’ll be hosting events at each location the day after the SCS comps, so us big kids can have a shot at the routes! We’ll have scorecards, prizes, and vendors to make it a big event. Be sure to mark your calendar and come test your comp climbing skills!
We will have events at The Studio Climbing, Berkeley Ironworks, and Mission Cliffs.
“Comp style climbing at a Touchstone Climbing Comp? Yes Please!” said long time Touchstone Climbing member Alex Witte. I’m so excited to see the exciting movement that our setters comp up with!”
On March 13th, the world lost an amazing man in Zion National Park in a base jumping accident. Sean “Stanley” Leary was well known in the climbing world. In Yosemite, he had climbed El Capitan more than 50 times and established new rock routes across North America. He explored new lines in the Arctic, Patagonia, Baffin Island, and Venezuela.
Dean Fidelman photo
Beyond his climbing achievements, Stanley was an accomplished BASE (buildings, antennae, spans and earth) jumper. He often flew in a squirrel suit, a specially designed wing suit which increased glide ratios. He established new exits around the world and helped revolutionize BASE jumping.
Born in San Joaquin County on Aug. 23, 1975, Sean Leary grew up in the small Northern California town of Pine Grove. More recently, he lived between his family home in El Portal and with his ophthalmoligist wife, Annamieka in Sacramento.
Climbers from across the world, gathered in Zion National Park to help with the recovery. Because Sean didn't just rock climb and BASE jump, he touched people's lives.
While climbing The Zodiac on El Capitan with Bryan “Coiler” Kay, Sean neglected to bring a real wall climbing hammer. Instead, he dug through his draws in El Portal and produced a humble carpenter’s tool, a Stanley hammer. The nickname stuck.
I met Stanley in 2001, when I first arrived in Yosemite. He invited me to boulder with him in Curry. Over the years, we climbed together, we laughed together, we became friends.
Years ago, I pulled brush and tossed it in a pile. Stanley ran around the yard, sawing trees at random. A Yosemite local hired Stanley to clear the brush for fire hazards. I was there because Stanley had been complaining. He loved to complain. His hot wife wanted to have sex with him so he had to drive all the way from Yosemite to Sacramento. The upcoming Arctic expedition meant he’d never get strong enough for his Jailhouse sport project. Stanley could transform gold to iron.
“The owners are paying me a ton of money to not climb,” Stanley said. I knew Stanley could use the money and I needed a climbing partner. If we finished the job, then we could both go climbing. We spent half a day working before Stanley lost motivation. Stanley hated work, preferring to live.
“I’ll give you money when I stop by the ATM,” Stanley said. I shrugged. Stanley agreed to climb the West Face of the Leaning Tower with me. That’s what I wanted. Snow fell while we worked the route. Stanley freed a steep section of granite, a thousand feet off the ground. He climbed behind a white curtain. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. Stanley sent the route the next week. I worked on the route for a while and eventually, I freed it. Stanley sent me an excited congratulation note, my hero telling me I was rad.
A year later, we stood by the Yosemite lodge. I’d recalled his climbing through the storm, having long forgotten about the job. He’d inspired me.
“Oh yeah, I finally made it to the ATM,” Stanley said. He opened his wallet and stuffed money into my hand. I laughed.
“1…2…3…go!” Stanley said, laughing. In the summer of 2013, Stanley hit the stop watch and I started running up steep granite. Sickle. Stove Legs. King Swing. I looked down. Stanley was fifteen feet below me staring at the birds swooping by. Great Roof. Changing Corners. Bolt Ladder. I looked up. Stanley was at the top, shouting for me to run run run. I touched the tree. Panting hard. Stanley laughed. I wasn’t sure what happened in between. I’d been attached to a bullet. We’d just climbed the Nose of El Capitan in 6 hours.
Stanley climbed fast. On El Cap, at Jailhouse, at the climbing gym, his gazelle-esque climbing style helped him establish numerous difficult free ascents and set speed records. When we climbed the Nose, all I wanted to do was go home and eat elk burgers. Stanley wanted climb more at the Cathedral boulders. He had a circuit there on lock down and could dispatch the classics easily. We would joke about going to "onsight" the Cathedrals. He would quickly tick away the problems. Stanley had an unbridled, manic energy.
Stanley owned two dogs. Nexpa looked like Stanley- thin and fast. He loved her dearly and would coo, “Oh Nexie.” Then he would end her shivering by wrapping her in his down jacket. Stanley found her as a puppy on the side of the road near El Potrero Chico, Mexico. Her throat had been slit. He nursed the dog back to health. Her scar remained. More recently, Stanley showed up at Mortar Rock with an energetic puppy. Bravo darted around with Stanley’s unbridled energy. Stanley and Annamieka rescued a second dog so Nexpa could have someone to lord over. They also wanted to add a little to their family.
In 2010, Stanley married Annamieka in El Cap meadow. The wedding was small and intimate. I had met Mieka in the parking lot of Toulumne years before. Quiet and beautiful in the rain, she’d smiled and been very nice to me. After dropping off his truck at the mechanics in Mariposa, getting medicine for Nexpa, and doing a bit of climbing, I dropped Stanley off at his place that he shared with Mieka in Berkeley. She smiled when I saw her and was very nice to me. Seeing Stanley with her, I saw their love for each other.
Beyond his many climbing brothers, Stanley was expanding his family. Mieka recently became pregnant. Stanley was nervous about having a child but he was nervous about all the important things in life. He would have made a great father. Mieka is due at the end of May.
Last week in Zion, climbers from across North America rallied to help search for Stanley. It was an intense time. I cursed Stanley for making me bush whack through the cactus in the desert furnace. It was an adventure that he wasn’t on. I loved him for allowing me to meet his family- his mother, his sister, his brothers, to spend time with Annamieka. Mostly, I missed him. He was a great person to have had in my life.
A memorial account has been set up for Annamieka and the baby.
Mountain America Credit Union
Sean "Stanley" Leary Memorial Fund
P.O. Box 9001
West Jordan, UT 84084
It was good ol' 100 dolla Benjamin who famously said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” Here at Touchstone Climbing, we strive to do just that. Sure, you can watch YouTube videos teaching you how to belay safely, but chances are you're not reeeeally going to retain and learn anything unless you try it out for yourself in a climbing class.
Same goes for any climbing skill. We often hear from our members that they want to climb outside. We are lucky enough to be in California, where the only thing you have to consider when choosing your climbing destination is the season. Too hot out? Maybe it's Tahoe season. Too cold? Perfect temps on the Valley floor...
But taking the leap from indoor top roping to climbing outdoors can be understandably daunting. What gear do you need? How do you get the rope up there? How do you get the rope down from there? The history of climbing is closely tied to a spirit of mentorship. Someone took us under their wing to teach us the ways of the climber, and we want to share that knowledge, safety practices, and etiquette with you.
One opportunity to do just that is the Anchors Clinic with Hans Florine offered at Diablo Rock Gym in Concord. Hans is a bit of a rock star in the climbing community, holding the speed record with Alex Honnold for climbing The Nose on El Capitan, bagging countless accents around the country, and literally writing the book on Speed Climbing.
Hans is the manager Diablo Rock Gym, and his endless energy and psych for pushing personal limits definitely shows. Since becoming the manager in 2011, Hans has inspired countless members and guests to challenge themselves and 'do hard things.' Hans also spends time in front of the desk, teaching skills he has picked up over years of climbing.
Last year, Hans began teaching an Anchor Building Clinic at DRG. In this 2 hour clinic, members get a chance to set up, asses, equalize and test anchors in the safety of the gym. "You'll learn sport climbing anchors, trad anchors, multi-pitch anchoring, and more!" said Hans. "Everyone walks away with a tool or two to make their outdoor anchoring safer."
If you're interested in signing up for this clinic - click the button below!
Join yoga instructor Sandra Razieli in a Yogathon to raise funds for Mind Body Solutions, an organization that makes yoga available to people who have suffered from trauma, loss and disability.
I am happy to share that I am participating in a yogathon called Kiss My Asana. It's a fundraiser for Mind Body Solutions, an organization whose members are doing great work in the world. I invite you to read more about it below or go directly to the website to sponsor me.
Those of you who have been in my classes, practiced yoga with me, played soccer with me, shared the bimah or have just hung out together, know that one of my favorite poses is what I affectionately call Bigasana. It’s simple -take your legs wide, take your arms wide and breathe. Open to the space around you, open to your potential, open to life.
This is what Mind Body Solutions does for so many people and in order for them to do it more, they need financial support.
Mind Body Solutions is a Minnesota based organization whose mission is to transform trauma, loss and disability into hope and potential by awakening the connection between mind and body. They are best known for adapting yoga for persons living with disabilities. They also offer innovative workshops for caregivers and healthcare professionals, teaching to integrate practical mind-body techniques into daily practices, resulting in more satisfied, committed caregivers and better patient outcomes.
To support them, I am participating in their Kiss My Asana Yogathon and I invite you to join me in this endeavor. For the month of April, I will dedicate my practice to focusing on opening up some of my constricted places; to step into what is more difficult for me. I tend to love forward bends and avoid backbends. So for this month, I'm going to dedicate my practice to backbends. You may find me teaching them more often in class too.
I invite you to sponsor me (all the money goes directly to Mind Body Solutions) or make your own page and ask others to sponsor you.
Connecting with this fascinating, sometimes frustrating, sometimes exhilarating experience of living with and in my body has led me to more fully embrace life and simply feel better. This is an experience that I want to share as widely as possible. And this is why I teach and practice.
I am grateful for any way that you can support this endeavor.