Sonora’s Gold Country contains an amazing variety of climbing from limestone bouldering to traditional basalt cracks to blocky sport climbing. Spring and fall are the best times to climb in Sonora but the overhanging rock of Jailhouse stays dry in even the most savage winter storm. In the summer, escaping the heat can be easy at the columns of the Grotto. With solid weather throughout the year and an awesome range of climbing, Sonora offers a perfect destination for a long weekend on the rocks.
Day 1 Columbia College Bouldering
The Gold Rush of 1940 unearthed a large amount of precious minerals in the Sierra Foothills. The hydraulic mining also uncovered a mother lode of highly compacted marble boulders near Columbia College in Sonora. The hundreds of problems in the labyrinth of boulders require body tension and a solid ability to climb on sloping holds in a wild setting. "It's like walking through the Castle Grayskull," said Kim Groebner, a Berkeley boulderer.
Triple Cracks (V6), which John Sherman described in The Stone Crusade as “possibly the best single limestone problem in the country” sits below the college. Great problems like The Gold Wall (V4), Lobster Claw (V4), and the All American Finger Crack (V2) reside just meters away. The high concentration of boulder problems requires a fair amount of navigating and Columbia College Bouldering by Dean Fleming helps significantly.
Poison oak guards many of the boulder problems at Columbia and remains an issue around Sonora. Be aware of what the plant like and remember even the leafless winter branches can cause an allergic reaction.
For more info also check out: Columbia Bouldering
Day 2 The Grotto
The Grotto features amazing basalt cracks and blocky sport climbing just outside of Lake Melones on Table Mountain. The BLM land trail outside of Jamestown takes climbers drops them thirty feet into a pit with routes surrounding them. With trad routes on one side and sport routes on another, the Grotto provides a perfect opportunity for climbing.
The classic compression route AC Devil Dog (5.10c) involves refrigerator style wrestling up a perfect double arête. Go With the Flow is a perfect 5.9 hand crack to warm up for Rawhide (5.10d). For those looking for more of a challenge, there are extensions that climb the basalt columns and into steeper terrain as well as short challenging routes surrounding the Grotto. There are a number of more moderate sport climbs as well that provide a great opportunity for the budding lead climber.
The Grotto stays much cooler than the area around it because of its recessed nature and offers a perfect summer escape.
Check the MountainProject page for online reference.
Day 3 Jailhouse
One of California’s best sport crags remained locked on private land for years until the Access Fund negotiated with landowners for permanent access. Now California climbers have nearly a hundred overhanging routes in a giant basalt amphitheater to keep them busy. The climbing at Jailhouse remains difficult with the easiest route being 5.11d and the average route checking in at 5.13.
Check out the power endurance route Fugitive (5.13a), the sustained Alcatraz (5.13b) and the heart breaking ending of Jailbait (5.13c). Climbers in the 90s invented kneepads, sticking stealth climbing shoe rubber on neoprene pads, to help conquer the overhanging blocky terrain of Jailhouse. Once seen as a form of aid, kneepads are a standard and almost necessary part of climbing at Jailhouse.
Due to the easement agreement with landowners, a gate code is required to enter the park. Check in at the Access Fund website for the code.
For those that want to skip out on the hardman sport climbing, head back for another day of bouldering at Columbia, try more lines at the Grotto, or go swimming at Natural Bridges located off Parrots Ferry Road and across the bridge from Lake Melones.
Mountain Project Jailhouse
How to Get There
Located in the Sierra foothills, Sonora sits two hours east of San Francisco. Follow the 580E to Highway 120, which merges with Highway 108 and heads directly into Sonora.
For the Columbia Boulders, drive north through Sonora on highway 49 for 2.3 miles. Head north on Parrots Ferry road for a tenth of a mile before turning east on Sawmill Mill Flat Road. Follow signs for 1.2 miles to Columbia College, and purchase a one-dollar student-parking pass. Campus maps will provide directions to the Lower Arboretum.
To get to the Grotto, drive southwest on highway 108 from Sonora towards Jamestown. Turn onto Rawhide road and drive west for two miles before turning south on Shell Road. Drive through two horse gates with a high clearance vehicle at the end of Shell Road or park outside and the gate and walk to the BLM parking area and pit toilet.
Park in student parking Rawhide to shell and a couple horse gates you can park outside the horse gates
To get to Jailhouse, follow the 108 south for 8 miles, turn west on O’Byrne’s Ferry Rd/ CO Rd E15, this is less than a mile after the Yosemite Junction, where Highways 108 and 120 diverge. Drive 3.7 miles and turn right at a double gate. Enter the gate code and close the gate behind the vehicle. Do not park outside this gate at any time, as the owner does not want to draw attention to this gate. Turn left and follow the dirt road ¼ of a mile to a fenced parking area on the right and close the gate after entry. Horses graze the land surrounding Jailhouse. Be considerate of the animals.
Where to Stay
First settled in 1848 by Mexican miners, Sonora remains a bit of a rough and tumble town with a historic feeling. Century old brick buildings line downtown. The town offers modern conveniences and provides a solid feel of California Gold Rush times.
The Sonora Inn in downtown offers nice hotel rooms ranging from $60 to $80 a night.
Tuttle Town Campground, located above Lake Melones, charges a more modest $22 and provides flush toilets, showers, drinking water, picnic tables and fire rings at each campsite. Bring a tent and sleeping bag for the car camping there.
What to Bring
A crash pad or two would be ideal for bouldering around Columbia College. For the roped climbing, a sixty-meter rope, climbing shoes, harness, belay device, and a set of quick draws will get you up the majority of the routes at the Grotto. A double set of cams and some stoppers will help with the traditionally protected routes. A seventy-meter rope will allow you to lower off most routes at Jailhouse. Bring kneepads for the overhanging rock. 90% of the routes are fixed and only a dog draw is necessary.
Wear lightweight long pants as the Sonora area has a significant amount of poison oak.
Sierra Nevada Adventure Company, located on Washington Street in downtown Sonora, offers great supplies for climbers and hikers. SNAC sells copies of A Climber’s Guide to Sonora Pass by Brad Young, which offers route topos to the Grotto, Columbia College Bouldering by Dean Fleming provides navigation for the limestone bouldering, and Bay Area Rock by Jim Thornburg contains an overview of each area as well as the only topo to Jailhouse.
Food & Drink
The Diamondback Grill, located on Washington Street in downtown Sonora, offers steak, salmon, great burgers, vegetarian options, and the best dining around the area. Mellow with a solid range of beer and wine options, The Diamondback Grill provides a perfect post climb dinner. Washington Street’s Bagel Bin provides great breakfast sandwiches, bagels, and coffee. A few Mexican restaurants dot Sonora and C & C’s taqueria in Jamestown offers cheap eats near the Grotto. Groceries and supplies can be purchased at the grocery stores in Sonora.
The Quick & Dirty
Where to Climb: The Grotto
Where to Stay: Tuttletown Campground
Where to Eat: Diamondback Grill
Ever wondered what to do on Thursday evening after getting off work in downtown Oakland? Your worries are over! Great Western Power Company is now offering a yoga class to balance the long day hunched over that desk typing on the keyboard. Even if you don't hunch over your desk, this still might be the thing for you...
The class, starting at 7.15 PM, will be challenging, make you sweat and stretch you out. Avram's influences include Laura Camp and the Monkey Yoga Shala, Ashtanga and Vinyasa styles as well as B.K.S. Iyengar's classic book Light on Yoga. Avram has been teaching since 2010 and practicing since 2000, and has really enjoyed teaching the Tuesday yoga class at GWPC.
In addition to the yoga classes, Avram has also been teaching the Core Conditioning class for a number of years. Core Conditioning is fundamental to a healthy yoga practice, and might be just what you need to finally get that V6 you are working on.
The goal is for everyone to be challenged, but not discouraged. Some members will come to both core and yoga in the same evening (the double dip). Both Tuesday and Thursday are set up this way, come by and give it a shot.
Core @ 5pm - 6pm
Yoga @ 6:05pm-7:20pm
Core @ 6:10pm-7:10pm
Yoga @ 7:15pm-8:30pm
Happy Monday! ...Or as it has come to be known here at Touchstone Climbing, Happy New Gym Announcement Day!
That's right people, we have secured a location for a state of the art indoor climbing gym in Hollywood, California. This will be our 3rd project currently underway in the Greater Los Angeles Area. Once again, Touchstone worked with the team at Creative Space to find a ‘needle in a haystack’ location that addressed all of the unique requirements of a Touchstone climbing gym. The Hollywood gym is located near the 101 and will offer over 17,000 sq ft of climbing terrain, making it the largest bouldering-only gym in Southern California.
For those following along at home, we announced that we had found a location for a Pasadena gym in January, and a Culver City location last week. “Now that we’ve been here for 6 months and people can really see what we’re made of, announcing other locations is HUGE,” said LA Boulders General Manager Remi Moehring. “We’ve set the bar high and people know what we mean when we say a Touchstone gym is coming to town.”
"Our goal in coming to Los Angeles was not to simply add a gym, which we did with LA.B this year. Our objective is to be a catalyst in the development of an indoor climbing community, said Touchstone Climbing CEO Mark Melvin. “It takes multiple exceptional gyms in close proximity with reciprocity, to do the job right, and this new location is essential. We are very excited to be in the greater Los Angeles area."
Offering the climbing and fitness community a network of gyms is a pillar of our success in Northern California. And now it's only a matter of time until our Southern California members can enjoy the same perks! “We are hopeful that we can open both Hollywood and Culver City in the first half of 2015,” said Sr. Manager Markham Connolly.
We will once again be working with our friends at Walltopia to design the walls, and Flashed Climbing to build the state of the art flooring. #dreamteam
Creating a network of gyms in the LA Basin will not only increase the number of gyms and amount of terrain for the climbing and fitness community, it allows Touchstone to ramp up their infrastructure in the area. “I'm really excited to develop a crew in LA that will bring the Touchstone caliber of route setting to the climbing gym scene,” said Head Touchstone Routesetter Jeremy Ho. “I’ll be hiring full time setting crew that will set at all four locations, bringing our quality and cohesive style to each gym.”
Touchstone is currently working through the permitting process on their 3 newest projects in Pasadena, Culver City and Hollywood and will have more information come fall. Keep it tuned here for more information!
The Touchstone Climbing Series, AKA TCS2014, has been bringing beer, pizza, climbing, prizes and 'da party' to each of our six of our nine gyms over the past year. The comp series rotates back and forth between rope climbing and bouldering, with on-sight finals at Mission Cliffs and Dogpatch Boulders.
There is one last Friday night comp left at Great Western Power Company in Oakland. Be sure to come on Friday, August 22nd ftom 5pm-10pm to compete. As always, this comp is FREE to our beloved members and only $10 for guests.
If you weren't around for the finales last year, here is a breakdown of what to expect.
The bouldering comp and on-sight finals will be held a Dogpatch Boulders on Saturday, September 27th. It will be an open comp from 12pm-5pm, which is just like any other comp you've come to know and love. Anyone can compete in beginner, intermediate or advanced categories. There will be pizza, beer, food trucks for snacks, and more.
Once the clock strikes 5, it's finals time! We will select the TOP 3 advanced climbers from the entire series, and the top 3 climbers from the day, to go head to head in On-sight finals.
There are three finals problems and the top 6 male and female finalists will have 5 minutes for each of them. "It's pretty exciting," said Routesetter Ben Polanco. "Bouldering finals at Dogpatch are super fun to watch."
There is a cash purse of $1,000 for 1st place men and women. $600 for 2nd place, and $350 for third.
Prizes will also be awarded to the overall winner in all categories. So the more comps you went to, the better your chances of reaching the podium!
To check your overall rope standings, click here:
The roped comp and on-sight finals will take place on October 25th at Mission Cliffs. The new expansion walls lend themselves perfectly to competition climbing and spectating.
The comp will function in the same format. Open climbing will take place throughout the day between 12pm and 5pm. We will select the TOP 3 advanced climbers from the entire series, and the top 2 climbers from the day, to go head to head in On-sight finals.
Each competitor will have 1 chance to climb 1 route, and the climber with the highest 'highpoint' wins. If there is a draw, there will be a tie breaker route.
There is a cash purse of $1,000 for 1st place men and women. $600 for 2nd place, and $350 for third.
Prizes will also be awarded to the overall winner in all categories. So the more comps you went to, the better your chances of reaching the podium!
For bouldering and roped standings, we take your top two or three results, respectively, for the series, add them together, and rank you within your computed category. If you were ever bumped during the series during a bouldering/roped comp, you are "bumped" for the series.
For the series standings, we take each of your scores, divide it by the maximum possible points for that competition, and multiply it by 10000. That is your "normalized" score for the competition. We take your top 5 normalized scores, add them together, and that is your series score. Then you are ranked by gender and category.
At Berkeley Ironworks, we have always believed in serving and reaching out to our Bay Area community. As one of the largest indoor climbing gyms in the area—with towering, 45-foot climbing walls and a caring, supportive staff—we have a unique facility, and we love to share it with community organizations like yours.
We offer organizations who work with underserved, special needs, and at-risk youth (and other qualifying groups) heavily subsidized, fully staffed group events – no strings attached. Our only goal is to get your organization climbing! Over the last few years we have worked with organizations like Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program (BORP) and Lighthouse for the Blind, hosted children with incarcerated parent and served Soccer Without Borders, an organization that connects newly arrived immigrants to one another and to the community.
Here are some testimonials from groups that have visited Berkeley Ironworks in the past year.
"There was so much encouragement and energy for each other that it made it great to see how much you all have grown to care for each other and see the value in the success of someone else. That was amazing."
Trooper Johnson, BORP.
"The students were given freedom to explore and boulder as well as try climbing on rope. It was not only the first time for all of the kids to climb, it was some students' first time outside of Richmond. The environment, patrons of the gym as well as all the staff were highly accommodating and supported us feeling safe and capable of trying new things, taking on personal challenges and allowed the students to have an incredible experience outside of their typical daily lives. We thank Ironworks and the staff for the wonderful opportunity to give us a place to explore and reach new heights!"
Katherine Bruce, Gateway Project
"Those of us who have rock climbed with kids know that it is one of those activities that immediately draws them in, gets them excited and challenges their minds and their bodies. What happens when you bring a group of recently arrived refugees and asylum seekers from all over the world to a climbing gym? Fun and adventure."
Dan Robinson, Soccer Without Borders
As a lifelong climber, I can attest to the challenge, excitement, and joy that is rock climbing. It is a physical challenge appropriate for all ability levels and a mental challenge that requires and develops problem solving skills. It offers a sense of accomplishment and the opportunity to confront and conquer our fears. It fosters social connections, helps build trust, and is a wonderful team-building tool.
If your organization is looking for a new activity—and a new challenge—in a controlled, fun, and supportive environment, contact us!
They're up with the sun, chain coffee-drinking and working hard to bring you the routes you love to send, project, and crush. 'Touchstone Routesetting' is an industry term for excellence, and each member of the crew brings a little somethin' somethin' to the team. In our ongoing segment, Better Know a Setter, we bring you a closer look at what makes 'em tick. In this weeks installment, we sat down with Head Routesetter Jeremy Ho.
How long have you been route setting?
How did you get into route setting?
I had been working at Berkeley Ironworks for a couple years and always wanted to try out setting. Eventually there was an open spot on the crew, I applied and was hired. It was all down hill from there...
What is your favorite gym to set at and why?
I'm a big fan of setting at Dogpatch Boulders. I'm predominantly a boulderer but lately I've been excited about setting routes and the Mission Cliffs expansion space is top notch for that.
What are your route setting pet peeves?
As the Head Routesetter, my biggest setting pet peeves are spinning holds (under tightened holds) and tape angles being off. As just a routsetter aesthetics are really important to me, matching hold sets and similar feet make a huge difference to me.
What is in your route setting bag right now?
Makita 18v impact driver, Ratchet T-wrench, Metolius Waldo big wall harness, Petzl Sama sport harness, At least 2 Petzl Grigri's, Petzl Pro Traction, Multiple locking and non locking carabiners, Petzl Ascender, Metolius 4 step aider, 2 Metolius Quick Fix, 2 quick draws, A tap, Multiple bits (for set screws and regular 5/16 hex head bits), Chalk bag with brushes, my NEW SoiLL Bucket... Oh and sharpies out the wazoo
What inspires your routes?
Rock climbing. I love everything about it and route setting allows me to create movement for others that will hopefully get them to love the sport as much as I do. Watching people enjoy something you set is a great feeling.
What is your favorite memory setting with the Touchstone Crew?
Probably Eric Sanchez shucking the pole challenge at Dogpatch for the first time.
You recently set at SCS Nationals in Atlanta. Tell us about that.
It was incredible. It was an amazing opportunity and it's inspiring to know that the Touchstone standard of routesetting can hold up on a national level. It was great learning experience to spend so much time around a great group of setters from all over the US.
And we hear your route won 2nd place in a peer review?
Yeah, I only lost 1st place by ONE vote! Note to self; next time I need to vote for my own route!
Where is your favorite place to climb outside?
I really love the climbing in Bishop and the eastern Sierras are just beautiful. Yosemite Valley is real close to the top too.
What is your proudest send?
Definitely topping out Evilution Direct ground up (a 60' boulder problem on the Grandpa Peabody boulder in Bishop). I think only a handful of people have climbed that thing without checking out the top section on a rope. (my only claim to fame. HA!)
What is your advice for aspiring setters?
Don't get discouraged. Your routes will likely be bad at first. Nail down the basics before trying to set crazy technical moves. Keep you mind open to suggested changes to your routes and learn from your mistakes. Continue to learn as much as possible about rock climbing movement and stay active in setting (you CAN get rusty.)
How many Kombuchas do you drink per week?
A sh*t ton. At least 2 per day. But that's a secret don't tell anyone.
Your secret is safe with us, JHo!
Mission Cliffs, which is about to celebrate it's 20th anniversary, has been undergoing a massive expansion project for the past two years. The gyms has added 9,000 ft of roped climbing terrain, gained a stretching and viewing mezzanine, moved the front desk, and is currently finishing construction on two brand new programming rooms. "It's been a crazy year," said General Manager Donna Hawkins. "But it's so cool to be able to grow with our membership base. The Mission Cliffs expansion has transformed the gym from what was the best 20 years ago, to what will be the best for years to come."
We knew that with such a dramatic change to the physical gym, the logo could use a little makeover as well. So of course, we turned to our friends Mark Fox and Angie Wang of Design is Play.
Mark has been climbing at Touchstone Gym's since 1993 and the two of them joined Mission Cliffs in 2009. Not only are they regular crushers around the gym, they are talented designers as well. They have worked with us to design the identities for our past four gyms; MetalMark 2010, The Studio Climbing in 2011, Dogpatch in 2012, LA. Boulders in 2013, and now Mission Cliffs in 2014. The MetalMark, The Studio, and the LA. Boulders identities all include original typeface.
We're also proud to find out that their trademark for Dogpatch Boulders is included in the Graphis Design Annual 2015!
"Out of all nine Touchstone Gym logos, you can definitely tell which ones Mark and Angie designed," said Sr. Manager Markham Connolly. "They are clean, bold, and easily identifiable. You can really see that that each unique logo is a part of the same company."
The two are highly renowned designers in the Bay Area. Mark was President of the San Francisco chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) from 1995–1996, and served on the board of the Architecture + Design Forum of SFMOMA from 1998–2000. In 1995 Fox chaired the Design Lecture Series: “5ive Iconoclasts” featured Tibor Kalman, Vaughan Oliver, the Guerrilla Girls, Jenny Holzer, and Diller + Scofidio. In 2004 Fox was designated a Fellow of the San Francisco AIGA for personal and professional contributions to the San Francisco design community.
Fox is a Professor of Graphic Design at California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco where he has taught since 1993. He served as Chair of Graphic Design at CCA on two occasions, from 2003 to 2007, and most recently from 2013 to 2014. He earned a B.A. in Fine Arts from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1985, graduating magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa.
Angie's work for March Pantry, Anson Mills, One Catering, and others has won numerous awards from the Type Directors Club, Communication Arts, Graphis, AIGA, and Print magazine. In 2013, Design is Play was one of forty-four design firms interviewed for Steven Heller and Lita Talarico’s book Design Firms Open for Business (Allworth Press).
More recently, Angie is quoted in Design School Wisdom, an anthology of tips from veterans in the industry (Chronicle Books). Her work is also featured in New Modernist Type (Thames & Hudson); Typography Essentials: 100 Design Principles for Working with Type (Rockport); and Typography Sketchbooks (Princeton Architectural Press.) In 2014, Angie served as one of five jurors for Communication Arts’ Design Annual, an international competition of the best design created over the last year.
Angie is a Senior Adjunct Professor at California College of the Arts in San Francisco where she has been teaching in the Graphic Design Program since 2005. She has taught “Typography 3: The Book,” created the curriculum for the foundational course “Typography 1: Form,” and co-taught the Summer study abroad class “Amsterdam: Dutch Utopia” with Mark Fox. She graduated magna cum laude from UC Berkeley, and with distinction from the California College of Arts and Crafts (CCAC). She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
"We climb at Mission Cliffs, as do our children Elias, Cate, and Lukas," said Angie. "MC is a bit of a second home for us, so to design an identity for a place and a community of people that we have an affinity for is an honor"
We asked the pair to give us a bit of insight to how they tackle the task of creating our gym logos. "Our process is fairly simple: we sketch at a small size. If a sketch works at half an inch, it typically works well as a finished symbol. Extraneous details are eliminated, and the essential structure of the symbol is clearly established," said Mark. "Once a sketch shows promise, we refine it further and then ink the refinement at a size of 3.5 inches with a Rapidograph pen. We then build the symbol in Illustrator for presentation; if the client selects it, we typically hone the design further, reinking the symbol at a size of 7 inches, and rebuilding it in Illustrator. Our process is laborious, but we believe it yields superior results."
"One final note: we can’t do great work without great partners. We have to thank and acknowledge Mark Melvin, in particular, for entrusting us with this assignment," said Angie.
Several of the original concepts were presented to a team at Touchstone, who then decided on the winning design. "Working with Mark and Angie to select the final identity for Mission Cliffs was such an honor, said Touchstone Graphic Designer Heather Campbell. "Their experience and professionalism really shone through. I can't WAIT to use this new logo!"
The new logo, which will be unveiled in the coming months, has an urban, industrial feel: concrete floors, steel Ibeams, and that massive crane hook—20 tons of capacity! "We thought the identity should feel empathetic and so we relied on simple, constructed forms," said Angie. "The design is the kind of nononsense trademark that could be stamped out of metal, or stenciled on a machine."
We owe a HUGE thank you to Mark and Angie for not only working with us on our previous gym identities, but for taking on the challenge of re-creating an existing logo. We're SO happy with the final product and we can't wait to see it in use.
...So do you want to see the new logo?!
Patience young padawans. It's coming soon!