TCS Comp at LA Boulders

It's that time again! The Touchstone Competition Series, aka #TCS2014, comes to LA Boulders in el corazon de Los Angeles this Friday! TCS has visited a Touchstone gym every month this year, alternating between roped climbing and bouldering. TCS2014 at the LA.B will be a bouldering climbing comp and climbers of all levels and all ages are welcome to come out and compete! That means YOU!

Never been to a Touchstone Climbing Comp? Never fear! Here is a handy 3 step guide to your Friday night.

1. Know what you're in for

FUN! Seriously. While some people might hear the word 'competition' and get S.A.T. nerves, tranquillo amigo! Putting on Touchstone Comps' is our way of saying thank to our members for being awesome. This is a FREE event for Touchstone members. Guests pay ONLY $10. (Which is a screamin' deal) The party, er, we mean comp, starts at 5pm and ends at 10pm. You can stop in any time and your friendly neighborhood desk staffer will welcome you with open arms. 

On the night of the event competitors pick a score card in beginner, intermediate or advanced categories, and self-score their climbing as the night goes on. Sure, you need a witness, but that's what your spotter is for! Here is the breakdown on the categories.

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Again, YOU pick your category. And don't sweat this either. Say you're being modest, and you register in beginner. But then you have an out-of-body-CRUSHING-experience and send some v4's. NBD homie. You'll be bumped into intermediate and go home a happy camper.

Once you've climbed your brains out, the REAL party starts. Everyone in attendance gets an awesome T-shirt, pizza, and beer. (21+, duh) There will be raffle prizes, music, photos and all your favorite people.

What did we tell you?! FUN!

2. Come prepared 

Don't worry. It's not that hard. If you ignore this step and skip right to #3, we'll still be psyched to see you.... we'll just send you to the back of the line. 

To get a score card, you need a 3 letter Touchstone Comp Code. To get a Touchstone Comp Code, you need to register. You can do that here. It's going to look like this:

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If you've been to ANY Touchstone Climbing Comp in the past 2 years, then you're already registered! If you came to the Grand Opening Sha-Bang, you already have a code and are already registered! Click 'Lookup' to find your 3 letter code. If this is your first time, don't worry. We'll be gentle. Click on 'Register' and it will be over before you know it.

Now's the tricky part. You've got to remember the code, or all this was for naught. If only there was a piece of paper that you needed to bring to the comp anyways that you could write the code on, as to not forget it...... 

Thank goodness for the waiver. Print it here. Fill is out. Write that code somewhere we can find it and BAM! You're ready to go. 

3. Invite all your friends

Seriously, how bummed are your buddies gonna be when they see their feed blowing up with photos of you having the time of your life and you didn't invite them. It's an awkward and avoidable conversation to have. Let the people know! RSVP to the event on the 'book. Post a photo. Hashtag #TCS2014. Call them on the telephone. Fax them on a floppy disk while you go for the high score on your Atari. Do whatever it takes. 

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Better Know a Setter: Wes Miraglio

DSC 0203-2They'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 Wes Miraglio. 

How long have you been route setting?
5 years total, 1 year with Touchstone this September.

How did you get into route setting?
My friend, Chris Bloch. Thanks buddy for giving some punk kid a chance to learn.

What is your favorite gym to set at and why?
Dogpatch and LA Boulders. Yeah, the floors and the boards can be heinous at times, but I think the terrain and layout of the gyms are cool.

What are you route setting pet peeves?
Striped bolts and t-nuts. It's the hate.

What is in your route setting bag right now?
Wrench, harness, drill, charger and extra battery, shoes, chalkbags for bolts and regular chalk, headphones, gri gris, jumar and aider, dogging draw, sweatshirt, extra shirt, shorts, phone charger.

What inspires your routes?
I don't know. I just strip and screw for a living. Seriously. I wish I could say "Oh this route inspires this moves or that problem got me psyched to try this" but I can't. I maybe have a thought then forget it. It's kinda bad.

What is your favorite memory setting with the Touchstone Crew?
The Bishop trip last year. Just don't let Flea get a hold of a BB gun...

Where is your favorite place to climb outside?
Anywhere in California really, specifically Bishop and/Tahoe areas. Hueco is cool, but you have to put up with the restrictions and being in Wanda's World and the rangers. Colorado you have to deal with the snow the attitude of the Boulder climbers. Vegas is a shitshow. I'd say California has it pretty much made. Tahoe, Yosemite, Tuolumne, Eastside, and other areas make it hard on other areas.

What is your proudest send?
You mean something I'm proud of? On a rope it's easily "Warp Factor"( 5.13a) at Donner Summit. But whatever. On to the next one.

What is your advice for aspiring setters?
Ask questions, be open to change. And take credit for your not so good routes. Turds happen from time to time. But in reality, don't ask me. I don't know shit.

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Troop 125 learns the ropes at MetalMark

In May, MetalMark staffer Riley Kane helped Boy Scout Troop 125 work to earn their Rock Climbing Merit Badges. Riley submitted this report to the Touchstone Climbing blog chronically the days adventures.  

Sean, Tiberius, Sunny, Cooper, Liam, Matin, Alex, Christian, Matthew, Darius, Garrett and Cory lined up to take a group photo. Some were pushing each other to get better spots, others were putting their arms around each other. I walked to the middle back as their scout masters claimed the back left and right. Troop 125 closed in around me as if I was apart of the team. Click.

These twelve boys of different ages had just gone through the Intro to Climbing Class taught at MetalMark Climbing and Fitness, slightly amended for Boy Scouts. They learned how to put on a harness, how to tie a figure-eight follow-through knot, how to belay, and how to lower their partner safely back to the ground. Within an hour on the practice ropes they were ready to do the real thing. When I asked for volunteers, some shied away, but four spoke up. I had two of them set up on a 5.6 and the other two set up on a nearby 5.7. After seeing each of the twelve individually belay and instructing them one-on-one, and after each of them got to climb and be lowered without fuss, I was confident they had the knowledge needed to turn their mental skills to practical skills. Pairs of them broke off around the gym trying routes that at first appeared too difficult, but within an hour became possible. As their eagerness overtook my instruction, I knew it was time to set up the rappel line.

I set up the rappel near a 5.6 in the gym. One by one, I called upon each scout to climb the 5.6, set up their rappel, and rappel themselves to the ground while i backed them up. Some scouts had no problem with it. Others needed to practice setting up their rappel on the ground a few times. A few needed to repeat the exercise before grasping the concept. Some rappelled fast, some slow, some choppy, but all made it down. And within a few attempts, the fast, the slow and the choppy became smooth rappels. What more could an instructor ask for? There were multiple boys that came up to ask when they would coming back....

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Riley is seen above leading a MetalMark Outdoors Trip, a program he helped found at MetalMark.

If you've got a great climbing story to share, what are you waiting for?! Email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with trip reports, tales of adventure, or fascinating fresno stories!

Taking Better Climbing Photos

Taking good climbing photos can be quite difficult. Most professional photographers snap around 100 pictures for every 1 decent shot. They spend days scoping lines they want to shoot, finding climbers and aligning everything. For most of us, taking a good picture of our weekend adventure can be fun enough. A few pro climbers offered up tips on making your climbing pictures just a little bit better.

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“Stick with shade or sun but not a mix,” said Eddie Bauer adventure photographer Ben Ditto. Knowing your light helps immensely with photos. Capturing the golden glow of a sunset on the rock makes a low angle slab turn into a beautiful scene but on an even more basic level, stick to one style of light. Mixing exposures creates blown out backgrounds or a difficult to see subject.

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Andrew Burr, a Climbing Magazine photographer, offered sage photo advice for me in Indian Creek earlier this year. “Make sure your fingers not in front of the lens.” After getting that basic down, he told me to be prepared for a day of taking pictures. “Make sure your camera is charged before heading up.” Take the time to order your equipment before getting in position to shoot.

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National Geographic photographer Mikey Schaeffer offered the advice to use the Rule of Thirds. Placing a grid of 3 x 3 squares on your photo, the subject matter should reach the intersection of these. This creates a greater sense of tension in your pictures. Crop your pictures well for Instagram, Facebook or a framed gift for your mom.

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“I want to see the eyes,” said Yosemite photographer Gabe Mange. Capturing your subject's face will add emotion to the scene. Make sure they are looking towards the feature they are climbing. The viewers eyes will follow.

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Other good tips include: getting all four limbs and face in a climbing picture. Shoot from above or to the side of the climbing to show where the climber is and what they are doing. Go heavy on the edits. Most importantly, take lots of pictures. Use your SLR, use you’re your point and shoot. Get out there with your iPhone. Snap lots of pictures and you’ll start to make great ones.

Climbing on Everest

Touchstone member and Bay area resident, Gulnur Tumbat spent much of the spring 2014 season on Everest this year. She wrote a bit about her experience for the Touchstone blog.

Getting ready for an 8000-meter expedition is a big deal. It is even bigger for someone like me who has a day job and doesn’t get to climb big mountains too often. Extensive financial commitment, months if not years of mental preparation, time off from work, organization of the life left behind including the apartment and the dog etc for 2+ months… In the midst of this craziness, which I am not doing justice here in any way, one has to be physically training really hard.

Everest Base Camp

Professional mountaineers always say the best way to train to climb a big mountain is to climb big mountains. Period. They are wise. But living a rather “normal” life makes it too difficult if not impossible for someone like me to regularly climb real mountains. Now it was my time to go climb Everest. I am an endurance athlete. I run, bike, and rock-climb. I work out 5-6 days a week. Mostly I run long distances. Aerobically I have been in fantastic shape. Yet big mountains are a different story. You need to be strong, really strong.

Everest from Pumori Basecamp

While searching and trying work-outs to achieve more of that for years in the city, I discovered a boot-camp class very randomly at my climbing gym, which is a full-facility gym with all kinds of classes but none got my attention before. Kristine Rios, the super experienced trainer, knew what she was doing. Proper warm-ups and intense crazy work-outs were capped by proper stretching. I was impressed by how she took every step seriously and paid attention to improper forms if any. She did everything with detail to minimize injuries. Every class she’d come up with something different and interesting for people like me who really wish not to be in a gym. Nothing became repetitive or boring. She has everything for you including some Cross-Fit-like moves without the irritating cultness associated with the name. I was able to observe how much stronger I was getting and felt fantastic after only the first 6-months. I am thankful to her for that.

Climbing Half Dome with James Lucas and Christina Freschl

My toes dangled over the ledge. I pushed against the tiny sidewalk and shuffled with my back against the wall, staring at the 2,000 foot drop. I fought into a chimney at the end of the narrow “Thank God Ledge.” A few more feet and I’d be done being scared, I hoped.

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In June of 1957, Royal Robbins, Mike Sherrick and Jerry Gallwas made the first ascent of the The Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome. Using pitons and tenacity they fought their way up one of the greatest technical rock climbs of the time. The large granite dome remains one of the more difficult rock climbs in Yosemite and an excellent challenge for rock climbers.

The previous day, while I rested and enjoyed riding my bike around the Valley loop, Christina Freschl, a Bay Area teacher and Touchstone crusher, attacked the Cedar Eater, a notorious offwidth boulder problem near Happy Isles. The wide climbing did little to deter the Oakland teacher's psyche and the next morning we biked towards Mirror Lake at 5 am.

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I spent the first two hours complaining about the hike as we marched to the base of Half Dome via the infamous Death Slabs. The trail features a number of fixed ropes and requires hiking through a gully. A large white scar on Half Dome taunts climbers hiking up. About a decade ago, a few thousand pounds of rock came off the formation and smashed into the gully, nearly killing two climbers on their way down. I kept complaining and hiked faster to the base.

A small spring runs seasonly at the base of the route and we filled our water and hydrated. Christina took off on the initial pitches, leading the first large chunk of the climb. The route follows alpine rock with difficult route finding through a short bolt ladder and cracks to a large traverse section. I grabbed the rack and hustled through. Christina had been on the lead for nearly four hours.

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We swung across a series of bolts, climbed a long section of chimneys and kept pulling on gear through the steep Zig Zags. I wanted to climb the route to scope the potential of free climbing the formation later this year. I realized that I was awfully tired from all the hiking and though the Zig Zags were quite good, the hiking left something to be desired. We continued along the top across the infamous Thank God Ledge. I left my aiders on the ground and pulled on gear when I felt like the free climbing was too hard. We topped out the formation in eight hours. As soon as we began the descent, I started complaining about the hiking.

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At the base, a squirrel had attacked my pack, despite my hiding it under rocks. I should have hung it in a tree. We had lost our precious chocolate and nut trail mix. Christina remained in good spirits but I complained as we hiked down the trail. We reached the base in the early evening and celebrated by going to the Ahwahnee bar for dinner. We ate hungrily. Christina headed back to the Bay area the next morning to climb in Tahoe for the weekend and I returned to toiling in Yosemite.

Climbing the route was an awesome adventure with a good friend. Christina got a chance to learn a bit more about jumaring, moving fast over varied terrain and climbing efficiently and I got to complain about the six hours of hiking to the eight hours of climbing we did. And have a great time!

 

Are you ready for TCS2014 at DRG?

It's that time again! The Touchstone Competition Series, aka #TCS2014, comes to Diablo Rock Gym in Concord this Friday! TCS has visited a Touchstone gym every month this year, alternating between roped climbing and bouldering. TCS2014 at DRG will be a roped climbing comp and climbers of all levels and all ages are welcome to come out and compete!

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Never been to a Touchstone Climbing Comp? Never fear! Here is a handy 3 step guide to your Friday night.

1. Know what you're in for

FUN! Seriously. While some people might hear the word 'competition' and get S.A.T. nerves, tranquillo amigo! Putting on Touchstone Comps is our way of saying thank to our members for being awesome. This is a FREE event for Touchstone members. Guests pay ONLY $10. (Which is a screamin' deal) The party, er, we mean comp, starts at 5pm and ends at 10pm. You can stop in any time and we'll welcome you with open arms. 

Competitors get a score card in beginner, intermediate or advanced categories, and self-score their climbs as the night goes on. Sure, you need a witness, but that's what your belay partner is for! 

Once you've climbed your brains out, the REAL party starts. Everyone in attendance gets an awesome T-shirt, pizza, and beer from our friends at Strike Brewing. (21+, duh) There will be raffle prizes, music, photos and all your favorite people.

What did we tell you?! FUN!

2. Come prepared 

Don't worry. It's not that hard. If you ignore this step and skip right to #3, we'll still be psyched to see you.... we'll just send you to the back of the line. 

To get a score card, you need a 3 letter Touchstone Comp Code. To get a Touchstone Comp Code, you need to register. You can do that here. It's going to look like this:

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If you've been to ANY Touchstone Climbing Comp in the past 2 years, then you're already registered! Click 'Lookup' to find your 3 letter code. If this is your first time, don't worry. We'll be gentle. Click on 'Register' and it will be over before you know it. Now's the tricky part. You've got to remember the code, or all this was for naught. If only there was a piece of paper that you needed to bring to the comp anyways that you could write the code on, as to not forget it...... 

Thank goodness for the waiver. Print it here. Fill is out. Write that code somewhere we can find it and BAM! You're ready to go. 

3. Invite all your friends

Seriously, how bummed are your buddies gonna be when they see their feed blowing up with photos of you having the time of your life and you didn't invite them. It's an awkward and avoidable conversation to have. Let the people know! RSVP to the event on the 'book. Post a photo. Hashtag #TCS2014. Call them on the telephone. Do whatever it takes. 

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Brotherhood of the Traveling Sombrero Racing at Hood River

The Brotherhood of the Traveling Sombrero, a Touchstone Climbing sponsored down hill mountain biking team recently raced the first round of the Oregon endure series held at Hood River. Enduro, popularized in a last few years, is a race format that involves timed downhill stages taking between 3-8 minutes each and untimed transfer stages involving the majority of the climbing. After 2 days of racing and 8 stages, the lowest combined time reins supreme. A few of the team members spoke about the race.

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Wow! All I can say is what a race! Driving 8 hours on Thursday and another 2.5 hours to arrive at the Hood River Enduro on Friday around 11:00 was a speedy trip. I did not know what to expect from an endure race. Having raced downhill races, cross country races, dual slalom, and super D I had a little bit of a background to racing but I didn’t know how I was going to tackle 8 stage races within two days! Friday we got shuttled up to the top of the mountains behind Hood River and followed other riders to the beginning of stage 1. We got a little confused and lost but ended up riding stages 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, and 8. By the end of just the first shuttle run, all three of us were pretty dead tired and didn’t feel like going back up to ride stages 3 and 4 deciding to save our energy for race day tomorrow. Saturday came and so did the race excitement! Going into the first stage I decided to hold back just a bit thinking I was going to not be able to recover my strength between stages and saving some for the last stage. I was wrong. I learned I could go all out each stage and be able to recover pretty much 100% in between stages. On stage 2 I got a flat tire but that didn’t slow me down; I peddled it out to the end of the stage and quickly changed my flat. Stages 3 and 4 we ran blind having not practiced on them. Stage 3 I got a good time but stage 4 I ended up crashing, bending my handlebars, brake levers, and seat! Stage 4 wasn’t a proud moment. All in all, the first day of racing enduro I learned a lot: you can ride as fast as possible and be fully recovered by the next stage and to peddle every chance you get!

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Sunday came with a new mentality: ride fast and be dead tired after each stage. We rode all stages for Sunday and I knew that they were more downhill oriented which gave me a bit of an advantage having raced downhill quite a few times in the past. The first race of Sunday, Stage 5 was a long one but very fun! Stage 6 had a very steep section that felt like home to me on the bike; steep is where I gain speed! Stages 7 and 8 were both very fast and I ended up finishing 22 out of 50 riders for the entire Hood River Enduro Expert Men 19-39. I’m very satisfied with my results and added onto my bicycling racing experience. I can’t wait to ride my next enduro race knowing what I’m in for.

-Andy Goldman

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The race was great fun; the whole vibe of the event was low key, and surprisingly Happy-go-lucky. The whole thing felt like a long ride with friends. That said, the expert men 19-39 field was fast, very fast. With lots of mistakes throughout the 2 days including 2 pedal ejects on rock sections, 2 off track excursions, and thinking stage 6 ended 800 feet before it actually did, meant I had to settle for a 27th. But cold beer on tap, and free lunch helped sooth the fact that my compatriots beat me. On to the next one!

-Daniel Melvin

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The first Oregon Enduro Series was definitely one of the most fun races I've ever competed in. Probably the most epic part of the race were the trails at Hood River. I had never ridden there before, so showing up to race on unknown territory was a little scary. What we found were trails that were similar to those of our home territory in Marin County. There was ton of flow, some sweet techy sections, and a lot of fast and dry corners. My favorite stage probably had to be the first one- the first half of it was super dry corners with tons of rocks. After a harsh little climb, you then went into a super fast flow section that shot you out into the finish, creating a fun ending to the race- I ended up in 5th on this stage. I'm super pumped we made it out there to the first Oregon Enduro Series and I definitely plan on competing in at least one more this summer. The whole enduro scene is pretty amazing and very chilled out, making it an epic experience each race day.

-Daniel Thompson

 

Off the Wall Training Clinic at Berkeley Ironworks

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Looking to improve your climbing with a little... fitness? Look no further than this OFF the wall training for climbers at Berkeley Ironworks. This clinic is designed to teach intermediate and advanced climbers how to train effectively in the weight room to maximize climbing performance by increasing pulling capacity. Topics will include:

  • Climber injury prevention and assessment: Why your elbow hurts
  • Glenohumeral Joint: The origin of climber strength
  • Brachiation - The art of hanging
  • Working short-end and long range of muscle contraction for explosive strength

You will also be provided with a 6 week take home program provided to guarantee 2-3 level advancement.

About the Instructor: Sean Mapoles is a climber, personal trainer and gymnastics coach based in San Francisco, California. Sean's coaching focuses heavily on simplifying complex movements across modalities. For example, he believes rock climbers can maximize power from doing gymnastics strength and conditioning with targeted mobility. He has observed that for most climbers a lack of pure strength prevents the natural progress of harder and harder routes. Sean enjoys creating power for climbers that traditional avoid inverted, mantle, stem, dyno and other power-mandatory routes.

He has a formal background in gymnastics strength and conditioning and has worked extensively with Junior Olympic Gymnastics Coach Christopher Sommer and Orench Lagman. Sean holds a sports nutrition certificate from Dr. John Berardi and Precision Nutrition, as well as a Core Power Yoga Trainer Certificate. Personally, Sean enjoys a wide variety of movement. Gymnastics, rock climbing, and olympic lifting (with strict attention to form and progression) are part of Sean's daily training practice.

Sean takes a hybrid approach with each client to maximize their areas of interest with his specialty. Whether a client is looking to lose weight, gain muscle, be able to bend like a pretzel, or climb Mt. Everest, his intention is that every client prioritizes their health in a way that is sustainable over the long term. Breath, eat, sleep, move, repeat.

Price: This clinic is available to Touchstone Members only! $50

Space is still availible, to register click here

Member of the Month: Rudy Meyers

By Jason Bove

If you have come in to Pipeworks on a weekday at 9 pm or later, there is no doubt that you have met and/or had a worthwhile conversation with Rudy Meyers. Amongst other things, he is a father, local photographer, music lover, wine aficionado, and a beacon of insight and knowledge of all things cool. His thoughtful answers to my simple questions left me thinking about inviting him to all of my future dinner parties, so that we could always have something interesting to talk about! Without further adieu, meet…

Member of the Month: Rudy Meyers

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Bove- How long have you been a member at Sacramento Pipeworks, and what keeps you motivated to keep coming back, time and time again?

Meyers- I have been a member for about six years and retarding the aging process is the main reason I consistently come. Plus, climbing is simply more fun than most other forms of athletic endeavor.

Are you a Sacramento native, and what is your favorite thing about living in Sacramento?

Well, I’m not exactly a Sacramento native. I was born in San Francisco and raised in the foothills of Northern California. In no particular order, I like these things about Sacramento: Trees, and lots of them!, Great weather, The long, warm summer evenings, Acres of free parking, And yes, the proximity to the Sierras and The Bay Area as well

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Can you tell us a bit more about your professional career in photography, and where we are able to see some of the work you have done?

I do corporate/commercial work which means I shoot virtually anything that walks in front of my lens. We are guns for hire and every day is different, so that literarily can mean we are shooting trains, planes, & automobiles (like the movie), people, and products A-Z. If you had to pin me down, I would say that in essence, what we do mostly is create images that sell our clients goods or services. It can be artsy, but it has to have a message.

What new projects are you currently working on, and what lies in store for the rest of 2014?

We are currently in the planning stages for the following shoots: An Intel shoot, a three day shoot for a new casino client, two new law firms, a new restaurant client and a new construction client

All these shoots are multi-day shoots with a lot of moving pieces. We are a fairly busy studio and we do a lot of big projects. Part of the reason for that is that I have an amazing staff that is good at keeping me focused and on point. When you are a visual person and when you see something unexpectedly great, then your job is to shoot it and ask questions later. In 2014 we are focused on continuing to build a broad base, and servicing our existing clientele while also focusing on growth in favorite industries like food, wine and travel.

check Rudy Meyers Photography here

It is really great to see that you workout with you son. How old is he, and is he your only child? Have you found that working out together strengthens your family bond?

Yes, I bring my son every time I can. He is a few days shy of 15. He is my only child and I am his only parent. It is by this nature a very close relationship, where I get to wear all the parental hats. Now he really enjoys climbing and sees that through hard work and dedication he can actually get better. I dabble in a serious manner, but I suck and he climbs circles around me. It is nice to see him grow in the sport and I hope he will continue to see the value in intense physical activity. He knows that quality of life depends on keeping a balance between the physical, mental and spiritual aspects—they are all important.

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 As you know, June is the month that Father’s Day is celebrated. Do you have big plans for the day, and what other kinds of activities do you enjoy doing with your son?

We have had two big vacations this year, one to the desert and one to New York City for 17 days. So, a quick trip to San Francisco might be it for Father's Day (every day is kids day, they just don't know it). We always have fun in The City! We are foodies and museum freaks, so we always have stuff to do in SF; it is a world class city with world class offerings. We really are lucky to have it so close to Sacramento; we could be living somewhere with little art and culture, and no climbing. We both like to shop the Mission and Hayes Valley. We even climb at Dogpatch!

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I know that you greatly enjoy outdoor activities. Can you recommend any hikes or trails that we should experience in our lifetime?

For over 20 years I guided Class V whitewater here and overseas. The rivers in California are some of the best in the world, with challenging whitewater and beautiful scenery. Running rivers was a fun gig and the guys I boated with are all alive and kicking, and for that I am thankful. In 20 years of boating we ran something like 300+ Class V runs. Then, I got Lucien and I felt like I had to cool my jets. I had my fun in that adventure land, and I was ready for Disneyland and Star Wars.

Hiking is still cool and relatively safe, but we go off trail all of the time. A journey to Precipice Lake on the Kaweah Gap trail, an amazing lake made famous by Ansel Adams, is on our list for this summer. I hiked this in my early 20's, before I became or even knew I would be a photographer, but it was an amazing trail built by the California Conservation Corps and blasted out of solid rock—it feels like a Hobbit trail. If you have time, head to Moose Lake as well.

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I also took my son on an amazing backpack/horse pack trip to Evolution Valley high in Kings Canyon National Park. It was a beautiful nine day trip. At one time, we were 26 miles from trailhead. The valley itself can almost rival Yosemite Valley; it is just more remote, but it has monolithic rock formations, peaks that rise to 14,000 feet and shimmering waterfalls—all surrounding a long, lush, high Sierra meadow with a beautiful river running through it. You are far enough in that you will not see a lot of people. If you are a Muir Trail nut (you know who you are) then you already know about this place. You can also stay a night or two, depending on availability, at The Muir Trail Ranch (a wilderness hotel). I recommend staying because they have naturally occurring hot springs. More to the point, they have built soaking tubs in charming log structures that are all gardened and in the feng shui swing of things. It is not cheap, but it is rustic and they will feed you. Plus, you get to sleep in a bed too! The ranch is a relatively easy five mile hike in. They can also rent horses and guides from the ranch. The hike to Evolution Valley is still 15 miles away and (dauntingly) it is another 4500 feet up. We took horses, it was my son's first multi-day hike and I did not want it to be his last.

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We are desert lovers. One of our favorite places to go is Eureka Valley, situated in the northern end of Death Valley and about an hour and half out of Bishop. The dunes lay up against a fault block range called the Last Chance Range. The exposed layers are 350 to 500 million years old, way before the age of the dinosaur. The formation is massive, with dunes rising to 700 ft and spreading out over an area of several square miles. Climbing them can be a chore; five steps up and three steps back can be discouraging. If you make it to the top though, you have to follow the ridge line south until you get to the highest and steepest dune. Why? Because you have worked so hard that you now deserve some fun. Run straight down the dunes and jump in turns like you are skiing and see how soft the landing is and how exhilarating the experience is. At the bottom you can look up and decide that you are not doing it again—too damn much work! If you go during the spring of a wet year you will be surprised and possibly overwhelmed by the number of desert flowers. Yes, the desert does bloom and when it does it is nothing short of breathtaking! Take water because there is none, know that sand will get everywhere, but the beauty is worth the effort.

If you could offer any kind of advice from the perspective of starting and running your own business nowadays, what would it be?

My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs would be:

Be prepared for long hours

Learn your craft

Be honorable in all personal and professional relationships

Build and maintain a reputation based on quality and professionalism

Lose money before you deliver a crummy product—don't lose money and always deliver a quality product

Take nothing for granted

Never rest on your laurels

Have goals that are daily, weekly, and long term

I have never had a plan b; it remains photography or die

Most importantly, do not be afraid to fail; you learn more in failure then you will ever learn in success

I have quite a few sayings that I tell my son and employees, but a few get repeated all the time:

I live in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world

When's the next race?

True character is what you do when no one is looking

Climb 2 v Grades Higher at LA Boulders

By Jeff Blum

As everyone knows the LA Boulders is Touchstone Climbing's newest gym and first in Los Angeles. Not only is this awesome all bouldering gym an amazing facility with great wall angles, climbing and staff, but they also host great events. Over the past months there have been gear swaps, late night climbing sessions, and more.

Recently I sampled one of these events with the clinic called “Climb 2 v Grades Harder”. This was a workshop taught by Douglas Hunter who co-authored the Self Coached Climber. Douglas has a long and distinguished background as a climber and a coach. He brought a unique and coherent approach to optimizing ones climbing by structuring our time spent at the gym. This class was valuable to me as I am trying to push into double digits, as well as for the people that just started climbing last month.

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The workshop opened up with a lecture section as we all gathered on the couches atop the top out boulder. After going through some of the material that Douglas provided, he diagrammed up some examples of movement and balance on the LAB’s TV. Then we got down to work practicing and learning some of the workouts we had just discussed.

One of the components of the class was to build a strong base for climbing, ie. being able to consistently climb at a grade on all angles and styles. Having the wonderful facility of the LAB to practice with we were all able to work on exactly what we needed to raise our climbing to the next level. Douglas walked around checking in on everyone providing support and taking questions about how the workouts were functioning.

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After putting the workouts into practice we all had a better idea of where our current fitness level was and what we could do to optimizing our workouts moving forward. Douglas brought us together and we powwowed sharing what we had learned with each other. All in all it was a great class that taught me something new, re-motivated me, and was just a heck of a lot of fun. It’s exciting to see that the LAB is not just an amazing facility but is also bringing awesome people and events to the LA climbing community.

Jeff Blum is a member at LA Boulders who took one of the gyms first climbing technique clinic last week. He submitted this review to the Touchstone Climbing Blog. Stay tuned for upcoming clinics and events at LA Boulders on their Facebook Page

10 Signs You Shouldn’t Climb With Someone

Finding a good climbing partner can be challenging. There’s quite a few people wandering around the climbing community looking for partners. Most of them are great and awesome to climb with but there are a few people who might not be so fun. To weed these people out just look for a few tell tale signs:

1. They have four notches on their Gri Gri- one for every time they’ve dropped someone. If you miss the death marks on their belay device, these partners also have a tendency to spray about their past four hours of accident free climbing.

2. Their quick draw selection looks like this:

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3. They insist on bringing new X4 cams, two dozen biners weighing less than 24 grams each, a double wide portaledge, two grade VI haulbags, a poop tube and an 80 meter 9.2 lead line on a bouldering trip to the gym.

4. They wear a stop watch around their necks and discuss the time splits between putting on their left and right shoe. These climbers have a tendency to yell, “GO! GO! GO!” when you’re putting on your harness.

5. They spot you by grabbing their iPhone and yelling “If you break your ankle now, you’ll be famous on Instagram!”

6. They ask if they can climb on your rope. Then they ask if they can use your draws, your rack, borrow your back pack, if you have extra shoes, what snacks you brought to the crag, how much money you make and when they can move in to your house.

7. While talking about 5.14, V15, new El Capitan free routes and their trip to Gasherbaum V, they drop names like Chris Sharma, Tommy Caldwell, Ryan Moon and Vanna White.

8. They show up at the crag without a rope and then insist it’s ok. They start climbing and then insist you follow them shouting, "It's no big deal, I've only fallen soloing once."

9. They throw trash around the crag, they never clean up their dogs poop, they make random tick marks all over the rock even on routes that are nowhere near where they are climbing and they blast Miley Cyrus on their stereo every chance they get.

10. They ever say this:

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

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