Touchstone Blog Archive
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
  Concord Supports St. Jude's
A fundraising event benefiting St. Jude Children's Research Hospital will be held at Touchstone Concord on Wednesday, February 28, at 7:00pm. Participants will turn in the donations they have gathered and celebrate doing something for a good cause with pizza, soda and cake.

All month, Concord members have been gathering pledges from awesome folks who are willing to sponsor them for every climb they do in a day or for every hour they exercise in the fitness area. Members are motivated to climb and work out to support this internationally recognized organization because of St. Jude's outstanding work in finding cures and saving children with cancer and other terrible diseases.

By participating in this event you can help raise funds for children stricken with cancer, AIDS and sickle cell anemia. If you are interested in participating or making a donation, please contact Eric Cohen at Touchstone Concord (925-602-1000). For more information about St. Jude's, please visit their website at

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007
  Performance Testing
Are you ready to run your first marathon? Are you wondering how to train for the upcoming mountain bike, cyclo-cross, or road race season? Or…do you just want to get in shape and do it the right way? Cyclists, Runners, and Triathletes, Touchstone is here to start your training right.

One of the key components to optimizing your training time is to make sure you’re training at the right intensity. At Touchstone you can achieve your training and performance goals by finding and understanding your “training zones.” We offer scientifically based testing to determine your training zones and measure your specific response to exercise and training. Each test includes a body composition analysis (via skinfolds) and a coaching consultation to interpret your results and help guide you in applying your results to your workouts. If you are interested, download our price sheet and pre-test instructions or contact Mission Cliffs for more details.

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Monday, February 26, 2007
  He's Rich, B*@#h
Dave & Mission Cliffs Staffer, Danny

Comedian Dave Chappelle arrived at Mission Cliffs Wed. February 21st to climb with his kids. Chappelle known from his ever-famous comedy Central Sketch show ‘The Chappelle show’ was in town for a comedy show at San Francisco’s Punch Line Comedy club. During his 3 day stay in San Francisco one of his San Fran stops happened to be Mission Cliffs, where he and his family took a Belay Safety lesson and enjoyed a day climbing at San Francisco’s Favorite Climbing and Fitness Center -Mission Cliffs!


Friday, February 23, 2007
  Top Members
Let's give a hand to those inspiring people, who, no matter how busy and chaotic life becomes, still make their health and fitness a priority. We at Touchstone Concord would like to acknowledge the top five users of our club: Joan Skilling, Susan Puetz, Kathleen Osmond, Erin Halonen and James Steinhauser. All five of these folks made it to the gym more than 50% of the days in 2006! For nabbing the #1 spot, Joan will receive one free month of membership and a logo sweatshirt to wear post-workout.

Keeping yourself fit has many benefits. Not only does exercise help protect against many diseases and make you more productive at work, but it can reduce stress and give you a more positive outlook on life. Who couldn't use more of that? And with climbing being such a fun way to get and stay in shape, staying true to your New Year's resolutions has never been easier.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007
  Pipeworks at Night
On a recent Saturday night more than 20 members of the Sacramento Pipeworks youth climbing team, their friends, coaches and even some parents spent an entire night in the gym rock climbing and playing teambuilding games. The overnighter was dreamed up by team coaches Scott Kugler, Sean Wilkenfeld and Sadie Rex. “We just wanted something out of the ordinary and thought this would be a fun way for the kids to bond as a group. Everyone had a blast and got to know each other better” said coach Wilkenfeld. There were an array of teambuilding games, a potluck dinner, a dodge ball tournament, a zip line (the crowd favorite) and of course everyone climbed to exhaustion. Each person brought pajamas and a sleeping bag, with most kids eventually getting a few hours sleep while some managed to stay up all night. Thanks to an overwhelmingly positive reaction, our coaches say that overnighters such as this are destined to become an annual event for the team. To learn more about the youth climbing team, overnighters, teambuilding or other special programs at Sacramento Pipeworks call 916-341-0100.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007
  Touchstone's Climbing Partner: the Access Fund
You know you can count on a great indoor climbing experience at Touchstone gyms. To help you have good outdoor climbing experiences, Touchstone supports a national advocacy group in Boulder, Colo., called the Access Fund.

Since 1991, the Access Fund has worked to keep climbing areas open and conserve the climbing environment. Today it supports and represents over 1.6 million climbers nationwide in all forms of climbing. Touchstone has been its corporate partner since 1998.

Some of Access Fund’s work is behind the scenes, such as lobbying the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Forest Service for climber-friendly policies. But there also are plenty of ways that individual members get directly involved.

“We help people all the time on a one-on-one basis,” says Touchstone member Zack Chandler, who also serves as California regional coordinator for the Access Fund. In past years that has included organizing clean-up trips to places such as the Castle Rock bouldering area in Saratoga. “We brought a bunch of people down there and picked up tons of trash all day long. We did it in co-operation with the rangers,” Chandler says.

Co-operation with landowners and managers is the key to keeping climbing areas open and maintaining a positive image for climbers, says the Access Fund. It offers plenty of advice on its Web site for climbers wishing to use private land, plus more resources for conservation and activism.

Chandler goes most often to Touchstone Concord. “It tends to be a younger crowd compared to Mission Cliffs and some don’t climb outdoors yet. But a lot of people there do know what the Access Fund is and they contribute,” he says.

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Monday, February 19, 2007
  On The Road Again
Touchstone bike fans are getting pumped up to watch the return of the Amgen Tour of California from Feb. 18 through 25, 2007. Professional teams will compete over a 700-mile route that includes the redwoods, the wine country and the Pacific Coast. The first three teams to be announced were The Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team, Team CSC and Predictor-Lotto. A total of 16 teams are expected.

A new element that was missing from last year’s inaugural race is a loop through the Central Valley. Individual time trials start in San Francisco Feb. 18. The tour itself begins the next day with a stage from Sausalito to Santa Rosa, and the following day to Sacramento. Then riders will skip south to Stockton for the Feb. 21 stage to San Jose. From there the race shifts down the coast with a leg from Seaside to San Luis Obispo. Subsequent stages go to Solvang, Santa Barbara, Santa Clarita and Long Beach.

The sponsor, Amgen, a pharmaceuticals developer based in Thousand Oaks, is hoping the California tour will someday eclipse the Tour de France. While it has a long way to go, the California tour got off to a good start. The first one drew 1.3 million spectators.

“I was out watching the first three days of the race last year and it was definitely worth the hype,” says Jessica de Jesus, who helped start the Mission Cliffs Bike Club. “It's pretty special seeing all these guys riding the roads we ride all the time at the blistering pace they set. One of the most impressive things was seeing the amount of spectators out on the road, even mid-week! I was just in France this past summer watching the Tour de France and it was very similar in many aspects, which is a very stunning comparison to be able to make.”

The Sacramento Pipeworks Bike Club will definitely make plans to attend the tour as a group, says Pipeworks manager Vaughn Medford. “The Amgen tour is certainly everything they say it is. Still too young to be considered on par with world class rides like The Tour De France or Paris-Roubaix, it is already equal to something like The Tour of Georgia.”

Mission Cliffs will be out in full force as well.

“In addition, we will probably organize the last club ride in February to be a portion of Stage 1 of the race,” says de Jesus.

Aside from being an exciting sports event, the tour also raises funds for cancer care and treatment. Last year, Amgen raised more than $1 million for The Wellness Community. This year the tour also will support the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007
  The Desk Traverse and Much More...
Bouldering history was made at the fifth round of comps for the TBS2 series held at Mission Cliffs on Friday, February 9th with over 255 participants competing in the growing series. The coursesetters set some very challenging problems including routes that were set downstairs in the main gym area. One of the many highlights of the evening ended with the Traversing Front Desk –many tried, but few sent it. Congrats to all who participated and we look forward to the grand finale wrap-up at Sacramento Pipeworks on Saturday, March 17th.

For more comp results go to the comps page. You can also see pictures from the Mission Cliffs comp in our online gallery.

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Friday, February 16, 2007
  A Manager Change at San Jose
Touchstone would like to announce Art Balaoro as the new manager of Touchstone San Jose. Art has been working for Touchstone San Jose since July of '03. He currently is in the process of finishing up his B.S. in Psychology with a Minor in Philosophy at San Jose State. Art has been climbing for approximately 4.5 to 5 years. He enjoys both sport climbing and bouldering, and would be psyched to learn trad. He is also an avid snowboarder in the winter, and on rest days enjoys watching movies.

Touchstone would like to wish Al Liu all the best as he moves on to explorer new opportunities in the the outdoor industry. Al had taken a job at Mountain Hardwear, in Richmond CA, as customer operations specialist.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007
  Human Impact: Something Out of Nothing
This is the final article on the Human Impact of Climbing.

How much is it all right to change the climbing environment? Different attitudes have evolved in Europe and the United States.

In Europe, the practices of gluing, chipping, manufacturing, and cleaning got explored earlier and they found less opposition than in the United States. Why? It's hard to say. There are cultural differences. There's a different attitude about acceptable use of natural resources. But when those cultures collide, look out.

A visiting Euro at New Hampshire's Cathedral Cliff in North Conway couldn't resist the allure of a perfectly glacier-polished stretch of vertical granite. He took a chisel to it when no one was looking and manufactured a WHOLE ROUTE from nothing. To make matters worse, the obviously manufactured route is plainly visible from a tourist overlook 300 yards away. The route has all the aesthetic appeal of graffiti on a highway overpass.

Viewed through American eyes, nothing can ever be done to reverse the vandalism. Some Europeans might look at the same scene and say, "What's the big deal?"

Brazenly modifying the rock, chiseling holds, gluing holds on, bolting holds on, painting the name of the route, and the grade, and even some directions at the bottom of the route, are all common at European cliffs. To them the Americans can sound like a bunch of whiners with their concerns about protecting natural resources and climbing ethics.

Sometimes it’s a matter of perspective. When some Americans consider the 10 million cubic tons of rock that were dynamited out of the next cliff to make way for a new highway, a few minor modifications or a bit of glue to make a route climbable and pleasant seems insignificant. Ironically, we can’t climb at all on the grossest chipping job of all time, Mt. Rushmore. Does it strike you as an unethical creation?

What we have to remember as climbers is that we are not the only ones out to enjoy the rock and its surroundings. A reckless, selfish, bad-boy attitude causes trouble for all climbers, and can lead to areas being closed to climbing altogether. If we watch our behavior at the cliff, we can help ensure that this limited resource will be there for the future.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007
  Human Impact: Where no Hold has Gone Before
Most climbers favor the idea of cleaning a route, though many land managers don’t. There also are mixed feelings about firming up some existing holds with glue. But when it comes to modifying a natural cliff by gluing on some new holds -- that’s a good way to turn the U.S. climbing community into an angry mob of villagers with pitchforks and torches.

When this subject came under hot debate in the 1980s, it was clear that some proponents had good motivations. There would be an insurmountable blank section between two beautiful expanses of rock with climbable features. All that was needed for a five-star route, thought the eager route developer, were just a few holds to bridge the gap.

In one case a beautiful, clean, featureless roof sat in an obscure gulley at Smith Rock in Oregon until one route builder came along and bolted on a whole series of holds -- like the ones that bolt on in the climbing gym -- rendering the roof climbable. His defense was that no one went up there anyway, the roof was unclimbable, so we might as well get some use out of it. Needless to say, that wasn't popular with the rest of the locals.

There’s one major problem with the argument that "it's the only way it would every get climbed" -- it often turns out to be wrong. We’ve seen many lines that generations of climbers swore would never be climbed because they were too hard or too featureless, but then a new generation of stronger, better climbers comes along and conquers the route in good style, with no modifications or vandalism. The rock is never really "featureless." It's just a matter of how little a feature you are capable of pulling on. And some of the new generation of climbers can do some amazing things.

The climbing community in the United States has had very little tolerance for modifications of the natural cliff. Such holds were generally pulled off or unbolted. It’s not the same story in Europe, as we’ll see next time.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007
  Human impact: Glue is a Sticky Subject
We previously talked about cleaning routes, and the sometimes blurry line between fixing problems and creating them. What many climbers see as an improvement to a route, non-climbers sometimes see as vandalism. Even among climbers there has been debate about where to draw the line. One sticky situation involves glue.

In the 1980s, when the climbing community was sorting out what they thought was acceptable, a practice of using glue on holds arose.

When a route developer starts scoping out a section of cliff for a new route, there are always some features and lines that are more aesthetically pleasing, more dramatic, and just scream out to be climbed.

In checking them out, developers sometimes would find holds that were loose, creaky, broken, or on the verge of breaking off. Sometimes that feature was a vital link between sections of climbable terrain. So they busted out the two-part epoxy, rapped down the cliff, and gooed the stuff behind, under, and around the feature to fortify it against breaking. Sometimes they'd add some local sand or dust to the epoxy to help the color blend in, and successfully hide the glue job. Sometimes they wouldn't. You could see a big swab of glue, like a giant wad of bubble gum, from 100 feet away.

Sometimes you'd go climb on that feature and it would break off, leaving only the glue to grab on and climb. That happened on a couple of crucial holds on the famous 5.14c Just Do It at Smith Rock in Oregon, for a time the hardest route in America and still one of the most sought-after climbs in the world. Traces of glue are still part of that route.

The practice of fortifying with discrete glue has seen more acceptance in Europe. Even some Americans figure no harm is done if the hold was already there as part of the route, and the glue job isn't brazenly modifying or changing the natural resource. And if well-concealed glue makes for a stellar route, then so much the better.

But when climbers glued or bolted on a hold that wasn't present before, the U.S. climbing community screamed “foul.” We’ll explore that idea next time.


Monday, February 12, 2007
  Human impact: How much is too much?
One of the joys of rock climbing is seeing the natural beauty of the surroundings. But often a new-route developer has felt the need to do some work to bring out what they think will be a beautiful, enjoyable climb. The question is: When do we cross the line from making improvements to doing damage?

In this short series we’ll look at a few practices that have evolved over the years. Today we’ll discuss cleaning.

On lots of cliffs a very good route was obviously there from the start, but in some places along the line there may have been loose rocks, lichen, crud, dirt, or even old appliances. As climbing became popular in this country, the standard practice became for the route developer to go ahead and clean those loose holds off, scrape some lichen, and excavate some dirt to get down to a clean, climbable line.

This practice is still widely accepted among climbers, but others see even modest cleaning as controversial at best. Some conservationists and conservative land managers see it almost as a kind of vandalism. If you are cleaning a route and are spotted by a land manager or a ranger unsympathetic to climbing, you’ll likely be fined. Or worse.

If you have climbed outside at all, it's almost certain that you have enjoyed the benefits of route cleaning. Instead of a muck-covered spelunking expedition, you had an enjoyable, clean, and aesthetic journey up the line. Some route developer knocked himself out, got covered with filth, and spent a lot of time hanging in his harness making that possible for you. If it weren't for these efforts, we'd have very little to climb on outside. Be grateful.

Even so, the line between cleaning and more destructive behavior can be a bit blurry. At Smith Rock in Oregon in the late 1980s, Scott Franklin used an ice axe to "clean" a large flake off the route leaving a huge, visible scar. Hence the name of the route: Scarface. But the cleaning produced several of the holds that are now used on the route.

We all need to be vigilant about our impact on the rock and the surroundings. Lots of climbing areas that have been used and abused by climbers have been closed to climbing. The resource is limited and the future of the sport depends upon our self-regulating our behavior at the cliff.


Friday, February 9, 2007
  TBS2 hits SF

Come join us while we make history at the TBS2 Bouldering Series at Mission Cliffs this Friday night. All levels are welcome and encouraged to participate. This is the last comp in the bay area before the series ends at Sacramento Pipeworks on Saturday, March 17th.

There will be over 60 problems that will be set in our bouldering area, in addition to problems that will be set on the main floor. Crank hard and enjoy some pizza and libations, as you grab a Free TBS2 t-shirt for turning in your score card. You also might be the lucky winner of a snowboard and other prizes.

Where: Mission Cliffs
When: Friday, February 9th
Time: Early Registrations begins at 5:00pm
Comp starts at 6 -10pm
Who: All Touchstone Member and Non-Members
Cost: FREE to Members!! And $10 for Non-Members

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Wednesday, February 7, 2007
  Ironworks has got Rhythm

Berkeley Ironworks will be hosting two Total Rhythm workshops, one on Saturday February 17th and Saturday March 17th from 11am to 12:30pm. Both workshops are FREE to members and only $10 for non-members.

The Total Rhythm Fitness Class uses tall, standing drums, combinations of dance and fitness moves, stretching, chanting and clapping all designed to deliver one thing: A dynamic body and soul workout which reconnects students with their natural rhythm.

The 90-minute Total Rhythm Fitness class:
10 minutes - clapping rhythms and cardio warm-up
15 minutes - full-body stretching (no drums)
45 minutes - Total Rhythm workout sequences with drums
20 minutes - "Round Rhythm" with drums and cool down

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Tuesday, February 6, 2007
  Concord's Artist of the Month
Currently gracing the walls of Touchstone Concord are photos from Monica Aranda, desk staff and climber.

In her own words: I have been taking pictures for the last six years, both digital and analog. Recently, I have decided to begin creating a portfolio called, Climbing a Way of Life. I have been working on this for the last year and I chose fifteen prints from that portfolio to display. They are all printed on Ilford's matte 11x14 fiber paper. My goal is to build a strong portfolio of different sport images to present to high profile magazines such as Urban Climber, Rock and Ice, Wakeworld, Wakesurfing Mag and National Geographic.

Come by the gym to view these photos through the month of February.

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Monday, February 5, 2007
  Training Tip: Rope TLC
Are your paws black with aluminum oxide after each belay? If so it's time to wash your rope.

To safely get most climbing ropes clean (check the manufacturer's recommendations first, to be sure), put your rope in the washing machine on cold water and add a shot of Woolite.

After the cycle is complete, set aside half an hour to get the tangled mess straightened out. Hang up the wet rope somewhere at room-temperature and with low humidity - but NOT in the sun.

The rope may take a day or two to dry out completely, but the wait is worth it.

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Saturday, February 3, 2007
  Something New....A broader look is another hint to a location of something that you may very soon be wanting to climb. Continue to check here for an official announcement of the next 'big' thing from Touchstone.

If you think you know where this is, head on over to the Touchstone message board and take a guess.


Friday, February 2, 2007
  Yoga for Climbers

Mission Cliffs this Sunday.
Release your Neck, Shoulders and Back.
Sunday February 4th;
4:30 - 6:30 pm

Indulge yourself with an afternoon of profoundly nourishing relaxation. Restorative Yoga practice uses long holds in supported postures to remind your body of its natural state of lightness and ease. We will focus on giving the neck, upper torso and hands special attention to catalyze the body’s natural healing functions; other bodily needs will be addressed further to your requests. We will include subtle practices to promote the deep release of stress our nervous systems crave. No prior Yoga experience is required; pre-registration is advised secure your is limited to 16.

Members $12, non-members $16

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Thursday, February 1, 2007
  Something New?

Touchstone will soon be proud to announce something. This something
may be rather big. And this something, that may be rather big, may
be closer than Fresno.

Keep an eye on this page for details on this new something.


  Pipeworks Featured Artist...
The Sacramento Pipeworks featured artist this month is our own front desk staff member Jason Bove. He has been creating artwork for 14 years and is currently attending Sacramento State for a degree in interior design. Jason has been rock climbing for 12 years and has worked in the outdoor industry for a number of years. After starting his outdoor career at Prana clothing in southern California, Jason then moved on to another local climbing gym in Sacramento before finally landing at Pipeworks a few months ago. A bit tongue in cheek, he says his art is about “Suffering from the common disorder of order and developing products for the reduction of wall space”. The show is slated to hang until March, and while his art is typically geared toward custom or commission work, everything on display is for sale.


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