Touchstone Blog Archive
Thursday, May 31, 2007
  Stuck Inside? Climb Online!

Stuck at a desk and looking for some inspiration? Google Video offers one quick way to see fellow climbers in action.

The obvious search term is "climbing," but it may return too many hits that don't interest you. Try a few of these search terms instead:

* rock climbing
* indoor climbing
* sport climbing
* bouldering
* Yosemite climbing (or El Capitan climbing, or San Diego climbing, or any
other destination you like)

Some terms don't work as well. Search for "top rope" and you'll get mostly
pro wrestling videos, for example.

Don't forget, you can sort the results by date, title, relevance and viewer

To get you started, here's a look at the World Cup competition last year in Dresden Germany.

And, be sure to check out our online photo
for pictures from past competitions. (You might see an old friend
having fun.)

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007
  Making a Difference
An original member of Mission Cliffs, Roger Erickson and his wife went on a photo safari to Kenya and Tanzania in August and September of 2006. They visited nine game reserves and national parks in two African countries. They landed in Nairobi, Kenya on August 26, and headed north on the safari the next day. The second day they visited a Masai village. The village was typical for the Masai in Kenya where the people live in mud and cow dung huts way out in the game reserve far from anyone. They were greeted by the chief of the tribe and his people. The translator for the tribe was Samuel, “little did I know then, that I was to sponsor him in the future”, recalls Roger. He could speak English pretty well and told Roger he was attending secondary school at that time.

They spent several hours in the village and got to learn how the Masai live. They are primarily cattle and goat herders. They subsist mainly on beef from the cows and meat from the goats. They use everything from the cow. They drink the milk and eat the meat, but they also use the cow hides for the covering of their beds, which are made up of twigs lying on the floor. The dung is used to plaster the walls which are also made of twigs weaved together. They also use some of the cow's blood to mix with milk for special ceremonies.

The men of the tribe are all fairly tall, around six feet, and are very slender. Probably would make great climbers. The women are also very slender and athletic looking. The women do all of the cooking, house keeping, rearing the children and even build the round huts that the family lives in. The men are responsible for providing the food and protection of the tribe. These people get by on practically nothing. Their huts have no heat, water, lighting or plumbing as we know it. They have to travel about a mile to the river to get water and they cook over fires made primarily from dried dung. Toilet facilities are the nearest bush several yards away from the village compound. The village is surrounded by woven together brush to keep wild animals like lions, etc. from entering.

There tribal dress is very colorful. They use the color red a lot because lions don't like it. Both the men and women wear sort of a sari. They all usually wear no shoes. “It's a tough life style to say the least. Makes me think how lucky we are in our society. Everything we throw away they would love to have. The Masai are very friendly and courteous people. They are very humble and thankful for anything they receive.” Roger recounts.

In February, Roger received a call one morning while having breakfast. It was his friend Samuel. He asked Roger if it would be possible to put together a sponsorship for him in Hotel and Catering Management at Zetech College in Nairobi, Kenya. He was surprised to say the least. So, Roger then went on the internet and looked up the school to find out if it was legitimate. “I have a Canadian friend that lived in Kenya for over ten years and I called him to find out how to help Samuel and to make sure I wasn't the victim of a scam. My friend told me to contact the college directly and find out if Samuel has indeed applied to enroll and what the costs would be.” says Roger. They emailed him the information and a bank account for the school that would handle the funds. “The school is very strict and only dispenses the money with my consent. One doesn't like to be distrustful but you also have to be careful. There are ripoff artists all over the world.” says, Roger.

Everything worked out fine and Samuel is now living in a college hostel in Nairobi and attending classes. He emails Roger everyday and calls often by using an internet phone service. “He likes what he is studying and is to say the least, extremely grateful for the opportunity to receive an education. He will be the first in his tribe to ever attend college.” says Roger.

We asked Roger how it changed his life, “I think that when I visited these people in their own environment and saw what they didn't have or probably never will have, it made a deep impression on me. I thought if I could assist in the education of one of their tribe that at least one of them would have a chance to break out of the circle of poverty. This young man, he is twenty one, is very motivated and doesn't have to be asked to study. He is studying very hard. They attend classes eight hours a day, five days a week. He should be able to get a good job in the hospitality industry after graduating from this two year course. Tourism is big in Kenya and getting larger all the time, so his education will give him a great advantage.”

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Monday, May 28, 2007
  Yosemite Bouldering Guide Release Party, May 31st
Berkeley Ironworks will be hosting a book release party for the new bouldering guide to Yosemite Valley by Matt Wilder. Come by on May 31st at 7:30pm to see a slideshow by Matt Wilder including images from old school bouldering classics as well as the latest new areas in the Valley. Afterwards, there will b a book signing and some free pizza. There will also be some free schwag! Buy a Yosemite Valley Bouldering guide that night and you will be entered into the prize raffle.

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Friday, May 25, 2007
  Carnaval is Coming

Please note that Mission Cliffs will be affected by the street closures for the 2007 Carnaval SF event happening this weekend. Harrison Street and surrounding cross streets will be closed between 16th and 24th for this weekend of festivities commencing Friday, May 25th at 10pm. Parking will be extremely limited.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007
  The Crew

Did you know that Touchstone runs a 10-person route setting crew at least 4 days a week? The crews work hard to strive to change every route in every Touchstone gym every 10 weeks. This means they set 538 Routes and 531 Boulder Problems every 10 weeks. Not only does the course setting team set all these routes, they also set a competition per month at the high standard that you have come to expect from a Touchstone comp. The crews are also responsible for the constant maintenance of life critical systems such as ropes, anchors, lead bolts, and quick draws.

In case you didn't know, below is the ‘normal’ course setting weekly schedule.

Monday - Berkeley Ironworks
Tuesday - Concord
Wednesday - Mission Cliffs
Thursday - Class 5
Friday - All facilities (maintenance)

Sacramento and San Jose have their own crews, but receive supplemental assistance from the Bay Area setters for competitions or as needed.

Want to see the people behind the initials, check out the Course setting page.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007
  The Future of Youth Competitions
It was May 2005 and Touchstone Concord was hosting the USAC Regional Competition. The gym was abuzz with 81 competitors from 11 different teams and a large crowd of spectators watching the kids vie for an invitation to Nationals. Competition climbing looked to be on track to become the next Little League, gaining in popularity and participation.

Fast forward two years. Touchstone course setters have once again put up National-level routes in preparation for a strong field of junior competitors, but this year the crowds and excitement never materialized. A precipitous drop in the number of competitors, 30% fewer, begs the question: is there a future for competition rope climbing in the U.S.?

The answer is a resounding yes, if Scott Jenerik, Northern California Regional coordinator of USA Climbing has anything to say about it. Scott has immersed himself in many aspects of the competition scene. He coaches a highly successful youth team out of the Touchstone gyms, sets routes for Touchstone (including setting for the regionals), and of course volunteers much of his time coordinating for the national USAC organization. Given the energy expended by individuals like Scott and the support of gyms like Touchstone who put a considerable amount of time and money into hosting competitions, chances are good that this year's low turnout is a fluke and we'll see even more kids psyched about competition climbing in the coming years.

Although most of the Touchstone gyms did not send Teen Team members to this competition, kids affiliated with Touchstone gyms did incredibly well, taking first in six of the nine divisions. To see final comp results go to USA Climbing's web site. Of particular note were Concord members Gregor Peirce taking first in Male Youth B, Dakota Schwartz taking third in Female Youth C, and Scott Cory taking second in Male Youth A.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007
  Touchstone Women Continue To Dominate
This past weekend Kelly McDonald (pro 1/2) won the Kern County Women’s Stage Race near Bakersfield, California while Janeen Thorpe took second in the cat 3 field. The three day race with four stages included a time trial, two road races, and one hill climb. It’s a grueling race. Kelly’s GC win was not sealed until the last lap of the last stage of the race. In the same weekend, Jill, another pro 1/2 rider, won the Panoche Valley Road Race outside of Hollister. Jill has won 5 races this season so far, with her most impressive win at the Tour of Gila in New Mexico. The Touchstone women have won eight overall this season. Congratulations to our Women’s Elite Team. Please visit for all results and stories.

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Monday, May 21, 2007
  Progress in Oakland

We are moving forward quickly at the newest Touchstone Gym, the Great Western Power Company in Oakland. We are continuing to construct the steel frame of the climbing wall. Most of the steel structure has been completed at this point. We also have most of the plumbing in for the bathrooms and have started to frame in the bathrooms as well. You can see photos here, in our online gallery.

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Friday, May 18, 2007
  A Proud Partner
Touchstone Climbing is extremely proud to be chosen this month as the Access Funds Featured Partner of the month. 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.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007
  Fun Had By All
The hoards descended on Touchstone Concord for the start of TRS2 and went away tired, full and happy. Tired from climbing themselves out on the 14 comp routes ranging from 5.8 to 5.13c; full from chowing down on pizza and soda; and happy to have competed in yet another fun Touchstone community event with a group of positive and supportive climbers.

109 competitors attended, many of whom were competing for the first time. And every Touchstone gym was represented by at least a few of their members. Final scores can be found on the TRS2 comp page.

A special thank you goes out to Evolv Shoes for putting on a shoe demo during the comp and for donating a pair of shoes. Also thanks to Stone Age Climbing who kindly donated a much sought-after hang board. Next stop for the TRS2 is Class 5 on June 22nd. Don't miss it!

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007
  Coolest 24 Hours
Class 5 staff member Jamie Phillips just rode The Coolest 24 Hour Race, a 24 hour mountain bike race in Cool, California. You heard it. 24 hours on fireroads and singletrack.

Jamie did the race as a two person relay, logging about 143 miles in 12 hours and 45 minutes. He and his partner completed 273 miles between the two of them, placing third.

During the race, he ate about 16,000 calories including 16 clif bars, 35 gels, and 50 bottles of cytomax plus whatever ‘real’ food he could get his hands on between laps.

He is so excited he is doing another one in a month and is planning a solo 24 hour race for next year.

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Monday, May 14, 2007
  Our Modern Day Hero
For those who know him, Mission Cliffs long time employee, Frank Faraguna is making the ultimate sacrifice… not coming to the gym for an entire month!! Why? Well…

Frank will be an organ donor for his niece. Frank’s niece in Boston, has been living with a failing kidney. Three years ago, Frank discovered that he was a donor match. Since that time, he has been waiting for ‘the call’. When he received the call, his first reaction was ‘when should I be there’. He left this past Tuesday and will be joined by his wife Julie, and is expected to spend a week recovering in the hospital after the surgery. We are all extremely proud of Frank’s selfless resolve and wish him a speedy recovery.

Frank emailed us and said that he’s trying not to think about the surgery and that he has great Red Sox tickets and will wear his Giants hat –hoping that he won’t get jumped!

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Friday, May 11, 2007
  The Pass Opens
Highway 120, which connects the Eastern and Western Sierra via the Yosemite high country, is scheduled to open Friday May 11th at noon. With the Sierra snowpack at a record 29% of normal levels, the lowest since 1988, Tioga Road will open a full month earlier than last year. While the lack of snow bodes ill for California's water supply in the coming year (state officials are already predicting shortages and possible restrictions this summer) the early opening of the Tioga Road is great news for fans of the climbing in Yosemite's Tuolumne Meadows, which is only accessible during the summer months when Highway 120 is free of snow.

At 8500 feet, Tuolumne Meadows is a wonderland of granite domes in a pristine alpine setting, offering climbers a cool and quiet refuge from the sweltering heat and Disneyland tourist scene found in nearby Yosemite Valley. Tuolumne is famous for its breathtaking vistas of the High Sierra, for its granite domes and golden faces peppered with the feldspar crystals that remain when the granite has partially eroded away (love 'em or hate 'em, the "knobs" provide a unique and often puzzling climbing experience), and for classic crack lines at every grade. If you're new to climbing in Tuolumne, be aware that Tuolumne is also famous for its puckering runouts, occasionally above 70's-era 1/4 inch bolts, so pay close attention to your route choices and to the letter 'R' that may appear after the difficulty grade. If clinging to a knobby slab 30 feet above your last piece of gear isn't your bag, Tuolumne also offers some excellent alpine bouldering. The newest edition of the Reid/Falkenstein Tuolumne Meadows guide includes a small portion of the bouldering, but for those willing to explore or ask around there are many more pebbles to be found hiding out in the woods. Whatever your climbing preference, Tuolumne season is here, so if those Valley crowds and rising temperatures are getting you down, head up the road to the high country where the air is cool and thin and the domes are endless.

Camping in Tuolumne is restricted to the single campground, which usually fills up on weekends, so plan ahead for accomodations- travel outside the park to the east is sometimes necessary to find a place to sleep. Bring your bug spray - wet conditions at the beginning of the season create a perfect breeding ground for relentless swarms of mosquitos.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007
  Touchstone Cycling in Berkeley
Member’s from the Touchstone Men’s Masters Team, the women’s cat 4 team, and the women’s elite team will be racing in the Berkeley Hills Road Race this Saturday, May 12th starting at 8am. The course is the grueling 20 mile Bears Loop that has three difficult climbs called the three bears. The men’s and the women’s cat 4 team will be doing 2.7 laps (52miles) while the Women’s elite team will be doing 71 miles. This is a brutal race for all levels. For more information please visit Please come out and support the Touchstone teams. Stay tuned for results.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2007
  USA Climbing Comes To Concord
On Saturday, May 12, Touchstone Concord is proud to host the USA Climbing Northern California Regionals. Everyone is welcome to compete, no pre-qualification necessary. (There is an entrance fee of $35 for USA Climbing members, $40 for non-members.) Doing well at this competition may qualify Juniors to attend the Divisional Championships in Tigard, Oregon in June.

The bouldering area will be closed during this event and there will be limited rope-climbing available since most of the gym will be in use for the competition. However, people are encouraged to come out as spectators to enjoy world-class climbing, a $3 lunch and an entertaining speed climbing event. Or, for anyone interested in lending a hand, volunteers are needed to run the isolation area and help in other ways. Call Touchstone Concord at 925-602-1000 to get more information and sign up!

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Tuesday, May 8, 2007
  TRS Returns this Friday!!
Touchstone Concord kicks off TRS season 2 this Friday, May 11th. All Touchstone members are invited to attend this fun rope competition. As usual, there will be all new routes, free food and beverages. Folks will also have the opportunity of getting 5 minute chair massages for free or paying $10 for a 15-minute full massage from certified massage therapist, Brian Cork.

There will be a raffle with lucky winners walking away with a Stone Age hang board, a
pair of Evolv shoes or an Organic chalk bag. The TRS is community-building event that is a great opportunity for members to try competing in a relaxed, supportive environment. The comp will begin at 6pm with climbing wrapping up at 10pm.

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Monday, May 7, 2007
  Get a Foothold in the Foothills
Nature has provided some convenient climbing areas in the Sierra foothills east of Sacramento. Here are a few areas to consider.

One is the Cosumnes River Gorge near Placerville. The North Fork of the Cosumnes River cuts through some polished granite, offering both top rope and sport climbing. These aren’t big climbs, but there are more than 100 of them and they sure are scenic. Difficulty ranges from 5.6 to 5.13b

Bucks Bar Dome is the main attraction, but there are other climbs nearby. Downstream is Midway Rocks, a bouldering area. And Gutenberger Wall ends in a nice swimming hole, if you’ve worked up a good sweat and need an excuse to go native.

The gorge is a popular spot, so don’t be surprised to see some climbing classes there on weekend mornings. Some locals, in fact, have expressed irritation that the place is getting so popular. At the same time, it’s a remote location and not the best place for a cell phone. Make sure enough people know where you are at any given time in case you get into a jam.

Not too long ago the land was privately owned but is now administered by the Bureau of Land Management.

There aren’t many guides to the area, but one recent one is “Rock Climbs of Placerville” by William H. Cottrell. It’s now in its second edition and costs $14.

If you want a vicarious look, there are more than 100 photos of climbers in action at the gorge this past March on the Web (

To get there, head toward Placerville on Highway 50, then get off at Missouri Flat Road and head south. Turn onto Bucks Bar Road, and in about three miles you’ll be there.

North of Placerville on the South Fork of the American River, there’s a spot along Mosquito Road called the Mosquito Coast. The granite there offers several top rope climbs in the 5.10-5.11 range, plus some boulders under the Mosquito Road Bridge. It’s not nearly as well publicized as the Cosumnes gorge, but is also covered in the Cottrell book.

Just outside Sacramento is the city of Rocklin. With a name like that, there’s just got to be something in the area worth climbing. Right? Well, sorta. It’s Deer Creek Park, a small bouldering spot just off Pacific Avenue, between Farron Street and Ruhkala Road. There aren’t many problems to tackle, and there can be some dirt and undergrowth to deal with.

But those who live in the area have some pride in Deer Creek Park. And if you are zooming along Interstate 80 and need a break, all you need to do is pull off the freeway at the Pacific Avenue exit

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Friday, May 4, 2007
  Yoga for Climbers in SJ
Starting in May, Touchstone San Jose will be offering a Ilyengar Yoga class led by Alejandro Rivas, geared towards climbers to help address finger/tendon issues, elbow and/or shoulder problems, flexibility, static strength, and other issues climbers face during climbing. Classes are $10 for non-members, $5 for San Jose Bouldering-Only Gym Members, and Free for those with a Regular Membership.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2007
  Slack Line Wizards
It began three years ago when Justin and Shaun first laid eyes on someone walking along a taunt line of webbing spanning thirty feet across the gym. "It looked amazing," says the 24-year old Shaun. Now, each Monday morning you can find the two of them on the slack line, which Shaun describes as a "tight rope with one inch webbing."

They come to the gym to climb, but more importantly, to practice some moves on the slack line. Their only access to one is at Touchstone Concord. "It's a separate sport in itself," says Shaun, who admits that slack lining has improved his top-rope climbing abilities. "It improves balance and body awareness."

Shaun's favorite trick on the slack line is a hand stand, which he can hold for several seconds before tumbling down onto a crash pad. Justin, however, prefers a daring front flip off the line and onto the floor. Please be advised: these are trained professionals.

Not really, but Shaun and Justin are amazing to watch, and they have been slack lining long enough to offer some tips if you're thinking about trying to walk the line. "Start small," says the 21-year old Justin. "You will get very frustrated in the beginning, but don't give up."

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