Touchstone Blog Archive
Sunday, June 10, 2007
  Paul Barraza Gets Around
If you are planning a trip anywhere in the United States and you want to get in some good climbing time, it might pay to check in with Paul Barraza, manager at Berkeley Ironworks. He’s climbed in 30 of the 50 states.

“I took a road trip for two-and-a-half years and just went for it,” he says of his travel/climbing marathon.

The 34-year-old Berkeley native got an early taste of scrambling around on rocks as a child, when his family would go to Indian Rock Park in the Berkeley hills or to Yosemite. But he didn’t get serious about it until he was a sophomore at Oregon State University in Corvallis.

“They had a little rock wall in the football stadium underneath the stands,” he recalls. That was enough to get him hooked. After college he came back to the Bay Area to work for Hornblower Cruises & Events. The pleasure yachting company turned out to be a perfect place for an avid climber.

“You make decent money and work for nine months. During the winter there’s no work, so I would travel for three months,” he says.

Three seasons of that whetted his appetite for the big adventure. He had saved up enough to spend two and a half years roaming the country, covering the northern states in the summer and heading south for the winter. He managed to fit in a couple of weeks of Mexico along the way. When he felt like it, he’d look for a good climbing spot.

The end of the trip found him back in Berkeley. He had worked a little at the old City Rock gym, so when he heard of an opening at Berkeley Ironworks he went for it. After three years behind the desk, he was picked for the manager’s job at Touchstone Concord for two years. Then it was back to Berkeley again for his current manager’s job, where he can bike to work in six minutes.

Whether in suburban Concord or urban Berkeley, climbers are all part of the same tribe. One difference is that the Concord commuters are much less likely to stop in on a lunch hour, he says.

To keep in shape, Barraza has adopted the training advice of Tudor Bompa, the famed Olympic coach who brought victory to Eastern Bloc teams in the 1960s.

“He came up with ‘periodization,’ and this whole program that we try to convert to climbing, and it works pretty good,” he says. The idea is that the body gets used to doing the same things over and over again. To break through the plateaus, it helps to change your routine every six to nine weeks.

“It works pretty darn well,” Barraza says. “The first cycle that I did, I really noticed a difference in how I felt.”

When his workweek is done, Barraza and his girlfriend spend “every climbable weekend” in Yosemite, especially during the winter when cold temperatures help with friction. There’s a lot of exploring to do beyond the areas that have become popular in the past 30 years, he says. In the summer, Tahoe also gets his attention.

Oh, and he’s still working on those 20 remaining states.

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