Touchstone Blog Archive
Saturday, June 30, 2007
  Happy 4th of July

Touchstone would like to wish everyone a happy 4th of July. We hope you enjoy the holiday and take this day to get outside and do something fun.

All Touchstone Gyms will be closed on the 4th of July.


Friday, June 29, 2007
  Smell the Holds
Matt McCormick, a Touchstone member since 1995, wrote friends this note after running across photos of the Touchstone facility being built in Oakland.

A well-designed climbing wall is a thing of beauty. I’ve been climbing in gyms so long and loving it, that just looking at a new wall sends waves of anticipation, anxiety, ambition, and longing through me. And the acrid, carcinogenic smell of polyester resin in new climbing holds just out of the shipping box does the same thing.

It’s like Christmas, but with fear and overdeveloped calluses. If my wife had that for perfume, I’d be helpless.

A lot of climbers still think that gym climbing is still a means to an end—training so that they can get outside to real rock. That’s fine—but when one of the Touchstone route setters (and
I just don’t think there are any better route setters anywhere) puts up a clever, well-executed route that pushes you to new levels, that’s a special thing.

What’s more, you will not optimize your climbing-to-bullshit ratio better anywhere outside. Nowhere else can you do so many good routes in such a short time.

Actually, more climbers should take the notion of a climbing gym road trip seriously. Get your partner, clear your afternoon schedule, and go to one of the other Touchstone gyms (your membership works there too).

And that brings me to the next point: Touchstone is building a new gym in Oakland.

The pictures here, will make you need to chalk up sitting at your computer. Check out the giant smoke stack in the middle of the wall, and the outrageous prows jutting from the top! The Great Western Power Co. (cool name, huh?) is at 520 20th street in Oakland, CA. They’re having an open house on Friday, June 29th from 6 pm to 9pm.

Tell them you’d like to smell the holds.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, June 28, 2007
  Two New Bouldering Guides
Yosemite Valley Bouldering
Yosemite Valley is one of the best granite bouldering areas in the world. This guide makes Yosemite bouldering accessible through clear descriptions, detailed topos, and numerous photos. It also includes many new problems and completely new bouldering areas. In addition to the problem information, this guide will help you plan your trip, give you insider beta for staying in the Valley, and give you an interesting narrative on Yosemite’s bouldering history.

Bay Area Bouldering
This book includes over 600 boulder problems within a 1.5 hour drive of San Francisco. All the classic spots are in this book: Castle Rock, Indian Rock, Mickey's Beach as well as a number of lesser known spots on the North Coast. This book includes everything from cruiser jug hauls on sandy beaches to sloper wrestling in lush forests.
Stop by a Touchstone retail store and pick up one or both of these beautiful new guide books!

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, June 26, 2007
  Messner Sees Yeti
One of the best known mountaineers in the world today is Reinhold Messner, who, by the age of 20, had climbed the hardest routes in the Dolomites and Western Alps together with his brother Günther.

An avalanche near the base camp on Nanga Parbat later killed Gunther, unfortunately. But since his brother's death Messner has reported that during ascents without supplemental oxygen tanks in the mountains near Nanga Parbat, he has sensed - and even conversed - with his deceased brother. He also claims to have encountered the Yeti twice during his expeditions to Karakorum and to have photos proving that the Yeti is a large, long-haired bear.

Messner isn't the only one to make such reports. Over the decades, dozens of mountaineers have reported hearing, seeing, and feeling strange things when at high altitude. This may be due to their brains being short on oxygen, plus the hard physical labor of mountaineering in extreme conditions. Skeptics about the paranormal suggest that the hypoxia is responsible for all the Yeti and Abominable Snowman reports -- Messner's included.

Some fear that Messner has suffered permanent brain damage due to numerous climbs to extreme altitudes without supplemental oxygen. But brain damaged or not, his record of ascents is impressive.


Monday, June 25, 2007
  Oakland Open House
If the pictures of the Oakland gym construction in the Touchstone gallery have whetted your appetite to see the newest Touchstone gym in person, here's your chance to be one of the first people to visit. On Friday, June 29th from 6pm to 9pm, Oakland gym manager, Lyn Verinsky, would like to invite you to the first OPEN HOUSE. This is a great opportunity to see the awesome, light-filled space, and the walls-in-progress. The address is: 520 20th St. Oakland, CA

Labels: , , ,

Friday, June 22, 2007
  360 Degrees of Pipeworks

Recently there have been a lot of questions about the large 360 degree panorama photo of Sacramento Pipeworks climbing wall displayed near the front desk. Click here for a virtual tour of one of these stunning works.

The photos are true works of art by photographer Mike Posehn, a professional software author and amateur photographer of many years. "Early on I was intrigued by the possibilities of digital photography and was an early adopter of digital cameras and computer-based digital darkroom technology" he said. His unique pictures are created by combining multiple digital photographs - stitching them together with software to form a composite wide angle image. When captured in a panoramic representation, everyday locations reveal a wealth of information and personality - an immersive feeling of being there. Mike, who also holds a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, says "Most of my work has been more traditional landscapes and cityscapes. Recently my work has been evolving into a documentary style and I have been doing a series of indoor panoramas by photographing people in their personal work environment." Another thing he has been involved in lately is creating short films for YouTube. He's had over 3.2 million views and has been ranked in the top 100 all-time YouTube directors. You can see his channel at youtube. You are also welcome to contact him or see more of his work at:


Thursday, June 21, 2007
  TRS in Marin on Friday
Class 5 is gearing up to host the Touchstone Roped Series Competition this Friday, June 22nd. Routes are going up Wednesday and Thursday, beer from Broken Drum and food are being ordered along with lemonade, soda and other snacks.

Come out and have a great time climbing! Get a free T-shirt, have some food and have fun! These member competitions are for fun, but if you are serious and go to them all, you can win big.

A note to Teen Teamers from the other gyms – Class 5 just wants to say our team is going to CRUSH! (just a friendly challenge)

• Free to members
• $10 for non-members
• The competition runs from 6- 10pm
• Raffle at the end of the evening
• Food! Drink!

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, June 19, 2007
  News Widget
If you have a Mac, you can now have all the latest news from your favorite climbing gyms right on your dashboard. This new widget provides the latest news articles from the Touchstone news page right to your widget dashboard.

Download Here

Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger is required.


Monday, June 18, 2007
  Hot Spot: Cragmont
Cragmont is a small formation of boulders in Berkeley near Indian Rock, which has a rich history as the training ground for some of the biggest names in technical rock climbing's history.

Cragmont offers about a dozen short, slabby toprope routes from 5.6 - 5.11, and you can walk around to the base from each of the climbs.

To get there, get off I-80 at the Albany exit and go east for 3 blocks, and turn right onto Marin Ave. After the traffic circle follow Marin uphill to turn right on Regal Rd. You'll see the formation on the right up a few blocks - parking is on the street.

Check out Berkeley Ironworks upcoming calendar for outdoor trips planned.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, June 16, 2007
  Give Blood on Monday

Berkeley Ironworks will be hosting the Red Cross bloodmobile on June 18th from 1-7pm. Summer time is the most important time to give blood, because there is higher demand and often shortages. If you are looking for an excuse to get out of work early, you'll have the best excuse there is: "I'm giving blood!"

For your convenience, you can even go online to book and appointment. Just got to:
and enter IRON for the Sponsor Code to book an appointment today!

Labels: ,

Friday, June 15, 2007
  Touchstone Concord's Summer Camps about to Kick Off
Touchstone Concord is offering summer rock climbing camps for kids ages 6 to 14. Camp runs M-F from 9am to noon beginning the week of June 18.
Campers will learn how to climb and belay in a supportive, fun environment. They will also try their hand at rappelling, ascending, slack-lining and playing many climbing games. Rock climbing emphasizes life skills such as confidence-building, self-esteem and goal-setting and is a great way to get kids to be active. Safety and having fun are our top priorities. Sign your kids up today! Questions? Call the gym and our friendly front desk staff will be happy to assist you.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, June 13, 2007
  Helping Urban Youth Get Outdoors
If you thought San Jose was simply about pebble wrestling, well, think again! This July, Touchstone San Jose member Erika Smith will be climbing Mt. Shasta, a 14,169-foot volcano in Northern California. Her climb will have additional meaning though, as Erika has joined with Bay Area Wilderness Training (BAWT), a non-profit organization dedicated to helping urban youth venture outdoors. To prepare for her trip, Erika is raising money to help get more kids and young adults outdoors to experience the power and beauty of nature first-hand. Having served over 4,700 youth since 1999, taking them safely out on multi-day hikes, camping, and backpacking trips.

We wish Erika good luck with her training and preparation to reach her goals this July!

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, June 12, 2007
  3 on 3 basketball Tourney
Berkeley Ironworks will be hosting a 3 on 3 basketball tournament on June 16th at 10am. Put your team together and submit your team name at the front desk to be included in the Berkeley Ironworks 3 on 3 tournament for men and women. We hope to see your team submitted soon!

Labels: , ,

Monday, June 11, 2007
  Music in the Park
San Jose summers usually mean free music festivals! Every summer, the City of San Jose holds free music festivals in Ceasar Chavez Park and St. James Park. The festivals, Music in the Park and Music in the Other Park, respectively, are held at 5:30PM – 9:00PM every Thursday night during the months of June and July. Please note that parking in downtown San Jose may be difficult to find Thursday nights due to the free concerts.

Labels: ,

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.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, June 7, 2007
  Training Tip: Devolve

When climbing, try to use your feet more like hands. Sometimes, especially on steep routes, it's possible to hook your heel or even your toes on a hold and pull your body in.

Also, try to relax -- don't over grip on the hand holds. It often takes much less force to stay on the hold than an anxious climber exerts.

And shift your hips -- you can produce dramatic differences in the difficulty of hanging on a stance with subtle shifts in hip position.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, June 6, 2007
  The Johnson Brothers: So Big Yet So Small
Two of Sacramento Pipeworks youngest members, brothers Gary (7 years) and Grant Johnson (9 yrs), have been climbing at Pipeworks for less than two years but have just recently begun participating in local climbing comps. They may be small in stature (Gary is 50” tall and 50 lbs, Grant 53” and 65 lbs) but they haven’t let their youth and relative inexperience prevent them from killing in the competitive climbing scene.

Grants’ debut competition was January 28th in Davis where he took first place. He then moved on to a competition in Fremont where he again placed first in his age group while brother Gary took fourth. The diffident duo then traveled to Reno, NV where they placed first and second respectively. From there it was back to Davis for the boys to participate in their first USA Climbing sanctioned competition, with Grant placing first and Gary taking sixth. The boy’s second USAC comp was held at Touchstone Concord and again Grant and Gary did very well, placing both second and third overall and second and fourth in the speed climbing portion of the comp.

When asked about the brother’s meteoric rise on the competition scene, their father Tom said “They trained for 18 months before even considering competing. I finally found something that they LOVE – and I owe it all to this gym!”

Sacramento Pipeworks is happy to be the home gym of Gary and Grant and we expect that this won’t be the last we hear from these young rock stars of the future. We wish them the best of luck at the USAC Divisional competition in Tigard, OR on June 8th.

Labels: , , ,

  Ted & Dan's Big Adventure
Ted and Dan are belay staff and avid Class 5 climbers out on a road trip. From Indian Creek to New River Gorge to running around naked at the Super Bowl camp, they have been having adventures and climbing hard. Ted is now on-sighting 5.11 trad climbs.

A story from the road:

Ted and his friends went into Mount Pleasant, Utah to take a break from climbing one day and decided they wanted something different to eat. Drew said, "Hey Ted, didn't you used to throw pizzas in your former life? Go ask the guy in that shop if you can work for our lunch". Well, sure enough Ted went and asked if he could help prepare the food for the lunch rush.

Imagine how Ted looked coming out of the rocks; a bit scraggly and what not. The owner said no to the pizza throwing, but that she would give him a small pizza if he swept the side walk and gutter to make the place a bit cleaner. Ted agreed and enlisted Drew to help in the cleaning. He then told the other two, Ben and Jen, to try the same thing at the Shake and Burger joint down the street for some shakes. After they were done the Pizza owner gave them a medium pizza and cheese sticks for the great job they did. The hake and Burger joint owner gave shakes and cheeseburgers and felt so sorry because of how thin and scratched up everyone was that she threw in $40.00 as well. They were able to finish the work and gather their food just as the store opened and enjoyed some superb boxed wine with their meal.

Lesson learned, it never hurts to work for your meal, be polite and good things might happen. They did eat well in town the next day as well!

Labels: , ,

Monday, June 4, 2007
  Capoeira Clinic
Berkeley Ironworks will be hosting a Capoeira workshop on Saturday, June 9th from 1-3pm. This workshop is FREE for members and only $10 for non-members.

Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian Martial Art that combines Dance, Fight, Music, Movements and Acrobatics.

Come and join the classes to learn the basics of Capoeira while increasing Strength and Flexibility, improving Coordination and enjoy an exciting and intense workout.

Everyone is welcome, just bring a water bottle and wear loose pants.

Labels: ,

This is the old Touchstone Blog. This is no longer active. Please visit our new blog at

March 2006 / April 2006 / May 2006 / June 2006 / July 2006 / August 2006 / September 2006 / October 2006 / November 2006 / December 2006 / January 2007 / February 2007 / March 2007 / April 2007 / May 2007 / June 2007 / July 2007 / August 2007 / September 2007 / October 2007 / November 2007 / December 2007 / January 2008 / February 2008 / March 2008 / April 2008 / May 2008 / June 2008 / July 2008 / August 2008 / September 2008 / October 2008 / November 2008 / December 2008 / January 2009 / February 2009 / March 2009 / April 2009 / May 2009 / June 2009 / July 2009 / August 2009 / September 2009 / October 2009 / November 2009 / December 2009 / January 2010 / February 2010 / March 2010 / April 2010 / May 2010 / June 2010 / July 2010 / August 2010 / September 2010 / October 2010 / November 2010 / December 2010 / January 2011 / February 2011 / March 2011 / April 2011 / May 2011 / June 2011 / July 2011 / August 2011 / September 2011 / October 2011 / November 2011 / December 2011 / January 2012 /

Powered by Blogger

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]