Touchstone Blog Archive
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Happy Halloween from
Touchstone Climbing!!!

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Monday, October 29, 2007
  Chop, Flare, and Grind
Why crack climbers consume more athletic tape than an NFL team doctor.

There are old, classic cracks in Yosemite with deceptively low grades like 5.7 and 5.9 that regularly reject seasoned gym and sport climbers. The whining and protesting can be heard all over the valley. “How can that thing be 5.7 - I can’t even get off the ground on it!” and “These grades are sandbags!”

There are a couple of special techniques that, once mastered, will make that route feel like it’s graded right. But without them, it might as well be a 5.13.

On a blank wall of glacier polished granite, the only usable feature might be a narrow, parallel sided crack. Inside the walls of the crack there will be little irregularities where it gets narrower, turns a bit, or widens up.

To climb such a crack under your own power (versus aiding it):

1. Pretend you’re making a “karate chop” with your hand and slot it into the crack pinky down just above one of those constrictions.

2. Twist your hand, flaring your elbow up and out to the side of the crack.

Alternately you can slot your fingers into the crack thumbs down and tuck your elbow down to your side to lock it. Now as you cam your fingers into the narrow bit, feel around and find the sweet spot where two, three, or four fingers seem to naturally fit and settle in most securely. It might even only allow one finger—just be careful and don’t rip it off.

3. Ensure the edge of the crack in grinding into the fleshy parts of your fingers between the knuckles.

Pain is good here—that means you’re getting a good lock. This is why crack climbers consume more athletic tape than an NFL team doctor.

4. Hold the positioning of that hand as much as you can as you pull down with your back and shoulders, find footholds, and smear your way up.

5. Once you’ve reached a bit of stability and you can extract one of your hands, pull it out carefully, reach up, find another tight spot in the crack, and repeat.

Spend some time down on the ground experimenting with how your fingers will lock into the confines of a crack, and getting used to pulling on them

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Friday, October 26, 2007
  Become a Member of G.W.P.C.
The Great Western Power Company manager, Lyn Verinsky, would like to invite you to sign up for membership at the newest Touchstone gym. Although the facility is still not open for business, it is expected to announce an opening date in the near future. In the meantime, Lyn will be at the Oakland gym on Monday, 10/29, from 1:00 to 2:00 PM and on Tuesday, 10/30, from 7:30 to 9:30 PM to accept sign-ups.

There are several options for starting a membership: The first is to sign up on the 30th and use the Berkeley facility until the Oakland location opens - in this case, billing would begin November 1st. The second is to fill out membership forms and wait until the Oakland location opens to activate the membership - in this case, billing would start when the gym opens.

All start-up fees (regularly $100) are waived for people signing up in October. Additionally, the first 200 people who sign up for GWPC membership, regardless of the month, will receive a zero initiation deal. Even more cool? The first 200 members will receive a FREE GWPC t-shirt commemorating them as one of the first Oakland members!

More sign-up dates will be announced on this blog as will be the Grand Opening announcement. Keep on watching this space for more information about the gym or contact Lyn with your questions.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007
  Forget Your Harness
Forget your Harness this Friday.
TBS3 Returns to Concord.

This Friday kicks off the 3rd Touchstone Bouldering Series. Make your way to Concord to check out the 60+ new problems the route setters perfected just for you or come to enjoy the FREE pizza & beer/soda and cheer on your friends. All abilities are welcome, with problems ranging from V-0 through V-ridiculous. While you’re here make sure to wish Touchstone Concord a Happy 5th Birthday and pick up a limited edition anniversary shirt for only $5.

Who: All Touchstone Members & non-members
What: TBS3: The best bouldering comp around
Where: Touchstone Concord
When: October 26, 2007 from 6pm to 10pm
(Registration opens at 5pm)
Why: Its fun (and there is free pizza)
Cost: FREE to members! $10 for non-members

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007
  The Hopefuls Crush
The name says it all. They were hoping to win and well...they did, actually, they dominated. Patrick Whalen, Chris Gade, Johannes Burge and Sean Vora absolutely annihilated the competition in the second Berkeley Ironworks 3on3 basketball tournament of the year. In a gripping finale the Hopefuls triumphed over the Monstars 12-1, taking home the coveted prize: one month free membership at Ironworks. The team is seen here having a post game giggle, probably in reference to the one lonely point the Monstars scored. A spectator, commenting on the game, said, "Man, I really thought that one basket was going to be a turning point for the Monstars, but was I wrong, they got crushed!"

The Hopefuls will have a chance to defend their title in the not too distant future. Stay tuned for dates and prizes. Looking to play a little pick-up basketball? There are games on every Wednesday night at 7pm. Come join the fun!

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Monday, October 22, 2007
  Former Pipeworks Staff's Transcontinental Ride
When former Sacramento Pipeworks staff member Zane Griffin (above, with beard) and friend Scott Ferreter decided to ride bicycles across country this summer, they realized they had just 41 days to cover 3500 miles, but thought “it sounded like a good idea at the time”. Having done only a few overnight trips on bikes before, to plan the trip they depended on internet research and local bike shops for advice. It was rather hard to find people who had real reliable information, and they managed to speak with only one person who had done it before.

Regardless, one foggy day at the Golden Gate Bridge, with bikes weighing 80 pounds fully loaded, they started. Although there were no luxuries - no I-pods and only one cell phone which they ended up not using – the bikes were still heavy and hard to handle. Almost immediately they encountered the hardest section of the whole trip: Highway 50 through Nevada, with 85 miles between water. “I realize now why they call it The Loneliest Road in America” Zane said.

They ate mostly at small diners, roadside bars or cooked for themselves; but adding to the challenge, both adhere to a vegetarian diet - incredibly difficult in the mid-west where a majority of meals are meat-based. Subsisting on granola bars, peanut butter, bagels and pancakes, they were always hungry - it was hard to intake the 4,000-5,000 calories per day Zane estimated they were burning. At night they stayed in City parks, or were invited to pitch their tent in people’s backyards. The generosity and warmth of strangers was the most amazing thing about the trip according to Zane - offers of a place to stay or something to eat were plentiful.

Despite the abundant hospitality, not knowing where they would stay or sleep every night still left them feeling vulnerable and exposed the whole trip. Due to fatigue and the Appalachian Mountains, the last 4 days were especially challenging: having booked their return flight before leaving, the pair weren’t even sure they would make it to the airport on time. But make it they did – 41 days, 11 flats, 1 pair of shorts and 5 tires later they rolled into our nation’s capital - almost 90 miles a day with not 1 day off! In looking back, Zane said overcoming self-doubt and uncertainty were the biggest rewards of the trip. To other would-be transcontinental riders he quipped: “If you want to do it that fast, be prepared to be uncomfortable”.

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Friday, October 19, 2007
  Concord Comes of Age

Join us the last weekend in October, the 27th and 28th, and bring all your friends to celebrate Touchstone Concord’s 5th Anniversary. This is a perfect opportunity for your friends to try out the gym, learn to climb, belay, enjoy a BBQ, and more . . . all for FREE! Members will receive a free raffle ticket for every guest they bring and we’ll be raffling off some cool stuff. In addition we may be revealing the new name for Touchstone Concord, so keep those suggestions coming! Lastly we will have available a limited edition 5th Anniversary t-shirt for only $5.

Don’t forget the initiation fee is being waived during October, which makes it the perfect time to sign up for membership! Tell your friends!

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Thursday, October 18, 2007
  Getting Outside
On September 11 after fixing lines, Touchstone members Humberto Marquez, Paul Hara and Ironworks member Bob Boggs, started climbing the Lurking Fear route on El Capitan. The were armed with lots of pre-climbing beta from Touchstone instructor and world class climber Hans Florine plus logistical support (Sherpa duty!) from gym members Margaret Hara, Leo Bates, Ironworks member Leo Burk, and others.

The trio was hoping to climb the route in 3 days with enough emergency provisions for 4. The climb actually took 6 continuous days, including the rappel down. "Bob got real sick the first day and had to go back down. After that, it was tough going. When Bob went down, so did our engineering brain" said Paul. "During the third day Humberto and I considered going down because we were moving so slowly and the top was so far away, but we decided to see how high we could get with our remaining provisions and energy".

The pair finally reached their goal of Thanksgiving Ledge at sunset of the 5th day. Humberto said "Its a beautiful, big ledge with a small cave with a sandy floor. By far the best bivy of the whole climb."

What's next for the pair? They're setting their sights on The Nose route of El Capitan. According to Humberto, "If we can climb a little bit faster, we just might make it!".

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007
  How Lightly Can You Hold On (Part 2 of 2)
How to break the habit of over-gripping

Here’s something you can do about over-gripping:

- Find a big hold near the ground over a pad and hang on it with your feet on a couple of small footholds.

- Get comfortable, and then very slowly relax your hands and release the contraction of the muscles in your hands and forearms that are keeping you on the wall.

- Keep relaxing them until you are just about to fall off.

- Then go ahead and release all the way so you plop down onto the pad.

What’s surprising is just how little effort it actually takes to keep you on the hold compared to how much you were exerting when you first started the exercise.

Repeat the steps above and focus you attention on just how much you’re exerting and how much is needed. Get the difference really clear in your head and try to apply it on your routes.

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Monday, October 15, 2007
  How Lightly Can You Hold On? (Part 1 of 2)
How over-gripping even 5% on dozens of holds really adds up

You’re a pretty good judge of the state of your mind and body when you’re working out or climbing. If it’s hurting, you know it. And probably, if you’re distracted, you can tell. But a lot of what is going on in there isn’t obvious to you and you won’t be able to tell.

You can be tense, distracted, or not performing your best, even though you don’t notice. It will take deliberate training to overcome this problem; the payoff is that doing so will make you a better climber and athlete.

The problem is especially bad with over-gripping. The slightest bit of tension or fear will manifest itself in your squeezing the holds too hard and contracting the involved muscles harder than the minimum necessary to do the job.

Cutting down on over-gripping is vitally important because over-gripping just a little bit, say maybe 5%, on the first 20 or 30 moves of a route all adds up. That’s a lot more work that you’re demanding of muscles with limited resources, and it will result in premature failure. If you fall off near the top, you might conclude that it’s because those moves near the end are really hard. You might even spend extra time rehearsing them. But those moves might not be the problem! It might be that over-gripping from the ground up led to your fall.

In the next part of this series we’ll suggest a way to tell when you’re over-gripping – and how to stop yourself. Stay tuned.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

During the month of October, the artwork of Touchstone San Jose member, Alex Matus, will be featured at The Hide Gallery in downtown Santa Cruz. A recent graduate of UC Santa Cruz, Alex’s work fuses her influences from punk rock music and Eastern Art with the beauty of anatomy and the human form in a unique “East-meets-West” fashion.

Alex’s prints will be on display and for sale at The Hide Gallery until October 28th. Located on 131 B Front Street in downtown Santa Cruz, The Hide Gallery is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 11am – 9pm. For more information, contact The Hide Gallery at 831-621-3939 or visit them at

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Thursday, October 11, 2007
  TRS Comes to an End at GWPC

The second annual Touchstone Rope Series came to a raucous end at the Great Western Power Company last Friday evening. With more beer and pizza than the many competitors and spectators could consume and 14 amazing climbs courtesy of Ben Polanco and the awesome Touchstone route setters, everyone headed home full, tired and with smiles on their faces. Just the fun of getting to climb in the new Oakland facility created a buzz of excitement and good cheer. One of the evening's highlights was the post-comp pull-up competition that determined the winner of the Men's Advanced category. Doug Boethling eked out a victory over Dustin Park by completing 21 pull-ups. The rest of the results can be seen on our comps page and photos of the competition can be found both here and here. Thanks to all those who participated and made the roped series such a successful Touchstone Community event!

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Tuesday, October 9, 2007
  TBS3 Starts This Month!!!

Touchstone Bouldering Series

Touchstone Climbing will once again host the Touchstone Bouldering Series, now in its third season. With the opening of the Great Western Power Co. in Oakland, the series will expand to seven comps this year, that will be held on Friday evenings, one at each of the Touchstone locations. All events will include a red point Bouldering comp as well as refreshments, games and prizes. Points will be award for each comp with overall winners being announced after the final comp. The first event will be held in October in Concord and will conclude this year at Berkeley Ironworks.

These comps are FREE for Touchstone Members

October 26th, 2007
in Concord

San Jose
November 16th, 2007
in San Jose

December 14th, 2007
in Sacramento

January 11th, 2008
in Oakland

Mission Cliffs
February 8th, 2008
in San Francisco

Class 5
February 29th, 2008
in San Rafael

April 4th, 2008
in Berkeley

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Friday, October 5, 2007
  No initiation Fee in October

In celebration of our newest gym opening later this fall, all Touchstone gyms will be offering a zero initiation fee deal. Take advantage of this great opportunity to save from $50 to $150 off the regular sign-up fee by becoming a member in October.

Those folks wanting to become members at the new Great Western Power Company should contact manager, Lyn Verinsky, to get their names on the pre-opening list. Everyone on the list will be eligible for the zero initiation deal immediately after the gym opens. Or better yet, sign up now at Berkeley Ironworks and start enjoying Touchstone today. Once G.W.P.C. opens, you can transfer you membership to the Power Company for no charge. Remember, the days are just getting shorter and wetter, so sign up soon

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Thursday, October 4, 2007
  Birthday Climb

Ken James and Travis Nichols of Class 5 climbed Sun Ribbon Arete for a joint birthday climb. The weather was perfect – about 75 degrees and sunny with no wind – and the snow field at the base was small enough to skirt easily.

After about 9 hours of climbing later, having completed a tyrolean traverse (awesome!), done a wee bit of incorrect route finding and about 18-20 pitches of spectacular climbing, they sat on the summit and enjoyed the spectacular view of the Pallisades, Mt.Sill and a whole lot more.

By the time they got back to their camp at third lake, they were tired hungry and thirsty and already trying to figure out the next big climb.

Sun Ribbon Arete is on Temple Crag and can is reached by driving up to Glacier Lodge from Big Pine (south of Bishop), hiking 7 miles and climbing 1800 feet or so. This is one of the longest and most classic High Sierra arêtes. The route ascends a striking arête for 18 pitches and involves mostly 3rd and 4th class climbing with a number of short harder sections in the 5.6-5.10a range.

Temple Crag, The Sun Ribbon Arete (Grade IV, 5.10a, 18+ pitches)

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Wednesday, October 3, 2007
  TRS Finale in OAKLAND!!!
The TRS Season 2 has been a huge success. A whopping 389 individual competitors have partied it up at the last five comps: eating pizza, drinking beer and soda and climbing some of the best routes indoor climbing has to offer. But all good things must come to an end, at least until next year's TRS.

Yep, it's Finale time. And the TRS2 Finale, scheduled for Friday, October 5, looks to be the most exciting comp yet. First, the series finale will be held at Touchstone's newest gym, the Great Western Power Company. Add to that a neck-in-neck battle for the Men's Advance first place spot and you have the makings of an action-packed competition.

If you have been eagerly awaiting the opening of the GWPC, you won't want to miss this comp! The finale will be a special sneak preview of the gym, which will not be open for regular business prior to or immediately following the comp. Doors will open for registration at 5:15 PM and the comp will start promptly at 6 PM.

This event is FREE to Touchstone members and for this comp only, FREE to non-members as well. Take a look at the GWPC web pages for more information about the gym and to get directions. Take this opportunity to discover how convenient it is to ride BART - GWPC is only one block away from the 19th and Broadway station!

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Tuesday, October 2, 2007
  BORP Ride This Weekend
The Touchstone Bike Club would like to invite everyone up to Sonoma County this weekend to ride with them in the BORP Revolution 2007 event.

Bay Area Outreach & Recreation Program (BORP) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization working to improve the health, independence and social integration of people with physical disabilities through sports, fitness and recreation programs. At BORP, we believe that sports and recreation provide a path to greater achievement to which all people should have access, and we continually strive to make this a reality. - from

Saturday, 10/6/2007 - SONOMA
BORP Revolution 2007!
All levels welcome! This event benefits athletes with disabilities in the Bay Area Outreach Program (aka "BORP"). Rides range in distance from 25 – 100 miles through scenic Sonoma County. Ride ends with a massage and feast at Trentadue Winery.
Visit for more information!

Volunteers needed too!

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