Touchstone Blog Archive
Thursday, November 29, 2007
  A Trek of the Annapurna Curcuit

This October, Berkeley Ironworks Performance Cycling instructor Jen Worth spent a month of October in Nepal, a country she had wanted to visit for several years. Here is her story:

I trekked the Annapurna Circuit, a classic trek that circles the Annapurna massif and stretches about 220km (137 miles). The Circuit begins at low elevations, where it was downright tropical, and climbs in altitude until crossing the Thorung La pass at 5416 meters (17,769 feet). Along the way, it passes through lowland villages amidst terraced rice fields, villages valleys along a river, and barren mountain villages with prayer flags whipping in the wind.

It is a tea-house style trek, meaning one eats and sleeps in basic lodges while passing through villages along the Circuit. Dal bhat tarkari (lentil soup, rice and vegetables) is the standard Nepali meal, eaten twice a day. I chose to eat like a local as much as possible, except when I simply needed calories and had to down a Snickers and Coke (and I don't even like Coke!). Along the most of the trail, there are no roads (didn't see a car for 10 days!) so all supplies must be carried in on mules or on the backs of porters. To see a small, elderly woman carrying cages full of chickens five deep for hours on end is beyond humbling.

Speaking of humbling, the most spectacular scenery in the world is on display day after day. Rounding the corner in Upper Pisang and having Annapurna 2 staring squarely at me was a moment that took my breath away; I simply couldn't believe I was in the Himalayas looking at the mountains I'd read about for years. Along the Circuit, Nature continually reminds me that I am to be humbled. Landslides show their effect by having taken away parts of the trail, either forcing a delicate negotiation to pick one's way along a narrow path, or to be completely stopped while the army carves a new pathway where one stood the day before. The powerful rivers and many waterfalls are a stunning reminder of Nepal's abundance of water.

Crossing the Thorung La pass was a day I will never forget. We were about to embark on a day starting at 14,600 and ascend to the pass elevation of 17,769 then descend to finish the day at 12,465. I was one of many people to take a 4:30am departure...with snow falling. Perhaps we believed it was just a flurry, or perhaps we all felt safety in numbers. Regardless, it was an eerily beautiful sight to watch the snaking lights of headlamps in a slow processional up the switchbacks. People moved slowly, sucking in the thin, dry air. As daylight showed itself, two things were apparent: there was no end in sight to the snowfall, and many people were showing signs of altitude illness. These two realities were not a good combination. I saw many sick people I wanted to help (as a Wilderness First Responder, I carried extra Diamox), but could not, because I had to keep moving so I would not lose the small group I was crossing with, and because the snow was now joined by whipping winds. The top of the pass snuck up on me, since I was worried about all these sick people! I stopped very briefly to take the obligatory photo at the cairns and prayer flags, and to buy a sick porter a cup of tea.(Amazingly, there's a tea shop at the top of the pass, with the most expensive tea in all of Nepal!) The descent was a tricky one, narrow scree paths were now covered with inches of snow. People slowly tiptoed through the narrow paths that were on the edge of hundred foot drops. Many people, including me, fell several times along these icy ledges. I travelled closely with a Finnish guy, and we joked as we looked out for each other, both of us exhausted but determined to get to Muktinath safely. Nine hours after starting out, we were searching for guesthouses with available rooms. I was never so grateful for taking off my boots!

It wasn't all challenging. This side of the pass was more "luxurious", meaning better lodges with more food options, and hot showers! The village of Tatopani has natural hot springs along the river....a well-deserved soak was never enjoyed so much! It was exactly what was needed, since the next day was a 6000 ft climb up granite steps over 7 miles. The views of Dhaulagiri were our reward at Ghorepani. Sunrise over Dhaulagiri and the surrounding peaks were breathtaking.

I finished the trek on the most important day of the most important Nepali holiday, Dasain. People travel far to be with family, and everyone is dressed in their finest clothing and adorned with tikkas on their foreheads. It was a lovely sight as I caught a ride to Pokhara, a mellow lakeside town Where one typically decompresses after the trek. Many who craved a steak got their fix here, as for me, I just wanted some strong coffee! After chilling out here for a few days, I returned to Kathmandu to do more sightseeing before returning home. The giant Buddhist stupa at Boudha, the funereal pyres at Pashupatinath (the Varanasi of Nepal) and the monkeys at Swayambhunath (aka Monkey Temple) were all stunningly impressive places to visit.

All too soon it was time to leave. The people of Nepal, the mountain scenery and tiny villages, the simplicity, the beauty amidst the chaos all leave a special place in my heart and I know I'll be back.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007
  TBS3 Photos Now Up

Photos of TBS3 competition held at Touchstone San Jose on November 16th can now be viewed in the Touchstone Gallery. Touchstone San Jose blew up the South Bay’s bouldering scene with a hair under 200 competitors, and well over 50 spectators! Fat Tire flowed from the tap while With DJ’s Tony and Keith rocked the house with their set of funky and tech house, jungle, drum-&-bass, hip-hop, and some good old rock’n roll to keep the community climbing strong. Results can be viewed on Touchstone’s competition page.

To all those who came out to compete, spectate, and support the best indoor bouldering in the South Bay to make it Touchstone San Jose’s biggest competition yet, thank you! See you all in Pipeworks on December 14th!

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Monday, November 26, 2007
  Oakland is Open

The Great Western Power Co. will be open at 5pm on Monday Nov. 26th. We will be open the rest of the week from 4pm-10pm. While we have received our final operating permits, we still have lots of work we will be continuing to work on over the next few weeks. At this point we do not have any fitness or weight equipment. We do have lots of boulder problems and a decent amount of routes to climb. So here is your chance to be one of the first people to climb at Touchstones newest gym.

If you have already signed up for a membership we welcome you to use the gym this week for free. You account will not be billed till Dec. 1st. If you have not yet signed up for a membership, come on down and we can sign you up today. For the first 200 members, we will waive the initiation fee and you will receive a free GWPC t-shirt.

We do NOT currently have hot water. We should have hot water by the end of the week.

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  Best of the North Bay

Class 5 was voted the Best Gym of the North Bay!

The Bohemian is a weekly magazine of news, food, wine and culture in Sonoma, Marin and Napa counties. In their recently released Best of the North Bay 2007 issue, readers of the weekly voted for Class 5 as the Best Gym.

We couldn’t agree more! Thanks to everyone who voted for us!


Friday, November 23, 2007
  Oakland Prepares to Open

We are very close to being able to open our newest gym, the Great Western Power Company, in Oakland. After a couple of delays, we are ready to submit applications to the city of Oakland for our final permits. If all goes well, we could be open as soon as early next week. As soon as we know the exact time we can open our doors, we will post it on the front page of the site.

We are very excited to show off our newest gym. We believe that the Great Western Power Company will provide some of the best climbing terrain found indoors. If you have not already done so, you can see pictures of the construction in the online photo gallery.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007
  Lyn Does Thriller
Great Western Power Company manager, Lyn Verinsky, recently climbed one of the most classic boulder problems in Yosemite Valley, if not the world. Thriller, v10, climbs a gently overhanging wall in the heart of the Camp 4 boulders and is a climb that not only tests one's strength, but skill and determination as well.

Lyn began to try the climb in earnest last fall after seeing her friend, Robyn Puro (who also happens to be 5'2"), nab the second female ascent. After many days and hundreds of attempts, Lyn's hard work paid off this last Saturday. Nice work Lyn.

Here is a video of her send:

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007
  Holiday Hours

Touchstone Climbing would like to wish everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.

All our locations will be closed on Thanksgiving. In addition we have special hours on Wednesday and Friday, so check with your local gym for the hours we will be open on these days.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
  Mountains of the Bay Area
Tune in this Thursday and Friday night to watch “Mountains of the Bay Area” the topic of Channel 5’s Eye on the Bay television series. Tonight at 7:00pm will be the first half in this two part show where they set out to climb and explore the Bay Area’s major peaks, with a look at their historical and geological importance. Tomorrow on the conclusion they explore the East Bay’s climbing mecca “Rock City.”

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007
  Pipeworks in Lights

If approaching Sacramento Pipeworks on 16th street, you will now be directed to the entrance by a large new neon sign. Designed by Pipeworks employee Greg Cowper, the sign is reminiscent of neon from the 1940’s or 50’s and is intended to reflect the character of the building and surrounding neighborhood. Watch for its colorful glow to light up the night sky in the coming weeks!


Tuesday, November 13, 2007
  Sacramento Attends Cycle Oregon

For the 3rd year in a row, Sacramento Pipeworks bike club sent 4 representatives to the bicycling endurance event called Cycle Oregon (CO). This year’s route was a loop starting at Sisters Ore. and returning back to the start via Crater Lake, featuring 481 riding miles spread over 7 days. To celebrate the events 20th anniversary, there was nearly a Mount Everest worth of climbing: 28000’! The event is a portable mini-city with amenities that include a daily CO newspaper, showers, a mobile pizza parlor, beer and wine garden, nightly music or entertainment, and a transportable kitchen with facilities to provide 3 meals a day for 2500 riders and staff.

Our group was required to supply their own sleeping accommodations (a tent), and they unanimously agreed that the hardest thing about the whole ride was getting up to pack their camping gear in the bitter cold, oftentimes before sunrise. According to Kimberly, “breaking ice off the tents rainfly” was a daily chore. More than anything, CO is about extremes: the longest ride was 100 miles, the shortest 45, and temperatures ranged from a low of 28 degrees to a high of 95 on the same day. Will, a veteran rider with 3 CO’s to his credit admits that our group has been lucky: “There has not been one single flat tire in 2 years!”

Congratulations gang!

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Monday, November 12, 2007
  Another Chance to Join

View Larger Map

Want to be a member of Touchstone's soon to open Great Western Power Company? Then show up Tuesday, November 13th between 5:30 and 6:30 PM at 520 20th Street to sign up! You still have the option to either put your membership on hold until GWPC opens or activate your membership immediately so you can start climbing and working out at any of Touchstone's 6 gyms right away. Don't miss out on the opportunity to be one of the first 200 GWPC members and receive a FREE GWPC t-shirt as well as have your initiation fee waived!

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  The Art of Living Purna Yoga™
The Art of Living Purna Yoga™ with Aadil Palkhivala
at Touchstone Climbing & Fitness in Concord
December 7-9, 2007

Touchstone Climbing is proud to present a workshop with world renowned yoga teacher, Aadil Palkhivala. For nearly thirty years, Aadil has had a reputation as a “teacher of teachers” and has been training yoga teachers in India, Europe and the United States since 1976. His approach to yoga is that it is to be lived and not just performed. Since the age of 7 Aadil has been practicing yoga and like a mentor sharing his knowledge with an apprentice, he teaches students to use their bodies, intellect and emotions to discover their real purpose in life. Through telling stories, giving insights and philosophical ponderings, Aadil teaches students how to discover what really matters within while strengthening, aligning and opening the body through the practice of asana.

Friday December 7th 6-8p.m. Power and Humility
Saturday December 8th 10-1 Purna Yoga Power

Saturday December 8th 2:30-5:00 Restoratives and Pranayama

Sunday December 9th 10-1 Detox & Recharge Twists and Backbends

Full weekend $285
Individual Sessions $80

Please remit payment to:
Living Yoga
881 Richard Lane

Danville, CA 94526

Questions? Contact: Deb Stone

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Wednesday, November 7, 2007
  Climber & Bike Mechanic in Time of Need
Peter Togasaki, a 26-year-old bike builder at Berkeley-based Wrench Science and former Berkeley Ironworks employee, was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia in late August. Peter, had been feeling poorly for weeks but never expected to be diagnosed with this devastating cancer. After two unsuccessful rounds of chemotherapy treatments at an Oakland hospital, he is now being transferred to Stanford for a bone-marrow transplant. The road to recovery will be long (six months or more!) and dangerous. Jess, Peter’s sister and bone marrow donor, greatly appreciates the support and positive thoughts that Peter has been receiving from our community. She writes, “The Peter Fund is still open and any little bit you can give makes a difference. And THANK YOU to everyone who has donated, it's wonderful.”"We’re hoping to rally around Peter and raise enough money to cover his medical/living expenses during this time of need so that he can focus on beating his cancer," says Tim Medina, Wrench Science’s CEO. Information updates and contributions to the Peter Togasaki Cancer Fund can be made electronically. Please visit

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Tuesday, November 6, 2007
  Art Auction Gala

You are invited to the Yosemite Climbing Association's
3rd annual Art Auction Gala Fundraiser!

About the event:
This year they have work from Galen Rowell, Michael Frye, Glen Denny, Ansel Adams (a rare signed poster), Jerry Dodrill, Greg Epperson, and many other well-known artists. The event is becoming a showcase for top adventure photographers. They will also have several works available for a prize drawing. They hope you decide to join them for this fun and worthwhile event, it is a great opportunity to buy amazing artwork at a reasonable price for a good cause.
The Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite Valley hosts the event each year. The work will be hanging from the morning of November 8th until the evening of Friday the 9th. The gala reception and silent auction's final bids occur from 5:00-6:30pm on Friday. It is a festive night with food, wine, and a great mix of park locals, climbing heavies, art collectors and the general public.

To see a selection of the work, visit:
This site will be updated frequently.

A little about YCA:
YCA's goal is to preserve the park's climbing history and interpret it for the public. They are non-profit and are a designated NPS park partner. They are currently working towards a climbing museum and library within the Yosemite Valley visitor's center. The money raised goes towards housing and cataloging our burgeoning collection of historic items, acquiring new items, and interpretive programs. It also helps them organize the biggest annual park wide cleanup in Yosemite's history. This year they cleaned up a record 20 TONS of garbage! To find out more check out their website: They have had a lot of press this year, including ABC news and National Geographic.

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Monday, November 5, 2007
  Coats for Kids

Touchstone San Jose, in cooperation with NorCal Waste Systems Inc., is participating in the 11th Annual “Coats For Kids” winter coat drive. If you have any winter coats, jackets, sweaters, or vests that you would be willing to donate, you can drop them off at the front desk. Clean, gently worn clothing of any size will be accepted.

The “Coats For Kids” winter coat drive will be running until November 9th.

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Thursday, November 1, 2007
  Concord Kick Starts TBS3

Concord’s attendance was higher than normal this last Friday. Maybe it was the 60 new boulder problems, it could have been that it was member guest day, or possibly it was the free pizza and beer (thanks to Pyramid Brewery in Walnut Creek). Regardless 154 climbers picked up a scorecard and took to the walls. Thank to all those who helped put together the first bouldering comp of the 3rd season, specifically the awesome Concord desk staff, the course setters for the fun (and sometimes frustrating problems), and those unsung hero’s who tabulated the scorecards behind the curtain. See you all in San Jose on November 16th.

To check out photos from Friday night check out the competition gallery and for the latest results check out the competition page.

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