Touchstone Blog Archive
Monday, March 31, 2008
  Ice climbing? In California? In March?
Believe it! Mission Cliff's own staff member Jacob Harrington was able to squeeze in one last trip this ice season at Tahoe's Cold Steam Canyon. This backcountry ice climbing destination is known for its steep sustained ice flows and long approach. Because the climbing is so far back in the mountains it's often easier to spend two days and camp, rather that try to get in and out in one day. "I love being able to combine snowshoeing, winter camping and ice climbing all in one trip" says Jacob. These 100'+ ice flows are unique because they face due north and rarely ever get sun, so they tend to last late in to the season. Unfortunately, because the weather has been warming up lately, it's doubtful that these formations will survive the next couple weeks.

Oh well... there's always next year!

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Friday, March 28, 2008
  Yoga Comes to Oakland
No, this isn't an April Fools joke, GWPC really IS starting yoga classes in April. With brand new hardwood flooring, high ceilings and full length windows, the Power Company's yoga studio is the perfect place to unwind. Sarah Jaeger Nidy, currently teaching Saturday mornings at Berkeley Ironworks, will be leading students in the lunch hour, noon to 1PM, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. There will also be classes offered on Mondays and Wednesdays at 6PM, the instructor is to be determined. We hope to see all of you folks who have been clamoring for yoga at the gym this month! As is true at all Touchstone gyms, yoga is FREE to members and $10/class for non-members.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008
  Chalk is a Beautiful Thing
In a gym, chalk is a beautiful thing. So live it up – instead of using one of those little fingertip-dipping sport chalk bags, go for a big-mouthed bouldering chalk bag tied to your waist. That way your bag can hold a full pound of chalk and you’ll have a bag that lets you sink your arm in up to the elbow.

Obscure chalk factoids:
- Marble and limestone are both forms of calcium carbonate.
- Calcium permanganate is a kind of rocket fuel.
- Many people eat chalk as a diet supplement; but if you eat too much of it and you’ll get gas (does it poof a white cloud?)

When American climbers first started using chalk decades ago, old-school traditionalists thought they were cheating. Lots of heated arguments broke out about the ethics of chalked vs. no-chalked ascents. They were also justifiably worried about the impact of using chalk on cliffs where it forms big ugly white marks. On steep walls outside that are protected from rain and run-off, years worth of chalk builds up until it actually makes climbing harder—you have to search for the hold under the dusty mounds.

The Access Fund
and lots of concerned local climber groups all over the country have staged cliff clean up days where they scrubbed the chalk stains down and picked up garbage. Consider donating some time or money to their efforts, or at least be judicious with your use of the stuff in areas where it’s not readily going away on its own.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008
  Bogus Hollywood Climbing
There are a bunch of movies that climbers need to see for a good laugh.

Clint Eastwood’s Eiger Sanction has some pretty entertaining climbing with some excellent 70s clothes. In one sequence, when he’s climbing in the desert, Eastwood is leading in one scene, then miraculously in the next scene on the same climb he’s on a top rope! Who’s above him is anyone’s guess. Then – poof - in another cut there seems to be no rope at all – he’s soloing.

Star Trek geeks will recall Captain Kirk soloing El Capitan in The Final Frontier. When Kirk falls, Spock catches him with a pair of jet boots. (Hey! Where are my jetboots!?!?)

And the ultimate bit of movie climbing is in Sylvester Stallone’s Cliff Hanger. Bogus climbing highlights include a bolt gun that fires bolts with hangers into the rock instantly. (Hey! Where’s my boltgun!?!?)

Stallone solos almost everything in the movie, even when he’s allegedly going on an official search and rescue mission. How will he get anyone down if he’s soloing with no gear?
Stallone also makes a great show of dynoing with a great heave and a loud grunt for every single move on the routes, even when the terrain is vertical and he’s making short moves from jug to jug. This macho melodrama is a must see.

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Monday, March 24, 2008
  Touchstone Staff Runs Fast

On an extremely rainy and windy Sunday recently, staff members from Touchstone gyms in Berkeley, Sacramento, Oakland and Concord, teamed up to race each other around Oakland’s Lake Merritt. Hosted by Lake Merritt Joggers and Striders (LMJS), the Couples Relay event featured a two-person relay, with each runner given a 5K leg around the lake. At 30 years old, this unique competition is LMJS's oldest foot race. Having already run this race several times in the past, Great Western Power Company staff member Skimra Rodriguez thought it would be fun to challenge her colleagues at Touchstone to team up with a staff member from another gym. Thanks entirely to her stellar performance, Skimra along with Pipework’s Vaughn Medford won bragging rights as the fastest pair, but not without good-natured promises of revenge next year from the other teams.

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Friday, March 21, 2008
  Morning Yoga at Mission Cliffs

Enjoy an early morning yoga class at Mission Cliffs on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:30am.
Start your week right with an Intermediate level Vinyasa class with Kate on Tuesdays, or join our Beginner Vinyasa class with Eleni on Thursdays.
As always, these program classes are FREE for members and only $15 for drop-ins.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008
  Rim in Action

The Berkeley Ironwork basketball rim has been repaired and is ready to go for the summer season. Unfortunately, the towel guy ran into our old rim with his big truck a few weeks ago bending the rim into an ugly mess.

Now that spring has sprung and it's staying light later, pick-up basketball will be getting back into full swing. Typically, Wednesday between 6-7pm is a good time to stop by and play some hoops. Once everyone has shaken off the rust, we will be having a 3 on 3 tournament later in the summer - so start practicing you moves now!

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Monday, March 17, 2008
  Cat in the Hat
Fashion is always changing, but the one thing that never goes out of style is representing your local climbing gym. There is a whole bunch of new Touchstone gear including Diablo Rock Gym's new logo t-shirts and a very "cool" fast wicking synthetic mountain hard wear running top. If your a cyclist we even have a full jersey and bib shorts. To top it all off all of our clothing is 100% pet friendly. Check out the new Touchstone threads at your local gym.

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Friday, March 14, 2008
  GWPC: Cylinder Gets a Facelift

All new routes grace the walls of Great Western's lead cylinder. After waiting since opening for a holds order to be delivered, the course setters stormed Oakland and put up 13 new routes. Here's a shot of the setters in action!

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008
  New Chill Out Lounge at GWPC

As if the Great Western Power Company needed yet another cool feature to make it the hippest climbing hangout in Oakland, we've just unveiled a new chill out lounge for climbers' relaxing pleasure. Take a break from climbing and sink into the comfort of the leather couches. It's a great spot for people watching, catching up on past issues of Climbing Magazine, or working on your laptop.

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Friday, March 7, 2008
  Hip Holds Are Finger Friendly

The very first climbing holds were rocks glued to cement walls using auto body resin. Training on the holds was tough, the chunks of rock tend to be clunky and sharp, and the glue holding the rocks blew at about every third use of the hold.

The first commercial walls were built in France in the 1970s and gradually climbers gravitated toward making cast holds out of ceramic and fired clay. Early on though, the hip thing was to make either single-digit pockets or ridges the diameter of a bread knife.

Completing a route made up of these early holds could be pretty miserable.

In the 1980s, the climbing hold company Entreprise starting marketing prefabricated panels that could be fit together to create walls. Huge outdoor Entreprise walls, with their natural-looking features and cool insets, have played host to international climbing comps for three decades. But their walls limit options for adding holds, and climbers favored walls allowing for complete route changes using a growing variety of cast holds.

On home walls, climbers extended training sessions by creating smooth, tendon-friendly wooden insets using jig saws, routers, and sand paper.

Today, companies like Voodoo, Climb It, Stone Age, and Nicros offer holds of all sizes shapes and colors, with perfect texture for maximum grip and minimum skin damage. For examples check out


Thursday, March 6, 2008
  Touchstone Represented At LA Marathon

Despite a field of nearly 50 hand cycles and push-rim wheelchairs, Sacramento Pipeworks member Kent Gillis recently took an impressive 11th place finish in the hand bike division of the prestigious Los Angeles Marathon. The rewards, as well as the challenges, were many: because the field was especially large it made for a lot of flying elbows at the start, not to mention that the first mile-and-a-half were uphill, and he lost his only water bottle around mile 5. Despite the swerve and wobble it caused, one reward was a top speed personal record of 32mph on a two mile downhill stretch. Another reward were the many L.A. highlights that the course hit; Hollywood Blvd, swankalicious residential neighborhoods, Koreatown, the Coliseum and Staples Center among others. The audience was fantastic as well, with over a million spectators present.

Kent was surprised that “Even in some run-down areas, they were out and cheering for every competitor”. Finishing downtown among the sky-scrapers was “kinda cool” Kent said, with spectators on both sides creating a tunnel of noise. “Unfortunately I wasn't in any condition to appreciate it. I barely remember crossing the finish line”. Kent completed the grueling 26.2 miles in a blazing 2:01:18. Congratulations to this fierce competitor!

Click here to view a story and interview with Kent that recently aired on Good Day Sacramento:

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Tuesday, March 4, 2008
  GWPC Opens Earlier
Starting March 1, GWPC will open a full two hours earlier, at 8AM, on weekdays.

New hours are:
M-F 8AM to 10PM
Sat/Sun 10AM to 6PM

That gives you a couple extra hours to climb or work out and take a quick shower before hitting the daily grind!

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