Touchstone Blog Archive
Friday, January 29, 2010
  Yosemite Restrictions- Climbing Access and Hiking Permits
The Access Fund, an organization that helps to protect crag and climbing area access, released a statement regarding the future Merced River Plan, which will affect significant amounts of climbing in Yosemite National Park.

"We need your help to influence the latest Merced River Plan, which could restrict climbing access and camping in Yosemite Valley, depending on how the Park prepares its new revised user capacity program. At issue is access to iconic climbs including those found on The Rostrum, Cookie Cliff, and Middle Cathedral Rock (everything ΒΌ mile on either side of the river). This plan will also affect all travel through the management area to locations just outside the river corridor, which brings into play all climbing in Yosemite Valley including El Capitan and even Half Dome. Another consequence of this litigation is the increased likelihood that camping will become even more scarce while the number of lodging units remains largely unchanged.

Please write Yosemite National Park by February 4 and support the preservation of climbing access in the Valley! With our easy-to-use letter writing tool, it only takes two minutes to make your voice heard.

Thanks for your support

Your Friends at the Access Fund"

The Merced River and Liberty Bell

Also, the National Park Service has issued a notice requiring permits for weekend Half Dome hikers. This permit system affects hikers mostly as NPS stated, "Rock climbers who reach the top of Half Dome without entering the subdome area can descend on the Half Dome Trail without a permit." Those who top out Snake Dike or the Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome will not require a permit.

Read the comments Jesse McGahey, The Yosemite Climbing Ranger and Liason, made regarding the permit system on

Half Dome Hiking Permits

Permits to hike to the top of Half Dome are now required on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and federal holidays when the cables are up. This is an interim measure to increase safety along the cables while the park develops a long-term plan to manage use on the Half Dome Trail.

Beginning in 2010, all people using the Half Dome Trail above the subdome must have a permit in possession on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and federal holidays when the cables are up. A maximum of 400 permits will be issued each of these days. (Before the permit system, fewer than 400 people used this trail on weekdays, while about 800 people used this trail on weekends and holidays, on average.)

In 2010, permits are available up to about four months in advance to one week in advance only through the National Recreation Reservation Service. Permits are not available in the park or on a first-come, first-served basis. Demand for permits will be very high; availability may last only a matter of minutes on the first day permits become available.

Note: Backpackers with an appropriate wilderness permit can receive a Half Dome permit when they pick up their wilderness permit with no additional reservation required. Rock climbers who reach the top of Half Dome without entering the subdome area can descend on the Half Dome Trail without a permit.

The Half Dome Cables are usually in place and available for use the third Friday in May, conditions permitting. The last day to use them usually is Columbus Day Monday. We can not guarantee the cables will be available on any given date. If you choose to get a permit for dates in May or October, there is an increased chance the cables will not be in place.

If you are unable to hike Half Dome for any reason (including weather, cables not available, illness, etc.) on the day you have a permit, we will not be able to provide a permit for a different date.

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  Climbing Photography
Capturing the moment of climbing, the second where the subject is just right, the lighting is perfect, and the scenery amazes, isn't easy. More likely are the instances like this photo- where some dude in a Hawaiian Shirt poses on a problem that he can't do.

A photographer with work in climbing magazines like Rock & Ice, Alpinist, and Climbing , John Vallejo has had his share of good and bad photos.

Recently, John took pictures of the Touchstone Rope Comp at Great Western Power Company in Oakland. He employed a few different lenses, a remote flash, and an artistic eye to capture some rad photos.

Employing some flash photography, John shoot Touchstone route setter, Brian Hedrick on a 5.12 route.

John took this picture of Hans Florine in an excellent move.

Here John did a good job of capturing not only Andy Liu climbing but the logo and Al Liu watching.

Maria Schriver emerging from the overhang and the shadow.

Checking out climbing blogs and photography sites is a learn a little bit more about how to take that perfect climbing photo. For some other great climbing images and a little background on some professional photographers check out Max Hasson, Ben Ditto, Mikey Schaefer, and Jim Thornburg.

The Digital Photography School recently interviewed climbing photographer Kamil Bialous, who explains some of the challenges of taking pictures of climbing. This is another great reference.

Good luck capturing the image. Get out there and practice!

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010
  108 Sun Salutations
Saturday, January 30 from 10:30 to 12:30 at Diablo Rock Gym, Sarah Pascual will be leading a Yoga clinic with a focus on Sun Saluations.

Surya Namaskar:
The Sun is the illuminator of the world and the giver of life. With 108 Sun Salutations, a complete Mala, we will honor the sun and the spring season it signifies. It is said that the classical salutation to he sun, or surya namaskar, contains the whole practice within it. Sun salutations develop strength and endurance, and can be a powerful tool for meditation and self transformation. Come cultivate positive energy to bring in a new season.

Sign up in person or on the phone
$10 for members
$34 for non-members

The Salute to the Sun:

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  GWPC Rope Series Comp
The crowd chanted. Phil Heron shot for the hold on the sustained climb His body started to fall from the wall. Screams of "Fight!" and "You can do it!" echoed through the lead area at Great Western Power Company on Friday, January 26. Phil pulled his body back tight to the wall, and headed to the anchors, making an impressive first try redpoint of the 5.13 route. The excitement of the crowd, and their positive energy was palpable as regular Touchstone members and visitors stepped up to do some of their hardest climbing ever.

At the entrance Andrew Descalo, the manager of Diablo Rock Gym, registered and handed out scorecards to the 220 climbers who competed. The turnout was the largest for an adult roped climb comp at any of the Touchstone gyms.

Scores were based on how well the climber did on each route. Three boxes were on each route- one mid way, one two thirds, and one at the top. Climbers scored points based on how high they reached, and whether it was their first, second, or third try on the route. Every route was climbed at the comp, and at the upcoming comps, the setters will be adding additional routes to help disperse the crowds and to allow for a greater variety.

Paul Legan dropped his knee hard on the wall and surfed out left. He climbed solidly through the climbing. Kyle, one of the Touchstone route setters, had set a difficult and highly technical climb through a long sweep in the lead cave. It must have been the chanting of the crowd that invigorated Paul, because he flashed the route, making one of his most impressive sends to date.

Paul Legan flashing the hardest route at the comp

Phil Heron stepped up to the 5.13b/c route, and fought his way up it. Tired from flashing the previous route, he was unable to clip the second to last draw. Unsatisfied with his ascent, he attempted the route a second time, making the difficult clip but falling shortly after. Some impressive climbing to say the least.

Phil on his second try, this time doing the drop knee maneuever and making the difficult clip.

After the comp started winding down, the pizza showed up and so did the beer. Lyn Verinsky, the manager at GWPC, and Patti Phillips, the Touchstone retail guru, served up slices and poured beer to the long line of hungry and thirsty climbers. After the huge stack of pizzas were devoured and the beer was drank, the competitors all got t-shirts.

The next of the Touchstone Rope series comps will be at Diablo Rock Gym on February 19.

For a list of results check out the comp page.

Ellis, one of the front desk staff at Berkeley Ironworks, took all the photos for this blog.
Check out more of Ellis's comp photos and images at his blog site- the SignalElement

Check out the rest of the photos from the comp at the Touchstone Gallery

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Monday, January 25, 2010
  Tights Tuesday At Ironworks
Every sport has major fashion trends. Bjorn Borg popularized the shaggy hair and headband phenomenon for tennis. Dennis Rodman made tattoos, piercings, and eccentric outfits acceptable in basketball. For climbing, one major trend has been with the sport since its introduction in the late 80s- tights. Spandex, lycra, long underwear, and incredibly tight hipster jeans have become a staple of climbing fashion. In honor of tights, Todd "The Bod" Bartlow and other members of Berkeley Ironworks will be rocking their best tights on Tuesday night from 6pm til close.

A big thanks to Sebastien as well as Vitaly for their great idea of promoting high fashion in the gym!

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Sunday, January 24, 2010
  Winter Training
The short days and long nights of winter have made training the best option to prepare for climbing outside this spring. Well some climbers are busy working the system board at Great Western Power Company, campusing at Ironworks, or doing hard leads in Mission Cliffs, others are finding easier ways to get through the winter. Check out this climber, who figured out an inventive way to climb through the winter season and get off the couch- or on it too.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010
  Skimble at the TRS 4 GWPC Comp
Three years ago, Maria Ly began climbing at Mission Cliffs. Since she first started wrestling with the plastic holds, Maria has been an active member of the Touchstone community, competing in many of the comps, and recently ranking second in Advanced Women's at the TBS 5.

Feb 8 2008- Maria's First TBS(3) competition where she bouldered a chair and won a chalk bag!

Maria works with a partner on a two person start-up company in San Francisco. Skimble focuses on socially tracking rock climbing, yoga, and gym fitness. The company has launched a website, a blog, and an iPhone application.

Describing Skimble Maria said, "Skimble helps you track your active life! I began creating the tool with my boyfriend Gabriel Vanrenen as we wanted to track all of our rock climbs and trips. Not only that, we're really active and enjoy hiking, yoga, gym fitness, and skiing. With the mission to inspire active lifestyles, Skimble positions itself at the intersection of active sports and travel. Current fitness sites focus on weight loss whereas Skimble offers social activity tracking, comparisons and a leaderboard to motivate people to be active and have fun!

Last summer, we participated in the Founder Institute while running a private alpha among our rock climbing friends. Not long after, we released Skimble's beta website in the fall and Skimble iPhone app ( on New Years helping you track over 15 sports activities, with GPS-enabled tracking and geo-tagged 'action shots'. Will have another version supporting over 30 activities in Feb."

Maria will be at the upcoming Touchstone Rope Series 4 competition at Great Western Power Company Friday night, January 22nd. She will be tossing out free Skimble t-shirts.

Maria Ly sends French Press, V6 at the Sads in Bishop, CA from Maria Ly on Vimeo.

Come check out the Comp. There will be free pizza from Lanesplitter's, free beer, a great community of climbers, and a lot of fun at the first of the Touchstone Rope series comps.

Check out the skimble blog, which includes updates from the ongoing Outdoor Retailer Show.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010
  Michele Goodhew on The Lost Keys Traverse
Michele Lombardo Goodhew balances a full life between her young son Lander and her equally active husband Donn. When she's not busy keeping the men in check, she manages to crush in the gym and outside. A frequent member of the Berkeley Ironworks crew, she boulders and sport climbs. Here's some footage of her sending the long traverse at Castle Rock State Park- The Lost Keys Traverse(V6).

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Monday, January 18, 2010
  Climbing Like Dancing
The entire coast of California is wet and looks like it will stay that way for a few days. Even the desert of Bishop is getting soaked right now. Unfortunately, there's not much outdoor climbing on Martin Luther King Day. What better way to suffer through the bad weather than watching funny videos of European climbers doing crazy gymnastics? Check out this old school video of Patrick Berhault doing all kinds of moves.

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Friday, January 15, 2010
  Ironworks Staff Members' Indonesian Adventure
Recently, front desk staff members Jeff and Michele headed out on a three month tour of Indonesia. Here's Jeff's take on their adventure:

We went to Indonesia to dive, the richest coral reef diving in the world is found in the archipelago. The creatures and terrain are hugely varied. shallow coral gardens packed with color, massive open water walls and pinnacles blasted by nutrient rich currents and some of the finest black sand muck diving around.

Coral Garden Larry's yellow Wall of Texas, Nusa Code, South Rinca

Ornate ghost pipefish, BBC Rocks, Rinca

Travel in Indonesia is rough and sometimes frustrating. The roads are hazardous and the infrastructure is poor. Everyone who travels Indonesia has a story regarding transport, planes are poorly maintained often leaving late or not at all and sometimes leave early! Traffic can be horrendous and emissions are not controlled. Ferries are overcrowded and sometimes sink. My favorite transport story begins with a typical extended delay. A Pelni Ferry departing from Labuanbajo (LBJ) finally underway, abruptly turns back to port an hour into the journey, the captain is dead.

Northern Stargazer, Lembeh. North Sulawesi

When asked about the trip Michelle has variously responded with cryptic one word answers such as "informative", "interesting" and "fascinating".

Michelle and Mt. Bromo, sunrise, Java

The reality is a mixture of pleasure and mild suffering, feast or famine. Our trip was punctuated with three key dive excursions. Two liveaboard dive trips to Komodo National Park, Flores and an extended stay at Lembeh Straight, North Sulawesi.

Dragon house, Komodo National Park, Rinca

If you have any questions about travel or diving in Indonesia, feel free to ask either Jeffrey or Michelle at the front desk!

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010
  Inspirational Ironworks Members
Carly Mihalakis and Robin Melvin are regular members at the spin classes at Ironworks. They have participated in organized rides through the Bay Area Recreation Program (BARP),the Revolution fund raising ride, as well as the Cycle for Sight, a fund raiser for soldiers recently blinded in the wars in Iraq and 'Afghanistan.

A student at Vista College, Carly needs to begin her day with a spin class- "if I am expected to function in any meaningful capacity during the day," she says.

The amazing thing about Carly and Robin are that they are both blind. At 18 months, Carly had her eyes removed due to a rare ocular cancer. Now, at age 26, she is completely blind and has prosthetic eyes. Robin lost his eyesight as an adult when both his corneas burst due to undiagnosed glaucoma.

Robin tore through 4 Nordic tracks at home, using the exercise as a distraction when his glaucoma headaches were at their worst. Now, Robin attacks the elliptical machines, and other cardio machines at Ironworks. Both he and Carly, take full advantage of the abs classes at the gym.

Carly notes, "I am convinced that a success in the spin class is, at least partly due to varying shades of enthusiasm of the instructors being open minded and accommodating to this admittedly off beat set of circumstances."

Thanks to Carly and Robin for inspiring the other members of the gym with their perseverance through physical difficulties.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010
  How Ropes Are Made
Cedar Wright, a Boulder based rock climber, recently made this informative video for BlueWater climbing ropes, showing how ropes are made. In lead climbing a dynamic rope is used, a woven piece of thread that has bungee like qualities, which are used to soften a climber's fall.

Check out how they weave and make ropes:

BLUEWATER ROPES HQ "How Ropes Are Made" from Cedar Wright on Vimeo.

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Sunday, January 10, 2010
  Team Mt. Lagmore Storms Bishop
Over the holiday week, Team Mt. Lagmore, a crew of Ironworks/Bay Area climbers, headed out to Bishop on the east side of the Sierras. They had an awesome time on the volcanic tuff boulders of the Happy's, and Sads. And they tested their technique on the technical granite of the Buttermilks. Kim Groebner, the coach of the teen team at Ironworks and a graphic designer in Berkeley, described the trip saying, "It was my best climbing trip ever and all six of us on the trip unanimously agreed about that. Good weather, good projects, some sending, lots of awesome friends and a blue moon."

Team Pyramid!

Jeremy Ho, a member of the front desk staff at Ironworks, had a banner trip, sending a number of his projects, including Soul Slinger (V9), Pow Pow (V8) and the Rave (V7). Check out this video of him crushing Soul Slinger.

Santaigo Portilla busting the moves across the Ironman Traverse (V4) Santiago managed the heel and toe hooks of the Hulk v6 at the Happies. He flashed the difficult Solarium (V3) and walked his way up Robinson's Rubber Tester (V0).

Kim crushed a number of problems at the Volcanic tablelands. Here she's getting pysched to try Strength in Numbers (V6). Like just about every climbing trip to Bishop, someone got sick from food poisoning. Unfortunately it was Kim and she was unable to send her last two days. Still she was "sick strong!" Kim fired through the crimpy match on Serengeti (V5), escaped the ice caves on the Mothership Connection (V4) and did the Happy's Monkey Hang (V3).

The price of bouldering- a bit of a flapper.

Caydie McCumber on Solarium at the Happy Boulders. Caydie McCumber stemmed through the difficulties on the Buttermilk Stem- a classic v2/7c+ at the Buttermilks.

Though the crew got mostly sunshine, it did get a little cold. Caydie's bundled up.

The majority of the pictures were taken by Alex Witte, the top member of the team pyramid, and an active Ironworks climber.

Nights hanging at the hot tubs in Bishop, happy hour at Whiskey Creek, an awesome New Year's and tons of fun. Good job to all the members of Mt. Lagmore for their awesome sends, and great time in Bishop.

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  Andy's Beta
Andy Liu, a staff member at Berkeley Iron, has put together an impressive tick list of climbs from Yosemite to Bishop to the local Mortar Rock climbs. The best part is that he's recorded the videos making them an excellent source for beta.

"I started recording and documenting my notable ascents about a year ago when I started to climb more outside. I was mostly a gym climber before that." -Andy

See more of Andy's videos on his Youtube site. Just be careful watching him- he's strong and makes stuff look easier than it is!

Andy on his recent trip to Joshua Tree where he climbed the classic John Bachar Memorial Face Problem

Andy on The Hulk at Bishop's Happy Boulders

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Friday, January 8, 2010
  Teenage Mutant Ninja Gerbils
The ever diligent Betabase crew- a group of Bay area climbers, established another rad new boulder problem out int Yosemite's Woodyard. Located uyp the hill from the Woodyard Arete and Dogwood, is a rad boulder with a few warm-up problems. In addition to Chicken Nugget, there is another new problem- Teenage Mutant Ninja Gerbils (v8). This video of Berkeley Ironworks manager Paul Barraza making the first ascent shows a little of the beta. The first move starts off a crossed left hand on a good edge and a right hand on a small triangular edge.

The Beta Base crew has been the driving force behind new development in Yosemite, spawning hundreds of new classic problems. A number of them, Paul Barraza, Tim Medina, Scott Chandler, and Patti Phillips climb at Ironworks. Others, like Lyn Verinsky, Randy Puro, Becky Trefacany, and Justin Alacron climb at Great Western Power Company. They all meet Saturday mornings in the Yosemite Cafeteria to crush.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Gerbils >

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010
  Lead Climbing Clinic
Sunday, January 10th from 6-8 pm, long time Ironworks staff member and climber, Jeffery will be giving a lead climbing clinic. Learn the nuances of lead belaying, rope management, and proper clipping technique from an excellent climber.

Jeffrey's class costs $40. Sign up at the front desk of Ironworks. Space is Limited so register soon.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010
  Spinner Blast Video
The Berkeley Ironworks SpinnerBlast Crew recently made a video capping all the cool events of the season.

2009, The year that was... from SpinnerBlast on Vimeo.

For more information about SpinnerBlast check out their blog site

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Monday, January 4, 2010
  Touchstone Rope Series Dates
The winter comp season means the start of the rope climbing series. For those that want to get a little ahead of the game, below are the dates and locations of the comps.

Check out the comp page as well.

January 22nd, 2010

February 19th, 2010

March 19th, 2010

April 9th, 2010

Mission Cliffs
May 14th, 2010

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Saturday, January 2, 2010
  Offwidth Climbing
The holiday hams, turkeys, pies, and cheer have all settled in by now. The holiday training weight probably has too. For those who think that the extra weight is a problem- there's another option- Offwidth climbing. The art of climbing wide cracks isn't an easy one to figure out but a lot has been written on the subject.

The Monster Offwidth web page has an excellent list of classic routes for the aspiring offwidth aficionado. List of Yosemite Classic Wide Business

Jay Anderson, a master in the art of width weasling, wrote an excellent instructional piece about how to climb offwidts using arm bars, and hand stacks. Jaybro's How To Offwidth

Good weather in the Valley means that many of the wide cracks in Yosemite are dry. Take the holiday training weight and squeeze it into Generator Crack!

James Lucas onsighting Generator Crack on the lead

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