Touchstone Blog Archive
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
  Moe's Valley: Becky Trafecanty Videos
Great Western Power Company climber and Oakland resident, Becky Trafecanty just returned from an extended spring break. She hit up Moe's Valley with Justin Alacron, and others. She made an awesome video of the climbers cranking on the Utah sandstone.

Check out her blog where she has the awesome climbing video of her climbing in Utah as well as some stuff from Red Rocks and beyond.

Here's a video that Becky made of Justin Alacron cranking out some Utah classics.

Moe's Valley 2010 from Becky Trafecanty on Vimeo.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010
  Pumping Cracks- With Dale Bard
The sumnmer climbing season is rapidly approaching. The weather in Yosemite is getting good, soon Lover's Leap, Tuoulumne, Calavaras Dome, and other California destination traditional crags will be in awesome condition. One of the best ways to start getting ready for the long tradical climbs, is to brush up on your crack climbing skills. Numerous articles have been written on the subject- one of the best is Pumping Cracks, an article written by Stonemaster and old school Yosemite rock legend Dale Bard.

For those looking for more information on trad climbing- check out some of the lead clinics with Todd Bartlow, a solid trad climber at Berkeley Ironworks. Also stayed tuned for crack climbing clinics with Yosemite master Hans Florine.

For the rest of the article check out Supertopo.

Here's a neat instructional video on hand jamming.

Hand Jamming for Strong Rock Climbing Hand Holds - Courtesy of

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Monday, March 29, 2010
  Sacramento Pipeworks Comp
On March 19, 2010, over a hundred and fifty people showed up for the latest Touchstone Rope Series comp. Noted Yosemite Speedster, Hans Florine stopped by to compete as did Touchstone's own, Mark Melvin.

Berkeley Staff member Ellis Au snapped photos of the comp and did a little write up of his experience photographing the comp. Check out his blog, and his photo gallery of the event.

Get ready for the next of the Touchstone Rope Series coming to Berkeley Ironworks!

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Thursday, March 25, 2010
  Royal Robbins: To Be Brave
Legendary Yosemite climbing pioneer, Royal Robbins will be coming to the Bay area March 29 and April 27. Robbins will be discussing the first in his autobiographical series: To Be Brave.

Below is a description of the event, which will be an exciting opportunity to hear one of the world's greatest climbers to speak:


At 75, Robbins Recounts His Life of Daring Adventure

San Francisco, CA – February 19, 2010 – At age 75, Royal Robbins, one of America’s most leading climbing figures of the Golden Age of Yosemite Climbing, still inspires with his bold vision of what makes for truly great climbing. On March 3, 4, 29 and April 27, Robbins will regale outdoor enthusiasts with tales from his adventurous life during “An Evening With Climbing Legend Royal Robbins” at four REI stores in the Bay Area.

Robbins will share stories and images from his many daring exploits including the world’s first ascent of Yosemite’s famous Half Dome Face in 1957, and his historic climbs on El Capitan and the Leaning Tower. It was on these magnificent granite towers that Robbins invented his own form of rock climbing. His technique was environmentally friendly, personally challenging and today would be described as an ‘extreme sport’. The rock faces he climbed were preserved and not scarred by pitons and bolts that were typically used by climbers. Robbins forever changed the ethic of climbing worldwide.

Less known but equally remarkable, Robbins transferred his skills from climber to adventure kayaker, making first descents of the headwaters of major California rivers, such as the San Joaquin, the Kern, and the Kings. Following the program, Royal will sign copies of his new autobiography, To Be Brave, My Life: Volume One, published by Pink Moment Press, September 2009. This is a rare chance to meet and be inspired by one of America’s most extraordinary adventurers.

Dates and venues:
7 pm–8:30 pm, Wednesday, March 3 at REI San Carlos
7 pm–8:30 pm, Thursday, March 4 at REI Brentwood
7 pm–8:30 pm, Monday, March 29 at REI Saratoga
7 pm–8:30 pm, Tuesday, April 27 at REI Berkeley
REI Berkeley: 1338 San Pablo Avenue 94702; (510) 527-4140

REI Brentwood: The Streets of Brentwood Shopping Center, 2475 Sand Creek Road,
Suite 100, 94513; (925) 516-3540

REI San Carlos: 1119 Industrial Road, Suite A, 94070; (650) 508-2330

REI Saratoga: 400 El Paseo de Saratoga, San Jose 95130; (408) 871-8765

Please note: Registration is optional for REI’s free in-store presentations. If you register, you will receive an email reminder and any program updates. Seating is limited and is first-come, first-served.


If you would like more information, or to schedule an interview with Royal Robbins, call

Susie Bennitt at 626-226-6392 or email Susie at

"Royal Robbins writes with the same unflinching courage that made him a climbing legend." - Malcolm Maroglin Founder and Publisher of HeyDey Books

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010
  Natasha Barnes: Vegan Athlete
Natasha Barnes, a Mission Cliffs climber, and bona fide rock crusher has been climbing for the past 11 years. In between sending 5.13d sport routes, bouldering problems like Thriller and Midnight Lightning in Yosemite,and going full tilt on the Yosemite offwidth circuit, Natasha attends Palmer West Chiropractic, where she is obtaining a doctorate in Chiropractics and Physiotherapy.

For the past five years, Natasha has followed a strict vegan diet. "I only eat Vegans," she jokes. Natasha abstains from animal products, processed food, and operates her body on nutrient dense food. She took a moment to talk about her diet as an athlete and how being vegan helps her send.

what are the advantages of being an athlete on a vegan diet?
Being healthy, feeling healthy and recovering faster. Nutritional stress (stress to the body created by food that has unhealthy properties) is a major source of stress on our bodies as climbers. We put our bodies through the ringer all the time and if we are not eating the right foods (unprocessed foods rich in vitamins, minerals, enzymes, high-quality protein, fiber, essential fatty acids, antioxidants, and good bacteria aka probiotics) than our bodies lack the components they need to to regenerate completely and effectively. Regular consumption of nutrient dense whole foods supports cellular regeneration which rebuilds muscle and other body tissue and is essential for recovery. Faster recovery = climb/train more often and harder = climb better.

VEGAN PIZZA. Spelt crust, ricotta, Sundried tomato pesto, basil, spinach, mushrooms, artichoke hearts and sundried tomato topping with a Malbec.

What do you eat to perform your best?

My best performance foods are whole veggies and fruits. The most nutrient dense and hydrating food. Bananas, oranges, apples, bell peppers, dates, grapes, leafy greens, nuts and seeds etc. I like to eat a big salad with lots of different veggies incorporated if I can. My favorite is one I call Guacamole salad. Mixed greens, cilantro (lots of it), garlic, tomato, avocado (2-3), agave nectar and salt and pepper to taste. It's only a few ingredients but its a winner.

Do you have any difficulties cooking on climbing trips?
No. I usually do burritos or veggie stir-fry because its pretty easy to put together no matter where you are. Plus I love black beans, avocado, tomato and cilantro...AND hot sauce!!

Sprouted corn tortilla, lime crema, shredded cabbage and carrot slaw, chile-beer marinated tempeh, cilatro, tomato, avocado.

How do you eat when you are bouldering? How about when you're sport climbing?
I try to eat pretty light while sport climbing. Bananas and other fruits for quick energy or hummus and veggies for lunch, sometimes I'll just snack on whole grain chips and salsa. I've been trying to remember to drink more water lately. While bouldering all bets are off and its cookies down the hatch. For some reason when I am bouldering I want to snack all day.

How do you add variety to your diet?
I try to experiment a lot and try different foods that I see or read about that I haven't tried before or try different recipes. A lot of the time I end up finding a new food that I totally love and I try and make it more. Its a also good way to make sure I am getting a good rotating variety of vitamins and minerals in my diet.

Will bacon ever grow on trees? How can someone switch their diet?

Haha!! Maybe they can genetically modify some plant to do that but that would be weird. It's easy to switch to a healthier diet. It doesn't have to be a vegan diet. Most of us could benefit even from a small change in diet. It's all about experimenting with new foods and finding what you like. Try to incorporate new veggies and fruits into your diet. You might be surprised. There are a plethora of web resources to help you with the transition to healthier living and recipes for vegetarian food.

These are some.

I also HIGHLY recommend this book by Brendan Brazier Canada's best (vegan) triathlete for athletes more serious about healthy living and eating.

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Monday, March 22, 2010
  Pipeworks Staffer Last Night: Goodbye Winky!
On a recent Monday night, members arriving at Sacramento Pipeworks were greeted by a very unusual sight. Both desk staff, Sean 'Winky' Wilkenfeld and Jason Bove were quite formally attired (at least for the gym) in business suits. Their joking response to queries was 'We just came from court' or 'We're the new owners'. Actually the explanation is a bit more poignant: they had dressed up in honor of nearly 4 years working the Monday shift together; this was to be Seans last day working at Pipeworks. Sean has worked for Touchstone since 2001 when he was hired at Diablo Rock Gym while he was still in high school. In 2005 he chose CSU Sacramento because of their great criminal justice program, and of course at that time he found a home behind the desk at Pipeworks. Sean made himself invaluable as a desk staff, belayer, private instructor, computer guru and handyman. His skills really had no bounds and he will be missed by members and staff alike. Fortunately for him, after years of hard work, and a long waiting period, he has finally been accepted to the academy of the California Highway Patrol.

We will miss you Winky, and wish you nothing but the best!

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  Yosemite Valley Weather
The season for Yosemite is upon us. The boulders are in great condition, almost too warm. The current forecast according to NOAA calls for a week of sun and a high of sixty degree temperatures. For those looking to climb down-canyon, that means t-shirt bliss.

There is still snow on the north facing rocks. The Housekeeping boulders still have some snow. The Sentinel has a large pack of snow at its base but the Ahwahnee boulders, Camp 4, and most importantly El Capitan are all clear. This year has been a relatively wet one and there has been some seepage on routes but things are drying quickly and it looks like the spring in the Valley will be awesome.

For further up to date weather, check out the Yosemite Web Cams- live views of Yosemite National Park.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010
  Diesel Power
Berkeley Ironworks climber Tim Medina has been cranking hard in Yosemite Valley for years, establishing a slew of first ascents. One of his best is Diesel Power, a highball V10 located along the trail west of Camp 4.

Tim stated about the climb, "Randy (Puro) cleaned this amazing line in the Crystals and asked me to help him figure it out. After three days of throwing our selves at the problem I unlocked a sequence and had success."

The temps in Yosemite are perfect right now, and though Diesel Power may be under spring water, at least this video of Tim crushing the problem will get you pysched to go boulder in the Valley.

Diesel Power FA - Full [v10]
Uploaded by tmedina.

For more info about Yosemite bouldering check out the Betabase page

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Thursday, March 18, 2010
  Border Country: Yosemite Climbing on Middle Cathedral
Earlier this year, Berkeley Ironworks climber and Touchstone blogger, James Lucas headed up with Katie Lambert, Luis Rivera, Hayden Kennedy, and a few other Yosemite Valley locals to attempt Border Country- a Grade V 5.12c route on the right side of Middle Cathedral. A story about the Valley scene in the past year and about the route was recently published in Rock & Ice. It's also available online.

Check out Mikey Schaefer's blog for more information about Border Country and about his adventures as a first ascentionist, a professional climbing photographer, and all around hardman.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010
  Touchstone Rope Series Comes to Pipeworks
On March 19, the Touchstone Rope Series will be heading to Sacramento's Pipeworks. This rope series comp will be an awesome opportunity to check out a ton of new routes in the enormous lead cave at Pipeworks, get some free pizza, free beer, and t-shirts from the comp. There will also be a limbo contest!

The last comp at Diablo Rock saw more than 190 score cards turned in, there was an amazing limbo contest at the Concord gym as well, but by far the highlight of the comp was watching hardcore boulderer/mediocre sport climber Brian "Cuz" Hedrick z-clip on one of the lead routes.

Craig McClenahan spoke a little about the setting saying, "We had a 13 man crew and we set 13 routes; we always set from hardest to easiest (5.13b/c - 5.10d), so now we have 9 routes left to set (5.10c - 5.8). There is a set of 5 new jugs and some new crimps and footholds." Craig and the crew will be hard at work establishing rad routes for the comp.

Check out the comp page for information about the results from the past few comps.

For directions see the map page.

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Sunday, March 14, 2010
  Rock Climbing Photography tips from Simon Carter
Simon Carter wrote of World Climbing: Images from the Edge. The book won the Mountain Image award at the Banff Mountian Book Festival. His work has appeared in numerous climbing publications. He was also named by Men's Journal Magazine (USA) as one of the World's Best Adventure Photographers. In a recent digital Photography school blog post,Simon discussed a little bit about how to capture great still shots of climbers. Check out the videos that were made- first of the climbers, then of Simon talking about his work.

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Friday, March 12, 2010
  Ironworks T-Shirt Design Contest
Berkeley Ironworks is searching for a new graphic to put on the back of their t-shirts and hoodies. To add some incentive, Touchstone is offering a free 2 month membership to the artist that submits the best design. So bust out your stencils, sharpen your creative mind, and have your image grace the back of a large series of climbing clothing apparel.

The contest ends on March 15. Please submit all design entires to

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010
  Crossfit Throwdown at GWPC
Beyond climbing, the Touchstone gyms also host a number of different activites. One notable group that uses the facilities are the Crossfitters. Combining Olympic lifting, gymnastics, and intense excercise, Crossfit has amassed a solid following in the Bay area. The different Crossfit groups all join together for an Olympic style competition.

The CrossFit Throwdown on March 6 at GWPC was a rousing success. 44 competitors from all around the Bay Area came to compete with many more spectators attending to cheer on their favorite athletes. The competition involved athletes completing an hour+ of more intense activity than most of us are accustomed to doing in a month.

The CrossFit East Bay site has great pictures of the workout of the day.

Reports of the event were made by a few different parties involved. Crossfit Silicon Valley, Crossfit Oakland, and Diablo Crossfit all posted reports on their websites.

For the event, competitors had to do the following:
Event One:

30 Burpees
30 C2B Pull-Ups
30 Deadlift 275/185
Run 6.2KM
Max Rep Burpees
40 Minute limit

Final Event:
Top 5 Male/Female competitors:

AMRAP in 10 minutes of the complex:

5 Deadlift 135/95
4 Hang Clean 135/95
3 Thruster 135/95
2 Front Squat 135/95
1 Shoulder to Overhead 135/95

Come join the Crossfit crew at your local Touchstone gym and get strong!

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010
  Ironworks Artist of the Month: Sam Miller
The Berkeley Ironworks artist of the month for March is Sam Miller. Check out her piece and a little about her.

Sam Miller has spent her entire life creating art. For the past 15 years, she has been honored by local communities and private institutions for her murals, painting, sculpture, and photography. She has taught thousands of elementary school students how to unleash the artist in themselves while teaching teachers how to make art a powerful tool for change. Sam fervently believes that everything is “artable.” Much to her mother’s chagrin, Sam even turned her car into a mobile canvas.

Currently, she devotes her time working closely with clients who commission personalized wall hangings. Each piece is tailored to the heart and aesthetic of each client. Clients choose from a variety of techniques and media such as realistic portraiture, layered fabric, abstract painting, digital photography, linoleum block printing, etching, embroidery, hand-beading, and/or quilting. Clients also decide their level of involvement in their piece. Some wish to take part in each step of the process; others want to know the broad strokes, and there are those who seek to be surprised at the unveiling of their piece.

It is Sam’s gift to make art which honors what people deeply love; it is her passion to make art that also heals. Each commissioned piece centers around what one loves – family, pets, memories, experiences, nature. This love creates a connection between one’s heart and the art. Simply looking at the wall hanging can open and soften one’s heart. Globally, the connection transmits loving energy that has the power to restore the balance of our planet.

Love lives in our hearts and is the fabric that holds us together. Sam Miller‘s gift is give this love a visual home.

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Sunday, March 7, 2010
  Climbing Photography by Ironworks Climber Austin Holey
Austin Holey, a 20 year old Merritt College in Oakland student and Berkeley native, studies at the landscape horticulture department at Merritt College in Oakland. When he's not busy building vegetable beds, he photographs his friends, other Bay Area climbers in Bishop, Owens River Gorge, and Yosemite. He's been climbing for over two years, mostly bouldering. He has started to take his experience from Ironworks out to Bishop and the routes at Mickey's Beach.

Shooting with a Canon Rebel XTI and a Nikon D 300, Austin has taken a number of great climbing photos. He took a moment to talk about some of his climbing shots.

Scott Cory on the Buttermilker in Bishop

I have always been interested in photos and have always been the one with the camera but have never taken any formal classes. Up until very recently my photos have simply been for pleasure and for cool documentation. After my trip to New Zealand I was given the opportunity to take some really cool pictures of climbers and amazing landscapes which has helped me to begin taking photography a bit more seriously. Right now its looking like something that I will want to continue with a more "professional" attitude and hopefully produce some cool shots.

Matt Johnson on Center Direct

I try to find angles that never really been shot from. With climbing that can be hard but if you find that angle you can make a simple climb look world class.

Cuz flashing Fight Club 5.13b at Owen's River Gorge

Don't be afraid to be the guy who is always taking pictures or to tell people to get out of your shot.

You can check out more of Austin's work at his Flickr site.

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Friday, March 5, 2010
  Trango Cinch Belay Technique
There are numerous belay devices on the market. Grigris, ATCs, the old school Sticht plate and the new school Cinch have all found their way into the Touchstone gym at one point or another. The best way to use the devices sometimes gets muddled through word of mouth and incomplete instruction. Below is a video of the correct way to use a Trango Cinch. Check it out, use the device correctly, and be safe!

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Thursday, March 4, 2010
  Evolve Shoe Demo
Evolve rep and SoCal boulderer, Buck Branson is touring the Bay Area tonight through the 9th of March putting on shoe demos at the Touchstone Climbing Gyms.

From 5-9 Pm at Berkeley Ironworks on March 3, at Mission Cliffs on March 4, and at Pipeworks on the 9th, Buck will be rolling out his baller Sprinter Van and unloading 14 of Evolve's 18 shoes for people to check out. Check out Shoes like the Pontas Lace up. Buck had to get the new van just to fit all the shoes!

Come check out shoes like the Evolve Pontas Laceups:
The Pontas Lace is a sporty outdoor shoe that performs brilliantly at edging. With the added rand rubber around the toe box, it can also be used as a more technical traditional climbing shoe.

"They edge like no other- perfect for Buttermilks bouldering or the techy edges of Yosemite."- Touchstone climber James Lucas

Buck will also have the Defy's, which are available at many of the Touchstone Gyms. These are some of the most comfortable shoes around.

Evolve's best selling men's model just got an upgrade. The Defy VTR appeals to new and advanced climbers alike as a comfortable, great-fitting shoe that performs exceptionally well.

Buck got the new van just to fit all the shoes! Don't miss out on a chance to check out 14 out of 18 of Evolve's full line!

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010
  Crossfit Games at GWPC
The CrossFit Games are the ultimate test of fitness. It's a grueling two-day competition in which the world's fittest athletes compete in a variety of workouts. What are the workouts? Each year they change, and the details of them are not announced until a couple days before the event. This means that all year long, the athletes are training for a competition whose format is almost completely a mystery.

Sat March 6th at 11AM, CrossFit East Bay presents the second throwdown of the season right here at GWPC!

Since their inception in 2007, the games have grown from, basically, a barbeque where a workout broke out to an international competition attracting tens of thousands of competitors all vying for 100 slots (50 women, 50 men) in the games. This year there are sectionals, regionals and, finally, the games. Here in the bay area, the competition season kicked off February 20 with the first "Throwdown" of the year: CrossFit Oakland's crushing time limited run/thruster/burpee combo. The throwdowns are an opportunity for anyone who desires to get a taste of CF competition, and to help prepare the serious athletes for competition.

The first event, at 11 AM sharp, will be a 6.2K run, from the back gate, around Lake Merritt and back to GWPC, immediately followed by as many rounds as possible of of 4 burpees, 3 chest-to-bar kipping pull-ups and 2 275 pound deadlifts (185 pounds for women). There will be a 40 minute time limit (anyone running any slower than a 10 minute pace will DNF), and faster run times will be rewarded with more time to do rounds. A six-minute pace will give the athlete about 15 minutes to do rounds, a seven-minute pace about 11 minutes, etc. Of course faster athletes may have trouble with the heavy deadlifts, but such is CrossFit.

The second event, at 12:40 sharp, will be a contest between the top five male and female finishers for top honors. It will be as many rounds of possible of the complex: carry a loaded barbell (135 pounds for men, 95 pounds for women) 150 feet, and, without putting it down, perform one deadlift, one hang clean, one thruster, one back squat and one shoulder to overhead press, anyway, anyhow. That is one rep, and more than a momentary pause on the ground for the deadlift constitutes a miss. There will be a 15 minute time limit.

Spectators welcome. Scaling will be available for those who wish to try it (you must be able to do at least 3 pull-ups and 2 185 pound deadlifts, or 135 pounds for women).

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010
  Noon Yoga at Mission Cliffs
Join us on Wednesdays at 12 noon for an all levels Vinyasa Flow class with Heather.

Vinyasa Flow yoga is a sequence of asanas (yoga postures) synchronized with breath.
Although Vinyasa Flow is based on the practice of Asthanga yoga, it differs in that there is not a set sequence of poses, rather each class is full of variety and creative transitions.

All levels are welcome! So spend your lunch with us and leave feeling great!

Free member event and $15 drop-in rate.

Heather Stewart came to yoga after a history as a collegiate athlete and feeling burnt out. She is heavily influenced by the Astanga tradition and teaches a challenging but less predictable vinyasa class that strives toward the union of breath and motion, with deep attention to alignment, incorporating both strength and flexibility. With a fascination and passion for human anatomy, Heather is also a licensed Massage Therapist.

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