Touchstone Blog Archive
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
  Vote for Best of the Bay Rock Climbing Gym
There are eleven climbing gyms in the greater Bay area. That's a lot of different locations to choose from. The San Francisco Chronicle and SF Gate are having a contest to decide which climbing spot is the best. Take a moment to vote for one of the great Touchstone locations- Berkeley Ironworks, Mission Cliffs in San Francisco, Great Western Power Company in Oakland, or Diablo Rock Gym in Concord.

Just click the link and add your vote to the tally. Share your voice and help make your favorite Touchstone gym the Best in the Bay.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010
  New Diablo Rock Gym Manager
Diablo Rock Gym in Concord just got a new manager. Marie Garringer, a 36 year veteran of the fitness industry, has been working with Touchstone on their fitness programs. A former personal trainer and Health Club Manager at a Fresno Gym, she has been teaching group excercise classes like indoor group cycling, strength training, interval circuit training, pilates, Zumba, Bosu training, stability ball training and step for the entire 36 years and is currently teaching a cycling class and a Zumba class at Diablo Rock.

She spoke a little about herself,"In my spare time, when I do have spare time, I enjoy being with my family (I have a son who is married and expecting their first baby this summer and another son who will be graduating next month from college). My husband and I have a boat and a fifth wheel and we enjoy taking the boat out to the local lakes or traveling with our fifth wheel and mountain bikes."

She plans to continue her work at Diablo stating, " My ultimate goal is to bring in more fitness members to Diablo Rock, so we have just as many fitness members as climbing members."

In other related news, gym manager Andrew Descalo is leaving Diablo Rock. He's escaping work for a little while to head out to climb and spend more time at the crags. Thank you very much for your hard work and commitment Andrew. You will be missed. We wish you well!

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Sunday, April 25, 2010
  Robert Hallworth Yoga Workshop
Workshop instructor Robert Hallworth is a longtime Pipeworks yoga teacher and student of several meditation masters from Tibetan and Zen Buddhist traditions. He has years of meditation experience in the yogic tradition and will happily reintroduce you to your own capability to take a breather during these hectic times. In this workshop, we will learn what meditation is as well as how to prepare for it according to yogic techniques. Robert will show beginners, in an uncomplicated friendly environment, how to produce results, reducing stress and its effects on the mind and body. You will learn to center yourself in your everyday life no matter what you do.

At Sacramento Pipeworks Saturday May 8th 2-4pm. $25 members, $35 non-members

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010
  Bay Area Women's Climber
Recently, Natasha Barnes started a group on Facebook in an attempt to rally all the Bay Area Women Climbers. Barnes wanted to find more female partners. In the past two decades, the number of female climbing participants has increased exponentially. However, the ratio of male to female climbers still makes climbing a male dominated sport.

Kim Groebner showing the boys how's it done on Serengiti -V5- at Bishop's Happy Boulders

Women climbing with women helps the climbing community immensly. Having more female participants in the sport creates a greater variety in style of climbs and helps the general atmossphere. There are a number of groups out there helping to promote women in climbing. Lizzy Scully, the editor of She Sends Climbing Magazine, works with a number of organizations to promote women climbing. Women is an excellent resource that Scully works with. There's a solid list of climbing literature and organizations for women.

Shannon Moore crushing Panic in Detroit -5.12 b/c trad in awesome metallic spandex

"Is it a coincidence that BA means both BAD ASS and BAY AREA?" Courtney Miyamato, a San Francisco boulderer and crusher commented. Head over to and get together with the Bay Area Women Climbers group. Join the other Bay Area women as they head out to Yosemite, Bishop, and the Tahoe area to crush rocks, have a great time enjoying the outdoors, and enjoy awesome company.

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  Mission High School Climbs at Mission Cliffs
For the third consecutive year, Mission High School visited Mission Cliffs. A diverse group of teenagers put their skills to the challenge, and climbed the difficult routes at San Francisco's Mission Cliffs. Some students set goals of climbing anything at all, while others wanted to climb to the top of the main wall.

Overcoming their fear of heights, the students tied their knots, checked their harnesses, and started pulling down on some plastic. Claudia, a 16 year old Mission High student stated, "I would recommend others to do it because it builds your confidence." With the help of MC member based volunteers and staff, all the students enjoyed themselves and want to come back sometime soon.

The Mission High students had an awesome time and will undoubtedly come back for a fourth year.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010
  Udderly Ridiculous
Recently, things got a little out of hand over at Berkeley Ironworks. Things were moo-ving towards the extreme and desk staff member Jeremy Ho took a full part of the scene. Check out this Udderly Ridiculous video that Diablo Rock Manager, Andrew Descalo made.

Jeremy "Cow-Boy" Ho! from Andrew D on Vimeo.

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Sunday, April 18, 2010
  Touchstone Rope Series 4: Berkeley Comp Video
Justin Alacron, a Bay area boulderer and cinematographer, made an awesome video of the recent Touchstone Rope Series 4 Comp at Berkeley Ironworks. Check out the sweet climbing at the comp, and the well edited film.

TRS 4 Berkeley Ironworks from Princess on Vimeo.

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Friday, April 16, 2010
  Save Red Rocks
The Access Fund recently posted an article on their website about a threat to climber access at Red Rocks, the climbing area outside Las Vegas Nevada.

An upcoming zoning exception could turn the few acres left between the grid of Las Vegas and Red Rocks into a housing development, forever changing the views from your favorite multi-pitch Red Rock climbs. In 2002, the Access Fund helped defeat a proposal to build 8,400 homes—including a school, golf course and businesses—on Blue Diamond Hill across the road from the world class climbing at Red Rocks. Now the notorious Rhodes Development (responsible for the ugly tract homes creeping towards Red Rocks) is close to receiving county approval that could lead to a 1,700-acre McMansion project. This is the kind of housing development eyesore that Blue Diamond residents and Red Rocks visitors have opposed for years.

On April 21, Clark County will vote on an exception to a local ordinance that prevents developments of more than two homes per acre on the land within the Red Rock Overlay District. If this zoning exception is granted, the development on Blue Diamond Hill could go forward, and the few acres left between the grid of Las Vegas and Red Rocks will be filled with million-dollar homes.

Some critics think that this effort to ease zoning restrictions is just a ploy to raise property values and thus enable the Rhodes Development to milk taxpayers for more money if the federal government is forced to buy the property to protect scenic values at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. The Access Fund is working with local Las Vegas climbers and conservation groups to again defeat this proposal. To get more information, contact the Las Vegas Climbers Liaison Council and Save Red Rock Canyon.

Sign the Petition:

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Thursday, April 15, 2010
  Core: Chuck Fryberg's New Climbing Video Premier at GWPC
From climber and filmmaker Chuck Fryberg, comes a new film. On Sunday, May 16th at 6:30PM, Great Western Power Company will premiere the awesome new climbing video-CORE goes to the heart of climbing.

Join an international cast of the sport's most dedicated athletes as they stick it when it matters most. Shot in 35mm Ultra High Definition, get ready to see every detail of some of the nastiest pieces of rock ever climbed.

CORE exposes the contrast in landscape and lifestyle that defines the sport. A close examination of each character offers perspective beyond just their achievements on the stone.

Be there, in the moment, as a 5.14 traditional route gets its first ascent. See the actual first ascent footage from Livin Large, Nalle Hukkataival's monster 8C. See first ascent footage from Fred Nicole's hardest-ever project in Switzerland. These are the moments and the athletes that define our sport, captured in Cinema-quality 4K Ultra High Definition.

Check out the Trailer for Core

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010
  El Capitan Closure: Pregrine Falcon Nesting
After a number of years away from a nesting site on the the Southeast Face of El Capitan, a pair of peregrines have returned to their nest. In an attempt to protect the endangered species, the National Park Service has issued a closure of the area.

The park service stated:
Peregrine falcons are recovering from population decline. Their status is currently being evaluated nationwide as part of a 15 year monitoring program following their delisting in 1999 under the endangered species act. To protect this recovering species, the Superindent of Yosemite National Park is designating peregrine nesting cliffs as areas closed to visitor use including climbing and slack-lining activities until peregrine chicks have fledged and dispersed from those areas in 2010.

Closure includes all routes between and including South Seas/Pacific Ocean Wall,North Amreican Wall, and east to Native Son. Routes 4 pitches or less at the base of the Southeast face of El Capitan will remain open.

Climbing Ranger and liaison, Jesse McGahey discussed the issue on a number of internet forums to address the problems and questions that many climbers may have with the closure. Stating:

After three separate multiple hour peregrine falcon surveys of the eyrie (nest) on the North America Wall NPS wildlife biologist have confirmed active nesting of a peregrine pair. The eyrie is very close to the North America Wall route around the border of Texas and Mexico if the NA was an actual map. To protect the active nest site the NPS has revised the previous “Area Protection –Peregrine Nesting Closure” that I posted here in the beginning of March. The closure is consistent with all of other area closures, and will be actively monitored to insure that successful breeding is still taking place.

The Southeast Face of El Capitan closure will cover all routes between and including “South Seas/Pacific Ocean Wall” East to “Native Son.” The language of the closure may be confusing so I’ll try to clarify. The first four pitches of all routes will be open. For example, you can climb the El Cap tree route even though the wall above is closed.

After three decades of DDT use peregrine falcon population plummeted throughout the world. Thankfully, in 1973 the use of DDT was banned, and in 1973 the peregrine was one of the first species listed as a federal Endangered Species. In Yosemite National Park from 1942 to 1977 no peregrine nesting occurred in Yosemite. The NA Wall eyrie is actually a historic nesting site. In 1978 the first successful nest site recorded after 36 years was confirmed by rock climbers on El Cap!

This is a pretty amazing story, and it is my hope that all of you recognize the significance of the full circle of success that the peregrines have enjoyed in Yosemite. Through the climbing community's respect for this incredible bird we have helped the peregrine falcon soar again as it continues to recover from the brink of extinction.

I'll follow up this post with a scan of the official closure. I expect some grumbling, and I will be active on this forum as well as others to try to answer questions and concerns.

Thank You in advance for your understanding and respect of this closure,

Jesse McGahey
Yosemite Climbing Ranger
(209) 372-0360

For more information about the closure see Jesse's posts on Supertopo.

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Monday, April 12, 2010
  Tragedy on Shasta
While climbing on Mt. Shasta, one of California's highest peak, Oakland climber Tom Bennett suffered from acute altitude sickness, also known as high altitude cerebral edema. The condition strikes quickly and can render a victim unconscious in minutes.

Bennett along with Berkeley climber Mark Thomas, headed up Shasta with the intent of summiting and returning after a night close to the summit. After strapping on his crampons close to the base, Bennett complained of symptoms HACE- blurried vision, a lost sense of balance, and slight confusion. Bennett shrugged the condition off.

When the pair were at 14,005 feet, a mere 100 feet below the summit, the strong gusts of the mountain top forced the pair to retreat to the shelter of a snow cave, where they planned to stay until first light. The men attempted to descend, but the wind chilled them and the high altitude affected their ability to move quickly. Thomas called for a rescue with his cell phone and helped the immobilized Bennett into a snow cave.

The San Francisco Chronicle wrote an account of the event, which can be found here.

High Altitude Cerebral Edema and High Altitude Pulmonary Edema are common in the mountains and often lead to tragic consequences. Acclimatization is essential to successfula and safe mountain ascents. For more information about HACE and HAPE, check out the Climb-High site, and the basic Wikipedia information.

Touchstone would like to offer their condolences to the Bennett family.

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Friday, April 9, 2010
  Big Wall Climbing with Blonde Ambition
"It's not about being blonde, it's about having more fun." - That's the motto that Steve Schneider has lived by since he began his guide service- Blonde Ambition Guiding. Naming his guide service after Madonna's hugely successful 1990 tour of America, Steve and his blonde haired partner, Hans Florine, began to guide clients across the globe. As one of the few guides in the Bay area with American Guide Association status, Steve has a vast amount of experience in teaching the nuances of rock climbing. He has made over a hundred ascents of El Capitan and has spent as many nights on Yosemite's colossal granite wall.

Steve climbing Lurking Fear with Touchstone setters Cuz and Jim

Why get into big wall climbing? Why struggle up enormous walls like Yosemite's El Capitan? "Because it is magnificent," Schneider says. "It's right there- Mecca. Why not?" Steve will be holding a couple of classes on big wall climbing technigue. With 3 free ascents of El Capitan, sends of 5.13 offwidth on the rock, and more than a half dozen speed records, Steve knows the "Big Stone" better than anyone around. He offers sage advice, "Take baby steps toward your goals. Do Grade IIs, IIIs, IVs, Vs, then you can climb El Cap. Baby Steps."

There will be two sets of classes on Monday and Wednesday from 6-9:30 pm on the 12th and 14th as well as the 19th and 21st. For over 7 hours of instruction Steve charges $140 and will be held at the Touchstone climbing gyms. To sign up for the class email Steve at

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Thursday, April 8, 2010
  New Diablo Rock Classes: Early Morning Spin/Abs
Diablo Rock Gym has rearranged a number of their classes to give Touchstone members a greater opportunity to work out.

Beginning April 12th, there will be new group exercise classes including a couple of more Zumba classes, an early morning cycling/core class at 6:00 am, and some boot camp classes.

The 6am, Monday and Wednesday class will be a combination of indoor cycling and core work- outs- abs and strength training. Having a strong core is an integral part of moving well, not only on the rock- where it will help keep you tight to the wall, but also in daily use. It helps correct posture, and will make you feel more solid.

Come down to Diablo early on Monday morning and kick it into high gear!

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Wednesday, April 7, 2010
  Touchstone Runners show up for Oakland Running Festival
This weekend, eight Touchstone Runners showed up to participate in the Oakland Running Festival races, which included a 5k, Half Marathon and Marathon. And what a successful showing they made of it. Here are some of the results:

Pat Ross–Yes, our bike racer extraordinaire is no one trick pony! Pat ran the Twilight 5K on Saturday. Not only did she finish first in her division (by a country mile), she finished in fourth place among all women, practically the only grown-up keeping pace with the kids!

Carol Baker–After winning her division in the Mt. Diable Half Marathon Trail race last weekend, Carol ran a stunning road reprise to take second place in her division in the Half Marathon yesterday.

Susan Abrahamson–She was our other Half Marathon runner who after a month of being sick and unable to fully train, beat her previous best time yesterday!

Tom Harrington–Tom ran his first marathon ever yesterday and finished 183rd out of 900+ finishers. Wendy ran the first half with him including the difficult and challenging miles through the Montclair Hills and reports he looks like someone whose been racing his entire life.

Laura Walpert–Laura was the second of four first time marathon runners. In a large and competitive division, Laura grabbed a top twenty spot by placing 19th!

Nicole Churchill–Nicole, having recently turned 30, set a goal of running her first marathon in sub-4 hours. Not only did she succeed, she placed 10th in her division.

Phil Yip–Phil suffered the most of all the TRs, but finished his race, joined the ranks of marathon runners and proved himself to be the bravest of us out on the course. It’s one thing to persevere when you’re feeling good. It’s quite another to run on guts and determination. Way to go, Phil!

Wendy Georges and Troy “Punk” Windsor–Another day at the office and they’re still loving it all! "Oh yeah, and by the way, Wendy placed in the top 20 for women and won her division by 14 minutes."- Susan Abrhamson

Many thanks to El Presidente, Marc Trotz, Deborah Georges, Whitney Lee and Judy Martin “Doc” for their first rate support. Berkeley Ironworks rocks!

It was a fantastic day out there and it was great to see all of our Touchstone Runners ripping up the pavement. Susan already set the record straight on Wendy and as for Troy, well, it was a very good day at the office for him, finishing 21st in an extremely competitive age group.

Touchstone Running Club is on the move! Anyone out there who wants to jump on, drop me an email at Marc Trotz

To check out the original blog post see the Spinner Blast blog page.

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Monday, April 5, 2010
  SF Chronicle Article: She climbs the walls and loves it
The San Francisco Chronicle profiled Cynthia Eastman in an article about Bay area athletes. She and her brothers, Mike, Chris and Kevin can be found at GWPC on Tuesday and Thursdays at 4pm like clockwork. The article appears on E4 of the SF Chronicle. Check it out a little excerpt-

Every Sunday morning, corporate librarian Cynthia Eastman attends her church of the climbing wall at Berkeley Ironworks. Eastman, who is 52 and lives in Oakland, makes sure her two older brothers attend as well.

Why: I love when all the pieces come together and you flash a hard route. With indoor walls, you can do it year-round and you don't need a lot of expensive gear.

Greatest accomplishment: Sticking with climbing while undergoing radiation treatment for cancer two years ago. The worst side effect was that the palms of my hands got thick and smooth, which is unnerving when you're trying to hold onto stuff.

Gear you can't live withou
t: Evolv Defy climbing shoes. Evolv has the best fit for my narrow heels and high arches.

Where you train: Berkeley Ironworks on Sundays and Great Western Power Company on Thursdays after work. With two different places, you have more routes to climb.

Read more of the article

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Sunday, April 4, 2010
  Melissa Michelistch: The Wallress
Melissa Michelitsch came into rock climbing over ten years ago with a strong background in dance and ballet. In between teaching classes in Oakland, she makes trips to Yosemite, Indian Creek, Red Rocks, and anywhere there are long classic crack climbs. She's been climbing in Yosemite since she started, making ascents of El Capitan's The Nose in a single day as well as Never Never Land, Zodiac, and a myriad of other Yosemite Big Wall Climbs. She's also climbed wall routes in Zion National Park, hiking up some of the best desert big wall cracks in the world.

Melissa on Slice N' Dice in Indian Creek

The big wall veteran, the Wallress, Melissa took some time to answer a few questions about big wall climbing for the Touchstone Blog.

How did you get into wall climbing?

I lacked skill but had lots of zeal and endurance. I (wrongly) reasoned that climbing walls would be like doing other climbs that I’d done…just doing them for a long time. I talked a friend with legitimate skills and experience into doing Lurking Fear with me. He must have thought I was cute or something because anyone with his level of experience would have realized that I had no place on any end of the rope on El Cap yet. I led two pitches and jugged the rest, slowly and ineptly, fearing for my life. My lousy start left me with something to prove to myself, so I tried to come back with a few more skills the next season.

What do you enjoy about being up on the wall?

The act of being on a wall really isn’t that fun for me. I like the anticipation and strategizing before hand and the sense of accomplishment when I’m done.

Do you ever get scared being so high off the ground?

I’m not afraid of heights. The exposure down low vs. up high feels about the same to me, and mostly I only see the rock in front of my face anyway. (Looking down is an activity for long belays.) Heights might be the only thing that doesn’t scare me.

Often the things that scare me the most are phantom fears…Fears of things that are very unlikely to happen or, for some of them, that wouldn’t actually be that big of a deal if they did happen: fear of getting trapped in a storm, of being too uncomfortable for too long and just dying from it, fear that good gear will rip, fear the my partner will get hurt on a lead that I shirked, fear that my rope will cut or my jugs will fall off when I’m jugging.

Melissa waking up on Never Never Land on Yosemite's El Capitan

What was it like climbing the Zodiac?

I climbed Zodiac w/ my bff, Kate, 6 years ago. Kate had never climbed El Cap before but had led more aid pitches than I had. I’d been up El Cap a couple of times but had always had a much more experienced partner to pick up my ample slack. We had plenty of bugs in our systems, but on the whole it worked out quite well considering that we were as green as grass. When my interest in taking the next step in what up till that point had been a progression of more challenging routes never materialized following our climb, I realized that I wasn’t really on a path towards harder aid routes any more. Kate had a very different epiphany. She went on to aid pitches as hard or harder than any woman before her.

What's your favorite part of wall climbing?

A wall can end up eating up a whole month of your life…Planning, packing, humping loads to the base, resting, fixing, climbing, resting again, carrying loads down from the summit, being in la-la land daydreaming about what you just did, etc. When you’re not into it, it starts to feel like a big time waster. When the project is exciting, it’s fun to give yourself over so fully to one absurd goal.

What do you do to prepare for a big wall climb?

Spend a little or a lot of time gazing at the topo and convincing self that the nice line must be hand jams. Negotiate the rack w/ a partner, always too much and never enough. Buy necessary food and beverage. Spend $200 at REI on who-the-hell knows what. Meet up w/ my partner at the designated time and place. Decide that we need to either bring an extra bag or leave some stuff behind. Choose to climb forth or bail.

What's the best way to start wall climbing?

I don’t think there’s a best way. When you climb walls you have to figure out how to deal with situations that you’ve never seen before with the limited tools on hand. Your partner is often out of sight and out of earshot, so you’re on your own. People who are really driven to do walls (as opposed to casually intrigued by the idea) are going to be pretty good add seeking out the learning resources that they need to get started.

Melissa rebolting on Arches Terrace in Yosemite

You don’t have to be a strong free climbing to do many walls, but it doesn’t hurt either. People with years of experience leading long, traditional free climbs usually fare better than their counterparts with less rope and epic management experience on their first walls. I skipped the years of experience part when I started trying to climb walls, and as a result I often spent more time trying than climbing. Anyone seriously driven to stick with it can eventually summit (if they don’t make any grave errors or fall to wanton acts of nature).

Steve Schneider is easily the most well rounded El Cap climber ever. He’s also a member and employee at Touchstone Climbing. He’s an AMGA certified guide and has a clinic planned at Ironworks this spring.

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