Special Events At Touchstone Gyms
A local Boy Scout troop recently rented Berkeley Ironworks for a sleep over. Over a dozen kids took over the gym for the night. For a holiday party, Gentico, a bay area company, rented out the facilities to have an evening of climbing, socializing, and fun.
Touchstone has had a number of large scale events at their climbing gyms. Hans Florine, Timmy O’Neil, and blind Everest climber Erik Weihenmayer have all given slide shows. Climb for Yosemite, the Breast Cancer foundation, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital have all had charity fundraisers at the facilities. There have also been other after hours parties including bar mitzvahs, Match.com social gatherings, and church groups renting the facilities.
The entire gym is available for private parties. Group lessons, belying, and non-climbing parties are available as well as catering, after hours climbing, and team- building exercises. This is ideal for large groups that want to have the gym to themselves.
Touchstone Rope Series 5: Coming Soon
The fifth annual Touchstone Rope Series comps is hitting the bay area gyms this winter. The redpoint roped climbing competitions will be kicked off at Sacramento Pipeworks on January 21st and will continue through every Touchstone gym with a finale at Touchstone's new gym Metalmark in Fresno on June 25th.
All events will include a red point roped comp as well as refreshments, games and prizes. Think pizza, beer, new routes, and free climbing gear! Points will be awarded for each comp with overall winners being announced at the end of the final comp. Climbers are responsible for bring their own belayers.
For more information about the comps, check out the Comp Page. There are some great pictures of previous rope comps on the gallery page as well.
A Rehab Story: A Story to Get You Pysched
Earlier this year, Josh Wharton fell and broke his back while rebolitng a route in Rifle, Colorado. Despite his serious injuries, Wharton trained hard and came back from his accident stronger than ever. For those of you, like myself, who ate too much over the holidays and are feeling sluggish, here's a video to get you pysched! If this guy can use great facilities to get in shape like the pool at DRG, the system board at GWPC, or the awesome climbing at Berkeley,then you can use Touchstone's best equipment and go crush!
Holiday Climbing Destinations
This weekend many people will be busy with family, holiday festivities, and the fun events around Christmas. Hopefully, all the Touchstone members are having a great time doing just that and are getting pysched for future climbing trips. Next weekend will be an awesome time to head out and climb!
A holiday climbing party in Bishop
California has a number of great winter climbing destinations. Cragging in the sun on the down canyon cliffs of Yosemite is a great distraction. The bouldering temps on the granite crimps of Bishop's Buttermilks can be awesome, and the fun moderate trad climbs and highball boulder problems of Joshua Tree can be perfect.
Winter weather can affect the desert. Make sure you're prepared.
As you plan your trip, make sure to look at the conditions for the past week and not just the past few days. Joshua Tree has desert weather all year. The National Park dries quickly when it does rain. Joshua Tree has great climbing but a lot of it involves long hikes through the desert and the rock can be sharp. It's an ideal place for those looking for an adventure.
Jen Atkin eyeballing the highball bouldering classic Slashface in Joshua Tree
Located on the east side of the Sierras, Bishop sits in something of a rain shadow. Severe winter storms can head over the mountains though and dump feet of snow, making the climbing less accessible after storms. The sport climbing at Owens gets little winter sun at many cliffs, and the Buttermilks can be covered in a few feet of snow. The Tablelands are a better bet for winter bouldering in Bishop. That being said, Bishop is the best winter climbing spot in California- the quality of climbing is excellent.
Yosemite's winter weather conditions are typically snowy, wet, but there are occasional periods of dry, sunny weather. The crags down canyon- like the Cookie Cliff and Arch Rock, receive lots of sun and can be great places to climb. Think t-shirts in January. The conditions have to be right though.
Keep an eye on the weather as the weekends approach. Here's a great site to check the weather- Climbing Weather.com
Free Climbing Tips: Why Get Stronger When You Can Get Better?
Rock and Ice editor, Andrew Bisharat wrote a book titled, Sport Climbing: From Top Rope to Redpoint, Techniques for Climbing Success. He had some great tips for aspiring and already solid rock climbers on how to improve. Check out this article that was posted on Rock & Ice's website. The insight will be useful for your next session at the gym or your next adventure outside!
Being good at rock climbing is all about learning proper technique and then ingraining it so it becomes second nature. In the long run, technique will take you much further than a strong back and a vice grip. Yet most climbers are hyper-focused on trying to “get stronger” … oftentimes at the expense of learning good technique.
Emily Harrington, who has climbed multiple 5.14’s in various stages of personal fitness, recognizes the superlative of proper technique. Emily has been climbing for 13 years, putting in well over the requisite “10,000 hours” one supposedly needs to master any craft. As a result, she believes that no matter what shape she’s in, she will always be able to climb at a baseline of 5.12a throughout life.
“If you know how to move your body, you should be able to climb 5.12a,” Emily says, “no matter how ‘strong’ you are.”
This may seem surprising to the climbers out there for whom 5.12a is a lifetime goal, yet the point is not that 5.12 is “easy,” but rather that proper technique honed over many hours of practice is more enduring than one’s momentary form (strength and fitness). The problem is, it’s easier to get stronger than it is to get good. Anyone can go to the gym and rip off a bunch of reps or climb a bunch of boulder problems and feel as though they accomplished something. Training with the goal of improving technique is more cerebral, requiring a certain degree of consciousness about what you’re doing. This is because good technique is all about ingraining movements, coordinating the upper and lower body and maintaining awareness of how much effort you’re expending to the point that it becomes second nature. Great climbers aren’t thinking about what they need to do—they just do the exact right thing. This is the art of free climbing.
Improvements in one’s technique are much less tangible—harder to measure or gauge. Thus, it can be difficult to know how to approach the gym with the goal of becoming a better free climber. Here are a few tips that you may find useful:
Be good: Many beginner and intermediate climbers have approached me wanting to know how to get strong, but I’ve never heard anyone ask how to get good. The two are undoubtedly related. But instead of jumping on the hardest route or boulder problem you think you can do, focus on making perfect ascents of easier routes and problems. Try to be good before you try to get strong. How perfectly can you climb something?
Bad feet: Problems in the gym typically get harder as the hand holds become worse and farther apart, while usually the foot jibs remain pretty good. But if you have the ability to help set some problems wherever you climb indoors, I recommend setting decent hand holds and the worst, most polished, difficult-to-stand-on footholds you can find. You want them to be bad, but not so bad that you just force a campus move. You want the focus to be on using your feet properly—the first and most enduringly important step in becoming good. As a double benefit, nothing will get you stronger than climbing problems with bad feet.
Master the back-step: One of the most useful maneuvers in climbing is the back-step, where you stand on the outside edge of your right foot and rotate your lower body so that your right hip is against the wall (or vice versa). Most people climb straight on, with their hands and feet set as if they were climbing up a ladder. If you watch great climbers, they are rarely so squared up; one hip or another is always twisted toward the wall, with a foot back-stepping. Also, focus on getting into back-steps quicker. Many climbers put, say, their left foot on a hold, then match their right foot on the hold in the back-step position. Instead of messing around with matching feet, many times it’s better to cross the right leg over and get into the back-step right away. [Dave Graham is renowned for having strong fingers, but in reality, it's his insanely good footwork and solid technique that has helped him most.] Dave Graham is renowned for having strong fingers, but in reality, it's his insanely good footwork and solid technique that has helped him most.
Stand Up: You’ve undoubtedly heard the advice, “Keep your arms straight!” But, of course, if your arms were straight the whole time, you wouldn’t be allowed to flex them to pull yourself upward. When you’re hanging on holds, indeed, it’s a good idea to keep your arms straight. But the second and most important part of this advice is how to begin initiating your upward movement. Typically, beginners will just start pulling themselves up, locking off their arms like on a pull-up bar. Instead, initiate your upward movement with your legs. Keep your arms straight and just begin really pressing with your feet, driving yourself upward. Only after you’ve initiated the upward movement with the legs should you start flexing your arms. Teach yourself what this feels like by climbing easy (5.6) routes in the gym. Hang from straight arms and try to drive yourself upward as far as you can by high-stepping your feet and using only your leg muscles.
Wear better shoes: Beginners typically choose loose-fitting “comfortable” shoes. But no matter what grade you climb, I recommend you get a high-end pair of shoes that are snug (not tight!). Higher end shoes give you much more precision, and do a better job of allowing you to use all parts of your foot. This is the one piece of gear that actually helps improve your climbing. Get the best fitting pair of high-end shoes you can find.
Develop your own style: Something that often gets lost is that there is no such thing as one perfect way to climb a route or problem. There are no hard and fast rules. For some climbers, the best solution to a problem will be to climb fast and very dynamically—it’s possible that this will be more efficient for them. Others may find it works better for them to climb at a slower pace, more statically and with greater control. For example, in his clinics, Dave Graham spends a lot of time helping people develop their own styles by having a group of people figure out two or three different beta sequences that work on a given problem. Try to climb a problem two or three different ways. See what works for you. Perhaps it’s easiest to just dyno! [Ronnie Jenkins propels himself up with his feet.] Ronnie Jenkins propels himself up with his feet.
Avoid finger injuries: Have you ever noticed that climbers typically blow a tendon within their first three years of climbing? Beginner climbers tend to race through the grades relying on rapid strength gains, not technique, which creates a false sense of ability that encourages them to get on hard, crimpy routes before their tendons are ready for them. While the musculature may be there, building up the tendon resilience to withstand the stress of hanging from small holds takes a long time—sometimes three years or more. Avoid finger injuries by using the open-hand grip indoors. Also, STOP crimping before your fingers feel sore! Admittedly, this is easier said than done.
Build a base: Dani Andrada, one of the best climbers in the world, was rumored to have redpointed 50 5.13b’s before he even considered getting on a 5.13c. While those grades are admittedly elite, the lesson still applies: Take the time needed to master the easier grades before moving on. Did you redpoint 50 5.11d’s before even trying a 5.12a?
Make climbing a practice: We try to perform our best every single time we enter the gym or a crag. Instead, start thinking of your climbing sessions as a practice. If you climb two or three times per week—don’t worry, the strength will come. But for right now, focus on mastering good technique.
Donate Ropes and Unlock Jailhouse
The Access Fund is having a rope drive this season. For the month of December, the Access Fund will be collecting old ropes and donating $10 to help secure the access at Jailhouse Drop off your old ropes at any Touchstone gym.
Jailhouse Rock, a basalt sport cliff in Sonora, hosts some of the most difficult routes in the country with a large concentration of routes in the 5.13-5.14+ range. It attracts some of the best climbers in the world and is a local destination for many bay area weekend warriors.
James Lucas lost in the sea of basalt on Fugitive (5.13a)
Pringle Vs. The Dumpling of All Evil: A China Dispatch
On November 21, Touchstone sponsored athlete, Ethan Pringle arrived in China and within the first few weeks managed to get food poisoning, make an epic bicycle ride across the country, and send the hardest route in China. Besides dispatching the third ascent of Chris Sharma’s Spicy Noodle (5.14c), Ethan also ticked French Gangsta (5.14b) and flashed both Thunder (5.14a) and Sea of Tranquility (5.13d). Ethan's trip has been more than just sending hard routes though.
Ethan has worked hard to assimilate into Chinese culture. “I’m trying to learn a manageable amount of Chinese words and phrases but so far trying to communicate with anyone who doesn’t know English has been impossible. Today I learned the numbers one through ten. I think if you know those you can pretty much convey any number up to 99,” Ethan said. Luckily, Ethan’s been able to order food.
On the ub class (Pringle terminology for uber classic) Sea of Tranquility, Ethan fought through the difficulties of the 5.13 initial section, he destroyed the V6 boulder problem crux, and soon found his way to the anchors. Ecstatic about this difficult flash, he grabbed an enormous 60 pound flake above the anchors to give a solid fist pump and hooray. The flake came off and rocketed towards the ground. The rock nearly took out the two Chinese women selling cold drinks and sodas at the base. Ethan said, “I guess I need to take it easy on the oatmeal in the morning!?!”
Pringle’s been working off the weight though. One day, he attempted to ride to White Mountain alone. “Have you ever done a 50K on a commuter hybrid bike with a slightly squishy back tire and a 30 pound backpack on your back, in a country in which you can’t communicate with anyone to ask for directions?” Pringle shared some great insight about his heinous bike ride. “Well, if it’s on your bucket list, do yourself a favor and cross it off.”
Ethan's pain on wheels.
One of the highlights of the trip to date is Ethan’s first new bolt. Ethan pulled out the Bosch and drilled a new bolt to replace an existing one in an already established 5.13 route.
This rest on the route French Gangster is known as the Holiday Inn- "Cause that's where all the G's hang" said Pringle.
Pringle has a few days left on his excursion in China. At the top of his tick list is an unsent Sharma project known as Dumpling of All Evil. Stayed tuned as Pringle fights against the famed Dumpling.
Holiday Shoe Demos at Touchstone!
This holiday season, Touchstone will be hosting a series of rock shoe demos at each of their gyms. La Sportiva, Five Ten, and Evolve shoes will be presenting a number of different shoes. A representative of the shoe company will help you find your size and the ideal shoe. Find a new shoe to make you crush that steep boulder problem, fight through the pumpy sport route, or get tradical on a long Yosemite crack climb. The demos will be from Dec 13 to the 16th. The best part is that shoes bought at the demos will be 20% off for members and 10% for non-members. All sales are final. The demos are:
There is no better shoe for high-end sport climbing, bouldering or competition climbing. The Hornet is built on a new state-of-the-art low volume last, with a downturned toe and an asymmetrical lacing system that allows for a perfect, custom fit. The upper is synthetic Cowdura™ with a 3-D Polytechnic™ coating that increases durability and abrasion resistance without adding weight. The Mystique™ outsole offers unparalleled grip, precision and durability.
Think Dragon with a Velcro® closure. We made our latest state-of-the-art shoe even more user-friendly. The padded-tongue has a super-soft, fleecy microfiber lining. It wicks sweat and gives the top of your foot support and comfort, no matter what the angle. The new Blackwing fits like a glove, but slides on easily. The team shoe heel cup is extra snug and the Mystique™ outsole is specifically designed for ultimate friction on overhanging rock.
The Anasazi LV (Low Volume) excels on climbs of 5.11 and higher, both indoors and out. This performance climbing shoe is built on a women’s-specific last, and is designed for medium volume feet. The heel design offers an excellent, no-slip fit. Five Ten®’s proprietary “Power Toe” and a unique midsole provide the support for extremely technical climbs. Outsoles are Stealth® C4™ with extremely high friction, indoors and out.
Five Ten will also have the Arrowheads, the Coyote Velcro, the Super Mocc, and the Quantums.
A much stiffer version of the Pontas, 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.
Vertical terrain need not apply. The Talon has always been the weapon of choice for serious steep sends! New for 2009 is the toe box rand layout, fully perforated upper, rigid heel cup, black mesh trim and green TRAX rubber in the arch. Ideal for bouldering, gym, and sport.
The Predator just got a serious upgrade in the cosmetic department and is ready for your steepest projects! New for 2009 is a deeper heel cup with more tension, rigid heel cup, moderately perforated upper for breathability, higher toe rand, and black mesh pull straps. Ideal for sport, gym, and bouldering.
Chris Sharma designed this versatile down cambered shoe for front point edging and climbing vertical to overhanging climbs. It offers high performance in a comfortable fit.
Evolve will also be showing the Kaos, the Defy, the Pontas, the Royale, and the Elektra.
Stop by the Shoe Demos and get a GREAT deal on shoes out this winter season!
Friday Night Cardio Boxing at BIW
Have you ever considered balancing out your cycling/running workouts with some nice upper body work? Have you considered starting your weekend right with a nice Friday evening workout? Cardio boxing on Friday nights just might be for you!
Fridays at 7:45 pm, Pat Ross will lead you through the training workouts that she learned during her stint as a professional boxer. The boxing workouts are fabulous. “It’s like taking your upper body for a run,” said Ross's former trainer
C’mon down for the superb workout minus the broken noses! -The only things we punch (hard) are the bags, the air (shadow boxing), and the mitts. Head on down and join Pat Ross for some excellent get in shape training!
New Fresno Gym: MetalMark Climbing & Fitness
Construction on Touchstone's new gym in Central Fresno's Granite Park, MetalMark Climbing & Fitness, began last week when the foundation was poured. Ellis Daniels, a Fresno local and member of Valley Steel, has been working hard to build the 12,500 square foot gym. The picture shows the main steel beams being erected. In January, Touchstone hopes to begin building the climbing walls! The project will be completed in early summer. Stayed tuned as another great Touchstone gym comes together!
New Diablo Rock Gym Manager Hans Florine
Hans Florine, 46, began climbing 28 years ago at San Luis Obispo, where he went to college. A dorm mate invited him to a 20 foot boulder in the middle of a cow field. Rigging a toprope, Florine began climbing. From there his life as a climber took off.
Florine has been a long time member of the Touchstone community. From working the front desk at Berkeley Ironworks, to building the cracks at the Oakland gyms, to teaching clinics over the years, Florine explored the different Touchstone communities. Recently, Florine took the position as the manager of Diablo Rock Gym, the climbing gym he has been training at for over 5 years. “I feel honored to have a relationship with the owners and managers, to take a larger role, and commit for a longer time,” Florine said of the position. “I want to expand the membership so that we have a more vibrant group and more energy in the gym. We’ll be strengthening our relationships with families, nearby companies, colleges, and surrounding groups. We provide the best atmosphere for a climbing community. We want people to know that.”
Since 1980, Florine has climbed El Capitan 144 times and climbed The Nose 72 times. Beginning in 1990 with fellow blonde rock star Steve Scheneider, Florine whittled down the speed record on The Nose from 6 months on the first ascent by Warren Harding to a blinding fast sub 3 hour time. Florine is world renown for his fast ascents and has written a book “Speed Climbing: How to Climb Faster and Better.” Florine also works as a motivational speaker, discussing his success on El Cap and relating it to corporate models. Florine spends his free time with his wife of ten years, Jacki, his ten year old daughter, Marianna, and his seven year old son, Pierce.
Stop by Diablo Rock Gym and meet up with Hans Florine, the manager. Check out the new programs and activities he has planned for the gym!
TBS 6 Final Comp at Mission Cliffs
Mission Cliffs held the final of the Touchstone Bouldering Series comps for the year. The sixth season brought on a ton of great competition from an onsight final at Berkeley Ironworks to a dyno contest to a Spider-man pinata at Mission Cliffs.
Every comp had free food and beer. The Pyramid Brewing Company provided the great libations,Chrome Bags, Timbuk2, ALite Designs, Dime Bags, Lombardi Sports, Sports Basement, KIND Healthy Snacks, Adina Drinks, and Hint Water provided great refreshments and prizes for the raffle at the recent Mission Cliffs comp.
Over 1400 climbers joined in the festivities this season. Eric Sanchez, Matthew Bingham, and Hitesh Lala came in first, second, and third respectively for Mens Advanced. Halley Tollner, Camille Kerr, and Mary Kate Meyerhoffer came in first, second, and third respectively for Womens Advanced. The rest of the comp results can be found at the TBS6 Standings page.
Congratulations to all the climbers that came out and competed in best climbing comp series in the US! Hope to see you all at the upcoming rope series competitions!
Skyscraper Man: A Multimedia Presentation
On December 11th from 6-8pm at Berkeley Ironworks, Dan "SpiderDan" Goodwin will be presenting a multimedia show about his adventures scaling the outside of the Millennium Tower, the Sears Tower, the World Trade Center, and more. Goodwin will be showing his new book "Skyscraper Man -Defender of Tall Buildings.” The 55 year old has a long history as an avid rock climber with first ascents of classics like White Rastafarian in Joshua Tree and a free solo of Mickey's Beach Arete. Goodwin also started a company helping to defend skyscrapers. Stop by Ironworks and check out Goodwin's exciting presentation.
Final TBS 6 Comp at Mission Cliffs
On Friday evening, December 3, Touchstone will have the last of its bouldering series comps at Mission Cliffs. The final comp is from 5-10pm, free for all Touchstone members and only $10 for non members. There will be a TON of new boulder problems, beer, food, and an excess of fun.
The Touchstone Bouldering Series Comps are some of the best around. They have been growing every year. The last comp was at Diablo Rock Gym in Concord and attracted the gym's largest crowd yet, with 250 people turning in scorecards! Skipolini's provided great pizza, Pyramid Brewery supplied a ton of beer, and Paul Hara took awesome pictures.
Stop by the final Touchstone Bouldering series comp Friday night at Mission Cliffs!
In preparation for the event the bouldering at Mission Cliffs will be closed off.