Touchstone Blog Archive
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
  New Guest Pass Policy
Starting immediately, we are happy to bring back the old guest pass policy. We are allowing you as Touchstone members to bring a guest to any of our Touchstone gyms. We recognize that many of you appreciate the privilege of using a guest pass at any of our facilities rather than exclusively at your home gym.

Thank you for your support and feedback as it means a lot to us at Touchstone!

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Sunday, March 27, 2011
  A Gymnast in The Climbing Gym: Cisco Gonzalez
If you've been to Ironworks, chanches are you've seen climbers busting out pull-ups. A lot of the tougher rock jocks will attempt one armed pull-ups with marginal degrees of success. Catch Cisco at the gym though and you'll see some impressive feats.

As a young kid in california, Cisco was no stranger to the monkey bars and rooftops, scrambling around buildings and dangling from the monkey bars. Since he was in pre-school, Cisco Gonzalez, a 32 year old gymnastic instructor from Berkeley, has been involved in gymnastics. In 6th grade he enrolled at Windmill Gymnastics in Richmond and later began coaching there. Cisco currently works at MEGA, Marin Elite Gymnastics Academy since early 2002 and has coached gymnastics for the past 17 years.
How long have you been doing the gymnastics style exercises?

Well, I definitely was doing a lot of body weight movements before I started training in 6th grade with a lot of climbing (trees, bars, buildings). When I was working out with team I was too young to do any weighted movements as well, not that gymnasts do much of those anyway.

When I was 11 I was taught to do squats, dips, push-ups, pull ups, V-ups, plyometric punches, and many static holds. These movements are especially useful in a sport like gymnastics where all your skills manipulate your body weight using your body awareness.

I've tried over the years to work with free weights and machines but I am not as comfortable and they, frankly, have always seemed kinda boring to me. Part of it is probably that you like the things you're good at a lot better, and I am much better at body weight exercises.

Do you rock climb much?

Man, I used to. When I started climbing in 2002 I was so thrilled at finding another sport I was suited to, I threw myself at it fully. Me and Alex, another gymnast were putting in 12+ hours a week and learning everything from scratch. Now I climb with a rotating crew of about 8 people and I get maybe 3-6 hours a week.

I still try to work out 6+ hours a week which includes screwing around on the gym equipment and doing parkour, some arial work along with some skate and snowboarding when I can. There just aren't enough hours in the day, or money, to do all the things I want to be good at. *sigh*

Does your strength transfer well?

Well, like most people I thought climbing was all about being able to do pull ups, but those first 6 months was a rude awakening. Unless you are a climber, I just don't think you can come from another sport with the finger tendon strength or forearm strength and stamina necessary to be super awesome right away.

I did come in with a lot of pull strength, which is not what gymnasts are most known for. Most gymnastics is about push (pommel horse, vaulting, floor tumbling, parallel bars swings, and ring supports and holds).Even so, I had a really strong rope climb and that helped a little.

More than anything else, I think my flexibility (mine was not good for a gymnast) and my balance and body awareness was invaluable. You just don't get through that amount of any sport, let alone gymnastics, without a pretty good sense of biomechanics.

What's the best way to learn how to do one arm pull ups?

I don't think there's a great corollary between x amount of regular pullups = a one arm pullup or body weight plus y = a one arm pullup. I feel the best way to get them is to train them. Rope climbing and campusing lets you got through a wide range of the pullup especially campusing when you are moving laterally as well as vertically. There are also a variety of techniques like using a towel or a rope to hold on with your other arm, one arm pulldowns with a machine, but I personally never used those. Working slow one arm negatives seemed to help greatly, as did isometric holds and one arm "frenchies". I went pretty quick from 1-5 one arms and then slowly up to 9 on my left and 11 on my right.

One more thing on the one arm pullup, it has very, very little to offer in improving your climbing. Good technique, and hand strength will always win over brute strength. I continue to work one arms for the personal challenge along with other body weight "feats" like the human flag, planche, one arm rope climb etc.

If anyone is seriously interested in trying let me know, non-climbers are welcome too!

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Thursday, March 24, 2011
  Yoga Workshop in Mexico
The heavy rains probably have you mopping around the bay area, desperate for sun. Well, imagine a beautiful beach in Mexico. Picture sunshine and days filled with yoga and relaxation. That's what DRG Yoga Instructor Sarah Pascual is offering.

Pascual and Joanna Saxby are offering a second "Flow and Restore" Yoga workshop in the beautiful Haramara Mexico. There will be two yoga classes a day in a gorgeous open-air studio overlooking the ocean and surrounding jungle.

Take the time to escape the dreary rain.

The course will be held October 15 — 22, 2011. For more information check out their webpage or email her at

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011
  Construction Continues with MetalMark Getting New Logo and Walls
MetalMark, the new Touchstone Gym in Fresno, was named after a California butterfly with distinctive, metallic markings. The name was inspired by the simple idea of metamorphosis, by the physical and mental changes we experience as rock climbers. The form of the Touchstone butterfly is transformed as well; it is modeled on the engineering of aluminum cams used in outdoor climbing.

Mark Fox and Angie Wang of Design Is Play in San Francisco, designed the MetalMark logotype, setting it in Rockwell Antique, a slab serif typeface issued in 1931. They hand drew the letters and then recreated them digitally.

The walls are heavily supported by an intricate series of steel beams.

Construction at the new 12,000 square foot Touchstone climbing gym at Fresno's Granite Park has been moving rapidly. The local contractors working on erecting the steel framing established the roof first so that Mark Melvin, the Touchstone owner, could begin working on the climbing gym walls. Melvin has been working on designing the 45 foot high walls and has been putting a large concave feature into the middle of the wall.

The plywood for the climbing wall has been put up on a significant portion of the steel structure.

After the framing is finished, the plywood will be put on the walls followed by the stucco. There will be a separate yoga and cycling room along with full cardio and weight equipment.

The main climbing area will be flanked by a yoga and exercise room as well as an office.

Touchstone poo-bah Russel Olsen said, “The whole thing is moving along really well.” Olsen estimates that the construction will be ending in early summer.

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Monday, March 21, 2011
  Yosemite Closed:Winter Storm Warning
The National Park Service released this announcement earlier today- the current winter storm has closed Yosemite National Park.

All roads leading into Yosemite National Park are temporarily closed due o snow, ice, mudslides, fallen trees and downed power lines. In the last 24 hours, a winter storm has dropped over 3.5 feet of snow throughout the park in areas including Yosemite Valley, Wawona, and Crane Flat. Approximately 9 inches has fallen in El Portal. Highways 41 (Wawona Road), 120 (Big Oak Flat Road), and 140 (El Portal Road) into Yosemite National Park are closed at this time due to snowy and icy conditions. Additionally, Caltrans has temporarily closed Highway 140 outside of the park boundary between El Portal and Mid Pines due to mud slides, rockfall, downed power lines, and fallen trees. The Badger Pass Road and the Hetch Hetchy Road are also closed at this time. There is currently a winter storm warning in effect.

Assessment of all roads in Yosemite will occur throughout the day. For 24-hour information for roads within Yosemite National Park please call 209-372-0200. For updates on conditions for roads outside of Yosemite, please call Caltrans at 1-800-427-7623. For information about reservations and accommodations, please call (801) 559-4884. Additional news releases will be sent out as updates are available.

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  Tango at Pipeworks
Argentine Tango - the most sensual and passionate of dances....

This 6-week class will provide you with a solid foundation in the steps, movement, and the connection with your partner that make this beautiful dance possible. Warning - this dance can be very addictive!!

The Tango began in the bordellos and barrios of late-nineteenth century Buenos Aires, Argentina, emanating from several other dance forms. It inspired an entirely new musical genre and grew rapidly in popularity, quickly spreading to Paris, Europe and the rest of the world. From it's origins in the 1890s to the 'Golden Age of Tango' in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, and even to today the Tango has continued to evolve, and is currently enjoying a worldwide explosion in popularity.

Your instructor, Chris Peake, is founder and co-owner of Firehouse 5 Dance in Sacramento. He began dancing Tango 6 years ago, was instantly addicted, and has been dancing and teaching ever since.

Classes are on Mondays at 7pm starting April 4th and running through May 9th. Students are strongly encouraged to commit to the whole series. You can catch up if the first couple classes are missed, but no drop-ins after the 3rd week!

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Friday, March 18, 2011
  TRS 5 at Mission Cliffs
This evening the Touchstone Rope Series 5 will continue at Mission Cliffs with a great competition, free food and pizza.

The Touchstone Route Setters were busy at work putting up a series of great new routes. Stop by Mission cliffs for an evening of fun!

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011
  Bishop Bouldering Video: Wolter Byron's Videos
Wolter Byron, a 27 year old Marin resident, put together this awesome video of some bay area crushers climbing out in Bishop.

Check out Spencer Tang-Smith sending Iron Fly, Wolter Byron sticking it on High Plains Drifeer, and Touchstone route setter Brian "Cuz" Hedrick killing it on the Vhard problems out there.

The Fall from ByronWolter on Vimeo.

Here's another one of Byron's quick hits with Cuz sending the Iron Monkey traverse and trying the Impossible Traverse up at Mortar.

Iron Monkey and the Impossible Traverse from ByronWolter on Vimeo.

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  Cub Scouts at DRG
Last weekend, 16 Cub scouts and parents from San Ramon spent the night at Diablo Rock Gym. The 6 to 10 year-olds started the night off with pizza, climbing, and then some sleep that night in the gym. Climbing fits in perfectly with the Cub Scouts theme. The cubs often go hiking, camping, and on other outdoor adventures.

According to the Cub Scout website, "The aim of Cub Scouting is to help boys grow into good citizens who are strong in character and personally fit." The boys were able to work on their leadership skills, facing adversity, and helping each other out through belaying.

Diablo Rock and the other Touchstone gyms often have overnighters at the gyms. Stop by and check out the great overnight trips that are going on at your local gym.

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Monday, March 14, 2011
  American Alpine Club Opportunity
The American Alpine Club recently released an update about a new grant opportunity. The grant will allow climbers to defray the cost of outfitting climbing and humanitarian objectives.

Check out the information below to apply for an awesome opportunity.

The Zack Martin Breaking Barriers Grant (ZMBB) is a dual-purpose grant fund. The primary objective is humanitarian. The secondary objective involves alpinism, ice climbing, rock climbing, bouldering or just adventure and discovery in the natural environment. The grantee must meet both objectives and is strongly encouraged to obtain additional funding and sponsors. The primary objective, the humanitarian objective, must be reasonable and sustainable. Objectives that continue after implementation will receive the highest level of consideration. It is preferable to have an objective that teaches the locals "how to" and provides some level of continued support and funding. For more information, see the humanitarian objectives of previous ZMBB recipients. The secondary objective should focus on adventure and discovery in the natural environment. Special consideration is given to alpinism, ice climbing, rock climbing and bouldering. However, almost any activity that involves adventure and discovery will be considered, such as ski mountaineering, ski traversing, adventure trekking, paragliding over mountains, etc. Keep in mind, this objective does not need to be a "bleeding" edge activity. The salient requirement is adventure and discovery.

Other Information

Zack Martin died just before his 25th birthday on Thanksgiving Day 2002. He was a recipient of AAC grants, the Anatoli Boukreev grant and others. Zack was concerned about the general arrogance and self-serving aspirations of climbers and explorers. He committed that on all future expeditions he would not only climb and explore but more importantly he would perform humanitarian service in the local community. He would "break a barrier" in the alpine environment and "break a barrier" in the heart of man. As Zack often said, "The only barrier holding you back is yourself."

How To Apply
Head over to the American Alpine Club site.


Friday, March 11, 2011
  Pringle Gets Muy Tranquillo: Touchstone Climber Goes to Spain
For the past two weeks, hardcore rock jock and Touchstone climber Ethan Pringle has been climbing on the amazing limestone of Spain.

“The mode here has been muy tranquillo,” said Pringle.

Pringle flew over to Spain, where he met with hardcore sport climber and ex-pat Chris Sharma. The pair settled into Sharma’s crag side home of Oliana, the second largest town in the comarca of the Alt Urgell in Catalonia Spain. Chris and Ethan, along with Chris’ lady friend Dalia, have been climbing in town. “We’ve only gone to Oliana but even on the ‘hot’ days (which are nothing like most days at Jail House past 2 pm) it gets nice and cold and breezy as soon as the sun goes behind the cliff which happens around 3 pm this time of year,” wrote Pringle on his blog. “Because of the late hour in which the cliff goes into the shade we’ve been getting really late starts- waking up around 10, leaving for the cliff around 11 and starting the warm-up around noon- 1pm.”

The Spanish town where Ethan is staying.

Pringle described the amazing climbing as a mini-Ceuse France. “Oliana has a blue and tan streaked limestone wall that averages about 120 feet in length with blockier (read: chossier) rock near the bottom and cleaner tufaed and pocketed, hyper-textured rock up higher. Most of the routes are endurance and power-endurance mega-thons with technical and powerful cruxes thoughout and good rests in between. A sportclimbers dream!”

Chris at the house where Ethan stayed.

Even with the late start and the easy days, Pringle has been getting after it, onsighting 5.13b, sending a 13d second try, and working on some 5.14+/5.15 routes.

Pringle nearly fired the Oliana tufa dream climb Humildes pa casa (Humble Go Home 8c), falling at the last bolt. “I failed to register the last tufa out left and tried to muscle up the single, slithering tufa that snaked away from me when I was too pumped to lift my arms.” Chris summed it up perfectly, telling Ethan,” Bummer dude, you had tufa vision.”

Ethan getting pumped off a tufa super route.

Pringle has been climbing with the heavy hitters. Sharma is uber strong as are visiting climbers like Ramon Julian. “There euro comp climbers are… impressive, to say the least,” wrote Pringle. “!Holy mierda! Have you heard that Adam Ondra onsighted two 8c+s, an 8c and an 8b+, wrestled an alligator and saved a baby from a burning house all in two days?!?

Pringle commented, “All these super-human climbers make me want to train for six months loose 15 lbs eating only vegetables and white meat and running a marathon every day… but lets be realistic, that’s not going to happen. I love Nutella and peanut butter and avocado (not necessarily not all together).”

Ethan going no hands

Ethan just left Spain for two weeks to meet up with Matt Wilder and Paul Robinson for some bouldering in Switzerland. He’ll return to Spain soon after that to climb a la muerte.

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011
  Get Tradical: New Trad Climbing Gear at Touchstone
Touchstone just picked up a bunch of new gear for those climbers who want to get tradical this summer. In stores now are the TC Pros, high top edging shoes that will shrink El Cap into Swan Slab, 4 step aiders for cruising up Washington Column, ultra light curve nuts, and the standard BD cams including C4s, C3s, and HB brass offsets.

The best place to start building your trad climbing gear is on your feet. High top shoes are nice because they protect your ankles in many of the grueling offwidths in the Valley.

Chris McNamara reviewed the TC Pro for Supertopo. It's an awesome shoe!

The second step is to start building a rack. Buy passive protection like nuts and hexentrics first. They are less expensive than camming units and a little more versatile. The HB Offsets are excellent for Yosemite pin scars and these Metolious Curve nuts are great for standard placements. Check out a quick instructional bit from EHow on placing stoppers.

Now comes the fun stuff. The Touchstone gyms have a fun line of Black Diamond Camalots as well as Metiolous cams. Tri-camming units like the one pictured below are good for pin scars and small cracks.

Make sure your gear is solid. Don't be this guy!

Try your hand at one of the many cracks at the Touchstone gyms, keep an eye on the weather in Yosemite, and get ready to get TRADICAL!

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Monday, March 7, 2011
  Beat The Rainy Days
Rain. Rain. Rain. The winters in the San Francisco Bay can be really wet. While winter is nearly over, the last few weeks of the wet season can be hard to maintain. Yosemite is socked in. Mortar Rock can be hit or miss. The slopers at Castle might be drenched. The best way to beat the winter doldrums can be to head out to the crags anyway. Driving over to the east side of the Sierra, to the boulders of Bishop, can almost guarantee dry weather.

Often times, a hike through the redwoods of Castle can be a great way to get out and exercise. Even in a light rain, the Santa Cruz Mountains are beautiful.

Another awesome option is to head out to the nearest Touchstone gyms, where it never rains!

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Tuesday, March 1, 2011
  A Few From Font: Bay Area Climbers in France
The forests around the French town of Fontainebleau are home to arguably some of the best boulders in Europe, if not the world. Thousands of sandstone blocks with mostly sandy landings litter the forest, making it a prime spot for traveling boulderers. The spring and fall season, read right now, are the best times to go and a few Berkeley locals headed out there to check out the blocks.

Monica Aranda, Justin Alarcon, and Scott Chandler flew out to France together to sample the wine, the chocolate, and most importantly the blocs. By staying in a gite, the small houses near the boulders, and sharing the expenses of a car, the three climbers were able to head out there for a month. They met up with other bay climbers- Ingar, Nora, Beth, Randy, and the ever popular Nevada boulderers Noah and Siemay. The crew is having a blast out there crushing the sloping holds. Check out some of the videos that Scott made of the climbing.

Randy Puro has got more hops than a brewery. Here he is jumping on L'Ange Naif, a classic Dyno at 95.2

L'Ange Naif from scott chandler on Vimeo.

Justin Alarcon, Ironworks desk staff hero, climbing the highball Big Jim at Petit Bois. Justin's been complaining of "wet skin"- whatever that means. Watching Alarcon on this highball made my palms sweat a little.

Big Jim from scott chandler on Vimeo.

Here's some more footage of wet tips Alarcon climbing Onde de choc at Apremont. It's hard not to be jealous.

Onde de choc from scott chandler on Vimeo.

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