Touchstone Blog Archive
Sunday, July 31, 2011
  The Climbing Dictionary- Understanding Climbing Lingo
The gnar, grevious, front step drop knee, chicken wing dyno. For some people these words and phrases are second nature. They are casually dropped into conversations. For the rest of us, the climbing vocabulary can be a little bit harder to figure out.

Thankfully, there's a dictionary that just hit the book stands. The Climbing Dictionary, which is out in print now from The Mountaineers Books, defines over 250 words and phrases in the climbing lexicon. The book, written by long time Climbing Magazine editor Matt Samet, runs the gamut from technical terms (belay, harness, rappel, Stopper) to slang (dab, choking the cobra, gaston, old dad, pimpy), to regional (such as the South's "baby-butt" slopers), antiquated ("press-up"), and foreign terms that have achieved universal usage (au cheval, colonnette) and much more.

Each word's definition includes its part of speech, origin (if known), its meaning, and a humorous but factually sound example sentence to demonstrate usage. Throughout the dictionary, Mike Tea's illustrations -- both technical and humorous -- help explain harder-to-define terms such as piton, sling, cam, hand jam, or drop-knee.

Check out this video of little Billy trying to talk to his mom in all the jargon.

Climbing Dictionary Promo
by: ClimbDiction

Samet also set up an online version of the dictionary to add words that he has forgotten and to keep the slang up to date. Climbing defines everything from crimps to climbing "like a bawse" (a phrase added by Touchstone blogger James Lucas).

Grab a copy of the climbing dictionary before you head out to the grevious crimps of Mortar Rock.

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Thursday, July 28, 2011
  Vertical Velocity- Girls's Climbing Team
Vertical Velocity, the girls's climbing team at Berkeley Ironworks, began in late 2010 with only 6 girls but in a few months the roster maxed at 20 and a waiting list was started. The girls came from different schools in different part of the East Bay. Some had been climbing at Touchstone kids camps since they could barely walk, while some had never put on a harness. Regardless of their backgrounds or experience, they have all come together to create a fun and challenging group with an increasing presence at Ironworks.

Many gyms have teen programs, but Vertical Velocity is unique because it is only for the lady folk. The program was conceptualized by Annie, the mother of a middle school girl who was concerned about a growing trend for young women to become disinterested in organized sports and the benefits that team events can provide.

“When I was approached with the idea of starting a girls climbing team, I was a little nervous - a gaggle of middle school girls can be a little daunting!” said Coach Lauryn Claassen. “But the second it got going, I was hooked. It’s awesome to share my love for climbing with these girls, who have unlimited energy and enthusiasm. It’s like a self-perpetuating machine at this point. It’s so fun to see the girls improve day by day, week by week. They encourage each other, they push each other to try harder, and we’re definitely all having fun in the process.”

There are no weekly matches like a softball or soccer team, but aside from practice on Mondays and Wednesdays, Vertical Velocity has plenty of ways to grow and compete. Many of the girls will compete in the upcoming bouldering competition at GWPC, and a few are considering individually competing in local climbing comps in the fall. Hannah Le, who has placed nationally in USAC Youth Climbing Competitions, joined the ranks as an assistant coach this spring and has brought her skills and experience with her.

“I began climbing this year because my parents wanted me to do a sport and my friend invited me to try it out. Now I love climbing because it’s social but you are getting exercise at the same time.” Said 7th Grader Sarah B. “I’m sticking with climbing next year.”

“I love being on the climbing team because I get to problem solve with my friends and coaches.” Said 8th grader Alizie. “Climbing is great because learning one skill makes you a better climber. If I learn a new trick in soccer, it didn’t instantly make me a better soccer player. But if I learn one new move here, like how to mantle or flag my foot, I can climb harder right away. When I first started on the team I was really intimidated by the guys who would boulder in the overhung part of the gym. But after working on techniques and getting beta, now I can climb in the wave too!”

As the teams’ popularity grew, Sarah Gilchriese - vegan climber extraordinaire also joined the coaching roster this summer. Together, the three coaches keep things interesting; running mini technique clinics, helping the girls train, or setting up fixed lines so the girls can learn to rappel in the gym. The team has had sleepovers in the gym, bake sales, potlucks, speed climbing races, and plans to take a trip outside. There are some open spots on the team this summer, so if you are interested or want more information contact Lauryn at BIW.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011
  TBS 7 Coming to Great Western Power Company
This Friday night, July 29th, Touchstone climbing gyms will be kicking off the first of their annual bouldering series comps. The crew of full time route setters at the gym have been hard at work taking down the old problems and establishing a slew of great new ones.

GWPC will be providing beer, pizza, and t-shirts for all competitors. It's free for members. For rules and details about the comp- check out the Comp Page

Climb the steep moves out of the cave, slap your way up the overhanging prow, get some high ball love on the lead wall- but most of all, stop by the comp this Friday night and have FUN!

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Monday, July 25, 2011
  Make the Most of Your Climbing Trip- Planning Tips
Summer is a great time for climbing trips. The alpine climbing in the Sierra, bouldering in Squamish, big wall climbing in Yosemite, traditional climbing in the Needles, and sport climbing in the far off regions of Rifle are all in great condition. Fill the car, grab a plane ticket and you're off to the climbing. Making big plans are easy. Making them happen are a little bit harder. Here's a great set of tips to make your climbing goals happen.

James Lucas trying a route on Yosemite's Killer Pillar

Be Realistic. Don't plan on sending your hardest route or problem on a trip. It's difficult to work projects on the road because of time, weather, and other mishaps. Set goals that you can easily achieve. Completing a route is way better than leaving behind a project.

Kim Groebner sending her boulder problem project in Bishop

When visiting a new area, whether it's indoor or outdoor, sample the climbing. Trying a lot of routes or boulder problems will help you get a lay of the land, learn what you want to project, and help you get the basic skills of an area. Start small and get in tune with the climbing.

Jens Holsten acclimatizing to the mountains in Alaska

Be flexible. The weather might not be ideal the entire time, there could be partner problems, or you may injure yourself. Having more than one goal will help in the case of foul weather. Steep rock will often stay drier in bad weather. Slab routes are great to climb when it's cold. If the weather is nothing like you planned, make the most of the situation and check out formations you want to climb in the future. A little knowledge about where the climb is and what it looks like will prepare you for a future ascent.

Jens Holsten on the Northwest Face of Half Dome.

Have fun. One of the most important parts of climbing is having a good time. Stay stress free- if you injure yourself and you'll recover faster. It will also make partner situations a little more relaxing.

Stop by your nearest Touchstone climbing gym, grab some chalk, bars, and a guidebook to your destination climbing area. Get out there and have fun.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011
  Zero Gravity At Nationals in Atlanta
Touchstone's Zero Gravity youth climbing team crushed the USA Climbing, SCS National Championship. The competition was held at Stone Summit in Atlanta, GA, July 7-10 and the team came in second place with 9 national champions and 10 US national team spots.

In addition, team members Joshua Levin, Nick Bradley and Mirko Caballero were National Champions. US National Team spots went to Joshua Levin (Sport and Speed), Mirko Caballero
(Sport and Speed), Natalia Grossman (Sport and Speed), Jacquelyn Wu (Sport and Speed), Nick Bradley (Sport), Seth Rogers (Speed). Also in Finals were: Connor Everton, Dylan Meyerhoffer, Sera Busse, and Will Roderick. Also competing were: Eric Sanchez, Rick Gentry, Alexa Nazarian, Sam Steuart, and Michael Cohen.

The seventeen year old Joshua Levin set a new American Record for the 10 meter IFSC Speed Route with a time of 5.05 seconds. He clocked this time at the USA Climbing Youth National Championships in Atlanta, GA on July 10th 2011. The IFSC Speed route is an internationally certified route with the same hold in the same configuration. This is the climbing equivalent of the 100 meter dash in track and field. The holds in a rough approximation to the certified route can be found on the Yosemite Wall at Mission Cliffs.

Joshua is currently in Arco, Italy competing at the Rock Master, Adult World Championships. Live broadcast of this event can be found here

Joshua, Jacquelyn and Nick will join head coach Scot Jenerik (also US National Team Coach) in Imst, Austria, August 25-28 for the Youth World Championships. Good luck to our athletes as they compete against some of the worlds best climbers in Europe.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011
  Pringle On The Hunt in South Africa's Rocklands
For the past month, Touchstone sponsored rock climber Ethan Pringle has been killing it in South Africa’s Rocklands. Pringle has put down 10 V12 and harder boulder problems including Fred Nicole’s Mooiste Maise (v13) and making a flash of Black Shadow (v12). Pringle talked a little bit about his trip, about the climbing and about what it’s like in Rocklands.

I actually I made a list of all the climbs I wanted to try and/or do before I leave back when I first arrived after I had been to most of the areas and I managed to finish almost all of them which I'm pretty psyched on, since it was a rather long list. There are still a few I haven't finished that I may have to come back to finish off next year. Airstar (V13), 30's the New 20 (V12/14), and Sky (V14) are the coolest ones I wanted to do that I haven't managed to complete. I would really like to finish Sky because it's one of the nicest boulder problems I've ever seen, I'm sort of close to it and I've invested 4 days into it already.

The best part of South Africa is Rocklands if you have a one track mind like I do, but it's a beautiful country that would take a lifetime to fully enjoy. Capetown is pretty similar in a lot of ways to SF. There's some of the world's best cold water surf breaks here in SA!

Pringle sending Leap of Faith

We went to a Venison buffet at the restaurant in Clan William a few weeks ago and they had an abundance of venison products from a range of species of Antelope. It was delicious, and filling. There were probably like 60 climbers there from maybe 10 different countries. That's been one of the best parts of the trip- so many fun people from all over! There's a bar at the campground that goes off on weekends... that place is dangerous.

We haven't seen any big cats here but if I do see a lion, I don't think my first instinct will be to attack it. If I come back next year though, its safari time. I'm also going to bring my surfboard.

For more of Pringle's adventures check out his blog

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Sunday, July 17, 2011
  Great Climbing Destinations From Coast to Coast with Jim Thornburg
The most published climbing photographer of the past 20 years, Bay Area native Jim Thornburg is a master at capturing the profound interplay between climber and crag. His photos have graced the covers of numerous magazines and catalogs, including Climbing, Rock and Ice, Alpinist, Patagonia , and Black Diamond. Jim will share highlights of his life’s work, featured in Stone Mountains: North America’s Best Crags, his new large format photo book showcasing 35 climbing areas spanning the continent. Join Jim for a visual tour of treasured crags, including the fantastic granite boulders of Joshua Tree; the perfect limestone of El Potrero Chico (Hidalgo, Mexico); the spectacular overhangs of Red River Gorge (Kentucky) and the Gunks (Shawangunk Ridge, New York state); off-the-track destinations here in the greater Bay Area; and more.

Thornburg will be showing some of his amazing climbing pictures for 7 pm–8:30 pm, Monday, August 1 at REI Saratoga and 7 pm–8:30 pm, Tuesday, August 9 at REI Berkeley.

The events are free and will be held at:

REI Berkeley : 1338 San Pablo Avenue 94702; (510) 527-4140

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

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Friday, July 15, 2011
  Climbing in the High Sierra
Tioga Pass is open. Summer is in full swing in the Sierra and there are a ton of great routes to go out and climb. Tuolumne Meadows hosts a ton of classic moderate routes. From the 5.7 Matthes Crest Traverse to the popular Cathedral Peak, there is a little bit of Sierra adventure for every skill level.

Check out this home video of some climbers on Cathedral Peak.

On the eastern side of the Sierra, near Bridgeport, is the Incredible Hulk. The large granite formation hosts a slew of great rock climbs including the Red Dihedral (5.10b), the Astrohulk (5.11) and the Venturi Effect (5.12). For harder climbing in the Sierra, the Hulk is the spot. Check out this video of Kate Rutherford and Brittany Griffith trying the Venturi Effect.

BD athletes Kate Rutherford and Brittany Griffith attempt Venturi Effect (IV 5.12) on the Incredible Hulk, High Sierras, CA from Black Diamond Equipment on Vimeo.

When heading out to the mountains to get tradical, make sure you're prepared. Bring sunscreen and lots of water to combat the high altitude sun. Stop by your nearest Touchstone gym to pick up some new lightweight climbing gear, like Black Diamond Camalots and Neutrino carabiners to keep your pack a little bit lighter.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011
  Touchstone Bouldering Series 7: Coming Soon!
In the past few years, TBS has become synonymous with the best climbing comps in the world. This month, Touchstone will be kicking off it's 7th annual bouldering series comps at the first of their 7 gym locations. On July 29th, hundreds of California climbers will be heading to Great Western Power Company in Oakland for beer, pizza, t-shirts and great bouldering.

The new MetalMark gym in Fresno and the soon to open Studio in San Jose will both be holding their very first bouldering comps.The team of Touchstone route setters will be setting their best problems at the gyms.

For more details about the point structure and rules of the comp check out the comp page.

The dates and locations of the comp are as follows:
July 29th, 2011

Aug. 26th, 2011

Sept. 23rd, 2011

Oct. 21st, 2011

Nov. 12th, 2011

Mission Cliffs
Dec. 9th, 2011

The Studio
Jan. 7th, 2012

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Saturday, July 9, 2011
  MetalMark Grand Opening
MetalMark, Touchstone's newest gym in Fresno, had a grand opening party last week. The last of the Touchstone Rope Series comps was held at the new gym and 150 people came out to check the new climbing gym. There was pizza, beer, and a ton of fun. Bay area climbers drove out to check out the new indoor crag and the local climbers stopped by to check out the forty foot walls and great bouldering.

The crew of Touchstone route setters headed out to Fresno and set some great routes and boulder problems for the comp. All the holds are new and the climbing is phenomenal out there.

The gym has a couple of great cracks for those looking to train for Yosemite but don't have the time for the drive. Lyn Verinsky is getting after it in the wide part of the crack. The walls in the gym are a little coarse still so stop by the front desk and pick up some tape to make sure you don't thrash your hands.

Metal Mark also has a number of great classes including a Zumba class, yoga classes, and more. The studio is a great open place to work out and enjoy group exercise programs.

For the rest of July, MetalMark has 0 initiation fee. Stop by Metal Mark, get involved in the Fresno climbing scene, and enjoy the new gym!

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Thursday, July 7, 2011
  Buttermilk Toilet Proposal Comments Needed
Wills Young, a long time Bishop climber and author of the Bishop Bouldering guide book, recently posted an article on his blog about the promised building of a pit toilet at the Buttermilks climbing area. Young discusses the two options that are presented and provided contact information for comments on the proposed toilet sites. Below is the information from Young's blog. Please send in your comments about the Forest Service decision.

Andrew Schurr of the group Friends of the Inyo wrote to me recently about a proposal from the Forest Service to construct one or two permanent pit toilets with wheelchair accessible paths adjacent to the Buttermilk boulders.

The proposal mentions two locations: 1) the parking/turn-around at the Birthday Boulders, and 2) the gravel pit just before the Peabody Boulders on the right hand side of Buttermilk Road. This latter is an old borrow pit that has become a large parking pullout at the base of an old disused 4-wheel-drive track a hundred yards or so before the Peabody Boulders.

The Forest Service proposal states an intent to build a toilet at the Birthday Boulders either at the end of the summer or early fall this year, and then to build a second one at the gravel pit also known as the "borrow pit" only if needed.

I would prefer not to see a permanent structure placed at the Birthday Boulders as it would be ugly and present other problems. So choosing the borrow pit location as the first, and ideally, the only option would seem like a better approach to me. Here’s why:

Visual problems:

Birthday Boulders Site: Visual impacts would be a disaster here. A permanent toilet would be an eyesore. This area is high on a plain and, as viewed from the boulders, any toilet structure will stand out against the backdrop of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This area is famed for its beauty. Why ruin it?

Borrow Pit Site: This would not ruin the view from the boulders. From nearly all perspectives this location will be unobtrusive. Even a large toilet block here could be made to blend in against the hillside and have little impact.

Camping problems:

Birthday Boulders Site: We really must do what we can to REDUCE camping in and around the Birthday Boulders and the Birthday Boulders parking spots. A toilet placed here would undoubtedly increase camping at this location. This fragile area is not suited as a permanent campsite with all the accompanying erosion and visual impacts of tents, cars, campers, networks of paths etc. I would like to encourage people to camp away from the boulders.

Borrow Pit Site: Increased camping here will have less of an impact as the area is less visible and is already impacted from previous use.

Access problems:

Birthday Boulders Site: This is a site nearly exclusively used by climbers. It is at the end of a spur, off of a small side road that diverges from the only regularly used access road to the Buttermilk area. Climbers specifically choose this place to park for its proximity to the boulders, and on busy days all the parking in this vicinity is taken up by climbers. Few if any other users choose to take this spur road and so this climber-specific location may lessen the value of the toilet for all other groups as well as present a parking problem.

Borrow Pit Site: This site is occasionally used as a parking spot by climbers, but is rarely if ever filled with climbers’ cars. The nearby road is wide and easily accessible by all users of the Buttermilk area. This site is conveniently located beside the only regularly used approach road to the area, taken by virtually everyone.

Winter Access Problems

Birthday Boulders Site: During the winter this site is often inaccessible due to snow, sometimes for weeks.

Borrow Pit Site: Even while the upper area is blocked by snow, the lower site and lower bouldering areas remain in use and nearly always accessible.

Usefulness Problems:

Birthday Boulders Site: Even for many climbers, this site will require a special trip to reach. The site is off of a side road, and along a spur. People approaching the Buttermilks in the morning and intending to climb at any of the lower locations first reached, which is a large proportion of all climbers, could be discouraged from making a special trip to use the facilities. Adding to the discouragement could be a cluster of cars trying to get into and out of this already-crowded turn-around. The roads there are narrow and will get stretched as cars attempt to park and/or pass each other.

Borrow Pit Site: As stated above the location is beside everyone’s approach so there’s no reason not to use it for anyone needing to ”go” as they arrive at the area. The Buttermilk Road is wide at this point and stopping would be relatively easy.

The comment period for this proposal is 30 days and nearly up. In fact those wishing to express their opinion on this only have until July 15 to do so. Please submit comments to Lesley Yen, White Mountain Ranger District, 798 N. Main Street, Bishop, CA 93514; fax 760-873-2563; phone 760-873-2524; email There is a link to proposed actions here. I believe I have expressed the proposal accurately but if you wish to see the two-page pdf from the Forest Service please drop a line to Lesley or me (email and ask for it.

Please take a moment to add your comments to the Forest Service plan.

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  Profile of Flea- Touchstone Route Setter Ben Polanco
If you've climbed at any of the Touchstone gyms in the past few years, chances are you climbed one of Flea's routes. Ben "Flea" Polanco has been a long time climber and route setter for Touchstone.

Recently, Anthony Lapomardo, a 28 year old Berkeleyite, put together a video profile of the strong climber, filming an excellent interview as well as footage of Polanco climbing Judge Dredd, a difficult climb on the California Coast.

"Making the video was a challenge simply due to the hike in and out with all of the gear and cold conditions," said Lapomardo of filming Polanco on Judge Dredd. "Ben and I were constantly being hit by high winds by the coast and the conditions were not always the best."

The filming was not all difficulties though. Lapomardo, along with Alton Richardson, put together the profile and were excited about the outcome. "The best part about making the video was the chance to showcase someone who is a fixture of the community and really stands out to some but not to others," said Lapomardo.

Check out Flea crushing on the Coast in Lapomardo's video.

DPM Ben Feature from Anthony Lapomardo on Vimeo.

You can see more of Anthony's work over at his blog - An Evolving Image. Next time you see Flea in the gym, congratulate him on his sick send!

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Tuesday, July 5, 2011
  Bringing Climbing to Burning Man
Once a year, tens of thousands of participants gather in Nevada's Black Rock Desert to create Black Rock City, a city in the desert dedicated to community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance. They depart one week later, having left no trace whatsoever. Burning Man has become increasingly popular over the years attracting lots of bay area artists, many of whom rock climb.

“In climbing, if you see an unclimbed line that you feel should be climbed, you go and do it and then tell folks about it. At Burning Man, we saw there wasn't any climbing, so this year we're bringing it,” said Eliot Tang-Smith, a bay area climber.

The Burning Man Team

This year, five bay area climbers are heading to Burning Man with the intent of bringing a little bit of climbing with them. Zack MacFarlane, Vikki Glinskii, Nour Mardini, Spenser Tang-Smith, and Eliot Tang-Smith plan on building a 14’ by 26’ climbing wall in the desert for the August 29 to Sept 5 festival. Using an A-frame type design with some steel bracing, the climbers hope to make a wall that will withstand the impacts of the high winds across the desert playa.

A mock-up of the wall. Don't worry- The Lizard man won't send your project.

The group has been busy with construction as well as gathering material for the festival. Boxes are set up at Berkeley Ironworks for people that want to donate used climbing shoes, chalk bags, crashpads, climbing holds, and the like. The group has raised $2500 of their $7000 goal for materials, renting a truck to transport the wall, and other building costs. They hope to get more pads and holds, which they promise to return after the event’s end. The group also has a Kickstarter page where you can donate.

Help support the artistic side of climbing and if you’re heading to Burning Man- make sure to stop by the climbing wall!

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Friday, July 1, 2011
  Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program Comes to Ironworks
Last Week, Trooper Johnson, the Youth Sports Program Coordinator, and a half dozen kids from BORP, the Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program, headed over to Berkeley Ironworks. BORP is the leading provider and promoter of accessible sports and recreation opportunities for children and adults with physical disabilities in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. Using ascenders, strong upper bodies, and some technique, the kids had the opportunity to climb for the very first time.

“The one thing that stood out was when each kid got on the rope and started ascending, his/her teammates started cheering for them,” said Johnson about the day of climbing. “There was so much encouragement and energy for each other that it made it great to see how much each kid has grown to care for each other and see the value in the success of someone else. That was amazing.”

Trooper Johnson was paralyzed in a car accident when he was 17 years old as a result of drinking and driving. Since then, he has been a member of the United States National wheelchair basketball team for 15 years, competing in four Paralympic Games. More notable in the climbing community, Trooper was the 2nd paraplegic to climb El Capitan in Yosemite Valley, CA. He has been working with the BORP for the past few years, helping out with the youth programs.

The group was extremely excited about the climbing at Ironworks. “When the kids start talking about "next time" before they have even left the place you know it was a good day,” said Trooper. BORP should be heading back in August.

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