They're up with the sun, chain coffee-drinking and working hard to bring you the routes you love to send, project, and crush. 'Touchstone Routesetting' is an industry term for excellence, and each member of the crew brings a little somethin' somethin' to the team. In our ongoing segment, Better Know a Setter, we bring you a closer look at what makes 'em tick. In this weeks installment, we sat down with Head Routesetter Jeremy Ho.
How long have you been route setting?
How did you get into route setting?
I had been working at Berkeley Ironworks for a couple years and always wanted to try out setting. Eventually there was an open spot on the crew, I applied and was hired. It was all down hill from there...
What is your favorite gym to set at and why?
I'm a big fan of setting at Dogpatch Boulders. I'm predominantly a boulderer but lately I've been excited about setting routes and the Mission Cliffs expansion space is top notch for that.
What are your route setting pet peeves?
As the Head Routesetter, my biggest setting pet peeves are spinning holds (under tightened holds) and tape angles being off. As just a routsetter aesthetics are really important to me, matching hold sets and similar feet make a huge difference to me.
What is in your route setting bag right now?
Makita 18v impact driver, Ratchet T-wrench, Metolius Waldo big wall harness, Petzl Sama sport harness, At least 2 Petzl Grigri's, Petzl Pro Traction, Multiple locking and non locking carabiners, Petzl Ascender, Metolius 4 step aider, 2 Metolius Quick Fix, 2 quick draws, A tap, Multiple bits (for set screws and regular 5/16 hex head bits), Chalk bag with brushes, my NEW SoiLL Bucket... Oh and sharpies out the wazoo
What inspires your routes?
Rock climbing. I love everything about it and route setting allows me to create movement for others that will hopefully get them to love the sport as much as I do. Watching people enjoy something you set is a great feeling.
What is your favorite memory setting with the Touchstone Crew?
Probably Eric Sanchez shucking the pole challenge at Dogpatch for the first time.
You recently set at SCS Nationals in Atlanta. Tell us about that.
It was incredible. It was an amazing opportunity and it's inspiring to know that the Touchstone standard of routesetting can hold up on a national level. It was great learning experience to spend so much time around a great group of setters from all over the US.
And we hear your route won 2nd place in a peer review?
Yeah, I only lost 1st place by ONE vote! Note to self; next time I need to vote for my own route!
Where is your favorite place to climb outside?
I really love the climbing in Bishop and the eastern Sierras are just beautiful. Yosemite Valley is real close to the top too.
What is your proudest send?
Definitely topping out Evilution Direct ground up (a 60' boulder problem on the Grandpa Peabody boulder in Bishop). I think only a handful of people have climbed that thing without checking out the top section on a rope. (my only claim to fame. HA!)
What is your advice for aspiring setters?
Don't get discouraged. Your routes will likely be bad at first. Nail down the basics before trying to set crazy technical moves. Keep you mind open to suggested changes to your routes and learn from your mistakes. Continue to learn as much as possible about rock climbing movement and stay active in setting (you CAN get rusty.)
How many Kombuchas do you drink per week?
A sh*t ton. At least 2 per day. But that's a secret don't tell anyone.
Your secret is safe with us, JHo!
Mission Cliffs, which is about to celebrate it's 20th anniversary, has been undergoing a massive expansion project for the past two years. The gyms has added 9,000 ft of roped climbing terrain, gained a stretching and viewing mezzanine, moved the front desk, and is currently finishing construction on two brand new programming rooms. "It's been a crazy year," said General Manager Donna Hawkins. "But it's so cool to be able to grow with our membership base. The Mission Cliffs expansion has transformed the gym from what was the best 20 years ago, to what will be the best for years to come."
We knew that with such a dramatic change to the physical gym, the logo could use a little makeover as well. So of course, we turned to our friends Mark Fox and Angie Wang of Design is Play.
Mark has been climbing at Touchstone Gym's since 1993 and the two of them joined Mission Cliffs in 2009. Not only are they regular crushers around the gym, they are talented designers as well. They have worked with us to design the identities for our past four gyms; MetalMark 2010, The Studio Climbing in 2011, Dogpatch in 2012, LA. Boulders in 2013, and now Mission Cliffs in 2014. The MetalMark, The Studio, and the LA. Boulders identities all include original typeface.
We're also proud to find out that their trademark for Dogpatch Boulders is included in the Graphis Design Annual 2015!
"Out of all nine Touchstone Gym logos, you can definitely tell which ones Mark and Angie designed," said Sr. Manager Markham Connolly. "They are clean, bold, and easily identifiable. You can really see that that each unique logo is a part of the same company."
The two are highly renowned designers in the Bay Area. Mark was President of the San Francisco chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) from 1995–1996, and served on the board of the Architecture + Design Forum of SFMOMA from 1998–2000. In 1995 Fox chaired the Design Lecture Series: “5ive Iconoclasts” featured Tibor Kalman, Vaughan Oliver, the Guerrilla Girls, Jenny Holzer, and Diller + Scofidio. In 2004 Fox was designated a Fellow of the San Francisco AIGA for personal and professional contributions to the San Francisco design community.
Fox is a Professor of Graphic Design at California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco where he has taught since 1993. He served as Chair of Graphic Design at CCA on two occasions, from 2003 to 2007, and most recently from 2013 to 2014. He earned a B.A. in Fine Arts from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1985, graduating magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa.
Angie's work for March Pantry, Anson Mills, One Catering, and others has won numerous awards from the Type Directors Club, Communication Arts, Graphis, AIGA, and Print magazine. In 2013, Design is Play was one of forty-four design firms interviewed for Steven Heller and Lita Talarico’s book Design Firms Open for Business (Allworth Press).
More recently, Angie is quoted in Design School Wisdom, an anthology of tips from veterans in the industry (Chronicle Books). Her work is also featured in New Modernist Type (Thames & Hudson); Typography Essentials: 100 Design Principles for Working with Type (Rockport); and Typography Sketchbooks (Princeton Architectural Press.) In 2014, Angie served as one of five jurors for Communication Arts’ Design Annual, an international competition of the best design created over the last year.
Angie is a Senior Adjunct Professor at California College of the Arts in San Francisco where she has been teaching in the Graphic Design Program since 2005. She has taught “Typography 3: The Book,” created the curriculum for the foundational course “Typography 1: Form,” and co-taught the Summer study abroad class “Amsterdam: Dutch Utopia” with Mark Fox. She graduated magna cum laude from UC Berkeley, and with distinction from the California College of Arts and Crafts (CCAC). She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
"We climb at Mission Cliffs, as do our children Elias, Cate, and Lukas," said Angie. "MC is a bit of a second home for us, so to design an identity for a place and a community of people that we have an affinity for is an honor"
We asked the pair to give us a bit of insight to how they tackle the task of creating our gym logos. "Our process is fairly simple: we sketch at a small size. If a sketch works at half an inch, it typically works well as a finished symbol. Extraneous details are eliminated, and the essential structure of the symbol is clearly established," said Mark. "Once a sketch shows promise, we refine it further and then ink the refinement at a size of 3.5 inches with a Rapidograph pen. We then build the symbol in Illustrator for presentation; if the client selects it, we typically hone the design further, reinking the symbol at a size of 7 inches, and rebuilding it in Illustrator. Our process is laborious, but we believe it yields superior results."
"One final note: we can’t do great work without great partners. We have to thank and acknowledge Mark Melvin, in particular, for entrusting us with this assignment," said Angie.
Several of the original concepts were presented to a team at Touchstone, who then decided on the winning design. "Working with Mark and Angie to select the final identity for Mission Cliffs was such an honor, said Touchstone Graphic Designer Heather Campbell. "Their experience and professionalism really shone through. I can't WAIT to use this new logo!"
The new logo, which will be unveiled in the coming months, has an urban, industrial feel: concrete floors, steel Ibeams, and that massive crane hook—20 tons of capacity! "We thought the identity should feel empathetic and so we relied on simple, constructed forms," said Angie. "The design is the kind of nononsense trademark that could be stamped out of metal, or stenciled on a machine."
We owe a HUGE thank you to Mark and Angie for not only working with us on our previous gym identities, but for taking on the challenge of re-creating an existing logo. We're SO happy with the final product and we can't wait to see it in use.
...So do you want to see the new logo?!
Patience young padawans. It's coming soon!
Every year I stare at the enormous formations of Yosemite Valley. They tower above me. I know that I want to climb them. I also know to do so I need to become a much better rock climber.
Bouldering on Tatonka in Squamish
Bouldering provides one of the fastest ways to improve technique in climbing. This summer I plan on bouldering in Squamish British Columbia in preparation for the fall Yosemite season. Attacking the boulders haphazardly and receiving enormous gains in my climbing would be awesome but is also unrealistic. The best way to steadily improve at climbing is to build a pyramid. The idea of creating a route or boulder problem pyramid has been around for two decades. In 1993 Dale Goddard and Udo Neumann wrote about using a route pyramid to structure progression through the grades in Performance Rock Climbing, “Experience shows that improvement progresses best when the difficulty of routes you have done forms a stable pyramid”.
My goal while climbing in Squamish is to send a V7. To make a bouldering pyramid involves knowing first what you want to accomplish. I’ll be in Squamish for five weeks. The weather may be funky and I might end up climbing routes some days so I decided to make the top of my bouldering pyramid be a V7. My bouldering pyramid would look something like this:
V5 V5 V5 V5
V4 V4 V4 V4 V4 V4
V3 V3 V3 V3 V3 V3 V3 V3
Climbing on Drone Militia in Bishop
The problems fall into three different categories: Projects, Volume problems and Warm-ups. My projects would be the first and second levels of the pyramid, the V7s and V6s. My Volume problems would be the second levels of the pyramid, the V5s and V4s. My Warm-ups would be the bottom of the pyramid, the V3s.
A few days ago I met with Steve Maisch, a climber with 23 years experience and a long time working as a climbing trainer. Maisch provided me with a bit of insight into bouldering specific pyramids. “On a bouldering trip it is usually necessary to take more rest days for skin and general strength reasons. A three day a week bouldering schedule is probably more effective. Also because doing a boulder problem takes less time more problems can be done and attempted in a day. More rest days and the ability to do more problems in a given day allows for the boulderer to project and do volume on the same day.”
Maisch suggested Day 1 I work on Hard bouldering. I warm-up by doing a few easy Warm-up problems and then a warm up problem. Then I try a top of my pyramid project. “Once you start to power down on the project stop trying and go back to camp,” said Maisch who said that it only causes worn skin.
Colton climbing in Yosemite at Happy Isles
I take a rest day and let my skin regrow.
Day 2, I warm up and try my second tier projects, my v6s. If I finish them, then I continue onto my volume climbing and building out my pyramid.
I take a rest day.
Day 3, I warm up and then try my top tier project. Even if I don’t finish it, I try my second tier projects.
I then take two days of rest and repeat the cycle.
I have utilized a pyramid style climbing structure on a number of climbing trips. I saw great results in Hueco, in Ten Sleep and in Rifle. I may go to Squamish and find out that my goals are over ambitious so I will bump my pyramid down a letter. Or I may find that I easily dispatch my pyramid so I can bump my pyramid up a little. Either way, I'll be building a solid base to becoming a better climber. While I have less outstanding climbing days, I do manage to perform on a consistently improving basis.
For more information check out Maisch’s training page.
The Studio Climbing, our gym in San Jose, is starting their first Teen Climbing Team! Climbing is a great activity for kids or all ages and ability levels, and we're so happy to see a team forming!
Tabitha Enanoria, who has been working at The Studio Climbing for over a year, will be coaching the team. "It's something I've been thinking about for a while now," said Tabitha. "Now that we've got more youth climbers around the gym - the time has come! I'm really excited to make the Climbing Team a really positive experience for everyone."
The Studio will hold two informal try outs for the team for kids to come and get a feel for what to expect. It's more like an Open House to check out the team. "All participants will be evaluated on three different aspects of climbing. Climbing ability, willingness to learn, and displaying the ability be apart of a friendly team environment. In order to be considered for the team you must attend at least one or both tryout days for the full two-hour session. We understand everyone starts at different levels with contrasting abilities; which is why all levels are welcome.
If you have a child that is interested in checking out the program, come on down! This is a FREE event and a great way to learn more about youth climbing at The Studio.
What: The Studio Climbing Team Tryouts
When: Tuesday, August 5th 6:00pm-8:00pm.
Thursday, August 7th 6:00pm-8:00pm.
Where: 396 S 1st St, San Jose, CA 95113
Who: Boys and Girls Ages 7-19 years old
If you have further questions, please call the front desk at 408.998.4000
Well, folks. Big news. The Touchstone family is about to get even bigger...
We are thrilled to announce that we have secured a location for a state of the art indoor climbing gym in Culver City. Our first Southern California location, LA Boulders, opened in the Arts District of Los Angeles in late 2013. We're happy to have found a location that will bring a Touchstone Climbing caliber gym to the West Side. The exact location is still hush hush, but let's just say it's VERY close to the 10.
“LA Boulders has changed the climbing gym market in Los Angeles,” said Sr. Manager Jeffery Bowling. “This new gym allows us to serve Culver City, Santa Monica, and beyond. We’re very excited about the location of the gym and thrilled by the warm welcome we have received from the L.A. climbing community.”
The Culver City gym has a 25,000 sq ft footprint, which would make it one of the largest indoor climbing gyms in the country. “We are still in the planning stages of the project, but we know we are building a very large bouldering gym. We are still exploring the idea of raising the roof to add a rope climbing area,” said Touchstone Climbing CEO Mark Melvin.
Culver City will be a full service gym, with designated areas for programs rooms, fitness equipment, and a training area. “Offering premier climbing, fitness, and classes like yoga and kickboxing has become synonymous with the Touchstone Climbing brand,” said Director of Marketing Lauryn Claassen. “Bringing a full service gym to Culver City will be huge for both the climbing and fitness communities.” That's right people. Your climbing gym membership can also be your yoga studio membership, which will double as your home away from home!
We will once again be working with Walltopia, a leading climbing wall manufacturer and our BFFs, to build the gym. "This is our 5th project together and our partnership with Walltopia becomes stronger with each gym,” said Bowling, who visited Walltopia headquarters in Bulgaria in June. “We are ready to bring something truly innovative to the greater Los Angeles area.”
“We are cautiously confident that this project can be completed within the first half of 2015,” said Melvin. (!!!)
The Culver City gym will be the our 11th location in California. As you may remember, we announced a Pasadena location last March, which is still in the planning phase. “We are continuing to work with the city and will be announcing our progress in the coming months,” said Melvin. “These three locations give us a good start on serving the entire L.A. basin climbing community. Multiple locations in close proximity is one of the things that separates Touchstone from its competitors. When completed, one Touchstone membership will provide access to over 50,000 sq. ft. of climbing within a 20 minute drive."
Boo. Yah. Get ready for a REALLY exciting year.
I grabbed the sloping hold three times but failed to commit. The twenty foot fall into the water below scared me. As I pawed at the hold, I thought about how I swam like a stone. My legs quivered a bit. I down climbed and stepped off the wall, never committing to a move that I knew I was capable of.
The PsicoComp Wall in Park City offered Mason and I a great opportunity to climb outside and escape a bit of the oppressive Utah heat. A half dozen routes from 5.9 to 5.13 climbed half way up the fifty foot wall. The upcoming PsicoComp The wall provided an awesome summer treat but also served as a great reminder of one of my biggest weaknesses in climbing. I get scared.
Mason Earle on right, climbs high on the comp wall.
Fear can be described in two types: Rational and Irrational. Rational fear is when you are in an actual dangerous situation like you’re in over your head on hard climbing with no gear. Irrational Fear is when you get scared for no reason like when you’re sport climbing and can’t climb above your bolt. Irrational fear can be quite frustrating because despite knowing that a situation is safe, like taking a twenty foot fall into water, it is psychologically debilitating.
“One of the really useful things I think was to approach things mindfully. As in to be fully aware of what you're doing and why,” said noted free soloist Alex Honnold when asked about how he deals with fear. “So if something is dangerous, you evaluate it and decide whether or not you actually want to proceed. And if it seems too dangerous, you retreat with no doubts.”
There are times when even Honnold gets scared though. I asked him about how he manages his fear. “I don't think it's so much about managing my fear, as not getting fearful to begin with. With routes like Ambrosia (a forty foot highball in Bishop California) and long solos you deal with all the uncertainty and fear before you start. You manage all that stuff on the ground. Then when you climb the route it's already taken care of. So while you're climbing, you don't get scared,” said Honnold.“But sometimes when I'm onsight soloing or even just doing stuff on gear I'll get gripped for whatever reason. Then I just do what everybody else does, take some deep breaths and try to keep it together.”
Rosie takes a practice plunge off the wall
A few of the other climbers at the pool took practice falls from lower heights. They became used to the idea of falling into the water and realized that much of their hesitance in climbing was from Irrational Fear. I noticed that climbing faster would get me to the crux less pumped and I'd be more prepared for the crux. "Fatigue makes cowards of us all," said Vince Lombardi.
I fell in a few times low on the wall and then I stared at the wall. Mason encouraged me to “just go for it.” Before leaving the ground, I chalked my hands thoroughly and committed to climbing well. I moved high on the wall, grabbed the sloper and moved into the next hold. I fought through a series of good pinches towards the top and threw for the last hold. I came up a few inches short. I screamed and splashed into the water 25 feet below. I swam back up, ready to try again.
By Jon Kennedy
When planning a bouldering trip in June, climbers usually place Bishop last on their list of potential destinations. For those unfamiliar with Bishop climbing, it is a fall or winter destination if you want those optimal sending temps. I love the look you get when you mention you’re going to the Buttermilks in June. With temps in the 90s and up, leaving climbers running for the shade, Bishop in the summer can be a climber’s worst nightmare. But the sound of no crowds lured a few Average Joe climbers to the high desert in mid-June...
As we left the Bay Area, we got our last glimpse of city life and the “thrill” of sitting in rush-hour traffic. A few hours later, we reached Yosemite National Park, flashed our annual pass and headed towards the higher elevation of Tuolumne. Seeing the beautiful lakes and inspiring domes of YNP were the perfect primer and helped get us psyched for some granite climbing.
After several hours of driving down 395, we decided to make a short detour in the interest of a little rest & relaxation. The combination of the full moon and the cool evening sky created a perfect setting for taking in the local hot springs.
(NOTE: The springs are easily found right off of 395. Once you see the big green church, continue on for a few miles then take a left and head down the road until you pass the second cattle gate. From here, make a left turn onto an obvious dirt road and park at the turn off. There’s a wooden path that leads you right to tub.)
If you’ve never been to the hot springs off 395, it’s worth every minute of the short drive/approach to be able to relax under the stars and the moon surrounded by the mountains and good friends. After a restful night’s sleep, “Team Average Joes” were off to crush some real rock and see some beautiful sights. But before we headed up to the boulders, we needed to fuel up at Erik Schatt’s bakery – which has good coffee and the best baked goods on the whole East Side. Our first climbing destination was Way Lake, where the high elevation ensures that the temps are usually perfect in June. Since no one in our group had ever been to Way Lake, we didn’t quite know what to expect. After hiking around a bit searching for boulders, we realized we were on the wrong trail without a climbable boulder in sight. Instead of getting disappointed, we shifted gears and ended up enjoying an incredible day of alpine hiking, which satisfied our wanderlust. After a pit stop at Mammoth Brewery, it was back to the hot springs to relax and plan out our next course of action. It was an easy decision to settle on a night session, so we headed towards the Buttermilks, since we knew there were a couple of decent boulders there.
Night climbing in the ‘Milks is amazing. When you pull up to Grandma and Grandpa Peabody and the whole area is peacefully deserted, you know it’s going be a fun night. We got the pads out and ran towards Grandma Peabody. The back of Grandma has a bunch of skin-friendly jugs to warm up on. After a brief warm-up, we attempted a who’s who of popular Buttermilks moderates, including Go Granny Go and Ironman Traverse, climbs that commonly attract heavy crowds during the peak season. Fortunately, we literally had them all to ourselves. Thanks to our JOBY torches, the climbs were easily lit up, making night climbing very easy and safe. After a few sends and lots of flailing we headed back to town for a good night’s sleep (In a bed; worth it if you want to sleep like a boss).
After another lazy morning, which downtown Bishop accommodated perfectly, we waited out the hottest part of the day with a little yoga and reading at the local park. After the temps started to drop, we headed out for Rock Creek.
Rock Creek is a special place. Located at 8500 to 9000 ft, there are beautiful granite boulders and a lovely creek flowing with clear water and some happy fish. Finding and approaching the boulders at Rock Creek was a dream. You park your car, walk 5 minutes, and you’re at the first incredible boulder. The rock quality is excellent – smooth granite with aesthetic lines and comfortable holds. We tried a few moderate problems, which required precise footwork and solid technique. Rock Creek bouldering is very similar to what you’d find in Yosemite – very smooth rock, littered with small/slippery feet and not much for handholds. The Rock Creek area doesn’t have vast amounts of bouldering, but what it lacks in sheer quantity, it made up for with its beautiful alpine forest setting. My favorite problem that we tried was called “Groove and Arete”, a fun V4 arête with a big move to an edge and some dicey top-out holds.
The next day, we again waited out the hottest hours of the day – this time by checking out the local climbing shops. One of my favorite ways to kill time in Bishop is going to Moonlight Gallery and checking out the beautiful pictures from around the world. The gallery also has a few books showcasing climbing history, something every climber these days should look at. The history of this sport has always amazed me. Looking at the pictures of the “Stone Masters” defying gravity without the benefit of guidebooks or modern-day gear has always been inspiring.
Around 3pm we headed to the Milks for an afternoon session. The first stop was the Birthday Boulders, with some fun warm-ups and a pretty stout V3 face climb called “Birthday Direct”, with small crimps and high feet. Because we also had a first-timer with us, I wanted to show her all of the “easier” classics, like Buttermilk Stem, Birthday Mantle, Robinson Rubber Tester, Good Morning Sunshine slab and the Green Wall. Being a first-time climber in the Milks, you realize that even the V0s are hard – very humbling. A perfect example is the holdless slab of Robinson Rubber Tester, which I’ve seen completely baffle and shut down many strong gym climbers. After a fun afternoon of climbing, we headed to the Happys, where big holds and big feet make for some fun gymnastic climbing.
In the Happys, we found a few good boulders with some fun V0 – V2s and just went to town. Our Bishop rookie quickly acclimated herself to the area, topping out 8 or 10 problems in our short session. She liked this style of rock a little better than the unforgiving granite of the Buttermilks. We climbed until sunset and then headed to the Tablelands to setup camp, where we enjoyed dinner before drifting off to sleep under the starlight.
The next morning, after packing up the car, we made another stop at Schatt’s bakery for goodies to bring home, paid a visit to the smokehouse for some jerky, and were on our way.
This was one of my favorite trips to Bishop. No crowds, tons of new sights and boulders, and a lot of time soaking in the springs. Leaving Bishop is always a sad time – your skin is sore, your body is sore, and you realize you’re leaving one of the best spots in California. Keep it a secret, though, people. Bishop is too hot in June. Spread the word.
Recognized as one of the premier cycling events in America's West, The Death Ride tours California's Alps. The five pass ride includes 129 miles and 15,000+ feet of lung busting climbing. This summer, Touchstone cyclist Deborah Georges completed the brutal race through the Lake Tahoe region. She wrote a bit about the event for the Touchstone blog.
Bikers climbing over Monitor Pass
First off, if you love bicycling and are looking for a difficult yet doable challenge, the Death Ride is for you, and a must! This was my second time riding in this "exclusive" bicycling event! What draws me most to the Death Ride is that it allows me as a competitive athlete to realistically evaluate how fit I really am, how much power I can generate on my own accord over long distance, and how tough I am mentally to keep my body moving when the going gets unbearably rough.
The Death Ride is a chance in a lifetime experience. Located in Alpine County/the Lake Tahoe Area, the natural environment and breathtaking scenery stand in sharp contrast to urban/city living. Completing the entire 129 mile course entails riding 5 extremely diverse and not-so-easy mountain passes: Monitor Pass (front and back), Ebbetts Pass (front and back), and Carson Pass. Each Pass has a character all its own, making the Death Ride an awe-inspiring, life-changing, unique athletic experience.
The downside of the Death Ride derives from accommodation logistics. Markleeville, where the Death Ride starts and ends, is sparse in lodging accommodation. Because of this, many riders either stay in Gardnerville, Nevada where economy motels are a plenty and yet entail a 45 minute transportation drive to the start come ride day, or vey like heck to reserve a camping site nearby. To manage my personal stress, I chose to park my Toyota Rav4 on route 89 in front of Turtle Rock Park, Headquarters of the Death Ride, and camp inside my vehicle. This is the ideal situation. It makes no sense to go to a motel, when one can easily erect a tent or sleep in one's vehicle free-of-charge right at the start!
Start times for the Death Ride vary according to a rider's desire. I personally did not want to start off in the dark so I chose to get on the road at the break of dawn slightly before 5:00 a.m. That said, slower or more ambitious riders opt for a 3:00-3:30 a.m. start with the more popular start option commencing between 4:00-4:30 a.m.
Monitor Pass is an ideal route to begin the course. Its road is wide, open on both right/left sides, and not particularly steep. I enjoyed "warming up" on Monitor to get my "climbing legs" primed. The backside descent to Topaz rest stop is fast, technically "moderate" in terms of difficulty, and overall what I label "a joy ride"! Beware, it gets unexpectedly windy flying down Monitor Pass. Regardless of how warm the temperature might seem, the knowledgable rider dons a wind jacket to keep from shivering prior to making the long descent!
With two mountain passes notched on one's belt, the next challenge becomes the majority of a cyclist's favorite - Ebbetts Pass. Quite distinct from the openly expansive Monitor Pass, Ebbetts is more introverted in the sense that it lies within a forest of sorts surrounded by subtle creeks, calming burbling waters, and aesthetically beautiful tall-trunk trees that indisputably have been digging their roots in the earth's soil for centuries. I encountered absolutely no difficulty climbing Ebbetts Pass quickly, descending the back side swiftly to Hermit Valley, and then climbing back up to the top in order to make a very fast descent to the rest/lunch stop at Wolfcreek by 11:10 a.m.
Wolfcreek lunch stop is pleasurable because it affords one the opportunity to mingle and exchange riding stories with other cyclists. I lunched at a table full of guys who interacted with me and with each other in an enjoyable "we're in this together" way!
With four mountain passes tucked securely behind me, I now faced the final "dreaded" Carson Pass. In defense of Carson which largely gets a negative rating from the majority of riders, I came to understand this time around what really sours me from what otherwise would be a positive response to this particular Death Ride pass. Carson, sadly, is not beautiful or aesthetic or naturally attractive. Located on a well trafficked motor vehicle county road, the asphalt is torn up in many parts making it impossible for a cyclist to hold a straight line. In terms of coverage from nature's elements, there is none to speak of. The route up Carson Pass to the end rest stop of the Death Ride is wide open making cyclists extremely vulnerable to the sunshine and heat. Simply put, it's not a particularly memorable experience one will opt to talk about with family and friends in a positive tone after the Death Ride is completed. Knowing that Carson Pass was going to be the most physically challenging for me after having successfully ridden 94 incredibly breathtaking and delightful miles, I determined to reach deep inside myself to tap the final reserves I had left to make it to the top of Carson in strong form!
Indeed, I made it! I accomplished my goal of completing the Death Ride without the Death Ride beating me! At the Carson Pass final rest stop, I ate the traditional ice cream sandwich with a tremendous sense of accomplishment. The ladies "manning" the finish line, hugged and congratulated me not only for having successfully finished, but more so because I was the fifth woman to get to the top shortly after noon among the larger majority of men who dominated the 2014 Death Ride! It's both sad and incomprehensible to me that more women don't aspire to taking on the challenge of the Death Ride. With determination and training, the Death Ride is doable for anyone. It's a chance in a lifetime open to all!
Riding the final 21 miles back to my car stationed at Turtle Rock Park after an exhilarating descent from Carson Pass rest stop, I was astounded to find that I had completed the 129 mile end-to-end course in 8 hours and 42 minutes! If memory serves me correctly, I had completed my first Death Ride saddle time in 9 hours 55 minutes. Imagine knocking off an entire hour two years later the second time around! Woot woot - pom poms furiously shaking!
I wish to thank my sister Wendy, for always standing by me and encouraging my athlete endeavors, my Berkeley Ironworks/Touchstone spinning buddy Marty Kaplan, for both teaching and educating me on how to be a safe and skillful descender, and Pat Ross, an extraordinary competitive cyclist whom I highly admire and would gladly trade places with in terms of strength, skill and ability! These three individuals have served me the most over the years in bringing out the best of me in terms of my athleticism.
Cheers to all, happy safe riding, and get your asses over to the Death Ride at some point - you won't regret it!
On Sunday July 13th, Diablo Rock Gym manager, Hans Florine raced the summer sun on El Capitan climbing the Triple Direct route in a blindingly fast 17 hours and 29 minutes solo. "I had to have the correct speed on the route to make use of that turning of the earth." Florine said in regards to maximizing shade during the summer hear. "The three hours or so I was in the sun nearly cooked me. I had a few thoughts of rappelling off."
Florine climbed the route, which connects the Salathe Wall, the Muir Wall and the Nose, because the route features shade in the morning and afternoon as the route climbs over the buttress of El Capitan. He spoke with the Touchstone Blog about his adventure.
I climbed, by myself, The Triple Direct (TD) route on El Capitan on Sunday. Non-Climbers: The TD is a route up the middle of a 2950 ft cliff, El Capitan, in Yosemite Valley. A normal party would plan to take four days on the route. The route has been climbed by very high level of experience teams in under six hours. I do not know of any recorded solo speed record to date. I think this might be the first one-day ascent of the route by a soloist! We’d call that TDIAD (I climbed the route in 17 hours and 29 minutes. Car-to-car in 20 hours and 21 minutes.)
I am told it was 106 degrees in Yosemite Valley on Sunday; not ideal for climbing El Capitan. I choose The TD because I could climb for the first part of the day in the shade. Then the route goes slightly right around the corner into upper dihedrals so you get late in the day shade too. If I timed it right, I’d only be in the sun for a few hours. Predominately this worked out for me. It’s tough for me to get time to do something big and also climb the days before to get “tuned in,” so I really wanted to use this day, hot or not. Thursday and Friday I climbed with my friend Derrick Lindsey on Tuolumne granite, so that was a great time to get re-familiarized with the rock.
Climbers: (non-climbers this may be Greek, not interesting, or hard to follow.) I started off the ground at 5:48 am. I used a 70m X 9.1mm Blue Water rope. I planned to stretch the rope to full length nearly every lead unless there was some logistical advantage otherwise to do so. I planned to jug, (ascend the rope), with a 4000 cu in back pack. -a bit big for these things, but nice to have the room for the approach and descent. My rack was: ten quick draws, ten free biners, four long runners, doubles of everything up to #2 Camalots, one #3 and, in case Alex Honnold is reading or hearing about this, I didn’t take a #4. I took triples of the ½ cams, BD Gray. I also took four offset cams. I took about 20 nuts, mostly tiny ones. To my past partners, yes, I placed a few. I came upon five biners on the route and ended up leaving three and dropping a quick draw, so I was even on that score. However I inadvertently left a #1 camalot on the pitch off the Glowering spot. – Go get it treasure hunters! I self belayed with a Grigri, and brought one aider and one Yates speedy stirrup. I had one gallon and one liter of water, NUUN tablets, Honey Stinger Energy Chews and Protein Bars, and Field Trip Jerky. Although I had a light long sleeve shirt and wind breaker in reserve I climbed the entire route in my Outdoor Research Ferosi NIAD pants* and short sleeve Astro man shirt. (*they are lighter then Schoeller pants and have compartments at the knees which held light padding for my knees)
Should be a picture of topo to reference for the following… I climbed the first 2.5 pitches in one pitch. (I, un-roped, soloed up the first 30 ft of pitch “1”) I climbed from 2.5 to 4.5 in a pitch, which left me at the two bolts at the base of the bolted 5.11d section. From there I made it to the ledge, “Triangle Ledge,” after the last face crux. Then from that ledge I made a single long pitch to the top of the half dollar. It’s actually 74 meters from the anchor on that ledge to the anchor on top of the half dollar. I put in a natural pro anchor 4 meters down from the top anchor. From there I un-roped soloed, dragging the rope behind me on the easy terrain for two pitches up to Mammoth Terrace, to avoid jugging that section. I then un-roped soloed the first pitch off Mammoth to the base of the aid pitch that slopes up and right. I did this first aid pitch normally, then the next two I linked. I found five – 2 liter bottles of water left by someone on the Gray Ledges and drank about a half liter as I still had plenty in my pack to drink. I led up the next pitches, but had a rope snag so had to cut it short to an 80-foot pitch to lower down, retrieve my pack and un-snag the rope. I led the long hard arching left aid pitch just before it turns right to The Muir and combined that with the traverse over to the lower off point. I lowered my self here leaving some biners and swung the pendulum over to the big ledges under Camp 4, then pulled the rope, thus not having to backtrack that portion.
I tried to hide in a little rock corner from the sun on this ledge and stall, changing my shoes and eating. It was hot and this portion of the route was the three or so hours in total that I was in the sun. It was this section where I really was having to dig deep for motivation to continue on. – Note to self, never under estimate the sun and high temperatures power to suck the energy out of you. My consumption of NUUN in my water earlier on the route surely got me through this bit. From this ledge I led diagonally up to the base of the Great Roof. I took a fall on my GriGri within the first ten feet of leading the Great Roof when a cam popped out on me. I took another four-foot fall directly onto my daisy after that, ouch. I led the Great Roof and combined it with the Pancake Flake. From there I made it to Camp Five with rope to spare. New discovery for me! – I led from Camp 5 all the way to Camp 6, about 68 meters! From Camp 6 I found out it’s 71 meters to the block belay! I improvised a natural anchor and “tethered” it to the bolts. Although the moon was nearly full, it was on this lead that I put on my headlamp. From the Block, (that is not there anymore), I led all the way up the final bolt ladder onto the slab section just before it traverses to the right. From there it was just a short 70-foot lead up to the finishing anchors. AT these anchors I “Shouldered” everything, then soloed up to the tree to stop the clock at 11:17pm. I figured basically I made 17 long pitches out of the route. There was ample moon light on top and two gallons of water sitting at the tree! I drank about two liters of it and poured a liter in my bottle to have for the descent. After 25 minutes of laying there panting, resting, eating, drinking, and packing my pack, I staggered up to an upright position and began the hike down.
The rappelling crowd was up on top with their 1000-meter rope dangling off El Cap. A woman on top said she made the rappel in less than six minutes! That was sounding really good rather than the two-hour hike down the east ledges. Alas there were cavers coming up the lines in the middle of the night because it was too hot in the day to do so.
I made it back to my family van at 2:09 am. And back to my bed at 3am. I woke up at 4:15 am to start on Sunday so I did my “BTB” (Bed to Bed) time in under 23 hours! I hope your Sunday was equally adventuresome, or maybe you took a rest day since your Saturday was full of fun.
Member of the Month: John F. Davis
By: Jason Bove
When someone truly cares about themselves and their daily practices, it shines through onto the people that encounter them daily. An interesting human that we see very frequently, because of his practices, is member John F. Davis. He is a gentleman who sees things through the eyes of experience, and is always able to smile and tell you how his day is going. You may have been dazzled by his incredible inversions in a yoga class, or heard him high above you on the climbing wall discussing law and ethics. If there were a way to introduce him to everyone that I know, I would...he is a good friend and an inspiration.
Bove) If you could describe yourself to our readers in a few sentences, what has made you into the man that you are today?
Davis) A great marriage, coupled with steady determination. I have used physical activity to calm and steady myself.
B) Participating in classes such as yoga and rock climbing, you seem to have a very active & healthy lifestyle. Can you tell us about what draws you to these and other activities you enjoy?
D) I like physical activities which are aerobic and use different parts of my body and mind. Having fun and not getting injured are good things. My wife, Chris has been rock climbing for 25 years. I took up rock climbing so that we could do it together.
B) From a professional standpoint, what kind of work have you done/are you doing now that has been enjoyable enough to make a career out of thus far?
D) For more than 30 years I used my law degree to help affluent people. It was rewarding, but incredibly stressful. 14 years ago I switched to doing pro bono legal work to help less advantaged people. I work at Legal Services of Northern California, which is minutes from Pipeworks. I find the work to be very rewarding. I look forward to my work every day.
B) How long have you been a member here at Pipeworks, and how did you find us?
D) I started taking yoga at Pipeworks around 7 years ago. I think I became a member around 4 years ago.
B) Are you a Sacramento native, and what things do you find interesting about this city to keep you living here?
D) I was born in Sacramento. I was raised in L.A. Chris and I moved to Sacramento from Chico in 1984. It is a city that is large enough that both of us can have interesting careers. It is a very diverse place with a wide range of activities we can do.
B) In the past, I have heard you quote Zen Buddhist Monk, Thích Nhất Hạnh. What is it about this teacher, activist, and author that draws you to his teachings?
D) I love his book The Miracle of Mindfulness. It explains in very simple terms how to meditate and maintain an active lifestyle. It has no jargon, and is not trying to sell a lifestyle, seminars, or workshops. It showed me how I could meditate and walk the dog or practice yoga. The mindfulness and meditation make me calmer and allow me to face the challenges in my life more directly and simply.
B) Can you describe some ways you cultivate mindfulness in your everyday life?
D) I practice yoga at home daily, and meditate while I practice. I also meditate when walking and hiking. Meditating while rock climbing , bicycle riding, or practicing law is not possible. Talking about meditation and mindfulness around people who do not practice is not a good idea.
B) I’ve heard you are an avid traveler; what’s next on your list of places to visit?
D) We are going to British Columbia on a fishing trawler for a week in August. We are going to Antarctica in December.
B) How does a “normal” day in the life of Mr. John F. Davis play out?
D) Chris and I get up early and have coffee and talk. I practice yoga for around 20 minutes. I take the dog for a walk. Some mornings I rock climb. Some mornings I ride my bike to work. A little before noon I stop work to go practice noontime yoga. I eat a quick lunch, then return to work. I bike home to Chris and dinner. Chris and I have a second home in Truckee. We usually go there for weekends. We hike, bike, kayak, ski and snowshoe up there. Sacramento is very close to the Sierras, which both of us love.
B) If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
D) I would be a human. We can change and improve our lives and can work on our sense of humor.