Deja Vu; a Day in the Life of a Route Setter

You know that feeling you get when you walk into the gym and BAM! It's chalk full of brand new routes and boulder problems for you climb, crush and curse? We owe it all to our route setting crew.

Route setters are, by nature, a different breed. The job is 3/4 manual labor, 1/8 creativity, 1/16 climbing and 1/16 cheep beer. They are the strong and not-so-silent type who are up with the sun, day in and day out to dream up and create your next project.

We're proud to have worked with Touchstone athlete Joe Kinder to take a closer look at the daily grind of one of our own. Ben Polanco, AKA Flea, has been routesetting for over 11 years. Take a look behind the scenes and pull back the curtain on a day in the life of a Touchstone route setter.

Deja Vu from Touchstone Climbing on Vimeo.

The Dawn Wall Cleanup

On January 15th, Kevin Jorgenson and Tommy Caldwell made climbing history when they completed the Dawn Wall on El Capitan, free climbing the world’s hardest big wall over a nineteen day effort. A colossal amount of effort went into the ascent. “The Dawn Wall was 94% work and 6% climbing,” said Kevin Jorgenson.

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During the ascent, they had four portaledges on the wall and a half dozen full sized haulbags. Their extensive camp weighed over six hundred pounds. A half dozen trips were made by myself and another porter to carry food and water to the men on the wall.

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On January 17th, I hiked to the top of El Capitan with Jorgenson and Caldwell to clean the route. The ascent had garnered national attention and while they did interviews from the summit, I descended six hundred feet and hauled their advanced base camp to the top. Afterwards, Jorgenson rappelled two thousand feet to basecamp while Caldwell and I rappelled down and cleaned the ropes.

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We pulled a two thousand feet off rope off and brought it to base camp. Tommy rigged a system to lower the entire six hundred pound basecamp to the ground in one massive lower.

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Carrying the loads from the summit to the ground after the ascent and carrying the gear from the ground to the car involved a half dozen men and a number of trips. The number of loads Kevin and Tommy ferried up and down over the years is in the hundreds. While the climbing was quite difficult, by far the most impressive part of the route was the sheer volume of work that the climb involved. >

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Tommy does some last minute clean up duty on top of El Capitan.

Meeting Team Touchstone

We are proud to be supporting Team Touchstone, a comprehensive and competitive youth climbing team. Interesting in our youth climbing program? We sat down with head coaches Zach Wright and Scott Cory to find out more. 

Zach Wright, a 22-year-old philosophy undergraduate student at UC Berkeley and Bay Area native, and Scott Cory, a 24-year-old Pleasant Hill resident with an extensive background in competing and coaching in the USA youth circuit, will be acting as the Co-Head Coach of Team Touchstone with a focus on the competitive team.


“The aim of Team Touchstone is to provide a comprehensive climbing instruction experience that will enable young climbers to progress as far as possible in the sport,” said Wright. “The new team will allow climbers to enter into Team Touchstone at any level and receive excellent climbing instruction, whether they are brand new to the sport or looking to compete at the highest level.”

That translates into 3 levels of youth climbing teams: recreational, intermediate and competitive. With 75-100 youth climbers spread through the Californian gyms, there will be a program for climbers at any level. “By having a multiple level team, we can ensure that each climber is on the appropriate team to facilitate learning,” said Cory.


The Recreational team will be ideal for climbers looking to develop a love for the sport while addressing the basics of technique and becoming a well-rounded climber in a social, relaxed environment. The intermediate team provides a training environment for climbers who want to become more serious with the sport. This team will focus on technique, strength, and strategy development while maintaining a fun, social climbing experience. Climbers on the intermediate team will have the option of attending competitions to see if the competitive team is right for them. Try outs and coach recommendation are suggested for the intermediate level.

The Competitive team climbs in the USAC (USA Climbing) competition in the bouldering series in the fall through winter and the sport/speed climbing in the spring and summer. Competitive climbers travel extensively on a state and national level with an opportunity to compete globally. The team is for highly dedicated climbers who want a challenging training environment and are prepared to attend all levels of USAC competitions. The team focuses on technique development, strength training, and competition strategy.

To find out more email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for further details.

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“With the introduction of our team, Touchstone will establish itself as the cornerstone of our local youth climbing community, as well as a strong presence in the competitive climbing scene,” said Wright. “We're in the process of opening three more gyms in Southern California, and I'm aiming to get the Southern California component of our team up and running as soon as possible. Going forward, we will continue to provide a platform for any local youth climbers who want to push their climbing as far as it can go. My aim within the next few years is to have climbers competing internationally, proving that we truly have a world-class program here at Touchstone.”


Season 16 Divisionals at Basecamp

ABS Season 16 Divisionals went down last weekend at Basecamp in Reno, Nevada. Youth climbers from all over Northern California, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, the Western half of both Dakotas came together to compete for a chance to move onto Nationals.


Two youth climbers from The East Beta’s, Great Western Power Company’s Teen Team, reached the podium and will be moving on to Nationals. Elise Buser took 1st place and Katrina Louie took 5th. “It was really great to see the training that Elise and Katrina have been doing pay off and get them spots on the podium. Their hard work and persistence earned them invitations to nationals in Madison, WI!” Grace Gibbon and Annelise Eeckman also climbed for The East Beta’s on Saturday.

Also in attendance was Touchstone’s Head Routesetter Jeremy Ho. “It was a fantastic opportunity to work with an extremely talented crew,” said Ho. “This was the most experienced setting team nation-wide, and the two day event went off without a hitch!

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Touchstone Climbing has always supported the next generation of climbers our gyms. Each of our nine locations has one or more youth teams, and while our focus has primarily been on making climbing an accessible and fulfilling after school activity, we see that some of our young crushers are moving in the direction of competitive climbing - and we need to move with them!

We are proud to announce that in February, we will be the proud parents of Team Touchstone, our own competitive youth climbing team. Led by Zach Wright and Scott Cory, Team Touchstone is perfect for youth climbers and their parents who are ready to make ready to train hard, have fun, and compete at the highest level to compete at their highest potential.

Our goal is to provide an team experience for any level at each gym. Competitive Teams will start at Berkeley Ironworks, Great Western Power Company, and Sacramento Pipeworks on February 1st. San Francisco competitive climbers will practice at both Dogpatch Boulders and Mission Cliffs. The Studio, Diablo Rock Gym and MetalMark will host recreational teams, while still offering the opportunity for competing in USA climbing events with Team Touchstone.

Find out more about Team Touchstone, and the best option for your child.

Good luck to everyone going to Nationals and a HUGE thank you to all the parents, volunteers, coaches and climbers who made this weekend such a great event at Basecamp Reno!

Dawn Wall Update

Two men are making history on El Capitan. For over two weeks, the 36 year old Estes Park resident, Tommy Caldwell and the 30 year old Santa Rosa local, Kevin Jorgenson have battled up El Capitan’s Dawn Wall in the hopes of making the first free ascent of the world’s hardest big wall free climb.

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The pair began climbing on December 27th and made steady upward progress. The normally wet lower pitches, the climbing ropelengths, were dry. Temps were cool ensuring ideal friction. Jorgenson split a tip, damaging his finger tips, but remained undeterred. They dispatched the initial 1200 feet to their basecamp. Then the climbing became hard.

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I brought bell peppers, cucumbers, pasta, and tea for Tommy. I brought bourbon and sour Skittles for Kevin. I shouldered the 40 pound haulbag and made the 1200 foot commute to their basecamp, where I dropped off the goods for the men. They were in solid spirits a week ago.

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Caldwell managed to dance carefully across a huge white dike feature, connecting two features. Kevin fired it as well. Caldwell dispatched the next few pitches in the dark. His experience having freed a half dozen other free routes on El Cap shone. He dispatched the continuing hard climbing.

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But Jorgenson struggled. His skin split more. He kept failing at the end of the dike. The razor blade holds sliced his fingers. He could barely hold on. Caldwell could have gone to the top, easily making a succsful ascent. Instead, he supported the man who had worked on the route for the past six year with him.

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A few days ago, with tape covering his finger tips, Jorgenson stuck the credit card holds. He then made an enormous 8 foot sideways leap to join into Caldwell’s section.

"Momentum is a powerful force," posted Jorgeson on Facebook. "When it's on your side, everything feels a bit easier."

The pair have a few more days, and the trials are far from over. When and if they top out, the pair will have cemented themselves as legends of climbing, having established the world’s hardest big wall free climb.

Team Touchstone

We're happy to announce that starting February 1st Touchstone Climbing will be launching our own competitive youth climbing team in Northern California. 

Touchstone Climbing has always supported the next generation of climbers in our gyms. Each of our nine locations has one or more youth teams, and while our focus has primarily been on making climbing an accessible and fulfilling after school activity, we see that some of our young crushers are moving in the direction of competitive climbing - and we need to move with them!

We are pleased to announce that in February, we will be the proud parents of Team Touchstone, our own competitive climbing team. Led by Zach Wright and Scott Cory, Team Touchstone is perfect for youth climbers and their parents who are ready to make the significant time commitment required to compete at their highest potential.

Not sure which team is right for your child? Here is some helpful information to consider when choosing which team to join. 


This is a great team for climbers who are just starting out, but know that they are super excited about improving at climbing! The main focus of this team is to help climbers develop a love for the sport, while addressing the basics of climbing techniques and becoming a well-rounded climber. This team provides a great opportunity to climb with other young climbers in a social, relaxed climbing environment.

Contact your home gym for practice schedule. 


The intermediate team is designed to provide a challenging training environment for climbers who want to become more serious about the sport. This team focuses on technique, strength, and strategy development while still providing a fun, social climbing experience. Climbers on this team have the option of attending competitions with the competitive team in order to see if competition climbing is right for them. Climbers from the intermediate team can eventually join the competitive team (by invitation) when they have demonstrated the requisite technical proficiency and level of commitment. Tryouts/coach recommendation required.

Contact your home gym for practice schedule. 



What is competitive climbing?

Competition climbing allows climbers to compete against each other climbers in their age categories in the main climbing disciplines: bouldering, sport climbing, and speed climbing.

The governing body of youth climbing competitions in America is USA Climbing (USAC). Climbing competitions occur according to specific seasons:

• ABS is the American Bouldering Series which takes place from September-February,

• SCS is the Sport/Speed Climbing Series which takes place from March-July.

These competition seasons include local competitions at Bay Area gyms, as well as championship events that take place around the country. Climbers on the competitive team are expected to travel to competitions on the weekends, and compete in national-level championship events. The USAC competition circuit provides climbers with the opportunity to compete against the very best young climbers in the nation, and it is truly a world-class opportunity for any climber who wants to put their climbing abilities to the test.

Who should be on the competitive team?

This team is for climbers who are dedicated to competition climbing and want a serious and challenging training environment. Climbers on this team are expected to attend USAC climbing competitions and compete at both the local and national level. This team focuses on technique development, strength training, and competition strategy. It is expected that climbers on the competitive team are aware of the time, travel, and financial commitments that are required to take part in the USAC competition circuit.

Meets M/T/Th 4:00-7:00, invitation only. To find out more, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

What are the time/financial commitments for a competitive climbing team?

Parents and climbers should be aware that competitive climbing requires a substantial time/financial commitment. Time commitments (beyond normal practice hours) include: traveling to local, regional, and nation-level competitions on the weekends, attending extra practices during peak competition season, parent volunteering at competitions, etc. Financial commitments include: purchasing a USAC membership, paying competition fees, travel fees, etc. While this is a substantial commitment on the part of climbers and their families, the reward is participating in a world-class competition circuit as a Team Touchstone climber!



Pipeworks Member of the Month: Philip Wilbur

Whether daytime or night, blazing hot or ice cold in the gym, most likely you will find our next member with his signature hooded sweatshirt on. He is a husband, father, pet owner, friend, and far too many other titles to mention in an introductory paragraph. When it comes to life advice, I can say that Philip has shared many great words and phrases to serve as a model for our own existence. He is a staple of the community, and is always more than generous with his donations of Blue Diamond almonds in exchange for old ropes that he uses for teaching purposes. Today, Sacramento Pipeworks is proud to introduce you to Philip Wilbur.

Member of the Month: Philip Wilbur

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Bove) Are you a Sacramento native, and what are some of your favorite things about living here in the valley?

Wilbur) Yes, I was born here is 1959. The house I grew up in is located on 14th and P. The diversity of the people, and the proximity to everything within 2 hours are some of my favorite things about living here.

B) How and when did you come to the Pipeworks family?

W) I was looking for a gym for my son Stefan as a place to train for Rugby. I started coming with him and have never stopped.

B) What is a typical workout regimen while at the gym?

W) Cardio, and weights. Plus, I do like to talk, and Pipeworks has the most interesting people I have ever met.

B) You have told me before, “I are not a climber”. I recently noticed that your son, Stefan, started climbing. Does this mean that you are going to try climbing too? Why or why not?

W) A few of the older climbers have asked more than once for me to try climbing. At some point I will. I really respect the supportive culture of climbing, however, I have not seen a lot of 280 pound climbers. In fact, watching some of the climbers on the practice walls makes my fingers hurt.

B) Do you have a family pet? What is the name, and how does it add to your quality of life?

W) Yes! We have a Terrier mix named Meggie. She is a part of the family (our pets have always been). I enjoy my interaction, walks, watching her dig, chasing after gophers- complete focus and effort. Take your spouse and dog, lock them in the car for 3 hours; which one jumps up and licks your face when you let them out? You have got to love those pups!

B) You always have a positive outlook on situations. How do you maintain your optimistic outlook despite the challenges of being human?

W) Great meds! No, I was blessed with a mother who had the ability to “connect” with people, and I feel I have some of that in me. She always told me to treat people with respect. “Be like a ship as you pass through life. Make sure your wake pushes those it encounters towards their destination, not capsize them.” Life is too short to worry about the score- you miss the game!

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B) What do you do for a living, and how did you get into this line of work?

W) By day, I am the Chiller Team Technical Lead (working on large tonnage HVAC) for Johnson Controls (JCI) here in town. My team services central utility plants in NorCal (KP, ATT, Raging Wire, Verizon, Blue Diamond, UCDMC). I have been doing the job for 37 years. At night, I am an instructor for the Pipefitters/Plumbing local where I teach HVAC, Industrial Rigging, Signalmen Certification and OSHA 10/30. Come September, I will have also done that for 30 years. As far as getting into the friend was going to school at SCC, and I was taking classes to become a chemical engineer. One day, I went to wait for him at his building and ended up talking to the TA. Next thing, I dropped all of my other classes and signed up for the MET program. It was Fall of 1977, and I now sit on the advisory board of that program.

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B) As a benefactor of local art, how do you express your own creativity?

W) I am truly challenged to draw, paint, sing, play an instrument, anything creative...period. I appreciate and admire those that can, and if possible, I will help an artist with logistics.

B) Where can we most likely find you when you are not at home or work?

W) Believe it or not, here at Pipeworks!

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B) Indoors or outdoors...which do you prefer best?

W) A little of both. My work sometimes affords me time outside on a roof for 12 hours on a 105 degree day (not a pleasant day, but outside). I enjoy being wherever I am at.


Construction at Sacramento Pipeworks

The 2015 bouldering expansion is currently under construction! "It's amazing to see our designs becoming a reality," said Pipeworks manager Vaughn Medford. 

The bouldering area will be 9,000 sq ft, which more than triples the current bouldering space at Pipeworks. “We are working with Walltopia to build the walls,” said Sr Touchstone Manager Jeffery Bowling. “We’ve worked with them to build or expand four of our gyms in the last 2 years, and we couldn’t be happier with their product.”

Check it out and stay tuned for Open House dates!



Jailhouse Projecting

Picture one of the United State’s best climbing crags just a few hours from San Francisco with perfect winter temps and a long season. Jailhouse is the ideal place for projecting. The regular climbers hit the crag every weekend, on breaks from work and on the occasional sick day. They obsess over the steep basalt.


Terrence hikes his side project, Burrito Supreme (5.12c)

Jailhouse, a 200-foot enduro cave, boasts nearly a hundred showstopper routes, from 5.11+ warm-ups to Brad Johnson’s recent 5.14+, Yoga High. The best and largest concentration of grades is in the 5.13 range. The setting is pleasantly rural, and though the rock is admittedly fractured and scruffy looking, the athletic style of climbing is great. Hummingbirds buzz between California fuchsias, pollinating the brightly colored flowers. The skies are filled with swallows, osprey, turkey vultures, hawks and crows. Horses graze the surrounding land and blue herons fish in the waters of nearby Tulloch Lake.


Cathy works out the moves on Line-up 5.12b

The atmosphere adds tranquility to the mind numbing process of trying a climb at your limit. There are a few stages of projecting. In the initial stage, you shop for a project. You try this route. You hop on that route. You decide that route is too tweaky. This one has too many kneebars. The second stage of projecting begins when you find a route you want to send. Then you begin working beta. You decipher the moves, find the rests, brush the crux holds, and refine your beta. Then you begin the arduous process of redpointing, which can take days, weeks or in some cases years. Luckily there are a ton of routes to choose from and great conditions.

“Jailhouse has one of the best concentrations of hard routes in the country, as well as one of the best climates. You can climb there any day between September and June without even having to check the weather. It's an amazing crag,” said pro athlete and Sacramento climber Alex Honnold. The end of September to the middle of December is the best time of year. The temperatures are ideal for sending. Though dry during storms, the winter rain of January and February makes the crag seep a few days after storms. March through the beginning of May are the best time for spring temps, though the crag may still seep if it has been an especially wet year. The summer months are climbable if you like triple digit temps and a desire to work on your tan.


Christophe puts in a redpoint burn on Violated, almost getting the short and difficult route.

One of the most important parts about projecting Jailhouse is the necessity for kneepads. Jailhouse’s three-dimensional basalt encourages climbers to press their thighs into the wall, both to rest their arms and to ratchet their bodies higher to better holds. Every route at Jailhouse has a kneebar, knee scum, or some kind of leg press. Show up at the crag without basic kneebarring skills and it’s showing up in Yosemite without knowing how to handjam.

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Donn takes down Violated (5.13b)

“We’re like adult babies,” said Brad Johnson, who has established a half dozen 5.14’s here, referring to the style of climbing. “It’s a lot of crawling.” Projecting at the house starts in jeans, moves to shorts with pads and then into glued pads. Having stiff shoes can help with pressing into kneebars.

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Hiking out of the crag after a long day

The Jailhouse community is relatively small with a core crew of twenty climbers. Many commute two hours from the Bay area to frequent the crag every weekend from fall to spring. These locals are extremely passionate. During an extremely wet season, one desperate climber waded through the four foot flash flooded river to clip a towel to a bolt on The Juice (5.14a) to dab the wet spot on a hold. The obsession with a project can take over your life. One day you’re an upstanding citizen and the next, you’re running up and down hardware store aisles looking for duct tape and glue. Jailhouse offers a great place for projecting, for pushing yourself into the limits of your climbing. It's worth a visit for any passing climber.

Getting Your Gym Psyche

The gym intimidates me. Tons of shirtless dudes and waif girls run about crushing the plastic problems, bench pressing huge weights, pounding out miles on the treadmill and pretzeling into a million yoga poses. Still, I want to get in shape for an upcoming trip to Spain. I took a tip from body builder Ronnie Coleman who said, “Ain’t nothing to it but to do it.”


I’ve hit the gym pretty hard the past week and a few things have helped me more than Coleman’s simple quote. As the January post holiday rush comes to the Touchstone gyms. It helps to keep a few things in mind.

Have a plan

My first day in the gym after a long time away can be disorienting. I spend a bit of time figuring out where the jump ropes are, what happened to the hangboards and how to figure out the latest yoga class schedule. I putt around and always feel unsuccessful. My second day in the gym tends to be way better. I warm up jumping rope. I know which exercises I’m going to do, which boulder problems I’m going to try and when the yoga classes are. I take the time to build out a longer term plan. Two days a week, I train strictly power. I do two hard moves in a row and focus on that. One day a week, I do as many moderately hard boulder problems as I can and another day I do a pyramid.


Stick With It

“80% of life is showing up,” said Woody Allen. He’s not far from the truth. Going to the gym can be hard when it’s raining out and the weather’s cold. Break it down into smaller steps. Make it to the car. Drive to the gym. Go inside. Walk over to the jump rope. Stumble to the yoga class. You’ll be psyched you did it. Tenacity goes a long way into getting fit in the post holiday season.

Add Variety

Keep from stagnating by changing things up in your work out routine. If you always go to yoga, try a spin class. If you only climb routes at the gym, try bouldering. The changes make the gym a lot more fun. Every facet of the gym has an entirely different subculture as well. There’s lots of people to meet. The new challenges can help you advance in your other athletic pursuits. Yoga compliments cycling. Weight lifting helps bouldering. There is a ton of crossover. Switch your training regime to include something a bit different every time you head in.


Have Fun

Make sure to have fun when going into the gym. This will keep you returning for more. You’ll stay psyched if you have a good time in the gym when you go.

Yoga for Climbers

I picked up my medieval torture devices, a foam block and a strap, and flopped into the corner of the Berkeley Ironworks yoga room. The next 75 minutes could kill me.

“Do you think yoga helps with climbing?” I asked a few of my friends. In the past week, I attended five different yoga classes in an effort to become a better climber. My friends bounced back and forth about the worthiness of yoga. 

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Nelly high steps through the redpoint crux on Beerrun (5.13a) at Rifle

“I kind of doubt it,” replied professional climber Alex Honnold. “Maybe for you it might help since your flexibility isn’t so good. Of course no amount of yoga is going to bend the rod in your back.” Honnold believes that only climbing will make you a better climber. 

 Katie Lambert, an Eddie Bauer climbing athlete, seemed to have a more positive approach towards it. “I will say it helps by 1) increasing flexibility 2) helps focus on the breath while in hard to hold positions- super helpful for climbing 3)helps balance the body 4) helps with small stabilizing muscles. ” 

“Only if the things that yoga improves are a weakness of yours,” replied Kris Hampton, a professional climbing trainer.

“Only if the style of yoga you choose makes use of a finger board,” quipped Smith Rock master climber Bruce Adams.

Over the course of 15 years of climbing, fellow rock jocks have asked me if I wanted to perform some sun salutations at the crag, hit up the local yoga studio or enjoy some Saturday night Bikram. When asked to joing these yoga adventures, I’ve always responded, “Nah, I’mma stay.” Yoga scared me. It seemed so difficult and intimidating. I knew if I wanted to grow as a climber, I would need to branch out. What was the worst that could happen?

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Lil Ben shows his flexibility on the Egg (v11) in the forest of Squamish.

On my first class, my eyes darted across the room, searching for how to put my left leg over my right arm while standing on my fingers. The instructor went through pidgeon pose, warrior 2 and other stretches. Across from me, a tank top clad yogi with pushed from a handstand into a split. The instructor put her hands on my, twisted my arm, swiveled my ankle and straightened my hips. The stretch felt brutal. I wanted to leave the class immediately. I could be shoveling the pig pens out at the farm in Sonora. I could be free soloing El Cap. I could be doing anything easier and less terrifying than these yoga moves.

The Touchstone gyms offer a variety of Vinyasa, flow, power and acro classes. The morning classes, afternoon and evening classes made it easy to work into my constantly changing schedule. After a few classes, I learned the different teachers styles and who some of the regular students were. 

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Coping a stem rest and splaying the feet out on the crux pitch of the Vortex (5.12+). Gabe Mange photo.

The second class felt easier. The third class felt even better. By the fourth class, I knew the basic poses. I felt slightly less rigid. My climbing seemed to be improving a little. It’s difficult to tell if the yoga caused this or if it was because I was climbing more in the gym and being more specific about my training. The classes certainly made me feel better. My body felt a lot more limber and I was breathing better while climbing. While these may not translate directly to climbing, they help with my overall health and being healthy means being able to climb harder.

At the end of class, the instructor demonstrated savasana pose. Translated to English this position means “nap time.” I decided Yoga wasn't so bad. 


East Betas in Bishop

Taking advantage of the Thanksgiving break from school and the comforting feeling of being done with the very last college application, GWPC’s own Teen Team, The East Betas ventured out to Bishop, CA for an extended weekend of bouldering. The list of crushers included some seasoned team veterans (Grace Gibbon, Elise Buser, Thalia Barr-Malec), new-to-climbing up-and-comers (Alia Kabir, Will Hornbeck, Eli Spitulnik), and the “adults” (Ryan Moon, Ari Oppenheimer, Arien Malec).

For most, this trip was a first experience with Bishop and for some it was a first experience on real rock. Knowing that the brutal winds and bitter Winter conditions of California’s Eastern Sierras were an experience far more extreme than what can typically expected from any East Bay season, the teamsters were warned over and again that they should come fully prepared and how important every last down filled item was an absolute must. Unfortunately, there’s no amount of reminders that can guarantee that everyone will follow through. In fact, the very first day in the Happy Boulders only two out of the eight people present brought water, one coach forgot a jacket for the trip altogether, and more than once a coach forgot his headlamp. Not the best start to a trip…

Alie Buttermilk Stem

The drive out had some of the teamsters in awe as they had never seen the true glory of the Eastern Sierras up close. The next shock was the sheer number of boulders in some of these canyons. With surprises continuing, some of the teens experienced and humbling climbing session as some of the boulder problems they worked hard to get to the top of were sometimes only half of the V-points they usually climb at GWPC and about twice as high. Although V-point expectations were low psyche was at an all time high. The coaches had never seen the 15-17 year olds try so hard! In addition to the teen “try hard’ that had never before been seen was parent-in-tow, Arien, letting out battle cries here and there not letting the excuse of “I could have given a little more effort” be muttered by anyone. Warming up on ‘Heavenly Path’ (V1) set a good tone for the weekend and a nice reminder of how important it is to stay focused off of the deck. Moving on to some of the more classic, lower to the ground lines the team cleaned shop on ‘Solarium’ (V4) and wrapped up the day on ‘Bleached Bones’ (V4). As the sun was setting and it was clear that there was only time for one more boulder problem, the team took notice to a virtual billboard for tableland rim climbing: ‘Black Magic’ (V4). Elise road the confidence of a “best day ever” by capping the evening with a flash ascent of the classic highball. Just as the light was fading and the day was coming to an end, Eli sent the line on what was believed as his 25th or so try.

Alie Heavenly Path

After an epic end of the day stuff your face with Mexican food session at Las Palmas in town, the next goal was cruxier than the boulder problems tried that day: finding a campsite. The Pit was completely taken over, Pleasant Valley Campground had just as many people, but the infiniteness of the tableland BLM lands proved perfect for freedom camping. With strict orders from the coaches to gather as much brush as humanly possible for the night’s fire, it wasn’t long before a roaring spectacle of camp fire was in full effect. Smores were devoured as stories circulated of the day’s sends and punts. Last, but not least, the crew headed down to the Sad Boulders for a late night headlamp romp ending in a tennis shoe team slab ascent.

Elise Black Magic

The trip was capped with a day out to one of the best bouldering spots in the country — The Buttermilks. The day opened up by following along with the highball theme set during the previous climbing days by a nice long warm-up session on the Sunshine Slab. The problems hosten on the Green Wall boulder were quick to get attention especially by the folks looking for some a little more technical than what the tablelands had to offer. ‘Green Wall Left’ (V2) presented some serious challenge as it seemed as if somebody had buffed off all the abrasive surface on the rock face leaving nothing but glassy, impossible to use footholds. In true East Betas form, complaining turned to highpoints and highpoints turned to sends. Last on the list was a one-woman show from Elise on the mega-classic ‘High Plains Drifter’ (V7). Although attempts resulted in a highpoint making ‘drifter move’, the summit was still just out of reach.

The combination of impending weather and a long, long drive home brought the day to an early end. The drive back was full of opinions about best/worst boulder problems, Robyn sing alongs, and the fear that maybe the coaches had less snow driving experience than they had stated…

Thalia Sunshine Right

The week after the Bishop trip was special in two ways: there was an obvious difference in the climbing effort put forth by anybody who had attended the trip and ABS Regionals at Dogpatch Boulders was only a few days away. A handful of teamsters had been preparing for Regionals for months with tons of physical and mental training. A nice mix of first time competitors and seasoned veterans gave a unique feel to group. Conveniently all five girls competing were nearly back to back in the roster so one could watch as the entire team almost swept the category. The DJ gods seemed to be smiling upon them that day with a Bishop trip throwback of Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own” just as a reminder. Fresh from Bishop, Elise Buser seemed in top form flashing five out of six problems (chalking up on nearly every move) and securing her spot as ABS regional champion. In the end, four out of six competitors were invited to Divisionals in Reno, NV!

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