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!

Gift Cards at Touchstone Climbing

Whether you’re hanging stockings above your yule log, flippin' latkes and lighting your menorah, or dancin’ round your festivus pole, TIS the season.

And while sure, you’ve been dropping subtle hints to your significant other about how much you’d both benefit from a jetboil, the best part of the season is seeing look on someones face when YOU give your gift.

But where to start? The ‘mall’?! Please. It’s not 2001. Amazon Prime? Accessible, sure. But you KNOW it’s just not going to look like it did online. So where is the one place to shop that isn’t out of your way, where you can find a gift that you can be sure your friend, neighbor, mom, landlord... will love?!

Why, your friendly neighborhood Touchstone Climbing gym of course!

We have gift cards! Load em up with however much cash money you’d like, and BAM. Holiday shopping done. Here is a handy list of things the gift-getter could be enjoying come boxing day.

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An intro to climbing class for 2! $60 on a gift card means an AWESOME day for 2 people. This will cover their day pass, their rental gear, and an hour of instruction at any of our rope climbing gyms! Adventure made! 


A new pair of climbing shoes! Climbing boots run anywhere from $90 to $160. Any amount of cheddar loaded on to a gift card will go a long way to helping your friend-crusher get the latest and greatest in shoe technology.

Prana, Patagonia, Black Diamond, Mountain Hardwear ootd’s! Sure, they COULD put your generous gift into time with a personal trainer or finally commit to 6am yoga… oooooorrr they could get some sweet threads from their favorite outdoor brand. The choice is theirs.  

Fitness class passes! Do you know your mom has been dabbling in afro-yoga youtube videos, or your brother has been talking about getting back into boxing? Many of our gyms offer a variety of fitness classes. Your gift card can be used for drop in fitness classes for the worthy recipient of your choice.

Aaand.. much much more!

No matter who you’re shopping for or how much gas money you’re willing to part with, a gift card is the perfect choice this gift giving season. It’s convenient, flexible, and creative. Pick up a gift card at your local gym today! If you’re out of the area and would like to order a gift card over the phone, please call the gym of your choice before 3pm. The front desk will be able to assist you.

Happy Holidays from Touchstone Climbing!

Commuting by bike with Cuong Phu Trinh

Cuong Phu Trinh submitted this write up to the Touchstone Blog. Awesome story! 

I received a Tweet from friends asking if I wanted to climb at the non-Touchstone climbing gym closest to my Southern California home. I declined as I was packing up for a trip up north and mentioned my plans to climb at other Touchstone facilities, given those awesome L.A. Boulders member perks.

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Over the course of four days I climbed at six Touchstone facilities surrounding the San Francisco Bay. Since I used a plane to start my journey to finding a job, I needed a way to get around. Besides renting a car and footing a gas bill, at my disposal were a bicycle and mass transit.

At 33, I’m an adventurer and I like to travel on a budget. My car is turning 15 as of next month and I’m searching for a relevant, economically viable career opportunity anywhere in the world. I was displaced from my prior journalism career by changing consumer media demands along with steep budget and personnel cuts when the bottom fell out from the economy. At that point I found that graduate school was the only vehicle to a career change. What I do now for my hometown of Rancho Cucamonga is to encourage people of all ages to walk, bike and use transit through Active Transportation and Safe Routes to School programs.

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An average human can walk 1/2 mile or bike 2 miles in 10 minutes’ worth of time. I looked at bicycles and transit as a more efficient way to get around, as I didn’t have the time or desire to match bus with train schedules (and vice versa). My graduate research and culminating thesis for my master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning covers bicycle and transit integration.

Wherever I travel, I practice what I preach. Whenever I show up to out of area job interviews, a recurring question asked is what mode of transportation I used. Based from all you’ve read so far, the answer is clear. In October I pedaled 24 miles using a fixed gear bike to an interview from the East Bay across the Dumbarton Bridge to the City of Palo Alto. Rock climbing came to me by accident. A friend I had met while in graduate school offered me her climbing guest but all that came to a crashing end. I fractured my wrist and dislocated my finger in a bicycle crash, which meant I couldn’t climb or bicycle for many months. After nine months I tried climbing again. Every second I held myself to the wall was downright difficult but I continued to fight the pain to rebuild my atrophied muscles.

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After buying punch cards at several gyms to see how long I could hang I purchased a membership at a climbing facility near my suburban home. All was going well until that friend told me about the largest bouldering gym ever, being Dogpatch Boulders. I was awestruck on how much larger, cleaner and nicer it was compared to any other bouldering gym I had ever seen prior. Then I went to check out the skeleton of what became L.A. Boulders and signed up on the spot. Now I’ve got two memberships.

Since LA.B opened its doors I’ve climbed at every Touchstone facility (except Sacramento Pipeworks) and used my guest passes to bring more friends into the climbing world; two of which signed up for LA.B memberships.

So how far are Touchstone climbing facilities from transit?

- Great Western Power Company = 1 block/ 19th St. Oakland BART

- Mission Cliffs = 10 blocks/ 16th St. Mission BART

- Dogpatch Boulders = 2.5 mi/ 16th St. Mission BART or 5 blocks/ 22nd St. Caltrain

- Berkeley Ironworks = 1.5 mi/ Ashby BART or 4 mi/ GWPC/ 19th St. Oakland BART

- Diablo Rock Gym = 2.5 mi/ Concord BART or 3.3 mi/ Pleasant Hill BART

- The Studio = 1.2 mi/ San Jose Diridon Caltrain

- LA.B = 1.5 mi/ Los Angeles Union Station

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At least 4x/month I bicycle six miles from my suburban SoCal home to a Metrolink train station, ride it 40 miles into downtown LA and then pedal 1.5 miles to LA.B. My drive to drive less while using both my Touchstone and (my hometown) gym memberships is keeping me in the best shape of my life and I’ll continue to post about my journeys on social media.

About First Ascents: Climbing the New Lines

“This is so exciting,” Randy Puro said. A half dozen climbers threw themselves at an undone boulder problem near the Merced River. They could barely get off the ground until someone discovered a match and wild hamhock maneuver. They climbed higher until a hold broke. They stayed with it despite the setback. They all wanted the first ascent of the giant granite boulder.

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Touchstone athlete Joey Kinder works Maquina Muerte 5.14+. Kinder bolted the route a few years ago and then spent this winter sending the route

One of the best parts of rock climbing is the ability to do a first ascent. Finding a path up a mountain, a cliff or a boulder requires a mixture of athleticism, creativity and tenacity. There only gets to be one first ascent, which makes it special. Finding an unclimbed route can be difficult in popular areas. Unclimbed rock often requires an adventurous spirit. There’s always a reason the route hasn’t been done yet.

“FA's are harder because they require a lot more work (cleaning a boulder, bolting a sport climb, trundling choss in the alpine...) and because they require a lot more belief in the possibility of the challenge,” said Ethan Pringle, who has established new boulder problems in Vegas, new sport routes in China and made first ascents of Yosemite Walls. “Once you know something's been done, it's a lot easier to do it yourself. Monkey see, monkey do.”

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Paul Barraza attempts to repeat his boulder problem Post Send Depression on the B1 Boulder at the Sentinel

“With the expedition FA's there was also a bit of that apprehension of the question of whether or not it was possible,” said Pringle of his expeditions in Greenland and China, “but also just the shear amount of work that went into getting to, and then up those walls in style (onsight FAing 5.11 or 12 terrain on sometimes dirty and crumbly rock with minimal pro, getting to a stance at the top of the pitch and having to drill one or sometimes two bolts by hand, making sure everything was super safe the whole time...)

In 2013, Nik Berry and I established The Final Frontier, a 900 foot 5.13b route on Fifi Buttress in Yosemite. When I first climbed on the aid route, it was questionably whether it would go free. The route required an exhaustive amount of brushing, cleaning and bolting. Then there was the actual climbing, which required work as well. Deciphering the moves became more problematic than the cleaning for me.

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Eric Bissel helps to refine the beta on the 5.13a traverse pitch on the Final Frontier

“I really like the problem solving part,” said Beth Rodden of doing first ascents. Rodden’s established first free ascents of El Capitan, 5.14 trad routes and difficult boulder problems in Yosemite. “I think it makes climbing super fun and unique, rather than just the physical part of sending.”

“Also, the feeling of luck that comes with getting to be the first one to climb a perfect piece of rock that seemed to have been made to climb,” said Pringle in regards to his first ascent of a 5.14d at White Mountain in China. “With the Spicy Dumpling, it was something I'd fantasized about for months and months before trying, so it was a dream come true to go through all the motions of struggling with the concept that it was even possible for me, then after I'd realized it was, battling with it and trying to finish it off before I had to leave.

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James Lucas makes the first ascent of Stanley's Arete at Happy Isles

A week later, Puro returned and made the first ascent of the Leevee’s Break, adding another great boulder problem to Yosemite Valley. The possibilities of first ascents exist across California. You just need the spirit of adventure.

Big Kid Comp at Dogpatch Boulders

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Come test your strength against the future of climbing!

We will be hosting ABS Regionals on Saturday, December 6th. This is a youth climbing competition and young guns from all over the state at coming out to compete for a chance at Divisionals. We repeat: The gym will be overrun with youth climbers and their families. If you are not competing in the comp, or if you'd rather not be relegated to a small corner of the gym, maybe make Saturday a Mission Cliffs day.... 

But what about the rest of us?! Fear not Big Kids! We've got a comp just for all you Millennials/ Gen X's / Gen Y's/ Boomers! We'll be making a fun day of it, with the comp routes still up. Can YOU out climb a 10 year old..? Swing by Dogpatch Boulders between noon and 5pm on Sunday to climb with all your favorites, then stick around for the San Francisco premier of Exposure Vol II at 5:30pm. 

This event it free to members, and only $20 for guests. See you there! RSVP here

The AAC and Mountain Hardwear present Ueli Steck: The Swiss Machine

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The American Alpine Club (AAC) is pleased to announce a speaking tour by legendary speed climber Ueli Steck. Presented by Mountain Hardwear, with proceeds to benefit the AAC, the highly acclaimed “Swiss Machine" will present a visually stunning and interactive slideshow about his experiences climbing the world's largest mountains, setting speed records without oxygen, training in the Swiss Alps. Ueli Steck, a climber with free ascents of El Capitan, is best known for his mountaineering, with solo speed climbs of the infamous Eiger Nordwand, the Matterhorn, and more recently, the south face of Annapurna.

The Slideshow will be playing on:

December 16th, Yoshi's in San Francisco Ca

December 17th, Mountain Hardwear in Richmond Ca

Member of the Month: Phillip Czabot

unnamed-8You can’t find someone more stoked on life than this dude! If you have trouble locating our newest member of the month, you may not be alone. He could either be in the rafters at your favorite concert, topping out your next boulder problem, rappelling down a Yosemite classic route, flying down the slopes of the Sierra mountains on his snowboard, or looking for love on the streets of your hometown. Meet, Phillip Czabot...a Detroit, Michigan native that made his way to the sunny shores of California in his quest to find his true self.

Member of the Month: Phillip Czabot

Bove) How long have you been rock climbing, and what brought you to the Pipeworks family?

Czabot) I started climbing when I was 25, and have been for 8 years now. My first climbing experience was a multi-pitch trad route in Yosemite. My two buddies came to the house one day and said, “Let’s go to the valley to climb.” I was broke, so I told them I couldn’t go. An hour later, they returned with a new harness and shoes! It was SUPER RAD; it really showed how much they cared. In Yosemite, we climbed After Six (a 5.7 classic); I was hooked almost instantly! I loved the way the gear worked, the feeling of being up high, and, of course, how the valley looked from being up on the wall. I was SO stoked! When we came back down, I asked my buddy Chris if I could place some gear, because I wanted to see how it felt on lead. He looked puzzled and said, “Really?!”, but we placed gear in some cracks, and he would tell me what was bomber and what was not. After an hour at ground level, placing cams and nuts, it was time. Holy smokes, I was the most focused I have ever been! It took me 45 minutes to do the first pitch of After Six. When I got to the top, my leg was shaking. Later, in this game, I would find out I had “Elvis leg.” Chris lowered me to the ground and my leg was still going nuts. I had this twisted grin on my face, and he said, “You’re feeling it, huh, bro?” I started clapping, yelling, and jumping all over the place. Climbing would forever change my life! ...A few years later, I found Pipeworks and knew this was the gym for me. Climbing chicks are HOT!

unnamed-10B) You are one of the lucky ones whose hobbies have also turned into a source of income. Can you tell us more about how this happened, and what you do for work?

C) I came in to the gym one morning three years ago, and the beautiful Nicole, who at that time was working the front desk, said, “Hey, this Oakley wearing NorCal dude (Lane Cooper) came in. He does work for Cirque du Soleil, and is looking for guys that are good with ropes and comfortable at heights.” I went home and called him that day. A month later, he flew myself, and desk staff Ryan Rougeux, out to Seattle to try out. It was an instant fit! I got certified in rope access the next month. Since then, I have been able to travel around the world with RAD people, like Ryan, get paid to play with ropes, and be up in high places that most people don’t get to see. I do theatrical and rock and roll rigging as well. We were working on Shoreline amphitheatre this past year, and I got to meet the head rigger.


He asked if I was interested in theatrical rigging, and I said, “Hell yes, I am!” He called me a few weeks later to come down and shadow to see if I liked it or not, and I was hooked. I love everything from building the steel, to going up in the rafters and walking beams to set up points, surrounded by sound and lights. I have been able to rig for some of the greatest entertainers of our time, and am looking forward to doing a whole lot more. Don’t get me wrong, there are still times when you’re on a job and things are just downright horrible. The weather can kick your ass in so many ways. Some jobs are more physical than others, and lots of variables may be out of your control, but therein lies some of the beauty. You can look back when the job is done and feel the sense of accomplishment, especially when you’re doing things that nobody has done before, or not thought possible. Sure, free soloing a building to set up rigging for co-workers might not be the smartest, but it’s a f#@king blast!

B) Did you grow up in California, and if not, how and when did you know that the West coast was to be home for you?

C) I spent the first 19 years of my life in Detroit, MI. I first came to Cali when I was 13, and I knew that I would live here one day. Of course, this was the playground of my idol, Bodhi (aka Patrick Swayze from Point Break). I knew at a young age that I wanted to climb mountains, jump out of planes, catch waves, shred the Sierras, and push the limits. I came to Sacramento on vacation when I was 19, and never went back. I still have the ticket as a reminder. I knew this was the place I needed to live to become the person I wanted to be!

B) From the stories I have heard you tell, travel is a very important element in your life. What was your first out-of-country experience, and what moment did you realize that this was the lifestyle you desired?

C) My friend Morgan Jane hit me up out of the blue when she was in Europe, and was like, “You need to meet me in Amsterdam.” I had some extra cash, so I jumped online, bought a ticket, and flew over to run around Amsterdam and Belgium for a bit. It was a blast! People like to plan things, but sometimes it’s best to just pull the trigger and go, because life is crazy and short. I have been broke my whole life, but it still didn’t stop me from traveling. You need to get while the gettin’s good. In the snap of your fingers, life will fly by...so do it now!

unnamed-7B) Back to the United States now, where is your favorite climbing destination, and why?

C) Hands down Yosemite! I love the history of the place, from John Muir to Royal Robbins, Ansel Adams, and, of course, the stone masters from the 1970’s. I’m a trad climber at heart, and Yosemite is the birthplace. It’s a great honor to pull down in a place like this, as it demands so much attention. The gifts that it gives do not come easy. You have to eat many spoonfuls of humble pie to get good there, but that’s what makes you stronger. Before you know it, the route that was spitting you off, like you have no business being there in the first place, goes down clean. There is some good sport climbing there too, if you’re into that. I mean, sport climbing is neat and all, and I do a little of it. But, when the war breaks out with trad-vs-sport, I’m going straight to Jailhouse. When I leave that place, I will have a bag full of scalps! #tradclimbersrule.

B) Are there moments when you wished that you had an office job instead? Will you ever?

C) Yes, when I’m walking around downtown at lunch time and I see all the gorgeous office women, I think…“I would like to work with her.” But really, I would just be flirting and not working. So in reality, I am the worst choice for an office job. In fact, it was hard for me just to answer these questions using Microsoft Word.

B) Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is another interesting sport that you actively pursue. Do you compete in tournaments, or just “roll” as an exercise regimen?

C) I did compete when I first started doing BJJ. Brad Sandoval (Pipeworks instructor) and Urijah Faber pushed me to compete quite a bit before I was stepping into the ring or the cage. When you compete, you find out where you stand in your abilities. The more you do it, the more it becomes second nature. So, when you do step into the ring, or cage, or a real combat setting in the streets, you fall into a default mode. I hope to be competing into my old age.

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B) As a young man who seems to have it all, where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

C) Wow! That is a hard one. Not only because it’s hard for me to even see past today, but that you would perceive me as someone that has it all. I had to think hard on this one. I am super grateful for the life that I have, and the rad people around me. The most important thing in my world is the shared experience. It’s a wonderful thing to have that bond with people. For instance, to have Rougeux be with you when you pull that first v5, or to top out on your hardest multi-pitch with Dr. Gallagher, or to be chest deep in powder shredding with the Friedlines...RADICALS!! I don’t know where I will be in ten years, but I know I will be surrounded by amazing people and doing wonderful things.

B) What type of music keeps you going, and what genres would we find on your current playlist?

C) I like it all! Growing up in Motown, where you are bombarded with all types of music, makes you appreciate it all. Some days, I want to nod my head to some hip-hop. Then, other days, throw on some metal and get WILD, then, switch it up with some Tears for Fears. It’s all good to me, but one thing for sure, you will see some Eli and the Sound Cult on there!

B) Lastly, Gin or Whisky?

C) Well, I’m more of a fernet guy, and for the record, I’m not a hipster! If I had to choose, I would say whisky, as gin is too dry for me...unless it’s in a Moscow Mule. 

Thanksgiving Climbing Options

Thanksgiving offers a perfect time of year for a climbing trip. Most people have a long weekend that can easily be extended by a day or two. The options for California climbers are numerous. Amazing bouldering and unbelievable sport climbing sits within a short drive. Unfortunately, the weather in Yosemite looks a bit wet for the weekend but there are some other great options for those looking for a holiday climbing trip.

Joshua Tree:

Joshua Tree - Intersection Rock - South Face

The weather will be good for the next few days in one of the most beautiful climbing destinations in California. Sunny with highs in the 60s and low 70s this week, Joshua Tree offers great trad climbing as well as amazing bouldering. Hidden Valley Campground provides ideal camping as many of the climbs and boulder problems are mere yards from the campsites. The drive to southern California can be a bit long, the rock in the park can be sharp and the campsite may be crowded but Joshua Tree is a gorgeous place to climb.

Bishop:

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California's premiere bouldering area offers great climbing at the Buttermilks and the volcanic tablelands. For those interested in climbing on ropes, the Owen's River Gorge provides a great place for sport climbing from 5.10 to 5.12. The weather on the East Side should be quite inviting with temps similar to Joshua Tree. Expected temps in the high 60s and low 70s for the week. The amenities around Bishop are quite nice but Thanksgiving is the most popular time of year there and climbers flood the boulders and sport destinations. The bakeries in Bishop are not to be missed though.

Smith Rock:

Smith

An equidistant drive as Bishop, Smith offers some of the best sport climbing in the United States. The technical nature of Smith makes it a great option for climbers looking to improve. While the weather report calls for a slight chance of rain, the rock at Smith dries quickly and the desert climate means that percipitation is minimal. Smith also has far fewer climbers than Joshua Tree, Bishop or Vegas. It's a perfect place for those looking to get away from the hoards.

Vegas/Mesquite:

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With affordable plane tickets, Vegas makes a great place for a long weekend climbing trip. The casino's provide lots of entertainment and places to stay. The weather there will be nice with temps again in the high 60s and low 70s. There is a significant amount of sport climbing and bouldering close to Vegas in Red Rocks but better than that the limestone of Southern Utah sits a mere hour away. For those looking for a bit of varied sport climbing, the Vegas/Mesquite area makes a great option. 

Southwest Loop - Part 2: Zion

GWPC Staffers Chris & Elena might be back from their month long road trip, but they covered so many miles and saw so much rock! Here's what happened when they passed through the awe-inspiring canyons of Zion National Park.

After traveling three hours from Monroe, Utah, Elena and I were thrilled to see the massive sandstone canyon walls of Zion on either side of us. We stopped at a shell gas station after a few failed attempts at full campgrounds to buy drinking water, beer, and snacks. The lovely lady behind the counter decided to give us the local Springdale camping beta!

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The next town over, Rockville, was a very small town. We turned left onto Grafton and traveled about 3.5 miles to a dirt road on the left. The camping was primitive but nonetheless free. The only downsides are that the sites were limited and when the National Park camping is full, locals flock to the area. There were a ton of ants that decided to parade in our tent as well. If you don't mind six-legged creatures as your alarm clock, I highly recommend this spot. If you prefer a bit more fancy location at only $10 per tent site with a hot tub, pool, showers, and a restaurant, Zion Ponderossa Ranch Resort off of 9 east and North Fork road is definitely worth the stop.

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The following day we headed to the Zion to hike a bit. Parking during the day is scarce so park in Springdale. On the way in we noticed two fairly tall boulders next to the visitor's center. We decided to hike first and climb later. The first two hikes were The Watchmen followed by the Kayenta Trail to Upper and Lower Emerald pools. Both were easy to moderate and only about two miles each. Angel's Landing was definitely the highlighted hike which was about 7.5 miles over a 1480 ft. elevation change. Then came the bouldering.

Bouldering in Zion is not only gorgeous but very easy on the hands. Elena hopped on a few highball V0 to V2 problems and finished them no problem. I decided to tackle whatever I could manage to get my hands on. The first boulder had very nice warm up problems (about 10 or so) and two anchor bolts on the front of you weren't the soloing type. The second boulder had fewer and shorter problems but a bit harder. A few speculated V5 and V6 problems went down after a few tries. All in all, it was a great place to be. If you are an avid trad climber, this is definitely the place for you. From some short top rope and boulder problems, to big wall multi-pitch trad only routes, this sandstone sanctuary will have you begging for more.

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Hollywood Boulders Location Announcement

2015 is going to be an exciting year for the LA climbing community! We're happy to announce that we have chosen a name for our Hollywood gym, and are ready to release the exact location!

First off..what's in a name...?

Everything! We decided to name this gym after the iconic city it calls home. Hollywood Boulders. It's got a nice ring to it, right? Hollywood is a city known the world over for big dreams and bright lights. Hollywood Boulders will be a destination gym for people who want to climb on the cutting edge of industry standards and make their mark. 

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Hollywood Boulders is a 17,000 sq ft facility, with 11,000 sq feet of climbing terrain, making it the largest bouldering-only gym in Southern California. We are currently under construction, getting the building ready and working with Walltopia to design bouldering terrain like you've never seen. Along with climbing, we will have a programing room for yoga and fitness classes, along with cardio equipment, a weight room, and saunas.

Remi Moehring, the manager of LA Boulders says that excitement has been building for the new gyms. "We’ve set the bar high at LA.B and people know what it means when we say a Touchstone gym is coming to town."

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"Our goal in Los Angeles was not to simply build a gym. Our objective was to be a catalyst in the development of the indoor climbing community," said Touchstone CEO Mark Melvin. “It takes multiple exceptional gyms in close proximity with reciprocity to do the job right, and Hollywood Boulders will be an exceptional gym in a great location."

“We are hopeful that we can open both Hollywood Boulders and Cliffs of Id in mid 2015,” said Sr. Manager Markham Connolly. Just think - by this time next year Touchstone members will have four locations to choose from! We'll be announcing details about construction, employment opportunities, and wall designs on the Hollywood Boulders facebook page, so give it a follow!

We're doing SO much in LA right now, it's easy to miss something! If you want to stay in the loop, subscribe to our Southern California newsletter. We promise to only send you stuff we think you'll love! 

Better know an instructor: Ashley Hockersmith

Dogpatch Boulders is offering a new clinic series on increasing endurance through bouldering. Veteran instructor Ashley Hockersmith is teaching this new clinic, which starts on Sunday, Nov. 23rd and will meet on the two following Sundays. We decided to have a chat with Ashley to learn a little bit about how Ashley found climbing and what it has meant to her. Enjoy!

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Touchstone: Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started climbing.

Ashley H: I started climbing about 9 yrs ago, when I started working at a sporting goods store. One of my coworkers, who soon became a really good friend of mine, was really passionate about climbing. After months of pestering her about climbing, she finally caved, and put me on my first climb (which was a sport 5.6) at the local crag, Mt Williamson. It took me at least an hour to get to the top, and I definitely freaked out more then once, but by the end of it I was totally hooked. Being in Southern California, we had ample opportunity to take days trips to climb on real rock. I climbed my first slab, and traversed my first boulder in J-tree, and learned anchors and rope management in Malibu. We had a local gym in Arcadia called the ARC, and while it was kinda dark and pretty dirty, it was an enjoyable space to gain some strength and pass the time.

T: Describe some of your most enjoyable/meaningful experiences you've had because of climbing.

AH: My favorite thing about climbing has always been its ability to take me to new and beautiful spaces, and to meet really fantastic people. When I am in the gym, I am pretty focused on movement and numbers, but when I am outside, I don't care how many climbs I get in; I more enjoy just being in the natural environment, and getting to fully experience that space. In the Fall of 2012, I had the opportunity to spend a week at Castle Hill in New Zealand. Castle Hill is a place with infinitely rolling hills of green and gold grasses, that is littered with hundreds upon hundreds of perfectly smooth (yet textured) silver limestone boulders. I climbed 6 of the 7 days that I was there, and while I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of climbing, I spent a good half of my time, nestled in between the rock, just breathing and enjoying the quiet and landscape.

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T: How did you learn your good technique?

AH: I was really fortunate that my friend who got me into climbing was also a stickler for proper technique and communication. During that first day, when we were driving to Williamson, she made me repeat the On-Belay/Belay-On call and response etiquette for at least 30 unbroken minutes. She was always very aware of the risks associated with climbing as well as the consequences of poor technique/Belaying. She wanted to make sure I was aware of the seriousness of my role as her climbing partner. So because of this, I always want to make sure I am passing on good technique, and well as responsible climbing habits, to the people I teach and climb with. I am a stickler when it comes to belaying; if someone is being unsafe, I refuse to climb with them. I feel similarly when it comes to "spotting".

T: Explain why bouldering is such a great medium for training endurance.

AH: I think Bouldering is a great way to train endurance for a number of reasons. First, the climber doesn't have to sacrifice their strength in order to focus on extending stamina. The power aspect of bouldering can be directly incorporated into the focus on increased stamina. Second, by training on boulders instead of ropes, the climber can focus on a particular style, or type of movement that goes beyond the wall shape. Lastly, the climber can train on their own schedule, since bouldering doesn't require a partner. I would still encouraging working with another person, as a tool to push your climbing, but the flexibility of not needing a partner is a great asset.

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T: Quick Fire questions... Favorite spot to rope outside?

AH: New River Gorge

T: Favorite place to boulder outside?

A: Yosemite

T: Favorite wall at Dogpatch Boulders?

AH: Back Slab top-out (Green Monster)

T: Best Food near DogPatch?

AH: Long Bridge Pizza

T: Tell us something about yourself we'd never know from seeing you around the gym.

AH: I consistently want ice cream at 11pm at night.

T: We'd never have guessed... Thanks Ashley!

Ready to increase your endurnace through bouldering? You'd better jump on it! Spots are going fast for this three week clinic. 

Night Climbing Tips

The time change and the fall season means short days. In Yosemite, darkness falls in the Valley at 5:30. If you are driving out from the bay or sleep in at all, that translates to very little time to climb. The best way to make the most of your trip is to climb at night. If you're into alpine starts to climb El Capitan, you will probably need to do a fair bit of night climbing. Not only will a night session extend your climbing time but it will kill the long boring hours before bed, it allows for better temps and more time to get up the wall. 

Camp4 night climbing

John Dickey photo of Paul Barraza on Yabo Roof

Get A Good Headlamp:

There's a variety of options for headlamps out there. Use the brightest one possible. Grab some fresh batteries. Better is to use a rechargable headlamp. Bay Area climber Dan Freschl produced the escellent Bosavi headlamp, which recharges with a USB cable. Also check out the Black Diamond Sprinter headlamp.  

Look at Your Feet:

Be extra precise with your footwork when climbing at night. Shine the headlamp in small circles to double check on shadows. Move carefully. The temps tend to be significantly better and your feet will stick way better at night if you take time to place them well. 

Bring a Lantern:

While you can't exactly swing a Coleman lantern half way up El Capitan, you can bring a lantern to the boulders. Get a propane lantern. They tend to be brighter than the battery operated variety. Some companies sell sticks to hang lanterns or find a tree. Make sure you hang the lantern in the spot that casts the least shadows on the wall. 

Night climbing

John Dickey jumaring the Stoveleg pitches at 3am

Know Where You're Going:

Earlier this fall, I climbed to Dolt Tower on the Nose with photographer John Dickey for a sunrise photo shoot. I got lost looking for a pendulum point because I failed to see the bolt in the dark. I checked the topo a few times and found the spot where I needed to swing to the Stoveleg Cracks. If you're out bouldering, know where the problem is, how to get off and what the holds are. Knowing where you're going helps significantly. It's easy to get lost in the dark. 

Stay Warm:

The colder conditions may make climbing easier but it also gets a lot cooler when you're inactive. Grab a thermos of hot tea for bouldering and a belay jacket for longer routes.

Staying warm with plenty of light, knowing where you're going and climbing well will add to a succesful night of climbing. If you want practice, the gyms periodically have night climbing sessions. Stay tuned for the next event, bring your headlamp and have fun.

Past blog entries can be found at  http://touchstoneclimbing.blogspot.com/

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