Oliana, Siurana, Terradets, Maragalef. When people think of Spanish sport climbing, they think of these destinations. Most of these locations are in Catalonia, in the easy to access northern part of Spain. However, there’s limestone all over the country and some of the best climbing is in areas that receive far less visitors, far less crowds, and has far better rock.
Jaen is known as the olive capital of the world. There are thousands of the trees across the countryside.
The difficulties in these places are that they require a bit more knowledge of Spanish or a guide. In El Churro, you need to go further south and away from where most other international people climb. In Jaen, it helps to know a local or at least do extensive research on the climbing.
Pedro works on a difficult project at Otinar, a crag with an enormous cave located a few minutes outside of Jaen. This area stays dry even in heavy snow storms.
One of a few international climbers, this German man attacks a difficult 8a route at the Bolo Sector in Reguchillo
Located in the hills of the Santa Catalina Mountains, this town of 100,000 is known as the olive capital of the world. The city boasts an amazing cathedral, an enormous castle, and some of the best sport climbing in the country. Located just a few minutes from the center of town is Reguchillo, which has a few hundred sport climbs from 5.9 to 5.14. There are numerous smaller crags nearby including Otinar, which has an Ondra 5.15b project as well as other amazing steep routes. There are also a few limestone wall routes nearby with routes up to 8a and nearly 400 meters long. The camping around Jaen is difficult. There are some options for hostels and hotels in Jaen. A rental car is needed.
Early morning light on Reguchillo, one of the best limestone sport crags in Spain with a few hundred routes from 5.9 to 5.14. Located just outside of Jaen, the cliff has it all.
A climber on a 7b+ in Poema De Roca in El Churro. This area features great, easily accessible limestone with a number of hostels, warm weather, and a casual approach.
Since the 1980s, El Churro was been at the height of Spanish sport climbing. With a number of hostels within walking distance of the crags, the limestone is ideal for a traveling climber. The caves of Poema de Roca stay dry in the rain. The Camino del Rey, the walkway through the gorge, is one of the most stunning sites in Spain and there are a number of great subsidiary crags.
Hazel Findlay climbs Danza Aggresiva 7b+ in Archidona, an amazing limestone cave between Malaga and Granada.
Archidona sits just an hour east of El Churro towards Granada. The cave there contains some of the hardest routes in Spain. Also, the climbing of Loja is quite close to Archidona and El Churro.
These locations have some of the best sport climbing I’ve seen and are far superior to anything in the United States. Next time you’re thinking of a sport climbing trip, think of some of the other areas in Spain. Get off the beaten path of Catalonian climbing and check out some of the other amazing cliffs that Spain has to offer.
I lowered into a herd of goats and sheep. A few minutes before I flaked my rope in a corral below Conde Dracula, a steep 8a limestone sport climb in Otinar, Spain. My partner, Blake wanted to climb the route as well. The land surrounding the cliff remains pasture for many animals. Their bells rang as they walked towards the protection of the cave. A shepherd pushed the sheep towards the base and we began a strained access discussion with the man.
The climbing in Otinar, one of the best caves in Southern Spain, exists on private agricultural land. Local climbers arranged a tentative agreement with the owners to climb on the property. The access there has been maintained through a respect for the land. There’s two parts to every land management discussion and problems arise when there’s poor communication. Most climbers only think of the first part.
The Access Fund discusses the first idea well when they say, “Poor compliance often arises in situations where there has been limited communication between climbers and resource managers, where management policies show poor understanding of climbing activity and use patterns, or where new restrictions have arisen without the identification of problems through field observation.” In Otinar, the shepherd had some understanding of what were doing. He had little concern about us climbing on the wall. He didn’t fear lawsuits or that someone would tear a flapper and kick a sheep. The problem came from the other side.
¨Diaz minutos por favor?¨ Blake asked if he could quickly try the route.
One of the biggest problems in climbing access is when climbers feel entitled to the cliffs, especially on private property. Spanish shepherds have used the land for thousands of years. While it´s easy to complain about the smell of goat and sheep excrement, it´s better to acknowledge the generosity of the land owners and treat them respectfully. A problem also exists when climbers show poor understanding of land activity and use patterns, where they neglect to understand the position of the shepherd.
The goats bleated outside the gate. The shepherd shook his head, indicating that we should return the next day.
“Gracias, amigo,” Blake told the shepherd and then in his best Spanglish, hethanked the man for allowing us to climb on the land. We continued to climb on another section of the wall. The sheep bleated happily under the cave and the goats settled down for a dry evening. We returned the next day to slightly better temps. Blake flashed the steep route for his hardest flash to date. Respecting access pays off.
Exciting news out of Culver City today! The Cliffs of Id, our 25,000 sq ft gym, has a logo of it's very own! We're thrilled to have worked with our friends Mark Fox and Angie Wang of Design is Play to create the perfect identity for the new gym.
When we sat down to design the Logo for Cliffs of Id, we had a lot of ideas to bring to the table. The name Cliffs of Id comes from a reference to Reyner Banham's Four Ecologies of Los Angeles, a book and defense of LA architecture / urbanism / ecology. Culver City is in the region described by Banham as the Plains of Id. One quote really stood out to us; 'The Plains of Id are where the crudest urban lusts and most fundamental aspirations are created, manipulated and, with luck, satisfied.' "We took this quote and ran with it," said Sr. Manager Jeffery Bowling. "We loved the idea of a gym identity that harkened back to this feeling of urban idealism and hopeful expectations of the future."
We love the logo we were able to create and can't wait to see it in lights!
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, Mission Cliffs in 2014, and now Cliffs of Id.
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 Cliffs of Id is directly off the 10, on Fairfax Avenue near Venice Blvd and La Cienega and has ample parking. We are also right next to the Metro Station - hip hip hooray! We KNOW all you West Siders will be psyched on this location! “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.” Cliffs of Id will be a HUGE rope climbing gym, which is great news for everyone who prefers to tie in.
This will also be a full service gym with designated areas for program 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! Additionally, ALL Touchstone Climbing memberships are created equal.
If you are already a member at LA Boulders, you are also a member at Cliffs of Id and vice versa. Reciprocal memberships for the WIN! 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 anticipate opening in mid 2015. To stay tuned on the play by play, give our Cliffs of Id Facebook page a follow. We'll be releasing wall designs and construction updates in the following months. When it comes time to hire staff, we'll post announcements there.
Rock climbing brings a huge array of challenges. One of the biggest is getting to the crag. This past weekend, Mary-kate Meyerhoffer and I took on the daunting challenge of finding one of the most popular limestone cliffs in Spain. We managed to get lost but we did discover a few lessons while looking for El Churro.
A crag above the Olive Branch, one of the hostels in El Churro
From the train station in downtown Malaga, we traveled west, using directions from a climbing guide book to all of Spain. An orange vendor provided some directions but we failed to understand all he said. We continued west, following signs to El Chorro before finding a barricaded road. The security guards stabbed back the way we came. We circled around and drove through another town to El Churro. Our outdated, skimpy guide did little to provide directions. We had to ask. Knowing a little Spanish proved helpful. Knowing more Spanish would have been ideal but we got to El Churro with a bit of charades. We could see the cliffs but we had no idea where the approach was. Communicating the directions between locals and deciding which path was best between Mary-Kate and I wa crucial in getting so far.
Mary-Kate hops the fence to escape the train station and find the climbing.
Go For It
The guide book described walking through train tunnels to the crags. We looked at the crags. We knew that a number of routes climbed out of a gorge on El Camino Rey, a section of boardwalks through the mountains and to access the gorge, you needed to walk through some train tunnels. After driving around, we found the trail to the tunnels and guessed which way to go. We went for it. We committed to a plan and headed in a direction. We were unsure but we were moving. Which lead us to our next learning lesson.
Know When To Go Back
After twenty minutes of walking on the rail road tracks, waiting to get run over by the Renfe train heading to Madrid, we decided to turn around. Though the book had said to walk through the tunnel, the long trek across the rail ways seemed excessive. We turned around and hopped the fence out of the rail way. When we walked up the hill, we found the climbing and lots of English speaking rock jocks with the guide book. Turning around in the tunnel proved to be ideal. Though we went the wrong way initially, we found the correct path.
A British climber heads up Visito Tejito at Poema de Roca.
We were very tired by the time we reached the crag. The wind started howling but we had made it. I wanted to head back to the hostel and relax. Mary-Kate stayed determined and decided we had to climb. While we both got heinously flash pumped on the steep Spanish limestone, we had found the way. The following day, we were way more prepared. We were able to speak with the climbers, find directions to the climbing shop, get food and find the hostel. Our tenacity paid off.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. >
Tommy does some last minute clean up duty on top of El Capitan.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.