The "Mission Cliffhangers", Mission Cliffs' teen climbing team, has been enjoying a fun-filled, successful run in this year's Northern California Youth Climbing League! The Mission Cliffhangers are a fun-loving group of twenty Touchstone members between the ages of 7 and 17 who all share boundless enthusiasm for climbing--and the YCL competition series provides the perfect venue for them to have a blast and climb their best!
The Youth Climbing League (put together by Andy Puhvel and Lisa Coleman of Yo! Basecamp) is a series of climbing competitions for kids and teens that takes place at rock gyms in and around the Bay Area--the competitions themselves are judged in two separate categories: difficulty and speed. On January 12th, Touchstone's very own Diablo Rock Gym hosted the season-opening competition, and seven excited Mission Cliffhangers traveled out to Concord to represent their home gym, climb some awesome new routes, and have a good time! Team members Nilo Batle, Audrey Duane, Elsie Karlak, Elias Lawson-Fox, Zephir Lorne, Cosmo Maddux, and Elijah Whitlam-Sandler all climbed their hearts out at this event...and they even won some prizes! In their respective age categories: Nilo placed first in both difficulty and speed, Cosmo tied in second for difficulty, Audrey placed fifth in difficulty and fourth in speed, and Elias placed fifth in difficulty! And after all the chalk dust settled, the Cliffhangers, utterly exhausted but proud of their accomplishments, made their way home.
The Mission Cliffhangers' most recent YCL competition took place on January 25th at the Rocknasium rock gym in Davis, outside Sacramento. Team members Nilo Batle, Audrey Duane, Oscar Herrera-Sobal, Elias Lawson-Fox, Lucas Lawson-Fox, Cosmo Maddux, Cate Tam, and Elijah Whitlam-Sandler all attended and made the long hour-and-a-half trek from San Francisco. The Rocknasium competition proved to be quite significantly more difficult than the previous event, with the gym's shorter walls demanding more compact, strength-based climbing from the competitors. However, the Mission Cliffhangers stuck to their guns, climbed as hard as they possibly could, and gave it their all--by the competition's end, bouldering a V0 seemed just as hard as freeing The Nose! In the end Nilo placed first in both difficulty and speed, Audrey placed second in speed, Elias placed fifth in difficulty, and Lucas placed fifth in both difficulty and speed--an all-around good showing in what was most likely the hardest YCL event in the series.
February 8th marks the Mission Cliffhangers' next YCL competition, and this time the venue will be Vertex Climbing Center in Santa Rosa. The Cliffhangers are especially looking forward to this event, as they will be cheering for their head coach, Malcolm McMahon, in the adult climbing contest immediately following the main YCL event! After this third competition, the Mission Cliffhangers have two more stops: the penultimate competition Planet Granite in Belmont on February 23rd and the series championship Pacific Edge in Santa Cruz on March 1st.
The Northern California Youth Climbing League is an awesome competition series that affords Mission Cliffs' teen team a great opportunity to climb with their teammates, explore new rock gyms and meet other climbing teams, and just have a huge amount of fun! The Mission Cliffhangers themselves are an awesome group of kids who really put a ton of effort into their climbing and seem to have endless enthusiasm and passion for the sport--and by participating in these competitions they show their desire to push their climbing to the next level, to put their skills to the test and do their best!
The Touchstone Climbing gyms proudly support programs that help young people experience the benefits of rock climbing. Climb Up, a program founded last year in the San Francisco area, takes 11- 18 year old students with special needs, socioeconomic disadvantages, mental health needs, and/or learning disabilities from John O’Connell High School, Balboa High School Oake’s Children Center, City Arts and Tech High School, and other Bay Area schools to Mission Cliffs. The trips provide a concrete outlet for students that face serious obstacles in life.
Recently, Climb Up took a number of students to Mission Cliffs to discuss problem solving and diligence in an athletic environment. The program found great success at the gym, partly due to the staff. “The leaders and volunteers were flexible, fun, and patient as they coached our students into fearlessly conquering walls at Mission Cliffs. Students felt special with extra attention and personalized challenges (and cool gear!) said Katie a Special Education Teacher.” The staff helped the climbers have a great time.
“It was so nice! It was hard, but when you try it, it is enjoyable,” said one student. “It was very challenging, but when I made it to the top I felt so good! When I first started, it seemed impossible, but once you are in the middle, you want to keep going. When you finish the climb, you really feel like you’ve done something!” The students made significant progress at Mission Cliffs.
“The students who have come climbing are all students who struggle with their academics and those that often give up on themselves or are not confident in their skills. The climbing experience provides each of them with a unique opportunity to be presented with a challenge that they are able to overcome,” said Gorman a Special Education Teacher. “They are emotionally and physically supported by their belay partner, but they are also climbing independently. This builds confidence in their abilities, which translates back to the classroom. Each student that we have brought to Mission Cliffs has had a positive experience.”
“Mission Cliffs has been an ideal place to engage students in what climbing has to offer: physical fitness and well-being, a sense of progress and opportunity, and a supportive community,” said Climb Up founder Mark Martin. Climb Up returns to Mission Cliffs this coming week and will continue to make bi-monthly trips with six students per session.
Recently 8 students from BUILD, a 4 year program for low-income high school students, went to Mission Cliffs. BUILD uses entrepreneurship to re-engage students in their education who are at-risk of dropping out and set them on the path to college. "These students work with mentors--volunteers that Build recruits from the community--to develop and manufacture a unique product/business idea,"said Hannah Rosales, a BUILD employee. The program has served 560 students in the Bay area and over 1,000 students nationwide.
"Effective working relationships, trust, and motivation drive our challenging and exciting work with the young people we serve. Rock climbing is an excellent way for our team to practice what we preach with our students - challenging ourselves, learning new skills, and having fun while climbing to new heights!" said Tarik Scott who works with the Oakland office team. "BUILD believes the power of student ideas in action drives youth to reach their fullest potential in school and beyond. That’s why we help our students develop their own business ideas, write business plans, pitch to funders and launch real businesses. As they reap the rewards—from keeping their profits to gaining self-confidence—they clearly see the connection between the classroom and career success."
The BUILD students will be selling their products at the 7th Annual Holiday Sales Bazaar which will take place Thursday, December 5th at the Scottish Rite Center in Oakland. They will also be back at Mission Cliffs, motivating themselves towards success.
For the past two years, Touchstone has been hard at work planning the expansion of San Francisco’s Mission Cliffs. After dealing with the hurdles of building permits and securing the location next to the current gym, the Mission Cliffs expansion is set to dramatically change the face to Touchstone's original gym.
Read more: Open House at Mission Cliffs
If you've been to Mission Cliffs recently and admired the photographs adorning the walls, you'll be happy to know that they are the handy work of our very own member Tim Guffin! His work is also on the cover of Rock&Ive magazine! We caught up with Tim to find out a bit more about his background.
I am a self-taught photographer who has a passion for traveling to wild places and exploring nature with a backpack on my shoulders and a camera in my hands. I started climbing 7 years ago at Mission Cliffs in San Francisco. I didn't even know something like that could exist in a city...I was totally blown-away and hooked right away. I improved little-by-little over the years, met some fantastic people, learned how to use my legs (drop-knees!), got my lead-card and started taking climbing trips. I could never have imagined that in my first year of photographing climbing semi-seriously (more than just butt shots of my friends) would I be published on the cover of my favorite climbing mag!
My photography background is a bit of a twisty road. While studying Ecology at University I spent a semester doing biological field-research in Costa Rica, and that's where I began to explore the craft of documentary/nature filmmaking. This led to work as a camera assistant on dozens of Hollywood films over the past 15 years. But I've always admired the still photographers, and I've continued to hone my photographic skills with frequent road trips near home as well as during climbing trips to Asia, Central and South America.
Tim has lived in and explored the cities of New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, and is now happy to call Squaw Valley home. He enjoys its closeness to the Bay Area, access to incredible mountains, alpine lakes, skiing, rock climbing and the other countless breathtaking locations Northern California has to offer.
Be sure to check out his work the next time you're at Mission Cliffs Climbing Gym in San Francisco to gain a little inspiration for your next trip! Awesome work Tim!
Recently, Touchstone route setter Jeff Hansen headed to Arkansas for the infamous 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell. He wrote a bit about his trip for the Touchstone blog.
The last weekend of September, I traveled to the sandstone cliffs of Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas to participate in 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell. For those who haven’t heard of 24HHH, teams of 2 attempt to climb as many routes as possible in a 24 hour period.
Up all night at the North Forty crag (Photo Credit: Lydia Ruth Freeman)
Read more: 24 HHH with Jeff Hansen