BOSS Bookdrive

Berkeley Ironworks in conjunction with Leadership East Bay has been holding a book drive for a local women and children’s center run by Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency (BOSS). Established in 1971, BOSS serves over 1,500 homeless families and individuals with barriers to self sufficiency. “BOSS provides comprehensive services that help homeless families and individuals move from homelessness to homes ~ with improved skills and knowledge of resources so they can stay healthy and housed,” reads BOSS’s mission statement. The book drive, which  Leadership East Bay member Aaron Juchau organized, hopes to provide much needed reading material. Ironworks members are encouraged to drop off their extra reading material in the bins provided in the lounge area of the climbing gym.

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Spring Break ’09 - Cabo San Smith Rockas

Earlier this spring, a group of Berkeley climbers headed to one of the best rock climbing destinations in Oregon. Ben Steel wrote a bit about the group's trip for the Touchstone blog.

I suppose the first thing I should do is apologize to you for the misleading title. I haven’t been hiding this trip report away for 5 years just so I can spring it on you now; it’s just that “Spring Break Oh-Nine” has a much better ring to it than “Spring Break Twenty-Fourteen” when you scream it along the base of the crag. Or at least that’s what “Red Ben” Corbett said the first day we were there. We had heard some other spring breakers screaming the chronologically correct, age-old mantra of college students everywhere and he thought it could use some sprucing up.

Regardless of how we titled it, we were on spring break from UC Berkeley, and were up at Smith Rock to sample some of the United State’s finest “sport” climbing. I put sport in quotations since the bolt spacing at Smith is a far cry from the gym. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy small runouts; they induce a moderate level of terror and make the climbing take on an adventurous feel, which is ironic seeing that I was often clipping pre-hung draws after a 5-10 minute walk from the car. The great Cal Climbing herd and all around madhouse.

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Photo Ben Steel

Anyway, for this trip we managed to bring along quite a large number of folks from the Cal Climbing Team. I believe the final tally was with 27 people, 15 tents and 7 cars, all crammed into one sweet (not) group campsite. Since only two people in our group had ever been to Smith before it was everyone else’s first time there. And, as with most of our group trips, this one involved a lot of other “firsts” as well. There were a handful of “first times climbing outside”, “first leads”, “first harness purchases”, “first trad leads”, and even my personal favorite “first time freezing your ass off in that insufficient sleeping bag you brought.” This is one of my favorite parts about being on the climbing team, being able to introduce new people to climbing outdoors and new types of climbing that they may not have been able to experience had they not come along on one of our trips. For example, a couple of people on the team had never climbed more than single pitch routes, and they got to climb this sweet multipich 5.7 along with some of the more experienced leaders.

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Riding the arête on The Last Waltz 5.12c. Photo Casey Zak

Climbing at Smith was quite different from the trips I’m used to taking to places like Yosemite or the Needles. In the valley we usually (always) end up hiking (way) farther than we anticipated for some climb that’s not necessarily on the beaten path. Smith on the other hand is a 6 minute drive from the campground and a 7 minute walk from the parking lot, has nicely built and maintained trails, and has toilets at the crag! That’s right, if you had to cut down to sending weight before your next burn you didn’t even have to make the 7 minute walk back to the bathroom at the parking lot, you could just saunter over and take care of business in comfort and privacy. Also, the main area is literally littered with classic climbs of all grades. There are 5.14’s two climbs away from 5.10’s, which are four climbs away from 5.12’s, which are right next to 5.6’s. My climbing partner Casey always says that one of the things that makes climbing so great is how elite climbers are so accessible and easy to interact with for the everyday climber. Now it’s not as if I swapped belays with Ondra or anything, but basically climbers of all levels were climbing within spitting distance of each other all day. I always find watching climbers who are better than me is a great way to generate psych, and I must say that it helped me to try hard on my routes when I knew that right around the corner someone was climbing 5.14.

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Ana Stirniman on Chain Reaction 5.12c Photo by Casey Zak

But I’m getting ahead of myself. With an alpine start time of 8:30 PM, we drove through Friday night, crammed into Casey’s Pathfinder (affectionately named Lonestar) like a bunch of sardines. We were so wrecked by the drive we couldn’t really sleep much, but were up and getting ready to climb by 8am. In terms of being comfortable and well rested for the trip I’d say we nailed it.

Apparently a lot of schools had spring break that first weekend so the main area was packed that first day! The full range of climbers, from crusher to first timer, was out in full force and basically every route with over 2 stars had a line to climb it. On top of that, the beautiful scenery attracts non-climbers from far and wide. With 2 hours of sleep and a swarming mass of climbers, dogs, children, backpacks, hikers, runners, walkers, joggers, and families to contend with I felt okay with only climbing 5 routes over the span of 8 or so hours. However, we did manage to get on some pretty cool stuff that day. The highlight was when Casey flashed a notoriously stiff 12a that was essentially a long series of slopey crimps that sucked away all hope as soon as you touched them. Somehow he held on through the crux and battled his way up the top headwall to the anchors for a proud send. Back at camp that night we were so exhausted we went to bed at 8.

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Casey: stoked to climb on our first day or delirious from lack of sleep? Photo Ben Steel

The second day we decided to ditch the crowds and climb on the Monkey’s Face instead. Unlike many climbing destinations, at Smith, avoiding crowds is as simple as walking to the other side of the formation. The Monkey’s Face is one of the most iconic sights in all of Oregon and is definitely worth the extra 15-minutes of hiking (did I mention how much I liked the approaches at Smith?). It’s a super rad formation that, depending on the angle you view it from, looks either like a perfect monkey’s face (duh) or disturbingly phallic.


Guess which view this is! Northwest Corner (green) and The Backbone (red) on the Monkey’s Face. Photo Ben Steel

Casey and Steven climbed the Backbone (13a) while David and myself tackled the Northwest Corner (12a). The Northwest Corner was frickin’ amazing! The first two pitches can be led in one massive 50-meter pitch up through the band of red rock to end on the biggest cave/ledge you can imagine. The route involves long reaches between perfect fingerlocks and sweet laybacks on gear with 3 bolts sprinkled into the mix. After a fun and semi-cruiser bottom section I ended up making it through what I thought was the crux and was able to catch my breath on some okay jugs with bad feet. Once somewhat recovered, I launched into the “easy” section above only to find the actual crux of the route, get pumped out of my mind, and take a nice big whipper to put me in my place. Trying it again, I soon found myself shaking with fatigue above a couple of well-spaced and suspect cam placements while staring at a bolt guarded by a mantle-highstep move with a smeary foot…It was a full exhilarating (read: terrifying) minute before I committed, scrunched my knee into my face, and got to better holds. The rest of the day was a blast, except when some other party dropped the rope that I had left fixed so Steven and Casey could do a double rope rappel from the top of the formation. Luckily I saw it happen and nobody ended up stuck on top of the Monkey. I will say, whenever you come across a fixed line, provided it’s not dangerous, you should always leave it where it is and simply be thankful that you can speed up your rappelling.

Over the next few days we checked out the Lower Gorge, which has some simply amazing basalt column climbing, took a rest day in Bend where we sampled the local brews, and tried to get on as many of the classic climbs in the main area as we could.

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For me, one of the most memorable and impressive parts of the rest of the trip was watching fellow Touchstone employee Steven Roth put in some hard work on Scarface, the first 5.14 (now 13d) done by an American (Scott Franklin in 1988). It climbs a shallow corner in this really cool, sweeping wall, before pulling onto a scary looking slab above. The movement is really cool looking, involving massive moves between two finger pockets. The only thing is, Steven’s fingers are so thick that for him it’s massive moves between monos. In an overhang. With bad feet. I guess that’s why it’s 5.13+/14-. Watching him climb was one of the craziest displays of strength I’ve ever witnessed, especially when he made some of the aforementioned moves look relatively casual.

We ended the trip on Thursday, since I had work Friday and the weather was supposed to take a massive dump on Smith the next day. Once again, we drove from 8PM to 5AM, and once again it was one of the most uncomfortable 9 hours I’ve ever spent. However, I’d gladly endure that heinous car ride again since Smith is definitively one of the best climbing destinations out there.

If you ever do find yourself at Smith (and you should), here’s a list of the climbs I’d put on the must do list:

9 gallon buckets (5.10, morning glory wall )

Churning in the Wake (5.13a, morning glory wall) Supposedly the extension, Churning in the Sky is even better and still only 13a

The Last Waltz (5.12c, the dihedrals) Super rad!

Northwest Corner(5.12a, monkey face) also Mega rad!

Pure Palm (5.11a, lower gorge)

The Pearl (5.11b, lower gorge)

Chain Reaction (5.12c, dihedrals)

Crossfire (5.12b, dihedrals)

Spiderman(5.7, three pitches)


Preparing For A Comp

On Friday March 21st, Berkeley Ironworks will hold the second comp in the 2014 Touchstone Climbing Series. Touchstone started these events to help build community and to provide climbers with an opportunity to socialize. The comps also provide a great chance to learn how to climb in a comp setting, a challenging facet of rock climbing.

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Preparing for a comp, a day of climbing when you perform your absolute best, can be difficult. Justin Wood, a Salt Lake City climbing trainer with Maisch Training, provided solid advice for preparing the Ironworks bouldering comp. “Warm up really well. A lot of people get excited and they get flash pumped or beat up.” Take the time to stretch, and do lots of easy climbing. The Touchstone setters reset huge sections of the gym, which translates into amazing problems including great moderates. Warming up well will allow your muscles to relax and perform at their best.  Check out all the new problems.  

During the comp, take the time to relax. Enjoy the atmosphere and allow your muscles to recover. “Rest more rest than you think,” said Wood. “Watch people between the burns. Then give the problems good redpoint goes.” While resting, you could meet a new climbing partner or see another climber provide you with crucial beta on the problem you’re having difficulty with. Hydrate well and be ready to climb when your chance comes. When you do pull onto the problem, climb with intention. Execute the moves and do your absolute best.

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If you want to train before the comp, climb a lot of problems with a focus on onsighting and finishing problems in as few tries as possible. You want to conserve strength and use it efficiently over a long period of time. Wood pointed out the need for significant stamina. “Schedule a bouldering pyramid where you’re doing lots of hard problems,” said Wood.

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Forget about your performance in terms of the people around you. Earlier this year, former Zero Gravity member, Josh Levin competed in a half dozen comps across the east coast this fall. He provided some excellent insight into the mentality of comp climbing. “As hard as it may be, trying not to base your own performance on how other people do is absolutely key to succeed. If you lay down the absolute best performance of your life, but still do not come out on top, those people deserved to beat you that day. The results may not reflect your personal desire to do well, but it is important that you realize the true value of your efforts,” said Levin in his blog. “Conversely, if you win a comp but you know you didn’t perform at your absolute best, you should still be openly happy with your performance, but reflect on what you could’ve done better for future events. I’ve found that the true victories are the ones that don’t come easy.”

Most importantly, have fun at the event. After you’re done climbing, enjoy all the free pizza and beer that the gym has to offer. Train hard before the comp and then have a good time in the moment. The Touchstone Comp Series provides an excellent mixture of athleticism, community, and a good time.


A Beginner’s Guide to Childcare

By Narinda Heng

So. You’ve made a tiny human! Does this mean no more climbing gym time? No!

You may have noticed that door between the drinking fountains and the men’s locker room with the “Childcare” sign above it. Here’s what’s inside:

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Berkeley Ironworks offers childcare for children age 6 months to 6 years four days a week:

Tuesdays & Thursdays 4:00pm - 8:00pm

Saturdays 10:00am - 1:00pm

Sundays 2:00pm - 5:00pm

The pricing is pretty incredible at $7.50/hour for members and $10.00/hour for non-members.

(You’ll still be on diaper & potty duty, though, so keep an ear perked for the intercom in case those needs arise.)

I’ve been one of the childcare staff since August 2013, and I wanted to offer some hints and tricks for parents leaving their babes for the first time:

1. You may be called back to the childcare room for soothing. The first visit or two might be a little rough for those kiddos under three. They get worried. They think you’re never coming back. They start crying. Desperately. We’ll try to soothe them with toys and books and videos, but if that doesn’t work, we’ll ask the front desk to call for you over the intercom. It’ll happen less and less with each visit!

2. Sometimes it’s so hard to say goodbye that it’s better not to. Some babes mainly have trouble with the letting go part. It helps to let the childcare person know what your child is excited about playing with, so that they can distract them as you quietly leave the room to go climb your project, take a yoga class, or run a few miles on BIW’s super-fancy new treadmills.

3. The more the merrier! We can have up to six children in the childcare room at a time, and the babes tend to do better when they have other kids to play with. Play/belay dates are highly recommended. Are you a part of a pair of parents taking turns watching the little ones? Are your toddlers good pals? Set them on a play date in the childcare room so you can all get your climb on. Everybody’s happy.

4. There’s no place like home, but the toys don’t have to stay there. We have plenty of different toys for varying ages, but it’s great for them to have more familiar happiness- making things to play with, or a favorite book to read. Bring a few along. Here some creative tikes integrated their set of Squinkie toys with our map play rug:

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The four year old’s had a grand ol’ time.

 Weekday evenings can get a little wild at the gym. You can pay ahead for childcare time so you can just scan your member card and then come straight to the childcare room, where you can sign off the amount of time (in 1/2 hour blocks) that you’d like to use. Precious minutes saved! And it lets BIW know that there are folks interested in the childcare service, so we can keep it going for the parents yet to come.

These are some things I’ve noticed since I joined the childcare team. You know your child better than I do, of course! You never know whether this will be a good fit unless you try, right? What’s the harm? You wouldn’t want to leave us to sit alone polishing the toys all shift long, would you?

Member Route Setting Clinic at BIW

In an indoor rock climbing environment, one thing's for sure: the routes you climb are our product. 

Sounds stupid and maybe overly philosophical, but the very talented and hard working Touchstone Routesetters literally create a commodity that is so unique and high quality that people pay a monthly membership or for day passes just to experience it. If you've ever ventured outside of the "bubble" of Touchstone setting, you'll always come back with a holy-moly-I-didn't-know-I-had-it-so-good kinda feeling. Not to toot the Touchstone horn, but these dudes set amazing climbs 40 hours a week, at nine gyms across the state (that's not even touching on the hard work that goes into competitions).

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But inevitably, you'll still hear members say something like, 'I could do that.' Maybe that's true, but most of the time it's without knowing how much is actually included in the process.

Maybe what people mean to say is, 'I really, really, really WANT to do that.'

Ok. So now we have people saying they 'could' and 'want' to route set that are not actually route setters themselves. After hearing over and over, we created the Member Setting Clinic that took place at Berkeley Ironworks on February 21st.

When creating the clinic, we had a few goals in mind. Obviously, we wanted the participants to do what they came to do: route set. We also wanted to make sure our beloved members would get a chance to interact with the Touchstone Routesetters in ways they don't normally get to. Right now it's pretty easy for any of the desk staff at our gyms to create a relationship with the members and vice versa, but the setters don't always have that opportunity and although all of us have a unique relationship with the way they set, we rarely get to know the person behind the wrench.

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Enough of the sappy stuff, aren't you here to find out what happened in the clinic?!

We provided 4 hours for the clinic in total because we knew that the participants have little to no setting experience and putting up just one route might take longer than expected. We also factored in forerunning (trying out the problems and making necessary changes) and clean-up. It was decided that the Campus Board Wall to the far left of BIW's bouldering area would be the best terrain for the event because of the height, simplicity, and low impact to the rest of the gym. You have to remember, this was an experiment. If it went terribly wrong and EVERYBODY set bad problems, people would be bummed.

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The clinic began with a freshly stripped bouldering wall and holds spread out all over the ground. Each of the 11 participants were handed a Route Setting Guidelines sheet and listened to Ben Polanco (Flea) and Anthony Vicino (AV) give an impressively informative rundown on what makes a route good based on their own experiences as long time wrench turners.

The next step was claiming valuable real estate on the wall and selecting the holds necessary for the boulder problem. 

Ben observed a theme, "Apparently, everybody wants to set tweaky gastons."

Anthony described the biggest, but most useful challenge was helping people realize their intention. "It's easy to get tunnel vision when setting and think that there'll only be 'your' way to climb the problem. More often than not, it was fairly easy to see a simpler way of doing a sequence than the setter had wanted for the climber. Nobody likes to see people botch their sequences. The other constant struggle was getting people to think about comfort. You think your problem is 'amazing', but you want to make people WANT to climb it. No tweaky stuff!" 

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Thankfully the criticism was taken well across the board and remained a positive experience with both sides. Long time Touchstone member, Josh Eads, said "This is the most fun I've had in FOREVER!" Both Anthony and Ben felt that the problems set were 'way cooler than we expected' and that the clinic was generally a very good experience.

Check out the problems from your peers next time you're in BIW on the Campus Board Wall to the far right of the bouldering area and stay tuned for this clinic to appear a gym near YOU!

Berkeley Ironworks Challenge

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Now the February is upon us, it's becoming easier and easier to forget your lofty New Years Resolutions. Ready to keep the momentum going?! Berkeley Ironworks has got you covered! As a reminder of the pure AWESOMENESS that is BIW, the staff is setting up a challenge to help member new and old get the most out of the gym and everything there is to do there. "We got the idea from out sister gym Diablo Rock Gym," said manager Lyn Barraza. "The DRG challenge model seemed like a great way to encourage new members to explore the gym and have a great time doing it!"

unnamed"For those of you who think you're up for it, prepare yourself to compete with fellow BIW members," said desk staffer Ryan Moon. "Taking part in this challenge will transform you into the fittest person in the WORLD (East Bay)!"

This event kicked off February 1st, which is why you may have noticed score cards around the gym. With the score card, you can check off challenges in the form of climbing, yoga, cardio, BIW specific fitness classes, along with some fun community challenges to help get to know the gym and the community better. 

Ready to get started?

Ask any of the desk staff for a BIW CHALLENGE sheet and get moving! February is almost half way over - but it's not too late to grab a challenge sheet and see how many challenges you can knock off the list.

unnamed-1Along with finding new ways to push yourself and get in shape, the challenge comes with an added bonus - a sweet T-shirt! Here's how it works. Each 'challenge' is worth a 10 points. Once you reach at least 300 points, you get at T-shirt. Aka: Major BIW street cred. 

Once you start racking up the points, you'll get closer and closer to 'Camp 2'. Once you complete enough challenges for earn 600 points, let us know and we'll mark off your milestone. 

And for those truly brave and pure of heart, 810 gets you to the summit! Be sure to get your friends to join in and complete the events together. Grab a sheet from the front desk today and let us know how you're doing on the event page.

Good luck!










BIW Crew at Berkeley Half Marathon

On November 24th, a crew of Touchstone members and staff ran the Berkeley Half Marathon. The race followed a beautiful and scenic course through Berkeley and helped to raise funds fro Berkeley Public Schools Fund, Berkeley Food and Housing Project, and Berkeley Partner for Parks. Touchstone manager, Lyn Verinsky wrote a bit about the race for the Touchstone blog.

When I first heard that the city of Berkeley was going to host their first-ever half marathon, I thought, how cool would it be to get a team of runners from Berkeley Ironworks to run the race? So BIW created a team and since we are such an eclectic place, I decided that spots on the team would be based not on running ability, speed or anything related to performance, but rather by folks inspiring us by overcoming challenges or making us laugh with their funny stories or just telling us about why they love BIW a whole heck of a lot. Here are snippets from the essays written by three of the member-runners who made the team:


Most of the team assembled pre-race.  Evangeline Black, Danielle Parfitt, Robin Puro, Zach Stauffer, Lyn Barraza, Amy Stauffer, Jessica Reddit, Sam Schwartz, Pat Hastings, Peter Marietta, Chris Ahlgren, Ponon Shyu, Phil Yip, Ari Oppenheimer.

Read more: BIW Crew at Berkeley Half Marathon

Ending the Bummer

This summer Ryan Moon had his eye set on a project. He submitted this report to the Touchstone Blog.

Me: Wanna go out and try Endless Bummer with me this weekend?!
Potential Sport Climbing Partner: No thanks, that thing’s way too bouldery for me.
Potential Bouldering Partner: No thanks, sport climbing sucks.

These were the conversations that were most popular when trying to try Endless Bummer out near Mickey’s Beach on the California coast. It was my first time trying a sport route for more than one visit (or more than one try) and finding a partner was almost as hard as climbing the route itself. At the time of my first attempt, I had been working at Berkeley Ironworks for 2(ish) years and had heard local cat artist and co-worker, Scott Frye, go on and on about the route. Although I normally only sit in a harness to clean boulder problems, something about Scott’s enthusiasm and the fact that it was “bouldery” got my attention. 

What I remember most about my first attempt was the horrifying experience of being on top of the 'surf board'. It's a feature on the climb near the end of the route, where gale-force coastal winds, the inability of your belayer to hear your whimpering or requests to take or give slack, and the fact that you’re crouched atop a surface no larger than an ironing board with a short overhanging wall literally pushing you backwards, makes it memorable. It feels like there’s a decent chance of you losing your balance and bashing your teeth out on the edge of the rock.

Are we having fun yet?

What was most interesting about the projecting process of EB is that what was sometimes more important than having your beta sussed out, was knowing the ideal conditions. As a boulderer, I’ve mastered the art of complaining about temperatures and wind speeds. It’s part of the game. This was a different beast altogether. I've taken time to compile a list of the only beta you’ll need for this specific route: 

Anyone living in the Bay Area long enough can recall wearing a down jacket to most Fourth of July BBQs because the marine layer has spoiled any chance of them sporting the tank tops they purchased at the end of May. It’s hella cold. Too cold to climb! Your best bet is trying during the Indian Summer while the sun is shining and the marine layer has subsided.

Anything faster than 10mph wind speeds will send your quickdraws spinning like an airplane’s propellers. There’s nothing lamer than watching a climber pump out on the third bolt of his or her project because it looked more like they were trying to catch butterflies than clipping draws.

Lemme guess. You’ve been stymied by the wicked winds and freezing temps of the “summer” conditions, so you’ve been fooled into thinking that hotter is better. Wrong. Remember, this is a bouldery route. Anything hotter than 75 degrees is going to make your burns feel like you’re desperately clawing at an overhanging wall made of melting butter.
And the most important, non-weather related factor…

I’m pretty sure that after almost every failed session out at Endless Bummer I muttered (sometimes yelled) the phrase “I’m never sport climbing again!” Although this was obviously a lie, there were about a thousand times when I wanted to give up. Even in the countless bouts of frustration, I was always able to enjoy the projecting process.

And for a long time... I didn’t send.

So what?

Every time I didn't send, at least I had spent the day climbing a boulderery route in one of the most beautiful spots in California. On almost every visit I was able to point out seals, a multitude of different birds, dolphins, and on a very special day, a whale and an unforgettable view of the Farallon Islands. Ending every session with a beer, a sunset, a new highpoint, and subsequent ‘failure milkshakes’ (originally intended to be ‘send milkshakes’) almost makes me miss not sending.....


On a rare ‘perfect’ day out on the coast with BIW manager, Lyn Barraza, something strange happened. I warmed up by hanging the draws and doing the slab-overhang boulder problem a few times, as I usually do to begin the session. After a nice gossip-filled rest, I was ready for my first redpoint burn of the day. Just as I clipped the fifth draw a familiar feeling set it in: I’m going to fall, I’m going to fall, I’m going to fall. In a freak moment, I stuck the stab move to the slopey pinch with tension for the very first time. I can’t recall another time in rock climbing when I literally climbed the hardest section of a route or boulder problem smiling ear-to-ear, but there I was, grinning like an idiot on the way to the top of my project.

There’s something special about trying a route so many times that everyone you know and work with wants an answer to the same question:

“Well…did you send?”

I’ll never forget the overwhelming support from my friends and coworkers as I answered this question, every time bearing a guilty smile followed by 'yup'. The only thing better than projecting on the California coast around dolphins, your best friends, and a tall cold one at sunset, is the invigorating feeling of completing a project.

And ‘send milkshakes’.

Those too.

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 Be sure to click through Ryan's gallery of his multiple attempts on the route. Congrats Ryan! 

Pro Climber Auction for the Access Fund

AccessFundChances are, without knowing it, you've climbed in an area that Access Fund has protected and kept accessible for climbers. With regionally significant successes as the Jailhouse Rock Conservation Easement of 2010, Access Fund has been hard at work keeping the gates open to our favorite crags. This is no easy task, and as with most organizations of this nature, raising money can be a daunting task. That's why Berkeley Ironworks is calling November 'Access Fund Month' with a goal of raising $10,000.

We know, it sounds tough.

If you've been to BIW recently, you may have noticed some tables near the front desk. They represent three ways you can donate to our Access Fund Month' AND get a little sumptin'-sumptin' in return. Here's what they've got going on:

The Touchstone Climbing routesetters are parting with old grips, and our loss is your gain! You won't find a better or cheaper way to get SWEET holds for your home climbing wall. 

Did we catch your eye with the amazing goodies on this table? Donate a mere $5/ticket to get a chance to win, win, WIN!

photo (17)SILENT AUCTION (last, but not least):
Have you seen these faces? Of course you have. They want to climb with YOU! They really, really do. For a small/medium/big bid, you can experience the rare opportunity to climb with a literal 'rock star' and have him/her share their almighty technical advice. Athletes include Alex Honnold, Beth Rodden, Joe Kinder, and Ethan Pringle!
Get it while you can! Remember, this all goes towards an organization that keeps the future of climbing alive! Bidding ends December 1st! 



A Climber in a Strange Land

575268 501297123295220_1389701026_nAmanda, a native Californian and former Berkeley Ironworks desk staffer, recently moved to London to pursue a graduate degree at the London School of Economics. She submitted this report to the Touchstone Blog to share a bit about what the transition has been like for her. 

Something very alarming happened to me today.
I’ve tried to shake it, tried to get my mind off of it. I’ve buried myself in my reading. I took a bath. Nothing has helped.
At this point I’m at a loss for what to do, and the last thing I can think to do is to write. So here we are.
Someone told me today,
and I quote,
“I don’t believe you’re a rock climber.”
That’s right.
Or wait.
Maybe her first words were, “you don’t look like a rock climber.”
I cannot remember which was said first as my mind was a whirling mess of outrage, confusion, and sadness – this feeling is reminiscent of the time my dad killed a spider and he told me she was just sleeping. I knew down to my core that it wasn’t true and the only words I could come up with at the time were “you killed Charlotte” before I ran to my room. I was six years old. I do not like that feeling now any more than I did then.
At some point she elaborates, telling me that I didn’t look “Tomboyish” enough.
My course mate, who had unsuspectingly walked into the uniform wearing, agro-offensive and hyperactive room in my brain, was going to suffer the consequences. You picked the wrong door, friend.
562253 423427027748897_50447296_nMy first response in a triage of actions that I am consciously and systematically planning is to whip my phone out and bring up my top 100 favorite climbing pictures of 2013. Immediately this makes me think that I might have been better off joining the Army (or at least more successful).
Now let’s stop here for a moment. This seems socially inappropriate, to say the least. There are very few instances in which I would personally be excited to see the top 100 pictures of anyone’s anything, let alone a single year highlighted edition. And god forbid she press the issue further – don’t think I don’t have year by year, location by location chronologies organized by climate, alphabet, and most appropriate type of climbing shoe. (Now these are my top 500 pictures from places where my La Sportiva Solutions were most suitable…).
The reasonable part of my brain, speaking in a very small voice, is attempting to subconsciously tell this friend to smile and placate me. This is going to ensure the fastest and most desirable outcome for her and unless someone came up behind me with a horse tranquilizer, I am not going to stop on my own accord anytime soon.
12046 469851633106436_566723967_nAs I’m typing in the password to my phone very deliberately, my hands moving like they are made solely to navigate the iPhone quickly and effectively, I am saying all sorts of things to the effect of -
I love camping.
I love climbing.
It’s who I am.
This is what matters to me.
It’s not just about climbing, you see, it’s what climbing brings to my life, how it pushes me. It’s about the dew on my tent in the morning and the sound of the zipper as it lets in the first wave of crisp air for the day. It takes you by surprise at first but once you’ve crawled out and started the stove for coffee, it feels like you were born to be here.
It’s about the projects and the failed attempts and the successes and the friendship and camaraderie and the simple things.
It’s really about the simple things.
It’s about the beauty.
It’s about my soul.
....Kind of a heavy monologue for a friendly conversation while waiting for the next available teller in the bank.
All of a sudden I am rudely interrupted by one of the ladies sitting behind the glass wall in front of us.
“NEXT!” she (rudely) says. 
This friend gives me the kind of look that says “well, what can you do?” and steps forward.
Now I am alone with my thoughts and with my iPhone in hand with “Bishop 2013” armed and ready on the screen.
I feel alone and sad and I can’t quite figure out why.
It’s on my journey on the tube back to my flat when I have calmed down enough to start to attempt to understand my gross… we’ll call it overcompensation, to be nice.
In reality I know that I am not defined by climbing. I like to do a lot of other things too. In fact I spent much of my time for the past two years defending those other parts of me that did not involve climbing, for fear that I would be perceived as just a climber. (Nobody is just a climber, for the record. Nobody is just anything. This is part of a larger internalized identity struggle with which I’m sure some of you can relate).
So why did I feel the need to not only justify that climbing was incredibly important to me but to perhaps overstate its role in my life? It’s not who I am, like I so assuredly informed this friend who probably could not have cared less.
After some thought and a lot of vanilla rooibos tea, I’ve come to the conclusion that climbing is not who I am but it does represent a large part of what I value. It’s true – the feeling I have waking up to the White Mountains as my backdrop, the crunch of sand and rock beneath my feet on the approach to the Buttermilks, toping out on a three pitch climb at Lover’s Leap and looking over the forested mountains of Lake Tahoe – and everything else that comes with the sport and the relationship with the outdoors, means a great deal to me.
It has, in fact, shaped a lot of who I am.
But I have taken on a different identity here in London. This has been out of both necessity and convenience. I was prepared for that internally, but I was not prepared for how it would make me feel when I was no longer perceived as being something with which I identify so strongly.
I wanted to burst out laughing when this friend told me I don’t look “Tomboyish” enough.
You’re kidding me.
1175326 500673223357610_246045106_nDon’t you understand that I’m more comfortable with sweat on my face than with makeup? Don’t you know that I feel nothing short of an impostor in high heels? I’m pretty sure for the entirety of the two years that I worked at Berkeley Ironworks none of my friends believed I owned anything other than Patagonia outdoor apparel (don’t judge me, we got a discount).
Of course all of this is ridiculous.
We are who we are. This can change with time and with context. Just because I’m not a climber now does not mean I’m not a climber in general or that I won’t be a climber again.
So, I’m lowering my weapon and looking forward to some quality time lapping routes at Berkeley Ironworks this winter when I come home to visit. I’ve got my tent booties ready and waiting for a cold trip to Bishop. I’ll be wearing a down jacket and long underwear and I’ll have a headlamp instead of a calculator.
And no one will think that is strange.
Sometimes we fill certain roles for a while, and in the end those roles provide us with just another way to know ourselves.
I will say, however, that some of the strongest and most talented women climbers I know could fool you into thinking they were modern day Mary Poppins on the cover of Cosmopolitan if they felt like it. Preconceptions never feel good – and that’s something that I have to remember, too.
So a final word to the wise? Don’t push us. We will send your project in a dress.


Staff Bio: Steven Roth

Here at Touchstone Climbing, we're lucky to be surrounded by crushers of all kinds. Today Berkeley Ironworks staffer Ryan E. Moon sits down with a fellow co-worker Steven Roth to find out more about developing a new route at Mickey's Beach, what it's like to be from Florida, and his legal troubles with Nickelodeon

IMG 0753RM: How long have you been climbing?
SR: I started climbing competitively about nine years ago, but had to take off a few years due to pesky injuries and bad luck.

RM: How long have you lived in the Bay Area?
SR: I moved out to the Bay about a year ago from Florida to go to Cal.

RM: What’s your favorite thing about Berkeley living? Bike boulevards? Berkeley Bowl? Hippies? Indian food? Passive aggression?
SR: Well, there’s nothing like the average hipster looking Joe being able to hike your projects. The food’s tasty, but not really for me.

RM: Tell us about climbing in Florida, aka not climbing?
SR: How do you compare the Bay Area scene with the Florida scene? The climbing in Florida is limited to plastic. Even so, the indoor scene there has produced some big names like Matt Segal and Megan Martin. People in the Bay Area actually assume that I’m a climber when I tell them I climb rocks rather than what I get from Floridians: “What do you climb, palm trees?”

RM: How far back can you trace the Jimmy Neutron joke? Would you prefer that people call you that from now on?
SR: After suing Nickelodeon and losing, I was forced to change my name from Jimmy to Steven. It’s sort of a sore subject, I try not to talk about it too much…

RM: What’re some of your favorite routes/boulder problems in the area?
SR: Climbing on Meldicott Dome in Tuolumne this past summer with Ben Polanco was outstanding. As for bouldering, I almost exclusively boulder at Mortar Rock in the Berkeley hills. Castle Rock is pretty stellar and my complete anti-style. I hope to get out more this fall for some bouldering in Yosemite and that awesome looking Columbia area.

1053529 10200873038081868_1044017739_oRM: How do you like working at BIW? Isn’t Ryan just the BEST?!
SR: I love it! It allows me to maintain a flexible schedule for school and for climbing trips. And yes, Ryan is pretty great.

RM: Do you do anything to train besides belaying children?
SR: My training pretty much consists of of core workouts, ring exercises, bouldering at Mortar Rock, made up problems at the gym, and going rope climbing outside on the weekends. A non-rigid regime and rests keep me from getting burned out.

RM: Belaying isn’t all you do for Touchstone though, right? Don’t you also coach?
SR: I am one of the coaches for the East Betas at GWPC which is really exciting. I basically act as a climbing partner for the kids while giving tips and insight.

RM: What do you like about coaching?
SR: It allows me to pass on helpful advice that I learned when I was young(er).

RM: Is it true you’re on the ‘Colorado Diet’?
SR: Yup! My typical dinner is three pieces of air popped popcorn, salt for flavor, gauze pads for filling, and a stick of gum for dessert.

RM: What originally drew you to ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’?
SR: From Surf Safari and Endless Bummer, the Emperor Boulder sits down the hill near the water. It’s impressively tall (around 60ft) compared to the routes up the hill. The line itself became obvious to me because of the big jug ledge about 10 feet off of the ground. I figured the start would be a ‘Superman jump’ to the beginning hold which turned out to be true and AWESOME! The line hugs the obvious arete up the middle of the boulder. All in all, the beautiful scenery and the orange lichen speckling the rock make for an unforgettable experience.

1008917 10151750371290070_1201346296_oRM: How long did it take you to clean it?
SR: I spent quite a while hanging in my harness. Prior to cleaning, I top roped the line and thought that it would go a certain way. About 12 hours later, after cleaning and sussing, the route was totally different.

RM: How many redpoint burns until the FA?
SR: I figured out all of the moves during the cleaning process and worked the sections quickly on self belay. By the time it was bolted, I was optimistic that I would get it on my first redpoint attempt, which I did. The process emphasized that really figuring out and remembering body positions and beta in little sections is the key to efficient climbing and huge gains in progress.

RM: Any plans for new routes in the future?
SR: On the Emperor Boulder there is a spectacular 5.10+/5.11- that be an instant classic once it’s bolted. That route alone would make a trip out to the coast well worth it. I’m also working on a climb that hasn’t been done on the Main Rock at Mickey’s Beach. Challenging large moves on small holds has kept it from being climbed so far. I hope that I can be the one to do it as it’s the first route I’ve been truly interested in projecting.

RM: What’s the secret to getting big hands and long fingers? Over zealous high fives? Chinese finger traps perhaps?
SR: Definitely the Chinese finger traps. Those things get the job done for sure!!!

Flash Mob Team Bake Sale

It was a day like any other East Bay summer day...skies gray with fog and cold weather clothing abound. There was something different about this day though. More than just the marine layer in the air was the smell of cookies, pies, cakes...and climbing shoes.

Teen Team

Read more: Flash Mob Team Bake Sale

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