Redpointing Clinic with Derek Powell

The best way to push your climbing to your absolute limits is to redpoint, to practice a route and then climb it without falling. The tactics involved in redpointing are numerous and deciphering them all can be quite difficult. Luckily there's help.


On November 13th, Berkeley Ironworks will be offering a free clinic for members of all ability levels who want to improve their redpointing skills and strategies. “The class will cover a range of topics including the psychology of performance, route selection, mental strategies, practical redpoint techniques, and general approaches to training,” said instructor Derek Powell.


Class will be structured as a lecture with ongoing Q and A, and demonstrations of practical skills. Climbers will learn how to analyze their own climbing strengths and weaknesses, create strategies to improve redpoint abilities and achieve new personal bests.


Powell, a climber of over 20 years, has climbed all over the world. From a half dozen ascents of El Capitan to bouldering in Europe to 5.14 first ascents in California, Powell’s solid resume of climbing makes him a perfect instructor for the class. The 44 year old Berkeley firefighter and paramedic splits his time working, spending time with his wife and son, and climbing at an elite level.


Powell will be discussing mental tactics, different types of training, route selection and practical tcatics for harder redpointing. Using his experience on Steep Climb Named Desire, a 5.14a at Star Wall in Tahoe, Ubermensch, a 5.14 at Pinnacles National Monument, and Death Sentence, a 5.14b at Jailhouse, Powell will elaborate on being honest about what you can climb, finding good partners, listening to your body, how to improve without injury, and how to identify and solve problems in your climbing. This clinic is a great opportunity for all climbers. Stop by BIW and check it out!

This clinic is at 7pm. If you'd like to get on list, register here:

Outreach Program at Berkeley Ironworks

DD.6.2011 1At Berkeley Ironworks, we have always believed in serving and reaching out to our Bay Area community. As one of the largest indoor climbing gyms in the area—with towering, 45-foot climbing walls and a caring, supportive staff—we have a unique facility, and we love to share it with community organizations like yours.

We offer organizations who work with underserved, special needs, and at-risk youth (and other qualifying groups) heavily subsidized, fully staffed group events – no strings attached. Our only goal is to get your organization climbing! Over the last few years we have worked with organizations like Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program (BORP) and Lighthouse for the Blind, hosted children with incarcerated parent and served Soccer Without Borders, an organization that connects newly arrived immigrants to one another and to the community.

Here are some testimonials from groups that have visited Berkeley Ironworks in the past year.

"There was so much encouragement and energy for each other that it made it great to see how much you all have grown to care for each other and see the value in the success of someone else. That was amazing."  

Trooper Johnson, BORP. 

photo 1 1"The students were given freedom to explore and boulder as well as try climbing on rope. It was not only the first time for all of the kids to climb, it was some students' first time outside of Richmond. The environment, patrons of the gym as well as all the staff were highly accommodating and supported us feeling safe and capable of trying new things, taking on personal challenges and allowed the students to have an incredible experience outside of their typical daily lives. We thank Ironworks and the staff for the wonderful opportunity to give us a place to explore and reach new heights!"

Katherine Bruce, Gateway Project

"Those of us who have rock climbed with kids know that it is one of those activities that immediately draws them in, gets them excited and challenges their minds and their bodies. What happens when you bring a group of recently arrived refugees and asylum seekers from all over the world to a climbing gym? Fun and adventure."

Dan Robinson, Soccer Without Borders

As a lifelong climber, I can attest to the challenge, excitement, and joy that is rock climbing. It is a physical challenge appropriate for all ability levels and a mental challenge that requires and develops problem solving skills. It offers a sense of accomplishment and the opportunity to confront and conquer our fears. It fosters social connections, helps build trust, and is a wonderful team-building tool.
If your organization is looking for a new activity—and a new challenge—in a controlled, fun, and supportive environment, contact us!

Best regards,

Jeffrey Kosoff
Outreach Coordinator
Berkeley Ironworks
Touchstone Climbing

To contact Jeffery regarding a group event, please email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Trip Report: Consumnes River Gorge

DSC02788Consumnes River Gorge is just outside of Placerville, about two hours away from the East Bay. Itching for some more experience trad leading, I ventured out for a climb with my friends Sarann and Kotaro on a sunny Sunday in May.

The approach is a fairly gentle 15-25 minute stroll from the car. “I just wear my flip-flops,” Kotaro said. As a beginning trad leader, I enjoyed the shorter walls, the top-ropeable climbs, and the bolted anchors. 

We climbed Test Piece (picture on left), did some chimney silliness nearby, and struggled on a route called Unconquerable. And then, Dinkum. Dinkum (pictured below) was my first 5.9 lead.

I had climbed it clean on top-rope, and knew that my little fingers worked to my great advantage at the crux, but I still had to rack up quikly and tie in before I lost my nerve. This was a moment when I had to tell myself not to get caught up in insecurities about what grade I felt capable of climbing and to remember that grades are relative— some of the cracks that average dude fingers find difficult to squeeze into are perfect for my petite digits. And so it was with Dinkum. I sent it without a hitch!

My first climbing partner said to me once "If you can climb it clean on top rope, you should lead it." It felt good to decide to do it, pushing past the nervousness. Afterward, it was also good to have a more experienced climber check out my placements, and Kotaro said they were fine. Whew!


When the noon sun got too hot, we retreated down to the icy cold river to cool our toes. I jumped in and splashed around in the freezing water, but I couldn’t convince the boys to do the same. We made our retreat in the late afternoon, when the mosquitos started biting ever more fervently.

Consumnes River Gorge made for a nice, mellow day of climbing and lounging, and is somewhere I’d even dare take non-climbing friends along. It was nice to get a few more leads under my belt on the less-committing shorter walls. Now that summer’s here and I’ve blown a paycheck on a basic rack, I’ll be roaming farther northward toward Tahoe and Lover’s Leap. And of course, there’s Yosemite looming. Heading out? Take me with you. I’ll climb all the thin pitches.





Narinda Heng has been hanging out in Babytown (aka Child Care) at Berkeley Ironworks since 2013. When she’s not doing that or climbing, she is usually found working or volunteering with GirlVentures, drinking Raxakoul coffee, writing, and driving to Los Angeles.



Off the Wall Training Clinic at Berkeley Ironworks

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Looking to improve your climbing with a little... fitness? Look no further than this OFF the wall training for climbers at Berkeley Ironworks. This clinic is designed to teach intermediate and advanced climbers how to train effectively in the weight room to maximize climbing performance by increasing pulling capacity. Topics will include:

  • Climber injury prevention and assessment: Why your elbow hurts
  • Glenohumeral Joint: The origin of climber strength
  • Brachiation - The art of hanging
  • Working short-end and long range of muscle contraction for explosive strength

You will also be provided with a 6 week take home program provided to guarantee 2-3 level advancement.

About the Instructor: Sean Mapoles is a climber, personal trainer and gymnastics coach based in San Francisco, California. Sean's coaching focuses heavily on simplifying complex movements across modalities. For example, he believes rock climbers can maximize power from doing gymnastics strength and conditioning with targeted mobility. He has observed that for most climbers a lack of pure strength prevents the natural progress of harder and harder routes. Sean enjoys creating power for climbers that traditional avoid inverted, mantle, stem, dyno and other power-mandatory routes.

He has a formal background in gymnastics strength and conditioning and has worked extensively with Junior Olympic Gymnastics Coach Christopher Sommer and Orench Lagman. Sean holds a sports nutrition certificate from Dr. John Berardi and Precision Nutrition, as well as a Core Power Yoga Trainer Certificate. Personally, Sean enjoys a wide variety of movement. Gymnastics, rock climbing, and olympic lifting (with strict attention to form and progression) are part of Sean's daily training practice.

Sean takes a hybrid approach with each client to maximize their areas of interest with his specialty. Whether a client is looking to lose weight, gain muscle, be able to bend like a pretzel, or climb Mt. Everest, his intention is that every client prioritizes their health in a way that is sustainable over the long term. Breath, eat, sleep, move, repeat.

Price: This clinic is available to Touchstone Members only! $50

Space is still availible, to register click here

Hiking the Pacific Northwest Trail

The Pacific Northwest Trail starts in Montana’s Glacier National Park and follows 1200 miles of hiking trail from the Continental Divide through northern Idaho before ending at Alva Beach in Washington, the most western point in the continental United States. Many hikers pass through chunks of the 65 day journey but only nine hikers finished the PNT last year.


This summer, recent UC Berkeley graduate and Berkeley Ironworks staff member Ignacio “Nacho” Mendez-Nunez will be hiking the trail. The environmental economics and conservation resource studies major wanted a summer challenge to mark his graduation.


“I like the idea of doing a long-distance thing,” said Nacho, who will leave June 10th for Montana, where he will meet with his high-school friend Matt Cosca. The pair will leave Glacier National Park on the 14th or 15th depending on snow level. The beginning of their trip includes the greatest physical difficulties. “There’s 6 or 7 feet of snow, icy and slippery trails for 5 or 6 days of pretty tough hiking,” said Nacho.

Nacho worked BIW’s belay staff since November and said it was “one of the coolest jobs I’ve ever had. It was nice because all my co-workers were friends from the CAL climbing team. I liked working with my friends and it was fun climbing.”


Beyond having a great time working at BIW, Nacho often used the gym to train for the grueling hike. “I alternated climbing/core days with leg weight training and hours upon hours of stairmaster. Also I spiced it up with a little bit of yoga to stay loose. There's a training page on the blog ( for examples of my training weeks, especially in mid April. It’s really convenient that IronWorks has everything I need right there in one place. Also I ran or did a long hike every weekend,” said Nacho. Touchstone also helped support Nacho’s trip by providing 70 dehydrated back packing meals, which Nacho will send to resupply outposts along the trail.

Nacho has tested his systems with extended trips in the Kings Canyon area and the Golden Trout Wilderness, just west of Inyo National Forest. He’s measured his back pack and found the best light weight and durable equipment for the trip.

GTW entrance

After finishing the hike, Nacho plans to move to Spain where he will work at a winery and organic farm.


New Zealand Trip Report

In April 2014 Longtime Touchstone Staff Members Michelle Leung and Jeffrey Kosoff travelled to New Zealand to spend a month recreating amongst birthing Volcanoes, glacier carved Mountains, heavily polished limestone, sandfly infested coastlines and the living descendants of Old Gondwana. Check out their jaw-dropping trip report! 

The following photos reveal a slice of this journey purposefully excluding sheep, roads and mass tourism all of which are plentiful in this South Seas Switzerland. If you have not yet experienced this beautiful uncrowded country filled with kind enterprising rugby fanatics do yourself a favor and go immediately. No seriously, go now. It ain't getting cheaper!

Michelle traversing volcanic ridge between Tongariro and Ngurahae AKA Mount Doom Tongariro NP, North Island.

Volcanic lakes Tongariro NP

Egmont vert/forest. North Island, Egmont NP Taranaki AKA Misty Mtn. Here we saw a rare glimpse of the symetrical summit cone. Mt. Taranaki is typically hidden in deep cloud cover bathed in constant rain fed by the Tasman sea.

Kaikoura, South Island ruins, a chimney stack at a former whaling station with North Canterbury Ranges to the West. The Kaikoura Peninsula North of Christchurch stretches out into deep water and is populated by seals, penguins and rare seabirds.

Wilderness of Stone, Flock Hill Station, Canterbury, South Island.

To enter this remote private Sheep Station you must register at a nearby lodge. There is no guidebook in print for this absolutely giant boulder field. If you are willing to tackle the arduous 1hr. approach you will be delighted by the silence, immensity and unsullied wilderness feel of this world class boulder field.

Flock Hill. 

Spittle Hill, Castle Hill South Island. This boulder field has great access and many classic problems, consequently the holds are icy slick. This is limestone with few features aside from an occasional pocket or hueco, friction climbing without friction. Approach with humility!

Quantum Field, Castle Hill, South Island. What a sunset! 


Weka, Native Rail, Fiordland, South Island

New Zealand is a country of invaders. the original plants and animals have largely disappeared. those that have survived are cheeky and resourceful. The Weka raids campsites poking under rainflys and purloins unattended belongings.


Raikura Track, Stewart Island

Across the Fouveaux Strait south of South Island, with only 400 inhabitants Stewart Island remains largely wilderness and a stronghold for species that have disappeared from both North and South Island.


Veranda sunset over Moorea, Tahiti

On the way home we were holed up in a resort, on Tahiti. To escape the stifling air conditioning and artificial light and sounds of our oppressive suite Michelle insisted that we drag a mattress onto the veranda. We soaked in the humid tropical air, the sounds of crashing waves and the light of the sun descending into the Deep Pacific Ocean.


SCS Regionals at Berkeley Ironworks

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On May 10th we will welcome youth climbers from across the state to compete in the SCS Youth Regionals Competition at Berkeley Ironworks.

What Competitors Need to Know

Get psyched kid crushers! For the first time in [possibly] your whole lives, Touchstone Climbing will be hosting climbing comps right here on your home turf! This means that you’ll have the home field advantage while competing in regionals this year. This is a USA Climbing events, which means to compete you must have competed in 2 Local comps registered online. 

For those visiting from out of town - welcome! Berkeley Ironworks is easily accessible and has ample street parking. On the day of the event, we'll be on hand and answer any questions regarding parking or food options. 

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We're very excited to be hosting the event, and we've heard a lot of positive feedback from Touchstone Athletes who are preparing for the comp! 

I want to tell you how grateful we are that Touchstone agreed to host SCS Regionals! It is so nice for all the climbers and their families in Northern California to stay at home and avoid the time and expense of traveling for the comp. I also know our friends in the Pacific Northwest are also looking to coming here for the comp, climbing in a new gym and spending some time checking out the City. I’m excited that other climbers will get to check out our 2 favorite ropes gyms. Our kids have been wearing Touchstone on their uniforms for years. Now they get to compete there. Thanks!! - Jim Rogers

Thank you, thank you! We are so thrilled that Touchstone is hosting the upcoming youth Regionals and Divisionals. This not only gives us a chance to show off our fabulous home gyms, but it also is a great advantage for our home team - Zero Gravity. In recent years, our team members have had to get up before 6 am to drive to comps, or even worse, fly somewhere and stay in a hotel. This time they get to sleep in their own beds and climb in their own beloved gyms. And they are going to crush it!!! Thanks a ton! - Annie Leonard

Having regionals at Ironworks is a huge improvement to our region as far as gyms go. The walls are perfect for competition, the setters are all quality setters, and the spaciousness of the gym allows for a relaxed environment rather than a closed-in room. Touchstone being so close is another plus, as well as the familiarity of the place for Zero Gravity and the other local competitors. -Nick

What Members Need to Know:

You are more than welcome to come to the gym in Saturday to watch the young guns crush your proj. But be warned: The gym will be very busy and while bouldering and climbing on the back slabs will be open.. this miiight be a day to visit another gym. But be SURE to come to the gym on Sunday, May 11th. (Be sure to call your mother first and wish her a happy Mother's Day!)

We'll have an informal self-scoring ropes comp so all us big kids can take the brand new competition style routes for a spin. We will also be BBQ'ing out front so bring your game face for the comp routes and your hungry face for the BBQ. RSVP on our Facebook page so we know how much grub to grill! 


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:

2014 Squinkies on Rug

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!

Past blog entries can be found at



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