By Hans Florine

10495863 751097324938796 4582372467713915728 oThis weekend I headed out at 5:45 am Sunday morning from the stables parking lot with the goal of climbing The South Face of Mt Watkins with friends Will and Naomi. Between 'reading' descriptions from The Super Topo guide and Yosemite Bigwalls guide by Erik and Roger, we figured that we would be at the base of the route around 8:30 am. 

I put 'reading' in quotes above because I only skimmed the directions in regards to the approach, and peaked at the maps. After all it’s MT WATKINS right? – How could you walk up Tenaya canyon and miss it? – Well we did miss it, until we made 4 hours of mistakes in wrong turns and misguided steep scrambling. 

Six hours and 2 minutes after leaving the stables parking lot we arrived at the base of the route! We decided against climbing out of the ditch given how late we arrived at the base. (Translation: “topping out on Watkins, El Cap, or Leaning Tower, is just crawling out of The Ditch, so really do have to “enjoy the journey.”) So, we had a great adventure, exploring various slopes and tiny trails in Tenaya canyon, found a cool water hole, our legs are super fit -or will be when we recover, and we now have a gallon of water stashed at the base of The South Face Route!

I just got through presenting stories to The AAC International Climbing Meet Friday evening. I was telling them how we have these incredible wild walls here in Yosemite AND they are so accessible and close to your car door. –Funny sort of “foot in mouth” adventure for Sunday.- I don’t call 6 hours close to the car door.

Points to remember: 
-bring people with you that like to adventure. We had an adventure, the outcome was unknown. We got to explore around a beautiful canyon, in a beautiful place. Our group was joking and laughing and having a good time.
-Read CAREFULLY a couple sentences from past travelers, guidebooks, intermet forums, etc. and save yourself 2 hours, or 4 or maybe days.
-Love the journey.

I had a great time sharing stories with the AAC group on Friday evening and super time instructing some of them at the base of El Cap on Saturday morning. I learned a few things “teaching” these experienced climbers. How lucky am I?- Getting to teach a class at the base of El Cap? Big Thanks to Carol Kotchek and the American Alpine Club for inviting me to participate!


Saturday afternoon I got to go up five pitches on The East Buttress of Middle Cathedral with Diane Payes. Again, we didn’t top out or even get out of The Ditch. That was better then OK for us, we got to climb on awesome granite terrain, with a beautiful alpine glow light on El Cap across the valley, and earn our meal with The AAC group later that evening.

I hope you got to summit something this weekend, or crawl out of a ditch, or just embark on something where you didn’t know the outcome before starting.



American Ninja Warrior Training at DRG

American Ninja Warrior, the popular TV show, has shown that climbers have got what it takes to make it to Mt Moriyama. With their grip strength, core, and body tension - climbers have dominated in this fast paced competition. Did you know that one of the warriors this season trained at Diablo Rock Gym in Concord? Alan Connealy has competed in seasons 3, 4, 5 and 6 of American Ninja Warrior. In season 3, he made it to the boot camp version of the show and in season 4 and 6, he qualified for and competed in Las Vegas.


Alan had this to say about his experience at DRG: "As a competitor on ANW the last 4 seasons, I have experimented with many things to help with my training, I even built my own parkour gym. A big piece to my training is grip strength. Climbing at Diablo Rock Gym was awesome for grip training! I felt like every time I make it to the gym, a new challenge awaited me. The campus board was awesome for grip training, and the slack line was perfect for balance work."

If you're an ANW junkie, the climbing gym might be just the place to start your training! 



Adventure Race at Diablo Rock Gym

At Diablo Rock Gym in Concord, fitness is fun again. If you don't believe us, just take a look at what they've got planned in September! 

"We've done an Adventure Race around the gym for the past two years," said Manager Hans Florine. "It's a great way for our members to see how much HARD WORK you can get done right here at DRG. Plus - it's a ton of fun." Check out the video from last years race! 

Diablo Rock Gym Adventure Race 2013 from Paul Hara on Vimeo.

'Climb, Run, Bike, Lift, Hop, Balance, Climb, Crawl, Drag, Row, Jump, Pull, Step, Climb, Throw, Carry, Run, and more' screams the posters - and they couldn't be closer to the truth. Along with having far and away the most productive morning of your gym life, there are OODLES of prizes up for grabs. "Sponsors near and far are stepping up to sweeten the pot,' said Florine. "I'd say that participating means you are getting more in prizes than you paid to register!" Ready to sign up? Don't wait! There is only room for 30 teams for this event which goes down Saturday, September 6th. Diablo Rock Gym is accepting Teams of Two in the following categories: 

-Combined age under 40

-Combined age over 80

-Two females

-Two males

-One female and one male



$50 per team for the first 20 teams 

$100 per team for the remaining 10 slots. 

Additional $25 per team mate for non-members. 

Don't miss out on those coveted early bird price slots! Sign up at the front desk or call the gym right NOW to sign up your team!

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DRG Manager Sets Solo Speed Record on El Capitan

On Sunday July 13th, Diablo Rock Gym manager, Hans Florine raced the summer sun on El Capitan climbing the Triple Direct route in a blindingly fast 17 hours and 29 minutes solo. "I had to have the correct speed on the route to make use of that turning of the earth." Florine said in regards to maximizing shade during the summer hear. "The three hours or so I was in the sun nearly cooked me. I had a few thoughts of rappelling off."

Florine climbed the route, which connects the Salathe Wall, the Muir Wall and the Nose, because the route features shade in the morning and afternoon as the route climbs over the buttress of El Capitan. He spoke with the Touchstone Blog about his adventure.

I climbed, by myself, The Triple Direct (TD) route on El Capitan on Sunday. Non-Climbers: The TD is a route up the middle of a 2950 ft cliff, El Capitan, in Yosemite Valley. A normal party would plan to take four days on the route. The route has been climbed by very high level of experience teams in under six hours. I do not know of any recorded solo speed record to date. I think this might be the first one-day ascent of the route by a soloist! We’d call that TDIAD (I climbed the route in 17 hours and 29 minutes. Car-to-car in 20 hours and 21 minutes.)

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I am told it was 106 degrees in Yosemite Valley on Sunday; not ideal for climbing El Capitan. I choose The TD because I could climb for the first part of the day in the shade. Then the route goes slightly right around the corner into upper dihedrals so you get late in the day shade too. If I timed it right, I’d only be in the sun for a few hours. Predominately this worked out for me. It’s tough for me to get time to do something big and also climb the days before to get “tuned in,” so I really wanted to use this day, hot or not. Thursday and Friday I climbed with my friend Derrick Lindsey on Tuolumne granite, so that was a great time to get re-familiarized with the rock.

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Climbers: (non-climbers this may be Greek, not interesting, or hard to follow.) I started off the ground at 5:48 am. I used a 70m X 9.1mm Blue Water rope. I planned to stretch the rope to full length nearly every lead unless there was some logistical advantage otherwise to do so. I planned to jug, (ascend the rope), with a 4000 cu in back pack. -a bit big for these things, but nice to have the room for the approach and descent. My rack was: ten quick draws, ten free biners, four long runners, doubles of everything up to #2 Camalots, one #3 and, in case Alex Honnold is reading or hearing about this, I didn’t take a #4. I took triples of the ½ cams, BD Gray. I also took four offset cams. I took about 20 nuts, mostly tiny ones. To my past partners, yes, I placed a few. I came upon five biners on the route and ended up leaving three and dropping a quick draw, so I was even on that score. However I inadvertently left a #1 camalot on the pitch off the Glowering spot. – Go get it treasure hunters! I self belayed with a Grigri, and brought one aider and one Yates speedy stirrup. I had one gallon and one liter of water, NUUN tablets, Honey Stinger Energy Chews and Protein Bars, and Field Trip Jerky. Although I had a light long sleeve shirt and wind breaker in reserve I climbed the entire route in my Outdoor Research Ferosi NIAD pants* and short sleeve Astro man shirt. (*they are lighter then Schoeller pants and have compartments at the knees which held light padding for my knees)

Should be a picture of topo to reference for the following… I climbed the first 2.5 pitches in one pitch. (I, un-roped, soloed up the first 30 ft of pitch “1”) I climbed from 2.5 to 4.5 in a pitch, which left me at the two bolts at the base of the bolted 5.11d section. From there I made it to the ledge, “Triangle Ledge,” after the last face crux. Then from that ledge I made a single long pitch to the top of the half dollar. It’s actually 74 meters from the anchor on that ledge to the anchor on top of the half dollar. I put in a natural pro anchor 4 meters down from the top anchor. From there I un-roped soloed, dragging the rope behind me on the easy terrain for two pitches up to Mammoth Terrace, to avoid jugging that section. I then un-roped soloed the first pitch off Mammoth to the base of the aid pitch that slopes up and right. I did this first aid pitch normally, then the next two I linked. I found five – 2 liter bottles of water left by someone on the Gray Ledges and drank about a half liter as I still had plenty in my pack to drink. I led up the next pitches, but had a rope snag so had to cut it short to an 80-foot pitch to lower down, retrieve my pack and un-snag the rope. I led the long hard arching left aid pitch just before it turns right to The Muir and combined that with the traverse over to the lower off point. I lowered my self here leaving some biners and swung the pendulum over to the big ledges under Camp 4, then pulled the rope, thus not having to backtrack that portion.

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I tried to hide in a little rock corner from the sun on this ledge and stall, changing my shoes and eating. It was hot and this portion of the route was the three or so hours in total that I was in the sun. It was this section where I really was having to dig deep for motivation to continue on. – Note to self, never under estimate the sun and high temperatures power to suck the energy out of you. My consumption of NUUN in my water earlier on the route surely got me through this bit. From this ledge I led diagonally up to the base of the Great Roof. I took a fall on my GriGri within the first ten feet of leading the Great Roof when a cam popped out on me. I took another four-foot fall directly onto my daisy after that, ouch. I led the Great Roof and combined it with the Pancake Flake. From there I made it to Camp Five with rope to spare. New discovery for me! – I led from Camp 5 all the way to Camp 6, about 68 meters! From Camp 6 I found out it’s 71 meters to the block belay! I improvised a natural anchor and “tethered” it to the bolts. Although the moon was nearly full, it was on this lead that I put on my headlamp. From the Block, (that is not there anymore), I led all the way up the final bolt ladder onto the slab section just before it traverses to the right. From there it was just a short 70-foot lead up to the finishing anchors. AT these anchors I “Shouldered” everything, then soloed up to the tree to stop the clock at 11:17pm. I figured basically I made 17 long pitches out of the route. There was ample moon light on top and two gallons of water sitting at the tree! I drank about two liters of it and poured a liter in my bottle to have for the descent. After 25 minutes of laying there panting, resting, eating, drinking, and packing my pack, I staggered up to an upright position and began the hike down.

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The rappelling crowd was up on top with their 1000-meter rope dangling off El Cap. A woman on top said she made the rappel in less than six minutes! That was sounding really good rather than the two-hour hike down the east ledges. Alas there were cavers coming up the lines in the middle of the night because it was too hot in the day to do so.

I made it back to my family van at 2:09 am. And back to my bed at 3am. I woke up at 4:15 am to start on Sunday so I did my “BTB” (Bed to Bed) time in under 23 hours! I hope your Sunday was equally adventuresome, or maybe you took a rest day since your Saturday was full of fun.


Are you ready for TCS2014 at DRG?

It's that time again! The Touchstone Competition Series, aka #TCS2014, comes to Diablo Rock Gym in Concord this Friday! TCS has visited a Touchstone gym every month this year, alternating between roped climbing and bouldering. TCS2014 at DRG will be a roped climbing comp and climbers of all levels and all ages are welcome to come out and compete!

Never been to a Touchstone Climbing Comp? Never fear! Here is a handy 3 step guide to your Friday night.

1. Know what you're in for

FUN! Seriously. While some people might hear the word 'competition' and get S.A.T. nerves, tranquillo amigo! Putting on Touchstone Comps is our way of saying thank to our members for being awesome. This is a FREE event for Touchstone members. Guests pay ONLY $10. (Which is a screamin' deal) The party, er, we mean comp, starts at 5pm and ends at 10pm. You can stop in any time and we'll welcome you with open arms. 

Competitors get a score card in beginner, intermediate or advanced categories, and self-score their climbs as the night goes on. Sure, you need a witness, but that's what your belay partner is for! 

Once you've climbed your brains out, the REAL party starts. Everyone in attendance gets an awesome T-shirt, pizza, and beer from our friends at Strike Brewing. (21+, duh) There will be raffle prizes, music, photos and all your favorite people.

What did we tell you?! FUN!

2. Come prepared 

Don't worry. It's not that hard. If you ignore this step and skip right to #3, we'll still be psyched to see you.... we'll just send you to the back of the line. 

To get a score card, you need a 3 letter Touchstone Comp Code. To get a Touchstone Comp Code, you need to register. You can do that here. It's going to look like this:

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If you've been to ANY Touchstone Climbing Comp in the past 2 years, then you're already registered! Click 'Lookup' to find your 3 letter code. If this is your first time, don't worry. We'll be gentle. Click on 'Register' and it will be over before you know it. Now's the tricky part. You've got to remember the code, or all this was for naught. If only there was a piece of paper that you needed to bring to the comp anyways that you could write the code on, as to not forget it...... 

Thank goodness for the waiver. Print it here. Fill is out. Write that code somewhere we can find it and BAM! You're ready to go. 

3. Invite all your friends

Seriously, how bummed are your buddies gonna be when they see their feed blowing up with photos of you having the time of your life and you didn't invite them. It's an awkward and avoidable conversation to have. Let the people know! RSVP to the event on the 'book. Post a photo. Hashtag #TCS2014. Call them on the telephone. Do whatever it takes. 



Climbing At All The TCS Comps With Holly Webb

Everyone knows that the Touchstone Comp Series promises a good time. For Holly Webb the comps also provide a welcome reprise from everyday work and a chance to enjoy the Touchstone community. Webb travels from Arizona just to climb at the comps. She spoke a bit with the Touchstone blog about her commitment.

“I’m an ordinary person,” said Holly Webb, a 39 year old CPA who lives on the North rim of the Grand Canyon with her husband, who works for the National Park Service. “I just get really psyched sometimes.” Webb spent much of her time in California, where she used her 17 years of climbing experience to climb El Capitan 35 times via 25 different routes, including two solos of Yosemite’s immense formation. Living near the Grand Canyon has kept her away from climbing though.

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“It’s kind of depressing. Ever since I moved away, it’s been a little bit hard to stay in the game and keep my psych,” said Webb who learned to climb in Seattle before moving to Yosemite and most recently the Grand Canyon. To battle the doldrums, Webb headed to Diablo Rock Gym last year. Webb manages a rental unit in Yosemite West and her neighbor, Diablo Rock Gym manager Hans Florine suggested she take the Diablo challenge. The competitive Webb thought, “I’m gonna do it and beat Hans at his own numbers game!”

Webb began ticking off the challenges. Weather closed down her North Rim home for the winter so she traveled on the road and fought her way through the challenges. From running a marathon, learning to hula hoop to running across the Golden Gate Bridge, Webb found an amazing variety of different challenges to do. “I tried spinning and I went to spinning class twice a week for 2 weeks. I tried Crossfit and hated it. I tried all this stuff that made me grow,” said Webb. The list pushed Webb to do nearly 300 challenges including 66 challenges in a single day. “Holly rocks it! She came in last year and completed more challenges then anyone else in my gym!” said Florine.

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Performing so many activities in a day: doing double jumps with the jump rope, climbing 70 boulder problems, running 400 meters in 90 seconds, climbing in three different gyms in a day and other feats left her exhausted. She won a year membership to Touchstone for her efforts but felt tired. The feat changed her perspective on what she would do next.

One of the challenges was to climb at a Touchstone comp. “It was so awesome,” said Webb who went to the Pipeworks comp in 2013. “It was so fun bouldering with these people I didn’t know.” The comp and the exhausting effort of the DRG challenge changed Webb’s goal for the following year. “When they announced LA.B and opened the new TCS format, I decided one of the things I wanted to do in 2014 is go to every comp,” said Webb who has made good on her vow to date. Though she’s only climbed four times in the gym this year, each time has been at one of the Touchstone comps. She’s flown in for the various climbing competitions.

“For people looking to participate in Touchstone comps, or climbing in the gym in general, relationships are a good reason to be a part of the gym. I have several new friends made at the gym and people I look forward to seeing at each of the comps,” said Webb. The best part of the whole experience for Webb has been the community that she has met. “I could not have done all these challenges by myself. The great majority required teamwork, and mostly with people I had not met before.”

Webb will be moving back to California the summer and will be able to drive to the last two TCS comps instead of flying.

Anchor Clinic with Hans Florine

It was good ol' 100 dolla Benjamin who famously said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” Here at Touchstone Climbing, we strive to do just that. Sure, you can watch YouTube videos teaching you how to belay safely, but chances are you're not reeeeally going to retain and learn anything unless you try it out for yourself in a climbing class.

Same goes for any climbing skill. We often hear from our members that they want to climb outside. We are lucky enough to be in California, where the only thing you have to consider when choosing your climbing destination is the season. Too hot out? Maybe it's Tahoe season. Too cold? Perfect temps on the Valley floor... 

But taking the leap from indoor top roping to climbing outdoors can be understandably daunting. What gear do you need? How do you get the rope up there? How do you get the rope down from there? The history of climbing is closely tied to a spirit of mentorship. Someone took us under their wing to teach us the ways of the climber, and we want to share that knowledge, safety practices, and etiquette with you. 

One opportunity to do just that is the Anchors Clinic with Hans Florine offered at Diablo Rock Gym in Concord. Hans is a bit of a rock star in the climbing community, holding the speed record with Alex Honnold for climbing The Nose on El Capitan, bagging countless accents around the country, and literally writing the book on Speed Climbing. 

Hans is the manager Diablo Rock Gym, and his endless energy and psych for pushing personal limits definitely shows. Since becoming the manager in 2011, Hans has inspired countless members and guests to challenge themselves and 'do hard things.' Hans also spends time in front of the desk, teaching skills he has picked up over years of climbing. 

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Last year, Hans began teaching an Anchor Building Clinic at DRG. In this 2 hour clinic, members get a chance to set up, asses, equalize and test anchors in the safety of the gym. "You'll learn sport climbing anchors, trad anchors, multi-pitch anchoring, and more!" said Hans. "Everyone walks away with a tool or two to make their outdoor anchoring safer." 

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If you're interested in signing up for this clinic - click the button below!

book now

Tying the Perfect Knot at DRG

One of the best parts of climbing is the partnerships that come from it.  Diablo Rock Gym has proudly facilitated a number of life long friendships and recently, a marriage.  

Melinda Armstrong began climbing in middle school. Three years ago, when she became the middle school youth director at Saint Matthew Church in Walnut Creek, she began climbing in earnest.


“It seems I see Melinda in here every other week with someone new,” said DRG manager Hans Florine. “She’s so good at organizing a group of youths and introducing them to the gym and climbing, hard to believe she’s not on our payroll.” As the youth director, Melinda often takes young adolescents into the gym for the first time. “It is has been great to introduce students to climbing and give us an activity to get to know one another.”


Ethan Johnson, a Senior Manager of Strategic Planning and Sales Analysis at Kellogs Cereal Company, joined Armstrong on an after church climbing function four years ago. The pair soon became solid climbing partners. “DRG was where Ethan and I became friends and later where a lot of our date nights happened,” said Melinda. The pair traveled to Vegas, Pinnacles, Yosemite, Tahoe, and to crags across California.

On December 29th, the pair tied an even more important knot, marrying at the local Saint Matthews Church in Walnut Creek. After the wedding, Melinda and Ethan took family members to the climbing gym and climbed with them, introducing them to the activity that brought them together.


The pair climb in the gym regularly. They stopped by three to four times a week to climb but during wedding planning they had to taper done to twice a week. Now that the ceremony is over they’re hoping to get in more often. “There is a strong sense of community there, that’s one of the things I love about it,” said Melinda.  

Climbing at the gym offers not only a great chance to get fit but the opportunity to meet the perfect partner. Just another awesome reason to go climbing!

Ultimate Fitness Experience

This weekend, Saturday January 18th, Diablo Rock Gym will be holding another Ultimate Fitness Experience Event. The three-hour event provides members and non-members an opportunity to check out the other classes at the gym. There will be sport and Swedish masseuses, chiropractors, physical therapists, cycling instructors, yoga teachers, core instructors, and climbing guides all providing short classes on their various disciplines.

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Read more: Ultimate Fitness Experience

Manager's Favorite: The Nose

When the Touchstone blog asked DRG manager Hans Florine what his favorite route was, the question was rhetorical. Hans Florine is Mister Nose. With nearly 100 ascents of the route up the longest section of El Capitan, Florine set the speed record on the formation with a blisteringly fast 2 hours 23 minutes 46 seconds. He's also climbed the route in 4 days 12 hours 23 minutes 23 seconds. With 97 ascents, one rappel descent of the the entire route, and nearly a dozen bails at various heights, Florine knows the route well.


Florine first attempted the route in 1988 with his partner Mike Lopez. After 12 hours climbing the first 4 pitches, they bailed. A year later, Florine and Lopez climbed the route in 44 hours. His latest ascent on October 30th with Brit Climber Hans Florine was done in under 13 hours without jumars.


Paul Hara Photo

Why do you like it so much>

Easy access, loads of terrain, good view, nice looking, quality rock, people to chat with along the way, fair ledges to rest at if you are into that, varied terrain-aid crack, face, dihedral, etc.


Paul Hara Photo

What's the best part of climbing the nose?

It's a quality of rock

Have you met many people? Bootied much gear? Had any epics?

Yes, 100s along the way, I've climbed it with over 100 different people. At least 20 cams, nuts, and over 40 biners. Yes, topped out in sleet with a cotton dress shirt, nearly shivered to death on the last pitch. Aided in a rescue of Korean party that fell onto camp five and broke multiple bones.(I was actually going up the Triple Direct a the time). I descended in a threatening storm off Dolt with an ALS patient. I took a whip myself on a NIAD ascent, on the pitch up to Glowering spot. I nearly knocked myself out from impact. There was a big scar on my face at the time. I managed to top out in a day, but gave over leading. There's loads of other mini epics I'm carefully not remembering.


Educate Ethiopia Climb-A-Thon

On September 7th, Diablo Rock Gym will be hosting the Educate Ethiopia Climb-A-Thon. Patagonian ambassador Majka Burhardt, a well-known climber and dynamic inspirational speaker, will be presenting a speaker/slide show in the evening. Along with a raffle and silent auction with gear from The North Face, Patagonia, Mountain Hardware, and the AAC, there will be Ethiopian food and an awesome presentation.

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Read more: Educate Ethiopia Climb-A-Thon

Past blog entries can be found at



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