The Train in LA

Recently, LA.B member Joyce Tam wrote about one of the most under appreciated transportation service to the climbing gym.

Sometimes I'm positive I'm the only person that rides the train because most of the time folks are shocked to hear there is a train in LA. But yes, I speak the truth when I say there is a train in LA, sometimes it even goes below ground (subway, if you’re fancy). And no, I have not been the victim of unspeakable crimes aboard the train.


I take the train and a bus to the LA.B and you can too. Sometimes I look outside the window and chuckle to myself at all the suckers I witness in a parking lot on the road. Don't be a sucker. Fare is a measly $1.50, which compared to most of the other major metropolitan areas in America is a drop in the bucket. It's fairly easy to access any of the train lines from most parts of LA and all the train lines feed into downtown.


I understand coming from the West side can be a big deterrent, nobody wants to waste their life fighting traffic. There isn’t really a winner on that front. But most train stops have a parking lot you can leave your car, while you hop onto the train for a blissful period of leisure. What you do with your time here is up to you. I won’t ask questions if you don’t. Once you emerge from the little known underbelly of downtown Los Angeles, you have the option of doing lots of things that I won’t get into because that is a story for another day.


There are any number of buses departing from downtown that go up, down, around the Lab. The 18, 53, 62, or 720 will take you where you want to go, in addition to a few others. Pay the fare with your tap card ($1.50) and hop aboard. I’ll warn you now, don’t make eye contact. It can get a little seedy as you pass below Skid Row, but there are plenty of working class individuals dozing on here as well. The trip I take is usually a little less than an hour, which is just enough time to make good headway on a book.


The bus deposits you probably closer to the LA.B than if you were to hunt for parking in the vicinity. If you’re familiar with the establishment next door and their tow policy, you’ll be glad you don’t have your car today. I have this impression of rock climbers as a more adventurous lot than the typical citizen. I have the utmost confidence in your public transit abilities and look forward to seeing you on the train.

Touchstone to host SCS Youth Climbing Comps

Touchstone Climbing will be hosting SCS Youth Climbing competitions at three different locations this spring, bringing USA climbing to the Bay Area! We are excited to be trying something new and we’re thrilled to be able to make it a very exciting comp season for both youth competitors and our members.

SCS Youth Nationals Ad for Climbing Mag

Here is the schedule for the Spring SCS Comp series at Touchstone:

Locals: April 12th at The Studio Climbing

Regionals: May 10th at Berkeley Ironworks

Divisionals: June 14/15th at Mission Cliffs

“We’re really excited to be able to host these events and support our young climbers,” said Head Routesetter Jeremy Ho. Touchstone route setters will be setting the comp routes for the event with two guest setters. “Comp setting is different from our usual style of setting. You can expect more volumes, more mantles, and more intellectual movement. The setting doesn’t necessarily focus solely on the strength of the climbing, but on the mental growth in climbing.”

What Youth Competitors need to know:

Get psyched everyone! 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 local, regional, and divisional competitions.

These are USA Climbing events, which means to compete you need to register and pay an entry fee ahead of time.

Locals: The Studio Climbing The Studio Climbing is located in downtown San Jose and is built inside of an old movie theater. The route walls are over 45 ft high and the unique layout of the building makes it an awesome gym to climb and spectate.

Regionals: Berkeley Ironworks BIW is one of Touchstone’s oldest gyms and the lead cave is the stuff of legend! With plenty of free parking and Berkeley Bowl only a few blocks away, it’s a very commuter friendly gym to compete at. If you didn’t compete at two local comps, you can still compete at regionals, however you will not be able to move on to divisionals.

Divisionals: Mission Cliffs MC’s recent expansion added 5,000 square feet of brand new terrain to the gym, and boy oh boy do those new colors POP! Located in the Mission District of San Francisco, we are walking distance from a BART station and on several bus lines.

What members need to know:

Don’t worry loyal members, we haven’t forgotten about you! While the gyms will be a big of a zoo on the days of the comps, we will still be open for business as usual. Feel free to come by and climb, workout, or cheer in the little whipper snappers who are campusing your project.

But the real fun will be the day AFTER the comps. You know, when the kids have gone home but there are still a plethora of comp style routes…?! Yeah. We’ll be hosting events at each location the day after the SCS comps, so us big kids can have a shot at the routes! We’ll have scorecards, prizes, and vendors to make it a big event. Be sure to mark your calendar and come test your comp climbing skills!

We will have events at The Studio Climbing, Berkeley Ironworks, and Mission Cliffs.

“Comp style climbing at a Touchstone Climbing Comp? Yes Please!” said long time Touchstone Climbing member Alex Witte. I’m so excited to see the exciting movement that our setters comp up with!”

Remembering Sean "Stanley" Leary

On March 13th, the world lost an amazing man in Zion National Park in a base jumping accident. Sean “Stanley” Leary was well known in the climbing world. In Yosemite, he had climbed El Capitan more than 50 times and established new rock routes across North America. He explored new lines in the Arctic, Patagonia, Baffin Island, and Venezuela. 

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Dean Fidelman photo

Beyond his climbing achievements, Stanley was an accomplished BASE (buildings, antennae, spans and earth) jumper. He often flew in a squirrel suit, a specially designed wing suit which increased glide ratios. He established new exits around the world and helped revolutionize BASE jumping.

Born in San Joaquin County on Aug. 23, 1975, Sean Leary grew up in the small Northern California town of Pine Grove. More recently, he lived between his family home in El Portal and with his ophthalmoligist wife, Annamieka in Sacramento.

Climbers from across the world, gathered in Zion National Park to help with the recovery. Because Sean didn't just rock climb and BASE jump, he touched people's lives. 

While climbing The Zodiac on El Capitan with Bryan “Coiler” Kay, Sean neglected to bring a real wall climbing hammer. Instead, he dug through his draws in El Portal and produced a humble carpenter’s tool, a Stanley hammer. The nickname stuck. 

I met Stanley in 2001, when I first arrived in Yosemite. He invited me to boulder with him in Curry. Over the years, we climbed together, we laughed together, we became friends.

Years ago, I pulled brush and tossed it in a pile. Stanley ran around the yard, sawing trees at random. A Yosemite local hired Stanley to clear the brush for fire hazards. I was there because Stanley had been complaining. He loved to complain. His hot wife wanted to have sex with him so he had to drive all the way from Yosemite to Sacramento. The upcoming Arctic expedition meant he’d never get strong enough for his Jailhouse sport project. Stanley could transform gold to iron.

“The owners are paying me a ton of money to not climb,” Stanley said. I knew Stanley could use the money and I needed a climbing partner. If we finished the job, then we could both go climbing. We spent half a day working before Stanley lost motivation. Stanley hated work, preferring to live.

“I’ll give you money when I stop by the ATM,” Stanley said. I shrugged. Stanley agreed to climb the West Face of the Leaning Tower with me. That’s what I wanted. Snow fell while we worked the route. Stanley freed a steep section of granite, a thousand feet off the ground. He climbed behind a white curtain. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. Stanley sent the route the next week. I worked on the route for a while and eventually, I freed it. Stanley sent me an excited congratulation note, my hero telling me I was rad.

A year later, we stood by the Yosemite lodge. I’d recalled his climbing through the storm, having long forgotten about the job. He’d inspired me.

“Oh yeah, I finally made it to the ATM,” Stanley said. He opened his wallet and stuffed money into my hand. I laughed.

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“1…2…3…go!” Stanley said, laughing. In the summer of 2013, Stanley hit the stop watch and I started running up steep granite. Sickle. Stove Legs. King Swing. I looked down. Stanley was fifteen feet below me staring at the birds swooping by. Great Roof. Changing Corners. Bolt Ladder. I looked up. Stanley was at the top, shouting for me to run run run. I touched the tree. Panting hard. Stanley laughed. I wasn’t sure what happened in between. I’d been attached to a bullet. We’d just climbed the Nose of El Capitan in 6 hours.

Stanley climbed fast. On El Cap, at Jailhouse, at the climbing gym, his gazelle-esque climbing style helped him establish numerous difficult free ascents and set speed records. When we climbed the Nose, all I wanted to do was go home and eat elk burgers. Stanley wanted climb more at the Cathedral boulders. He had a circuit there on lock down and could dispatch the classics easily.  We would joke about going to "onsight" the Cathedrals.  He would quickly tick away the problems.  Stanley had an unbridled, manic energy.

Stanley owned two dogs. Nexpa looked like Stanley- thin and fast. He loved her dearly and would coo, “Oh Nexie.” Then he would end her shivering by wrapping her in his down jacket. Stanley found her as a puppy on the side of the road near El Potrero Chico, Mexico. Her throat had been slit. He nursed the dog back to health. Her scar remained. More recently, Stanley showed up at Mortar Rock with an energetic puppy. Bravo darted around with Stanley’s unbridled energy. Stanley and Annamieka rescued a second dog so Nexpa could have someone to lord over. They also wanted to add a little to their family.

In 2010, Stanley married Annamieka in El Cap meadow. The wedding was small and intimate. I had met Mieka in the parking lot of Toulumne years before. Quiet and beautiful in the rain, she’d smiled and been very nice to me. After dropping off his truck at the mechanics in Mariposa, getting medicine for Nexpa, and doing a bit of climbing, I dropped Stanley off at his place that he shared with Mieka in Berkeley. She smiled when I saw her and was very nice to me. Seeing Stanley with her, I saw their love for each other.

Beyond his many climbing brothers, Stanley was expanding his family. Mieka recently became pregnant. Stanley was nervous about having a child but he was nervous about all the important things in life. He would have made a great father. Mieka is due at the end of May.

Last week in Zion, climbers from across North America rallied to help search for Stanley. It was an intense time. I cursed Stanley for making me bush whack through the cactus in the desert furnace. It was an adventure that he wasn’t on. I loved him for allowing me to meet his family- his mother, his sister, his brothers, to spend time with Annamieka. Mostly, I missed him. He was a great person to have had in my life.

A memorial account has been set up for Annamieka and the baby.

Mountain America Credit Union

Sean "Stanley" Leary Memorial Fund

P.O. Box 9001

West Jordan, UT 84084


-James Lucas

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

Kiss My Asana- A Mind Body Solutions Yogathon

Join yoga instructor Sandra Razieli in a Yogathon to raise funds for Mind Body Solutions, an organization that makes yoga available to people who have suffered from trauma, loss and disability.  

I am happy to share that I am participating in a yogathon called Kiss My Asana.  It's a fundraiser for Mind Body Solutions, an organization whose members are doing great work in the world. I invite you to read more about it below or go directly to the website to sponsor me.

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Those of you who have been in my classes, practiced yoga with me, played soccer with me, shared the bimah or have just hung out together, know that one of my favorite poses is what I affectionately call Bigasana. It’s simple -take your legs wide, take your arms wide and breathe. Open to the space around you, open to your potential, open to life.

This is what Mind Body Solutions does for so many people and in order for them to do it more, they need financial support.

Mind Body Solutions is a Minnesota based organization whose mission is to transform trauma, loss and disability into hope and potential by awakening the connection between mind and body. They are best known for adapting yoga for persons living with disabilities. They also offer innovative workshops for caregivers and healthcare professionals, teaching to integrate practical mind-body techniques into daily practices, resulting in more satisfied, committed caregivers and better patient outcomes.

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To support them, I am participating in their Kiss My Asana Yogathon and I invite you to join me in this endeavor. For the month of April, I will dedicate my practice to focusing on opening up some of my constricted places; to step into what is more difficult for me. I tend to love forward bends and avoid backbends. So for this month, I'm going to dedicate my practice to backbends. You may find me teaching them more often in class too.

I invite you to sponsor me (all the money goes directly to Mind Body Solutions) or make your own page and ask others to sponsor you.

Connecting with this fascinating, sometimes frustrating, sometimes exhilarating experience of living with and in my body has led me to more fully embrace life and simply feel better. This is an experience that I want to share as widely as possible. And this is why I teach and practice.

I am grateful for any way that you can support this endeavor.

Kids Programs at Dogpatch Boulders

It's something we've heard time and time again, 'I wish I'd discovered climbing sooner!'

Maybe you totally blew your undergraduate years living in Los Angeles but not visiting Joshua Tree, or you're lamenting the tendons of steal that could have been yours if your parents had only pushed climbing on you instead of violin. Either way, hindsight is 20-20, and we can learn from our pre-climbing lives and do better for the next generation of climbers! If you have kids, get them into climbing! 

In 2012, when Dogpatch Boulders was but a twinkle in our eye, we knew that we needed to think about a kids climbing area. With a dedicated kids climbing area the little ones are able to scramble around an awesome castle complete with slide, ladder, shorter slab walls and turrets from which to keep a watchful eye on the front desk! The castle has become a popular part of the gym where members bring their kids to climb, play, run and jump. 

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We now have several options to kids to climb at Dogpatch Boulders with our friendly and knowledgeable staff. We've worked to develop programs to encourage climbing to kids of all ages. "Kids are natural climbers. Its amazing to see how quickly and intuitively they take on the same moves that challenge adults," said Dogpatch Boulders manager Justin Alarcon. Bring your little one to the gym and see for yourself!

After School Camp

Members $225 | Non-Members $275

Talk about a great after school program! Watch your children build confidence, make friends, and learn to climb in one of our ten week sessions. Bouldering is a great way to get your kids interested in climbing or to help them burn off a little (or a lot) of that excess energy. The next session will begin April 7th! There are still a few spots open, click HERE to register. 

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Summer Camp

Members $200 | Non-Members $250

Kids get a chance to meet for 1 week with our amazing instructors to build skills, make friends and have a blast! Participants will learn the fundamentals of climbing movement, spotting, falling and route reading. Our experienced and supportive staff emphasize personal responsibility and encourage each camper to develop greater self confidence throughout the session. Weekly classes start in mid June and run through mid August for children ages 7-12 at Dogpatch Boulders. Sign up for five days of climbing from 10am to 1pm. Beginner, intermediate, and advanced level climbers are welcome. Please arrange to pick up your children promptly and please send your children to class with a healthy lunch or money to purchase snacks. Please Note: Under-enrolled summer camps may be canceled 7 days prior to start date.

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Birthday Parties

Plan your next climbing birthday party at Dogpatch Boulders! Are you tired of having your child’s birthday party at a jump house, or worse… Your house? Then a rock climbing party is for you! Our staff provides basic instruction and climbing gear for all party participants. The kids will be climb, learn games, and... just PLAY. What a concept, right?! Be sure to encourage the kids to wear comfortable clothing and close toed shoes. We're happy to be collaborating with our neighbors, Kara's Cupcakes, to make Birthday Parties at Dogpatch Boulders fun and easy for parents too. When you book your party online, you'll have an option to order yummy cupcakes that can be delivered right to the gym! Click HERE to book a Birthday Party at Dogpatch Boulders. 


Sunday Funday Big Kid Climbing Comp

This April, The Studio Climbing will be hosting our second SCS Youth Locals Competition. Kids from all over the Bay Area will be able to climb and compete on our walls! We're expecting a great turn out and we couldn't be happier to support the next generation of happy and healthy climbers. But what about our lovely members?! Don't worry, we haven't forgotten about you! Which is why we're planning a climbing event just for you!

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The Sunday Funday Big Kid Climbing Comp will be a chance for you to climb day old routes from the SCS comp. "Comp setting is different from our usual style of setting, said Head Route Setter Jeremy Ho. "You can expect more volumes, more mantles, and more intellectual movement. The setting doesn’t necessarily focus solely on the strength of the climbing, but on the mental growth in climbing." If you're usually of the bouldering persuasion, you'll get a kick out of the new routes.  

"There is nothing better than a summer BBQ," said Studio Climbing Manager and Texan Diane Ortega. "Oh wait, a BBQ at a climbing gym?! That's a thing? This changes everything." We'll fire up the grill, and members and guest are welcome to enjoy sunny San Jose after crushing the comp routes.

Local companies are pitching in to make this event an even bigger success. If your Downtown San Jose business would like to donate prizes or get involved in the Sunday Funday Big Kid Climbing Comp, please contact Diane Ortega. 

Mark you're calendars and invite your friends! 


Bike Parking at Mission Cliffs

If you've ever visited Mission Cliffs on a busy Thursday night, then you've seen our bike parking.. situation. When the gym was first built in 1995, bike parking wasn't taken into consideration. When we first embarked on the Mission Cliffs Expansion project, we knew that having amazing climbing terrain, killer classes, and a fantastic fitness area wouldn't be enough. We had to provide a designated bike parking area for our members and guest to safely park their rides.

We're happy to announce that after months of working with the city, our plans have been approved! We are excited to be able to move forward with our plans to build the largest outdoor bike barking area in San Francisco! "I'm so excited that we are able to provide our neighborhood with such a large public bike parking area," said Mission Cliffs manager Donna Hawkins. "It's great for our members and great for the city's bike culture."

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"Our many trips to city hall have paid off," said facilities manager Russell Olson. "We're excited to begin work on the outdoor structure." The bike parking area will be 108 ft long, and located directly in front of the new entrance to the gym. Not only will visitors be greeted by our bright Walltopia climbing walls, they'll see how our members got to the gym; on their bikes!


Stay tuned for more Mission Cliffs Expansion updates. Once the front desk moves to the north side of the gym, we'll begin construction on our programs room! We owe a huge thank you to our members as we work to build something truly spectacular in San Francisco. 

Your Edge

By guest blogger and yoga instructor Avram Pearlman

In yoga, there is a concept called the edge. Think of it as the limit of your practice in the present moment. Even if yoga is not part of your weekly routine, visualize a place between reaching a little farther and falling over while stretching. This place is your edge.

Another way to think about the edge is to do an image search for yoga on the Internet. You get these pictures of people doing amazing things, and you can imagine trying these things. There will be a point where you just can't get your leg into that position you see on the screen no matter how hard you try. The bad news is your edge is somewhat closer than the edge for the person in that picture, but the good news is it might not always be that way.

The edge is not unique to yoga, think about a boulder problem you are working on that keeps making you look like a barn door at the gym. The moment we fall when bouldering, on lead, or even on top rope is the moment right after our edge has been reached. Perhaps what defines us is our personal sense of what we can and can't do. What is it about ourselves we can find when we are looking so closely at our limitations?

One of the great things about the edge is it exists only in the present moment. Your edge is not stationary, and was likely different years ago when that 5.9 got you so pumped it was your last route of the day. When the edge becomes clear, we can look back, measuring how far we have come and start inching forward.

Perhaps when we know our edge we can approach it slowly, and work on reaching beyond in a constructive way. When the edge is reached, we are clear and focused. Sometimes the greatest possible outcome is to know this place and push the envelope little by little. Breathing, nothing else exists besides you and that next move.

Perhaps when we get to this point, there is an awakening of the self to know what is possible. Perhaps this question might sound familiar: Why? Why do I always loose my balance when I stand on one leg? Why does my hand always slip off that third hold on the V6 I am working on? If it's my flexibility in yoga, or if it's my balance on this sloper that I can't hold onto, then my work is clear. What can I do to get past this point?


Awareness is a great start, but action is the key to success. If you know your edge, then you have a clear view of your limitation. Now it's time for some hard work. And I don't mean throwing yourself at your project repeatedly without thought, instead ask yourself how you can work on your limitations in a constructive way. Is it possible to look at the problem from a different angle? Maybe it's not your hand on the sloper, but the position of your feet...

The greatest reward comes from doing something previously thought to be personally impossible. Challenge yourself but don't get discouraged. The feeling of success that comes from pushing this edge is beyond measure.


Avram teaches Yoga at Great Western Power Company in Oakland, California. Be sure to check out one of his classes! Thanks so much for contributing Avram!

Hiring Full Time Routesetters

Here in Touchstone Land, we pride ourselves in creating a healthy and supportive environment for fitness enthusiasts, CrossFitters, and yogis. But let's be real. We love climbing, and we'd be nothing without our routesetters. We are grateful to have the largest full time route setting crew in the nation. But with 9 (soon to be 10) facilities in California stretching from Los Angeles to Sacramento we have a growing need for quality, experienced route setters.

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"Route setting at Touchstone is something we take pride in," said Head Routesetter Jeremy Ho. "We are looking for experienced route setters with a solid grasp on quality of movement and hold selection wanting to provide the best possible commercial setting for our massive member base. With a focus is always on safe, comfortable, consistent, fun and fair route setting, our goal is to have our members walk away happy and wanting more with each session they put in on our walls."

A typical day on the job involves working with a crew numbering from 5-10 at one gym per day. All applicants must be comfortable working with numerous setters buzzing about. (It's one of those 'embracing the chaos' things that we're sure as a climber you already know and love.) Our Bay Area crew is required to travel to all 6 Bay Area locations with occasional trips to our satellite gyms in Sacramento, Fresno and LA. And of course, compensation for travel is provided after a probation period.

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The Nitty Gritty:

Requirements: We are looking for strong climbers to fill this position. All applicants must be able to redpoint 5.12 and V7. Any USAC certifications are a plus but not a guarantee of employment.

Compensation: Hourly wage based on experience. Relocation incentive available for qualified applicants. Plus perks! 

If you're ready to join the largest crew in thr country, please email jho at touchstoneclimbing dot com to apply. We just keep getting bigger, so we'll always need quality guys and gals on the team. 

Good Luck! 

To Fall or Not to Fall

Reader Q and A

In a blog post last week entitled 'Learning to Sport Climb,' we included the following statement when giving tips on climbing routes. "..Feeling relaxed on a sport route is essential. Breathe well. Move efficiently. Despite 13 years of climbing, I still get terrified climbing. To overcome my fear on a difficult route, I test falls. “Every time I fall, I get less scared,” said Mary-kate. Being comfortable with the falls will help you move fluidly and well."


After the post, a reader reached out with the following question:

I wanted to ask this in message concerning your recent blog post. One of the things mentioned was 'test' falling. Everything I have read on climbing contradicts this idea. "If you fall, you fail" is what I have always heard. The equipment is a safety net, not an aid, and resting on your harness/anchor puts undue strain on it. Plus, you never know how good the bolt is unless you placed it yourself. Am I reading your blog post wrong, or am I mis-informed? Thank you for providing the gyms as a great place to learn.

We wanted to really tackle this interesting question that mixes safety, ethics, and climbing culture. Justin Alarcon, manager of Dogpatch Boulders and avid climber jumped at the chance to respond.

I'll offer you two answers, a short one and a long one. The short answer is that in the past falling was not okay because it meant you were likely to get hurt. Even to this day a climb is not considered a free climb unless it is done without the use of aid (including hanging on the rope) except at belay stances. In modern sport climbing and top rope climbing falling is a regular part of the activity, though one should not claim a free ascent of a route if they had to hang on the rope before making it to the top.

Long answer, and forgive me if I ramble here because there is actually a lot to say on this subject.

In early climbing history climbers had very little to protect themselves with. They climbed using static goldline rope tied around their waists and very little protection in the rock (if any) to protect a fall. If they somehow managed to escape a fall unscathed but were left hanging on the rope it would quickly start to crush their rib cage and make it difficult to breath. It wasn't a pleasant experience. This is why the 'do not fall' mentality is so ingrained in climbing culture even to this day.

As climbing technology improved, dynamic ropes were invented, nuts supplemented bolts and pitons, swami belts and eventually harnesses replaced a rope tied around one's waist, falling became less hazardous. Climbing standards went up as a result. No longer was 5.9 the limit. Still, the old mentality persisted. Yo-yo-ing a route was a technique that was born out of these developments. 'Yo-yo-ingA climber could try a difficult route, one that they might expect to fall on, but the ethics of the day dictated that they would then be lowered to the ground where they could begin again without having to pull the rope or all the gear they left on the climb.

The next development in climbing tactics was the 'hangdog' technique whereby a climber would fall, hang on the rope and try again to sort out the moves. Once the moves were learned they would lower, pull the rope and gear, finally starting again from the bottom with the intention of climbing it from bottom to top without falling.

In the early 1970s Kurt Albert of Germany started a free climbing revolution by developing a technique now known as 'redpointing' or 'Rotpunkt' in German. Kurt realized that by using hangdog techniques over a long period of time he could master very difficult climbs that he would never be able to climb first try, without any prior knowledge of the route (a style we now call 'onsight').

So, fast forward another 40 years and here we are today. There are a lot of people that really hold dear the old-school belief that onsight climbing is the purest style of climbing. These die-hards are the ones most likely to propagate the adage 'falling is failing' and they're not wrong in so far as the pursuit of their goals. Other climbers are more interested in testing their limits by climbing the most difficult series of moves they can possibly climb. Almost by definition, these climbers must rehearse the climbs they're trying, which means falling and hanging on the route. Neither camp is right nor wrong, they're just different.

As far as safety is concerned there are several things to consider. If you are sport climbing, bolts should be free of corrosion, nuts should be tight and bolt hangers should be the same type of metal as the bolt. Unfortunately, its impossible to know how well the bolt was placed, but with modern drills it is pretty easy and you can reasonably assume that a popular route with no signs of corrosion probably has decent bolts. For traditional climbs, even those with a few bolts, there are other considerations. The bolts on these routes (especially old routes) are often crappy and could snap or pull if they are in poor condition. If you are using cams or nuts you have to consider the quality of the rock and the quality of the placement. Even a well placed cam in fragile rock may fail. Conversely, a skinny nut on a thin wire placed in a perfect crack with solid rock can be as strong as a well placed bolt.

Regardless of what kind of climbing you're doing, you'll always want to be aware of the condition of your rope. A high quality rope can last a very long time and hold a ton of falls without any noticeable dip in performance. That said, even a brand new rope can be cut in half by a sharp edge on the very first fall if one isn't careful.

If you are climbing in the gym don't worry too much about the ethics of it all. Just have a good time and do what feels right.

I hope this helps, and wish you good luck in your climbing adventures.

Member Profile: Sariah Crull

If you are already a member of the Touchstone family, you know that there is an instant community of individuals similar to yourself to hang out with. You may have also found out by now that we have some of the best teachers in town to guide you through our many fitness classes offered daily. This month, I am pleased to introduce you to another one of our very talented and unique instructors, Sariah Crull. Although it took a while to encourage her to talk to me about herself, I am grateful that I had the opportunity to steal a few minutes and write about such an inspiring human being!

Teaching fitness in and around Sacramento is nothing new for Sariah, from step aerobics, spin, bootcamp, kickboxing to acrobatics. However, she is a recent addition to the Sacramento Pipeworks team, and let’s just say that we could not be happier!

Throughout the day, Sariah wears many hats ranging from a busy mother of two children to a multi-faceted fitness instructor and photographer. She is also a noted AcroYogi and founder of The Handstand Nation, a local platform for classes, Acro meet-ups, and other upside down fun! Knowing the importance of a well-rounded workout, she teaches a playful style of Vinyasa flow yoga at Pipeworks that has an equal balance of both yin and yang elements to help with overall mobility, greater range of motion, and complete mental and physical fitness. 

What motivates Sariah in daily life becomes a part of her practice on the mat, where she shares her wisdom with students. Her all levels class makes yoga accessible to everyone, regardless of shape, size, and ability. Sariah’s clientele through the years have been very diverse including everyone from lay people to active duty soldiers, combat veterans and firefighters. In honor of her service to combat veterans, Sariah was awarded a plaque by the Department of Defense. She considers her style to be a moving meditation, with emphasis placed on how the pose feels and not necessarily how it’s “supposed to” look. Sariah says, “I do yoga to have fun and feel good...Come play with me!” If you were wondering what the next step is for you to achieve a new level of fitness, I would personally recommend Sariah Crull. Please check the calendar for class times. There are smiles to be had, and a new outlook on health and complete wellness to be achieved. I’ll see YOU in her class!


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