Cuong Phu Trinh submitted this write up to the Touchstone Blog. Awesome story!
I received a Tweet from friends asking if I wanted to climb at the non-Touchstone climbing gym closest to my Southern California home. I declined as I was packing up for a trip up north and mentioned my plans to climb at other Touchstone facilities, given those awesome L.A. Boulders member perks.
Over the course of four days I climbed at six Touchstone facilities surrounding the San Francisco Bay. Since I used a plane to start my journey to finding a job, I needed a way to get around. Besides renting a car and footing a gas bill, at my disposal were a bicycle and mass transit.
At 33, I’m an adventurer and I like to travel on a budget. My car is turning 15 as of next month and I’m searching for a relevant, economically viable career opportunity anywhere in the world. I was displaced from my prior journalism career by changing consumer media demands along with steep budget and personnel cuts when the bottom fell out from the economy. At that point I found that graduate school was the only vehicle to a career change. What I do now for my hometown of Rancho Cucamonga is to encourage people of all ages to walk, bike and use transit through Active Transportation and Safe Routes to School programs.
An average human can walk 1/2 mile or bike 2 miles in 10 minutes’ worth of time. I looked at bicycles and transit as a more efficient way to get around, as I didn’t have the time or desire to match bus with train schedules (and vice versa). My graduate research and culminating thesis for my master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning covers bicycle and transit integration.
Wherever I travel, I practice what I preach. Whenever I show up to out of area job interviews, a recurring question asked is what mode of transportation I used. Based from all you’ve read so far, the answer is clear. In October I pedaled 24 miles using a fixed gear bike to an interview from the East Bay across the Dumbarton Bridge to the City of Palo Alto. Rock climbing came to me by accident. A friend I had met while in graduate school offered me her climbing guest but all that came to a crashing end. I fractured my wrist and dislocated my finger in a bicycle crash, which meant I couldn’t climb or bicycle for many months. After nine months I tried climbing again. Every second I held myself to the wall was downright difficult but I continued to fight the pain to rebuild my atrophied muscles.
After buying punch cards at several gyms to see how long I could hang I purchased a membership at a climbing facility near my suburban home. All was going well until that friend told me about the largest bouldering gym ever, being Dogpatch Boulders. I was awestruck on how much larger, cleaner and nicer it was compared to any other bouldering gym I had ever seen prior. Then I went to check out the skeleton of what became L.A. Boulders and signed up on the spot. Now I’ve got two memberships.
Since LA.B opened its doors I’ve climbed at every Touchstone facility (except Sacramento Pipeworks) and used my guest passes to bring more friends into the climbing world; two of which signed up for LA.B memberships.
So how far are Touchstone climbing facilities from transit?
- Great Western Power Company = 1 block/ 19th St. Oakland BART
- Mission Cliffs = 10 blocks/ 16th St. Mission BART
- Dogpatch Boulders = 2.5 mi/ 16th St. Mission BART or 5 blocks/ 22nd St. Caltrain
- Berkeley Ironworks = 1.5 mi/ Ashby BART or 4 mi/ GWPC/ 19th St. Oakland BART
- Diablo Rock Gym = 2.5 mi/ Concord BART or 3.3 mi/ Pleasant Hill BART
- The Studio = 1.2 mi/ San Jose Diridon Caltrain
- LA.B = 1.5 mi/ Los Angeles Union Station
At least 4x/month I bicycle six miles from my suburban SoCal home to a Metrolink train station, ride it 40 miles into downtown LA and then pedal 1.5 miles to LA.B. My drive to drive less while using both my Touchstone and (my hometown) gym memberships is keeping me in the best shape of my life and I’ll continue to post about my journeys on social media.
“This is so exciting,” Randy Puro said. A half dozen climbers threw themselves at an undone boulder problem near the Merced River. They could barely get off the ground until someone discovered a match and wild hamhock maneuver. They climbed higher until a hold broke. They stayed with it despite the setback. They all wanted the first ascent of the giant granite boulder.
Touchstone athlete Joey Kinder works Maquina Muerte 5.14+. Kinder bolted the route a few years ago and then spent this winter sending the route
One of the best parts of rock climbing is the ability to do a first ascent. Finding a path up a mountain, a cliff or a boulder requires a mixture of athleticism, creativity and tenacity. There only gets to be one first ascent, which makes it special. Finding an unclimbed route can be difficult in popular areas. Unclimbed rock often requires an adventurous spirit. There’s always a reason the route hasn’t been done yet.
“FA's are harder because they require a lot more work (cleaning a boulder, bolting a sport climb, trundling choss in the alpine...) and because they require a lot more belief in the possibility of the challenge,” said Ethan Pringle, who has established new boulder problems in Vegas, new sport routes in China and made first ascents of Yosemite Walls. “Once you know something's been done, it's a lot easier to do it yourself. Monkey see, monkey do.”
Paul Barraza attempts to repeat his boulder problem Post Send Depression on the B1 Boulder at the Sentinel
“With the expedition FA's there was also a bit of that apprehension of the question of whether or not it was possible,” said Pringle of his expeditions in Greenland and China, “but also just the shear amount of work that went into getting to, and then up those walls in style (onsight FAing 5.11 or 12 terrain on sometimes dirty and crumbly rock with minimal pro, getting to a stance at the top of the pitch and having to drill one or sometimes two bolts by hand, making sure everything was super safe the whole time...)
In 2013, Nik Berry and I established The Final Frontier, a 900 foot 5.13b route on Fifi Buttress in Yosemite. When I first climbed on the aid route, it was questionably whether it would go free. The route required an exhaustive amount of brushing, cleaning and bolting. Then there was the actual climbing, which required work as well. Deciphering the moves became more problematic than the cleaning for me.
Eric Bissel helps to refine the beta on the 5.13a traverse pitch on the Final Frontier
“I really like the problem solving part,” said Beth Rodden of doing first ascents. Rodden’s established first free ascents of El Capitan, 5.14 trad routes and difficult boulder problems in Yosemite. “I think it makes climbing super fun and unique, rather than just the physical part of sending.”
“Also, the feeling of luck that comes with getting to be the first one to climb a perfect piece of rock that seemed to have been made to climb,” said Pringle in regards to his first ascent of a 5.14d at White Mountain in China. “With the Spicy Dumpling, it was something I'd fantasized about for months and months before trying, so it was a dream come true to go through all the motions of struggling with the concept that it was even possible for me, then after I'd realized it was, battling with it and trying to finish it off before I had to leave.
James Lucas makes the first ascent of Stanley's Arete at Happy Isles
A week later, Puro returned and made the first ascent of the Leevee’s Break, adding another great boulder problem to Yosemite Valley. The possibilities of first ascents exist across California. You just need the spirit of adventure.
Come test your strength against the future of climbing!
We will be hosting ABS Regionals on Saturday, December 6th. This is a youth climbing competition and young guns from all over the state at coming out to compete for a chance at Divisionals. We repeat: The gym will be overrun with youth climbers and their families. If you are not competing in the comp, or if you'd rather not be relegated to a small corner of the gym, maybe make Saturday a Mission Cliffs day....
But what about the rest of us?! Fear not Big Kids! We've got a comp just for all you Millennials/ Gen X's / Gen Y's/ Boomers! We'll be making a fun day of it, with the comp routes still up. Can YOU out climb a 10 year old..? Swing by Dogpatch Boulders between noon and 5pm on Sunday to climb with all your favorites, then stick around for the San Francisco premier of Exposure Vol II at 5:30pm.
This event it free to members, and only $20 for guests. See you there! RSVP here.
The American Alpine Club (AAC) is pleased to announce a speaking tour by legendary speed climber Ueli Steck. Presented by Mountain Hardwear, with proceeds to benefit the AAC, the highly acclaimed “Swiss Machine" will present a visually stunning and interactive slideshow about his experiences climbing the world's largest mountains, setting speed records without oxygen, training in the Swiss Alps. Ueli Steck, a climber with free ascents of El Capitan, is best known for his mountaineering, with solo speed climbs of the infamous Eiger Nordwand, the Matterhorn, and more recently, the south face of Annapurna.
The Slideshow will be playing on:
December 16th, Yoshi's in San Francisco Ca
December 17th, Mountain Hardwear in Richmond Ca
You can’t find someone more stoked on life than this dude! If you have trouble locating our newest member of the month, you may not be alone. He could either be in the rafters at your favorite concert, topping out your next boulder problem, rappelling down a Yosemite classic route, flying down the slopes of the Sierra mountains on his snowboard, or looking for love on the streets of your hometown. Meet, Phillip Czabot...a Detroit, Michigan native that made his way to the sunny shores of California in his quest to find his true self.
Member of the Month: Phillip Czabot
Bove) How long have you been rock climbing, and what brought you to the Pipeworks family?
Czabot) I started climbing when I was 25, and have been for 8 years now. My first climbing experience was a multi-pitch trad route in Yosemite. My two buddies came to the house one day and said, “Let’s go to the valley to climb.” I was broke, so I told them I couldn’t go. An hour later, they returned with a new harness and shoes! It was SUPER RAD; it really showed how much they cared. In Yosemite, we climbed After Six (a 5.7 classic); I was hooked almost instantly! I loved the way the gear worked, the feeling of being up high, and, of course, how the valley looked from being up on the wall. I was SO stoked! When we came back down, I asked my buddy Chris if I could place some gear, because I wanted to see how it felt on lead. He looked puzzled and said, “Really?!”, but we placed gear in some cracks, and he would tell me what was bomber and what was not. After an hour at ground level, placing cams and nuts, it was time. Holy smokes, I was the most focused I have ever been! It took me 45 minutes to do the first pitch of After Six. When I got to the top, my leg was shaking. Later, in this game, I would find out I had “Elvis leg.” Chris lowered me to the ground and my leg was still going nuts. I had this twisted grin on my face, and he said, “You’re feeling it, huh, bro?” I started clapping, yelling, and jumping all over the place. Climbing would forever change my life! ...A few years later, I found Pipeworks and knew this was the gym for me. Climbing chicks are HOT!
B) You are one of the lucky ones whose hobbies have also turned into a source of income. Can you tell us more about how this happened, and what you do for work?
C) I came in to the gym one morning three years ago, and the beautiful Nicole, who at that time was working the front desk, said, “Hey, this Oakley wearing NorCal dude (Lane Cooper) came in. He does work for Cirque du Soleil, and is looking for guys that are good with ropes and comfortable at heights.” I went home and called him that day. A month later, he flew myself, and desk staff Ryan Rougeux, out to Seattle to try out. It was an instant fit! I got certified in rope access the next month. Since then, I have been able to travel around the world with RAD people, like Ryan, get paid to play with ropes, and be up in high places that most people don’t get to see. I do theatrical and rock and roll rigging as well. We were working on Shoreline amphitheatre this past year, and I got to meet the head rigger.
He asked if I was interested in theatrical rigging, and I said, “Hell yes, I am!” He called me a few weeks later to come down and shadow to see if I liked it or not, and I was hooked. I love everything from building the steel, to going up in the rafters and walking beams to set up points, surrounded by sound and lights. I have been able to rig for some of the greatest entertainers of our time, and am looking forward to doing a whole lot more. Don’t get me wrong, there are still times when you’re on a job and things are just downright horrible. The weather can kick your ass in so many ways. Some jobs are more physical than others, and lots of variables may be out of your control, but therein lies some of the beauty. You can look back when the job is done and feel the sense of accomplishment, especially when you’re doing things that nobody has done before, or not thought possible. Sure, free soloing a building to set up rigging for co-workers might not be the smartest, but it’s a f#@king blast!
B) Did you grow up in California, and if not, how and when did you know that the West coast was to be home for you?
C) I spent the first 19 years of my life in Detroit, MI. I first came to Cali when I was 13, and I knew that I would live here one day. Of course, this was the playground of my idol, Bodhi (aka Patrick Swayze from Point Break). I knew at a young age that I wanted to climb mountains, jump out of planes, catch waves, shred the Sierras, and push the limits. I came to Sacramento on vacation when I was 19, and never went back. I still have the ticket as a reminder. I knew this was the place I needed to live to become the person I wanted to be!
B) From the stories I have heard you tell, travel is a very important element in your life. What was your first out-of-country experience, and what moment did you realize that this was the lifestyle you desired?
C) My friend Morgan Jane hit me up out of the blue when she was in Europe, and was like, “You need to meet me in Amsterdam.” I had some extra cash, so I jumped online, bought a ticket, and flew over to run around Amsterdam and Belgium for a bit. It was a blast! People like to plan things, but sometimes it’s best to just pull the trigger and go, because life is crazy and short. I have been broke my whole life, but it still didn’t stop me from traveling. You need to get while the gettin’s good. In the snap of your fingers, life will fly by...so do it now!
B) Back to the United States now, where is your favorite climbing destination, and why?
C) Hands down Yosemite! I love the history of the place, from John Muir to Royal Robbins, Ansel Adams, and, of course, the stone masters from the 1970’s. I’m a trad climber at heart, and Yosemite is the birthplace. It’s a great honor to pull down in a place like this, as it demands so much attention. The gifts that it gives do not come easy. You have to eat many spoonfuls of humble pie to get good there, but that’s what makes you stronger. Before you know it, the route that was spitting you off, like you have no business being there in the first place, goes down clean. There is some good sport climbing there too, if you’re into that. I mean, sport climbing is neat and all, and I do a little of it. But, when the war breaks out with trad-vs-sport, I’m going straight to Jailhouse. When I leave that place, I will have a bag full of scalps! #tradclimbersrule.
B) Are there moments when you wished that you had an office job instead? Will you ever?
C) Yes, when I’m walking around downtown at lunch time and I see all the gorgeous office women, I think…“I would like to work with her.” But really, I would just be flirting and not working. So in reality, I am the worst choice for an office job. In fact, it was hard for me just to answer these questions using Microsoft Word.
B) Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is another interesting sport that you actively pursue. Do you compete in tournaments, or just “roll” as an exercise regimen?
C) I did compete when I first started doing BJJ. Brad Sandoval (Pipeworks instructor) and Urijah Faber pushed me to compete quite a bit before I was stepping into the ring or the cage. When you compete, you find out where you stand in your abilities. The more you do it, the more it becomes second nature. So, when you do step into the ring, or cage, or a real combat setting in the streets, you fall into a default mode. I hope to be competing into my old age.
B) As a young man who seems to have it all, where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
C) Wow! That is a hard one. Not only because it’s hard for me to even see past today, but that you would perceive me as someone that has it all. I had to think hard on this one. I am super grateful for the life that I have, and the rad people around me. The most important thing in my world is the shared experience. It’s a wonderful thing to have that bond with people. For instance, to have Rougeux be with you when you pull that first v5, or to top out on your hardest multi-pitch with Dr. Gallagher, or to be chest deep in powder shredding with the Friedlines...RADICALS!! I don’t know where I will be in ten years, but I know I will be surrounded by amazing people and doing wonderful things.
B) What type of music keeps you going, and what genres would we find on your current playlist?
C) I like it all! Growing up in Motown, where you are bombarded with all types of music, makes you appreciate it all. Some days, I want to nod my head to some hip-hop. Then, other days, throw on some metal and get WILD, then, switch it up with some Tears for Fears. It’s all good to me, but one thing for sure, you will see some Eli and the Sound Cult on there!
B) Lastly, Gin or Whisky?
C) Well, I’m more of a fernet guy, and for the record, I’m not a hipster! If I had to choose, I would say whisky, as gin is too dry for me...unless it’s in a Moscow Mule.
Thanksgiving offers a perfect time of year for a climbing trip. Most people have a long weekend that can easily be extended by a day or two. The options for California climbers are numerous. Amazing bouldering and unbelievable sport climbing sits within a short drive. Unfortunately, the weather in Yosemite looks a bit wet for the weekend but there are some other great options for those looking for a holiday climbing trip.
The weather will be good for the next few days in one of the most beautiful climbing destinations in California. Sunny with highs in the 60s and low 70s this week, Joshua Tree offers great trad climbing as well as amazing bouldering. Hidden Valley Campground provides ideal camping as many of the climbs and boulder problems are mere yards from the campsites. The drive to southern California can be a bit long, the rock in the park can be sharp and the campsite may be crowded but Joshua Tree is a gorgeous place to climb.
California's premiere bouldering area offers great climbing at the Buttermilks and the volcanic tablelands. For those interested in climbing on ropes, the Owen's River Gorge provides a great place for sport climbing from 5.10 to 5.12. The weather on the East Side should be quite inviting with temps similar to Joshua Tree. Expected temps in the high 60s and low 70s for the week. The amenities around Bishop are quite nice but Thanksgiving is the most popular time of year there and climbers flood the boulders and sport destinations. The bakeries in Bishop are not to be missed though.
An equidistant drive as Bishop, Smith offers some of the best sport climbing in the United States. The technical nature of Smith makes it a great option for climbers looking to improve. While the weather report calls for a slight chance of rain, the rock at Smith dries quickly and the desert climate means that percipitation is minimal. Smith also has far fewer climbers than Joshua Tree, Bishop or Vegas. It's a perfect place for those looking to get away from the hoards.
With affordable plane tickets, Vegas makes a great place for a long weekend climbing trip. The casino's provide lots of entertainment and places to stay. The weather there will be nice with temps again in the high 60s and low 70s. There is a significant amount of sport climbing and bouldering close to Vegas in Red Rocks but better than that the limestone of Southern Utah sits a mere hour away. For those looking for a bit of varied sport climbing, the Vegas/Mesquite area makes a great option.
Big news out of Culver City, California!
For those of you who have been living under a rock..or maybe on a rock... we are currently in the design, permitting, and construction phase of not one, not two, but THREE brand new world class gyms in Southern California. We are extremely excited to be moving forward on all three projects.
In today's news, we are ready to announce the exact location and name of our Culver City gym!
We have decided to name our new, 25,000 sq ft gym, the Cliffs of Id.
If you're a patron of Touchstone Climbing gyms, you know that most of the time we pay homage to the original building by deriving the gym name from its history. Great Western Power Company in Oakland was once a power and electric plant, Berkeley Ironworks was an iron refinery and warehouse, etc... But for Culver City, we decided to do something a little different.
"The name is a slightly nerdy reference to Reyner Banham's Four Ecologies of Los Angeles," said Dogpatch Boulders manger Justin Alarcon. "It's an interesting book and defense of LA architecture / urbanism / ecology. Culver City is in the region described by Banham as the Plains of Id."
One quote really stood out, 'The Plains of Id are where the crudest urban lusts and most fundamental aspirations are created, manipulated and, with luck, satisfied.' "Changing 'Plains' to 'Cliffs' was kind of a no-brainer," said Alarcon.
The Cliffs of Id is directly off the 10, on Fairfax Avenue near Venice Blvd and La Cienega and has ample parking. We are also right next to the Metro Station, hip hip hooray! We KNOW all you West Siders will be psyched on this location! “LA Boulders has changed the climbing gym market in Los Angeles,” said Sr. Manager Jeffery Bowling. “This new gym allows us to serve Culver City, Santa Monica, and beyond. We’re very excited about the location of the gym and thrilled by the warm welcome we have received from the L.A. climbing community.”
Cliffs of Id will be a HUGE rope climbing gym, which is great news for everyone who prefers to tie in. The gym will have about an even split between rope climbing and bouldering. "We will be building the gym in two phases," said Jeffery. "Bouldering first, then our rope walls a few months later."
This will also be a full service gym with designated areas for program rooms, fitness equipment and a training area. “Offering premier climbing, fitness and classes like yoga and kickboxing has become synonymous with the Touchstone Climbing brand,” said Director of Marketing Lauryn Claassen. “Bringing a full service gym to Culver City will be huge for both the climbing and fitness communities.” That's right people, your climbing gym membership can also be your yoga studio membership, which will double as your home away from home! Additionally, ALL Touchstone Climbing memberships are created equal. If you are already a member at LA Boulders, you are also a member at Cliffs of Id and vice versa. Reciprocal memberships for the WIN!
We will once again be working with Walltopia, a leading climbing wall manufacturer and our BFFs, to build the gym. "This is our 5th project together and our partnership with Walltopia becomes stronger with each gym,” said Bowling, who visited Walltopia headquarters in Bulgaria in June. “We are ready to bring something truly innovative to the greater Los Angeles area.”
We anticipate opening in mid 2015. To stay tuned on the play by play, give our Cliffs of Id Facebook page a follow. We'll be releasing our new logo, wall designs and construction updates in the following months. When it comes time to hire staff, we'll post announcements there.