Climbing in Colombia Trip Report

In late April five members of the Touchstone’s family ventured to Colombia for a little adventure and a healthy dose of climbing. Justin Alarcon the manager of Dogpatch Boulders, Lauryn Claassen the director of Social Media and Marketing, and Ryan Moon from the Berkeley Ironworks team were joined by Justin’s wife Becky and longtime member and friend Eric Vergne. Justin, Lauryn, and Ryan offer some insights into their travels.

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How’d this trip come about?

Ryan: After pretty much committing to a trip to Kentucky's Red River Gorge, I bumped into a BIW member friend of mine (Camilo Lopez) who had just returned from Colombia. He mentioned the price of the plane ticket, how far the US dollar goes, and last, but not least, the adventure.

Lauryn: You know [when] people are talking about a trip, but nobody is pulling the trigger... it's just not meant to be. After Ryan ran into Camilo tickets were booked within the week. I love spanish, collecting passport stamps, and trips that include exploring new cultures along with climbing.

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What did you know about Colombia before departing?

Justin: Aside from a little soccer history and a dangerous reputation, not much. Of course I researched the climbing as best I could before we left but there is not a ton of information out there. A few videos and trip reports, but that’s it really.

Ryan: I literally had very few expectations. The general lack of information I had about Colombian climbing had me feeling pretty in-the-dark about the experience as a whole. However, I knew whom I was traveling with (awesome girlfriend + great friends) and that Colombia had become MUCH safer than it's reputation suggests.

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How were you surprised on the trip?

Lauryn: I was surprised by how friendly every. single. person. in Colombia was. EVERYONE. People would just ignore you and let you go about you day, until the moment that you stopped to ask for directions or needed help. Then they would go out of their way to help you out. I was also surprised how safe I felt. Walking down the street in the booming metropolis of Bogota or the small town of Sesquile, it didn’t matter. This country is amazing and everyone should go and feel bad about thinking it's a dangerous place.

Ryan: I forgot what 9,000 feet of elevation felt like. I had heard that Colombians were super nice, but they even were nice than that. Unfortunately, unpleasantly surprised at how lack luster the food was. Although it wasn't "terrible", sampling local cuisine on travels abroad is one of my favorite things to do. I can eat chicken and french fries back at home.

Justin: We did have two amazing meals in Bogotá.

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How did you like the climbing? What would you recommend to other climbers looking to travel to Colombia?

Justin: We spent all of our climbing time in Suesca. The rock quality was great, but lines weren’t worth writing home about in my opinion. Unfortunately, due to the short duration of our trip and a combination of lost luggage and poor planning we weren’t able to check out some of the many other areas in Colombia that, in my opinion, look far better than Suesca.

Ryan: The climbing was, dare I say "fun". Unless I'm cleaning boulders, it's not very easy to get me on a rope. Although a lot of the climbs were pretty short by sport climbing standards, this made switching gears into endurance mode a wee bit easier. It seemed like most of the climbs were fairly easy moves separated by hard-ish boulder problems and get-everything-back ledge rests. While quality of rock was high, quantity was low. I most likely will not be revisiting Suesca (the climbing area) having done most of what I can do.

Lauryn: If you're going to go on a climbing trip to Colombia, you should bring gear. We only brought sport gear by accident, but we needed cams too.

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What were some non-climbing activities you would most recommend?

Lauryn: Museums! Bogota! Lake filled with gold! Practicing Spanish! Watching soccer! Buses!

Justin: Plan to spend at least part of your trip in Cartegena. Take the gondola to the top of the mountain in Bogotá for amazing views of the city and get your picture taken on the back of an alpaca.

Ryan: Check out the Botero museum — best paintings of chubby people ever!

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Did anyone eat any bad empanadas?

Justin: Two of us caught a belly demon towards the end of the trip.

Ryan: Bring extra underwear.


New Yosemite Big Wall Guide

The Valley big wall season is kicking into high gear. The Touchstone Climbing gyms have just received a great new guide to Yosemite.

Recently, Erik Sloan and Roger Putnam put together a comprehensive guide to all of the Yosemite big wall routes. The full color book features over 300 routes, which is five times what the Supertopo features and twice what the previous Don Reid book contained.

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An example overlay of Liberty Cap

Over the course of five years, Sloan and Putnam put together the 376 page color guide using the topos of hundreds of Yosemite locals and travelers. A dedicated Yosemite climber, Sloan has been described as “possibly one of the best in the world at aid climbing 5.8.” While Putnam has never drank a King Cobra.

The pair created a companion website, updates and free topos are available. “This is the new guidebook paradigm - we created a free online library, where you can research topos or find out the latest beta, which is supported by book and Ebook sales,” said Sloan.

The thirty dollar book features amazing color photos of big wall routes throughout Yosemite. It offers great adventure for any Yosemite climber. It's now available at the Touchstone Gyms.  

Women's Empowerment at Pipeworks

Women's Empowerment, a non-profit based in Sacramento, made their 53rd visit to Pipeworks. We were able to catch up with leaders and participants in this amazing program to get the scoop on their partnership with Pipeworks.

"Sacramento Pipeworks has been working with Women's Empowerment since 2004," said Pipeworks manager Vaughn Medford. "They are headquartered only a couple blocks away from the gym, so it is not unusual to see a group of women 10-15 power walking over to the gym. They use the gym to work out in the weight area and do cardio. The members have become accustomed to seeing the group, and we're all supportive of such an important cause." "On our morning walks to Pipeworks, the ladies share their excitement and enthusiasm for the opportunity to focus on themselves for that one hour," said Nancy Nguyen, the program assistant at Women's Empowerment. "By attending Fitness Fridays, the ladies step out of their everyday lives and enter a world that allows them to make a change for themselves and their children."

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The group assists women who are homeless, jobless or in abusive situations. Women’s Empowerment has served 916 women and their 1,376 children. In May 2009, they were named Nonprofit of the Year by the Nonprofit Resource Center, one of the highest honors a nonprofit can receive in the Sacramento region. Over 1115 women have graduated from our program.

"The mission of Women’s Empowerment is to educate and empower women who are homeless with the skills and confidence necessary to get a job, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and regain a home for themselves and their children. Our partnership with Pipeworks has become essential to the fulfillment of that mission," said Nguyen. Women's Empowerment runs eight week sessions in which a new group of women learns the importance of caring for their bodies through exercise and healthy eating.


“I joined Fitness Wednesdays at Pipeworks because it was an opportunity for me to focus on myself and to be healthier. I wanted to get back into a consistent schedule because that’s what being back in the workforce is like,” said Sharon McGuire a graduate from Session 53. “When I first entered the building, the front desk staff members were so friendly. They greeted us and gave us assistance in filling out first-time waivers. During our workout sessions, I often used the treadmill. While I spent most of the hour on this machine, I reflected a lot because it reminded me to keep my goals in perspective. I had so much fun during this time and felt extremely rejuvenated after I finished my workout.”

Sharon continues to strive towards her main three goals: to keep her recovery, secure permanent housing, and to see her daughter graduate from high school and enter college. “I truly needed this program because it’s part of my recovery process. The process encourages us to make time for ourselves and Fitness Wednesdays allowed me to do that. I highly recommend Pipeworks!” said Sharon.

Pipeworks makes it possible for her to continue on our journey towards a positive and healthier lifestyle.


How to Climb 5.12 Clinic

Home of Partner Parties and On-sight Nights, The Studio Climbing staff can’t help but invent and host one-of-kind events and clinics tailored for its loyal climbers. The latest is a “How to Climb a 5.12” series brought to you by the legendary Charles “Swoll Chuck” Chang of Great Western Power Company. The first (and only so far) 5.12 clinic at the Studio is a series of three specialized classes geared to address and improve the skill level of avid climbers aiming to pass the 5.11-5.12 threshold more efficiently and with more control. Going into the first session, all of the students had everything they needed to climb harder, including capability, desire, focus and intent and strength. So what was preventing them from climbing 5.12s? That’s what this class was created to answer.

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Charles said the clinic wasn’t about training for power or endurance because these climbers were capable doing that on their own. Rather, he focused on helping the students recognize their climbing inefficiencies by feel and finding ways to make it better. “Toward the end of the class, students were able to not just better recognize where they were inefficient after they have climbing something (to the top), but knew before making a move so they can find different ways,” says Charles. He also went over beta for sending a route that weren’t exclusive to climbing, such as breathing techniques used for deep water diving to improve lung capacity and keeping a low heart rate.

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“Breathing was cool!” says Logan Cummings. “We went over remembering to breathe during hard sections and the importance of breathing to aid recovery during rests.” Logan also mentioned he learned to stay mindful about his climbing, like when to slow down, be aggressive or dyno past a crux. “The hard thing for me was to slow down and back off if I was climbing sloppily.”

For student Eric Andersen, concentrating on perfecting each move was the most challenging part; he worked on focusing on individual moves rather than just making it to the top. “I never paid much attention to the tension being created when climbing between my arms and legs, but Charles was able to explain this concept very clearly and taught me how to use it to my advantage,” says Eric. “I'm not just grabbing holds and climbing blind anymore, but studying the route, making precise, purposeful moves.”

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Charles had the team of climbers practicing holding still poses on the walls and making solid, thoughtful moves on bouldering problems before roping up on 5.12s.
“I had little problem with the start, a tricky compression move when we bouldered it,” says Logan. “But as soon as I roped up I was flat unable to make it. Charles worked with me on the rest of the route, which I got good practice on, and got super pumped. Later he had me try the start again off rope, still pumped, and I was able to do it again without difficulty. This was a good demonstration of the power of your environment, set, setting, etc. to affect your performance. I'm working on that.”

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Student Racquel Esqueda said everything she thought she knew about climbing was readdressed in the clinic. She said she grew frustrated at times, catching herself slipping into old habits and the urge to just make it to the top rather than embrace Charles’ static-versus-dynamic climbing methods. “What I learned is that there is no magic class that will instantly transform me into a better climber, but Charles offers a unique style of climbing that has been eye-opening for me.  If I am able to forget everything I know and focus on developing the skills offered, I can see myself getting over the ceilings that I set for myself.  Before I felt that I should be improving, but I was spinning my wheels climbing the same way on the same grades, but now I see how I am climbing and why I am stuck at the same grade and why The Studio Climbing is a great place to practice these new techniques.”

This clinic is offered at The Studio Climbing in San Jose and Great Western Power Company in Oakland. Stay tuned for the next clinic date. 

Beyond the 100th Chalkbags

The Touchstone community fosters a number of great projects from climbers. Recently, Andrea Jensen started Beyond the 100th, a company that produces climbing chalk bags.

Jensen, a seven year veteran at Berkeley Ironworks, climber began making the unique style of Beyond the 100th chalkbags in early 2013.

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Using material from old synthetic and down jackets, Jensen sews together stylish and functional chalk bags. “I wanted to have a unique style and just happen to wear puffy coats,” said Jensen. “I garnered feedback from a few friends who are designers for outdoor clothing companies and they loved the idea

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The locally crafted bags have gathered a solid following in the Bay area climbing community with climbers in the south and north part of the bay climbing at Cosumnes River Gorge, Castle Rock and across the state with the bags. Jensen has been able to see her hard work in action. “Its a proud moment knowing that I took an idea and saw my idea through the design,” said Jensen, “sourcing of all the materials and finding someone that could sew the bags locally for me! It's been a lot of fun, but a lot of work “

Beyond the 100th refers to beyond the 100th meridian or longitude. “This signifies the American West and where we find adventure in the outdoors,” said Jensen. “Coincidentally this is also the name of a Wallace Stegner book about John Wesley Powell's trek down the Colorado River.”

The bags area available through Beyond the 100th Facebook page where she posts pictures of the bags in action.

Mike Papciak: Climber and Bodyworker

Mike Papciak, a well-known Bay Area climber and bodyworker, has been a longtime member of the Touchstone community. Born in Detroit and growing up in Atlanta Georgia, Papciak traveled and climbed across the western United States before arriving in 1992 at Diablo Rock Gym Manager Hans Florine's Bay Area home. Mike has climbed for more than 30 years and has helped climbers with their bodies for the past six. He spoke with the Touchstone blog about climbing and bodywork.

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John Vallejo snapped this photo of Mike climbing at Mortar Rock

When did you start climbing?

1983 during the Atlanta years. Westerners might not know it, but Atlanta is in fact a great climbing town. I wish I had more time there.

How did you start climbing?

My high school youth group took a bus trip around the U.S. after freshman year. This included a few days in Yosemite. I saw dudes bouldering in Camp 4 and that was it. We also hiked Half Dome and looked over the edge and that was it, too. I went back home and used the Rockcraft books and the Sierra Club book that was shot at Indian Rock, and taught myself how to climb from those. Mostly bouldering, because there were some funky jungle-covered boulders within biking distance. Usually I climbed alone, no pads, just me and the skeeters. This is probably how I fell in love with The Move. Eventually I found a couple partners and mowed enough lawns to buy some Goldline, a Whillans harness, and some hexes. There were no gyms and we were always keen to climb, so we did weird, nerdy stuff like free-solo skyhooking on the sides of brick buildings, rappelling off the high school at midnight, lots of buildering and traversing on retaining walls. A couple times a month we could take the car and the rain would stop and we'd get out to the excellent crags of North Georgia, Alabama, Chattanooga, etc. My first love has always been bouldering: simple, powerful, social, solitary. I'll never quit.

What are some of the highlights from your climbing career?

France in 1993. I spent a month there, mostly at Ceuse, which is one of the best and most gorgeous crags in the world, at a time before internet media, when little was knowable in advance about these almost-mythical places. Most of the homies who went to France back then did so with a crew of other Americans. They'd rent a house and a car together, climb with the same partners they climbed with at home, and have lots of bickering and drama. Fine and good, but I wanted the cultural sink-or-swim experience, so I went alone, took a train down south from Paris, hitchhiked to the crags (I got an epic ride thru the Hautes-Alpes in a convertible Maserati), and climbed with random Euros. I did some 7c onsights and a few 5.13s in a couple tries each. Brilliant routes on immaculate rock in an exotic setting. Hueco in the late 80s/early 90s was another highlight: open, empty, and quiet. A secret that hadn't been spoiled yet. You would actually be psyched to run into other climbers in the park, because it was so rare, and because it was so cool to run into other climbers who came all the way to west Texas to go bouldering. Like meeting members of the lost tribe. My indoor highlight was winning a couple comps in the mid-90s, which showed me that people who were too cool to talk to you beforehand would come up to you after you won, and kiss your ass -- lame! Locally, my highlight is the second ascent of The Kraken at Mortar in March 1997. Over thirty years of climbing, my first ascent record has been undistinguished: a couple forgettable routes in Arizona and a few eliminates on the local choss around the Bay Area, the best of which is probably Hoop Dreams -- all five feet of it. I'm noticing that all my highlights are from last century! Hilarious and pathetic. Time to go climbing.


Mike doing body work in Berkeley

What do you do for work?

I'm a bodyworker. The paperwork says "massage therapist," and that term is correct if you want to use it, but there's some baggage around the word "massage" that I don't like, and it also suggests an approach and style of working that's different from what I do. The term bodywork has been in use for a few decades and I like its literalness: I work on bodies. I work with all of your contractile and connective tissue -- muscles, fascia, tendons, ligaments -- to unravel the stored tension, adhesion, and neuromuscular dysfunction that we naturally accumulate with the stress and exertion of modern life. I help with pain or discomfort if you're injured chronically or acutely; I help optimize performance if you're a performing artist or athlete; and I help give you more ease and relaxation in your body. Working closely with different kinds of people and their experience of embodiment is truly special. I love it. My practice is diverse: in a given week, I might see a pro climber, a retiree training for the AIDS ride, a computer professional with hand and wrist problems, a choral singer who needs more ribcage mobility, a yoga teacher, an exhausted parent or two, and a couple folks who are refugees from mediocre massage and want some expert, precise, thorough bodywork, and deep relaxation. I also teach individuals and corporate groups how to self-treat their own aches and pains. I call this muscle hygiene: just like brushing your teeth, you can, in a few minutes' time maybe twice a day, live with less pain, more comfort, and better performance. Take care of your musculature and you will reap astounding benefits.

How does bodywork apply to climbing?

One of my basic messages is: your body's probably not as injured as you think it is. But it needs maintenance. Maintenance takes time, effort, and money. Many climbers and other athletes come to see me after months of despair over what they assume is some kind of slow-healing tendonitis or joint-related problem. Often it turns out that the tendon healed long ago, and the joint is undamaged. Their lingering pain, weakness, and restriction comes from adhesion, dysfunction, and compensation in the surrounding neighborhood of contractile tissue. When those areas are restored to full functionality, the supposed tendon problem dissipates. Another basic message is: even the good stuff makes us tight. This includes our exercise -- climbing, running, even yoga. It's not that these things are bad, or as climbers like to say, "hard on the body" -- our bodies evolved beautifully to do things like run and climb. Instead, where many of us blow it is in the aftercare. We don't do that maintenance. We might do a hasty warmup, throw a few stretches at our hamstrings now and then, and do some pushups, and think we're being all sophisticated and preventing injury. Those pushups won't do anything to release tension from overloaded and imbalanced shoulders. And stretching can actually make us tighter. (This is not to be confused with yoga, which is so much more than stretching. Yoga is one of the best technologies I have encountered for staying healthy in your body, and it is a shoulder re-education like no other. I predict that in the future, yoga will be considered essential cross-training and injury prevention for climbers.) What's missing from many climbers' programs is release work. This is my generic term for therapies that release tension and adhesion in the musculature: bodywork, massage therapy, chiropractic, self-treatment with foam rollers and other tools, etc. I'll leave you with this thought: A tight muscle is a weak muscle. It takes much more effort to use a muscle that's stiff and dysfunctional than to use a muscle that's pliable and responsive. Tight muscles are also slower, less coordinated, and more prone to tearing, spasm, and injury. An athlete who's not getting regular release work from a practitioner and/or doing it on their own is hobbling their performance. Loosen up!

Has climbing helped with your bodywork, and has your bodywork helped with your climbing at all?

Yes in both directions. They're great cross-training for each other. Climbing keeps me strong for working on bodies. Working on bodies five days a week is a kind of manual labor, so after some years of decline, I'm getting stronger again. Now I just gotta take a climbing trip!

Find out more on, and Like Mike Papciak Bodywork Facebook to ask questions and receive occasional content about bodywork and your health.

Summer Membership at Touchstone Climbing

There's just something different in the air. Spring has already sprung, graduate students are looking even more stressed out than usual, and the Tioga Pass is about to open. This could only mean one thing, SUMMER IS HERE!

Over at Touchstone land, we know that summer is a time where everything happens a little differently. Perhaps you're a student back in town for the summer, or a teacher who final has a little 'YOU' time. Whatever the reason, we've got an awesome deal on NOW. 

Presenting... our 3 month Summer Membership. This pre-paid special membership is available now at every Touchstone Climbing gym. Stop by, check it out, and make the most out of your summer! 


Member of the Month: Brad Sandoval

There are often times in life when you enter into an assignment or situation believing that you know exactly how something will turn out, only to find many surprises along the way. These unanticipated circumstances may bring stress to set deadlines, but in the end may yield very exciting and unexpected results. For example, take the story of this month’s member, Brad Sandoval.

When you first lay eyes on Brad, it seems natural to categorize him as a formidable presence with an overwhelmingly serious demeanor. Off the mat, he is a humble and approachable man living with no computer and making time for the things closest to his for Jiu-Jitsu and enjoying good food.

As the deadline for my story quickly approached, I anxiously checked my email time and time again only to find nothing there. The questions I wrote remained unanswered, and I watched as April was drawing to a close. I almost felt as if the interview would never come to fruition, and THEN THEY CAME!! Brad showed up at the last minute of the last day before the end of the month with 9 pages of torn out yellow notepad paper with his handwritten responses. Each answer was crafted with a genuine heartfelt explanation that could only be attributed to someone who loves what he does. In this case, it was talking about Jiu-Jitsu with you and I, the readers. I can guarantee that once you read the interview, you will want to know more about this man, Brad Sandoval, and the martial art that he holds so dear to his heart. His experience, knowledge, and instruction is offered to you weekly just for being a member at Sacramento Pipeworks! Stop in, take a class, and say “hello”.

Brad Sandoval Image 2Bove: What does a typical Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class consist of and what can I expect if it were my first experience with the sport?
Sandoval: A normal practice session is 1 ½ hours, including a 10-15 minute warm-up/stretch incorporating many of the same movements we use in Jiu-Jitsu, followed by 30-45 minutes of instruction/practice with a partner, aka “drilling”. The last 30-45 minutes we “roll”.

Bove: How would I prepare for the class from a fitness perspective?

Sandoval: As far as physical preparation, I would suggest being well hydrated, because you will sweat! Aside from that, having an open mind and willingness to learn would be at the top of my list. Jiu-Jitsu is like chess in the way that you first learn how each piece moves before you develop strategies to checkmate other players...or a musical instrument where, you practice scales and chords repeatedly to develop mind and muscle memory; with enough practice, you can create music.

B: Is it something suitable for all ages and abilities?

S: Jiu-Jitsu is for all ages, however, at Sacramento Pipeworks we only offer classes for adults. Hopefully, in the future we will expand to offer classes for children. That being said, if a young person is mature enough to take the class they are welcome.

B: Would it make a difference if I wore normal workout clothes, or is there something specific that I should wear to class?

S: We practice with both the Gi (Kimono) and without Gi. For example, shorts and T-shirts. (Please check our class schedule for “Gi” or “No Gi” specification, days and class times.)

B: Is there a martial arts lifestyle and/or philosophy involved in the culture of the practice?

S: When you learn to see Jiu-Jitsu as a whole, you learn to accept a victory or defeat, to forgive your adversary, and to be more humble and balanced.

B: From a historical standpoint, can you tell us more about Jiu-Jitsu and its origin? What makes Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu different from other styles?

S: Mitsuyo Maeda was a Judo expert and a member of the Kodokan Judo Institute in Japan, and a student of Jikoro Kano, Judo’s founder. Unlike many members of the Kodokan Judo Institute who believed that the art should be demonstrated mainly through teaching and performing Kata, Maeda advocated demonstrating through actual combat. While Judo tends to focus more on throws and takedowns, Maeda’s style highlighted grappling in which Maeda was a specialist adding his innovations and philosophies. Maeda would compete in challenge matches against fighters from around the world, where he was more often than not the smaller combatant. Eventually stories spread of a smaller Asian man defeating larger, stronger opponents of many disciplines,including boxing and wrestling with little effort, rightfully earning Maeda the nickname, Mr. Impossible. Maeda traveled the world making a living through Judo demonstrations and prize fights.
In 1914, Maeda arrived in Brazil where he was befriended by a politician named Gastao Gracie, who at the time was helping Japanese colonies migrate to Brazil. Out of appreciation, Maeda offered to teach Judo to Gastao’s 14 year old son Carlos, who would in turn teach his brothers. Maeda not only passed along his techniques, but also his philosophies on combat. These techniques and philosophies would lay the foundation for Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. The Gracie family would go on to reveal the mysteries of Jiu-Jitsu to the world. Mitsuyo Maeda would never know the impact he made by giving us the gift of his martial art. THANK YOU MITSUYO MAEDA!

B: Where did you study and who was your mentor throughout the years?

S: I began practicing Jiu-Jitsu with Gi in 2001 in Wildomar, CA under then brown belt and great instructor, Jeff Bolton. That gym closed around 2003, so I began training No Gi (without Gi) Jiu-Jitsu, Muy Thai Kickboxing, and wrestling under UFC & Pride Fighting Championship Veteran, Chris Brennan of Next Generation Fight Academy in Temecula, CA until 2005. In 2005 he moved his Academy to Texas, which was unfortunate for my training. It was at this time that I decided to move back to my hometown of Sacramento, where 2003 World Champion professor Cassio Werneck runs his Academy in Citrus Heights. I have practiced at Cassio Werneck’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu academy from 2005 to the present.

B: How and when did someone with your experience and competitive prowess come to be an instructor at Sacramento Pipeworks?

S: About 2 years ago, my friend and fellow student under Cassio Werneck, Wayne Gregory (AKA the white Dave Chappelle), whom I am sure that many of you know from climbing here at Sacramento Pipeworks, asked if I would be interested in teaching here. I said, “Absolutely!” and was introduced to Vaughn Medford, General Manager Extraordinaire of the greatest gym in the world! The rest is history.

B: Do you have any rewarding moments and/or stories about yourself that you can share with us?

S: Some of my most rewarding moments include seeing my students improve and reach their goals.

B: What time/day can we join your class, and how many other people are normally present?

S: We have class Monday-Friday at 6 PM. An average class has 5-10 Jiu-Jitsu players give or take, and growing.

B: If you could be any type of animal, what would you be and why?

S: I would be a Na’vi (Avatar) cool would that be?!

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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! 


Save San Francisco Climbing

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In early April The SF Park and Recreation department shut down climbing at the 'localest of local' crags, the Beaver Street Wall and Glen Canyon. While a reasons are unconfirmed, we are hoping to work with Bay Area Climbers Coalition, Access Fund and other local climbers to help re-open these areas.

Bay Area climbers Matt Ulery and Tresa Black have been working with the Parks and Rec department to set up a meeting and discuss how the climbing community can work with the city to preserve and protect these areas. "Sure it's small crag," said Ulery. "But if we let the little ones go, then what happens when a larger area is threatened?"

Touchstone Climbing has created post cards with the following text that are available at Mission Cliffs and Dogpatch Boulders.

I am concerned about the proposal to eliminate or prohibit rock climbing activity at Beaver Street Wall and Glen Canyon. Recreation in urban environments like San Francisco is limited, almost non-existant for rock climbers. These are valuable resources to the climbing community. Whether reported complaints are substantiated or not, the climbing community is as firmly against any form of modification to the rock or the associated environment as anyone. We can be part of any solution, if there really is a problem. Please don't restrict rock climbing at Beaver Street Wall and Glen Canyon.

We will be collecting completed cards to present to the Parks and Recreation Department. Please consider stopping by the gym to express your support and try to keep responsible outdoor climbing in San Francisco a reality! 

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Never been to the crag? Check out the description from Mountain Project:
Located in the city of San Francisco, this area is part of the San Francisco Parks system, so access is not a concern. You're in San Francisco, so the weather can be wonderful, but is most likely going to be foggy and windy. This small area holds some interesting climbing on very glasslike rock, that can be quite tough on the hands, and in places almost impossible to smear. On the harder routes, if you can find it a grip, finger hold, nub, anything, you'll probably need it.

This crag contains some great balancy moves, despite it's limited number of climbs. The area holds several climbs that are topropeable, and also several could potentially be climbed trad, though it would be a frightening lead on the tougher routes. To setup a toprope, walk around the left side of the rock and climb the loose rock in the trees for 20 feet or so. This will lead you to fence and a path, which will lead up to some rusty (but solid) chains that are directly above the main crack. Conceivably you could also top rope other sections using the fence for an anchor. If you're not comfortable with the 20 ft scramble and traverse over potentially slick grass and mud, the chains can be reached via a staircase and walk that ascend toward the Randall Museum about 5 or 6 houses south from Beaver Street. Just bear right as the Museum comes into view above the tennis courts.

Big Day Climbing Tips

The spring season brings longer days and bigger plans for many climbers. Moving faster and more confidently on big days requires a bit of strategy, planning and preparation. If you're getting ready for a big Yosemite climb, here are a few tips to make things move smoother.

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Fuel Well- Many climbers eat big dinners the night before a big climb. Packing in all that food makes sleep difficult and eating in the morning becomes a chore.  A better approach is to eat a large lunch and then eat lightly at dinner. Sleep comes easier and in the morning, you'll wake up hungry and able to digest food for the day. While climbing, eat light foods when leading.  Energy gels and shot blocks digest quickly.  When you have a chance to rest, eat some real food like a nice sandwich.  Give your body plenty of time to digest.  Make sure you are eating and drinking after each pitch.  

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 Move Efficently- Diablo Rock Gym manager, Hans Florine offers some of the best advice for big days of climbing. "Start off fast, just won't last.  Start off slow then go, go, go!" Running to the base of a climb, or bolting up the first pitch sounds like a great idea for getting up a route faster but this strategy will tire you out quickly.  Climb slowly and be efficient.  Having a plan before blasting off the ground can save significant time and prevent problems.  Most epics come from poor decision making.  Give your plan some thought before executing.  30 seconds of thought can prevent you from an hour of epic. 

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Look at the weather- Knowing when to go for your climbing objective can be crucial for success.  A slight chance of rain can be ok if you are comfortable with bailing. The clouds can provide a pleasant relief from the blistering sun. Avoid climbing in the middle of the day, if warm. Good temps make climbing easier. Make sure to make the most of them. Mid day heat can be exhausting. The sun will burn the stoke right out of you. Check the route the day before for conditions and know what they mean. A dry route but snow on the top might translate into a very wet climb the next day. I made that mistake this morning. From the meadow, El Cap looked perfectly dry but the next morning, it seeped again. Whoops! The 3:30 alarm was a few days premature!

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Be Comfortable- Become confident in your ability to bail. Not that you want to bail but bailing should be a non-issue. Knowing that retreat can be quick and easy is relaxing. Be confident on the terrain as well. Knowing that you can easily dispatch all of the pitches makes any impending storm easier or difficulty easier to handle. Learn to get off your hips at each anchor. Hanging in a harness will wear your body down. Take every chance you can to escape harness rash. Rest on ledges and then push through hanging belays. Being efficient at belays and making quick changeovers will help minimize your time hanging in your harness. Sometimes it takes longer to go down than to go up. Be comfortable with either.

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 Have Fun- Chances are you're in a beautiful place high off the ground with a good friend. These experiences are few and far between. Enjoy the moments that you get out climbing. Having a good attitude and keeping morale high will help things move significantly smoother.

Mesquite Trip Report

Touchstone Blogger, James Lucas checks in to recount about his recent trip to Mesquite Nevada.

Located between Las Vegas and Zion, Mesquite offers perfect limestone climbing between the two sandstone meccas. For the months of February and March, I traveled in the area, sampling many of the best crags and bouncing between the long sandstone route of Las Vegas and the splitter cracks of Zion.

The desert surrounding Mesquite contains a few different climbing areas. The VRG resides a few miles east of the town. The Cathedral and Wailing Wall sit twenty minutes north east from town as do the Gorilla Cliffs and Black and Tan Wall. Each area offers a vastly different experience.

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Dan Mirsky works on Route of All Evil at the VRG

The Virgin River Gorge provides roadside cragging on some of the best limestone in the United States. The VRG holds a high concentration of difficult sport climbs from 5.12 to 5.14 and was one of the primary haunts of Touchstone Stock Boy Scott Frye. The crimpy, technical nature of the climbing combined with the bold style makes the area difficult. Perhaps more bothersome at the crag is the highway. Sitting above a four lane highway with semi-trucks barreling down, hearing your climbing partner yell above the noise proves to be one of the cruxes of the climbing experience. Despite the noise, I managed to eek out the two 5.11 warm-ups at the crag and then injured myself by falling out of a heel-toe cam. Whoops! I spent a fair bit of time punting on the classics before realizing that the VRG was a great place to project difficult climbs but not the best place to have a fun and leisurely day of rock climbing.

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Mary-Kate Meyerhoffer cruises up Pocket Line at the Wailing Wall

The Cathedral and Wailing Wall provide a significantly better setting. While the rock quality pales in comparison to the VRG, the areas host a variety of sport climbs from 5.10 to 5.14. I spent the majority of my time climbing on the more technical Wailing Wall as apposed to the steep cave of the Cathedral. The limestone edges strengthened my fingers. Getting to the crag is a bit of an ordeal as it involves driving from Mesquite to Beaver Dam then continuing on a small highway to ten miles of dirt road and an arduous forty minute hike to the crag. I spent the majority of my time climbing at this area with the goal of climbing all the 5.12 and under routes at the Wailing Wall. I accomplished my goal but not without breaking a few holds, lowering off slung limestone horns and doing enough on route gardening to make Martha Stewart impressed.

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Matt Pincus cuts loose at the Black & Tan Wall

Beyond the VRG and the Cathedral area, the climbing around Mesquite has a number of smaller often overlooked crags. The Black and Tan wall offers VRG quality limestone in a significantly more boulder style. The routes required ballistic power. As do the short route of the Gorilla Cliffs. Just outside of town is an area known as Lime Kiln Road. The Grail, which is a large limestone diamond, sits a few minutes outside of town and has a number of longer, slabby sport pitches. Exploring each of these areas provided significant adventure. I found little to no information on the routes at the Grail Wall and did a fair bit of vision questing, hoping that the routes I climbed on would not prove to be over my abilities.

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One of the best camping spots ever is located on the BLM land outside of Beaver Dam

While the limestone is awesome around Mesquite, the town leaves something to be desired. The town sits on the time change of Nevada and Utah. One moment the clock reads nine am and the next moment it says 8. The constant time change coupled with the casinos gives the town an odd, broken feel. Mesquite offers amenities in terms of a large Walmart, a decent grocery store and a number of bad Mexican restaurants. The public library provides the only free Wi-Fi and the aquatic center in town sells $5 showers.

Overall, the climbing around Mesquite is some of the best limestone in the states. The variety as well as the density of a number of the crags makes it an awesome fall through spring destination.

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