Ten years ago, on my first trip to Squamish, I free soloed up a 5.11 slab route on the Apron thinking it was 5.8. I got 1/3 of the way before some helpful Canadians turned me around. Two weeks ago, I free soloed up a 5.10 on the Apron thinking it was 5.7. I was 1/3 of the way before some helpful Canadians turned me around. Again. There's a lesson to be learned from these experiences.
Ryan Moon on Black Water 5.12a at Pet Wall and Jens Holsten on Sentry Box 5.12a at Nightmare Rock
This summer I spent 5 weeks in the Canadian climbing town, repeating boulder problems and routes that I had done on my first trip to Squamish. The differences between the 22 year old James Lucas and the 32 year old version seemed small. Ten years ago, I slept in a cave behind the campground. This time I bivied in my new minivan. My first trip, I fell leading Pipeline, a 5.10d offwidth on the Squaw. This time, instead of going 30 feet onto a number six and a wood block, I climbed it like a hero. I laid it back on toprope. In the previous decade, I told bad jokes in the back of my friends truck. This time, I did a 5 minute standup show at YukYuks in Vancouver. Here's a video of the ceiling while I do my routine. I was older, fatter and a little more experienced.
I used to sit in Tim Schaufele's truck and tell jokes. Here he attempts Division Bell 5.13d at Chekamus
I repeated a few routes in better style. I climbed Dancing in the Light, an 11b slab route on the Apron, with Alex Honnold in 2006. He rope gunned me up the route. This time, I swung leads and led the crux pitch. The scary friction climbing felt a bit easier. I toproped Flight of the Challenger on my second try, a route that had taken me 13 tries to send 10 years ago. I repeated Tea Bag Undies, which is a contender for one of the hardest V4s in Squamish. I climbed Freeway a couple of times, and did a 90 meter pitch of 5.11+.
Kevin Daniels climbs the first 5.11 slab pitch on Dancing in the Light
One of the best parts of any Squamish summer is hanging out with the other climbers. Touchstone represented with Ryan Moon, Lauryn Claasen, Jordan Shackelford and Diane Ortega all coming to hang out in Tim Horton’s and eat way too many donuts. The posse of climbers in Squamish is always fun, and I got a chance to hang out with some good old friends and make some new ones.
I climbed Timeless a few years ago. This summer I went out there with Alex Honnold, Stacey Pearson and photographer Michael Pang to do it again. I had dinner at the brewery with Alex for his birthday. It was the third time we had a birthday dinner for him at the brewery.
The weather in Squamish stayed fairly moderate for most of my trip. There was a few days of rain. Towards the end of the month, the rain became horrendous and so I left for Smith rocks. I guess the good friction and features of the granite come at the cost of having to deal with wet weather sometimes.
Hand fanning at work in the boulders of Squamish.
Ten years ago, I downclimbed Unfinished Symphony and found Diedre. This summer I down climbed Two Scoops of Delicious and found Banana Peel and the Squamish Buttress Light. There’s a lesson to be learned from these events, how I’ve changed over the past ten years. I just don’t know what it is.
Ryan takes on his nemesis, the Crescent
Sneak peek Friday! ...That's a thing, right?
Behold the juicy innards of what will soon be the largest bouldering only gym in Southern California! Climbers at our Hollywood location will have over 11,000 sq ft of climbing at their disposal. We're excited to also offer an additional training and fitness area for programing, classes, and getting swol.
We're excited about the natural light the the building provides, as well and the open layout. We are currently in the design phase of the project, and our team is working with Walltopia to create some never before seen bouldering terrain at this location. Get psyched people!
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Recently, Andrew McAleavey sat down with the Touchstone blog to talk about his experience with climbing and Cerebral Palsy. The Berkeley Ironworks Kid's Camp director will be at the American Physical Therapy Association’s pediatrics conference in St. Louis to discuss how cerebral palsy affects muscle development. Read a bit about his climbing experience.
“I don’t...I don’t know if I’ll be able to climb, but…but I just wanted to look around and…”
The man at the desk has long, dirty-blond curls and a strangely compelling gravitas. He looks past my stammer-babble, regards me with a kindly intensity, and says, sure, I’m welcome to have a look — as long as I stay off the blue mats. This is my second time at Berkeley Ironworks; the first time, I drove by but was too scared to go in. With permission granted, I wander off, stumble around the gym, and decide that even if I’m never able to climb, the energy of the place is just so good that I want to be a part of it. I come back the next night for intro to climbing.
I have Cerebral Palsy. I’m brain damaged, my leg muscles are too tight and too weak, and my walking is, in a word, funky. There’s still no real treatment for brain damage, so they treat CP orthopedically — physically rearranging the muscles and bones to compensate for the faulty signals from the brain. As a child, my left femur and right ankle were broken, re-aligned, re-set. My hamstring and Achilles tendons were lengthened. My quads were rearranged. Some of the best surgeons in the country wanted to make me better, faster, stronger. They succeeded — and then they ran out of ideas. Cerebral Palsy is a lifelong, non-degenerative condition, but it’s too often considered a pediatric problem. Children with CP often face what George W. Bush once called "the soft bigotry of low expectations.” Adults with CP don’t often get follow-up and fade into obscurity with their ability to move declining. Rock climbing is not on anyone’s list of things that people with CP “should be” able to do.
I was 34 when I walked into Berkeley Ironworks that night, about 18 months ago. I’d spent at least 20 years in physical therapy, the previous 8 years draining my savings to work with some truly innovative physical therapists and athletic trainers. I was bored, and broke, and under orders from my athletic trainer to find something in the fitness world that I really wanted to do. Only then, he implied, would I really progress. Only then would my heart truly be in it.
The first night I tried climbing, with Jerome smiling from the desk at my reappearance and Jeffrey Kosoff belaying and encouraging, I made it fifteen feet up a 5.4 before exhaustion hit. I barely had the range of motion to get my feet on some of the holds, and as there wasn’t enough power in my legs to push up very effectively, I was doing most of it with my arms. I felt pure joy. I was hooked.
It took me a month to finish a 5.4. It took months more for my range of motion to show permanent improvement. I tried harder and harder routes and spent almost every night at Ironworks. I found a partner who knew exactly when to encourage and exactly when to tell the most egregious, hilarious “cripple” jokes I’d ever heard — at my expense. Every night, the desk staff had a nugget of advice, a word of encouragement. The small kindnesses piled up. “Ok,” Dani Kottman warned me one afternoon after volunteering to belay for me in a few minutes of free time, “I’m going into coach mode!” What followed was an incisive and thorough dissection of my technique and everything that needed to be done to improve it.
As I started to take classes—anchors, trad, technique—I realized that some of the staff had biomechanical instincts rivaling those of the best physical therapists I’d worked with. During a trad clinic, Chris Ahlgren realized, without a word from me, that I’d exhausted myself just standing on the cushy flooring for an hour. The next night, for the next clinic, he dropped a thick, hard block of foam in front of me: “Here!” he said, “Stand on this tonight. It should help!” I managed my first 5.10a, then another, then another. I tried climbing outdoors at Cragmont Park in Berkeley. I’m working on a 5.10c now.
I love children, and when I found out that Ironworks was looking for a kids camp director, I applied. The interview was short; the paperwork was handed to me. With no small amount of trepidation, I decided to take the job. I’ve been chasing children around the gym almost every week since. It’s wonderful. “You’re just goofy!” one of the staff members said during summer camp this past summer, “And you’re, like, nine years old!!” Right and right. Sometimes, I worry that I’ll run out of things to teach the kids; I worry that I won’t be able to correctly demonstrate technique for an overhang, or a good backstep. Then I quiet my fears. I show them how much climbing means to me. I show them how much I love them and want them to succeed. Somehow, it works out.
By happenstance, I found a professor of physical therapy in Connecticut who was interested in “long term outcomes” of people like me. I’d been climbing about six months at that point, and as I told her tales, she slowly got interested. First, she asked me to sit on an advisory board for a grant of hers. Then she came to the conclusion that she should study me. We made plans — in March of 2014, a full-on computerized movement analysis, the same technique that had been used to plan my surgeries as a child. In June, my collaborator, Mary, came to visit me, to see and record my climbing and workout routines. Lyn Barraza, the Ironworks manager, was kind enough to give me the run of the gym as an entourage followed me around and recorded my every move. I tethered our photographer on the rappel platform, rappelled down, and climbed back up again. I did every stretch I could think of for the cameras. At this point, all of it was routine for me. I didn’t think about how unusual it might be for someone with CP to do all of the things I was doing until Mary broke into tears watching me walk across the padded floors — and then almost fell down trying to follow me.
In October, I’ll be giving a talk with my two professor-collaborators at a meeting of the American Physical Therapy Association, essentially a master class on exercise and training for climbing for people with CP. The talk begins with the basic science, explains what happens to the structure of muscles in people with CP, and goes from there. The short version: climbing has improved my strength and range of motion, prevented serious declines in function, and kept me extremely happy doing it. In the slides for the talk, I’m wearing my favorite Ironworks shirt — and there’s a huge grin on my face.
Here it is, ladies and gentlemen. The moment all you pebble wrestlers have been waiting for... The Grand Finale of the 2014 Touchstone Climbing Series Bouldering Division! It's been nine months in the making, and over 1000 boulderers from across the state have competed in comps at Berkeley Ironworks, The Studio Climbing, or La Boulders. Saturday will see the same fun-filled competition structure that you've come to know and love, along with a high intensity on-sight finale with the top climbers from the days competition.
Nervous? Never fear! Here is a handy 3 step guide to your Saturday.
1. Get Psyched.
FUN! Seriously. While some people might hear the word 'competition' and get S.A.T. nerves, tranquillo amigo! Putting on Touchstone Comps is our way of saying thank to our members for being awesome. This is a FREE event for Touchstone members. Guests pay ONLY $10. (Which is a screamin' deal) The party, er, we mean open comp, starts at noon and ends at 5pm. You can stop in any time and we'll welcome you with open arms.
Competitors get a score card in beginner, intermediate or advanced categories, and self-score their climbs as the day goes on. Sure, you need a witness, but that's what your spotter is for!
Once you've climbed your brains out, the REAL party starts. Everyone in attendance gets an awesome T-shirt, pizza, and beer from our friends at Triple Voodoo. (21+, duh) There will be raffle prizes, music, photos and all your favorite people.
From 5pm-6pm we'll let the Touchstone Climbing Routesetters work their magic and they hustle to transform the gym into a thunder dome for the on-sight finale. While they are hard at work, we shall be eating and drinking.. and getting psyched!
At 6pm, On-sight finals begin! We will select the top 3 advanced climbers from the series' bouldering comps, and the top 3 climbers from that DAY, to go head-to-head in the finals. There are three finals problems and the top 6 male and female finalists will have 5 minutes for each of them. There is a cash purse of $1,000 for the 1st place man and woman. $600 for 2nd place, and $350 for third. That's no chump change!
Prizes will also be awarded to the overall winner in all categories. So the more comps you competed in, the better your chances of reaching the podium!
2. Come prepared
Don't worry. It's not that hard. If you ignore this step and skip right to #3, we'll still be psyched to see you.... we'll just send you to the back of the line.
To get a score card, you need a 3 letter Touchstone Comp Code. To get a Touchstone Comp Code, you need to register. You can do that here. It's going to look like this:
If you've been to ANY Touchstone Climbing Comp in the past 2 years, then you're already registered! Click 'Lookup' to find your 3 letter code. If this is your first time, don't worry. We'll be gentle. Click on 'Register' and it will be over before you know it. Now's the tricky part. You've got to remember the code, or all this was for naught. If only there was a piece of paper that you needed to bring to the comp anyways that you could write the code on, as to not forget it......
Thank goodness for the waiver. Print it here. Fill is out. Write that code somewhere we can find it and BAM! You're ready to go.
3. Invite all your friends
Seriously, how bummed are your buddies gonna be when they see their feed blowing up with photos of you having the time of your life and you didn't invite them. It's an awkward and avoidable conversation to have. Let the people know! RSVP to the event on the 'book. Post a photo. Hashtag #TCS2014. Call them on the telephone. Do whatever it takes.
By Anthony Lapomardo
The heavily rotted gates that guarded the horse ranch hung haplessly off withered hinges. The car rolled slowly from the pavement to the uneven dirt trail and meandered downhill and into the high grass. Rolling over the first cattle guard, the sounds of 4 stroke engines broke the silence as two cyclists came into view and ripped up the hillside. The surrounding hills showed nothing but stickers and mud, nothing thus far would convince those in the car that they had not been deceived. They had been promised great climbing, steep, fully equipped and north facing.
After another 100 yards of crawling across the uneven dirt, the low belly of the vehicle dragging across high-spots, the car rolled to a stop beneath a sagging oak. Steeping down from the car, the sole of our shoes met the plastic of empty shot-gun shells and crushed BBs. Looking across the way, two beer can snipers were attempting to blow a hole in the side of a Pabst Blue Ribbon with a small handgun, oblivious to our arrival.
Pulling our gear from the car, I led the group down a lightly treaded path that wove into the canyon. Within minutes a large shadow began to block out the heat of the morning sun and pointing into the steep over-hang that shaded our group I introduced Owl Torr.
Rising at a 45 degree, with bright metal chains decorating its face the over-hanging conglomerate crag is the creation of a group of outdoor artisans, who took a largely unusable wall and carefully crafted it into their home crag. The lines that make up the crag range from 5.10d-5.14b/c and require massive upper body strength coupled with elastic-like tendons. The walls made up of a cobbled conglomerate offer stark contrasts to our group of climbers. Each line has an engraved metal plate sitting beneath the opening holds, a personalized marker not found in nature.
Tying in the first climber of our group eyed the wall and began to make her way up the route, plugging into deep two finger pockets and pinches with comfortized thumb catches. The movement pushes her to lose and regain her footing several times as she makes powerful stabs to good holds. Nearing the top she takes an extended stem position and fires for the last two finger slot guarding the chains and finds herself falling quietly into the large void beneath her. Her limbs flailed, swimming through dead air until she stopped at the 5th draw and swung into the wall. The fall broke the tension for the group and the rest of the afternoon was spent addressing the air while pawing for foot holds and stretching their core tension.
Steven Roth above the abyss on Better Than Life 5.13c
Gabriella Nobrega working through The Power of Eating 5.11d
Ben Polanco working through an open project
Wes Miraglio Hell of the Upside Down Sinners 5.12b
Owl Torr is located 25 minutes south east of San Luis Obispo off the 166. The climbing is gymnastic, the scenery always changing, and it is a great spot for those looking for a steep crag, powerful routes and the best outdoor "route setting" available.
For more information check out Mountain Project.
Trip Report: Bagels to Burritos
Part 1, Gunks Edition
By Maxine Speier
The Shawangunk ridge, or the “Gunks,” rises 200 feet above the tree line. The exposed cliffs stretch across the horizon, a swath of white-grey rock. When we are there in early September, most of the trees are still a lush and vibrant green, but within a few weeks, as temperatures drop, the leaves will change to golden yellows and reds and the Hudson Valley will be transformed.
Fall is the best time to climb in the Gunks, while the days are growing shorter, before the first snow comes. Summer’s humidity has lifted and a dry coolness sets in. Leaves crunch underfoot, but the rock is not numbingly cold yet.
Jeff and I drive into New Paltz in the late afternoon. It is the first stop on our road trip, a trip that took shape back in San Francisco, where the two of us (both native New Yorkers) wandered up and down steep hills, eating tightly rolled food truck burritos, talking about the correct way to cook a bagel, and waxing nostalgic for the vibrant change of seasons—the humid summer heat-waves and the winters where the snow is too deep to shovel.
Jeff is a full time route-setter for Touchstone who moved to California from a small town in upstate New York over three years ago. I moved from Brooklyn exactly a year ago. The trip was initially intended as a chance to visit home and see our families, but the more we talk and plan, the more it becomes clear that if we’re going to take any time off from work, it’s going to be to go climbing.
New Paltz, a bustling college town filled with students, climbers, and retired hippies, was founded in the 1600s and lies just east of the Gunks. The prominent cliff line is visible from the main street of town.
“There it is! There it is!” I’m giddy with proximity as I look out at it. Both Jeff and I have been to the Gunks before; it’s where he learned to trad climb when he was an engineering student years before, and it’s where I led groups on hiking trips for my college Outing Club (before I’d ever considered trying to climb).
The familiarity of the ridgeline is a relief. Any trip home is filled with so many little inconsistencies: new businesses that have sprung up, neighbors who have moved away, old-hangouts that have lost their luster, even the faces of close friends and family reflect the time that has passed. But the view of the Gunks is the same as I remember it.
We pop into the local gear shop, Rock and Snow, to pick up some last minute slings and rent a helmet for Jeff, who left his back in California. At the entrance to the shop is a row of cabinets filled with climbing relics. Arranged chronologically, the gear in the cabinets shows the evolution of climbing: pitons, chocks, hexes, cams, different styles of shoes, and rappel devices. The older gear is both impressive and terrifying; it serves as a reminder of how far the sport of climbing has come, and how much creativity and thought have gone into preserving the spaces and the knowledge of a crag.
That first afternoon, with just enough daylight for one climb, we drive from New Paltz to the Trapps parking lot. The Gunks is located in the Mohonk Preserve, a 6500-acre network of fields, hiking trails, and old carriage roads. The Preserve is a non-profit organization founded in 1963 to protect the land and to enter you must either pay a day fee ($17 for climbers) or get an annual pass ($55).
The Trapps is the most popular climbing area on the ridge, and the parking lot gets extremely crowded on weekends. Climbers drive up from New York City (just two hours away) and will sleep in their cars just to be the first on the cliffs. Luckily, we’re there in the middle of the week, and though we see plenty of other climbers, we don’t have to compete for parking. From the parking lot, it is just a quick walk up to the carriage road that runs along the base of the cliff.
Following the flat, gravelly carriage road, you can access roughly 500 routes, as well as some truly excellent bouldering. It is easy to hike to the top of the ridge and set up topropes for some of the climbs, but the Gunks is most famous for its multi-pitch trad routes. Formed of hard quartz conglomerate, the rock features long horizontal striations and cracks. As we walk down the road, Jeff keeps his eyes on the cliffs, looking out for the famous High Exposure (5.6) arête.
High E is a 250-foot, two-pitch climb that has consistently been called the greatest 5.6 in the world since it was first climbed in 1941: a Classic (with a capital C) in an area jam-packed with classics. Having left the guidebook behind, Jeff relies on his memory to find the start. “I think this is the line,” he says and with that he’s off. The first pitch is a straightforward climb up the left of the arête, to a spacious belay ledge. As I follow him, I spot plenty of opportunities to place gear, which is what makes this region so exceptional for people learning to lead trad. Heading up, you can high-step from one horizontal crack to another, finding secure footing and holds as you go, and placing as much protection as you want.
The second pitch of the climb is what everyone raves about. You breathe, step up to the corner of the ledge, and reach for a jug just out of sight to pull yourself up over a roof. As you find your way on the arête, there is air all around you, and the name of the climb clicks in your mind: this is definitely high exposure.
Climbing in the Gunks is beautiful. It is simple, and straightforward, and stunning. The rock is beautiful. The turkey buzzards and hawks that whoosh their wings overhead are beautiful. The trees beneath you are beautiful. And the view that opens up, of forests and fields that stretch out into the distance, is beautiful. Standing up on the expansive belay ledge after the first pitch of High E, you find the kind of beauty you want to soak in and store for later, to draw on when you are stuck in traffic, or having a bad day at work. You want to hold onto the memory of the landscape, and of the rock beneath your fingers.
Over the next two days, as we walk up and down the carriage road, picking out climbs and taking our time on them, as I follow and then finally lead my first trad pitch, and as we hike out with our headlamps each night, I continue to find an exhilarating serenity in the Gunks. This seems like it should be an oxymoron, but is the truth. There is a dizzying, breathless rush to these climbs, even the 5.5s and 5.6s. But there is also a peaceful quietude in the Gunks. The rock looks and feels timeless, and for a few moments, you are a part of that.