Who Says You Can’t Climb in Bishop in June?

By Jon Kennedy 

When planning a bouldering trip in June, climbers usually place Bishop last on their list of potential destinations. For those unfamiliar with Bishop climbing, it is a fall or winter destination if you want those optimal sending temps. I love the look you get when you mention you’re going to the Buttermilks in June. With temps in the 90s and up, leaving climbers running for the shade, Bishop in the summer can be a climber’s worst nightmare. But the sound of no crowds lured a few Average Joe climbers to the high desert in mid-June...

Jon01As we left the Bay Area, we got our last glimpse of city life and the “thrill” of sitting in rush-hour traffic. A few hours later, we reached Yosemite National Park, flashed our annual pass and headed towards the higher elevation of Tuolumne. Seeing the beautiful lakes and inspiring domes of YNP were the perfect primer and helped get us psyched for some granite climbing.

After several hours of driving down 395, we decided to make a short detour in the interest of a little rest & relaxation. The combination of the full moon and the cool evening sky created a perfect setting for taking in the local hot springs.

(NOTE: The springs are easily found right off of 395. Once you see the big green church, continue on for a few miles then take a left and head down the road until you pass the second cattle gate. From here, make a left turn onto an obvious dirt road and park at the turn off. There’s a wooden path that leads you right to tub.)

If you’ve never been to the hot springs off 395, it’s worth every minute of the short drive/approach to be able to relax under the stars and the moon surrounded by the mountains and good friends. After a restful night’s sleep, “Team Average Joes” were off to crush some real rock and see some beautiful sights. But before we headed up to the boulders, we needed to fuel up at Erik Schatt’s bakery – which has good coffee and the best baked goods on the whole East Side. Our first climbing destination was Way Lake, where the high elevation ensures that the temps are usually perfect in June. Since no one in our group had ever been to Way Lake, we didn’t quite know what to expect. After hiking around a bit searching for boulders, we realized we were on the wrong trail without a climbable boulder in sight. Instead of getting disappointed, we shifted gears and ended up enjoying an incredible day of alpine hiking, which satisfied our wanderlust. After a pit stop at Mammoth Brewery, it was back to the hot springs to relax and plan out our next course of action. It was an easy decision to settle on a night session, so we headed towards the Buttermilks, since we knew there were a couple of decent boulders there.

Jon05Night climbing in the ‘Milks is amazing. When you pull up to Grandma and Grandpa Peabody and the whole area is peacefully deserted, you know it’s going be a fun night. We got the pads out and ran towards Grandma Peabody. The back of Grandma has a bunch of skin-friendly jugs to warm up on. After a brief warm-up, we attempted a who’s who of popular Buttermilks moderates, including Go Granny Go and Ironman Traverse, climbs that commonly attract heavy crowds during the peak season. Fortunately, we literally had them all to ourselves. Thanks to our JOBY torches, the climbs were easily lit up, making night climbing very easy and safe. After a few sends and lots of flailing we headed back to town for a good night’s sleep (In a bed; worth it if you want to sleep like a boss).

After another lazy morning, which downtown Bishop accommodated perfectly, we waited out the hottest part of the day with a little yoga and reading at the local park. After the temps started to drop, we headed out for Rock Creek.

Jon08Rock Creek is a special place. Located at 8500 to 9000 ft, there are beautiful granite boulders and a lovely creek flowing with clear water and some happy fish. Finding and approaching the boulders at Rock Creek was a dream. You park your car, walk 5 minutes, and you’re at the first incredible boulder. The rock quality is excellent – smooth granite with aesthetic lines and comfortable holds. We tried a few moderate problems, which required precise footwork and solid technique. Rock Creek bouldering is very similar to what you’d find in Yosemite – very smooth rock, littered with small/slippery feet and not much for handholds. The Rock Creek area doesn’t have vast amounts of bouldering, but what it lacks in sheer quantity, it made up for with its beautiful alpine forest setting. My favorite problem that we tried was called “Groove and Arete”, a fun V4 arête with a big move to an edge and some dicey top-out holds.

Jon10The next day, we again waited out the hottest hours of the day – this time by checking out the local climbing shops. One of my favorite ways to kill time in Bishop is going to Moonlight Gallery and checking out the beautiful pictures from around the world. The gallery also has a few books showcasing climbing history, something every climber these days should look at. The history of this sport has always amazed me. Looking at the pictures of the “Stone Masters” defying gravity without the benefit of guidebooks or modern-day gear has always been inspiring.

Around 3pm we headed to the Milks for an afternoon session. The first stop was the Birthday Boulders, with some fun warm-ups and a pretty stout V3 face climb called “Birthday Direct”, with small crimps and high feet. Because we also had a first-timer with us, I wanted to show her all of the “easier” classics, like Buttermilk Stem, Birthday Mantle, Robinson Rubber Tester, Good Morning Sunshine slab and the Green Wall. Being a first-time climber in the Milks, you realize that even the V0s are hard – very humbling. A perfect example is the holdless slab of Robinson Rubber Tester, which I’ve seen completely baffle and shut down many strong gym climbers. After a fun afternoon of climbing, we headed to the Happys, where big holds and big feet make for some fun gymnastic climbing.

In the Happys, we found a few good boulders with some fun V0 – V2s and just went to town. Our Bishop rookie quickly acclimated herself to the area, topping out 8 or 10 problems in our short session. She liked this style of rock a little better than the unforgiving granite of the Buttermilks. We climbed until sunset and then headed to the Tablelands to setup camp, where we enjoyed dinner before drifting off to sleep under the starlight.

The next morning, after packing up the car, we made another stop at Schatt’s bakery for goodies to bring home, paid a visit to the smokehouse for some jerky, and were on our way.

This was one of my favorite trips to Bishop. No crowds, tons of new sights and boulders, and a lot of time soaking in the springs. Leaving Bishop is always a sad time – your skin is sore, your body is sore, and you realize you’re leaving one of the best spots in California. Keep it a secret, though, people. Bishop is too hot in June. Spread the word.

The California Death Ride with Deborah Georges

Recognized as one of the premier cycling events in America's West, The Death Ride tours California's Alps. The five pass ride includes 129 miles and 15,000+ feet of lung busting climbing. This summer, Touchstone cyclist Deborah Georges completed the brutal race through the Lake Tahoe region. She wrote a bit about the event for the Touchstone blog.

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Bikers climbing over Monitor Pass

First off, if you love bicycling and are looking for a difficult yet doable challenge, the Death Ride is for you, and a must! This was my second time riding in this "exclusive" bicycling event! What draws me most to the Death Ride is that it allows me as a competitive athlete to realistically evaluate how fit I really am, how much power I can generate on my own accord over long distance, and how tough I am mentally to keep my body moving when the going gets unbearably rough.

The Death Ride is a chance in a lifetime experience. Located in Alpine County/the Lake Tahoe Area, the natural environment and breathtaking scenery stand in sharp contrast to urban/city living. Completing the entire 129 mile course entails riding 5 extremely diverse and not-so-easy mountain passes: Monitor Pass (front and back), Ebbetts Pass (front and back), and Carson Pass. Each Pass has a character all its own, making the Death Ride an awe-inspiring, life-changing, unique athletic experience.

The downside of the Death Ride derives from accommodation logistics. Markleeville, where the Death Ride starts and ends, is sparse in lodging accommodation. Because of this, many riders either stay in Gardnerville, Nevada where economy motels are a plenty and yet entail a 45 minute transportation drive to the start come ride day, or vey like heck to reserve a camping site nearby. To manage my personal stress, I chose to park my Toyota Rav4 on route 89 in front of Turtle Rock Park, Headquarters of the Death Ride, and camp inside my vehicle. This is the ideal situation. It makes no sense to go to a motel, when one can easily erect a tent or sleep in one's vehicle free-of-charge right at the start!

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Start times for the Death Ride vary according to a rider's desire. I personally did not want to start off in the dark so I chose to get on the road at the break of dawn slightly before 5:00 a.m. That said, slower or more ambitious riders opt for a 3:00-3:30 a.m. start with the more popular start option commencing between 4:00-4:30 a.m.

Monitor Pass is an ideal route to begin the course. Its road is wide, open on both right/left sides, and not particularly steep. I enjoyed "warming up" on Monitor to get my "climbing legs" primed. The backside descent to Topaz rest stop is fast, technically "moderate" in terms of difficulty, and overall what I label "a joy ride"! Beware, it gets unexpectedly windy flying down Monitor Pass. Regardless of how warm the temperature might seem, the knowledgable rider dons a wind jacket to keep from shivering prior to making the long descent!

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With two mountain passes notched on one's belt, the next challenge becomes the majority of a cyclist's favorite - Ebbetts Pass. Quite distinct from the openly expansive Monitor Pass, Ebbetts is more introverted in the sense that it lies within a forest of sorts surrounded by subtle creeks, calming burbling waters, and aesthetically beautiful tall-trunk trees that indisputably have been digging their roots in the earth's soil for centuries. I encountered absolutely no difficulty climbing Ebbetts Pass quickly, descending the back side swiftly to Hermit Valley, and then climbing back up to the top in order to make a very fast descent to the rest/lunch stop at Wolfcreek by 11:10 a.m.

Wolfcreek lunch stop is pleasurable because it affords one the opportunity to mingle and exchange riding stories with other cyclists. I lunched at a table full of guys who interacted with me and with each other in an enjoyable "we're in this together" way!

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Carson Pass

With four mountain passes tucked securely behind me, I now faced the final "dreaded" Carson Pass. In defense of Carson which largely gets a negative rating from the majority of riders, I came to understand this time around what really sours me from what otherwise would be a positive response to this particular Death Ride pass. Carson, sadly, is not beautiful or aesthetic or naturally attractive. Located on a well trafficked motor vehicle county road, the asphalt is torn up in many parts making it impossible for a cyclist to hold a straight line. In terms of coverage from nature's elements, there is none to speak of. The route up Carson Pass to the end rest stop of the Death Ride is wide open making cyclists extremely vulnerable to the sunshine and heat. Simply put, it's not a particularly memorable experience one will opt to talk about with family and friends in a positive tone after the Death Ride is completed. Knowing that Carson Pass was going to be the most physically challenging for me after having successfully ridden 94 incredibly breathtaking and delightful miles, I determined to reach deep inside myself to tap the final reserves I had left to make it to the top of Carson in strong form!

Indeed, I made it! I accomplished my goal of completing the Death Ride without the Death Ride beating me! At the Carson Pass final rest stop, I ate the traditional ice cream sandwich with a tremendous sense of accomplishment. The ladies "manning" the finish line, hugged and congratulated me not only for having successfully finished, but more so because I was the fifth woman to get to the top shortly after noon among the larger majority of men who dominated the 2014 Death Ride! It's both sad and incomprehensible to me that more women don't aspire to taking on the challenge of the Death Ride. With determination and training, the Death Ride is doable for anyone. It's a chance in a lifetime open to all!

Riding the final 21 miles back to my car stationed at Turtle Rock Park after an exhilarating descent from Carson Pass rest stop, I was astounded to find that I had completed the 129 mile end-to-end course in 8 hours and 42 minutes! If memory serves me correctly, I had completed my first Death Ride saddle time in 9 hours 55 minutes. Imagine knocking off an entire hour two years later the second time around! Woot woot - pom poms furiously shaking!

I wish to thank my sister Wendy, for always standing by me and encouraging my athlete endeavors, my Berkeley Ironworks/Touchstone spinning buddy Marty Kaplan, for both teaching and educating me on how to be a safe and skillful descender, and Pat Ross, an extraordinary competitive cyclist whom I highly admire and would gladly trade places with in terms of strength, skill and ability! These three individuals have served me the most over the years in bringing out the best of me in terms of my athleticism.

Cheers to all, happy safe riding, and get your asses over to the Death Ride at some point - you won't regret it!

DRG Manager Sets Solo Speed Record on El Capitan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Member of the Month: John F. Davis

Member of the Month: John F. Davis

By: Jason Bove

When someone truly cares about themselves and their daily practices, it shines through onto the people that encounter them daily. An interesting human that we see very frequently, because of his practices, is member John F. Davis. He is a gentleman who sees things through the eyes of experience, and is always able to smile and tell you how his day is going. You may have been dazzled by his incredible inversions in a yoga class, or heard him high above you on the climbing wall discussing law and ethics. If there were a way to introduce him to everyone that I know, I would...he is a good friend and an inspiration.

John Davis 1Bove) If you could describe yourself to our readers in a few sentences, what has made you into the man that you are today?
Davis) A great marriage, coupled with steady determination. I have used physical activity to calm and steady myself.

B) Participating in classes such as yoga and rock climbing, you seem to have a very active & healthy lifestyle. Can you tell us about what draws you to these and other activities you enjoy?
D) I like physical activities which are aerobic and use different parts of my body and mind. Having fun and not getting injured are good things. My wife, Chris has been rock climbing for 25 years. I took up rock climbing so that we could do it together.

B) From a professional standpoint, what kind of work have you done/are you doing now that has been enjoyable enough to make a career out of thus far?
D) For more than 30 years I used my law degree to help affluent people. It was rewarding, but incredibly stressful. 14 years ago I switched to doing pro bono legal work to help less advantaged people. I work at Legal Services of Northern California, which is minutes from Pipeworks. I find the work to be very rewarding. I look forward to my work every day.

B) How long have you been a member here at Pipeworks, and how did you find us?
D) I started taking yoga at Pipeworks around 7 years ago. I think I became a member around 4 years ago.

B) Are you a Sacramento native, and what things do you find interesting about this city to keep you living here?
D) I was born in Sacramento. I was raised in L.A. Chris and I moved to Sacramento from Chico in 1984. It is a city that is large enough that both of us can have interesting careers. It is a very diverse place with a wide range of activities we can do.

B) In the past, I have heard you quote Zen Buddhist Monk, Thích Nhất Hạnh. What is it about this teacher, activist, and author that draws you to his teachings?
D) I love his book The Miracle of Mindfulness. It explains in very simple terms how to meditate and maintain an active lifestyle. It has no jargon, and is not trying to sell a lifestyle, seminars, or workshops. It showed me how I could meditate and walk the dog or practice yoga. The mindfulness and meditation make me calmer and allow me to face the challenges in my life more directly and simply.

B) Can you describe some ways you cultivate mindfulness in your everyday life?
D) I practice yoga at home daily, and meditate while I practice. I also meditate when walking and hiking. Meditating while rock climbing , bicycle riding, or practicing law is not possible. Talking about meditation and mindfulness around people who do not practice is not a good idea.

B) I’ve heard you are an avid traveler; what’s next on your list of places to visit?
D) We are going to British Columbia on a fishing trawler for a week in August. We are going to Antarctica in December.

B) How does a “normal” day in the life of Mr. John F. Davis play out?
D) Chris and I get up early and have coffee and talk. I practice yoga for around 20 minutes. I take the dog for a walk. Some mornings I rock climb. Some mornings I ride my bike to work. A little before noon I stop work to go practice noontime yoga. I eat a quick lunch, then return to work. I bike home to Chris and dinner. Chris and I have a second home in Truckee. We usually go there for weekends. We hike, bike, kayak, ski and snowshoe up there. Sacramento is very close to the Sierras, which both of us love.

B) If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
D) I would be a human. We can change and improve our lives and can work on our sense of humor.

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Trip Report: Consumnes River Gorge

DSC02788Consumnes River Gorge is just outside of Placerville, about two hours away from the East Bay. Itching for some more experience trad leading, I ventured out for a climb with my friends Sarann and Kotaro on a sunny Sunday in May.

The approach is a fairly gentle 15-25 minute stroll from the car. “I just wear my flip-flops,” Kotaro said. As a beginning trad leader, I enjoyed the shorter walls, the top-ropeable climbs, and the bolted anchors. 

We climbed Test Piece (picture on left), did some chimney silliness nearby, and struggled on a route called Unconquerable. And then, Dinkum. Dinkum (pictured below) was my first 5.9 lead.

I had climbed it clean on top-rope, and knew that my little fingers worked to my great advantage at the crux, but I still had to rack up quikly and tie in before I lost my nerve. This was a moment when I had to tell myself not to get caught up in insecurities about what grade I felt capable of climbing and to remember that grades are relative— some of the cracks that average dude fingers find difficult to squeeze into are perfect for my petite digits. And so it was with Dinkum. I sent it without a hitch!

My first climbing partner said to me once "If you can climb it clean on top rope, you should lead it." It felt good to decide to do it, pushing past the nervousness. Afterward, it was also good to have a more experienced climber check out my placements, and Kotaro said they were fine. Whew!

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When the noon sun got too hot, we retreated down to the icy cold river to cool our toes. I jumped in and splashed around in the freezing water, but I couldn’t convince the boys to do the same. We made our retreat in the late afternoon, when the mosquitos started biting ever more fervently.

Consumnes River Gorge made for a nice, mellow day of climbing and lounging, and is somewhere I’d even dare take non-climbing friends along. It was nice to get a few more leads under my belt on the less-committing shorter walls. Now that summer’s here and I’ve blown a paycheck on a basic rack, I’ll be roaming farther northward toward Tahoe and Lover’s Leap. And of course, there’s Yosemite looming. Heading out? Take me with you. I’ll climb all the thin pitches.

 

 

 

 

Narinda Heng has been hanging out in Babytown (aka Child Care) at Berkeley Ironworks since 2013. When she’s not doing that or climbing, she is usually found working or volunteering with GirlVentures, drinking Raxakoul coffee, writing, and driving to Los Angeles.

 

  

Crag Etiquette 101

While many find the Climber’s Book of Etiquette to be thin and flimsy, the actual nuances of proper climber behavior are plentiful and important. A faux pas at the crag can mean the difference between getting helpful beta from locals or having them throw rocks at your head. The majority of climbing etiquette comes down to basic courtesy, safety and genial human behavior. For those that need a few extra hints, below are a few extra tips.

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Fun times at Cathedral outside of Las vegas

Minimize Your Impact

Picking up Clif Bar wrappers, climbing tape, and keeping chalk in your chalk bag remain the basic essentials of crag etiquette. Tiny bits of tape easily escape people’s fingers and back packs. As do old tape gloves. When leaving the crag, sweep through and pick up the little bits of debris, the ends of the rope, the banana peels, and other trash. Showing up and leaving trash everywhere is what people do at their parent’s house. It’s unacceptable at the crag. Carefully dispose of human waste. Never use the bathroom underneath a route or boulder problem. That just stinks. When arriving at a climbing area, keep from throwing your crash pads, back packs, and ropes in the vegetation. Stay on trails when hiking to and from the climbing zone. Protecting the climbing area will ensure that people welcome you back.

Turn Down The Volume

Many climbers head to the crags to escape the loud grind of their daily lives. Noise remains one of the most over looked forms of crag pollution. From bumping the latest Miley Cyrus twerking hit to screaming beta, loud climbers affect the people around them. If you want music at the crag, wear headphones. Providing tips on how to do a move on a route can be helpful but screaming them across the wall annoys everyone around you. Know when your beat spray is unsolicited. Not every climber wants to hear the nuances of the route you’ve been projecting for five years. Unless you’re sport climbing at the Virgin River Gorge, where the sound of sound of a four lane highway and jackhammers will drown your screams of “Mono, mono, gaston!,” keep the volume to a minimum. Throwing wobblers, emotional temper tantrums, is never acceptable. It’s just rock climbing. Keep the crag peaceful by turning down your volume.

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This is a climber's truck that exploded due to excessively loud beta spray. Keep the volume down

Know the Area

Every crag has a specific style and etiquette. At some crags, the locals will scald you for breathing through your mouth in a cave. “It increases humidity!” They’ll scream. Other areas, locals will wonder why you forgot to bring the circus of pads, videographers, and production assistants. Know the history of the area and who the locals are. Treating the locals with respect helps avoid problems. Also, be especially considerate when making a first ascent. Gluing, cleaning rock, and bolting are all hugely important to the local community. The majority of climbing guides contain a section on local ethics in the introduction. Read these tiny nuggets and they’ll help you stay out of trouble. Being informed about the area you’re climbing at will help minimize social blunders.

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Ron learns a little about batting practice after a lengthy discussion of local ethics.

Consider Other Climbers

Think about other people climbing on the same routes as you. If you’re out bouldering, put chalk on your hands before you touch the holds. This keeps the rock from getting greasy after you finished your salami sandwich. Brush the holds after you climb and erase tick marks. Most people like the adventure of deciphering a climb. Tick marks can be confusing and an eyesore. If someone is climbing below you on a trad route, be careful not to drop anything or kick loose works. Keep from rappelling onto their heads. Be as organized as possible when meeting other parties on routes, this will facilitate the process of moving around each other. Pick routes or problems that you will be able to climb quickly and efficiently to avoid congestion on popular routes. Leaving a top rope on a climb all day can be serious poor form. If you have a rope on a route, be actively climbing on it. Also, be willing to share anchors with other parties on nearby routes. Separate your gear as much as possible to avoid problems. Being considerate of other climbers will allow them and you to enjoy the climbing more.

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Tyson heads to The Grail to avoid crowds and have a mellow experience.

Be Patient

The most popular routes often have a ton of people climbing on them. If there are other people in line to climb a route, think about trying something different. This goes for climbing long traditional routes as well. Be considerate of the queue. Climb the most popular routes on weekdays to avoid crowds. Climb something different if there are people already on the route. Avoid congestion at the warm-ups by starting your climbing day early. If you decide to climb a route with another party on it, be patient. The climbers ahead of you have the right of way. Keep from chatting too much with the belayer as this often causes them to lose focus and could lead to an accident. Enjoy the outdoors and be patient while you’re out climbing.

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Hayden relaxes on a weekend, going for a bit of a later start to the crag to avoid the crowds.

Control Your Junk Show

Having three crash pads, two stick brushes, and eight chalk buckets directly below the start of a boulder problem aggravates everyone who wants to climb. Keep your climbing gear orderly and in a central location. Keep control of your junk show. If you bring an animal to the crag, make sure your pet is leashed and on good behavior before you take them out. Dogfights at the crag stink for everyone involved. There can be vet bills and general chaos from the fights. If you’re dog is nosing around in other climber’s gear, tie it up. I’ve seen dogs eat climber lunches. This makes for a horrible situation, as there’s nothing worse than a starving sport climber. They get really angry. Just like with human waste, clean up dog poop at the crag and pack it out. If you’re bringing children to the crag, make sure they are quiet and obedient. Crags are dangerous places with rocks and gear falling constantly. Be careful with your children. Keep a handle on your equipment, your pets, and your children to avoid trouble and irritating other climbers.

TCS Comp at LA Boulders

It's that time again! The Touchstone Competition Series, aka #TCS2014, comes to LA Boulders in el corazon de Los Angeles this Friday! TCS has visited a Touchstone gym every month this year, alternating between roped climbing and bouldering. TCS2014 at the LA.B will be a bouldering climbing comp and climbers of all levels and all ages are welcome to come out and compete! That means YOU!

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

1. Know what you're in for

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

On the night of the event competitors pick a score card in beginner, intermediate or advanced categories, and self-score their climbing as the night goes on. Sure, you need a witness, but that's what your spotter is for! Here is the breakdown on the categories.

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Again, YOU pick your category. And don't sweat this either. Say you're being modest, and you register in beginner. But then you have an out-of-body-CRUSHING-experience and send some v4's. NBD homie. You'll be bumped into intermediate and go home a happy camper.

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

What did we tell you?! FUN!

2. Come prepared 

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

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

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If you've been to ANY Touchstone Climbing Comp in the past 2 years, then you're already registered! If you came to the Grand Opening Sha-Bang, you already have a code and are 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. Fax them on a floppy disk while you go for the high score on your Atari. Do whatever it takes. 

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Better Know a Setter: Wes Miraglio

DSC 0203-2They're up with the sun, chain coffee-drinking and working hard to bring you the routes you love to send, project, and crush. 'Touchstone Routesetting' is an industry term for excellence, and each member of the crew brings a little somethin' somethin' to the team. In our ongoing segment, Better Know a Setter, we bring you a closer look at what makes 'em tick. In this weeks installment, we sat down with Wes Miraglio. 

How long have you been route setting?
5 years total, 1 year with Touchstone this September.

How did you get into route setting?
My friend, Chris Bloch. Thanks buddy for giving some punk kid a chance to learn.

What is your favorite gym to set at and why?
Dogpatch and LA Boulders. Yeah, the floors and the boards can be heinous at times, but I think the terrain and layout of the gyms are cool.

What are you route setting pet peeves?
Striped bolts and t-nuts. It's the hate.

What is in your route setting bag right now?
Wrench, harness, drill, charger and extra battery, shoes, chalkbags for bolts and regular chalk, headphones, gri gris, jumar and aider, dogging draw, sweatshirt, extra shirt, shorts, phone charger.

What inspires your routes?
I don't know. I just strip and screw for a living. Seriously. I wish I could say "Oh this route inspires this moves or that problem got me psyched to try this" but I can't. I maybe have a thought then forget it. It's kinda bad.

What is your favorite memory setting with the Touchstone Crew?
The Bishop trip last year. Just don't let Flea get a hold of a BB gun...

Where is your favorite place to climb outside?
Anywhere in California really, specifically Bishop and/Tahoe areas. Hueco is cool, but you have to put up with the restrictions and being in Wanda's World and the rangers. Colorado you have to deal with the snow the attitude of the Boulder climbers. Vegas is a shitshow. I'd say California has it pretty much made. Tahoe, Yosemite, Tuolumne, Eastside, and other areas make it hard on other areas.

What is your proudest send?
You mean something I'm proud of? On a rope it's easily "Warp Factor"( 5.13a) at Donner Summit. But whatever. On to the next one.

What is your advice for aspiring setters?
Ask questions, be open to change. And take credit for your not so good routes. Turds happen from time to time. But in reality, don't ask me. I don't know shit.

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Troop 125 learns the ropes at MetalMark

In May, MetalMark staffer Riley Kane helped Boy Scout Troop 125 work to earn their Rock Climbing Merit Badges. Riley submitted this report to the Touchstone Climbing blog chronically the days adventures.  

Sean, Tiberius, Sunny, Cooper, Liam, Matin, Alex, Christian, Matthew, Darius, Garrett and Cory lined up to take a group photo. Some were pushing each other to get better spots, others were putting their arms around each other. I walked to the middle back as their scout masters claimed the back left and right. Troop 125 closed in around me as if I was apart of the team. Click.

These twelve boys of different ages had just gone through the Intro to Climbing Class taught at MetalMark Climbing and Fitness, slightly amended for Boy Scouts. They learned how to put on a harness, how to tie a figure-eight follow-through knot, how to belay, and how to lower their partner safely back to the ground. Within an hour on the practice ropes they were ready to do the real thing. When I asked for volunteers, some shied away, but four spoke up. I had two of them set up on a 5.6 and the other two set up on a nearby 5.7. After seeing each of the twelve individually belay and instructing them one-on-one, and after each of them got to climb and be lowered without fuss, I was confident they had the knowledge needed to turn their mental skills to practical skills. Pairs of them broke off around the gym trying routes that at first appeared too difficult, but within an hour became possible. As their eagerness overtook my instruction, I knew it was time to set up the rappel line.

I set up the rappel near a 5.6 in the gym. One by one, I called upon each scout to climb the 5.6, set up their rappel, and rappel themselves to the ground while i backed them up. Some scouts had no problem with it. Others needed to practice setting up their rappel on the ground a few times. A few needed to repeat the exercise before grasping the concept. Some rappelled fast, some slow, some choppy, but all made it down. And within a few attempts, the fast, the slow and the choppy became smooth rappels. What more could an instructor ask for? There were multiple boys that came up to ask when they would coming back....

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Riley is seen above leading a MetalMark Outdoors Trip, a program he helped found at MetalMark.

If you've got a great climbing story to share, what are you waiting for?! Email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with trip reports, tales of adventure, or fascinating fresno stories!

Taking Better Climbing Photos

Taking good climbing photos can be quite difficult. Most professional photographers snap around 100 pictures for every 1 decent shot. They spend days scoping lines they want to shoot, finding climbers and aligning everything. For most of us, taking a good picture of our weekend adventure can be fun enough. A few pro climbers offered up tips on making your climbing pictures just a little bit better.

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“Stick with shade or sun but not a mix,” said Eddie Bauer adventure photographer Ben Ditto. Knowing your light helps immensely with photos. Capturing the golden glow of a sunset on the rock makes a low angle slab turn into a beautiful scene but on an even more basic level, stick to one style of light. Mixing exposures creates blown out backgrounds or a difficult to see subject.

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Andrew Burr, a Climbing Magazine photographer, offered sage photo advice for me in Indian Creek earlier this year. “Make sure your fingers not in front of the lens.” After getting that basic down, he told me to be prepared for a day of taking pictures. “Make sure your camera is charged before heading up.” Take the time to order your equipment before getting in position to shoot.

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National Geographic photographer Mikey Schaeffer offered the advice to use the Rule of Thirds. Placing a grid of 3 x 3 squares on your photo, the subject matter should reach the intersection of these. This creates a greater sense of tension in your pictures. Crop your pictures well for Instagram, Facebook or a framed gift for your mom.

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“I want to see the eyes,” said Yosemite photographer Gabe Mange. Capturing your subject's face will add emotion to the scene. Make sure they are looking towards the feature they are climbing. The viewers eyes will follow.

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Ashley

Other good tips include: getting all four limbs and face in a climbing picture. Shoot from above or to the side of the climbing to show where the climber is and what they are doing. Go heavy on the edits. Most importantly, take lots of pictures. Use your SLR, use you’re your point and shoot. Get out there with your iPhone. Snap lots of pictures and you’ll start to make great ones.

Climbing on Everest

Touchstone member and Bay area resident, Gulnur Tumbat spent much of the spring 2014 season on Everest this year. She wrote a bit about her experience for the Touchstone blog.

Getting ready for an 8000-meter expedition is a big deal. It is even bigger for someone like me who has a day job and doesn’t get to climb big mountains too often. Extensive financial commitment, months if not years of mental preparation, time off from work, organization of the life left behind including the apartment and the dog etc for 2+ months… In the midst of this craziness, which I am not doing justice here in any way, one has to be physically training really hard.

Everest Base Camp

Professional mountaineers always say the best way to train to climb a big mountain is to climb big mountains. Period. They are wise. But living a rather “normal” life makes it too difficult if not impossible for someone like me to regularly climb real mountains. Now it was my time to go climb Everest. I am an endurance athlete. I run, bike, and rock-climb. I work out 5-6 days a week. Mostly I run long distances. Aerobically I have been in fantastic shape. Yet big mountains are a different story. You need to be strong, really strong.

Everest from Pumori Basecamp

While searching and trying work-outs to achieve more of that for years in the city, I discovered a boot-camp class very randomly at my climbing gym, which is a full-facility gym with all kinds of classes but none got my attention before. Kristine Rios, the super experienced trainer, knew what she was doing. Proper warm-ups and intense crazy work-outs were capped by proper stretching. I was impressed by how she took every step seriously and paid attention to improper forms if any. She did everything with detail to minimize injuries. Every class she’d come up with something different and interesting for people like me who really wish not to be in a gym. Nothing became repetitive or boring. She has everything for you including some Cross-Fit-like moves without the irritating cultness associated with the name. I was able to observe how much stronger I was getting and felt fantastic after only the first 6-months. I am thankful to her for that.

Climbing Half Dome with James Lucas and Christina Freschl

My toes dangled over the ledge. I pushed against the tiny sidewalk and shuffled with my back against the wall, staring at the 2,000 foot drop. I fought into a chimney at the end of the narrow “Thank God Ledge.” A few more feet and I’d be done being scared, I hoped.

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In June of 1957, Royal Robbins, Mike Sherrick and Jerry Gallwas made the first ascent of the The Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome. Using pitons and tenacity they fought their way up one of the greatest technical rock climbs of the time. The large granite dome remains one of the more difficult rock climbs in Yosemite and an excellent challenge for rock climbers.

The previous day, while I rested and enjoyed riding my bike around the Valley loop, Christina Freschl, a Bay Area teacher and Touchstone crusher, attacked the Cedar Eater, a notorious offwidth boulder problem near Happy Isles. The wide climbing did little to deter the Oakland teacher's psyche and the next morning we biked towards Mirror Lake at 5 am.

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I spent the first two hours complaining about the hike as we marched to the base of Half Dome via the infamous Death Slabs. The trail features a number of fixed ropes and requires hiking through a gully. A large white scar on Half Dome taunts climbers hiking up. About a decade ago, a few thousand pounds of rock came off the formation and smashed into the gully, nearly killing two climbers on their way down. I kept complaining and hiked faster to the base.

A small spring runs seasonly at the base of the route and we filled our water and hydrated. Christina took off on the initial pitches, leading the first large chunk of the climb. The route follows alpine rock with difficult route finding through a short bolt ladder and cracks to a large traverse section. I grabbed the rack and hustled through. Christina had been on the lead for nearly four hours.

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We swung across a series of bolts, climbed a long section of chimneys and kept pulling on gear through the steep Zig Zags. I wanted to climb the route to scope the potential of free climbing the formation later this year. I realized that I was awfully tired from all the hiking and though the Zig Zags were quite good, the hiking left something to be desired. We continued along the top across the infamous Thank God Ledge. I left my aiders on the ground and pulled on gear when I felt like the free climbing was too hard. We topped out the formation in eight hours. As soon as we began the descent, I started complaining about the hiking.

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At the base, a squirrel had attacked my pack, despite my hiding it under rocks. I should have hung it in a tree. We had lost our precious chocolate and nut trail mix. Christina remained in good spirits but I complained as we hiked down the trail. We reached the base in the early evening and celebrated by going to the Ahwahnee bar for dinner. We ate hungrily. Christina headed back to the Bay area the next morning to climb in Tahoe for the weekend and I returned to toiling in Yosemite.

Climbing the route was an awesome adventure with a good friend. Christina got a chance to learn a bit more about jumaring, moving fast over varied terrain and climbing efficiently and I got to complain about the six hours of hiking to the eight hours of climbing we did. And have a great time!

 

Past blog entries can be found at  http://touchstoneclimbing.blogspot.com/

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