By Jeff Blum
As everyone knows the LA Boulders is Touchstone Climbing's newest gym and first in Los Angeles. Not only is this awesome all bouldering gym an amazing facility with great wall angles, climbing and staff, but they also host great events. Over the past months there have been gear swaps, late night climbing sessions, and more.
Recently I sampled one of these events with the clinic called “Climb 2 v Grades Harder”. This was a workshop taught by Douglas Hunter who co-authored the Self Coached Climber. Douglas has a long and distinguished background as a climber and a coach. He brought a unique and coherent approach to optimizing ones climbing by structuring our time spent at the gym. This class was valuable to me as I am trying to push into double digits, as well as for the people that just started climbing last month.
The workshop opened up with a lecture section as we all gathered on the couches atop the top out boulder. After going through some of the material that Douglas provided, he diagrammed up some examples of movement and balance on the LAB’s TV. Then we got down to work practicing and learning some of the workouts we had just discussed.
One of the components of the class was to build a strong base for climbing, ie. being able to consistently climb at a grade on all angles and styles. Having the wonderful facility of the LAB to practice with we were all able to work on exactly what we needed to raise our climbing to the next level. Douglas walked around checking in on everyone providing support and taking questions about how the workouts were functioning.
After putting the workouts into practice we all had a better idea of where our current fitness level was and what we could do to optimizing our workouts moving forward. Douglas brought us together and we powwowed sharing what we had learned with each other. All in all it was a great class that taught me something new, re-motivated me, and was just a heck of a lot of fun. It’s exciting to see that the LAB is not just an amazing facility but is also bringing awesome people and events to the LA climbing community.
Jeff Blum is a member at LA Boulders who took one of the gyms first climbing technique clinic last week. He submitted this review to the Touchstone Climbing Blog. Stay tuned for upcoming clinics and events at LA Boulders on their Facebook Page.
Finding a good climbing partner can be challenging. There’s quite a few people wandering around the climbing community looking for partners. Most of them are great and awesome to climb with but there are a few people who might not be so fun. To weed these people out just look for a few tell tale signs:
1. They have four notches on their Gri Gri- one for every time they’ve dropped someone. If you miss the death marks on their belay device, these partners also have a tendency to spray about their past four hours of accident free climbing.
2. Their quick draw selection looks like this:
3. They insist on bringing new X4 cams, two dozen biners weighing less than 24 grams each, a double wide portaledge, two grade VI haulbags, a poop tube and an 80 meter 9.2 lead line on a bouldering trip to the gym.
4. They wear a stop watch around their necks and discuss the time splits between putting on their left and right shoe. These climbers have a tendency to yell, “GO! GO! GO!” when you’re putting on your harness.
5. They spot you by grabbing their iPhone and yelling “If you break your ankle now, you’ll be famous on Instagram!”
6. They ask if they can climb on your rope. Then they ask if they can use your draws, your rack, borrow your back pack, if you have extra shoes, what snacks you brought to the crag, how much money you make and when they can move in to your house.
7. While talking about 5.14, V15, new El Capitan free routes and their trip to Gasherbaum V, they drop names like Chris Sharma, Tommy Caldwell, Ryan Moon and Vanna White.
8. They show up at the crag without a rope and then insist it’s ok. They start climbing and then insist you follow them shouting, "It's no big deal, I've only fallen soloing once."
9. They throw trash around the crag, they never clean up their dogs poop, they make random tick marks all over the rock even on routes that are nowhere near where they are climbing and they blast Miley Cyrus on their stereo every chance they get.
10. They ever say this:
Everyone knows that the Touchstone Comp Series promises a good time. For Holly Webb the comps also provide a welcome reprise from everyday work and a chance to enjoy the Touchstone community. Webb travels from Arizona just to climb at the comps. She spoke a bit with the Touchstone blog about her commitment.
“I’m an ordinary person,” said Holly Webb, a 39 year old CPA who lives on the North rim of the Grand Canyon with her husband, who works for the National Park Service. “I just get really psyched sometimes.” Webb spent much of her time in California, where she used her 17 years of climbing experience to climb El Capitan 35 times via 25 different routes, including two solos of Yosemite’s immense formation. Living near the Grand Canyon has kept her away from climbing though.
“It’s kind of depressing. Ever since I moved away, it’s been a little bit hard to stay in the game and keep my psych,” said Webb who learned to climb in Seattle before moving to Yosemite and most recently the Grand Canyon. To battle the doldrums, Webb headed to Diablo Rock Gym last year. Webb manages a rental unit in Yosemite West and her neighbor, Diablo Rock Gym manager Hans Florine suggested she take the Diablo challenge. The competitive Webb thought, “I’m gonna do it and beat Hans at his own numbers game!”
Webb began ticking off the challenges. Weather closed down her North Rim home for the winter so she traveled on the road and fought her way through the challenges. From running a marathon, learning to hula hoop to running across the Golden Gate Bridge, Webb found an amazing variety of different challenges to do. “I tried spinning and I went to spinning class twice a week for 2 weeks. I tried Crossfit and hated it. I tried all this stuff that made me grow,” said Webb. The list pushed Webb to do nearly 300 challenges including 66 challenges in a single day. “Holly rocks it! She came in last year and completed more challenges then anyone else in my gym!” said Florine.
Performing so many activities in a day: doing double jumps with the jump rope, climbing 70 boulder problems, running 400 meters in 90 seconds, climbing in three different gyms in a day and other feats left her exhausted. She won a year membership to Touchstone for her efforts but felt tired. The feat changed her perspective on what she would do next.
One of the challenges was to climb at a Touchstone comp. “It was so awesome,” said Webb who went to the Pipeworks comp in 2013. “It was so fun bouldering with these people I didn’t know.” The comp and the exhausting effort of the DRG challenge changed Webb’s goal for the following year. “When they announced LA.B and opened the new TCS format, I decided one of the things I wanted to do in 2014 is go to every comp,” said Webb who has made good on her vow to date. Though she’s only climbed four times in the gym this year, each time has been at one of the Touchstone comps. She’s flown in for the various climbing competitions.
“For people looking to participate in Touchstone comps, or climbing in the gym in general, relationships are a good reason to be a part of the gym. I have several new friends made at the gym and people I look forward to seeing at each of the comps,” said Webb. The best part of the whole experience for Webb has been the community that she has met. “I could not have done all these challenges by myself. The great majority required teamwork, and mostly with people I had not met before.”
Webb will be moving back to California the summer and will be able to drive to the last two TCS comps instead of flying.
On Friday the 20th Dogpatch Boulders will be hosting a members-only late night climbing session and barbecue. Summer is here at last, so let's welcome it with style! Dogpatch Boulders manager Justin Alarcon couldn't be happier. "We try to do a fun event every month to thank our members for being so rad," said Alarcon. "This month we're really stepping it up."
On Friday, the doors will stay open till midnight, making it the place to be on Friday Night. Dogpatch Boulders staff will be grilling up grub all night long, and to wet your whistle two local companies are coming to help us celebrate in style. Triple Voodoo, a brewery just blocks from the gym, will be providing beer. And if that wasn't enough, Sutton Cellars and Workhorse Rye will be pouring Vermouth & Soda by Sutton Cellars as well as Bitters & Soda by Workhorse Rye at our barn burner of a barbecue.
This party will also be a double your pleasure - double your fun membership night! Our good friends at the Access Fund will be at the gym to sign you up for a membership with an awesome deal that also gets you an Access Fund t-shirt! Normally only $50 and above memberships get you an Access Fund t-shirt.....but since we love you so much, it will be $35 at our party!
Being an Access Fund member is like raising your hand and saying, 'Yes. I love climbing' and then putting yo' money where yo' mouth is. It also happens to be a great way to join a Touchstone gym. #winwin
Access Fund Members can always join any Touchstone Gym for only $25 initiation. Any day. Any gym. 'Cause that's how we roll, but at our Summer kick off BBQ we're going to waive the initiation fee completely!
So let's recap. Come to the Late Night Barbecue event at Dogpatch Boulders for the fun and frivolity, and walk away with an Access Fund AND a Touchstone Climbing memberships, a full stomach, and the peace of mind knowing that you're helping ensure access to our favorite crags for generation to come.
Spread the word! If you've got friends who are thinking about joining the gym - let them know Friday the 20th is the day to join up for less, and get more.
If you're already a Touchstone Climbing Member but not an Access Fund member - Consider signing up! A membership gets you tons of great discounts and you'll feel all warm and fuzzy by helping support the Access Fund's mission.
So in summary: You can climb all night, join the gym on the cheep, and join the Access Fund. All while eating food and drinking local beverages. Does it really get any better then this? RSVP HERE and invite your friends.
The Pacific Northwest Trail starts in Montana’s Glacier National Park and follows 1200 miles of hiking trail from the Continental Divide through northern Idaho before ending at Alva Beach in Washington, the most western point in the continental United States. Many hikers pass through chunks of the 65 day journey but only nine hikers finished the PNT last year.
This summer, recent UC Berkeley graduate and Berkeley Ironworks staff member Ignacio “Nacho” Mendez-Nunez will be hiking the trail. The environmental economics and conservation resource studies major wanted a summer challenge to mark his graduation.
“I like the idea of doing a long-distance thing,” said Nacho, who will leave June 10th for Montana, where he will meet with his high-school friend Matt Cosca. The pair will leave Glacier National Park on the 14th or 15th depending on snow level. The beginning of their trip includes the greatest physical difficulties. “There’s 6 or 7 feet of snow, icy and slippery trails for 5 or 6 days of pretty tough hiking,” said Nacho.
Nacho worked BIW’s belay staff since November and said it was “one of the coolest jobs I’ve ever had. It was nice because all my co-workers were friends from the CAL climbing team. I liked working with my friends and it was fun climbing.”
Beyond having a great time working at BIW, Nacho often used the gym to train for the grueling hike. “I alternated climbing/core days with leg weight training and hours upon hours of stairmaster. Also I spiced it up with a little bit of yoga to stay loose. There's a training page on the blog (pntbound.wordpress.com) for examples of my training weeks, especially in mid April. It’s really convenient that IronWorks has everything I need right there in one place. Also I ran or did a long hike every weekend,” said Nacho. Touchstone also helped support Nacho’s trip by providing 70 dehydrated back packing meals, which Nacho will send to resupply outposts along the trail.
Nacho has tested his systems with extended trips in the Kings Canyon area and the Golden Trout Wilderness, just west of Inyo National Forest. He’s measured his back pack and found the best light weight and durable equipment for the trip.
After finishing the hike, Nacho plans to move to Spain where he will work at a winery and organic farm.
Monday is YOUR day, dear members. After a long weekend of hosting SCS Youth Divisional Championships, we are gonna be SO psyched to see all your bright and shining faces again. Let's celebrate!
We will have BRAND NEW COMP ROUTES for you to project and crush, along with score cards so you can see how you rank next to a 12 year old girl who crushed over the weekend. And since we know you're into this kind of thing, we shall have a SPANDEX Contest. That's right. Don your tights, step into our photo booth, and let the good times roll. Prizes go to the best, the worst, and even some lucky winners in between.
So come one, come all, to the greatest rope gym in the greatest city in all the land.
We know what you're thinking... 'gee wiz Pah! Brand new comp routes, a spandex costume contest, AND a photo booth? It's doesn't get any better than that!'
WRONG! IT DOES GET BETTER!
Monday Funday will also be a double your pleasure - double your fun membership night! Our good friends at the Access Fund will be at the gym to sign you up for a membership with an awesome deal that also gets you an Access Fund t-shirt! Normally $50 and above memberships get a free Access Fund t-shirt.....but since we love you so much, it will be $35 tonight!
Being an Access Fund member is like raising your hand and saying, 'Yes. I love climbing' and then putting yo' money where yo' mouth is. It also happens to be a great way to join a Touchstone gym. #winwin
Access Fund Members can join any Touchstone Gym for only $25 initiation. Any day. Any gym. 'Cause that's how we roll.
So let's recap. Come to the Monday Funday event at Mission Cliffs for the fun and frivolity, and walk away with an Access Fund AND a Touchstone Climbing membership for only $60*. That's a savings of $90. And don't even get us STARTED on what you could do with an extra $90 in your pocket.
Spread the word! If you've got friends who are thinking about joining the gym - let them know today is the day to join up for less, and get more.
If you're already a Touchstone Climbing Member but not an Access Fund member - Consider signing up! A membership gets you tons of great discounts and you'll feel all warm and fuzzy by helping support the Access Fund's Mission.
Jay Simpson, a Touchstone Climbing Member and National Geographic Young Explorers Grantee, is currently on a hiking and biking expedition across Oregon and Northern California, retracing the tracks of Oregon’s famous Wolf OR-7. Wolf OR-7 attracted international headlines as the first wild wolf in California since 1924. The Wolf OR-7 Expedition is retracing his GPS route across Oregon and Northern California to explore human and wolf coexistence and the challenges wolves face returning to their historic rangelands. We caught up with him by email this week.
Q: Where are you now and what are you up to?
Jay: This morning I woke up for an early morning trip up to the rim of Crater Lake to see the sunrise—it was a great way to close a six-day section of cycling that has taken us most of the way across Oregon. At this very moment, I’m eating all the breakfasts foods I can manage at the lodge, taking a last grasp at wifi, and packing up for four days of walking the Cascades along part of the Pacific Crest Trail.
Q: What has happened during the expedition so far?
J: Well, my biggest highlight comes at the very start of the trip when we found the tracks of a wolf in fresh snow of the Wallowa Mountains. They were huge, and luckily heading in the opposite direction from our route. My favorite thing about them was being able to walk along side the tracks for about 4 hours as we continued to walk along our planned route. Our entire mission has been about walking 1,200 miles in the tracks of Wolf OR-7, but here we were able to literally retrace the path of a wild, lone wolf in the mountains—mind-blowing.
We’ve also been able to have some great conversations with the state biologist who gave Wolf OR-7 his GPS radio collar, a rancher, a hunter, a National Parks Ranger, and others to hear what they have to say about Wolf OR-7 and the return of wolves to areas they haven’t been for decades.
Q: Has anything really surprised you?
J: I loved seeing and learning about the shared use of some objects like stop signs in forests—we use them to know when to stop, but many animals use them to scent mark and gnaw on. My favorite was a stop sign in a National Forest that tons of sign of bear activity. It had bite marks all over and fur stuck in the splinters from bears rubbing their backs against it. It’s their version of a status update to their friends in their forest, I just got to notice it.
Q: And what’s been your biggest challenge so far?
J: We’ve had some really long cycle days, with lots of sandy/dusty roads, overgrown jeep tracks, huge hills, and goat head thorns that lead to about 30 flat tire repairs. That day was hell in the movement, fun looking back at now. We thought it would be an easy early morning ride (3 hours max) but it took over nine. We’ve carried our lunches and bike lights with us every day since then.
Q: What did you to train or prepare for this?
J: There’s so little you can really do to prepare for month-long, high-endurance expeditions other than be as active as possible. Before I left, I was at Mission Cliffs, Berkley Ironworks, or the Dogpatch multiple times a week so that I could climb, do yoga, cycle training, stair masters or anything else whenever I could. My favorite was a core class that I took at Berkley Ironworks. It was a lot of yoga-inspired exercises, but had a great pace and a challenge-by-choice style of difficulty. My first class I received a lot of tips from an older lady who was in their killing it and now I can do them out here on the trail in the morning for warm ups.
Q: What’s upcoming for the expedition?
J: For the next week and a bit we will be cycling and backpacking across areas of Northern California, getting as far south as Mount Shasta. It’s exciting to be entering California, where Wolf OR-7’s story received so much attention after becoming the first wild wolf in the state in nearly 90 years. He spent a lot of time down there too, so I really can’t wait to get down there to try to figure out why did he stop there? Also, we’ll be ending near Ashland, Oregon on June 14th, and I’m really looking forward to being a little closer to the areas of Oregon where he, his likely mate, and potential pups are hanging out. After spending so much time retracing his route, I feel like there’s an interesting kinship to him now!
In April 2014 Longtime Touchstone Staff Members Michelle Leung and Jeffrey Kosoff travelled to New Zealand to spend a month recreating amongst birthing Volcanoes, glacier carved Mountains, heavily polished limestone, sandfly infested coastlines and the living descendants of Old Gondwana. Check out their jaw-dropping trip report!
The following photos reveal a slice of this journey purposefully excluding sheep, roads and mass tourism all of which are plentiful in this South Seas Switzerland. If you have not yet experienced this beautiful uncrowded country filled with kind enterprising rugby fanatics do yourself a favor and go immediately. No seriously, go now. It ain't getting cheaper!
Michelle traversing volcanic ridge between Tongariro and Ngurahae AKA Mount Doom Tongariro NP, North Island.
Volcanic lakes Tongariro NP
Egmont vert/forest. North Island, Egmont NP Taranaki AKA Misty Mtn. Here we saw a rare glimpse of the symetrical summit cone. Mt. Taranaki is typically hidden in deep cloud cover bathed in constant rain fed by the Tasman sea.
Kaikoura, South Island ruins, a chimney stack at a former whaling station with North Canterbury Ranges to the West. The Kaikoura Peninsula North of Christchurch stretches out into deep water and is populated by seals, penguins and rare seabirds.
Wilderness of Stone, Flock Hill Station, Canterbury, South Island.
To enter this remote private Sheep Station you must register at a nearby lodge. There is no guidebook in print for this absolutely giant boulder field. If you are willing to tackle the arduous 1hr. approach you will be delighted by the silence, immensity and unsullied wilderness feel of this world class boulder field.
Spittle Hill, Castle Hill South Island. This boulder field has great access and many classic problems, consequently the holds are icy slick. This is limestone with few features aside from an occasional pocket or hueco, friction climbing without friction. Approach with humility!
Quantum Field, Castle Hill, South Island. What a sunset!
Weka, Native Rail, Fiordland, South Island
New Zealand is a country of invaders. the original plants and animals have largely disappeared. those that have survived are cheeky and resourceful. The Weka raids campsites poking under rainflys and purloins unattended belongings.
Raikura Track, Stewart Island
Across the Fouveaux Strait south of South Island, with only 400 inhabitants Stewart Island remains largely wilderness and a stronghold for species that have disappeared from both North and South Island.
Veranda sunset over Moorea, Tahiti
On the way home we were holed up in a resort, on Tahiti. To escape the stifling air conditioning and artificial light and sounds of our oppressive suite Michelle insisted that we drag a mattress onto the veranda. We soaked in the humid tropical air, the sounds of crashing waves and the light of the sun descending into the Deep Pacific Ocean.
Trip Report By Avram Pearlman
Tioga Pass is Open! I know there are many other ways into the eastern Sierra, but there is nothing like driving through Tuolumne Meadows to get to a near endless supply of sport, trad and bouldering. Oh, and did I mention free camping and hot springs? And, unlike Yosemite, dogs are OK too...
To make the drive home a little easier after climbing in the Gorge we checked out a spot called Clark Canyon. The approach is easy (15 minutes on a slight incline) and the routes are nestled in the trees providing shade and a wind break as needed. The Canyon was chock full of moderate sport climbs (for me that means the 5.7-5.9 range), and many more in the 5.10s as well.
The rock is volcanic tuff, with a slight orange patina. Lots of pockets for hands and feet, as well as some decent cracks. We set up in a section called Area 13 and completed three routes each in an afternoon.
On the Center Wall we started with a 5.8 called Chop Chop. A combo of face climbing, side pulls and cracks that could be climbed clipping the bolts or placing gear (smaller pieces only). We set up a top rope and then climbed the route about two feet to the left, a dihedral 5.8 crack line called Scorpio. Towards the top of Scorpio, the crack got a little bigger and there was a perfect hold (out of sight) right where I needed it to be!
Finishing the day with a super fun and mellow 5.7 four star route called Ugly, Fat and Mean, Come to Mammoth, Be a Queen. Nine bolts to anchors with an amazing view! The bolts and anchors on all the routes were in really good condition, at most a few years old. Next time we head back there I would like to try a two-pitch 3.5 star 5.10a route called Cholito. It looked like a sweet line, with 17 bolts.
The parking area for the Canyon is less than an hour to the Mobile station in Lee Vining. In fact, Google maps estimates five hours and fifteen minutes from Touchstone's own Great Western Power Company to the trail head. Most of the forest service road was fine, but there was one section of road that we were glad to have a high clearance vehicle.
Big Springs Campground is only a few miles from the Clark Canyon trailhead, and is a free, established campground if you don't mind being close to your neighbors. Clark Canyon is all Inyo national forest so dispersed camping is allowed. The brush is thick in places, but there are plenty of flat spots for a truck or tent.
The staff at the gear shop in Mammoth dropped rumors of a new version of Mammoth Area Rock Climbs, by Marty Lewis and John Moynier. The coming book is to include many of the now established lines not listed in the 3rd edition. After being pressed for a release date for the guide, the guy behind the desk just shrugged. “Who knows when it will be out, we are talking about climbers here...”