New Zealand Trip Report

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!


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Michelle traversing volcanic ridge between Tongariro and Ngurahae AKA Mount Doom Tongariro NP, North Island.

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Volcanic lakes Tongariro NP

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Flock Hill. 

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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!

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Quantum Field, Castle Hill, South Island. What a sunset! 

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

The Last Dirtbag: Touchstone Blogger James Lucas

Do you ever wonder what it's like to live on the road full time? To climb every day? For some this is only a dream. For Touchstone blogger James Lucas this is reality. For the last five years, James lived out of his Saturn station wagon, climbing and traveling. The Saturn recently died and now he's holed up in a cave in Yosemite, climbing fiendishly on El Capitan and trying to live a life on the rocks. Check out the short story that Cedar Wright made about the climber.

WOD on Memorial Day

By GWPC member Donna Ball

If you are familiar with CrossFit you know that there are a number of workouts (WODs) named for heroes who have died in the line of duty. Most of these are named for military members who have lost their lives, but there are also hero WODs for firemen and policeman and other heroes as well. Murph is named for Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, a Navy Seal who lost his life on June 28, 2005 in Afghanistan and it has become symbolic to do this workout at CrossFit boxes around the country on Memorial Day. Murph is a brutal workout but it’s fitting that it should be hard and require determination to finish:

1-mile run

100 pull-ups

200 push-ups

300 squats

1-mile run

Doing a hero WOD has special meaning if you have ever served or know someone who has. Both my son and my daughter served in Iraq and the worst days of my life were the days I said good-bye to them not knowing if I would ever see them again and the days and nights spent worrying whether they would come home. The best days were when they landed once again on American soil. Thousands of American military families with loved ones serving in Iraq and Afghanistan have not been so fortunate and I can’t even begin to compare my worst days with theirs. I will always carry sadness in my heart for those families and I will try to honor them for the rest of my life by remembering their sacrifice in any way that I can. CrossFit hero WODS give me one opportunity.

Donna Finishes Murph

I have been doing Crossfit for less than two years and still can not do a pull-up and can only run-jog the mile but I came to the box today determined to do the best Murph I could and to finish even if it took me all day. I slogged my way through the mile runs thinking of Murph’s mother, I did jumping pull-ups in place of ‘real’ pull-ups, and when I thought I couldn’t do another squat I thought of Murph and those like him who didn’t give up even as they faced death. I managed to give it my best today not only for Lieutenant Murphy and all of those who have served and died, but also for Murph’s mother and father and the families of all of those who haven’t returned. And I finished.

To find out more about CrossFit V16, visit their website or ask us at the front desk! 

Clark Canyon Trip Report

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...

From Trailhead
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.

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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!

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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.

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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...”

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Step and Repeat Photo Booth at TCS2014

The Step and Repeat, provided by American Signs, made it's first Touchstone Climbing Series debut last weekend in San Jose. The back drop, which free standing and folds down to the size of a large tent, was a huge hit at the comp. "It's been a fun thing to add to our already robust bag o' tricks," said staff member Lauryn Claassen. "Photo booths are a great way for people to remember how much fun they had with their friends at our comps, and now we have this perfect backdrop that is so easy to get from gym to gym!" 

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Competitors at The Studio Climbing also got to ham it up with Automatic Supermodel Photoshoot to get just the right shot. Each group got five prompts from the Photo Booth to pose in different ways. So, when you stepped in front of the backdrop, you were given ideas of how behave. Not like most people needed prompting... 

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The Step and Repeat was also used at the SCS Regionals Competition as a background for the youth finalists. "It looks great!" said one parent. "It's a nice touch." Big thanks for to Mark Allen for providing the sign for Touchstone Climbing. American Signs also manufactured the awesome sign the graces the entrance of LA Boulders in Los Angeles. 

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Be sure to come to the TCS comp at Diablo Rock Gym - and have your blue steel pose ready for the photo booth! To see more photos from the comp - click here!

Lurking Fear with Mark and Chris

Picture a fun day of climbing with a long time friend. For a pair of Bay area climbers, that meant a quick jaunt up El Capitan.

For the past two decades, Touchstone owner Mark Melvin has tied in with Mill Valley local Chris McNamara. Mark first dragged Chris up the West Face of El Capitan when Chris was 15 years old. Since then the pair have climbed eleven El Cap routes including Lurking Fear, Squeeze Play, Flight of the Albatross, Sea of Dreams and a girdle traverse of the entire formation.

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In early May, the pair tied in and began climbing on the fair west side of El Capitan. They started the stop watch at 7:50 am and made a quick 7.5 hour ascent of Lurking Fear. “The climbing went smooth,” said McNamara. “More exciting were the building storm clouds that provided epic summit views: the coolest I have ever seen up there.”

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“Lurking Fear is the easiest aid line on El Cap,” says Supertopo. “The lower pitches are beautiful, exposed and straightforward, while the upper part of the route involves wandering, lower-angle free climbing of lesser quality. The hauling on the last seven pitches is bad and punishes parties that bring too much.”

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Luckily the pair avoided hauling altogether. They climbed the initial slab pitches quickly then dispatched the beautiful cracks, the traverse and making their way through the final pit of low angle climbing. The pair climbed with minimal gear and water. Using advanced techniques like short fixing, they were able to ascend rapidly up the wall.

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Tommy Caldwell and Beth Rodden free climbed the route at 5.13c. The difficulties involve a series of slab pitches low. They make for excellent aiding though and a great adventure. Steve Schneider offers an aid climbing clinic at Berkeley Ironworks for those that want to learn.

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Congratulations to Chris and Mark for another successful ascent of El Cap!

Get ready for TCS2014 at The Studio

The great thing about having nine gym siblings, (and we're expecting!) is that there is ALWAYS something going on. This week it's The Studio Climbing's turn to host a party, and we can't wait! The Touchstone Climbing Series, or #TSC2014 if you speak hashtag, will continue with a bouldering competition. "It's going to be RAD," said Eric Sanchez, the foreman route setter at The Studio. "We're going to set routes that fill the whole gym with awesome problems." TCS2014 will bring Touchstone Climbers from all over the Bay Area to San Jose. And who can say no to beer from Strike Brewing, pizza from Pizza my Heart, and oodles of prizes?!

"A can't wait to host TCS at our gym," said Gym Manager Diane Ortega. "These things are my favorite day of the month - can't wait to see what surprises this comp brings!"

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Here is how you can be prepared for the bouldering comp tomorrow:

#1. Print our a paper waiver

It's a Touchstone Comp! Which means you need an signed paper waiver in hand. Do members need them? Yes. Do guests need them? Yes. Does it matter that you've filled one out before.. no! You can print one out right here, or show us you r best John Hancock at the gym when you arrive. Print our a waiver

#2. Have your comp code in hand

If you have already competed in a Touchstone Climbing Comp in the last 2 years, you already have a 3 letter code. Hopefully it wasn't the same as your ebay password.... To issue you a score card at the gym so you can get yo' climb on, we need that code! If you think you have one... just check. Remember the code and have it ready when you come to the gym. Bonus points will be awarded for people who have their code written atop their waiver!

If this is your first comp - HOLY COW! Get psyched. All you need to do is register to get your code. It takes about.... 2 minutes. Maybe 3 if you didn't pay attention in typing class. Click here to get your code. It should bring you to a screen like this one:

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#3. Get psyched! 

Seriously. San Jose has one of the best bouldering communities around, and with an entire gym at our disposal, this comp is going to be a blast. Remember to document to fun. Share the magic of the comp, and remember to tag your photos with #TCS2014 and #touchstoneclimbing so we can share in the fun. We'll pick our favorite and you shall earn a special prize! 

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Find out more about the comp on the 'book

Member of the Month: Dustin Raúl Stumpf

By Guest Blogger: Jason Bove

This month, we observed Mother’s Day. But, assuming we celebrate, we should not limit ourselves to just one day a year to celebrate our Mothers. With this in mind, it was abundantly clear who we should feature for May: Dustin Raúl Stumpf. Not only does Dustin have a rewarding job as a CrossFit instructor here at Sacramento Pipeworks, but he also has a positive and healthy relationship with his Mom. While there are lots of things that can be attributed to this happiness, the thing that he keeps coming back to is being able to include his mother, Elba, in his ambitious exercise training schedule. I had the chance to talk with Dustin recently about CrossFit, what drives him as an athlete, and, of course, his Mom. Thanks again for being a part of the Pipeworks family, Dustin, and for letting us peer into the life of such an inspiring individual, such as yourself.

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Member of the Month: Dustin Raúl Stumpf

Bove- First off, what drew you to personally pursue CrossFit as a way of life, and what are a few of the major benefits of the workout regimen itself?
Stumpf- What drew me to CrossFit as a way of life was the fact I would never get bored with my workouts ever again! After ending my College Athletic Career, I needed another challenge to conquer! The benefits are endless with CrossFit because it exposes your weaknesses and makes you focus on them in order to become a better coach/athlete.

B- How long have you been a CrossFit instructor and where did you receive training to become one?
S- I have been a Level 1 Certified CrossFit instructor for 2 years. Before becoming Level 1 Certified, I started my own internship program at American River CrossFit in 2011 while fulfilling units at Sacramento State’s Kinesiology program. ARC is where I learned the fundamentals of teaching CrossFit classes under the supervision of trained professional instructors. After graduating from Sac State in 2012, I used all of my savings to take the weekend long CrossFit Level 1 Course at NorCal CrossFit, under the watchful eyes of Jason Khalipa (currently 2nd man in the world in CrossFit!).

B- What kind of athletes/workout enthusiasts are attracted to your classes for CrossFit, and what makes these classes different from normal workout routines? Is Crossfit for everyone?
S- The types of exercise enthusiasts who are attracted to my classes are people who love learning and perfecting Gymnastics, Power/Olympic Lifting, and Plyometrics. What makes these classes so much different from a “normal workout routine” is that A.) It is always in a class setting. By working out with others, people are more motivated to perform better amongst fellow athletes for the friendly competition aspect. B.) All movements and weights are modifiable for different fitness levels. C.) Most of our workouts are short and sweet! CrossFit is meant for anyone looking to better their current fitness level--anyone willing to work very hard. In my experience of coaching, I have found that the people who do best and excel the quickest in CrossFit (regardless of age) make it to class routinely and live a healthy lifestyle outside of the gym.

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B- What should I know before attending class? How should I prepare?
S- CrossFit is very challenging both mentally and physically! One should prepare by being open minded to a brand new methodology of exercise. Having a positive attitude is a MUST when learning CrossFit. I repeat, the BEST WAY any CrossFitter will excel is to remain open minded.

B- As you know, the month of May contains Mother’s Day! I notice that sometimes your Mom comes to your class. Has she been an advocate of your training since you were young?
S- My mother, Elba, has always been my #1 Fan when it came to sports and athletic events! She has always supported my training efforts on and off the Baseball field since I was young. I got her into CrossFit 2 years ago, and she is AMAZING!

B- It’s great to see a mother and son working out together! How has this influenced your mother-son relationship?
S- Doing CrossFit with my Mother has made our relationship that much stronger. We always talk about workouts and how to improve ourselves as athletes. We are both competitive by nature, so we talk about how we did in recent competitions. My Mother is the epitome of what a 55-year old athlete can accomplish with proper instruction and a hard work ethic! She makes it to all of my Seminars and has seen drastic improvements in all of her movements! She can now perform 5 unassisted pull-ups NO PROBLEM!

B- There are 10 Onramp classes that need to be fulfilled before someone can attend any regularly scheduled class. What can I expect to be doing during the session?
S- Beginners attending Onramp classes can expect learning the fundamentals of all CrossFit movements. Here at CrossFit Pipeworks, we are all about making new members feel welcome, and we give them the opportunity to create relationships with our training staff and fellow athletes.

B- How do these classes differ from a normal one?
S- OnRamp classes differ from regular classes in that we focus on lighter weight and less volume in our WODs (workout of the day). We also focus on introducing new movements and reviewing exercises recently covered in prior classes.

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B- What other hobbies and activities do you enjoy outside of CrossFit?
S- I am an avid Outdoorsman and LOVE to fish! I try to get out of town at least once every 2 weeks to go slay some fish and give myself a break from my intense training routine.

B- Is there a specific event or clinic that you are hosting that you would like to tell us about?
S- I try to host Seminars at CrossFit Pipeworks at least once every 2-3 months, to allow members the opportunity to get better at practicing more complex movements.

B- I have seen that you feature an Athlete of the Week on the Pipeworks facebook page. Can you tell me more about this special shout out? How would I become featured?
S- I introduced athlete of the week on the CrossFit Pipeworks Facebook page to get our members involved. In order to become Athlete of the Week, one must show exceptional work ethic, dedication, and leadership characteristics. These three traits allow others to try and follow in their footsteps in a POSITIVE manner.

Well, I guess THAT cat is in the bag! See you in class!!

Learn How to be a Route Setter!

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Ever wondered what it takes to turn a wrench? Wonder no more! Dogpatch Boulders is hosting their first ever Route Setting Clinic. The clinic, which will be held THIS Saturday, will cover the nitty gritty details of setting. But the REAL secret will be the basic movement principles that give you a sneak peak at WHY our routes are known and loved the world over. This is a great clinic to take if you are thinking of getting into route setting, or just want to gain a little more respect for the crew who labors day in and day out to bring you problems to project, curse, and send.

Sign up here.

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Being Aware of Loose Rock

One of the most dangerous parts of rock climbing is loose rock. Climbing on new terrain, in the mountains, or even being unaware of the rock around can create a serious hazard. At times, loose rock can hurt more than just the party climbing. It is vital to learn from these experiences.

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On May 10th, a pair of climbers down climbed from Mammoth terraces to Heart Ledges on El Capitan. The pair were hoping to make a free ascent of the Golden Gate and wanted to free climb a loose section of rock between the two ledges. The first climber placed gear and the second climber down lead. While the second climber pulled the gear, he surfed a man-sized block off the wall. He took a forty-foot lead fall and badly sprained his ankle. The rock fell on a party of climbers below and broke the legs of an aid climber on the Muir. YOSAR arrived quickly and helped the parties off the wall.

A few important lessons can be learned from this accident.

1. Avoid loose rock. Even on the commonly traveled pitches on El Capitan, there is still a significant amount of loose rock. Just because something has chalk on it, doesn’t mean it’s safe. Avoid loose rock where possible. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Coil ropes so that they don’t knock debris off ledges. Be extra attentive when rappelling to keep from pulling rocks off when the ropes come down.

2. Watch out for climbers around you. Being high off the ground means that you can kill someone below you just by knocking off a small rock. This also means dropping gear. Be very aware of who is around you. Climbing a loose route on a busy Saturday during the height of El Capitan season means that there’s likely to be people below you and on the wall as well. This accident could have been prevented if the free climbing party had waited for the climbers below to clear the area. Wear a helmet if there are climbers above you and consider if you want to climb a route when there are people around. Better to be safe than sorry.

3. Move very carefully on loose rock. If it looks loose- tap gently on the rock. Listen for a hollow sound. Climb very carefully on the rock, especially if it moves. If it’s safe, have your partner pull it off after, when the ropes are clear. Make sure that the area below is clear. The rocks are often bigger than you think they are.

Rock climbing is inherently dangerous. Be conscious of what you are climbing. Even in the gym, holds can spin and falls can be erratic. Know the difference between solid and loose rock. Be aware of loose rock and help prevent accidents.

Climbing at Tollhouse

MetalMark Climbing and Fitness, located in the heart of central California, is a 1 hour drive from Yosemite National Park. AKA, one of the worlds most famous climbing destinations. The staff at MetalMark, being avid climbers themselves, have been running MetalMark Outdoors for over a year. Two staff members will organize group trips, pick a local desination, and get their climb on - outside! This past month, MetalMark staff members Danny and Jake, took a group of members to Tollhouse to climbing at Cap Rock. "It was a great trip," said member Carlos Holguin. "The group size was ideal and we had enough ropes so that everyone could get a ton of climbing in. I look forward to climbing outside again soon!"

Here are some photos from the event. If you're in the Fresno area and would like to join the group next month, swing by the front desk for more information!

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FFA of the Year: Scarface (5.12)

We're lucky to be able to surround ourselves with climbers. Turns out that whole "by climbers, for climbers", thing really rings true. Therefore it is not unusual to see a familiar face in the headlines of climbing publications.

This winter, Berkeley Ironworks desk staffer Ben Steel appeared in Rock and Ice.

Last month, Luke Stefurak and Ben Steel completed a long-time project when they made the first free ascent of Scarface (5.12) on the southwest face of Liberty Cap, according to Stefurak’s blog Dream In Vertical. The route was originally climbed in 2010 by Josh Mucci and Steve Bosque and given the aid grading of 5.8 A3 before Stefurak and Steel freed it last month. The free version of Scarface ascends approximately 1,500 feet over twelve pitches before topping out on Liberty Cap. Though most of the route features solid 5.10 and low 5.11 climbing, two 5.12 cruxes at pitches five and eight require thin fingerlocks and laybacking with little to no footholds. On the day of the first ascent, Ben Steel redpointed the first crux, a feat Stefurak had accomplished back in March, while Stefurak finally managed to stick the crux of the eighth pitch. They swapped leads throughout the rest of the lower graded pitches.

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To read the whole article, click here.

Since Stefurak and Steel made the first ascent,the route has seen considerable traffic this spring with Boulder Colorado climbers Cedar Wright and Nelly Millfield making the second ascent.  A number of parties have climbed into the rock scar as well.  Touchstone Blogger, James Lucas headed into the perfect white rock with his partner Jens Holsten this spring. "Scarface features one of the best 5.12 finger cracks in Yosemite," said Lucas. "It's really good."  The initial laybacks feature fun, adventurous climbing into the large scar. The route name derives from the prominent feature, an enormous scar which was the result of an 1872 earthquake triggered rock fall. The rockfall has nearly 36,000 cubic meters of rock and destroyed a hotel located at the base of Nevada Falls.  It also made an amazing route.  

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The route is bound to become a classic in Yosemite. Congratulations to Luke and Ben for putting the line together.

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

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