Touchstone Climbing owns and operates 12 unique gyms throughout California, making it the largest indoor climbing company in the world. But our true success comes not from what we do, but why we do it. From owners to belay staff, route setters to cyclists, we believe in creating a place where we can all come together and do what we love. We are not just gyms. We are communities. Whether you are an experienced climber, a bright-eyed newbie, or just someone looking for a great place to work out, you’ll find your place with Touchstone Climbing.
Touchstone Climbing began in 1994 as a dream of Mark and Debra Melvin to bring indoor rock climbing to San Francisco. After scouring the city for the perfect location and raising start-up capital, they opened Mission Cliffs in 1995 in the vibrant Mission District of San Francisco. The new gym captured the imagination of the city and immediately set a new standard for indoor climbing facilities. Within a month of its opening, Mission Cliffs hosted the Sport Climbing National Championship competition, introducing climbers from around the country to what was heralded as the most spectacular facility in the world.
Touchstone Climbing purchased Class 5, a small indoor climbing gym in San Rafael. After renovating much of the facility – including the construction of new climbing walls and a bouldering area – the gym became the second Touchstone Gym. Unfortunately, we lost the lease on the building in 2008. We continue to search for a replacement to serve the flourishing climbing community in Marin county.
Touchstone acquired CityRock of Emeryville, which was one of the first indoor climbing gyms built in the country. Gym members could now enjoy the benefits of multiple locations; but with a population of over two million people in the greater Bay Area, there was still SO much room to grow!
Realizing that the East Bay market was underserved by CityRock’s moderate size, Touchstone embarked on an ambitious project to build a new gym that was nearly three times as large. Berkeley Ironworks was completed in the spring of 2000, adding a huge fitness area, a yoga studio, and indoor cycling room, revolutionizing the concept of what a climbing gym could be.
Touchstone continued to grow and purchased a historic building just north of downtown Sacramento. After extensive renovations, Sacramento Pipeworks opened its doors, integrating fitness programming and workout facilities with incredible climbing and bouldering terrain. We are happy to report that after over ten years, we expanded Pipeworks to house its popular CrossFit Program, along with a huge bouldering expansion.
This was a busy year for Touchstone Climbing, as we expanded further into the East Bay with the completion of our Concord location, Diablo Rock Gym. We also opened our first bouldering-only gym in downtown San Jose. Unfortunately for our South Bay members, the bouldering gym closed in 2008, but—spoiler alert—we returned to the 408 in 2012!
With our fleet of gyms growing, 2004 saw the acquisition of Stone Age Climbing, a well-established and reputable climbing hold and accessory manufacturer. Located at Sacramento Pipeworks, we shape, mold, pour and finish over 50,000 climbing holds each year. While we purchase additional climbing holds from other companies, we’re very lucky to have such a resource at our fingertips.
Great Western Power Company opened in the heart of Uptown Oakland, built in a former steam generation plant. Shaping the walls around the original building has created an interesting and unique urban climbing vibe. GWPC has since added CrossFit, yoga, and a huge fitness area.
We opened MetalMark in Fresno. We were able to design the building from the ground up, bringing something unique to the Central Valley. You want innovative terrain? You got it. Adjustable cracks to practice for Yosemite splitters? No problem. Striking floor-to-ceiling windows to light the 45-foot walls? Of course! MetalMark shows why contemporary and cutting-edge terrain are synonymous with Touchstone Inc.
In early spring, we returned to the South Bay and opened The Studio Climbing, this time constructing a gym inside an old movie theater. The Studio offers lead and top rope climbing as well as unique bouldering terrain. We also have a studio for yoga and fitness classes, along with a weight area. We’re happy to be working with the community to create a vibrant and healthy downtown destination.
By this point, our momentum was really going. In the early spring, we opened Dogpatch Boulders in San Francisco. At the time of its opening Dogpatch Boulders was the largest bouldering gym in the country, and climbers from all over the world who come in still have to pick their jaws up off the floor. It’s really that good. Also in 2013, we embarked on a major remodel of the gym that started it all: Mission Cliffs. We added over 5,000 square feet of new roped climbing terrain, and construction on a new fitness studio and weight room were underway.
As if that wasn’t enough, in the fall of 2013 we opened our very first gym in Los Angeles. LA Boulders brought Touchstone quality to the hugely underserved climbing community of Southern California. LA Boulders is the largest bouldering-only gym in Los Angeles and also boasts a dedicated yoga studio, weight room, and cardio area.
2014 brought improvements to many of our facilities. We continued our expansion of Mission Cliffs, adding state-of-the-art yoga and indoor cycling rooms.
We were also able to bring 5,000 square feet of brand-new bouldering terrain to Sacramento Pipeworks and build the largest CrossFit climbing space in the city.
Some things never change. While our original dedication to bringing indoor climbing to the Bay Area remains the same, twenty years of experience and innovation have helped us adapt and redefine what it means to be a premier climbing and fitness company. In 2015, we opened the bouldering section of Cliffs of Id in Culver City and worked to complete Hollywood Boulders. We continued to enhance our existing gyms while bringing Touchstone Climbing and Fitness gyms to new communities throughout California.
2016 was a busy year for us, and started a trend of expansion and innovation that continues to this day. We opened Hollywood Boulders, expanded our rope climbing area at Cliffs of Id, and expanded Dogpatch Boulders to include more climbing, a yoga studio, and a bigger fitness and training area.
The Touchstone Gym family continued to grow in 2017, both figuratively and literally! In addition to renovating our beloved Great Western Power Co. to include a sweet new mezzanine, we continued to work on the extensive expansion at Dogpatch Boulders, announced a new rope gym in Pasadena, and opened up our twelfth location: Verdigo Boulders in Burbank! With state-of-the-art wall design and the world-class setting our members and guests know and love, Verdigo Boulders set the standard for the host of new projects we have our sights on in the future.
The year’s not even out and we’ve already got big things in the works! Early in 2018 we announced our purchase of the Oaks Theater on Solano Ave in North Berkeley, making it our third East Bay gym and second movie theater retrofit. we can’t wait to bring our growing community the cutting-edge facility it deserves.