All it takes is one look at the Team Touchstone Training Center to know that it’s special. It isn’t just a smaller, boutique-style climbing gym—it’s a Touchstone facility whose entire focus is honing our Team athletes for anything the competitive climbing world could throw at them. Zach Wright, Team Touchstone‘s Director and Head Coach, is here to give you the low down on this rad new space and what it means for our Team kids and members. Photos by Fred Pompermayer.
How is the Training Center different from a normal gym?
The training center is designed first and foremost to provide a high quality training for our Team Touchstone climbers. It’s different from a normal commercial facility in a few key ways: it won’t be open to the public during team practice; the climbs will be set to cater to the specific learning objectives and demographics of the team programs; and the overall goal is to provide a learning environment, as opposed to a recreational environment like in our commercial facilities.
The overall goal is to provide a learning environment, as opposed to a recreational environment like in our commercial facilities.
How will the routesetting differ?
Routesetting is what will make the space stand apart from our other gyms. To start, we will not grade any of the climbs in the facility. Instead of emphasizing grades (which go hand-in-hand with a “performance mindset”), we are emphasizing learning, creativity, and exploration with the climbs we put on the wall.
In the training center, we will still have standalone climbs, but will encourage our climbers to view the wall as a fluid learning environment.
In a typical gym with graded climbs (or outdoors for that matter), climbers are encouraged to view these climbs as discrete, achievable goals. In the training center, we will still have standalone climbs, but will encourage our climbers to view the wall as a fluid learning environment. There is value in completing a standalone climb, but the real value for comp climbers lies in the variations, eliminates, link-ups, and novel movements you can create within the context of the entire wall, not just getting to the top of a single climb.
We will also create climbs designed for the broad age and ability spectrum of climbers who use the space. One of the main things we will consider is reach, which is a consistent crux of training a youth team in a commercial facility. When the climbs are designed for adults, even “easy” climbs can be inaccessible or inappropriate for younger, newer climbers.
One of the main things we will consider is reach, which is a consistent crux of training a youth team in a commercial facility.
On the other side of the spectrum, our Competitive Team requires very specialized routesetting resources to prepare them for National level competition. This means creating climbs in the style they will see in competition (think IFSC World Cups) that are also appropriate for their size and developmental level.
How will this philosophy serve competitive climbers?
This will help our team excel by exposing them to movement in a deliberate, targeted manner. For example, if the Rec Team is working on slab climbing and balance, we can create age and size appropriate climbing environments to cater to this. We can also facilitate fun, game-based training off the wall, since we don’t have to worry about getting in the way of our members.
The training center will allow us to closely replicate many elements of the competition experience, meaning our climbers will be more prepared for the real thing.
For our competitive climbers, we can provide them with high-quality boulders that replicate what they will see in competition. We actually designed our comp wall (opposite the training boards) to closely mimic the wall used at Bouldering Nationals in order to give our climbers a competitive advantage. The training center will allow us to closely replicate many elements of the competition experience, meaning our climbers will be more prepared for the real thing.
Our aim is to effectively cater to all of our climbers’ needs, from the Recreational level to the National level, by creating an engaging and diverse learning environment in which they are encouraged to be playful, creative, challenged, and to grow.
Tell us a little bit about the training boards. Are these what competitive climbers are training on now? How do they help with training?
We are offering the full lineup of training boards in the training center: We have an adjustable Kilter Board, a Tension Board, a Moon Board, a spray wall, and, finally, our own Touchstone Board.
The standard training boards that most people are familiar with have become a staple for climbers looking for a fun and convenient way to train hard, powerful movements. The boards feature LED systems that allow users to sync their phones with the board via an app and illuminate different climbs on the board. This gives climbers an effectively unlimited “playlist” of climbs to incorporate into their training session.
We’re also excited that the training center will be home to the first Touchstone Board, which is our very own e-Board we are developing for use in our gyms.
We’re also excited that the training center will be home to the first Touchstone Board, which is our very own e-Board we are developing for use in our gyms. It is designed to be more of an entry-level training board for those who are newer to training. We’re in the process of developing our own companion app for this board, and will have more details soon!
In terms of how competitive climbers are using the e-Boards, the answer is somewhat mixed: since they are a great tool for training steep, powerful bouldering movements, they are an asset for competitive climbers and coaches looking to develop those qualities. However, the movements on these boards are generally fairly straightforward, so they don’t replicate the majority of moves climbers will see in a bouldering competition.
The movements on standard e-Boards are generally fairly straightforward, so they don’t replicate the majority of moves climbers will see in a bouldering competition.
As a training tool, these boards are excellent in developing the physical qualities needed to pull hard moves. But they only address part of the equation in building a well-rounded competitive climber.
Is that true of the spray wall as well? What is a spray wall, exactly?
The spray wall is actually pretty different from the other training boards. A spray wall is just a wall panel with a very high density of holds meant to serve as a canvas for creating all sorts of moves, circuits, technique drills, etc. In our case, we have a 20ft-wide, 45-degree overhung wall that we’ve sprayed with a ton of different holds. This will be an invaluable training tool for the team because of the huge creative potential a wall like this offers.
The spray wall will be an invaluable training tool for the team because of the huge creative potential a wall like this offers.
Spray walls have been around forever, but one team who really pioneered using them as a training tool is Team Texas. They proved that you can win Sport Nationals using walls like this. We’re planning to take a page out of their book and do a ton of training on our spray wall and training boards for the coming Sport season.
There has also been a renaissance of spray walls globally in the last few years as gyms and climbers have adapted these walls to cater to modern competition climbing. Instead of spraying the boards with small crimps, gyms are incorporating large features and volumes onto these walls. Internationally, you see this a lot in Japanese and European gyms. Domestically, we’ve seen gyms like Team Texas, Vertical World, and Team ABC incorporate this approach into their team training.
What’s up with the mini speed wall?
The mini speed wall was designed to take advantage of the vertical real estate in that part of the warehouse. Since it’s positioned between the rafters, we were able to build up to the roof instead of just up to the rafters like with the rest of the space.
This wall will serve a variety of purposes. Since it was built to the standard speed wall specifications (minus the height), we can set pieces of the speed route on it for our climbers to drill. We will have a full size speed wall at Pacific Pipe, so we’ll be able to train the whole route at that gym.
Beyond speed training, we plan to use the speed wall for teaching lead clinics so we can conduct that instruction in a quieter, more controlled environment.
Beyond speed training, the wall is super versatile in terms of what else we can set on it. We plan to use it for teaching lead clinics so we can conduct that instruction in a quieter, more controlled environment. We can also set standalone sport routes on it for all levels of the team, as well as boulder problems at the bottom. The width and constant 5-degree overhang of the wall makes it great for a ton of different training purposes.
Are members allowed to use the training center?
Yes! Members will be allowed to use the training center outside of team practice hours. These hours are still TBD, but you can be sure we will let everyone know when they can start using the training center. (However, members will not be allowed to use the mini speed wall.)
You’ve traveled all over the country and seen some pretty fancy training facilities I imagine. How does ours stack up compared to the competition?
Well, I’m clearly biased, but I think what we’ve built is pretty freaking rad.I don’t know of any other team in the US that has replicated the wall we compete on at Nationals, so I’m proud we were able to bring that idea to fruition. I think we did a good job of incorporating all of the most important training resources into this space and making the most out of the square footage. I also think we’ve designed the space in such a way that our regular members will get a lot of value and enjoyment out of it as well, which is a win-win.
To pay respect where it’s due, it’s worth mentioning where some of the inspiration for the training center came from. Big picture, there is one gym in the US that deserves credit for the idea of a standalone youth training facility: Team ABC. They had the vision to create the type of environment we want to emulate before anyone else, and we’re now seeing that these types of spaces really are the future of competitive climbing.
These types of spaces really are the future of competitive climbing.
In terms of specifics, we designed our low-angle slabs based on the walls we’ve competed on at the Mesa Rim training center. Mesa has the craziest slab competition boulders I’ve ever climbed on, so we knew we had to bring some of that to our space. And as previously mentioned, we’re looking to utilize our spray wall similarly to the way Team Texas and the European and Japanese teams are.
We hope that by drawing on all these different sources of inspiration we’ve created something that will elevate our team’s training to a new level and allow us to provide all the resources we need to succeed at the National level. We also believe that this facility is a positive contribution to our Touchstone community as a whole, and hope that our members will find a lot of fun and value when they climb in this new space.