There’s a new sheriff in town at Great Western Power Co.—her name is Jessica Wan, and she is a superstar! Jess worked her way up from belay staff at Berkeley Ironworks and we couldn’t be happier to have her as GW’s GM. Get to know a little bit about her here so you’ll have something to say next time you see her in the bouldering cave instead of just being in awe of her crushitude.
Tell us a bit about your story working at Touchstone. What’s your favorite thing about working at a climbing gym?
I started working for Touchstone at the end of my second year at Cal in 2012. Funny story: I had applied earlier that year as belay staff at Ironworks but Ryan Moon rejected me! Just kidding, he said they weren’t hiring at the time…which technically does constitute as being rejected actually. Fast forward to that summer and Ryan reached out to me and I obviously said YES!
My favorite part? Well that would have to be the community! It’s incredibly special to work in a place where you’re surrounded by such amazing individuals. From the folks just passing through to the folks who basically “live in the gym” and everyone else in between, it’s been so wonderful to get to know them all!
How long have you been climbing?
I started climbing my freshman year in high school in 2004, so I guess that’s 15 years now! My friend asked me if I wanted to join her on the recreational team at Planet Granite Sunnyvale and needless to say, I was immediately hooked. Soon after, I started working as event staff there and got to know the staff, including my good friend Jonathan. When I started college, Jonathan took me under his wing—that’s when I truly started climbing outside and learned how to trad climb.
What’s your favorite place to climb? Proudest send? Any epics?
Hands down Fontainebleau! I’ve always had a special place in my heart for all things French. I took six years of French in school and studied abroad and honestly, climbing in Font is so darn magical. Where else can you circuit AMAZING problems ranging from hands-free slab to crimp-tastic overhangs (yes, there are crimps in Font, too) with a baguette and a glass of wine in tow?!
Funnily enough my proudest send is probably this route called Wasp Factory in Cuba! I had to mentally get over the HUGE wasps’ nest guarding the top of the climb. It also had some pretty big moves and for anyone who knows my climbing, dynamic moves and cutting my feet are not my forte—but I’m working on it!
My biggest epic is probably when we climbed Dream of Wild Turkeys in Red Rocks as two parties of two, but we had the smart (re: definitely not smart) idea of rapping as a team of four. Needless to say, our tied-together 70m ropes got stuck, someone had to jug the entire length of the 70m ropes, and I REALLY needed to pee the entire time. It wasn’t fun. And yes, it was dark—it’s a requirement that any and all epics finish in the dark of the night.
What’s your favorite crag snack?
I’m all about trying new snacks from Berkeley Bowl and Trader Joe’s. My top three, which are always in my snack pack, are a bar of chocolate, an apple plus peanut butter, and some kind of crunchy vegetable (like cucumbers or snap peas).
Okay, I don’t always have that last one, but I try to! Nothing beats the cool, crisp bite of a fresh cucumber on a hot summer day.
Tell us about Cleo!
She’s the best! We adopted her almost three years ago when she was around one year old and while it was definitely a challenge in the beginning (I never had a dog growing up), I can’t imagine our lives without her now. She comes with us on all our trips and she loves going outside just as much as we do! Her favorite activities are chasing little critters and, unfortunately, eating poop. She also hates swimming. All in all though, my favorite part of our weekend warrior trips is Cleo sleeping in our bed with us in the van—it’s extra cozy!
What’s some of the best climbing/training/life advice you’ve ever received?
Anything from Lyn Barraza’s wealth of knowledge, and that is NOT an understatement. But for me personally, the words of advice that have resonated the most with me are, “Believe in the power of rest!” and something to capture the importance of always having a pre-send snack and a post-send reward snack!
Other than that, I really believe in the efficacy of working climbs in pieces and getting power pushes to figure out the crux or perfecting micro-beta. I’m definitely all for standing on each other backs and/or shoulders—just don’t stand on my back because I will collapse.
What animal would you say best represents your climbing style?
Any animal that is slow. I’ve been told that I even fall slow! My friends Jen and Zach have another power animal that they have bestowed upon me but I’m too embarrassed to share that—maybe ask me when you see me. Otherwise, a power animal that I’d like to become would be any animal that wouldn’t be characterized as slow; I’ll take any improvement I can get!
Any life/climbing goals?
That’s a tough one because the list is always growing! One was to manage a Touchstone gym so…check! Otherwise, even though I basically exclusively boulder now, one day I’d like to do the Rostrum in Yosemite. I would also like to see an Aurora Borealis before I die. Oh, and I want to become fluent in ASL. Randomly, I once had a goal to be able to read Dostoevsky in Russian but then I never learned Russian—maybe it could still happen. And Thriller! I’d love to send that climb.
What are you most excited about in managing GW?
To hopefully inspire others! I know that sounds cheesy but after working with Lyn for almost eight years, I owe a lot of my passion and commitment to Touchstone and to this community to her fearless leadership, and I can only hope that I can be that to someone else. I’m also incredibly excited to work with a whole new and amazing team and to be a part of a whole new and amazing community. Come say hi; my door is always open!