The new Touchstone Climbing gym in San Jose opened its doors last Friday. The gym boasts 40-foot-high rope-climbing walls, an area for bouldering, a yoga studio, a sauna and a cardio room.

Touchstone has taken up residence in the old Studio Theatre building on the corner of South First and San Salvador. The spot, once plagued by outbreaks of violence and bad dance moves, has been completely transformed. The old art-deco movie house, with its high ceiling and sturdy construction, is a good fit for Touchstone. 

Some downtown residents may remember Touchstone’s previous location next door to Camera 12. Unfortunately, that location was abandoned due to size. As general manager Diane Ortega explains, “Ultimately, there was no room for growth.” Luckily, the large space inside the Studio Theatre can accommodate the climbing walls.

Many South Bay residents are probably familiar with rock climbing and bouldering. Castle Rock Park, located off of Highway 9, has long been a staple for rock climbers and visitors seeking to connect with nature. Touchstone makes it possible to challenge gravity indoors.

The 40-foot walls provide a range of climbing options, from novice to expert. The name of the game isn’t necessarily extreme fitness; it’s mostly technique.  Climbers will have to buddy-up to take advantage of the walls, and basic belaying techniques are a must when attempting the ascent to the roof.

Touchstone will schedule a partner day one day a week when visitors can team up to tackle the climb. Beginner climbers will have to complete a safety inspection, but once that’s done, they should have no problem navigating the walls.

While the tallest walls require a belaying partner, members can navigate the bouldering area solo. This part of the gym offers the same challenges, but it doesn’t reach extreme heights.

Bouldering has been growing as a sport in the past decade, partly because it offers a bit more independence while stressing proper technique, and partly because it’s much easier to find an interesting rock to climb than it is to find a mountain wall. Here, balance and horizontal maneuvers come into play, which to many is just as satisfying as vertical climbing.

The place doesn’t feel like a traditional gym. It’s more of a playground for adults. Ortega says, “We’re a non-gym person’s gym.” Even the membership options don’t feel traditional. Touchstone offers one-day, 10-day, monthly and annual memberships. If your year is interrupted halfway, you can put your membership on hold.

Touchstone will host a rope-climbing competition this Friday; so, potential members can see what the space has to offer. The initiation fee will be waived for the first 300 members who sign up.