The Brief History of ASCEND

The idea to build a new climbing gym in Pittsburgh came from an unsuspecting source around 5 years ago: Alex's mom, Ellie. Inspired by some impressive gyms in other cities, Ellie asked, "Why doesn't Pittsburgh have one of these?" The idea sounded great, but after a brief and unsuccessful real estate search, the idea was abandoned for a few years. It was just much more work than anyone was willing to commit to. The next few years were spent just climbing and living life as it was.

In August 2011, Alex, bored with his higher educational pursuits and myself, considering a career change, decided to take another crack at establishing a new Pittsburgh climbing gym. The need was so obvious to us, but we really had no idea what we had to do to pull it off. The following year was spent researching, writing, and learning everything about the indoor rock climbing industry that we possibly could. We spoke with countless gym owners, managers and employees, travelled to nearby and far-away gyms, and partnered with all the talented individuals and groups we'd need to build a bad-ass indoor rock climbing gym in Pittsburgh.

Then along came Aaron: a talented climber, human encyclopedia of all-things-rock-climbing, and super-motivated route setter. Not to mention he's a stand up dude!  Over the past year, the Alex, Paul, and Aaron team has come up with all of the plans and the necessary funding, and man are we close!  

When people told us it'll take at least three years from the day we dreamt this up we thought they were crazy. How hard could it be? Well let me tell you that it's certainly not as easy as one would think. The hardest part surely has to be the waiting. In addition to all the climbing industry knowledge, I've also learned a few life lessons:

- Be patient, but don't wait for other people to get back to you. You have to push everyone, all the time.

- Be organized. There are so many moving pieces and it's easy to forgot details. Use Wunderlist - it'll change your life.

- Consider all angles. Perspective is key. Walk in everyone's shoes.

- Have a business partner or two. You can't and don't want to do this alone.

- Your real MBA is earned out in the world.  Having earned one at Duquesne a few years back, I now understand the importance of putting things into practice.  You cannot learn this stuff in a classroom.  It's hardwork, homegrown, tiring, and very fun.

- Stay positive. Take a step away once in a while, but don't give up.

- Make friends with everyone (and yep, that is Chris Sharma in the picture). Friends have made this possible.


We are very, very, very excited to bring ASCEND to Pittsburgh.

- Paul