Meet the Team

In 2011, Alex, Paul, and Aaron took their climbing partnerships to the next level by joining forces to build a new climbing gym in Pittsburgh, PA. At the time, picking suitable careers was proving to be difficult and we all recognized the need for someone to take Pittsburgh's climbing scene to the next level. And just like that, the concept of ASCEND was born. To us, it was a perfect union worth devoting our lives to. Over the years, we gradually learned how to turn our aspirations into a functioning project capable of being integrated into the local business environment. While our initial vision has morphed, we've never strayed from our ultimate goal of staying closely connected to the climbing community and help improve upon the foundation our predecessors so graciously provided.

We may not be sponsored athletes or industry veterans, but we've put our hearts, brains, and sweat into building ASCEND. We are dedicated, here to stay, and climbers for life. To reach us or any of our talented staff directly, see below or stop just stop in and ask around!

Alex Bernstein
Director of Finance & Business Development
Alex Bernstein

[email protected]

Alex is Pittsburgh-born-and-raised and first got his start in climbing in ca. 2005. ASCEND is his labor of love and a culmination of 5+ years of planning. In addition to the hats he wears at ASCEND, Alex is the Treasurer of the SW PA Climbers Coalition, a volunteer with the Seven Springs Ski Patrol, an avid cyclist, and loves to travel.

Paul Guarino
Director of Marketing & Human Resources
Paul Guarino

[email protected]

Paul began climbing in 2007 and was immediately hooked. An intense hobby fostered by local clubs, adventurous trips, and close mentors ultimately led to a shared dream to expand the community by creating an intentional gathering place. Climbing continues to provide him with confidence, strength, countless friendships, and now his family's livelihood. Paul also spends his free time running, practicing yoga, loving his quirky cat, and traveling to experience live music with his hilarious wife and fun-loving friends.

Aaron Gilmore
Director of Routesetting & Operations
Aaron Gilmore

[email protected]

For the past 10 years, Aaron has worked in almost every aspect of climbing gyms, and for the past 6 years, he has worked to help make ASCEND Pittsburgh a reality. Now he is the Director of Routesetting and Operations and oversees the routesetting team. When not at the gym, he is hanging out with his wife and two kids.

Todd McCormick
Director of Retail Operations and Outdoor Guiding
Todd McCormick

[email protected]

Todd loves travel, exploration, and adventure; he uses climbing and running (mostly on trails) as a vehicle for this. After living close to the Red and climbing A LOT for some years, he was pulled back to Pittsburgh and was excited about the opportunity to join the ASCEND team and help grow the climbing community that gave Todd his start in climbing. He is a passionate gear-head, so don't ask him a question about gear unless you have at least an hour to kill, and also enjoys teaching climbing skills and guiding with a focus on newer climbers and gym-to-crag efforts.

Brian Pascuzzi
Head Routesetter
Brian Pascuzzi

[email protected]

Brian got his start climbing in the Allegheny National Forest in northwest Pennsylvania. Currently he’s our Head Routesetter, meaning he’s responsible for the week to week routes and problems that go up on ASCEND’s walls. He loves hearing from climbers and talking about climbing. When he’s not setting, he’s climbing, getting ready to climb, or recovering from climbing.

Sara Middleton
Director of Fitness
Sara Middleton

[email protected]

 Sara was drawn to climbing by the community’s engagement in fitness, training, and adventure. Her experiences in the traditional fitness industry as a Program Director, Personal Trainer, and Group Exercise Instructor provide a strong foundation for coaching climbers of all levels to send their project, reach the next grade, or improve their technique and endurance. When she’s not climbing, training, or coaching, Sara is probably hanging out with her two dogs and two cats.

Catlyn Brooke
Director of Events
Catlyn Brooke

[email protected]

Although new to the climbing world, Catlyn is no stranger to fitness. She was a swimmer, has a CrossFit L1 certification, and has most recently started powerlifting. You can likely find Catlyn picking things up and putting them down in the fitness area or hanging out in the kitchenette (because that's where the food is). Feel free to come and chat about fitness, pizza, or craft beer.

Jason Gilmore
Director of Youth Programming
Jason Gilmore

[email protected]

Jason was a first grade teacher for 12 years before returning home to become ASCEND's Youth Director. He is passionate about using adventure sports as a means to grow strong, kind human beings. When not in the gym Jason loves getting outside to train for endurance events such as triathlons and mountain adventures.

Jill Gilmore
Front Desk Manager and Co-director of Youth Programming
Jill Gilmore

[email protected]

Jill was an art teacher for 8 years before moving to Pittsburgh and starting to work at ASCEND. She works with youth during summer camp, but you can most often find her behind the front desk. Outside of work, Jill enjoys riding her bike, cooking (and drawing!) vegan food and taking care of her adorable foster toddler.

Sonora Miller
Front Desk Manager and Artist in Residence
Sonora Miller

[email protected]

A Los Angeles native, Sonora fell in love with climbing while studying fine arts at Colorado College. She brings that passion to her various mural projects around ASCEND. In her free time, she enjoys making art, hiking, and relaxing with her fiancé and their adorable puppy.

Jon Kuntz
General Manager
Jon Kuntz

[email protected]

Jonathan started climbing as a student at Pitt in 2006 when he joined the Pitt Outdoors Club. After jumping into all types of climbing, bouldering, sport, and trad, he began teaching new students how to climb, taking over running the climbing program of the club from fellow ASCEND employee Todd McCormick.  After spending several years in a job that didn't give him time to climb he joined the ASCEND team to work with awesome people and pursue his climbing passion.

Employment

ASCEND Pittsburgh is looking for experienced workers to participate in a dynamic, team-oriented environment. Positions can be part- or full-time. Compensation and benefits will be commensurate with experience and qualifications. No matter the position, ASCEND demands teamwork and cross-training, occasionally calling for, but not limited to, customer service, retail sales, coaching, cleaning and maintenance, special events, and/or administrative duties.

ASCEND Pittsburgh is managed by Pittsburgh-based climbers whose mission is to build-upon and grow an already developed community of climbers and fitness-driven individuals in the Southwestern Pennsylvania area. ASCEND aspires to live up to the standards set by some of the best gyms in the world and to become a nationally recognized collaborator in the industry. Please consider joining an energized, talented, and motivated team and becoming a positive influence on new and existing climbers that walk through ASCEND’s doors.

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Our Mission

To provide the best climbing and fitness experience possible.

The idea for ASCEND Pittsburgh was hatched over five years ago when we recognized that Pittsburgh’s climbing community needed a place to call home. After tremendous effort and collaboration, we couldn’t be prouder to share our first location with you all. ASCEND’s South Side location will be among the top bouldering facilities in the world in terms of size, quality, amenities, and community-driven programming. ASCEND is a climbing gym run by passionate climbers who are deeply rooted in Southwestern Pennsylvania’s climbing community. The values we live by are simple: We are approachable and authentic, we respect our community, we strive for excellence, we are dedicated to safety, and we love to have fun! We look forward to meeting you all!

The Vision

We strive to provide the best climbing and fitness experience for our customers. From excellent equipment to knowledgeable staff, our gym will be a top-notch operation. The space will be one that fosters community and belonging, by being more than just a climbing gym: it’s a “third place” where customers can feel just as comfortable as they do at their workplace and their home, and where our customers want to simply be.

As a group of climbers that decided to start a gym, our values reflect a down-to-earth and authentic quality. Our gym is an extension of our love of a good day of climbing with a group of our closest friends that ends with storytelling around a campfire.

We are committed to an active lifestyle. We realize that all around fitness is key to climbing well, which is why we nurture activities like yoga, cross-training, and cardio, and promote smart nutrition and ample rest within our gym and community.

Our business will not just be run to make a profit, but to also be a benefit to its employees, members, the immediate neighborhood, and the region. We will seek to create a sustainable business model, focused on longevity and capable of growing morally and responsibly.

We see ourselves as part of a larger climbing ecosystem within the communities of Pittsburgh, Western Pennsylvania, and America. We take our roles as climbing ambassadors very seriously, and we support causes that affect our sport such as land access, environmental stewardship, local legislation, and human-rights.

Partners

We understand that ASCEND isn’t able to provide everything for everyone. That’s not a problem though, because we have some pretty awesome friends.

Regional
  • Southwestern Pennsylvania Climbers Coalition
    Promoting responsible development and preservation of climbing and bouldering in southwestern Pennsylvania.
  • Explorers Club of Pittsburgh
    Members participate in activities as diverse as mountaineering, rock climbing, skiing, scuba diving, canoeing, kayaking, caving, cycling, backpacking, environmental and community service projects, and a host of outdoor sports.
  • Venture Outdoors
    A member-supported local non-profit organization working to make it easy for you to get outside.
  • BikePGH
    With a focus on Advocacy, Education, and Community, Bike Pittsburgh is transforming our streets and communities into vibrant, healthy places by making them safe and accessible for people to bike and walk.
  • Fittsburgh
    Your guide to sweat spots, healthy eats, and upcoming races in Pittsburgh.
  • Allegheny Mountain Rescue Group
    Pittsburgh-based volunteer search and rescue team that specializes in lost and missing person searches, cave rescue, and high-angle rope rescue
  • NRAC
    Preserve and promotes access to climbing areas, and to conserve climbing resources in the New River Gorge and surrounding areas.
  • Steel City Slackers
    A passionate team of slackline enthusiasts who share a love for the Pittsburgh community.
(INTER)NATIONAL