About

Who Are We?

The Southwestern Pennsylvania Climbers Coalition’s (SWPACC) mission is to promote the responsible development of climbing and bouldering in southwestern Pennsylvania, to disseminate information about development and conservation of the resource, and to gain and preserve access.

History

SWPACC was officially established on December 1, 2014 after local climbers and friends recognized the need for such an organization in Southwestern Pennsylvania. The first action was taken in 2015 when SWPACC coordinated with other Pennsylvania local climbing organizations, the Access Fund, and numerous other user groups (hikers, runners, etc.) to express support for keeping State Gamelands open to non-hunters year round, in response to a proposal for significant closures. As a result, the proposal was rescinded and SWPACC established a positive working relationship with the State Game Commission.

Throughout the next few years, SWPACC took part in various climbing area revitalization projects including graffiti removal, hardware replacement, and trail cleanups. It also began disseminating information on climbing area access and routes and working more on fundraising and branding efforts.

On January 10, 2018, SWPACC officially became a Joint Member of the Access Fund as a Local Climbing Organization (LCO). As SWPACC began to take on larger projects and become a bigger part of the local climbing community, the need for increased organization and community involvement became a priority. As a result, in 2020, SWPACC revamped its bylaws and organizational practices, held its first election, and established working committees.

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Access Fund Joint Member

United we are stronger. That’s why the Access Fund maintains deep partnerships with local climbing organizations (LCOs) across the country. When a local climbing access issue occurs, the first and best line of defense is almost always the local climbers who are familiar with the area and the issues. A critical piece of the Access Fund’s work is encouraging, organizing, and empowering local climbers to join together into local climbing organizations.

  • Today, the Access Fund works with more than 130 local climbing organizations across the country, and SWPACC is proudly one of them! To learn more about the Access Fund and our partnership, please visit https://www.accessfund.org/.

Become a Member

Our Board of Directors

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Joel Brady

President

Having climbed extensively in SWPA, Joel enjoys snaking any projects that the real developers of new areas just didn’t get around to yet. Reticent to draw attention to himself, he arrives discreetly at most crags hauling four young screaming children and a banjo. He believes that talking and listening–really listening–to one another is the foundation for tackling the issues important to our regional climbing community, and he doesn’t really want to hear what you have to say about that.

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DR. BOB COBLENTZ

 

I have been climbing (both rock and ice) in southwestern PA for well over 30 years and know the areas well. I have collaborated with others to open new areas and then had to negotiate with land managers to keep them open. I also have experienced the loss of access to beloved climbing areas and feel strongly about keeping our open places open and trying to open new places in a reasonable manner. I have helped educate generations of local climbers about the skills needed to enjoy local climbing on rock and ice as well as the risks involved. I have also helped train aspiring local mountaineers to tackle big mountains in the USA and around the world. I have learned from hard experience that to accomplish anything big you need a group of individuals working together as a team. I am so happy to have the opportunity to give back to our wonderful climbing community by serving on the SWPACC team.

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RU EMMONS

 

Ru has been climbing all over the country with roots in SWPA for the last 18 years (holy moly!) Climbing, along with other outdoor adventure, has been an integral part of their life, and is an avenue into community wherever they go. They are passionate about making climbing accessible to folks who have been historically shut out of the sport, and they are one of the founders of Queer Scouts, which has evolved into Ascend’s queer climbing club. When they are not climbing, backpacking, or biking, they sometimes make time to work as a massage therapist and performer. 

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Lauren Endicott

 

Lauren’s been climbing nearly 20 years. After her sister took her to the Gunks when she was 15, she was always looking for opportunities to climb, and periodically found them in Central and Southwestern PA crags. It was soon after she moved to Pittsburgh for good (about 10 years ago) that she really got into climbing though. And it’s safe to say that it’s had a bigger impact on her life than any other endeavor. It’s how she met her husband. It’s how she met many of her closest friends. It’s a special lens through which she’s gone on to explore the country. And it’s something she’s continued to enjoy locally, since bringing a little climber into the world a year and a half ago. Her desire on the board is to help grow our climbing community and be a part of making climbing more accessible and welcoming. Our local crags are important places; and in caring for these important places she hopes to help bring people together to appreciate the gems that we have in our own backyard. 

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JENNIFER FLAGGS

 

Jennifer began her climbing journey in 2016 with a barn, a group of friends, and a lot of plywood.  Being in the company of people who also love being outdoors has always been a joy, and climbing has been a new way to express that.  A former biologist, teacher of Deaf and hard-of-hearing students, and environmentalist, Jennifer also serves as the Environmental Chair for the Explorers Club of Pittsburgh.  She has travelled to climb in a myriad of places but loves the southwestern PA and east coast sandstone the best.  She hopes to be able to further SPWACC’s mission to expand access to climbing areas for generations of new climbers.  

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Stephen Gian

 

Stephen moved to Pittsburgh in 2016 for college and began climbing shortly after. Starting out at local gyms, his interest for the sport brought him to venture outdoors and begin sport climbing and bouldering at far and near crags. Since beginning his climbing journey, he has fallen in love with the local climbing community and the new opportunities it has brought him. As a member of the SWPACC board, Stephen hopes to give back what the climbing community gave him and get new people involved in climbing that normally wouldn’t have the opportunity. 

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PAUL GUARINO

 

Paul began climbing in 2007 and was immediately hooked. An intense hobby fostered by being a gym rat, local clubs, adventurous trips, and close mentors ultimately led to a shared dream of opening ASCEND Climbing, as well as being a founding board member of SWPACC. 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.

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MIKE VARLOTTA

ACCESS+STEWARDSHIP COORDINATOR

Mike has been a passionate SWPA climber for almost 30 years now. He was the driving force behind the revitalization of The Lost Crag, and over the years, he has rallied scores of climbers throughout the tri-state to become more dedicated stewards of our local climbing resources. As the founder of The Pittsburgh Public Schools Climbing Club in the mid-90s, Mike has partnered with stakeholders in the community to expose countless city kids to an activity from which they have traditionally been excluded. Presently, Mike is deep in collaboration with city leaders to turn the Climb Pittsburgh dream into a reality for all.

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GINETTE WALKER VINSKI

VICE PRESIDENT

Ginette’s passion for climbing grew from her love for nature and being outdoors. The experiences of feeling the rock beneath her fingertips, the dance-like movement of ascending the route, and the occasional Type 2 fun keep her coming back for more. Ginette’s background includes co-directing the Explorers Club of Pittsburgh’s Rock Climbing and Mountaineering Schools and serving for ten years as the club’s Environmental Chair. She happily works to advance SWPACC’s mission and contribute to building a safe and inclusive community of climbers and non-climbers alike in Southwestern PA.

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DJ WILMOT

Layered by divergent business, community, and educational experience, DJ is a trusted steward and advocate for climbing.  DJ serves to protect and expand assets and finances entrusted to SWPACC. He is dedicated to accomplishing SWPACC’s goals and brings insight often necessary for responsible access, conservation and development of land.  So yeah, he likes rocks.

 

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VINCENT ZENG

SECRETARY

Vincent moved to Pittsburgh for college in 2005 and never got around to leaving; they started bouldering at The Climbing Wall in 2012 and was eventually coaxed into outdoor cragging with the CMU Explorer’s Club. For Vincent, climbing is equal parts self-discovery and strengthening community, and they’re stoked to help bring more people into this experience.