THE PERFECT TEAM — OUR MEMBERS EMBODY BOTH SUSTAINABLE OUTDOOR VALUES, LOVE FOR CLIMBING AND THE AMBITION TO MAKE OHIO A BETTER PLACE FOR CLIMBERS
COURTNEY CURTNER, PRESIDENT
Courtney originally joined the OCC as the Communications and Marketing Director, and has recently taken over as president!
Though she had always wanted to try climbing, after one date with her favorite climbing partner Steve, she was hooked and became a member of the Urban Krag Climbing Center in Dayton, Ohio. With the support of a great group of climbers in Dayton, Courtney has not only been able to learn a lot about the sport, she’s also had the chance to travel around the US in search of climbing adventures. One day she hopes to climb in all 50 states though Ohio will always be her home crag. When not climbing outside, you can find her pulling plastic at Krag, Vertical Adventures, Kinetic, or her home gym that she and Steve built just last year.
When she’s not climbing, Courtney teaches Media Studies at Miami University Middletown and slings coffee as a barista at a local coffee shop. Also an avid cyclist, you may find her riding on the bike path on off days from climbing. Needless to say, she enjoys the great outdoors.
Born and raised in Ohio, Courtney wants to share her passion of climbing and love for this state with others. By working with the Ohio Climbers Coalition, she wants to encourage others to respect the land and minimize their impact while enjoying the great climbing locations Ohio has to offer.
JOHN MANSPERGER, Vice President
John serves as OCC’S Vice President. A lifelong Ohio resident, he is using this opportunity to work for accessible outdoor climbing throughout the state. He strives to achieve a statewide scope for OCC, improve awareness of access and environmental impact issues, and evaluate the potential of new climbing areas.
A climber since the 1980s, John provides an historical perspective to the OCC. He started climbing in NE Ohio, teaching himself how to top rope. Upon joining the OSU Mountaineers, he began climbing at Clifton and Springfield Gorges (the latter now legally open as Mad River Gorge!). He expanded his skills to multi-pitch rock leading (Seneca Rocks), top-roping Ohio ice, and then into leading ice and mountaineering in the U.S. and overseas.
As an engineer for Ashland (a global specialty chemical company), John oversees evaluation and fabrication of and repairs to chemical process equipment. He is often able to combine climbing with his work travel, creating friendships and climbing opportunities in the U.S. and overseas. Multi-week climbing trips are tougher. He trains, gym climbs at Vertical Adventures, gets out for weekend rock and ice climbing in Ohio and nearby states, and works hard to take extended rock and ice climbing trips to multi-pitch destinations.
The opening of Mad River Gorge encompasses John’s vision of quality outdoor climbing within reasonable distances for significant numbers of climbers. He knows that the development of Mad River and future Ohio climbing areas will reduce environmental impact by shortening drive times, and make getting outside to climb easier for all. John is passionate about long-term sustainable use and improvement of climbing and natural areas - here in Ohio and around the world.
TOM FAY, SECRETARY
Tom records board meeting minutes, maintains records of the board's activities and schedule, and handles other logistics of the board's operations.
Tom began climbing in 2011 at his local gym in Dayton. After a couple years as a gym rat, Tom finally climbed outside, top-roping at John Bryan State Park, and quickly grew to love the sport and the community. Since then, he has climbed across the country, in West Virginia, Georgia, Colorado, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, Kentucky, and of course, Ohio. Tom mainly sticks to sport climbing at the Red River Gorge and the Mad River Gorge, but can also be found at Urban Krag in Dayton.
After helping to clean-up and open the Mad River Gorge and Nature Preserve in Clark County, OH, Tom was energized by success of the community. He wants to continue giving back by preserving climbing areas and helping to discover new ones. He is excited to share his love of the sport and help the community practice sustainable climbing ethics.
JED JOHNSON, TREASURER
Jed began rock climbing in a gym as a student at The Ohio State University when the Adventure Recreation Center was built. He now enjoys bouldering, trad, and sport climbing equally in destinations ranging from Mt. Whitney in California, to sandstone boulders in Alabama, to polished tufas in Spain, but his true love is thuggy pocket climbing in the Red River Gorge. He can often be found at the crags spewing insightful beta such as “Just pull harder!” Climbing provides the perfect combination of mental workout and physical workout while exploring God’s creation and building memories with friends.
A materials science engineer by training, Jed works at a startup medical device company in Columbus, OH and handles extremely technical tasks ranging from taking out the trash to planning clinical trials. He was born and raised 30 minutes from the Mad River Gorge and loves being a part of sharing this region with others. Ohio has a lot to offer outdoor enthusiasts and the Ohio Climbers Coalition, with a lot of support from folks like you, can make a profound impact for many generations to come.
KATIE JOHNSTONE, DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
Katie grew up on the water wakeboarding and competed during her years at Ohio University. When she graduated she took a job in Columbus and felt a little lost not being on the water. Soon after moving a friend took her climbing and everything changed, she was hooked! For the past year and a half Katie’s passion for climbing has truly grown. She spends her weekdays after work in the gym lead climbing and spends her weekends down at the Red River Gorge. She recently was introduced to trad climbing and soon hopes to be leading her own lines. She also has plans to start exploring climbing out west. Katie is very excited to see climbing grow here in Ohio. She looks forward to being involved with the climbing community and hopes to share her passion of climbing with all.
Norm Swann, Northern Ohio Stewardship Director
Norm started climbing in 1977 while attending West Virginia University. He started out using 1” tubular webbing to make a harness, learned to belay using the hip belay and wore tennis shoes. All climbing was done outside, there were no indoor gyms back then.
Things improved over the years; climbing shoes with sticky rubber, belay devices, spring loaded caming devices, and the concept of bolting entire climbs and using a stick to clip the first bolt…all that is history now.
Norm watched the sport grow from a small group of outcasts to what it is today. He fell in love with climbing and it became one of the most important parts of his life, next to family and career. He believes that he has seen some of the most beautiful places on Earth during his climbing adventures over the years, and has met many interesting and unique individuals through climbing, some which are lifelong friends.
Norm retired in 2009 after 30 years with Ohio State Parks. His experience with climbing and parks should be an asset to the OCC and the climbing community in NE Ohio.
Norm said, “In the last couple years, I’ve been watching the OCC and saw that they were affiliated with the Access Fund. I also read about the success at the Mad River Gorge. It seemed to me the organization was heading in the right direction, and I wanted to be a part of it, so I signed up to help out in NE Ohio”.
He encourages climbers to look over the information on the OCC website and Facebook pages. If you like what you see, please consider becoming a member, volunteering, or becoming a part of the OCC leadership team.
Feel free to email Norm if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions concerning climbing issues in NE Ohio. Any feedback about how we are doing in NE Ohio would be appreciated. Or, maybe you are new to the area and just want information about climbing areas in NE Ohio.
Blake Hillard, Outreach and Advocacy Director
Blake joined the Ohio Climber's Coalition as the Outreach and Advocacy Director in Spring 2019. He is psyched to contribute to the efforts of the OCC in reaching out to important stakeholders that impact Ohio climbers and outdoor spaces around the state.
Blake is a recent recipient of a Political Science degree from Capital University, and splits his time with friends in Columbus and family in Cincinnati. You can find him attempting (and failing) big dynamic moves at Chambers, belaying his mom at Mosaic, or trying hard at the Mad. Blake fell in love with climbing through his coworkers in outdoor retail and has been rapidly ramping up his involvement in the community since first putting on climbing shoes just over a year ago.
When he's not climbing, Blake enjoys watching documentaries, visiting breweries with with girlfriend Arlaina, and slowly but surely spending more time on his bike. He is very committed to the OCC's efforts and super excited to help get the message out there.
Noah Ashley, Membership Director
Noah works as the Membership Director for the OCC. Helping grow the membership base around the state, and provide benefits to OCC members.
He began climbing in 2017 at Vertical Adventures in Columbus. Although starting as a lone gym boulderer, he now spends most of his time sport (and hopefully soon trad) climbing outdoors with the friends he met through the community. His favorite climbing are the crimps at Smith Rock in Bend OR, but is always happy to come home to the juggy holds in Ohio.
Currently working as a member of a national advocacy and campaign based non-profit in Columbus OH, Noah does operations and HR for their state team. Since he has gotten to work closely on environmental issues, he’s grateful for the opportunity to continue the work and begin providing safer and more accessible climbing to Ohioans through the OCC.
SCOTT HILLMAN, EDUCATION Advisor
Scott started climbing in 2009. He spent that first year climbing in the gym and fell in love with the climbing community. One of his first trips outside was to Seneca Rocks, WV. Climbing at Seneca sparked a passion and he quickly began the pursuit of knowledge and tools necessary for a safe yet adventurous climbing career. In 2014 Scott completed his first round of guide certification through the American Mountain Guide Association. He currently works very closely with the adaptive sports community to share his love for the sport and is Co-founder of Capstone Wilderness Guides, an instructional guide service based in central Ohio. He is currently permitted to guide in Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia.
Climbing has opened many doors for Scott and has helped him explore culture and make life long friends around the world. His climbing resume includes routes in the Tetons, Red Rocks, Yosemite, City of Rocks, Mt. Rainier, and countless more throughout the East Coast.
The Ohio climbing community has grown significantly in recent years. Scott hopes to work with the community and landowners to ensure that the sport can grow, helping climbers to push their physical and mental limits in the outdoors for decades to come. He believes it’s important to promote the sport with a top priority on safety, access, and education.
JACK SANTO, ADVISOR
Jack founded the Ohio Climbers Coalition in 2013 and served as its president through 2017. Jack started climbing several years ago when a friend from Seattle convinced him to head to the Pacific Northwest and climb a little peak called Mt. Adams. Little did he know that this relatively small 12,000 foot peak would open up a whole new world. Since that time he has had the opportunity to rock, ice, and mountain climb in four different continents and eighteen different states. In October, 2010 Jack launched the Ohio Rock Climbing Group, a social climbing organization which now boasts over 1,500 members. In 2013 Jack formed the Ohio Climbers Coalition (OCC), an Ohio 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, when he realized that climbing was illegal in many of the numerous climbing areas in the state. With the help of the Access Fund, the OCC Board, and the Ohio climbing community, the OCC has seen some wins, including the opening of the Mad River Gorge. More importantly, we have set a foundation for many more future wins. Even though he has moved to Seattle, Jack will stay involved with the OCC in an advisory position.
GINA VITALE, ADVISOR
Gina found climbing later in life, not until she turned 40 to be exact. she has always been athletic and wanted to try climbing just never took the leap. Met a climber and figured this was fate telling me it was time to climb. Went to a meet up at a rock gym and loved it. The challenge, both mentally and physically, was exactly what I was craving in my life. Next came real climbing, outdoors. She is not an outdoorsy chic, definitely not a camper, but there's nothing real rock. So far only climbed at New River Gorge, Seneca and Red River Gorge. Oh, and Panama, yes, the country. Next venture is mountaineering and a possible trip to the Alps.
She is a Physical Therapist Assistant working in home care and also teach Pilates on the side, gotta pay for the next climbing trip!
Gina joined the OCC board to help open up legal climbing in Ohio. She wants climbers to not have to always drive 5 hours, minimum, to climb real rock. There are so many opportunities in Ohio and Gina looks forward to being part of the group that changes climbing here for generations to come.
As Co-Regional Coordinator for the Mad River Gorge and Nature Preserve, Matthew works closely with the local climbing community and the parks department to ensure the continued development, preservation, and prosperity of the Mad River Gorge.
Matthew was introduced to the OCC by Courtney in the winter of 2016. She said there was potential climbing in Springfield Ohio, if only everyone was willing to pitch in and clean it up. The next weekend he went with Courtney and her friends to remove tires, honeysuckle, and trash from the Mad River Gorge. Since then he has been involved in the OCC, primarily working at the Mad River Gorge and Nature Preserve.
Matthew started climbing in the spring of 2012 at a local gym in Dayton. It didn't take him long to buy a rope, webbing, and belay device and drag his friends outside in search of real rock. He started small at John Bryan State Park, but soon found the Red River Gorge. It wasn't long before even that wasn't enough, and he began traveling to climbing destinations across the country. His favorite climb to date is still Point Dume State Park in Southern California. He continues to climb and train in search of greater climbing adventures.
If you run into him at the Mad River Gorge don't hesitate to offer feedback and suggestions.
As Co-Regional Coordinator for the Mad River Gorge, Carl works closely with local climbing community and parks department to ensure the continued development, preservation, and prosperity of the Gorge.
Carl has been climbing since late 2011 when he was invited to a local climbing gym by some friends. He struggled to complete a few 5.8s, laid on the gravel with his forearms ablaze, and has been climbing ever since. He hopes to climb around Europe someday soon.
Carl has helped clean up the Mad Rive Gorge during all events, and numerous other times. He looks forward to continuing the cleanup, and opening the North side for climbing soon.
As a Southeast regional representative of OCC, Ted Welser looks forward to helping build, preserve, and improve access to climbing resources in SE Ohio, and to foster stronger community connections in the region.
Ted first began climbing in 1989 at Miami University where he worked extensively with the Outdoor Pursuit programs as an instructor and manager. While completing a MS in Sport Studies he worked as a head route setter at Rock Quest, and developed a strong love for steep sport routes at the Red, New, Obed and Little River Canyon; as well as multi pitch trad routes at the Gunks and Linville Gorge. During the mid 1990’s he wintered with friends in Hueco Tanks, which spurred his exploration of bouldering possibilities in Ohio and Appalachia, including countless hours at Whipps Ledges.
After graduating he moved to Logan Utah and then to Reno Nevada to manage RockSport while applying to graduate school, getting married, and finally moving to Seattle to attend UW. After 8 years, two PhDs, two kids, and postdocs in Ithaca NY, Ted and Laura became professors at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.
Since then Ted has started his second climbing career with his family and has been building community and resources for climbers in SE Ohio. In 2007 he built his 5th home climbing wall, started exploring local boulders of Athens County, and sharing those findings online. Family, community, training and exploration have been major aspects of this second career which includes family climbing trips to Horsepens 40, the New and Red, Virgin Gorda, Wild Iris, Maple Canyon and Mt. Mizugaki Japan.
Recently Ted helped build a garage bouldering gym called Beta Fish, and founded (with Bryant Noble) Climb Athens, a non profit climbing gym. He has also taught workshops on route setting at OU and Hocking College, and is learning to replace anchors and establish routes with Yoichi Ishida and Marina Baldissera Pacchetti.
Jill was an original OCC board member assisting with our Ohio non-profit status as well as working toward access in local metroparks. After taking a break for grad school, Jill’s back to help the OCC, initially as our Crag Steward at Whipp’s Ledges, and now as a regional coordinator.
A lifelong educator, Jill loves teaching climbing and helping others safely enjoy this sport that has been her passion since 1989. After caving and scuba diving just weren’t quite right, Jill tried rock climbing at the only public gym in Michigan, Inside Moves, where she was instantly hooked. Back then, she tied her own harness with 16’ of 2” tubular webbing and belayed with a figure-8 (an advance from Norm’s hip belay, but still crude in today’s standards).
Jill has climbed in 13 states and Mexico, and hopes to travel to Mallorca, Spain, for her first overseas climbing excursion. By far, Jill’s favorite place to climb is Joshua Tree National Park. “The sun, sand and heat bake into your soul bringing the movement over JTree’s harsh granite into every neuron,” she tells us. Huh, maybe check out Joshua Tree? When she’s not climbing, Jill works as a patent attorney specializing in medical device technology transfer, as well as business consulting and risk management. She also volunteers her time helping women entrepreneurs with the legal aspects of starting and running their small businesses.
Safety and climber education permeate Jill’s years as a climbing instructor and coach, route setter, climbing safety consultant, and staff trainer. She is a certified PCGI SPG and Lead Guide candidate, AMGA SPI, and Wilderness First Responder, and has taught Professional Rescuer CPR/AED, First Aid and Wilderness First Aid. Jill occasionally offers sport, trad, top-rope and rappelling instruction to individuals and small groups here in Ohio. Yes, she cares deeply about safety. She even helps teach self-defense at her dojo! Jill is excited to be back helping the OCC with access and education in northeast Ohio.
Joshua Hellstrom was born in Utah and has spent exactly half his life in Utah and half in Ohio. He was raised with a deep love of the mountains and outdoor activities. He is a working professional who travels often and enjoys spending his free time outdoors with his family and children.
Josh was introduced to climbing by his father in law when he was 27 years old. A climber since the 70’s, his Father in law was a hard teacher. He specifically focused on traditional and alpine climbing, always stressing safety and self-reliance. Naturally, this is the type of climbing Josh gravitated towards and finds most enjoyable today. Josh has been travelling and climbing for 12 years now and plans to continue this journey until the wheels fall off.
Josh is very grateful and excited to be a part of the Ohio Climbers Coalition. He has been very involved in the past with Springfield and looks forward to being involved moving forward. He has a passion for climbing and loves the climbing community. He looks forward to meeting and working with many different climbers. But most important to him is being a part of preserving, improving, and securing climbing in the Springfield Gorge for many generations to come.
Ben Berg has been climbing regularly in the Red River Gorge since 2006, and has climbed across the southern and western United States as well as Europe. He has been climbing in the Springfield Gorge frequently for the last several years due to the close proximity to his home just south of Dayton. You may see him at the crag climbing with his lady crusher wife Sara. Ben is a career firefighter/paramedic with the City of Sharonville and is a certified rope rescue technician.
Jim has been hooked on climbing outdoors since he first hopped on a top-rope at Clifton Gorge,Ohio in the early 90's. When that area closed it was onto the northside of Springfield Gorge. Whenthat toprope area closed he went on to develop sport routes on the southside of the gorge with a handful of friends and great climbing partners. He has made many trips to RRG, Seneca and was one of the first campers at Roger's at the New River Gorge but has never lost his love for the diversity and challenges of Springfield limestone with the dream of someday cleaning and preserving that beautiful area for future generations.
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