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Climbers to continue ascension

New ownership group takes over in April

Andrew Siemann, of Canfield, climbs an overhanging cave wall at ASCEND Youngstown during the Youngstown Climb party in celebration of the facility staying open.

BOARDMAN — Four local rock climbers hosted a party Thursday at ASCEND Youngstown after taking ownership of the facility to keep the area involved.

ASCEND issued a press release earlier this month announcing the impending closure of the facility located at 1221 W. Western Reserve Road.

On April 1, ownership and operations will transfer to Courtney and Josh Boyle, Cale Mitchell and Dan Froelich, and the facility will be staying open under the new group.

Froelich said, “It was going to close, and I would hate to see that for this community.”

Josh Boyle said he connected with Mitchell and Froelich through one of ASCEND’s current owners. “We decided that we’d pull our resources together and buy the gym from them and take over the lease.”

The Boyles own ECO Consulting, a provider of project-based curriculum and programming, STEAM programming, citizen science hikes and workshops, service learning curriculum development and implementation, and youth outdoor excursions throughout the Valley.

ECO is a partner with ASCEND and has used the space for various youth programs.

“Hearing the space was going to be closed broke our hearts,” Courtney Boyle said. “And the gym kind of paired us all up because we were all interested, so we came together to make this happen.”

The group suggested a new name for the facility, Youngstown Climb.

Mitchell and Froelich met while climbing in Shaker Heights, and they now climb outdoors together. “I’ve been involved in climbing for about 15 years,” Froelich said. “My dad climbed in the late ’80s and was one of the first people around this area actually getting into climbing. So before I even knew how much I loved climbing, and in my early 20s I got back into it.”

Courtney Boyle said the new group of owners is, first and foremost, committed to making sure the gym stays open, before focusing on expansion. Mitchell commented, “Simply and vaguely, yes.”

“We’re trying to get something that’s going to be a lot more community- oriented and get a lot more people in here pursuing their passions in climbing,” Mitchell continued. “It’s a pretty small community, and the mind of the community is forward thinking, so it’s not necessarily us coming up with these new ingenious ideas, it’s the community as a whole. We’re just kind of the group that got together to make this happen.”

The partnership with ASCEND, which has a gym in Pittsburgh, will allow Youngstown Climb to collaborate and maintain equipment within the facility.

“They’re climbers too, and they love climbing like we love climbing,” Mitchell said. “The more gyms that are open, the better for our community. And there’s no competition at all, it’s all love.”

Courtney further explained that she and Josh are not as active as they once were, but they continue going to ASCEND often because their children enjoy climbing as well.

YOUTH CLIMBERS

Bronwen Ball, 9, of North Lima has been rock climbing for about two months.

“I like trying to go higher every time,” Bronwen said.

She goes to the facility once a week and said she enjoys climbing at ASCEND because it helps her exercise. Bronwen also said she wants to continue climbing “forever.”

Like Bronwen, 13-year-old Luka Steeb, of Youngstown, also spends time at ASCEND weekly as an extracurricular.

In his fifth-year climbing, Steeb explained, “I think it’s a great physical activity, and it has a good community.” Steeb continued, “It shows that if you’re feeling down about something, or like you can’t do it, it shows there are alternative ways of doing it. And I really like that.”

Steeb, who attends Akiva Academy, said, “If you do get stuck, you have a lifeline. And I’ve been doing it so long, and it’s now second nature.”

Have an interesting story? Contact Daniel Newman by email at dnewman@tribtoday.com. Follow Daniel on X, formerly Twitter, @tribdnewman.

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