Mo’ Committed Members

by Maya Jaffe /

As Momentum sends double digits this October, we found it only appropriate to showcase some of our most dedicated members–from the climbers that started out asking how to tie a figure-8, to our members that started climbing before gyms were even an idea. Momentum’s patrons run the gamut of the climbing community, but most importantly, they all find a way to stay psyched and motivated together. Here we showcase a few outstanding members: Joan, who’s learned the most; Bruce, who’s one of our most veteran members; The Vogels, our biggest family; and Maura, the Youth Programs champ!

Most Learned Climbing School Patron: Joan Watson

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Joan’s introduction to climbing was watching people ascend the climbing wall on the side of the Cliff Lodge at Snowbird. Joan looked in awe, wanting to try climbing herself, but life’s responsibilities as a mother and manager prevented her from pursuing a new sport. One night driving home from a movie, Joan stopped in Momentum Sandy with the attitude “If not now, when?” and asked for some information on the gym. On that night over two years ago, Joan remembers talking to the desk staff with no knowledge of climbing jargon, but a drive to climb and work with the climbing school. Joan specifically remembers her interactions with Jon Vickers, now a personal instructor and Momentum’s Digital Content Manager. “Jon treated me with respect and was polite, and I requested to work with him personally.”

Joan spent her first lesson in the bouldering area, and like all beginners, she spent more time on the floor than the wall. “I paid for six hours of training and by the fourth hour I was thinking after my six hours I’m not showing up again!” However, during that fourth session, Joan struggled to a top of a route, “I’ll never forget it; I had an epiphany. I love this! It was just like the day I skied down my first hill when I never thought I could. I just thought, I’m so used to doing everything myself, so to look down and realize there’s someone there to catch me was such an epiphany, it melded into other aspects of my life. There’s someone to catch you if you fall, and you can reach the top of that mountain all by yourself. And then I was hooked.”

Joan continues to work with the climbing school, from private instruction to Momentum’s monthly class offerings. Because Joan is a self proclaimed perfectionist, she is working on her technique until it’s ingrained as muscle memory. Joan is always striving to climb better explaining that, “If you’re not falling you’re not learning.” And with that attitude, Joan progressed from not knowing how to tie in to lead climbing and climbing outdoors!

Through Momentum’s Inside/Out program, Joan has climbed in Salt Lake’s local crags and even at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. “Climbing outside is the great equalizer,” Joan explains, “even people climbing 10 times harder than me need to feel around to find their holds. I’m 5’2” and need my own beta, it’s me and the wall and we’re having our thing. It’s creative problem solving and it’s zen. There isn’t just one way up the route.” But Joan loves to climb indoors too, and when expressing her gratitude to Momentum’s setters she said, “A good route has flow and some cruxes and when I get to the top it’s like… So satisfying, I want to have a cigarette!” Joan has forged a relationship with Momentum’s setters and urges everyone to do so because, “Without good setters there isn’t a good experience in the gym, and without feedback, they don’t know what their climbers like!”

In the midst of her training, Joan faced an injury, but rather than quitting, her attitude was “Don’t most climbers feel pain and face injury?” Once again Joan proved her incredible drive, refusing to stop working out and improving. When Joan couldn’t climb, she would use the treadmill and work on technical skills like building anchors explaining, “I don’t have a death wish, I don’t want to get hurt, but I’d rather die falling off a mountain than relaxing in a barcalounger.”

Joan’s climbing career is still young, but she has improved greatly and her tenacity to succeed is extremely admirable. The entire team at Momentum is glad to have been there for every step of Joan’s progress, and so proud of Joan for continually pushing herself and expanding her comfort zone.

Most Seasoned Climber: Bruce Heath

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Bruce began climbing in the 1960s at University of Utah under the tutelage of Harold Goodro, outdoor educator and a pioneer in the Wasatch (see: Goodro’s Wall). Goodro would take Bruce up Big Cottonwood and Little Cottonwood Canyons, “We did what you now call ‘trad climbing’,” Bruce explains. “The harnesses, ropes, and shoes were very different back then, and there was no bouldering to speak of without crash pads.” Most routes were not bolted; Bruce was taught to place protection in small flakes or around chickenheads long before spring loaded camming devices were invented. “It was a different spirit, a different attitude; we were climbing just for the fun of it. There weren’t contests or magazines, there weren’t even any rules!”

Bruce began climbing indoors once gyms appeared in Salt Lake, and used the gym as a means to bond with his son, Steve. Steve still climbs at Momentum, and sometimes brings his two year old daughter to scramble on the walls! Bruce is now 76 and continues to climb at Momentum because it gives him strength and flexibility. Climbing outside helps Bruce to continually face his fears, “In fact, I worked in Africa and that ability to go into a new environment came from climbing,” Bruce is a shining example of how climbing teaches us patience and how to calmly face the unknown far beyond being on the sharp end. In Bruce’s words, “If I can do that, I can do just about anything!”

Bruce is a living indication that climbing is not simply a sport, but a lifestyle. “There’s a social aspect to climbing,” says Bruce, “I even had my 70th birthday party here!” Bruce also proves climbing is a lifelong pursuit– that there’s always room for growth and fun, even if he’s transitioned from climbing hard to climbing with his granddaughter. Bruce still sets climbing goals for himself, with his eye on some routes in Zion National Park. Climb on, Bruce!

Largest Climbing Family: The Vogels

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The Vogels are a family of 6 enthusiastic local climbers. Kate Vogel, ER Doctor and mother of four, learned to climb in Boulder, Colorado as an undergraduate at CSU. She met her husband Doug in Pittsburgh while in medical school, where they would climb both indoors and outside. Doug recalls avoiding an epic in West Virginia’s Seneca Rocks, “[It was] my first time ever rappelling in a thunderstorm. I was trying to impress this woman in the thunder and lightning!” The couple moved to Salt Lake City for their residencies, and climbed up Big Cottonwood and Mt. Olympus before Momentum opened.

When the Vogels had their children, “We started off with twins which was really challenging, and had 4 children in the span of 38 months of each other,” Kate explains. The Vogels took around 5 years off from climbing; while their climbing slowed down, life picked up in other ways.

Once the twins were old enough, Kate looked into Momentum’s summer camp offerings for the girls.  “I convinced the kids to try summer camp and they liked it so much! Then they got involved in the Mo-Minis program and really liked it!” The four girls are now enrolled in Momentum’s youth programs, 3 of whom are excelling in the advanced program. When enrolling their children, Kate and Doug also became Momentum Members. “The kids really enjoy it and do awesome in the class, so it’s a chance [for us to] all come in and climb,” Kate explains.

Currently, Kate and Doug come into gym during the girls’ classes or at night after they’ve been put to bed. “The hours are convenient; we can still be with our kids all day long and come at night until the gym closes or when the kids are in class.” Now that the girls are a little older, the family has taken climbing trips to world class locations including Idaho’s City of Rocks. The Vogels stand as a true testament that if you make climbing a priority, all 6 climbers can fit it into their hectic schedules.

When asking the girls what motivates them to climb, Izzy (age 7) favors “Getting to the top, especially if I need to work on it,” not only embracing failure as part of the process, but using it to fuel trying harder. Sammy (age 7) likes to race her family members on the wall– perhaps a budding speed climber! Madison (age 6) likes trying new routes the best, and finally Mackenzie (age 4) succinctly summarizes why  we all climb: “Because it’s fun!”

Youth Programs Champion: Maura Borden

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Maura Borden’s climbing career was shaped at Momentum from learning how to tie a figure eight to now training and thriving with the Momentum Team, and even coaching Momentum’s Summer Camp. At 13 years old, Maura began climbing at Momentum, first hearing about the gym’s youth programs from a peer in elementary school, then finally coming into Momentum with her cousin on a whim and instantly falling in love.

Climbing as a sport is seeing an interesting shift today toward younger climbers, as the age for entry at Momentum and many other gyms is now as young as three years old. In an age of instant gratification, climbing’s inherent struggles were never a problem for Maura because her drive to climb has always come from within. When Maura was in seventh grade, she tried Momentum’s Base Camp and explained, “I immediately loved it. My mom put me in the youth group once a week, and I did that for a while before progressing to the program that meets twice a week.” Today, Maura prefers sport climbing, “because you get to keep going for so long that you get in ‘the zone’ [where] you stop thinking and start climbing.”

Maura’s talent in the youth program did not go unnoticed. “Nicole Brandt [Momentum’s Youth Program Director] mentioned I should try out for the team. I didn’t make it on the first time, but Nicole and the coaches helped me to work harder. I started climbing more with more of a focus on lead climbing, and made the team! Starting out the team was intimidating, and initially the season did not go ideally, but I later managed to make it to divisionals!”

Maura juggles school and training five days a week, and sees climbing as a way to decompress after homework. Sleep is the ultimate sacrifice, Maura jokes. Plateaus in climbing are inevitable, especially when pursuing climbing competitively, and Maura’s strategy is to climb something in a style she’s good at so she can go back to a weaker area psyched.

Maura is a competitive climber, but her motivations in climbing have always been personal, and of course, centered around having fun. “The more I put into climbing, the more I try, the more I get out of it,” Maura explains.”The main reason I keep climbing is because it makes me happy, feel accomplished, and feel good about myself.”

Maura’s journey through the youth programs has come full circle as she now coaches Momentum’s summer camps, giving the gift of climbing to those younger than even she was when starting to climb. She hopes to coach again in the future.

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