Rocks rock, as far as Paul Guarino is concerned. That’s why he and his two partners are planning a second rock-climbing facility.

“We’re excited to grow the business and spread interest in climbing,” said Guarino, one of the founders and owners of Ascend, at 22nd and Mary streets on Pittsburgh’s South Side. He, Alex Bernstein and Aaron Gilmore opened the gym in March 2017.

They are now in an expansion mode, having announced on Facebook that they’ve launched plans to build an Ascend in Newbury Market, the mixed-use development going up in South Fayette Township. The gym will be off Route 50, near the Bridgeville exit of Interstate 79, and open sometime in 2020, Guarino said.

“Climbing has been kind of exploding the past five or 10 years. It will be in the (Summer) Olympics in 2020,” he said. “It’s more on people’s radar as an opportunity at fun and fitness.”

Newbury is favorable location, Guarino said – near a major interstate. “It’s close to South Hills neighbrhoods, to Washington, Ohio and Morgantown (W.Va.). It’s also a 25-minute drive from the city (Pittsburgh) and from Cranberry.”

The South Fayette gym will be a little larger than the original Ascend, Guarino said, and a bit different. There are no ropes at the South Side site, which he described as “more of a bouldering gym,” while ropes will be prevalent at Newbury, where the climbs also will be higher.

Ascend will be open daily and, according to Guarino, cater to virtually anyone. “We will be family-friendly, but the serious trainer will be able to work out here. We’ll have a large dedicated event wall for parties and groups.”

Bernstein is the only owner with Southwestern Pennsylvania roots; he hails from Squirrel Hill. Gilmore is from Blairsville and Guarino from Rochester, N.Y. Yet they are dedicated to nurturing the ascent of Ascend.

“We do have our sights set on expanding to more locations in the Pittsburgh area and beyond,” Guarino said. “We’re a pretty ambitious group. We feel the sky’s the limit.”

Staff Writer

Rick Shrum joined the Observer-Reporter as a reporter in 2012, after serving as a section editor, sports reporter and copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rick has won seven individual writing awards, including two Golden Quills.

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