Team Introduction

Climbing is one of the fastest growing and most exciting youth sports in the world, and now that it is an Olympic event, the future for youth participation and development is brighter than ever. Climbing provides valuable and unique experiences for young athletes, teaching them to how to stay calm and focus their attention in demanding situations.

Climbing is also a community sport that thankfully lacks the cut throat competitiveness of other sports, even at national level events competitors genuinely cheer for each other and hope that each athlete will do their very best. Locally, living along the Wasatch Front provides unique experiences for young climbers, as this area has some of the best climbing resources in the world and the Salt Lake climbing community has done much to advance the sport.

Our gym is also one of the biggest and best climbing facilities in the world providing significant advantages to athletes who train and climb here. Our coaching staff is Lead by programming director Douglas Hunter who has been coaching elite climbers for 25 years and is the author of the best-selling and globally respected book “The Self-Coached Climber.”

Our coaching staff has been selected based on their skill as teachers and ability to work well with both groups and individuals. They put the emotional well-being and development of each athlete first, knowing the great performances come from confident, happy athletes who believe in themselves and their abilities. For all these reasons and more, The Front is the very best place for kids to come discover, learn about, and fall in love with climbing.

Organization

The Salt Lake Front Climbing Team is divided into two tracks; a Recreational Team and a Competitive Team. The Competitive Team has two separate seasons, Fall (ABS Climbing Season) and Winter (SCS Climbing Season). The ABS is a faction of USA Climbing, the governing body over competitive climbing in the United States.

The Recreational Team

The recreational team is for kids who have caught the climbing bug and want to make it a weekly activity. The recreation team is a fun way for climbers to develop their climbing skills and increase their climbing level.

The rec team develops technical skills such as those needed for roped climbing and also develops fundamental skills of climbing movement in a fun supportive environment. The team’s goal is for kids to develop skills and interest in the sport while enjoying the satisfaction that comes with developing as an athlete.

The Competitive Team

Our competitive climbing team is for youth 7 - 18 that show real enthusiasm and aptitude for climbing. Practices are held on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Team members compete at the local, national and international levels including the national and world championships.

While competitions provide the context for the team our goals are to foster athletic and emotional development for all team members, developing a strong community, and to have fun in the process!

The competition team is a place where athletes deepen their appreciation and understanding of advanced climbing skills including technical skills such as on-sight and redpoint climbing; Motor skills including the initiation and timing of climbing’s complex movements, and emotional skills such as staying calm in demanding high pressure situations.

The coaching staff makes use of cutting edge tools such as video analysis on a daily basis to help team members be successful in these areas. The competitive team also engages in sport specific training so that they are technically, emotionally, and athletically ready for the unique challenges of climbing.

We love helping these gifted athletes develop in these ways, and seeing them grow as people.

The Coaches

Douglas Hunter
Program Director

I started climbing 37 years ago when family friends took me top-roping at a small outcropping over a sewer line in Philadelphia; by the time I was half-way up my first climb I was hooked. Since then I have climbed all over the US, put up first ascents in five states, and I have early ascents of test pieces such as Cop Killer 5.13d, and Dead Souls 5.13d. Among my first ascents are The Hurricane 5.14a, Escape from New York 5.13c, and The Will to Power 5.13c, all respected for their unique movement and extreme difficulty.

I’ve been coaching for 27 years, working with athletes at all levels from total beginners, to world cup competitors. I have written two books on climbing The Self-Coached Climber and Redpoint. I have coached adults and youth to the World Championships on several occasions and my athletes regularly compete at the national level.

For me, the greatest draw is climbing movement—it is unique, beautiful complex and immensely enjoyable. The hallmark of my coaching style and training practice has been to put movement first, and to help climbers have the same kind of control over their bodies that dancers have.

Dylan Empey 
Competitive Team

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, I have been climbing for years and have coached athletes at Regional, Divisional, and National levels. Teaching is my passion and I am currently pursuing a Master’s of Education at Westminster college. My favorite places to climb include: Red Rocks, Thailand, and of course locally at Little Cottonwood Canyon.

I use a student-centered approach to teaching and coaching—focusing on the individual and adapting curriculum as necessary to cater to individual needs and goals. I am proud to hold certificates through the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) with both a CWA as well as SPI. I plan to continue my education in order to constantly improve as an instructor!

Sarah Schlaefke
Recreational Team

When it comes to the outdoor world, I don't think there is anything I love more than climbing on rocks. I'm from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and previously Chicago, so when climbing first entered my life, I wanted to spread my newfound passion in every way that I could. In the past I played a big role in teaching at my home gym, Milwaukee Turners, and teaching within my collegiate club climbing team, MUFA. I have a strong focus on mechanical efficiency and using space and muscle to maximize power and pull harder moves, which helps me as a woman climber harder according to how my body works.

When the opportunity arose to coach kids, I jumped on it immediately. I want to be able to share my passion and excitement for climbing with the kiddos so that maybe they'll fall in love with rocks the way I have. I also find climbing empowering, which is important while growing up. I also love sharing the community of climbing, and the values of caring for one another, and celebrating success as a team with the kids I coach now.

Akshil Patel
Competitive Team

I'm a scientist/engineer by day, a pebble wrestler by night, and a partner acrobat somewhere in the middle. I started off this journey called life in Pennsylvania, after which I moved to New York, then Los Angeles, and now I find myself in Salt Lake. I have a degree in biology, but am now pursuing a career in mechanical/aerospace engineering at The U. I've been climbing for a few years now, focusing primarily on bouldering and sport. One of my favorite things about it is how it can take you to so many amazing places outdoors, so if I'm not at school or at The Front, you'll most likely find me hopping on some good rock outside! One of my favorite parts about coaching is seeing the kids grow into better versions of themselves. As a coach not only do you get to see your kids grow in strength, both mentally and physically, but you also get to be a part of that experience.

Cole Cooper
Recreational Team

Rock climbing has been my biggest passion since I was a senior in High School. Due to some physical health problems, climbing has been a vitally important way to engage my body in a healthy manner. It's also always a good excuse to go out and enjoy the outdoors. Furthermore, I see the unique value that climbing gives to every person that enjoys it. From the beginner to the veteran, the joy of climbing is something that is truly special. Dancing up the wall using mind and body is a profound experience and my goal as an instructor is sharing this experience with others. Instilling a lifetime passion isn't easy, but coaching at The Front makes surely makes it easier.

"The best climbers around the world are the ones who are having the most fun."

Team Athletes in Action