The new Salt Pump Climbing Co. gym, which will open on Haigis Parkway in Scarborough later this summer, is owned by three life-long friends and avid climbers, Taki Miyamoto, Freddie Wilkinson and Mark Richey.

The gym and fitness center is slated to open to the public in mid- to late July, according to Janet Wilkinson, the marketing director for Salt Pump Climbing.

She said the reason the gym owners are opening in Scarborough is that the “unique property is minutes from the city, just off Route 95, yet the location – on a pond within a forest – makes it feel remote, reminiscent of our favorite outdoor climbing areas.”

The mission of the new climbing gym is to provide “a home for southern Maine’s climbers and mountain enthusiasts and a space for not-yet climbers to comfortably and safely enjoy learning to climb,” she added.

Last week Salt Pump Climbing announced the hiring of key new staff, including Vince Schaefer as the program director and Alison Krayer as assistant manager.

Schaefer, who grew up in the wilds of Alaska, now lives in the East Deering neighborhood of Portland with his girlfriend and their “fur friend,” Frank.

On its website, the company said its climbing gym offers “top-rope, lead climbing and bouldering on walls up to 45 feet high, (with) climbing surfaces (that) were thoughtfully designed and brought to life by an elite crew of route-setters. First time and long-time climbers alike will find inspiration here.”

This week Schaefer spoke with the Current about his love of climbing, his new job and his plans for Salt Pump Climbing.

Q: When did you move to Maine and what brought you here?

A: After spending the first 20 years of my life living in Anchorage, Alaska, I made my way to Boston working in the media and climbing industries. After a few years in the big city, I quickly fell in love with northern New England and am thrilled to be relocating to southern Maine to help open Salt Pump Climbing Co.

Q: What is your background in terms of rock climbing and directing programs?

A: I have been rock climbing for about 10 years, all across America. My first experience was in a “Klingon Climbing School” at a climbing gym in Anchorage. After trying a variety of more popular sports, my attraction to climbing’s philosophy of individual achievement and education-through-adventure helped me rediscover this sport in my late teens. Whether it’s scaling mountains, playing with friends in a boulder field or swinging spikes into frozen waterfalls, climbing is my way of creating deep connections with friends and the outdoors.

Programs that foster self-awareness and leadership have been a part of my life for a long time. I spent many years of my youth teaching junior leadership camps through the Boy Scouts and leading outdoor adventure programs through various climbing and hiking outlets. Helping people discover their abilities through climbing, and seeing their confidence grow by pushing their own boundaries, are both very enriching to me.

Q: Why did you apply for the program director position at Salt Pump Climbing Co.?

A: The climbing community is one that I feel deeply connected to and responsible for, so being a part of a pillar in that community is something for which I am extremely thankful. Helping foster an appreciation for an active lifestyle and a blossoming reverence for the outdoors are causes that I am also very passionate about.

I am very excited about becoming a part of the Scarborough and Portland scene. I love all of the small businesses and progressive companies, along with the local, community-based mentality that so many people seem to have here, as well as an awareness of the environment.

Q: What does the job of program director entail, exactly?

A: My primary responsibility at Salt Pump will be to introduce as many people to our gym and its mission as I can. Some of the many avenues I’ll use for this are found right here in Scarborough and throughout southern Maine. My days will be spent fostering new relationships between local schools, companies, camps of all sizes and the many families looking for something engaging and fun to do with their kids.

Q: What do you hope visitors to Salt Pump Climbing get out of the experience?

A: My hope is that our patrons will discover the unique and heart-warming community of our climbing family. I want everyone who comes in our doors to be inspired by climbing and to leave mentally and physically enthused. I also hope everyone experiences the wonderful feeling of accomplishment that comes from doing something they thought they couldn’t.

Q: What makes Salt Pump Climbing different from other similar gyms?

A: It was founded by climbers for climbers. We have put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into creating an environment that allows anyone to experience the climbing culture. We are also hoping to break the existing connection between indoor-rock gyms and dark, dreary warehouses. Our facility is right on a private lake, with more windows than I’ve ever seen in a climbing gym before. Our visitors will hardly notice they’re inside while scaling our walls.

Q: What do you most enjoy about rock climbing?

A: My closest relationships have all been cultivated through climbing. The best memories and wildest experiences of my life have all revolved around climbing. Many of my most vivid memories have come from the climbing world. Climbing is also very therapeutic for me. When you’re on the wall, there’s only one thing you can think about – not falling. It is rare for me to be able to focus on just one thing and clearing my mind during each climb is something I treasure.

Q: Why did the owners name the climbing gym Salt Pump?

A: salt pump is a metaphor for both the human body and our dream for the facility to be not just a place to go get a work out, but also a community gathering spot, as village wells and water pumps have been for centuries. By celebrating the salt-of-the-earth character and flavors of local New England adventure, and providing a truly unique space for the outdoors community to come together, we hope those who visit Salt Pump leave the building feeling more inspired than when they walked in.

The new Salt Pump Climbing Co. gym in Scarborough is getting set to open. The company’s mission is to be “the leading center for climbing, mountain adventure and active living in southern Maine.”Vince Schaefer is the program director at the new Salt Pump Climbing Co. in Scarborough. He’s pictured climbing on Castleton Tower in southern Utah, outside of Moab. Courtesy photos


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