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News / Business / Clark County Business

Working in Clark County: Hanz Kroesen, co-owner, head coach and routesetter at Source Climbing Center

By Kay Richardson, Columbian staff writer
Published: August 8, 2016, 6:03am
7 Photos
Hanz Kroesen, co-owner of Source Climbing Center, prepares routes for climbers.
Hanz Kroesen, co-owner of Source Climbing Center, prepares routes for climbers. "Setting is like choreographing a dance in the vertical," Kroesen said, "and I get to create that dance." (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

As prospective climbers enter Source Climbing Center, the first thing that happens is their mouths drop open at the sight of a 40-foot climbing wall, says Hanz Kroesen, co-owner and lead route setter. Kroesen acknowledges fear is a natural instinct that keeps us safe. “I still have fear; it’s always there. But dealing with that fear is where we find growth. That’s a great advantage in life, not letting fear overwhelm you, but conquering it. As our climbers slowly start trusting the equipment, the instructors and themselves, they push for their goal, overcoming that fear and gaining confidence. Not only is it a good full-body workout, you’re also dealing with your fear. It’s 90-percent mental.”

Residence city: Vancouver

Business name: Source Climbing Center, 1118 Main St., Vancouver, 360-694-9096. sourceclimbing.com

Age: 41

Educational/professional background: I’ve been drawn to rock climbing since I was 6 years old when my dad, who was in the Army, took my brother and I out to a climb outside of Washington, D.C. I had to be bribed down! I took to it right out of the box. Wherever I went, I tried to seek it out.

I attended Portland State University from 1993 through 1997, eventually graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in sculpture. My passion while in school was rock climbing, and it consumed every minute outside my studies — every evening working out at The Portland Rock Gym, every weekend traveling to some climbing destination locally or further like Smith Rock near Bend, Ore. One of my first jobs was working at the Outdoor Program at University. This was a perfect match for my desire to always be active and outdoors. Teaching rock climbing and leading rock climbing trips gave me the foundation of what became my career as a rock climbing instructor.

How — and when — you got started in your business: After school, my fledgling art career needed some support capital, so taking a job as an instructor for Portland Rock Gym in 1998 was perfect. A decade later, I was still worked there and still loved the booming industry that was indoor rock climbing. So many gyms were opening around the country and so many opportunities presented themselves for the experienced and passionate climber. After some travel overseas to India and Peru, I was searching for the next step in my career. Here my welding experience learned in school was put to use outside of making art. The Circuit Bouldering Gym was building their second location, and they approached me to help them design and build their gym. It was all this experience that gave me the idea and impetus to open my own gym.

Personal/business philosophy: We strive to make a better climbing experience at Source. Every person who enters our facility is a potential rock climber, be it a 2-year-old or an 80-year-old. Our staff are all enthusiastic climbers who love the opportunity to share their passion of climbing with anyone with walks through the door.

Most rewarding part of job: Witnessing the empowerment and growth in confidence of children and watching adults find adventure and fun in the sport I love. It boosts my spirit to see them getting to the top; they’re on cloud nine.

Most challenging part of job: Doing taxes.

Something surprising about your work: Instruction and route setting are super creative. Every person I teach has unique skills that I have to decipher and adapt to rock climbing so they can become a better climber. Setting is like choreographing a dance in the vertical, and I get to create that dance.

Best feature of my Clark County community: Supportive and enthusiastic. Thank you, Vancouver Downtown Association.

Your community a better place? Our town is getting better every day, I really love being part of what Vancouver is becoming.

Your favorite travel destination and type: Traveling to a foreign country, any country. Culture is so fascinating.

Favorite restaurant/pub/coffee shop/store: Vinnie’s Pizza, Feral Public House, Compass Coffee and Natural Grocery.

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Hobbies: I love art. Being an artist myself, I enjoy First Friday in Downtown Vancouver, going to galleries and museums, even traveling to destinations to experience art (e.g., New York and Europe). I enter in art shows, recently winning the Purchase Award at the 2016 Lake Oswego Arts Festival.

Most enjoyable book/play/movie/arts event in past 12 months: Life of Pi, Hands Up, Star Wars (I love Sci-Fi) and the Lake Oswego Arts Festival.

Something you’d like to do this year/within five years: This year, it would be great to climb more. Seeing that I have a 20-month-old daughter, time is a bit tight. In five years, I would like to travel and experience some new countries and expose my daughter to different cultures.

One word to describe yourself: True.

Person you’d most like to meet: I met the Dalai Lama already, so probably Pope Francis. He seems to be inspiring the world.

Columbian staff writer