People seem to always be curious…”Why ‘EVO?'”
The story goes something like this:
It was in New Hampshire of 1910 when the first technical climb was completed and recorded in the United States. There, on the intimidating slopes of the Huntington Ravine within Mount Washington, climbing began. Were we there? No. Was our inspiration? You betchya. At EVO Rock + Fitness, we believe that we have all evolved from this larger history, and we invite you to join the evolution of this sport as it continues to amaze us.
We know that everyone has untapped potential inside of them—it’s only a matter of discovering it. Our gyms provide the framework for people of all ages and abilities to discover that potential through climbing in an encouraging, non-intimidating environment.
Historically, climbing has revolved around community and camaraderie almost more than climbing itself. Stories of sketchy ascents, near-death experiences, or sending a cruxy boulder problem cannot be told without talking about the people who were there. Profound relationships will always be an integral part of being a climber, and EVO celebrates this fact by hosting ongoing social events for the climbing community throughout the year.
Our Portland gym is special because it evolved from the Maine Rock Gym, (MRG), built in 1994. The climbing community had gotten so big that the MRG needed to expand to a larger facility, which became EVO. The soul of the MRG community lives on at EVO with the ownership, the staff, and community.
Regardless of who you are or where you come from, we’re all climbers, (maybe you just haven’t discovered it yet!) and we all play a part in this story…this culture…this ongoing evolution.
What’s your story? Tell us at #myevolution
Our Mission is Simple: Empowering people. Strengthening communities.
- Scott HowardManaging Partner
Scott Howard was part of the urchin diving industry when he recognized the necessity for a climbing gym in Portland, Maine. According to Howard, many urchin divers were climbers, but had to travel far to reach a facility. He put his heart, soul, and bank account into creating the Maine Rock Gym (MRG), which came to fruition in September 1994. Howard credits the tenacity of Mainers to the completion of the MRG. However, as the community grew, he realized an even bigger and better facility was needed. He teamed up with Hilary Harris, Mike Lambert, and Keith Morris—momentum grew.
In 2015 EVO Rock + Fitness opened and there was much rejoicing. Howard’s vision for EVO revolves around what the climbing community needs to move upward and stay strong. In addition to helping manage the EVO squad, he runs a commercial greenhouse called Olivia’s Garden, and is also a fly fishing guide. In his spare time, he enjoys skiing, mountain biking, being with his 3 kids, and eating bok choy.
- Michael LambertPartner, Gym to Crag Program Coordinator
Michael Lambert grew up sailing in Rhode Island but fell for climbing in 1995 when he moved to Arizona, where he obtained his B.A. in Adventure Education from Prescott College. When he graduated in 1999, climbing had become a pivotal part of his life. Despite some extensive globetrotting, Shagg Crag in Maine and Cathedral Ledge in New Hampshire remain two of Michael’s favorite spots. However, he says it’s the people, even more than the locations, that make climbing truly special; hence his excitement about joining the EVO team. His stoke thrives on Maine’s climbing community and anyone who’s looking to throw on a pair of shoes.
Michael’s diverse experience as a sailing instructor, boat builder, sail-maker, arborist and small business-owner are invaluable; he’ll jump into anything from SketchUp architectural redesigns to building campus boards to playing Tetris with flooring. Michael’s high standards ensure that he will help EVO Portland continually grow as the sport of climbing flourishes, pushing standards in both the facility and the programming.
- Hilary Harris Founder, CEO EVO Rock + Fitness, Inc. , Partner, EVO Portland
Hilary Harris is both a long-time climber and licensed architect. Her climbing career started in Boulder, CO in the late 80’s. Gaining rapid recognition and success, Harris was one of a handful of women pioneers in the country, raising the bar on female standards in the sport. Harris has been coaching for more than 20 years and has coached youth to the World Cup level. She has also climbed and trained extensively throughout the US and Europe with the world’s top climbers. When she is not busy working on business relations you can often find her at one of the great crags in New England, hiking or sea kayaking the coast of Maine.
Harris oversees the communications, marketing and outreach of the EVO gyms. She works on future climbing gym start-ups and oversees the corporate relations of the business; all the while striving to live by these words written by David Henry Thoreau: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
- Cort GariepyPartner, Wall Designer and Builder
Cort Gariepy is a man of many talents and trades, whose work is all over EVO Rock + Fitness. From the front desk we check into, to the walls we climb on, and the chairs we sit in, Gariepy’s welding hand has touched everything. After designing and building the walls, he used the extra steel to make recycled-rope benches and arm chairs. He built the retail area, (with a pretty sweet LED back-lit display), and introduced Hilary Harris to Scott Howard, which pretty much got the whole EVO Portland ball rollin’.
Gariepy loves the EVO family, and says it’s a segment of the greater climbing community that seems to have a “very warm soul.” He loves the energy of climbers, and how they’re such an assorted mix; all “bound together,” yet going in their own diversified directions. Gariepy says he hasn’t grown up yet, but in the meantime, you might find him at his house in Hawaii. His recommendation for the new climber? “Watch YouTube climbing videos for lingo.”
- Keith MorrisPartner, Outreach Coordinator
Keith Morris was born and raised in England but moved to Maine in 2004 to be closer to his family. His daughter was here in Portland, having married Scott Howard, who (at the time) was founder and owner of Maine Rock Gym (MRG). Morris bought half of MRG and became involved with the rock climbing community. He was thrilled when MRG and EVO Rock + Fitness combined forces, saying the best parts of MRG came to EVO. He enjoys every moment of the mixed environment at the facility. “Where else can you find rock climbing and tango?” Morris asks.
As a dedicated grandparent, he especially loves the opportunity kids have at EVO, and how climbing is a passion they can pursue for many years—not to mention the portable climbing wall—Morris loves the portable climbing wall! He also enjoys Bradbury State Park, Great Wolf Lodge, peanuts, (but really hates peanut butter). His advice to the new climber? “Take classes to minimize risk, and learn from those with experience.”
- Karen AbbottOperations Manager
Karen Abbott is a southern transplant from a small town in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, and first found climbing when she was just 13 years old. Growing up in the Mountains meant growing up outside for Abbott, and it wasn’t until college that she experienced an indoor rock gym. After college, she traveled to New Zealand, then explored the great US of A, living everywhere from Montana to Hawaii—eventually settling in South Carolina. She’s been an executive pastry chef, a baking & pastry instructor, a teacher, and a business owner of her own cake company.
Despite her love for cake, Abbott says EVO Rock + Fitness happened by fate, and she couldn’t be happier. For her, it’s witnessing the growth of members whether it is through climbing, yoga, or fitness that brings her such joy. Other things that bring her joy include her children, her 175lb Great Dane, welding, and tattoos. Her advice to the new climber? “Be open to new experiences and people.”
- Chris PertAssistant Manager, Private Instruction
Chris Pert is a certified AMGA Single Pitch Guide and USA Climbing Level 1 Routesetter. He was born and raised here in Maine and started climbing as a kid on the cliffs of Acadia. After completing his degree in jazz trumpet in 2005 (fun fact) he began working at a gym in Boston as Head Routesetter and climbing coach.
He has since made a career around climbing. When not at the gym, you can find Pert out running, playing the trumpet, or being a dad. Pert is allergic to avocados, and offers this advice to the new climber: “Focus on technique.”
- Jess KowalskiYouth Program Director
Jess has been working within the adventure program and youth program industry for over 10 years. She has a Bachelors degree in Adventure Education from Unity College right here in Maine! She has previously worked for local programs like The Leadership School at Camp Kieve and Summit Achievement.
Jess started climbing in the Fall of 2009 and hasn’t stopped since. You may have seen her around at EVO Portland in previous years working at the front desk and as a youth program instructor. After spending a year in The Eastern Sierra region of California Jess has returned to her EVO family and is very happy to be back.
Some of her favorite climbing locations are: Bishop, CA, Indian Creek, UT, and Rumney, NH.
- Chuck CurryInstructor, Route Setter, Adult Training, Team EVO
Chuck originally hails from the great state of New York but has recently made his home here in Maine… for a second time!
A devoted husband and proud father of two, Chuck has been immersed in many aspects of climbing for 13 years. From trad to sport, bouldering to plastic, guiding to coaching: he’s had a hand in it. Here at EVO, you can find Chuck setting or coaching our kid’s Club EVO members. Route setting has been a cornerstone of Chuck’s skill set for many years. However, he still strives to grow and evolve every time he picks up his drill.If you have questions and you see Chuck in the gym, grab him! He generally keeps to himself but loves answering your questions about climbing or anything else for that matter. “I want to do whatever I can to get people hooked on climbing. I know how it feels to unlock certain parts of the sport. But it doesn’t happen overnight, you have to fight for it. It doesn’t matter how long you have been climbing, you still get those feelings. I want to help flip the switch and see the light come on, to instill something in someone that they can take with them always, no matter where life takes them. Welcome to Climbing!”
- Alison KrayerInstructor, Route Setter, Retail Manager
Alison Krayer, a lifelong athlete, discovered her passion for climbing in 2003 scrambling around in New Mexico. Alison started working in fitness as a cycle guide/bicycle mechanic in 2005 after a shoulder injury took her off the rock for a bit. After returning to climbing, Alison began her career in rock climbing at Earth Treks Climbing Centers in 2010. Alison played many roles at Earth Treks including outdoor guiding, indoor instruction of all levels, route setting, as well as being the Assistant Director. Alison moved to Maine to help open Salt Pump Climbing Co. and further her climbing career. Since then she received a USAC Level 1 route setting certification as well taking on a career in Climb Market Sales at Sterling Rope Co. Alison is excited to continue her instructing and route setting career at Evo.
Alison has climbed in numerous indoor gyms throughout the country but her true love for climbing lies in the mountains themselves. Some favorite spots include Seneca Rocks and New River Gorge WV , Red River Gorge KY, Vedauwoo, WY, the Adirondacks, Squamish B.C., and Acadia, ME.
- Joscelyn PizzinoInstructor
I started climbing in 2013 at a tiny climbing gym in my hometown in central California. I really fell in love with the community and closeness with nature that comes with bouldering. Aside from climbing I enjoy backpacking, hiking and beach bumming with my dog, Bosley! I’m also a passionate advocate for LNT, wilderness conservation and animal rights.
- Chris KelleherInstructorChris Kelleher moved to Portland in 2014, where he discovered climbing. Kelleher loves the peace, serenity, and challenges climbing brings to his life. When he’s not working at the gym, he’s dedicating time to a local nonprofit called Boys to Men; not to be confused with the 90’s boy band. He also works for Family Crisis Services, based in Portland, and was covering someone’s shift during this interview so a fellow coworker could go climbing. He’s just that kinda guy.
Random fact: he spent the night camping in the second coldest temps ever recorded in New Hampshire and now his fingers don’t feel the same. His advice to the new climber? “Don’t be discouraged by the pain you feel in your body. Stick with it. Ask questions. Come hang out at the gym.”
- Emmett HuberInstructor
Emmett Huber grew up on Peaks Island—a true Mainer! He now lives in Portland and started climbing in early 2015. Huber loves the energetic, positive, welcoming attitude of the climbing community, especially at EVO. When he’s not workin’ the ropes at our gym, he’s painting houses and perfecting his skills in martial arts. (No big deal, but he went to school in Thailand for two years, became an expert kickboxer, and totally has your back.)
Huber’s advice for the new climber? “Don’t be afraid to try something that might be out of your league…otherwise; you’ll never get better.”
- Cotey GreenInstructor
Cotey “Melotey” Green started climbing when EVO opened and now considers the gym to be his second home. He loves the personal goals and inner determination one must define to conquer fears through climbing, as well as each member who helps make up the community.
When he’s not at his full-time office job as an operation and quality manager (or workin’ at EVO), he’s paying bills, doing dishes, and crushing boulders at Pawtuckaway. Green is also a musician and will probably sing you a song. His advice to the new climber? “Don’t get discouraged by failure; it’s part of the journey.”
- Phoebe GariepyGroup Facilitator
Phoebe Gariepy grew up around climbers in Barre, Massachusettes, and started crushing at the young age of five. (Yeah Phoebe!) What keeps her climbing is the breaking of mental barriers; when there’s a tough climb she knows she can do physically, but not yet mentally.
Gariepy believes that the EVO community is great because it’s full of people making the facility a better place. She enjoys being a student, making jewelry out of stones and wire, yoga, hiking, dancing, and art. Her advice to the new climber? “Don’t be afraid to reach out! Almost every climber loves to teach and give beta.”
- Tina PrideInstructor
Tina Pride has been an avid climber for close to five years. She started from not knowing how to belay and not doing a single pull-up to now practicing lead climbing and doing many pull-ups! Pride believes that anyone can climb if you work hard and believe in yourself even through your struggles.
You can find Pride at EVO Rock + Fitness, as well as at University of Southern Maine where she is majoring in Therapeutic Recreation. She also enjoys working with people of all ages as well as slacklining, hula hooping, and yoga. Her advice to the new climber? Try van life.
Environmental stewardship is at the core of our business philosophy, and it extends to our educational programs, purchasing policies, and building design.
We believe climbing lives beyond the walls of our gym. Respecting the outdoor crags that we all enjoy as a community is an essential part of keeping the sport of climbing alive. We fully endorse Leave No Trace ethics throughout our educational programs and policies.
We are very conscious about the environmental and social impacts of what we buy. That is why you will see products that are organic, recycled, locally made, and non-toxic throughout our gym.
If you have questions or concerns about a product we use or carry, please let us know.
EVO Rock + Fitness has been designed and built to the highest environmental performance standards of any climbing gym in New England. We started by designing a building that is oriented to the south so the building can optimize daylight and solar heat gain during the winter. During the summer months, the sun can be more easily controlled on the south side, which ensures that we can keep the building as cool as possible before turning on the AC.
Our roof is also facing south so we can add solar panels to the building in the future.
Landscaping uses drought-tolerant native plants, so an irrigation system is unnecessary.
Our mechanical system meets high-efficiency ratings above and beyond code requirements. During the summer months when there is a demand for cooler air the system is designed to bring in outdoor fresh air that is able to cool the building naturally. Our air filtration system is designed to filter the chalk that is generated in a climbing gym, so it goes into the filter and not your lungs!
Our lighting systems use the most efficient fluorescents available on the market along with LED’s in select locations. The fluorescents are modern with high-quality color rendering which makes people look like their natural selves instead of the older type of lights that make the skin look green.
Our interior finishes are non-toxic, emitting very little amounts of volatile organic compounds; this keeps our indoor air clean and fresh to make your workout the best it can be.
All water fixtures meet or exceed the highest standards as defined by the LEED Green Building System.
EVO is always excited to bring new people to our tribe. We are a visionary company that believes our evolution hinges on having the best team possible: upbeat, professional humans who have fun, climb, and check their egos at the door. We are seeking staff that is self-motivated, organized and want to be a part of the larger community of climbing and fitness. If there is not a posted position that you are currently interested in, please submit your application, and we will keep it on file for when an opening becomes available.