In this month’s Staff Spotlight, we’ve got a trifecta. Meet Jonathan Scaccia, Amanda Villiger, and Brad Moser – leaders of the First Ascent Peoria staff team!These three are on the forefront of bringing world-class climbing to Peoria at First Ascent’s latest location, an adaptive reuse of a historic building in Peoria’s Warehouse District. They each bring unique experience and perspective to their roles – not to mention some hidden talents. Read more about them below, and say hi to them next time you see them around FA Peoria!

 

Jonathan Scaccia, Gym Manager

How did you get into climbing?

My very first exposure to climbing was on a trip to the sporting goods store Galyan’s (now Dick’s Sporting Goods) with my Mom. Which turned into multiple trips to the store, just to climb.

I didn’t fully jump into climbing until high school. During my junior year, we had an option to take an alternative gym class called Outdoor Ed. We had a climbing gym in a converted racket ball court, kayaked in the school pool, slacklined, skateboarded, and then we went on climbing trips to Devils Lake. After that first trip, I was hooked. (The climbing picture is of my first time outside, almost 10 years ago)

What do you love about climbing?

Climbing appealed to me early on because of the problem-solving aspect of the sport. The trial and error of a difficult route or problem, then finally getting the send after piecing it together is a satisfying moment. Besides the actually climbing, it’s the people that I’ve met through climbing that have contributed to my love of it. I’ve met some of the most awesome and talented people I know through climbing.

Bouldering or sport climbing?

Bouldering. Like I mentioned before, the problem solving of a boulder problem is a fun process. But it’s also the collective problem solving of a couple people sitting around working on the same problem that’s really fun. Bouncing ideas off some friends, getting some beta from someone you’ve never met before, chatting about climbing and life. It’s the best.

What is your favorite place to climb outdoors?

Although it’s been a long time since I’ve been there and I’ve only been twice, I would say Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Arkansas. Back in college, a large group of our climbing club went to compete at 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell. I attended as a spectator, but still accompanied a couple of friends as they bounced from route to route, enjoying the spectacle of it all. The next day we had the opportunity to hop on some stuff, and it was some of the most fun I’ve had climbing.

Do you have any particular climbing projects or fitness goals for this year?

I wanna get super ripped. Like John Cena ripped.

What keeps you busy when you’re not climbing? What other outdoor activities do you participate in?

When I’m not climbing I’m usually working on some music, playing games, or watching weird movies on Netflix. Outside I really like slacklining. I’m not great at it, but it’s always a good time.

What do you love about Peoria?

Everyone I’ve met here is super nice, outgoing, and psyched to climb.

What is your favorite Peoria spot for food, music, art or culture?

I would have to say Zion. This coffee shop is fabulous. Great atmosphere and great coffee. And the cinnamon rolls are fantastic.

What is something about you most people don’t know?

I play guitar in a couple bands. One is a folky pop indie rock band, BC Sherman and the Baltimore Four (Our debut EP Love is Real is available on all streaming platforms!). We actually have 5 other members. The other has the working name of Jon, John, John. Because it’s me, a Jonathan, a Johnny, and a John. We play an amalgam of our favorite genres. So I guess it’s emo-y, post-rockish, prog-y, math-y, finger tap-y, jazzy stuff. I don’t know. We pretty much just try to write music that we think sounds cool.

Anything else you want to say to the FA Community?

If you want to talk about professional wrestling, I’m your guy.

 

Amanda Villiger, Assistant Gym Manager

How did you get into climbing?

I started climbing during college at Bradley University about 9 years ago.

What do you love about climbing?

As much as climbing can be scary for me, it can be wonderful to overcome those fears and achieve something you didn’t think you could do.

Bouldering or sport climbing?

Sport climbing. I like the degree of security that the rope provides and, even though I’m terribly afraid of heights, you just can’t beat the view from the top.

What is your favorite place to climb outdoors?

Jackson Falls.

Do you have any particular climbing projects or fitness goals for this year?

I aim to improve my strength and flexibility for both climbing and my yoga practice.

What keeps you busy when you’re not climbing? What other outdoor activities do you participate in?

I am a certified yoga teacher, and I love to do that whenever I get the chance. I also enjoy kayaking, hiking, camping, and backpacking.

What do you love about Peoria?

There are so many things! Many of my closest friends live here, and there is a good variety of places to eat and explore both in town and nearby.

What is your favorite Peoria spot for food, music, art or culture?

The Fieldhouse Bar and Grill in the Campustown shopping center. They have hands down the best wings!

What is something about you most people don’t know?

I am a huge Harry Potter fan. Go Hufflepuff!

 

Brad Moser, Routesetting Supervisor

How did you get into climbing?   

I took a belay class with my family in high school, then started working for Upper Limits while I was in college.

What do you love about climbing?

I love the continual challenge that is inherent to climbing. The fact that there is always room to improve no matter where you are in your climbing is motivating.

Bouldering or sport climbing?

Why not both? But if I have to choose, I’d choose sport climbing because I like have a rope to protect my falls.

What is your favorite place to climb outdoors?    

Jackson Falls. More on that in the next question.

Do you have any particular climbing projects or fitness goals for this year?    

Generator X (5.11c), Detox Mountain (5.12a), and Everybody Needs Friends (5.12a).

What keeps you busy when you’re not climbing? What other outdoor activities do you participate in?

Bicycling, disc golf, following baseball and soccer, and playing Pathfinder/DnD.

What do you love about Peoria?

Peoria is working hard to rejuvenate its downtown, and I’m excited to be part of that growth through FA.

What is your favorite Peoria spot for food, music, art or culture?

Zion Coffee, Thyme, Kellehers, and of course First Ascent.

What is something about you most people don’t know?

Before dropping out of college to pursue a career in the climbing industry, I studied History Education.