Meet the Staff

Nathan Holmes

Position: Managing Partner

Nathan was the driving force in the creation of Vertical eXcape. Through his persistence, long hours, and hard work, VX has developed into one of the finest climbing facilities in the region, offering some of the best programming available. Nathan began climbing in the early 1990’s at the Red River Gorge while attending college at the University of Kentucky’s College of Architecture. During his many years of climbing, he has had the opportunity to climb throughout the United States. Although he enjoys all styles of climbing from bouldering to top-roping to sport climbing, his true fervor lies in trad climbing (and introducing others to this wonderful life-long activity). His passion for climbing goes beyond his personal outings and the operation of Vertical eXcape. Nathan has also served as the Access Funds’ Regional Coordinator for Illinois, Indiana, and western Kentucky, Committee Member for the High School Climbers’ Federation, and an Illinois Climbers Association Board Member, Climbing Gym Initiative Director, Access & Stewardship Director, and a Fixed Anchor Committee Member. If you have questions about climbing or the future of climbing, feel free to speak with Nathan. He is always willing to speak with others about climbing.

Nate’s Blurb
I want to take a moment to thank everyone who has visited our facility over the years. Without your enthusiasm for climbing this would not have been possible. The people I meet everyday make my career unique and rewarding in many ways. Climbing has exposed this Midwestern Flatlander to so many unique individuals over the years, many of which have initiated profound changes in my life. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Be safe and happy climbing!

Nate’s words of wisdom… “it does not matter what type of climbing you enjoy or how hard you are climbing as long as you’re with friends, having fun and enjoying life!”

Matt France
Position: General Manager

Constantly eager for a new adventure, Matt is a very free-spirited man. He will jump at any opportunity to get closer with nature. The majority of his adolescence was spent climbing trees, walls, buildings, rocks; practically anything that is able to be scaled. He is relatively new to climbing, but it’d be hard to tell if you saw him on the wall.


Matt’s Blurb

The environment and people you surround yourself with is what you are destined to become. After growing close to all the members at Vertical eXcape, I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoy the direction my life is heading. No one pushes you to strive for your absolute best like the closely-knit frequenters of this gym. The next chapter for VX is going to be a great one, so we hope to see you here!

Brian Kennedy

Position: Director of Gym Operations

Brian began at VX as an intern after graduating from SIUC in 2007, after which he was hired on as an assistant manager and advanced course instructor. He caught the call of the wild West, and moved to Utah in 2009 to work as a Senior Field Instructor in wilderness therapy programs, living as a transient dirtbag and international traveler in his weeks/seasons off. He returned in 2012 as Director of Operations and Jack-0f-All-Trades in order to be closer to friends and family in the midwest.


Brian’s Blurb
I’ve heard the quickest way to lose passion for something is to do it for a living, and I whole-heartedly disagree. While I don’t spend as much time “seshing my own proj’s anymore, bro”, I get a great deal of satisfaction helping people through theirs. I love setting a tricky sequence and seeing people piece it together, and its really hard for me to not yell the beta to you while your climbing (especially at comps). I really and truly believe anyone can and will get addicted to climbing if they give it a real try. The key to sticking with it, though, is finding new avenues in which to expand your knowledge and experience. Whether that’s learning to sport climb inside, sport or trad climb outside, train and travel to competitions at other gyms, teaching a friend to climb, or learning to set routes, it is all about finding a new angle on the familiar to keep yourself engaged, challenged, learning, progressing, and growing.

Randy Hagy

Position: Scouting Programs Instructor and Life Guard

Randy started rock climbing in 2009 with the Boy Scouts and as he had free time. In 2013 Randy joined the VX staff after working at the USI rock climbing center for a year. Since working on the staff Randy has learn route setting and has become the main instructor for the Boy Scout rock climbing merit badge and instructor for the High School Climbing League.



Randy’s Blurb

I started climbing regularly in 2013. Since then I have met a bunch of incredible people and made a few new life long friends. I love all styles of climbing whether it be indoors, outdoors, on rope, or bouldering. Working at VX has proven that I can have a job that I love to spend time at when I’m not working. Rock climbing has taught me many things that at first I didn’t think would be needed in climbing such as a new way to problem solve things so that I can find my way up the route as well as being able to help people problem solve so that they can get the help they need to send their project.

Brooke Wheatley

Position: Youth Climbing League Director and Key Carrier

Brooke started climbing in the Summer of 2001 on our mobile climbing wall. Soon after, she was introduced to our Summer Camps and Youth Programs. She progressed quickly and started competing in 2003. When she was old enough, she joined the High School Climbing League. Years later, when she started at Indiana University, she fell in love with outdoor climbing in the Red River Gorge. She has since moved back home to finish school. Since starting at VX, she has taken over as Program Director for the youth programs and leads some of our advancement classes.


Brooke’s Blurb

Climbing has given me the opportunity to travel across the country to places like Colorado, Texas, Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee. I’ve met so many wonderful people and learned a lot over the years. I’m always searching for new climbing adventures to go on. I hope that I can connect with as many people as possible through my experiences and passion for climbing, especially the kids I work with every week.

Kainan Kawamura

 IMG_5128Position: High School League Director and Life Guard

Kainan began climbing indoors in 2011 during his senior year of high school as part of Vertical eXcape’s High School Climbing League. From there, he would continue to boulder off and on for a few years through school at Indiana University, climbing on campus at the Outdoor Adventures Bouldering Wall and at Hoosier Heights in Bloomington, IN. After his first outdoor outings deep water soloing, bouldering, and sport climbing all in Southern Illinois, he realized climbing will become and continue to be an intense passion. He began working at Vertical eXcape during Fall of 2015 and hopes to hone his skills to better contribute to the local climbing community through route-setting and helping others to realize their own climbing passions.

Kainan’s Blurb

Climbing is all around intense in the most wonderful ways. People often describe it as being unique for its combination of physical and mental challenges, but for me, it’s an introspective journey. Just as in life, struggle is an obvious part of climbing, but it’s through this pain and conditioning that I refine my strength and become more in tune with myself and the intrinsic beauty of my surroundings. Nothing puts me ‘in the moment’ quite like climbing.

Allyse Hardy

Position: Youth Programs Assistant and Life Guard






Allyse’s Blurb

Deanna Hardy

IMG_5048Position: Youth Programs Assistant






Deanna’s Blurb


Bailey Holmes

Position: Life Guard

Bailey is definitely not new to climbing; she has been climbing ever since she could walk. She has taken part in as many summer camps and youth climbing programs as possible until she was old enough to become a volunteer. From here she became a part of the High School Climbing League and is now a part of the VX Staff. Bailey hopes that her passion for climbing will only continue to grow as she embarks on a new journey here at VX.


Bailey’s Blurb

People have a lot of different reasons to love climbing and for me that love comes from the sense of adventure and challenge that comes with climbing. As an employee of VX, I hope to help spread my passion for climbing to others and look forward to meeting new people who share the same passion.


Shane Martin

Position: Life Guard

Shane started climbing in 2014 at USI.  After two years of daily visits, he became a student worker for USI at their climbing center.  Wanting to find more climbers in the area, he started up USI’s Rock Climbing Club near the end of 2016 and has since resided as the President of the club.  Shane then joined the VX staff in 2017.



Shane’s Blurb

Climbing has been a huge part of my life since my start in fall of 2014.  My love for climbing grows everyday from learning new concepts and helping new climbers learn the basics.  Whether it’s inside or out, climbing new routes with my unorthodox style is my eXcape.