Behind the Desk…is a series that interviews people who are part of the climbing industry—those who run companies, manage staff, and own gyms. This week CBJ presents our first-ever segment with a gym mascot: Heel Hook Harry (HHH) from Wooden Mountain (WM) in Loveland, CO. A good mascot is an extension of brand and market positioning, although HHH probably doesn’t want to be thought of like that. He is a rather elusive, playful being, with a plethora of soft-skill-centered advice for business owners. This interview reminds us of the joy we find in the little things, like rock climbing―or should I say climb rocking―and the less frequently mentioned aspects of gym operation.
Name: Heel Hook Harry
Title: Mascot, Wooden Mountain Bouldering Gym
Location: Loveland, CO
STEVENS: How did you become acquainted with the owners of Wooden Mountain?
HHH: They’re good friends of mine. And I think that you could say that they found me more than I found them and they just pulled me right in. But they certainly needed someone to advocate for the gym. And so I think it was a mutually beneficial trade, a good ol’ symbiotic relationship, if you will. Kind of like, I’d say, how lichen and rocks work together. You know, the rock is naked, and the lichen said, “Hey, I’ll give you clothing if you give me a place to live.” And so that’s kind of how it was. I’d say Heel Hook and Wooden Mountain are like lichen and rocks.
How do you advocate for the gym and in what ways does this benefit the gym?
I play the flute for the gym and, uh, I feed the people celery.
Where are you living right now?
Where am I living? Well, that’s a debatable question now, because sometimes I sleep behind the walls of Wooden Mountain. There’s a couple holes in the earth that I dug over the years and I’ll kind of do a little cycle of, a sleep cycle, go around in circles and sleep in my different holes. Kind of burrow down in there and nestle in with the critters. But most part I’m just living here on planet earth, just circumnavigating it left and right. North and south too.
Do you actually climb or do you just kind of hang out in the woods?
I climb rocks a lot. I like climb rocking. It’s an important thing to do. I mean, they don’t call me Heel Hook Harry cause I’m into walking on water or anything. They call me Heel Hook Harry ‘cause I like to climb rock.
Do you have any advice or tips for business owners?
Well, I think the first thing is every business needs someone to twiddle the flute for them and just play those, those sounds from a wooden instrument. And I think most businesses would probably be more successful if they could just sit down and find a good person to play the flute for them every now and then. I think business owners definitely need to find their own voice inside of them, and to follow that voice and to really think about “what kind of people do I want my business to attract.” And then, “how do I just be myself and help foster a culture, a community of people that kind of surround around your voice.” ‘Cause they agree with it and they think, “Wow, this is the coolest voice in town. Let’s go follow that guy’s voice. We want to hear it.” And so I think it’s a really sad circumstance when businesses feel like they have to just be like everybody else, especially when it comes to climb rocking gyms.
We’ve heard it said that the WM business plan revolves more around culture than finances. Would you say that’s accurate?
What are finances?
How do you think the owners of WM would define success?
There are a lot of different answers there, but I think if you’re smiling and the people around you are smiling and you’re all smiling together, then what can be wrong? You know? And I think that’s good. I think a bunch of smiling people in a room is great.
What do you think attracts people to the climbing gym?
People like climb rocking because it lets them be like a little kid again, like a little wild critter running around, and it’s a place that you can open up and let your soul parts kind of glisten in the air. And I think that what the world needs is more people with their soul parts glistening and reflecting in the sun beams and bringing that light to the world. And I think Wooden Mountain does a pretty good job of that because there’s a lot of folks that walk around and they’re just glistening like crazy.
There’s just a bunch of people wandering around the streets, wondering what to do with their bodies. And so I think seeing a need really brought Wooden Mountain into existence because there was not much climb rocking going on until Wooden Mountain came round. And then all of a sudden there’s a whole pack of people knocking on the door, saying, “When can we go climb rocking?”
Does Wooden Mountain have partnerships you think are worth mentioning?
Well, we advocated for the fair treatment of algae a few years back, and I think the whole entire algae population is really rooting for us. Partnerships, well, there’s a bunch of schools that children go to and attend on a regular basis. And I think that Wooden Mountain is doing the best they can to serve those kids today because there’s a lot of kids that just stare at computers or screens and it’s killing them. They don’t know it. And I think Wooden Mountain is a nice antidote for today’s digital culture.
Do you have any other local partnerships that are interesting?
Also partnering with our other local gym friends. There’re some other gyms here. We’re doing some member trades with as many gyms as we can because we think that if climb rocking is successful in Loveland and it’s successful in Fort Collins and it’s successful in the next town, the next and the next, and if we can all support one another, then overall the climbing industry will grow and we’ll all grow together. And you know what they say: when the water rises, all the ships rise with it. And so I think if climb rocking can rise then all the climbing gyms can rise together.
On your website, I see you offer Sasquatch tours. Do you work with Sasquatches?
I don’t work with them, but I hang out with them. It’s not like we clock in nine to five together, but yeah, when you’re in the woods long enough, you kind of make friends out there. The Sasquatch, they’re land-dwelling creatures, just walking around just like you and me. And they’re lovely. They’re super lovely. They’re irritable at times, but I’ll tell you what, you ain’t lived ‘til you’ve done a Sasquatch piggyback tour through Rocky Mountain National Park. And that’s one of the things I think really helps Wooden Mountain stand apart is that they brought me on knowing that I had a really good, healthy relationship with the local Sasquatch and we kinda partnered and did this sweet deal where we could get some of the local folks here in Loveland to experience these piggyback tours…And I’ll tell you, man, there is nothing like cruising through the woods at like 23 miles an hour on the back of a Sasquatch, with their hair just flapping in your face. And you just got a smile that you can’t wipe off for days. Talk about glowing.
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Naomi is a personal trainer and a routesetter who has also worked at climbing gyms as a youth team coach. After starting college at Colorado State University in 2017, she wanted to make new friends and found climbing, fell in love, and now climbing dictates most of what she does. Naomi earned a bachelor’s degree in Ecosystem Science & Sustainability, and when not climbing she enjoys baking, gardening and crafting.