3358a Coffey Lane, Santa Rosa, CA 95403   |   707-573-1608


Who We Are

Meet the people dedicated to providing the space and the expertise for people to pursue true health, community, and authentic connections with others through the climbing lifestyle.

Gorden Cooley

Owner, Strength Coach, Bench Presses More Than You Do

Gorden found climbing in 2005 and has been psyched ever since. A former student athlete, climbing imparted a means to stay fit while participating in a sport that he loves. For Gorden climbing is more than a hobby. It gives him focus in training, recreation and life.

Earning a Bachelor’s Degree in kinesiology, Gorden has had the pleasure to train some phenomenally strong climbers, and to see first hand what makes them tick. He is a certified strength and conditioning coach, and holds a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from Sonoma State University. He began his career in fitness as a personal trainer in local Santa Rosa gyms. This eventually led to establishing the training department at Vertex. Developing his strength and conditioning system in both climbing and traditional gyms has given him a unique understanding of climbing specific athletic development.

As owner of Vertex he is dedicated to providing a welcoming space and a rich variety of programs for everyone to reach their full athletic potential.

Patrick Smithson

Head Routesetter, Absolute Crusher

This is the man that makes sure you climb strong! With over 10 years of route setting experience Patrick keeps the routes fresh, fun and thought provoking.

Ruben Lepp


Coming from a variety of sports that kept leading to injury, Ruben began to look at climbing, something that he had previously done as just a hobby, as his full-time passion. Climbing always offers something new and is as endlessly inspiring to him now as it was in 2011 when he began to take it seriously. Now fully immersed in the sport, he divides his time between work and traveling the world in search of amazing climbing. From the limestone cliffs of Thailand and Laos to the coastal granite walls of Norway, he has never been more stoked on exploration and interaction with the beauty and cultures of the world than when climbing brings him there. When he began to route set at Vertex, it gave him a new perspective and creative outlet within climbing. He hopes his routes impart the same emotion and stoke he gets from climbing because the excitement and joy people get from his work in turn keeps him inspired and fired up to do his job. It’s a full circle, symbiotic kind of thing and he feels lucky that his work is something he loves.

Courtney Gross

Yoga Instructor, Front Desk Staff

Courtney began her journey with yoga through dance. She has been doing ballet since she was 4 years old and is now on a dance company for hip hop and modern dance. She enjoys movement of all kinds, and feels that building strength and flexibility can greatly improve climbing performance.

Andy Henderson headshot

Andy Henderson

Director of Operations

Andy is a former Chef and also former farmer turned climbing gym manager. He grew up in Charleston, South Carolina where he found a love for surfing and sports as well as food. He worked as a cook and chef for 16 years, starting in his teenage years and culminating that career at age 30. In that time he was nominated for a James Beard award as well as opened and ran his own restaurant. In the middle stage of his cooking career, Andy met his wife Julia, a professional baker, while running a restaurant in San Francisco. The two left cooking behind to start a farm in Sebastopol, CA, where they could live a life conducive to starting a family. In 2020, their son Jack was born! In 2022, Andy combined his passion for climbing and sports with his passion for both hospitality and business management by accepting a position as the Director of Operations at Vertex.

João Paulo Pereira

Yoga Instructor, Breathwork Coach, Acro Yoga Shenanigans Facilitator, Private Climbing Instructor, Webmaster

João has been practicing yoga since his late teens and has been teaching for more than sixteen years now! He is versed in Hatha, Vinyasa, Swasthya, Qi Gong, Pilates, Yoga Therapy, Kung Fu, and Thai Massage. Having studied with notable teachers in Brazil, India, Canada, Denmark, Bali, and California, he has been able to bring his knowledge and versatility to Vertex and has cultivated a core following of João-addicted yogis. He feels as though Vertex is his second home. Come check out one of his classes!

Duke Schimmer

Routesetter, Youth Climbing Coach

Duke began climbing in 2009 during his extended stay at Chico State. The first place he ever climbed in was a tiny wall tucked in the back of an old dusty university gym, but he was hooked. That summer, while home from school, he began climbing at Vertex and has never stopped. He has traveled to many different climbing areas around the world, cultivating a love for all types of climbing, from steep caves to technical slabs, but enjoys slopey compression climbing above all else. He also likes creating fun routes for his fellow climbers in the gym and sharing the stoke with the youth teams he coaches.

Emilia Fredberg

Yoga & Pilates Instructor

Emilia is an Oakland native and recent Sonoma county transplant. Growing up as a competitive swimmer lent Emilia functional skills that smoothly transferred to the fitness classes she now teaches today. Emilia began teaching in 2009, as an indoor cycling and yoga instructor at her university. She fell in love with climbing around 2011, and recently has been enjoying practicing amataur circus arts.

As a lifelong student with an eclectic variety of interests, Emilia is also a Reiki Master, Wilderness First Responder, Certified Lymphedema Therapist and budding Herbalist.

Tiffani Canevari

Kai Schussler

Front Desk Manager, Head Instructor

Meet Kai! One of the many awesome faces you’ll see at the front desk when you walk into Vertex. Originally from San Rafael, he was introduced to climbing by his coworkers at a summer camp near Mt. Hood, Oregon. Eventually, he started working with a climbing camp at Smith Rock State Park and has been climbing on and off since then.

After graduating from college in New York with a degree in Documentary Filmmaking and a minor in Outdoor Recreation Programming, he moved back to California where he now spends his time at Vertex as our Front Desk Manager and Head Instructor! Outside of helping customers from behind the desk, you can find him teaching one of our many fantastic classes such as Beginning Belay, Leading Edge, Intro to Climbing, and Route Reading 101. He loves to talk about anything climbing, so feel free to say hi next time you stop by!

Olivia Gonnella

Routesetter, Youth Climbing Coach, Beast

Olivia started frequenting the “VCC” after stumbling upon the gym with some friends at the tender age of twenty. Soon after, she began bouldering on the Sonoma Coast and was forced to become comfortable with sandstone slopers and sandbagged grades. Climbing has taken Olivia to many amazing places, her favorite being Fontainebleau, France, for the slabs, compression, slopers…and the pastries. You might see Olivia in Vertex, routesetting, co-coaching Team Vertex or happily taking a fall on her next project.

Emily Brumbaugh

Misted Forest

Yoga & Pilates Instructor

Misted Forest (pronouns they/them) grew up as an athlete and dancer. At age 19, they dove into Zen Buddhism to become more aware and less reactive in life, thus starting their dedication to psychology and spirituality. In 2015 they became a yoga teacher. They also performed acting and dance while training in Hapkido, Taiji and majoring in Dance at the College of San Mateo and later at San Francisco State University. In late 2016 Misted began battles with chronic illnesses, resulting in changing their major in college. In 2018 Misted graduated from SFSU with their BA in Psychology. During the pandemic, they learned more about ADHD and ASD and became an advocate for the adult neuro-divergent community. In 2021 they started their journey to become a Licensed therapist. Currently, they are in the Art/MFT graduate program at Dominican University. Their dream is to make a better world for those with invisible disabilities.

“May we be like the Lotus and rise through the mud into clear waters.”