Our Team



Our instructors are not just 18-20 year olds on summer break. All of our staff at Vertical Adventure is FULL-Time Professional Instructors well credentialed and trained by the Professional Climbing Guides Institute (PCGI). Mark and Diane are also certified teachers/educators.



Meet Our Team…


Joel Taylor-Joel has earned his BS in Recreation and Outdoor Adventure from George Williams College. Climbing for 30 plus years, his training includes PCGI Top Rope Guide, as well as CPR & Wilderness First Aid. And when Joel isn’t climbing, cycling or snowboarding – he can be found “airborne” flying his Piper Cherokee Six! Joel has 28 years of experience flying as a private pilot with almost 3000 flight hours credited to his name!



Diane Taylor-Also a graduate of George Williams College, Diane earned her BS degree in Physical Education and Fitness. She has since earned accreditation as a Certified Red Cross CPR/ Basic First Aid Instructor, Wilderness First Aid Instructor, and Lifeguarding. Diane enjoys teaching Physical Education at the University of Chicago’s Lab School and in her free time is an avid cyclist, hiker and reader of many great books!



Mark Petnuch– Mark’s experience stretches across the Colorado and Canadian Rockies, The Yukon, The Wind Rivers and The Tetons of Wyoming! A Climbing Instructor since 1977, Mark has been a Group Leader and Instructor at Devil’s Lake and in the Beartooths of Montana with Iowa Mountaineers and Cliff Hangers Mountaineering. Climbing for over 30 years, Mark is also trained in Basic EMT, SAR and Mountain Rescue in the Rockies. Besides his climbing experience, Mark also enjoys downhill skiing and kayaking.



Karen Taylor– A recent Graduate of the University of Illinois, Karen’s degree is in Outdoor Adventure and Adventure Tourism, a degree that perfectly suits her! She was a climber “in utero” before she was born, travelling inside her mom! These days, Karen is at home climbing on any rock she can find. She is CPR certified and is Head Facilitator for the Irons Oak Adventure Center in Homewood, Illinois.



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-Jacob is a current Senior at Carthage College in Kenosha Wisconsin, studying Neuroscience and Computer Science. 
Growing up around the outdoors Jacob has spent plenty of time in the natural areas of Wisconsin/the United States. Much of this time has been spent volunteering for the Ice Age National Scenic Trail which has contributed to his geological knowledge of Wisconsin. In addition, Jacob loves to travel and has been to 18 countries. Jacob’s primary role in our team includes belaying, anchoring ropes, and leading kayak tours, as well as a great amount of local knowledge of Wisconsin.  


Rock Climbing and Kayak Adventure COMBO! Save!


We get this question a lot, and it’s a good question!

This is up to the individual. Our guides do accept tips, and we can say that they are greatly appreciated, and go a long way towards making outdoor guiding a feasible career choice. However, we don’t want to pressure our clients, and the following should be regarded as a guideline in case you’re looking for guidance on this issue. Ultimately, as in many service industries, tipping is left up to the individual, but as a general practice, 10% – 20% of the trip cost is a common gratuity.

Thank you in advance!


Cancellation Policy:

Please understand that when you make a reservation our guides/instructors are committed for that date and time. We cannot refund your trip due to illness or changes in your schedule, as we have turned away other clients so we could run your tour.

Deposits/payments are non-refundable and guarantee the date/times. If you have to cancel your outing the VA Guides will try to re-book the dates and if they re-book a full refund will be given, less a $50 service fee per group/party. If VA cancels a program we will provide a full refund(unless due to weather-no refunds) but VA Guides will no way be held responsible for cost or fees due to canceling or rescheduling travel arrangements including but not limited to travel and lodging. Cancellations due to weather will try to be re-scheduled(subject to VA discretion and availability) and are not refundable circumstances. Groupons and Living Social deals are NOT able to be re-scheduled.

In the event of inclement weather, the outing will try to be rescheduled(no refunds or re-scheduling if you cancelled on day of outing or within 48 hrs of the tour time for other than weather), no refunds. Arrive prepared with proper clothing and plan to be out in less than ideal climbing conditions. VA Guides reserves the right to alter climbing plans and substitute climbing instruction which is course appropriate to best suit climbing ability, experience, and weather. It is up to VA to decide when to cancel a program due to deteriorating weather. NO refunds or rescheduling allowed if cancelled less that 48 hrs prior to tour start time. Changes will require a $50 service fee.