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The Second City (Sorta) Gets Its First Climbing Gym

Chicago's First Ascent Climbing will dwarf all other nearby facilities


Okay, okay—First Ascent Climbing won’t be the first place to climb in Chicago, but it will be the first dedicated climbing facility in the city.

The brainchild of two local climbers—Jon Shepard, 30, and Dan Bartz, 29will finally offer vertically inclined Chicagoans the same space and amenities their counterparts in smaller cities have enjoyed for years.

“Current gyms comprise about 8,000-10,000 square feet of climbing if you add it all up,” Shepard said. When you compare that to the 26,000 square feet of climbing surface in First Ascent, it’s easy to see why local athletes are buzzing about the new facility.

The facility will offer top rope, lead climbing and bouldering, as well as general fitness equipment, a yoga studio, full-service locker rooms, a café, community gathering spaces and views of Chicago’s skyline.

Local climbers not only contributed to design ideas, but also helped fund the project. Shepard estimates that 90 percent of the startup costs came from local climbers’ investments.

First Ascent Climbing is scheduled to open in late 2013. 

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