Cities/Chicago/Types Of Climbing

There are two main types of climbing we offer at First Ascent:

Roped Climbing

Roped climbing requires a harness as well as some technical knowledge to enjoy. There are three main types of roped climbing: autobelay, top rope, and lead climbing. 

Autobelay: After a brief orientation, you can clip in and climb on using our autobelays – no need for a partner or prior experience. Kids under 14 require adult assistance and supervision on autobelays.

Top Rope: Shown in the photo above, top rope climbing requires prior knowledge and experience of the follow through figure 8 knot and the GriGri belay device, which are attached to all top ropes in our facilities. 

If you have prior experience tying in and belaying on top rope, you can request a Top Rope Check when you arrive and one of our friendly staff will confirm that your skills meet our standards. Top Rope Checks typically take 5-10 minutes and are free.

Want to learn how to tie in and belay? Take our Learning The Ropes class.

Lead: Lead climbing is an advanced form of climbing that is similar to the way climbers scale real rock outdoors. Climbers with lead experience can request a Lead Check to gain access to lead climbing at First Ascent. Lead Checks typically take 15 minutes and are free.

Experienced climbers can take our Learning To Lead class to learn lead climbing fundamentals. This class is recommended for climbers with at least 6 months of top rope experience who are at least 16 years of age and can climb mid-5.10 on top rope with no rests or falls.

Chicago locations featuring roped climbing:


Bouldering is a style of climbing on walls that are a maximum of 15 ft tall with a thick, cushy pad below you to protect against falls.

Some say bouldering is the most pure form of climbing – it’s just you and the wall, no harnesses, ropes, or other gear to manage.

Climbs in the bouldering area are called “boulder problems” because you are solving a sequence of moves with your body as you move up the wall, engaging both your mind and your body along the way.

Bouldering is also a very social type of climbing. You’ll often find many climbers gathered around the same problem working the moves and trying to figure out how to “send” (climb from the bottom to top with no falls) together.

Expect bouldering to feel more difficult move-for-move than roped climbing. Falls are a normal part of bouldering as you try to figure out the moves, but please keep in mind: every fall is a ground fall when bouldering, so make sure to always use proper falling technique.


Chicago locations featuring bouldering:

Check out the map below to scope out our Chicago locations.

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