It depends on the location. Here’s a quick rundown:

Avondale: roped climbing terrain up to 60 ft. tall and bouldering terrain up to 15 ft. tall

Chicago Bouldering gyms (Block 37, Humboldt Park, Uptown): bouldering terrain up to 15 ft. tall

Peoria: roped climbing terrain up to 50 ft. tall and bouldering terrain up to 15 ft. tall

Chicago climbers: click here to learn more about the types of climbing offered at First Ascent.

Yes – we require belay checks for both top rope and lead climbing. You can request a free belay check when you arrive. The wait time is typically 15 minutes, but we do ask for your patience during busier times as it may take longer to complete your belay check. Give us a call if you have questions about the skills needed to pass a belay check.

For top rope climbing, all ropes have a GriGri permanently attached to the top rope that belayers are required to use. For lead climbing, you are welcome to use the assisted braking belay device you are most comfortable with, as long as you use the belay device you passed your lead check with. Here’s a quick graphic about assisted braking belay devices:

Bouldering is climbing shorter routes (called “boulder problems” ) using a cushy pad below you to protect against a fall – no harness or rope required. Some say bouldering is the purest form of climbing: it’s just you and the wall.

Bouldering is often more challenging move for move than sport climbing, requiring solid climbing technique and problem solving skills to unlock the “beta” (the series of movements required to complete a boulder problem) and get a “send” (when a climber completes a boulder problem from start to finish with no rests or falls).

Chicago climbers: click here to learn more about the types of climbing offered at First Ascent.

Yes – our roped climbing gyms (Avondale and Peoria) have auto belays available for use.

Auto belays allow you to clip and climb without the need for another person to belay, and you can use auto belays after a brief orientation.

Comfortable, stretchy athletic clothing. We recommend wearing pants or shorts that cover your knees to protect them against scraping on the wall.

If you will be renting climbing shoes, we also recommend wearing socks.

Though classes are not required to boulder or use an auto belay, we highly recommend that newer climbers book a Guided Climbing Session to make the most of your first visit.

Taking a Learning To Boulder class can help you master the basics of bouldering safety and technique, and taking a  Learning The Ropes class will help you gain the skills you need to climb and belay using a top rope.

If you’re looking for an immersive introduction to all things climbing, check out our Intro To Climbing package.

Learn more about all of the classes we offer on our Programs page here.

Whether you’re roped climbing or bouldering, climbing shoes are required, so you will need to rent climbing shoes at minimum. Climbing shoes will improve your experience and help keep climbing holds clean from any dirt your regular shoes may bring in from the outside world

You will need to rent a harness if you plan to use our auto belays.

Check location pages for rental gear pricing information.

Yes! We sell a wide variety of climbing shoes, harnesses, chalk bags, chalk, and other climbing essentials. Stop in or call for selection on specific items.

Absolutely! All FA locations have a full range or cardio equipment, free weights, functional training equipment, and climbing-specific training equipment. You will have everything you need to get a full-body workout at First Ascent.

Members: Intro climbing classes (Learning The Ropes and Learning To Boulder) as well as all regular yoga classes are included free for members as part of your membership.

Other climbing classes, small group fitness training, personal training, and special workshops are available to members at discounted rates: see our Programs page for more details.

Visitors: Day Pass and 10-Pass visitors can drop into yoga classes day-of, subject to availability.

Check out our Programs page for climbing and fitness program pricing and availability.


Learn all about FA Membership options and perks on our Membership page here.

Absolutely. Most members who won’t be able to visit the gym for more than a month freeze their membership. You can put your membership on freeze for $10/month. 

A freeze begins on the first of the month and must last for at least one month, proceeding in monthly increments thereafter. By freezing your membership, you avoid having to pay the enrollment fee for starting a new membership. 

To submit a freeze request, please complete a Membership Change Form here. Freeze requests must be received no later than the 25th day of the current month for your freeze to take effect the following month. Freeze requests received after the 25th of the current month will not be processed until the following month.

Absolutely. If you are unable to visit First Ascent for more than a month, you may place your membership on hold free of charge. The free hold can last as long as 6 months. After 6 months or when you return to the gym, the clock on your pre-pay will start ticking again.

Annual and other paid-in-full memberships are not refundable.

Extenuating circumstances will be evaluated on a case by case basis, and we will work with you to find an equitable solution.

Your membership entitles you to access to our facilities for regular open hours as well as all regularly scheduled yoga classes.

There are additional charges for climbing classes, small group and semi-private fitness classes, special workshops, private climbing instruction or personal training, gear rentals, gym special events (competitions, parties, etc), and retail merchandise. Please see our Programs page for more details.

When you sign up for a monthly EFT membership, you will pay an enrollment fee plus the pro-rated amount for the remainder of that month.

After that, you will pay your monthly membership fee on the first of each month.

In the event your credit card does not accept payment. The fee from First Ascent is $10. The banks & other processing institutions may also charge additional fees. Please keep your Credit Card/Debit Card on file up to date to avoid any additional charges.

No, we only accept payment via credit card or debit card.

All Monthly EFT memberships require a credit or debit card on file.


We may close the gym from time to time for local/regional/national competitions or large gym-wide events that benefit the climbing community.

First Ascent is a member-focused facility, so we will not close our facilities for private parties, etc.

We promise to inform members via our Facebook page and e-mail should a closure be necessary for maintenance or other unusual circumstances.

We hate to see you go, but we understand that there are circumstances that result in the need for a membership cancellation.

To cancel a Monthly Membership, please submit a cancellation request via our Membership Change Form here. Cancellation requests must be received no later than the 25th day of the current month for your cancellation to take effect the following month. Cancellation requests received after the 25th of the current month will not be processed until the following month. Paid-in-full memberships (Annuals memberships, etc.) are generally non-refundable – see “Can I get a partial refund for the unused part of an Annual?” above.

Not seeing the answer you’re looking for?

We’re happy to help! Email us at or call us at 773-564-9815.