FIRST ASCENT CLIMBING

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Finding a Date at the Climbing Gym

A trip to the climbing gym is the ultimate experiential date, so it’s no wonder that so many couples in the FA community either met here or spent a lot of time here early on in their relationships. Valentine’s Day is this week, so we were curious: how does one find a date at the gym? What’s the best way to meet people with a shared interest in the sport? We asked a pair of couples who either met at First Ascent or went on some of their first dates here for their advice, and we’re passing it along to you. Read on!

Mahreen Mirza and Bradford Dessy met at First Ascent Avondale a couple of years ago when Brad walked right up to Mahreen to say hello. “I was there with one of my friends who’d spotted Brad looking at me, so I kind of expected it,” Mahreen said. Now they climb two or three times a week together. “I’m a bit more into bouldering now, which is great since there’s so much bouldering at the gyms,” Mahreen said.

Katie Ott and Kevin Chan met a little over two and a half years ago while working at the same construction company (they still work together), but a bouldering session at Uptown was one of their first dates. Neither had climbed before, but since they liked experiential dates, a Groupon led them to First Ascent Uptown, which they signed up for on a lark. More than two years later, they’re still climbers: “I’m still surprised how much we still like it, more than we thought we would going into it,” Katie said. “It became super addicting.” Kevin was a bit stronger than Katie on some of their first boulder problems; that, of course, set off Katie’s competitive edge to get better. “I was like, ‘No! we’re coming back!’”

Check out their advice below:

1. Ask for a belay

Climbers are famously friendly. When Brad said hello to Mahreen, he asked her to belay him – not the other way around.

If you ask a stranger if they’d like a catch on a route they’re scoping out, they may not trust you, since they’d have to put their safety into a stranger’s hands. It’s way more natural – and feels safer for the person you’re asking – to ask someone you want to climb with if they could belay you on toprope. “I actually met Mahreen by just going up to her and just saying ‘hey, my friends are climbing, would you mind giving me a catch?’” Brad said. “I put my life on the line! And she said yes. That evidently worked at least once.”

“It was really sweet,” Mahreen said. “My advice would be just to go up to someone.”

2. Post your name on the whiteboard

What’s another great way to meet a climbing partner, besides asking for a belay if you need one?

Brad’s answer: “Put your name on the whiteboard!”

At Avondale, climbers looking for belay partners can post their name and info on the whiteboard for other people to find them. It’s a great way to meet other climbers, whether or not you end up wanting to date them. Finding a partner outside of climbing is just an occasional lucky bonus; at worst you’ll have a new friend.

“The climbing community is just so nice, and everyone’s super friendly. I’ve never been in a situation here where someone has made me feel uncomfortable or unhelpful, even if I had questions,” Mahreen said.

3. Plug into events

“There are so many awesome events; they’re so fun and they’re super communal,” Katie said. Whether it’s the CrossTown Bouldering League or Women Crush Wednesday sessions, plenty of regular opportunities exist to plug into the FA community – and it came in handy for Katie and Kevin early on.

“We’ve made some of the best friends out of climbing,” Katie says. “When I started, I wouldn’t talk to anyone at the gym, but now I’ll talk to anyone because people are so nice and welcoming.”

Next time you’re signing up for a yoga or fitness class, check out Community Sessions as well to find events like FA Hangouts every Monday at FA Avondale from 7-9 pm, where you can meet and toprope with new belay partners.

The core of this advice gets to the real heart of the climbing community: don’t be afraid to get involved. Climbing has always generated a tight-knit, friendly community of people interested in solving problems and finding adventures together. The FA community is open and roots for each other’s success. The worst thing that can happen if you join an event or belay a few new people is you gain a new friend, so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

Meet the FA Climbers Competing in Bouldering Youth Nationals

This weekend, we’re sending 17 incredible members of the FA Climbing Team to 2019 USA Climbing Bouldering Youth Nationals, and we couldn’t be prouder of this crew! They’ll be going to Redmond, Oregon, to compete with youth climbers from all over the country. Be sure to tune in to live stream the competition (check here on USAclimbing.org for streaming information) and cheer them on. Crush it, Team!

If you haven’t gotten to meet our team members, we thought we’d let them introduce themselves. Meet our Nationals Team crew:

Mary

10 – Female Youth D

Years Climbing:  5-6

Favorite Climbing Style: Slab

How did you start/what brought you to Team FA?

‘My mom is scared of heights and after soccer practice would take my sister and me to climb. We were convinced by Alex to move to First Ascent and join the team.’

Where is your favorite place to climb/place that you’re looking to go to next?

Devil’s Lake, WI

What helps you to get in the right mindset to compete?

‘Before the comp, I lay in my bed and just think about climbing and listen to Hamilton.’

What are some of your goals for nationals weekend?

‘I want to have fun and make it to semi-finals!’

 

 

Renata

10 – Female Youth D

Years Climbing: 6

Favorite Climbing Style: Bouldering

How did you start/what brought you to Team FA?

‘I did gymnastics and saw a climbing wall. I said, “I want to try!”’

Where is your favorite place to climb/place that you’re looking to go to next?

‘First Ascent- I haven’t been outside yet.’

What helps you to get in the right mindset to compete?

‘Positive talk- I tell myself, “Don’t give up; you’re almost there!”’

What are some of your goals for nationals weekend?

‘I want to at least make semi-finals and hopefully push on into finals!’

 

 

Austin

8 – Male Youth D

Years Climbing: 3-4

Favorite Climbing Style: Overhang or Dynos!

How did you start/what brought you to Team FA?

‘I really want to compete and eventually got on the team.’

Where is your favorite place to climb/place that you’re looking to go to next?

Horse Pens 40, AL

What helps you to get in the right mindset to compete?

Music

What are some of your goals for nationals weekend?

‘I want to get to semi-finals.’

 

 

Mason

10 – Male Youth D

Years Climbing: 4

Favorite Climbing Style: Bouldering

How did you start/what brought you to Team FA?

‘When I stopped gymnastics, my mom and I looked up climbing gyms and found ourselves here!’

Where is your favorite place to climb/place that you’re looking to go to next?

‘First Ascent- Still haven’t gotten outside yet.’

What helps you to get in the right mindset to compete?

Music

What are some of your goals for nationals weekend?

‘I want to win!’

 

 

Samantha

12 – Female Youth C

Years Climbing:

Favorite Climbing Style: Overhung crimps or bouldering in general

How did you start/what brought you to Team FA?

‘My friend from school used to be on the team and she recommended it to me.’

Where is your favorite place to climb/place that you’re looking to go to next?

Rumney, NH

What helps you to get in the right mindset to compete?

‘Music and of course, friends’

What are some of your goals for nationals weekend?

‘If I qualify for finals, I’m striving for top 6!’

 

 

Eli

12 – Male Youth C

Years Climbing: 7-8

Favorite Climbing Style: Small moves on small crimps

How did you start/what brought you to Team FA?

‘I was doing gymnastics and decided to try a class at Hidden Peak. I joined their Team and eventually moved to FA with my teammates.’

Where is your favorite place to climb/place that you’re looking to go to next?

Colorado

What helps you to get in the right mindset to compete?

‘I think of joy and happy thoughts.’

What are some of your goals for nationals weekend?

‘Ultimately, I want to be in the top 4 and HAVE FUN!’

 

 

Ethan

13 – Male Youth C

Years Climbing: 6

Favorite Climbing Style: Overhang power or techy problems

How did you start/what brought you to Team FA?

‘I first took a class at an FFC Health Club then another at Hidden Peak. I joined the team there and eventually moved here with my friends.’

Where is your favorite place to climb/place that you’re looking to go to next?

Red River Gorge, KY

What helps you to get in the right mindset to compete?

‘Climbing in ISO at the event before going out helps me focus.’

What are some of your goals for nationals weekend?

‘I want to make semi-finals and perform better than last year.’

 

 

Sarah

13 – Female Youth B

Years Climbing: 8

Favorite Climbing Style: Power problems

How did you start/what brought you to Team FA?

‘I started on the team with Chicago Athletic Clubs (EAC, LVAC, LPAC). I always wanted to go to nationals, so I joined FA to gain more exposure in climbing and access to different resources.’

Where is your favorite place to climb/place that you’re looking to go to next?

Red River Gorge, KY

What helps you to get in the right mindset to compete?

‘I like to watch really good climbers climb cool stuff on Instagram.’

What are some of your goals for nationals weekend?

‘I want to have fun and do my best. I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s true!’

 

 

Sophie

14 – Female Youth B

Years Climbing: 7

Favorite Climbing Style: ‘I like routes with tricky moves and dynos, especially if they have big, colorful holds!’

How did you start/what brought you to Team FA?

‘I started at Hidden Peak and moved with my teammates.’

Where is your favorite place to climb/place that you’re looking to go to next?

‘I don’t have a favorite route, but I love the Motherload at RRG, KY.’

What helps you to get in the right mindset to compete?

‘I’ve always had a routine when competing. The routine is to wake up, try to eat breakfast, can’t because I feel sick, so I just go off to the comp.

What are some of your goals for nationals weekend?

‘I want to feel confident in understanding the beta and trying different moves.’

 

 

Spencer

13 – Male Youth B

Years Climbing: 6

Favorite Climbing Style: Juggy overhanging volumes or big volume slab

How did you start/what brought you to Team FA?

‘I was climbing at LVAC for a few years and eventually moved to FA and I’ve been happy ever since it opened.’

Where is your favorite place to climb/place that you’re looking to go to next?

‘I really look forward to going to the Red one day.’

What helps you to get in the right mindset to compete?

‘I try to think things out and visualize what is going to happen.’

What are some of your goals for nationals weekend?

‘I want to make semi-finals.’

 

 

Estelle

15 – Female Youth A

Years Climbing: 5

Favorite Climbing Style: Anything with lots of volumes

How did you start/what brought you to Team FA?

‘I liked competing and wanted to join a team with very stylish uniforms and coaches that were almost as cool.’

Where is your favorite place to climb/place that you’re looking to go to next?

RRG, KY; Lion’s Head, ON; Zion, UT; and Bishop, CA are all great! I want to climb in Squamish, BC; Grampians, Australia; Kalymnos, Greece; and Fontainebleau, France. My favorite route is the IFSC speed route- also Easy Rider and Paradise Lost!’

What helps you to get in the right mindset to compete?

Music and friends

What are some of your goals for nationals weekend?

‘I want to make nationals and National Team’

 

 

Conor

16 – Male Youth A

Years Climbing: 3

Favorite Climbing Style: ‘Anything with slopers or dynamic moves! Or whatever Lucy hates.’

How did you start/what brought you to Team FA?

‘I started at a different gym, but I switched over after meeting some friends on Team FA. I’ve never regretted it!’

Where is your favorite place to climb/place that you’re looking to go to next?

‘I love climbing at Smith Rock, OR. My favorite route there is probably Torrid Zone or Chain Reaction.’

What helps you to get in the right mindset to compete?

‘I do a long warm up and turn my headphones up when I’m waiting in the chair to climb. I usually listen to local artists. My favorites are Pooky, The Slaps, Corn on my Dinner Plate, and Case.’

What are some of your goals for nationals weekend?

This is my first nationals. I want to make semi-finals.

 

 

Lucy

17 – Female JR

Years Climbing: 3

Favorite Climbing Style: ‘Heinous crimps and lock-offs – or whatever gives Conor pain and suffering’

How did you start/what brought you to Team FA?

‘My parents signed me up. I wasn’t good at first, but then I got better and better.’

Where is your favorite place to climb/place that you’re looking to go to next?

‘I’m going to Red Rock Canyon this spring!’

What helps you to get in the right mindset to compete?

‘Clif Bars’

What are some of your goals for nationals weekend?

‘I want to have fun and cheer on the rest of the team!’

 

 

Belinda

17 – Female JR

Years Climbing: 14

Favorite Climbing Style: Weird slab routes

How did you start/what brought you to Team FA?

‘Maya and I were kidnapped and locked in a climbing gym and forced to send all your projects!  Send help!’

Where is your favorite place to climb/place that you’re looking to go to next?

RRG, KY

What helps you to get in the right mindset to compete?

‘I like to play games and joke around with my friends in ISO.’

What are some of your goals for nationals weekend?

‘Have lots of fun!’

 

 

Maya

18 – Female JR

Years Climbing: 8

Favorite Climbing Style: Crimpy Overhangs

How did you start/what brought you to Team FA?

‘Belinda and I are trapped in here! We haven’t seen the sun in daaays because we’re sending so hard. We haven’t been out in years! …except for climbing trips.’

Where is your favorite place to climb/place that you’re looking to go to next?

‘I love the Blue Mountains in Australia. I’m looking forward to road-tripping through the west and climbing along the way!’

What helps you to get in the right mindset to compete?

‘I play card games in ISO with my friends and we get very competitive. I sometimes call upon the ancient demon Cthulhu for extra strength before a climb.’

What are some of your goals for nationals weekend?

I hope to make finals, but I really just want to climb well and enjoy it!’

 

 

Connor

17 – Male JR

Years Climbing: 11

Favorite Climbing Style: Bouldering

How did you start/what brought you to Team FA?

‘I first started by passing a rock wall in a health club. After a climbing summer camp, I was completely hooked and eventually dragged my whole family into the sport. Over the years I’ve been on many climbing teams and thank all of them as there was much to take away from each experience. I’ve been with FA since its beginnings when it first opened its doors. I love training hard with my teammates and sharing the whole experience. It’s all more than I can describe!’

Where is your favorite place to climb/place that you’re looking to go to next?

‘I love the Holy Boulders, IL. However, when it comes to sport, nothing beats the Red! I look forward to climbing more internationally (especially Europe)!

What helps you to get in the right mindset to compete?

‘I listen to music in order to regulate my emotions. Breathing exercises and some meditation also helps to focus and keep a clear mind.’

What are some of your goals for nationals weekend?

‘Simply put, I want to climb my heart out pulling on plastic while I’m in Bend.’

 

 

Spencer Kapayo

17 – Male JR

Years Climbing: 11

Favorite Climbing Style: Bouldering

How did you start/what brought you to Team FA?

‘My twin introduced me to climbing. He somehow managed to get me roped into things and we’ve been climbing partners ever since. As for FA, we (Connor and I) wanted to continue down a path that had a team dynamic after our previous team fell through. We love to learn from others, and it only made sense to continue seeking that knowledge. So upon FA’s establishment, we became some of the team’s founding members.’

Where is your favorite place to climb/place that you’re looking to go to next?

‘One of my favorite bouldering spots has got to be Stone Fort Little Rock City located in Soddy Daisy, TN. Amazing place when you’re with the right people. On the other hand, I thoroughly enjoyed climbing in Rifle Mountain Park (located in CO) for sport.’

What helps you to get in the right mindset to compete?

‘Usually the day before a competition, I watch clips from a variety of movies or TV shows to hype myself up for the upcoming day. Whether it be Rocky IV, The Matrix, IP Man, and yes, even Naruto, they have one thing in common…to believe in oneself. In a way, watching these clips allows me to shrug off most of my bad karma. On the day of the competition, however, I usually listen to dance or rock music.’

What are some of your goals for nationals weekend?

‘I simply want to put on an entertaining show while in Bend’s entirety, including the delightful conclusion.’

 

Wish all of these crushers the best as they compete!

Staff Spotlight: FA Peoria Leadership Team

In this month’s Staff Spotlight, we’ve got a trifecta. Meet Jonathan Scaccia, Amanda Villiger, and Brad Moser – leaders of the First Ascent Peoria staff team!These three are on the forefront of bringing world-class climbing to Peoria at First Ascent’s latest location, an adaptive reuse of a historic building in Peoria’s Warehouse District. They each bring unique experience and perspective to their roles – not to mention some hidden talents. Read more about them below, and say hi to them next time you see them around FA Peoria!

 

Jonathan Scaccia, Gym Manager

How did you get into climbing?

My very first exposure to climbing was on a trip to the sporting goods store Galyan’s (now Dick’s Sporting Goods) with my Mom. Which turned into multiple trips to the store, just to climb.

I didn’t fully jump into climbing until high school. During my junior year, we had an option to take an alternative gym class called Outdoor Ed. We had a climbing gym in a converted racket ball court, kayaked in the school pool, slacklined, skateboarded, and then we went on climbing trips to Devils Lake. After that first trip, I was hooked. (The climbing picture is of my first time outside, almost 10 years ago)

What do you love about climbing?

Climbing appealed to me early on because of the problem-solving aspect of the sport. The trial and error of a difficult route or problem, then finally getting the send after piecing it together is a satisfying moment. Besides the actually climbing, it’s the people that I’ve met through climbing that have contributed to my love of it. I’ve met some of the most awesome and talented people I know through climbing.

Bouldering or sport climbing?

Bouldering. Like I mentioned before, the problem solving of a boulder problem is a fun process. But it’s also the collective problem solving of a couple people sitting around working on the same problem that’s really fun. Bouncing ideas off some friends, getting some beta from someone you’ve never met before, chatting about climbing and life. It’s the best.

What is your favorite place to climb outdoors?

Although it’s been a long time since I’ve been there and I’ve only been twice, I would say Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Arkansas. Back in college, a large group of our climbing club went to compete at 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell. I attended as a spectator, but still accompanied a couple of friends as they bounced from route to route, enjoying the spectacle of it all. The next day we had the opportunity to hop on some stuff, and it was some of the most fun I’ve had climbing.

Do you have any particular climbing projects or fitness goals for this year?

I wanna get super ripped. Like John Cena ripped.

What keeps you busy when you’re not climbing? What other outdoor activities do you participate in?

When I’m not climbing I’m usually working on some music, playing games, or watching weird movies on Netflix. Outside I really like slacklining. I’m not great at it, but it’s always a good time.

What do you love about Peoria?

Everyone I’ve met here is super nice, outgoing, and psyched to climb.

What is your favorite Peoria spot for food, music, art or culture?

I would have to say Zion. This coffee shop is fabulous. Great atmosphere and great coffee. And the cinnamon rolls are fantastic.

What is something about you most people don’t know?

I play guitar in a couple bands. One is a folky pop indie rock band, BC Sherman and the Baltimore Four (Our debut EP Love is Real is available on all streaming platforms!). We actually have 5 other members. The other has the working name of Jon, John, John. Because it’s me, a Jonathan, a Johnny, and a John. We play an amalgam of our favorite genres. So I guess it’s emo-y, post-rockish, prog-y, math-y, finger tap-y, jazzy stuff. I don’t know. We pretty much just try to write music that we think sounds cool.

Anything else you want to say to the FA Community?

If you want to talk about professional wrestling, I’m your guy.

 

Amanda Villiger, Assistant Gym Manager

How did you get into climbing?

I started climbing during college at Bradley University about 9 years ago.

What do you love about climbing?

As much as climbing can be scary for me, it can be wonderful to overcome those fears and achieve something you didn’t think you could do.

Bouldering or sport climbing?

Sport climbing. I like the degree of security that the rope provides and, even though I’m terribly afraid of heights, you just can’t beat the view from the top.

What is your favorite place to climb outdoors?

Jackson Falls.

Do you have any particular climbing projects or fitness goals for this year?

I aim to improve my strength and flexibility for both climbing and my yoga practice.

What keeps you busy when you’re not climbing? What other outdoor activities do you participate in?

I am a certified yoga teacher, and I love to do that whenever I get the chance. I also enjoy kayaking, hiking, camping, and backpacking.

What do you love about Peoria?

There are so many things! Many of my closest friends live here, and there is a good variety of places to eat and explore both in town and nearby.

What is your favorite Peoria spot for food, music, art or culture?

The Fieldhouse Bar and Grill in the Campustown shopping center. They have hands down the best wings!

What is something about you most people don’t know?

I am a huge Harry Potter fan. Go Hufflepuff!

 

Brad Moser, Routesetting Supervisor

How did you get into climbing?   

I took a belay class with my family in high school, then started working for Upper Limits while I was in college.

What do you love about climbing?

I love the continual challenge that is inherent to climbing. The fact that there is always room to improve no matter where you are in your climbing is motivating.

Bouldering or sport climbing?

Why not both? But if I have to choose, I’d choose sport climbing because I like have a rope to protect my falls.

What is your favorite place to climb outdoors?    

Jackson Falls. More on that in the next question.

Do you have any particular climbing projects or fitness goals for this year?    

Generator X (5.11c), Detox Mountain (5.12a), and Everybody Needs Friends (5.12a).

What keeps you busy when you’re not climbing? What other outdoor activities do you participate in?

Bicycling, disc golf, following baseball and soccer, and playing Pathfinder/DnD.

What do you love about Peoria?

Peoria is working hard to rejuvenate its downtown, and I’m excited to be part of that growth through FA.

What is your favorite Peoria spot for food, music, art or culture?

Zion Coffee, Thyme, Kellehers, and of course First Ascent.

What is something about you most people don’t know?

Before dropping out of college to pursue a career in the climbing industry, I studied History Education.