Like all years do, 2016 comes to a close. At the end of every year everyone loves a good “best-of” list, like the 10 best recipes from Lucky Peach or the 10 best surfing vids from Surfing Magazine or the top 10 albums of 2016 according to NPR’s Tiny Desk.

Instagram, however, is unique in that – in it’s squared format – it allows for users to post their top nine images with the hashtag #bestnine2016 to give others a quick recap of their year in photos. 

Here’s First Ascent Climbing’s contribution to this popular hashtag: 


FA’s #BestNine2016

We’ve had a busy year capturing moments, posting about the goings-on at the gyms and sharing posts from our lovely members. This blog gives a little context and background to the nine images in the collage above, in what we thought was our BestNine2016; links to original Insta-posts are underlined above their respective images below. (note: strictly still images were chosen, no videos)

#9 Santa on a portaledge


On what turned out to be one of our busiest days of the year, Santa took time from his busy schedule to “hang out” on the portaledge, and those who were brave enough climbed up to ole St. Nick to put in their order for presents. Even T-Rex got into the mix (more on him later). Outdoor retailers from all over the city were on hand and members got to participate in a gear swap. Great warm-up for the holidays!


#8 Bobbing for apples action shot


One of the hardest working climbers at First Ascent (Myung) shows of his apple bobbing skills. This was from the Uptown Hoedown community climbing comp. Fall was in full swing with staff dressed in ranching attire and competition was friendly and fierce. 

#7 Getting dynamic at the Uptown Throwdown


In our second community competition at the Uptown gym, Dan Bartz (FA founder) was in the right place at the right time to capture Adin get airborne. Conrad Anker (also more on him later) was on hand to witness the community that’s been growing ever since. Here’s the full recap.

#6 FAoutside Instagram comp winner


In the Fall, when “sending temps” were upon us, we wanted to see all of the FA community’s outdoor climbing pics. So we had a contest on Instagram using the hashtag #FAoutside for bouldering and sport climbing. FA Youth Climbing Team crusher, Estelle Park, submitted this winning image in the bouldering category, which won her some sweet bouldering swag. This is her topping out Plumbers Crack (V1/2) at Red Rock Canyon just outside Las Vegas, NV. 

#5 First Ascent goes international


Former FA member Ryan Thompson travels the world for work and pleasure. This iconic shot was taken during one of his excursions in Japan. Even when members move on, they continue to be FAmily!

#4 Michaela Kiersch sends Golden Ticket


Until FA’s resident pro-climber Michaela Kiersch came along, no woman had completed Golden Ticket, a 5.14c rated sport climbing route in the Red River Gorge in Kentucky. Kiersch, with this and many other sends, continues to establish herself as one of the best climbers in the world. Photographer Andy Wickstrom was on hand to capture the send in still images and on video. Expect big things from this mighty lady in 2017 and beyond. 

#3 Living legend Conrad Anker climbs at Uptown


When talking about Conrad Anker’s accomplishments, it’s hard not to sound hyperbolic. This man has summited the tallest peaks in the world and done death defying climbs on the most technical mountain faces nature has conjured. While in Chicago, he stopped by the Uptown Throwdown climbing comp in March, spent time with FAmily members and threw down, crushing some boulders. 

#2 T-rex goes full dyno


First Ascent Avondale turned 1 and everyone came out to the party, including T-rex. He tried and tried and tried to nail some dynos in the dyno-comp. Here’s one of his valiant attempts to score points. The video of this has over 300,000 views.

#1 Hello, FA Humboldt Park


Projected to open in Spring 2017, this bouldering-only gym will be the latest addition to the First Ascent family of climbing and fitness gyms. We are beyond excited to end the year with a new project like this, which will bring even more joy to the vertically minded Chicago climbing community. 

Thanks for Instagramming with us in 2016 and #letsclimbingchicago!!!

By: Gabriel Skvor