Category Archive

Coronavirus Closure Update: We’re Reopening!

Dear FAmily, 

We hope this message finds you, your family, and loved ones well! 

Great news: First Ascent will reopen all of our Chicago locations on Monday July 6th!

With Chicago health officials’ announcement yesterday that the City is moving to Phase 4 of reopening this Friday, we’re beginning preparations to reopen the gyms and welcome you back. We’ve waited months to send this email, and we can’t be more excited to get back to serving our community the way we love to once again. 

As we reopen, we are implementing many changes to enhance our standards for health, safety, and cleanliness, taking them to the very highest level possible.  Some of these changes will require you to take extra precautions and change your routines, and some of them might feel strange at first. We ask for your understanding, flexibility, and help as we implement these changes to keep our community healthy and climbing strong. We truly are stronger together. 

Our reopening plan is laid out in full on our website and is linked below. One important component of the plan: we will open for members only access at first. We know that might be disappointing news for our Day Pass visitors and 10-Pass holders, but we’re doing so primarily to ensure our reopening protocols are able to meet the demand safely before opening the gyms up to the broader public. 

Click below to review our comprehensive reopening plan.

First Ascent Reopening Plan

We also want to take this moment to express our immense gratitude to the FAmily for your support during the closure.

Thanks to your support, First Ascent was able to cover some of its expenses and keep a few staff on to manage the day to day during the closure.

Though we made the difficult decision to furlough the majority of FA staff in April – including ourselves – as we prepared for the extended closure, your support enabled us to set up an assistance fund for any staff who had difficulty getting unemployment insurance. 

And now that we’re on the road to recovery, we are working to bring back as many staff members as possible to prepare for reopening. We know we’ll be on this road for a while and there are still some twists and turns ahead, but thanks to your support, we are confident that First Ascent will be around to serve our community and employ our staff for many years to come.

You also showed up in a big way for your fellow Chicagoans by donating time and resources to support our neighbors facing food shortages these past few weeks. It’s inspiring to see this community get stronger even when we are apart, and that’s why we can’t wait to be together again, even if things are a little different for a while.

We look forward to climbing with you again soon!


Dan, Joe, Jon, & Dave | the First Ascent founders    

Coronavirus Closure Update: May 27th, 2020

Dear FAmily, 

We hope this message finds you, your family, and loved ones well! 

We have heard from so many of you who are eager to get back to First Ascent, and we love and share your enthusiasm. The First Ascent leadership team is working tirelessly on a reopening plan for the safety and health of our community.  We’ve been on countless conference calls with other climbing and fitness industry leaders, we’ve studied health expert guidance closely, and we’re watching states and businesses that have already reopened to learn how to implement best practices as they evolve.

Throughout all of these efforts, we’re reminded that climbers have a unique appreciation for risk. In climbing, as in life, we cannot completely eliminate risk. So we evaluate the risks as individuals and as a group.  We manage risks with PPE like harnesses, ropes, and bouldering pads.  We educate ourselves on proper belay technique and falling best practices so we’re prepared to manage risks as effectively as possible.  And then we make decisions about what we do and don’t do based on our own risk tolerance and the effects those choices have on those around us. 

That process – evaluating risks, learning and implementing risk management techniques, and deciding which risks are acceptable and which are not – is exactly what we must do now as a society to emerge from stay at home orders and return to our lives healthy and prepared. 

Reopening our gyms presents its own risk-reward trade offs. We’ve heard from many of you that climbing, yoga, and fitness are a cornerstone of your physical and mental health. At the same time, completely eliminating the risk of COVID-19 transmission is not possible, even with a vaccine or other medical breakthrough. So as we plan for reopening, our goal is to reduce the risk of transmission at the gyms as much as possible while empowering our members to pursue the mental, physical, and social benefits they enjoy at First Ascent gyms.

We recognize the complexity of the situation, and we know there will be differing perspectives on when and how businesses – including our gyms – should open their doors. We also understand that things will be different than we’re used to for a while, and that those differences might feel strange. And we respect that some of you might deem the risks too great to return to First Ascent anytime soon – we will continue serving you with virtual First Ascent Anywhere classes and content that keeps you active and connected from a distance.

Whether you plan to return to climbing ASAP, or you need more time to feel comfortable getting back on the wall, we want to hear from you. Over the past few weeks, we have assembled a robust reopening plan for First Ascent gyms. Our reopening plan focuses on three main areas: (1) Enhanced Sanitation & Cleaning Procedures,  (2) Scheduled Visitation & Monitoring, and (3) Space, Equipment, and Climbing Wall Usage Management.  

Many aspects of our plan affect you as an FA community member, so as we work to finalize it, we want to hear your feedback. Please click below to take a short Welcome Back survey to provide some feedback on key aspects of our reopening plan.

Take The Welcome Back Survey

We know many of you are wondering “When will you reopen?” The reopening plans from the State of Illinois and City of Chicago suggest that mid to late June may be possible, but the exact timeline is not yet clear. Rest assured that we will keep you updated as the timeline comes into clearer view.

In the meantime, any memberships on freeze will remain frozen until we reopen, at which time will we follow up with you to provide instructions for how to reactivate your membership. If you stayed active and you’d like to make a change to your membership, click here.

We are so thankful for all of the support we’ve received from our community during this challenging time. Ultimately, our commitment to our community is simple: to serve you with sanitized hands and open hearts, to do everything in our power to protect and promote your health and wellness, to communicate with you clearly so you know what you can expect and what you can do to help, and to listen to you along the way.  We can lead the way forward – together.

We look forward to getting your feedback on this survey, and most of all, we look forward to welcoming you back to First Ascent soon.


Dan, Joe, Jon, & Dave | the First Ascent founders   

Coronavirus Closure Update: April 28th, 2020

Dear FAmily, 

First of all, we want to thank the FA community again for your amazing support. The outpouring of support we’ve received means the world to us, and it ensures that First Ascent and our staff can emerge from this crisis ready to serve the climbing community the way we love to. Thank you!

Given the extension of the stay at home order, all First Ascent locations will remain closed through May 30th.  We are working hard behind the scenes to ensure that we are ready to open our doors as soon as it is safe for us to do so, and we will keep you updated as that day draws near.

In the meantime, we will continue to host free live streamed First Ascent Anywhere classes for the FA community at large.

If you’re looking for a way to move and connect with others, join us for a class! We have a full schedule of yoga, fitness, and climbing training classes led by some of your favorite FA instructors, as well as a weekly cooking lesson with our friends at Nude Dude Food.

Questions? Please reply to this email and we’ll be happy to answer them. 

We hope you’re taking good care of yourselves and others during this challenging time. One thing is for sure: this too shall pass, and we’ll get to enjoy climbing together again once it does.

Thanks again for being a part of the FAmily. Be well!


Dan, Joe, Jon, & Dave | the First Ascent founders

Coronavirus Closure Update: April 7th, 2020

Dear FAmily, 

Words can’t fully express our gratitude to the FA community for stepping up to support First Ascent. Which is good, because we’re speechless seeing how much support flowed in over the last week, from your kind words (see image below for just a handful of the beautiful comments we received), to members keeping their memberships active, to people purchasing FA gift cards and Stronger Together t-shirts to show their support.

We asked you to opt in, and you all showed up beyond what we imagined. 

THANK YOU from all of us at First Ascent. It means the world to us to know you have our back. 

We’re so happy to report that because of the amazing support from our members and community, First Ascent is in a strong position to make it through the extended closure, support our staff in the meantime, and re-open as soon as possible once it’s safe to do so.

Your support empowers us to: (1) keep a small group of full time staff on for the extent of the closure, (2) continue to pay for health insurance for any qualifying staff, (3) create an Emergency Assistance fund to help any FA staff who are having trouble getting unemployment insurance or are struggling to make ends meet, (4) continue offering live streamed FA Anywhere classes, (5) provide training and development opportunities for staff during the closure, (6) bring furloughed staff back on in advance of re-opening to help prepare the gyms to welcome you all back, and (7) ultimately emerge from the closure ready to serve this community the way we love to.

On a separate note, we’re also thankful for the bipartisan support of the CARES Act, which provides additional assistance to our furloughed staff as well as for First Ascent as a business. It’s inspiring to see people coming together despite the challenges we face, both locally and on a national level.

We are stronger together, and we know that the FA community will emerge from this stronger than ever because of your support.

Much love and gratitude,

Dan, Joe, Jon, & Dave | the First Ascent founders

Coronavirus Closure Update: March 23rd, 2020

Dear FAmily,

We are overwhelmed and deeply humbled by how you and the First Ascent community stepped up to support us and our staff.

Over 90% of First Ascent members stayed active in March.  With your support, we were able to pay our staff through March 31st.  

THANK YOU from all of us at First Ascent! You are a part of a truly powerful community. You made a real, tangible impact, and we are incredibly grateful.

Many of you have asked how you can continue to support First Ascent. Click below to learn more about how you can lend your support during the extended closures.

Support First Ascent

Given the current status of COVID-19 in Illinois, all First Ascent gyms will remain closed until at least April 7th. We will re-open as soon as it is legal, safe, and responsible for us to do so. The exact date we will open our doors again remains uncertain, but we will be sure to keep you updated along the way.

When the pandemic subsides, we want First Ascent to be ready for you to climb and connect, and for our staff to have a place to work. We are fighting to keep as many staff on payroll for as long as we can while at the same time paying significant expenses such as rent and loans. 

Since the closure has extended, we have decided to furlough most of our part-time staff and some full-time staff starting April 1st. This decision was heart wrenching, but we made it knowing that it ultimately serves our staff best – most will receive more income from unemployment insurance than we can offer them during the extended closure. 

The First Ascent founders are foregoing 100% of our pay during the closure so we can pay more staff. 

We need your help: if you are financially able, please click below to continue your membership to support First Ascent. The more members that stay on with us, the more staff we can keep on to create live-streamed classes and content, provide member communication, and pitch in to help us prepare for re-opening. 

Support First Ascent

We would greatly appreciate anything you can contribute. We’ve got some great ideas for how to say “thank you!” to everyone who maintains an active membership during the crisis, and we can’t wait to celebrate with you once we’ve made it through this thing.

We also understand that this is a time of financial uncertainty for many of you. If we don’t receive a response from members by March 30th, we will assume you would like your membership to go on hold starting April 1st. 

We will automatically freeze Monthly Memberships for free until we open our doors, and we will extend all Annual and One-month Memberships for the amount of time we are closed. If you would prefer to make another change to your membership, you can complete the Membership Change form here.

Social distancing may have altered the way we commune, but it cannot and will not weaken this community.

We truly are stronger together, and we will get through this together. Thank you for your continued support!

Be well,

Dan, Joe, Jon, and Dave | the First Ascent founders