Staff Highlight

Category Archive

Staff Spotlight: Christine Antonio

We’re shining the staff spotlight on Christine Antonio, First Ascent’s Learning to Boulder class instructor at Humboldt Park! Read more about her journey through the world of climbing.

1. How did you get into climbing?

Honestly, you could have found me climbing anything and everything as a child (trees, countertops, scaling the walls of the house – my very early debut into chimney climbing). I once got stuck at the top of a flag pole and had the fire dept called on me. When I was home from grad school for winter break, my friend took me to First Ascent Avondale. I decided then that I would join the gym when I moved back home after graduation later that year (September 2016)… Now here I am!

2. What do you love about climbing?

I love that it has helped me to love my body for how strong and resilient it is regardless of what it looks like. I love the supportive and goofy community I’ve found through climbing. I love the beautiful, obscure places it has brought me to. I love how alive I feel at the top of an outdoor lead or multi-pitch route. I love eating after climbing.

3. Bouldering or sport climbing?

I do both! Sport climbing will always be my first love and favorite – the serenity and fluidity needed for sport climbing has always resonated with me. But I also love the social aspect of bouldering and napping on crash pads. I do tend to use bouldering as a way to improve climbing style/technique that I can apply to the lead wall.

4. What is your favorite place to climb outdoors? What other outdoor activities do you participate in?

Bishop (Payahuunadü – Northern Paiute, Southern Mono/Monache, and Newe/Western Shoshone land) is an absolutely magical place. Climbing on beautiful rock with the snowcapped Sierra Nevada range in the background is an absolute dream. Locally, Shawnee National Park is a gem of southern IL.

5. What other outdoor activities do you participate in?

Snowboarding, ice climbing, surfing (trying to learn), backpacking (went on my first big trip to Mt. Olympus, WA earlier this year). I’ll play a pickup game soccer or football here and there. I’m trying to get back into running, but it’s getting cold now and I dread the treadmill (I have many excuses).

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

Rehab current injuries, prevent further injuries, be smarter and more strategic about getting stronger! Grade-wise, indoor 5.12, outdoor 5.11+/5.12-, V6 outdoor. I’m hoping to find some lead projects in So IL or the Red in 2020!

I also hope to continue doing solid work with Sending In Color, Women Crush Wednesday, and Brown Girls Climb to improve diversity, accessibility, and WOC (women of color) representation in the climbing world.

7. What keeps you busy when you’re not climbing?

My full-time job is a Medical Speech-Language Pathologist at an acute care hospital. So most of the time I’m performing swallow studies and watching people eat. Other things that keep me busy are non-climbing related travels (they rarely are these days), trying new recipes, singing very loudly in my car, and my crazy cat.

8. What do you love about Chicago?

It’s home! I also “love” that sub 50 F is still sending temps for us because we got thick skin – STRENGTH, NO WEAKNESS (but really there’s still never enough skin).

9. What is your favorite Chicago spot for food, music, art or culture?

Food: Ahhh I love food… can’t choose one place! Some favorites are Chicago Kalbi (Korean and Japanese barbecue), Mesaku (sushi), Cocoro (Japanese), Han Bat (Korean ox bone soup), Alegrias (Nayarit style seafood), Bonci (Roman-style pizza), Lina’s Frozen Treats (located in Niles – Mexican and Filipino/Asian froyo, drinks, and desserts), Chi Cafe (if you know you know), and of course, my mom’s house for some bomb Filipino food.

Music/art/culture: One of my dear friends started Luya Poetry, a monthly poetry/open mic night geared towards the Filipino American and POC (people of color) community. Luya, in Tagalog, translates to ‘ginger’ and, like poetry and community, ginger is healing. The topics always resonate and are refreshing in a way that cannot be described with words.

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

I used to choreograph Filipino folk dances in college and competed in Battle of the Bamboo (annual competition at the University of Illinois Chicago) throughout my 4 years. In my senior year, I held the lead role in our performance as a mythical, colorful chicken called the “Sarimanok”. I think this all came full circle when I climbed my first outdoor 5.11 in Cebu, Philippines and I could hear the loud, incessant, collective crowing of the town’s cock-fighting chickens cheering me on…

11. Anything else you want to say to the FA community?

As climbing becomes more popularized, inevitably, outdoor spaces are gaining more traffic. Please be respectful of the land where you climb/recreate, and to the people who were there before us, are still there, and continue to do work to protect these natural resources. Take some time to learn about the history, preferred practices, and be proactive about doing your part – whether that is packing it in/out, picking up trash, staying on trails, not climbing on rock susceptible to damage, not making cairns for fun, participating in stewardship or service projects, listening to stories and struggles of indigenous people, lobbying, or donating. “Leave no trace” is the bare minimum that we can be doing.

With the passion, tenacity, and execution I have witnessed in this community when facing our climbing projects, I know that we can do more here!

Staff Spotlight: Paula Bui

We’re shining the staff spotlight on Paula Bui, First Ascent’s Yoga Coordinator and AcroYoga extroadinaire. Read more about her journey into the world of yoga. Sign up for a yoga class at Avondale to meet her!

1. How did you get into yoga?

I was in high school when I took my first yoga class in Miami, FL and was looking for different ways to move my body. I had just started adopting a plant-based diet at the time and read somewhere most vegetarians practiced a mindful movement practice through yoga. Who knows how relevant that is now but I like to think we’re all trying to be more mindful of our consumption and impact on this planet.

2. What do you love about yoga?

I enjoy the feeling of being strong and flexible.

4. What is your favorite place to climb outdoors? What other outdoor activities do you participate in?

None yet! Honestly, I’m a little terrified of climbing outdoors. Hiking outside and being on my bike bring me joy!

5. Do you have any particular fitness or yoga goals for this year?

Yes, to get my foot behind my head.
Maybe…
But actually no.
I’m excited to be able to continue working my one arm handstand practice and get better at lifting humans up over my head.

6. What keeps you busy when you’re not doing yoga?

Thai bodywork and being a freelance interpreter. They’re my other two side hustles. Oh, and also traveling whenever I get the opportunity.

7. What do you love about Chicago?

Everything. Literally everything, both the good and the bad. I love winter and the other seasons too. I love that this is a city of Struggle and a city of Hope. I love that we can drive in any direction (minus towards the lake) and be in a different city within a couple of hours.

8. What is your favorite Chicago spot for food, music, art or culture?

The Chicago Cultural Center for all things music (free!) and culture. My favorite place for food is my kitchen.

Oh and you didn’t ask, but my favorite place to hang out is at a coffeeshop around the city.

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

I’m passionate about building community and organize an AcroYoga Festival every year in Chicago to do that and show some adults how to communicate, trust, and play again.

10. Anything else you want to say to the FA Community?

I’m grateful for you all. Seriously. I love that I can show up at a random time of day and connect with someone that’s come to my yoga class & chat or climb together.

Staff Spotlight: Brandon Bradberry

We’re shining the staff spotlight on Brandon Bradberry, Intro to Bouldering instructor at First Ascent Block 37. Read more about his climbing journey below and say hi next time you see him at Block 37!

1. How did you get into climbing?

In 2017, not knowing anything about climbing, I applied for a job at the Maggie Daley Park climbing wall. Before the 2018 season, I climbed on an autobelay, just to try it out. It was sketchy coming down…I’m normally not scared of anything, so I did it again and again and again, and eventually started climbing from there. By the time the 2018 season was over, I was instructing.

2. What do you love about climbing?

It’s like a zen thing. The technique blows my mind. I love how climbing works on muscles I’ve never thought to use and is also a full body exercise.

3. Bouldering or sport climbing?

Bouldering, because I run out of steam very quickly.

4. What is your favorite place to climb outdoors? What other outdoor activities do you participate in?

I’ve never climbed outside—eventually, yeah. I fall enough in the gym already right now…

I occasionally do open water swimming in the lake and also have done some skiing.

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

I’d like to become an official V6 climber. I’ve done them before, but it takes me multiple sessions. I want to be able to climb V6 problems within one session.

6. What keeps you busy when you’re not climbing?

My daughter keeps me on my toes all of the time. She loves autobelays, but doesn’t want to toprope with me—she doesn’t want me to help her! She’s really tough.

7. What do you love about Chicago?

The grid system, and public transportation makes it easy to get around.

8. What is your favorite Chicago spot for food, music, art or culture?

My favorite spot would be Hyde Park because it’s so diverse. If I was there right now and hungry, I’d go to Noodles Etc.

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

I basically climb with only my right arm, because I have severe nerve damage in my left one. I usually have to flip problems around to focus on my right arm.

10. Anything else you want to say to the FA Community?

Thanks for all the beta and help in my journey of becoming a good climber.

Staff Spotlight: Robin West

We’re shining this staff spotlight on Robin West, Desk Lead and Retail Coordinator at First Ascent Avondale. Robin’s calm, cool presence and one-of-a-kind laugh are contagious. Read more about her below and say hi to her next time you see her around the gym!

1. How did you get into climbing?

I started climbing at First Ascent. I had always wanted to try climbing, but didn’t know how or where to start. I learned about First Ascent around the time it opened, but kept putting it off. Then I was unemployed for a little while and needed an outlet because I was stressed out, so I stumbled into First Ascent and never left.

2. What do you love about climbing?

I love the community of it, but also what it does for me mentally. I feel so at peace when I find my flow on a problem or route. I get focused and everything else fades away.

3. Bouldering or sport climbing? Make sure to tell us why.

I used to be all about sport climbing. I just didn’t enjoy bouldering and sport climbing was my first love. It’s completely flipped in the past year though. Last March I started an affair with bouldering and fell in love all over again. I left sport climbing and my harness behind. It was nothing personal.

4. What is your favorite place to climb outdoors? What other outdoor activities do you participate in?

I love going up to Devil’s Lake to boulder because I can just plan a quick day trip. It’s also the first place I went climbing outside so it’s nostalgic for me. Plus I always feel especially good when I can make it up those slick quartzite problems.

Rock climbing has taken over the outdoors for me so unless I’m lounging in the sun or water, I’m climbing.

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

I wanna get my health up to speed and be able to climb a grade or two higher in bouldering so I can possibly learn how to set and be of more use when we’re forerunning.

6. What keeps you busy when you’re not climbing?

School 🙁

But also my pup, girlfriend, and friends.

7. What do you love about Chicago?

The comedy club scene! Also that I can get around easily without a car. When I move out West I’ll probably need to get a car 🙁

8. What is your favorite Chicago spot for food, music, art or culture?

I love The Second City for comedy. Pilsen is awesome when I want tacos. Honestly one of my favorite places to eat is Gorilla Sushi. It’s not fancy, but the sushi is good and you can’t beat $3 a roll. Also Xurro Factory in North Center! 3927 N Lincoln! They make churros fresh in shop. They also have ice cream, funnel cake, churro milkshakes, hot chocolate, and coffee. Everyone must know. Everyone must go.

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

I’m biracial.

10. Anything else you want to say to the FA Community?

You’re doing great 👍🏽. Also talk to me about superheroes! I need more nerd friends.

 

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.

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