Since we first opened the doors of First Ascent Avondale in 2015, we’ve watched as the Chicago climbing community has grown immensely with the growth of access to indoor climbing in the city. But outdoor climbing has always been difficult to access for Chicago climbers, with the closest outdoor climbing areas over 3 hour’s drive away.

It’s time to change that. There is vast route potential right here in the great city of Chicago, and we’re ready to bring that potential to life.

Introducing the Chicago Fixed Gear Initiative. A partnership between First Ascent and the best route developers in the area, the CFGI is dedicated to bolting and maintaining the best climbing lines in Chicago.

In a city known for its architecture, we’ve long dreamed of local climbers nabbing the first ascents on hard Chicago sport routes all over the city. 

Just picture it: questing up those endless corners on the Leo Burnett building, perfect for stemming. Or gaining climbing access to the parapets on the Tribune Tower, a whole new way to enjoy neo-gothic architecture and peep some amazing skyline views. Or even traversing the BP Pedestrian Bridge in Maggie Daley Park, one of Chicago’s most sustained overhanging king lines.

Elevator too crowded in the Aon Center? The CFGI plans to bolt a classic sport multi-pitch route to protect those flawless dihedrals so you can get to your desk job and have fun while doing it. Always wanted to summit the Wrigley Building? Imagine the shocked faces on the diplomats as you clip the anchors on your proj just outside the Austrian Consulate’s window? Ich glaub mich knutscht ein Elch!

Now more than ever, the CFGI is a vital cause for Chicago climbers. A recent dispute led a surly, old-school trad climber brandishing a bright red “Make Climbing Traditional Again” hat to chop the bolts on the Trump Tower project, which starts at the terrace, claiming that only true ground-up buildering counts. Chicago climbers need the CFGI to help resolve these disputes and ensure that bolting is done responsibly and with community consensus on what should and should not be bolted.

With the start of the CFGI, we’re stoked to see Chicago become a world-class climber’s city, prepared and ready for first ascents of everything from the Willis Tower (5.12d R) to the Bean (5.3 A2 or 5.13c A3/4 depending on which side you start on). We’re even working on installing slackline anchors on the towers of DuSable bridge for those slackers looking to make their river crossings a little spicier.

With new routes ready to go up on historic buildings all over the city, we’re proud to formally support the CFGI. Routes bolting initiatives are beginning on all major high-rises this spring, with FAs open to all takers.

We’re supporting the CFGI in partnership with the 4-1 Initiative, a non-profit dedicated to supporting announcements on April 1st that seem a little too good to be true. Happy April Fools Day, everyone!

For real though, check out the RRG Fixed Gear Initiative and the Illinois Climbers Association if you want to support the real heroes keeping Chicago’s “local” sport climbing areas bolted and open for all to enjoy. 

Also, PS: one of these photos is real. Can you figure out which one? Photo credit goes to Boone Speed.