As Valentine’s Day approaches, we’re shining the spotlight on the recently engaged Mara Jacobucci and Brad Sackfield! Brad popped the question right here at FA Avondale a few feet away from where he first met Mara. What can we say – it was love at first ascent (their words, not ours)! Read below to learn more about this fantastic couple, and make sure to say “congratulations!” to these two Valen-climbs if you see them around the gym!

1. How did you get into climbing?

Mara: ​I got into climbing (and heard about FA) through my amazing sister, Miranda. 

She moved to Chicago from California for a brief period of time, and “coincidentally” planned her move the same month that FA was scheduled to open…it was not a coincidence. I decided to give it a try, since she clearly seemed to into it and excited by this new gym. She introduced me to the FAmily, including the amazing crushers of Women Crush Wednesdays. I’ve been hooked ever since! 

Brad: I got into climbing in high school, when I took an Outdoor Education course. We did some indoor climbing a couple times, then did an outdoor climbing trip. I seemed to be OK at it, so I kept going. 13 years later, I still seem to be OK at it, although it wanes a little each year. 

2. What do you love about climbing?

Brad: ​I like rocks. ​

Mara: Me too.

Brad: I think the best part about climbing is that you can climb with people of any skill level at the same time—you can have a hard route next to an easy route, and everyone can work together and hang out. You get to be chatty on your breaks, and I can’t stop talking.

Mara: It’s true. He can’t. My favorite part about climbing, besides getting to hang out with my favorite people (including this guy) is that I get to find all kinds of new ways to move and challenge my body. And solve problems!

Brad: Oh ya! That too. I love problem solving, and I love figuring out how to make something work for my style of climbing and my inflexible, broken body.

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

​Brad: Trad. *laughs* But really, I climb in all three disciplines—trad, sport, bouldering—but indoors, I prefer bouldering, because it’s more fun to be close to people and to get to chat. 

​Mara: He really likes to chat. 

​​Brad: ​Also, I prefer harder movements in shorter sequences. 

Mara:​ I​’m​​ currently ​focusing more on bouldering to work on power and strength, but I love sport climbing, too! It’s such a different mental game, so it’s fun to mix it up. 

4. What is your favorite place to climb outdoors?

​Brad: Red Rock Canyon.  Or possibly the Adirondacks…I think it’s Red Rock Canyon, though. OK, I got it! For trad: the Adirondacks, for sport: Red Rock Canyon, for bouldering: ​the Halfway Log Dump.

​Mara:​ ​I’ve only been to a handful of outdoor climbing spots, but I really enjoyed bouldering in Little Rock City/Stone Fort.For sport climbing, I have to go with the Red River Gorge. For our honeymoon, we’re hoping to make it to Kalymnos, so I imagine that will be our new favorite spot.

Brad: Definitely.


5. What other outdoor activities do you enjoy?

Brad: I really enjoy kayaking, standup paddle boarding, downhill skiing, cross country skiing, all the skiings, skating (on ice, because I’m Canadian)…

Mara: I love beach activities, though living in Chicago makes that pretty difficult. I also enjoying running outside when the ground is not frozen!

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

​Brad: Medical School and Mara.

Mara: Work, taking classes for fun (currently, Anatomy), and Brad. 

7. What do you love about Chicago?

​Mara: I love the people…specifically of the climbing variety. It’s very unifying to have a community of people who want nothing more than to climb outside, but are stuck in the midwest, where the closest decent climbing is hours and hours away. It takes a special kind of person to endure that struggle, and I really like them. ​

​Brad: First Ascent and the food! 

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

​Mara: We love exploring new restaurants in Chicago. Also, all the phenomenal live music and performing arts options, like Kingston Mines, free summer concerts in Millennium Park, theater, dance, and opera shows, etc. 

​Brad: ​We recently saw Hamilton, and it was spectacular. 

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

​Mara: How about that we’re obsessed with Hamilton?

​Brad: But most people get that idea after a few minutes…

Mara:​ I have six toes.

​Brad: That’d be pretty hard to fit your feet into climbing shoes. How about that between the two of us, we share the trifecta of European travel languages?​

Mara: And North America, for that matter. We intend to use these languages to travel the world! 

​Brad:​ To conquer the world! 

​Really though, rocks don’t speak, so we won’t really need them…

9.5. Okay, we have to ask… Why did you choose First Ascent as the venue for your engagement?

Brad: It’s where we met, and it’s where we spend most of our time together. Our first date started ​here, but neither of us knew it was a date…

Mara: …until we fell in love (it was quite literally love at first ascent). The engagement timing and venue was 100% a complete surprise to me, but I couldn’t imagine a better place​. Like Brad said, FA is where we first met—Brad proposed about 10 feet from the exact spot—had our first dates, and have met our closest friend​s​ in Chicago. 

​Brad: …so needless to say, FA is very special to us.

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

​Mara: Why don’t you give the FA community your secret, infallible beta?

Brad: Climb harder…and don’t fall.

Mara: Also, thank you for being the amazing, welcoming, supportive people you are. 

Brad: Yes, what she said.​