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!