Climbing at Chicago's First Ascent Block 37
Shopping malls were a far more exciting place to be as a kid than as a adult for me. As a child malls made me think of gimmicky mall food, candy stores, cool electronics, movie theaters, a place to get my haircut and all-around fun. Now as an adult, all I can imagine for malls are the crowded spaces, long lines, terrible TERRIBLE parking lot drivers and... Well, I am actually getting a headache just thinking about it so I'll stop there. But, if there were a mall I would enjoy, it would likely be because it has a rock climbing gym in it, just like Block 37's First Ascent Climbing gym in Chicago. This is a bouldering only gym (my kind of gym) and is a part of the First Ascent Climbing & Fitness chain. They make very good use of the space afforded to them by making this facility feel spacious and inviting.
Arriving at the gym, it looked very modern in design and was as aesthetically pleasing as it appeared on its website tour video which I had not seen at the time. The entrance to this one floor gym starts along the perimeter with a narrow pathway that leads to an open area format. The narrow path starts with the registration area and exhibits rental shoes.
After taking a hard right you find lockers, a short but lengthy climbing wall running along the perimeter, two yoga studios, more lockers and the bathrooms.
The open area has machine/free weights, cardio equipment, large center island boulders, flex space, a great view of the city and more perimeter climbing which includes an app controlled moonboard.
I had no issues paying for the day pass with my credit card at this location. Before our obligatory climbing instruction, our instructor (who had mad decent deadpan humor btw) did notify us that our day pass was good at all First Ascent locations for its duration which is a major plus. I certainly think gyms should broadcast this more if they support this feature. Also, if they do not support this feature then they really should. I was not in a position to take advantage of this unfortunately. Speaking of day passes, they participate in a "Perkville Referral Program" where members can get first time visitors (3 maximum at a time) in for free. Unfortunately again, I did not have friends at this gym so I could not utilize this perk. Regardless, I think this is a very cool and convenient way to handle their marketing through lead generation. If you are going to market to new customers, you might as well have the people that believe in your product/service the most be your first line advocates.
Next are items outside of what the gym can control but things I feel are worth mentioning. I arrived during the 2018 Magnificent Mile Lights Festival so I will attribute most of the traffic we experienced to that. However, First Ascent Block 37 is located a few blocks from the Millennium Park, the Art Institute of Chicago along with many restaurants and major shopping stores yielding much foot traffic. Not to mention First Ascent Climbing Block 37 is housed in the Block 37 shopping center further adding to the crowded feeling. The last five blocks of our Lyft ride took about 7 minutes while traveling to the gym that evening. We got out of the car early and walked the remaining short distance; which is something I wish we would have done earlier, in hindsight.
Not realizing the gym was in a mall initially, we searched a bit until we found a Block 37 directory showing First Ascent Climbing gym at the top of the four floor shopping center (I guess climbers like high places). We had no issues finding and taking the centrally located elevator to the top floor. There was a theater and restaurant on the same floor as the climbing gym so there was a lot of convenience in that regard though we did not take advantage of this. The outside of the gym is modest hides the large facility that lies within it. Based on my experience I would say some of the grading was stiff, but perhaps I am just soft... I do not think there is anything wrong with stiff grading. I do think it good to get a feel for soft or stiff grading if you take completion of problems you feel you should be able to do personally (I am not one of those individuals).
With all of that said, I have no intention of rating this gym (I don't have a standard rating system in place to do so if I wanted to anyway, yet). This is a not an in-depth look at all the things this gym can offer you. I did however want to share my experience with you all. I definitely enjoyed my visit to First Ascent Block 37 and it was a worthwhile experience for me. Experience being the best teacher, I suggest you give First Ascent Block 37 a try. If you plan to check out this gym or if you have already been to First Ascent Block 37 and want to add your view; please feel free to leave a question or comment below.