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Best of Tacoma 2019: Climb Tacoma

Writer's Pick: Best Gym Alternative

Stefanie Myr, head team coach and route setter at Climb Tacoma, bouldering in the main climbing room. Photo credit: Christina Butcher

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You've spent all spring working out in the gym, trying to stay in shape enough to hike, bike and kayak as soon as weather permits. And now that summer is finally here, you're ready to put your body to the test. So, where do you head to first?

Climb Tacoma, that's where. The bouldering gym -- or unroped rock-climbing gym -- offers 5,000 square feet of climbing walls, bouldering instruction, and opportunities to build community with fellow outdoor enthusiasts. Climb Tacoma is the no-brainer choice for "best alternative to the gym."

"Climbing is an approachable activity," said Brian Doyle, co-owner of Climb Tacoma alongside Jason Mikos. "We have a lot of strong climbers here, but we have a lot of normal people that come here, too. You don't have to be a super-athlete to come in and try bouldering."

Located in downtown Tacoma, Climb Tacoma has been a regional haven for both bouldering enthusiasts and newbies since 2012. The gym has three rooms of climbing walls (with climbing routes ranging from beginner to expert-level difficulty), a fitness room, and a rest and lounging area for patrons. Those interested in climbing can sign up for a monthly membership or purchase a day pass. In either case, patrons get full access to the gym and can climb to their hearts content.

"The barrier to access is much lower for bouldering than other sports," said Doyle. "If you come in to boulder, you rent some climbing shoes, maybe a chalk bag, and a staff member will give you an orientation. Then you just get after it ... There's also an easy mental leap to overcome with bouldering. Telling yourself, ‘I'm going to climb 12 feet off the ground,' is a good way to warm up to other types of climbing."

Climb Tacoma also offers youth and adult climbing instruction. Youth programs include a Junior Program for youth ages 8-14 who want to learn the fundamentals of climbing, and a Climbing Team for intermediate or advanced climbers ages 8-17 years old. Adults can sign up for private instruction or group classes. "We make a point of hiring people who are rock climbers," said Doyle. "Our instructors have a lot of different skillsets."

With over 28 years of climbing experience, Doyle is a lifelong climber. He and Mikos bought and re-opened Climb Tacoma seven years ago, after purchasing it from the regional rock-climbing gym Vertical World. "I moved to Tacoma to manage the gym," said Doyle, who has been living and climbing in the Pacific Northwest for most of his life. Doyle grew up in Auburn, then moved to Seattle and eventually, Tacoma.

"Tacoma has a very large climbing community," continued Doyle. "One thing I love about our gym is the sense of community we have here ... Most evenings, at least 30-40 percent of the people here know each other. They interact, they climb together. It's a quirky community, and it's a quirky gym, too ... I always look forward to seeing people progress here."

Part of that progression is Climb Tacoma's challenging climbing routes, which are planned and set by Doyle and a handful of employees every week. Over the course of a six-week cycle, all the routes in the bouldering gym are changed.

"There's a lot of mentoring here, too, which is necessary to really gain everything you can from climbing," said Doyle. "There's also a certain level of stewardship that should come with climbing. You go to some really remote and special places when you climb and impressing upon people the necessity of treating those places as such is really important."

As Climb Tacoma's seven-year-anniversary approaches this October, Doyle is already planning the celebration party. The event will take place Oct. 1 and will include free climbing all day and food and refreshments. That gives you three months to get ready, friends, and show-off your newfound climbing skills.

CLIMB TACOMA, noon-10 p.m., Monday-Friday; noon-7 p.m., Saturday-Sunday; 102 South 24th St., Tacoma, 253.683.4791,

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