The 6 am Climbing Gym Crew:

Between 6 and 8pm, the Seattle Vertical world gym is packed. Belayers stand shoulder to shoulder, and climbers line up behind popular routes. In the lead climbing areas, people pull ropes quickly and jog to the next bolt line to avoid a long wait. It’s a high-energy scene, but it comes with a lot of time waiting. It’s easy to spend 2 hours and only get on a handful of routes.

That’s true from 6 to 8 in the evening. From 6 to 8 in the morningit’s a very different scene!

I love climbing before work in the mornings. Although my hands always feel cold when I first grab plastic, by the second route (and cup of coffee!), the blood is pumping to restore my grip strength. There’s rarely overlap on routes, and it’s easy to project harder climbs without feeling pressure to free up the line. I don’t usually climb as hard in the mornings as I do in the evenings (at 6:30 in the morning, overhung roofs require some gumption), but it’s an ideal way to build endurance with back-to-back long laps.

The 6am gym crew is a dedicated bunch and I see the same individuals week after week. Many are working professionals that wash the chalk off their hands to don collared shirts and arrive in the office by 9. It’s a community.

As a weekend warrior, balancing climbing with a busy workweek takes some planning. For me, 6am gym sessions (however painful they may be on dark winter mornings!), is the key.