Session Climbing: a new state-of-the-art climbing facility in Santa Rosa, Sonoma County.
In partnership with SOMO Group, world-class climbers Kevin Jorgeson and Mike Shaffer bring a new climbing facility to Santa Rosa.
SOMO Group is a strategic partner for the Session Climbing project worth $9 million. SOMO Group owns land, finances, constructs the new building, and leases it to Session Climbing. In addition to being a great fit with SOMO Group and the active, healthy lifestyle it embraces, Session Climbing had a personal appeal to Brad Baker, CEO, and founder of SOMO Group. Baker’s family moved to Sonoma County in the late 19th century, and one of the first places they owned then is the exact location of the new project.
The new building sits a few blocks north of the Baker Avenue overpass on Highway 101. It is 23,578-square-feet and 55 feet tall, enough to accommodate new 50 feet high rope walls and large banks of windows allowing in natural light. There will be top rope, lead climbing, and bouldering walls. In addition, the building will have an attractive mezzanine with Yoga and gym rooms, more climbing, and space for community events.
In anticipation of the opening date in Spring 2022, we asked co-founder Kevin Jorgeson a few questions about the project and his passion for climbing.
Can you tell us a few words about yourself, your climbing career, your friendship with (co-founder) Mike, and how the idea of creating a gym came to life?
I’ve been climbing forever! When I found indoor climbing at the age of eleven, it changed my life. By sixteen, it was becoming a career. I met my partner, Mike, at the climbing gym in 2000, and we’ve been working in climbing and going on climbing adventures ever since. After completing the Dawn Wall in 2015, I knew I wanted to bring a world-class climbing facility to my hometown, but I didn’t want to do it alone. Thankfully, Mike was exploring the same idea, just in a different market. We decided to tie in together for a new kind of adventure: turning our dream for Session Climbing and Fitness into a reality for ourselves and for the community of climbers that we got our start in over twenty years ago.
How would you encourage people to try climbing?
Climbing truly is a sport for everyone. It’s an amazing mental and physical challenge, and there is never one correct approach or solution. Everyone experiences “success,” but that looks different for everyone because it’s based on individual strengths and opportunities for improvement. The only score is the one you have with yourself. It means climbing is a social and collaborative activity by nature, and it’s one of our favorite things about the sport.
Why do you think we need a climbing gym in Sonoma County?
A lot of people are surprised to learn climbing has deep roots in Sonoma County. We don’t know how far back it goes, but it predates indoor climbing. When climbing gyms emerged in the late ’80s, they were home to small groups of avid climbers seeking to train in the off-season. In 1995, Mark and Janet Ripperda opened Sonoma County’s first, and still only, climbing gym. Since then, the sport’s popularity has grown exponentially, and climbing-gym design has undergone a revolution. We noticed over the past decade that big, beautiful, modern climbing gyms have been appearing in cities all over California (and the country), but not in our hometown. It’s time to change that.
Can you tell us about your vision for the place?
Our vision is to build a gym that reflects the dramatic developments that have taken place in indoor climbing over the past twenty-six years. We partnered with a local developer, Brad Baker of SOMO Group. Brad bought one of the last open parcels of land around downtown Santa Rosa and gave us free rein to design the building that will be home to Session, inside and out. The partnership means Santa Rosa’s climbing community will have access to a building designed specifically for climbing, and that means the best air filtration, heating, and cooling system on the market. Also, more climbing terrain, more varied climbing terrain, and the tallest walls in the North Bay; sophisticated training apparatuses; and related offerings like fitness, a second-story yoga studio with an open-air balcony, and a cafe/lounge. It means having all these offerings in a facility you want to work and socialize in every bit as much as you wish to exercise in.
As a gym, Session Climbing and Fitness is for people interested in movement-based exercises like climbing or Yoga and people interested in strength training. But underneath it, all – the offerings, the design, the name “Session” – is our belief in the value of time well spent. If you choose to spend time at Session, we take that seriously. Whether you come to work out or hang out, climb or observe, we want you to feel the time you spend at Session added value to your day. The sense of space, freedom, struggling with nature’s power and own weaknesses – all this attracts lovers of rock climbing. However, on a daily basis, thousands of enthusiasts of mountain challenges realize their passion is far from mountain landscapes – they do it in indoor climbing facilities.