Magazine, Things To Do in Sonoma

Local Hero Kevin Jorgeson’s Destination Gym Opens This Spring

Big-wall climber Kevin Jorgeson's new Santa Rosa gym has 50-foot walls and a soaring mezzanine space for yoga and fitness classes.

Session Climbing is in the homestretch. The 23,500-square-foot climbing and fitness emporium, located a mile south of Santa Rosa’s Courthouse Square, launches this May. And as sunlight streams through the gym’s large windows on a bright afternoon a few weeks before its public debut, another sound is audible over the din of nearby power tools: euphoria.

After nimbly clambering up a challenging intermediate route, Kevin Jorgeson pushes off the climbing wall and into space – his 50-foot fall arrested by his climbing partner of two decades, Mike Shaffer, who is holding the rope and belaying him from below. Jorgeson and Shaffer are the gym’s cofounders: their whoops and laughter fill the building.

Jorgeson, a native of Santa Rosa, is best known for his 2015 first ascent of the Dawn Wall in Yosemite National Park, the hardest big-wall climb in the world. The patience and resilience required for that feat, which took 19 days, have been helpful over the six years that it’s taken Jorgeson and Shaffer to shepherd their passion project to the finish line.

Kevin Jorgeson makes his way up a newly installed route at Session Climbing in Santa Rosa. (Christopher Chung/The Press Democrat)
Kevin Jorgeson applies chalk to his hands at Session Climbing in Santa Rosa. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)
Kevin Jorgeson is the co-founder of Session Climbing, along with Mike Schaffer. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

Jorgeson spends as much time growing his sport as he does participating in it. His nonprofit, 1Climb, puts up more modest climbing walls in Boys & Girls Clubs across America. To his delight, interest in Session Climbing has extended far beyond the core community. “Which is the goal—to bring climbing to more people,” he says. In addition to offering an array of climbing and bouldering walls, and classes for local kids, Session features a mezzanine with rooms for yoga, and other fitness equipment, all built around a cafe and gathering area.

As Jorgeson unclips from his rope, he bumps fists with Shaffer, who says, “That felt like a huge moment.”

“It was,” agrees Jorgeson. “It is.”

With their ascents, they’d unofficially christened Session. For Jorgeson, it was like test-driving a car he’d designed himself. “It’s one thing to look at your walls in a rendering, in design, in construction. It’s another thing to be moving over them for the first time, to see how those ideas translate in real life,” he says.

“That’s why I’m smiling so big. It worked.”

Session Climbing, 965 South A St., Santa Rosa,

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