Up until September of last year, Bainbridge Island climbers had to travel to Seattle or Bremerton to get their fix at the few climbing gyms in the area. The ferry and bus rides were enough to keep local climbers from commuting for regular training, and even worse, keep potential climbers from falling in love with and becoming committed to pulling rock. Then, along came Jason Lawson, who built the Island Rock Gym (IRG): a beautiful climbing platform nestled in the Coppertop Loop off of Sportsman Road with 40-foot walls and a bouldering garden that’ll get you horizontal, vertical, and every way in between.

The dilemma of the Bainbridge climber, be it minor, is that of commuting to access solid outdoor (and indoor) routes. Although there is fantastic climbing off of exits along I-90, as well as various locations such as Index and Vantage, these sites aren’t exactly post-work, two hour practice spots, but rather weekend warrior commitments that most are unable to pledge consistent time for. Once upon a time, Bremerton hosted a branch of the indoor climbing gym known as Vertical World, which, when closed down, cut Kitsap County off from relatively accessible indoor climbing. Things grew stagnant and the climbing limitations began stacking up. Lawson’s IRG expanded the opportunity for both new and seasoned climbers to excel while creating a hyper local climbing culture that simply hasn’t existed until now. The staff is knowledgeable, experienced, and more than willing to cheer you through the toughest routes, while the friendly gym members are eager to skillshare and offer an impromptu belay when needed.

For a new climbing gym, IRG membership rates are affordable and there’s rarely a wait to get on a wall. The aesthetic is vibrant, with color-splashed walls dotted with every hold you’ll ever need to train on. What they lack in massively horizontal overhangs they make up for with intricate routes that send your body in convoluted positions that work every muscle. If you’re like me and climb hard when you find the time, tape your hands—these routes are so addictive you’ll climb till you’re raw.

While many of the rope and bouldering routes are difficult and require advanced strength and agility, about half of them cater to beginner or young climbers. In fact, IRG has a youth program that exceeds many, with bouldering and rope trainings that even advance into route setting. Beginning ate age four, these classes and camps focus on getting youth accustomed to rock walls both on and off the rope. The IRG Climbing Team, starting at age eight and ending at 18, delves into advanced beta technique “geared towards endurance, technique, strategy, and strength,” according to their website. Their events extend to seasoned climbers as well, holding courses on anchor building that may serve as refreshers, as well as hosting presentations by professional athletes in the field.

There’s no time like springtime to get ready for a summer of outdoor adventure. Whether you need a refresher on lead climbing and anchor building or to ready your muscles for prime climbing season, IRG is the place to be. After a good climb, walk the short distance over to Bainbridge Island Brewing Company for relaxation, beer, and good company. Climb on!


Bainbridge Island is populated by a wide variety of talented individuals, many of whom are deeply rooted in their community. Some are masters in craft trades, others in farming, arts, business, engineering—the list goes on. Each have developed expert skills, and each has the ability to share their skills within the community.

So, when offered Pegasus Coffee House for a location to organize a weekly event, I thought intensely about the direction I wanted to take it. The purpose was to unite the scattered collections of younger, like-minded people who were either brought here to pursue a passion or raised in the area and stayed because of a love for this magical place. Although drinking, games, and music are exciting ways to gather and create friendships, I wanted these events to amount to more than social hour. That’s why, with a little help from my friends, I created Seaside Learning Collective, a free school on Bainbridge Island.

At Seaside, your peers and friends are the teachers, giving lectures, leading discussions or workshops, and sharing their knowledge in order to promote community involvement. These classes demystify topics like homesteading, fermenting foods, or bicycle maintenance. By making these topics accessible, members of the community are more likely to participate at home, which can lower one’s living expenses, strengthen community bonds, and work toward a more sustainable environment and local economy.

The structure of free schools varies across the globe. Initially, fellow organizers and I drafted an intricate outline regarding donations, scheduling, and sign-ups. We researched global free schools to see how they ran. We planned websites with open discussion forums. We invented a money and sign-up system that would provide funds to the class teacher, the free school, and Pegasus. Just before launching, though, we scratched it all and trimmed it down to bare bones: a donation bag is passed around at the end of each class, and each class is open to any and all community members, regardless of advanced sign-up. Free coffee and tea are served during the class, and on special occasions the bar is open and alcohol may be purchased. At its heart, Seaside Learning Collective strives to bring people together for the purpose of advancing knowledge and promoting community.

Ryan Montella taking questions at Butler Green Farm

Ryan Montella taking questions at Morales Farm

The months of March and April held some incredible classes hosted by young members of the community with a passion for their craft. Farmers from Butler Green Farm led a tour through Morales Farm, discussing design strategy and agriculture strategy. Another islander directed a hands-on fermentation and cultivation workshop with various work stations where attendants could make their own kombucha, yogurt, or kraut, and they brought the final products home! On the other end of the spectrum, we have hosted classes grounded in arts and intellect, such as a creative writing workshop or discussion on the importance of gratitude and giving.

The months of May and June are packed with exciting opportunities to participate in a folk songwriting roundtable, learn the basics of direct action and community organizing, experience another farm tour, create your own drop spindle and yarn, or even experience the ancient method of transcendental meditation through percussive drumming, led by a woman traveling from Greece to lead workshops in the greater Seattle area. We are very fortunate to be expanding, both in our teachers and attendants, to a broader audience.

While a class or two has been held at another location on the island for the purpose of a farm tour, most classes occur each Wednesday, from 7:30-9:30 at Pegasus Coffee House. I, along with the rest of Seaside Learning Collective, hope to see you there!