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I got to sit down with the great Steph Davis the other day and chat about her training for climbing, her vast accomplishments, her FFAs, her free soloing exploits, her diet, her wing suit flying, and all kinds of other stuff.

About Steph Davis

I can’t really do her resumé justice, so I’m just going to let her Wikipedia page do it for me.

StephanieStephDavis (born 1973) is an American rock climber, BASE jumper and wingsuit flyer. She is one of the world’s leading female climbers, having completed some of the hardest routes in the world. She is the only woman to have free solo climbed a 5.11 climb, the first woman to summit all the peaks of the Fitzroy Range in Patagonia, the second woman to free climb El Capitan in a day, the first woman to free climb the Salathė Wall on El Capitan, the first woman to free solo The Diamond on Long’s Peak in Colorado, and the first woman to summit Torre Egger.

Here’s what we talked about:

  • How she trained for her free solo ascents on the Diamond
  • How she trained for her alpine ascents in Patagonia
  • How she trains for Rifle
  • Whether or not FFA’s really matter
  • Her vegan diet

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Music

Intro and outro song: Yesterday by Build Buildings 

Transcript

Neely Quinn: Welcome to the TrainingBeta podcast where I talk to trainers and climbers about how we can get a little better at our favorite sport. I’m your host, Neely Quinn, and today we’re on episode 16 with Steph Davis, who is an extremely accomplished climber and flyer and she does some crazy stuff. She’s a free soloer and I’ve climbed with her in Rifle a few times and she’s an extremely down to earth, sweet woman, as well as being so accomplished. She’s smart and she’s funny so I asked her for an interview and she luckily gave it to me.

We talked about her training, how she trains now for what she does jumping off of towers, and how that translates into doing big walls and sport climbing, or how it doesn’t. We also talked about her diet because she is a vegan. Hopefully you’ll enjoy the interview. I definitely learned a lot from it.

Just so you know, I’m talking to you from Las Vegas still. I’m doing well with my recovery. I’m about to put a blog post up about my – it’s about 12 weeks out now from my shoulder surgery. I climbed an .11c. I’m working on .12a’s now and it’s going really well and I’m really psyched, except now we have to go home to Boulder because my husband is now having shoulder surgery himself. If I haven’t stressed it enough before, definitely keep doing your shoulder exercises and hopefully my blog posts will help with that.

If you haven’t already, definitely check out our training programs on the site. We have our bouldering strength and power program, soon to be our route program – our route strength and power program. We also have our eBooks, our six-week power endurance program, our eight-week endurance program, our strength training guide, an injury prevention guide by Jared Vagy, a nutrition guide by Acacia Young, so definitely check those out. That’s the way that we make this podcast possible.

Anyway, here’s Steph Davis. I hope you like it.

 

Neely Quinn: Hey Steph.

 

Steph Davis: Hey.

 

Neely Quinn: Thanks so much for being with me this morning.

 

Steph Davis: Oh sure. Thanks for having me.

 

Neely Quinn: Of course. This has been a long time coming. We’ve been trying to find time forever and you’re busy and gone and I’m busy so finally, I woke up early to do this. [laughs] This is early for me.

 

Steph Davis: [laughs] This is dedication right here. I did…

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah it is. You did too? Is that what you were going to say?

 

Steph Davis: Yeah.

 

Neely Quinn: I was wondering: is she an early morning type person or a late morning? I kind of tagged you as a very early morning person.

 

Steph Davis: Well, it’s raining today and we’ve kind of been charging for the last bunch of days so I was like, ‘Oh, this would have been a nice day to sleep in.’ [laughs] But I would rather talk to you.

 

Neely Quinn: Good answer. So, where are you and what do you mean you’ve been “charging?” What have you been doing?

 

Steph Davis: I’m in Moab right now and just came back from a wingsuit BASE jumping trip. A lot of these jumps in the southwest, they’re into big canyons so you’ll do this great flight and then you’ll land and then you have to basically walk straight up tallus for three and half hours. Then, basically, it’s one a day but a few days of that, it gets tiring.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah, it does. So that’s mostly what you’re doing right now, is wingsuiting and BASE jumping, or are you climbing much?

 

Steph Davis: It’s kind of, I would say it’s an equal mix I’ve been playing with. It’s really difficult when you’re trying to do things that are kind of radically different, you know, physically and mentally, and you’re trying to do all of them at a kind of high level. I’ve been playing with different – I guess for the last several years it’s like: well, what’s the best way? Everyday I need to campus and then go do a BASE jump and then try to fly wingsuit, or is it better to focus in chunks where it’s like this week I’m wingsuit jumping and next week I’m focusing more on climbing. I’m not sure, really, what the best way is so I just keep doing different things.

I just kind of go with the flow, too. Like, in the winter it’s a nice time for flying wingsuits around here so just going off for little three-day trips for that and then come home. I’m trying to train right now for climbing so right now I’m kind of in a campusing phase so I’m just mixing that up a little bit.

 

Neely Quinn: So what are your climbing goals right now?

 

Steph Davis: That’s a good question. I don’t have a specific climb that I’m trying to do right now but I don’t know – I never really – I don’t want to say I never do that because obviously sometimes I do get focused on something, but I don’t know. It just seems like the way I tend to roll is I like to climb a lot, I like to be as fit as possible, and then sometimes along the way I get onto a route or find a route that I really am excited about that’s hard for me so then I get really tunnel visioned on that. But for the most part, probably like everyone else, I just want to climb and stay fit and then be ready when you do get excited about a specific route.

 

Neely Quinn: When you say “get excited about a specific route” do you still climb in Moab a lot or are you mostly traveling to climb?

 

Steph Davis: I do climb in Moab a lot and I like to go to Rifle, I like to go to the Black Canyon, so those are kind of my home areas where I’m spending the most time and then I think at this point, traveling – a lot of times I’m in Europe in the summer months and then just various moments that take me around the states here and there.

 

Neely Quinn: What do you do in Europe for the summer months?

 

Steph Davis: Usually, the main motivator of that trip is wingsuit BASE jumping because they have those huge mountains there. That’s really appealing and then normally what happens is when I go, there’s always climbing around the areas that I’m going and then, obviously, if there’s rain days the best thing to do is go climbing in the gym so there’s just kind of a lot of climbing happening but the prime focus is wingsuit BASE jumping when I go.

 

Neely Quinn: You have a business guiding that, right?

 

Steph Davis: Yeah.

 

Neely Quinn: Do you do that a lot? Or is it sort of a part time thing?

 

Steph Davis: It’s sort of a part time thing and it’s something that I had started with Mario. You know, my husband that died over a year ago. In the last year I had been kind of maintaining it, I guess partly because it was something that we did together, but I’m kind of trying to refocus it this year because I feel like I really like doing the climbing parts, which are the climbing clinics at Indian Creek and at Moab. That was always kind of my part of the business and then Mario was always excited about the BASE guiding and the BASE training so I feel like I might keep doing the climbing parts. I like doing stunt work for BASE jumping and that’s also part of that business so I think I’m just going to refocus on the stuff that I more want to do and kind of start letting some of the other stuff go that was sort of more Mario’s side.

 

Neely Quinn: I don’t want to get too much into this, but I just want to say I’m so sorry about Mario. I don’t know when I heard about that. I was very, very sad for you and I’m just really sorry.

 

Steph Davis: Thanks.

 

Neely Quinn: It seems like you’re sort of going on with life and moving on and it seems like you’re pretty happy, from what I can tell online.

 

Steph Davis: Yeah, I’m really happy. I mean, life is amazing right now. I’m doing everything I want to be doing. Things are just better and better all the time. I’m in a relationship with a really wonderful guy named Ian and we’re really happy together. Everything is just amazing right now.

 

Neely Quinn: It’s crazy how life can just move on.

 

Steph Davis: It really is. You just kind of – I don’t know. I mean, Mario was such an amazing person so I kind of have him in my life forever and that’s really powerful, too.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah.

So, going back to what you were talking about before, you said that you like to do stunt work. What do you do with that, just out of curiosity?

 

Steph Davis: So, a lot of times people come to Moab and they’re either shooting a commercial or an internet video, or sometimes a movie spot or something, and a lot of the sports that people do in Moab are wanted for stuff like that. We do a lot of BASE jumping stunts where it can be as simple as they just want you to do a BASE jump and they have their outside cameras and they just want that in their piece, or we’ll do more complicated things.

It’s something I did a lot with Mario and I do with Ian, because Ian is a jumper. We’ll do air-to-air filming of each other during a jump with better quality cameras, and then they’ll want that footage. Sometimes it’s something that, as a climber, it seems really silly, like last year they put us on top of Castleton Tower via helicopter and then I had to hang on a rappel rope and swing around, holding a tablet. [laughs] This is really silly but it’s what they want.

Basically, a lot of people want BASE jumping. Wingsuit BASE jumping is really something a lot of people want for production work and we can do that here in Moab now so those things pop up. It’s not always, but when they pop up, they’re nice and your friends always get jobs, too, because they need riggers and safety people and stuff like that.

 

Neely Quinn: So you make your living as a professional climber and BASE jumper. You live off your sponsorships, correct?

 

Steph Davis: Yeah, my main source of income is sponsorships. I do do public speaking additionally, which is kind of my own business, but right now primarily it’s sponsorships.

 

Neely Quinn: And who are your sponsors right now?

 

Steph Davis: Prana, Evolv, backcountry.com, Contour, Squirrel, and – I’m like, ‘Oh God, I hope I’m not missing somebody.’

 

Neely Quinn: That’s a lot of them.

 

Steph Davis: If I did, I’m in trouble, but yeah. Right now that’s the main folks I’m working with. Oh, and Mammut. I’m sorry.

 

Neely Quinn: Sorry Mammut.

 

Steph Davis: I love you guys. I do.

 

Neely Quinn: So that’s pretty cool that you can have climbing sponsorships, BASE jumping, and wingsuit sponsorships. It sounds like both of them are in there, right?

 

Steph Davis: Yeah. Squirrel is completely a wingsuit and BASE company and Contour is obviously a camera company so they really love the aerial stuff. You know, they’re into climbing, too, but they definitely love the footage from flying.

 

Neely Quinn: I want to get into your transition from climbing to BASE jumping but I kind of want to go back in time a little bit here. I’m living with Jonathan Siegrist right now and we were…

 

Steph Davis: Oh nice.

 

Neely Quinn: He says, “Hi.”

 

Steph Davis: Hi Jonathan.

 

Neely Quinn: He has some questions for you, which I’ll ask later, but we were looking at your resume, like your Wikipedia page and your website, just so I could refresh my knowledge of what you’ve done, and he was like, ‘Steph has pretty much one of the best female resumes of all-around climbing I’ve ever seen in my life.’

 

Steph Davis: Oh wow. That’s very flattering, coming from Jonathan.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah. He was just going through all the routes that you did and was like, ‘Oh my god. I can’t believe she did that,’ so let’s talk about a few of those. What do you see as standing out as some of your proudest ascents?

 

Steph Davis: Let’s see. Well, the time I spent in Patagonia was a huge part of my life. It’s funny, because it’s receded into the past for me a little bit but it’s a really big part of my life. I think climbing Torre Egger in a day was the culmination of my Patagonia time. Summiting the major peaks in the Fitz Roy Range, that was a long time passion for me when I was down there.

Then, after that I got excited about climbing on El Cap and that was a big life chapter for me, too. Just freeing El Cap in a day and Salathe and all that.

 

Neely Quinn: Can you talk more about what you did on El Cap?

 

Steph Davis: Well, I did Freerider. First, I freed that in three or four days and then I did it in a day, and then I wanted to free the Salathe. Then I freed the Salathe. Then, I was kind of done with Yosemite after that [laughs] just because, I don’t know. I felt the Salathe was just such an amazing route and so inspirational. I had climbed a lot in the Valley at that point and I was like, ‘You know? I’m kind of ready to not be here so much.’

 

Neely Quinn: Can you talk a little bit more about the Salathe? Sorry to interrupt you. What was so challenging for you on that? And how hard is it? Just for people who don’t know.

 

Steph Davis: Gosh, I’m not sure on the rating. I’ve seen different things. I really couldn’t tell you myself. I’ve seen .13b, I’ve seen .13c, I’ve seen b/c. I don’t really understand slash letter grades with crack climbing routes. [laughs] I’m like, ‘How do you know?’ So I don’t know. I would say the headwall is 5.13 and I found it really hard, especially because of where it is. I found the whole route really hard. I mean, Salathe shares most of the route with Freerider, which I freed in a day, but it’s hard just staying up there and dealing with weather and different parties coming by and hauling your gear and all that stuff. It’s just hard so the headwall I found really, really, really hard anyway, but to do it after climbing up to it was really hard for me.

It was just a really big challenge. A big inspiration and really a big effort. Probably one of the most amazing climbs I’ve ever done, just as far as where you’re at, being up there on top of El Cap and all the exposure. I think it was nice at that time in my life because I had spent so much time on El Cap that I was less terrified of the exposure. You just suddenly find yourself there because it’s a really intense place and just a really cool experience, I think, to get to have spent so much time in Yosemite.

 

Neely Quinn: So then you were done with Yosemite. Then, did you go to Colorado after that?

 

Steph Davis: I’m done with it. [laughs]

 

Neely Quinn: You’re out. Out of there.

 

Steph Davis: I had spent a lot of time there over the years. Like, a lot, so yeah, I was done. I don’t know. Moab’s my home. I feel I belong in the desert and I like the more wild places where there’s less people and a little more obscure. I really love Colorado and Long’s Peak Diamond and so I just kind of wanted to be in this area more after that Yosemite experience.

Another big climbing time in my life was climbing on the Diamond and then free soloing it. Just being around this Colorado/Utah area more with climbing.

 

Neely Quinn: So you free soloed the Casual Route, which is 5.10, and then you free soloed Pervertical Sanctuary, which is .11a.

 

Steph Davis: Yeah, I did both of them twice, too. I did Casual Route twice and then I did Pervertical twice.

 

Neely Quinn: Why did you do them twice?

 

Steph Davis: Because it was more of an experience for me, what I was doing, so I wanted it to feel a certain way. What I mean is that when I did the Casual Route, the first time I did it but I didn’t feel like – I felt like I was kind of scared in the crux and I had feelings of intimidation a little bit, so I didn’t feel like I was really done with it. Like, obviously I climbed it and I didn’t fall but I just didn’t feel like I had done it well as a free solo. That’s why I repeated it and then the second time, I was like, ‘Okay yeah, that was perfect. That was super solid and it felt amazing.’ It was even kind of wet and raining and stuff but I felt really, really good, you know?

Then on Pervertical, the first time I did it I definitely felt good but it was very intense, like a lot of battle inside to maintain that solid feeling the whole way. I did feel solid but I wanted to repeat it to feel really perfect, you know?

 

Neely Quinn: You are a perfectionist, aren’t you?

 

Steph Davis: To me, that’s sort of the point of free soloing, is to want it to feel really, really right when you’re doing it.

 

Neely Quinn: That’s the point of it?

 

Steph Davis: Yeah.

 

Neely Quinn: Huh. So then after that you went to Castleton Tower and you did Castleton Tower free solo, right?

 

Steph Davis: Yeah. I mean, I had always free soloed Castleton kind of off and on, the North Chimney, which is the easier route up there. Then, I was like, ‘Oh, I would really love to do the North Face.’ At the time, I was projecting this hard crack route in Moab called Concepcion and just a really long, hard, splitter crack, so I felt really strong on the hard splitters. Plus, the top of Concepcion, you have to – or I had to – run it out. There’s two sets of anchors and to do the full pitch it’s like a 200-foot pitch. I didn’t want to carry big cams through the hard bottom section so I basically, the upper 60-80 feet, I just placed one cam and it was kind of like that large hand size so it was kind of a free solo just in order to do the redpoint on that route. I was feeling really solid on the big hands and big fist stuff and I was like, ‘Oh, it would be so cool to free solo the North Face because it’s such a more aesthetic and striking line.’

I had started to BASE jump so I was thinking, ‘Wouldn’t that be so aesthetic to free solo the most beautiful line and then jump off so you never needed a rope,’ you know? Kind of like this arc of climb up, fly down. I was like, ‘Oh, that would be so cool.’

Having come so recently from the Diamond solo I was feeling really confident and solid on longer free solos so I was like, ‘This will be really cool.’ So that’s why I did that.

 

Neely Quinn: Oh my god. That’s so crazy to me. You’re like the opposite of me. I would never even think to do something like that, never even consider it, so it’s super impressive. I have a ton of questions for you so I’m just going to start with: a lot of these climbs are crack climbs right? It seems like that has been a specialty of yours throughout your career.

 

Steph Davis: Definitely. I’m much more comfortable on cracks than sport climbs. That’s why I always laugh about the Salathe, because the only people I know that have freed the Salathe, they all climb 5.14 sport routes. I’m like, ‘I think my claim to fame should be I’m the only person who’s freed the Salathe that can’t climb 5.14.’ [laughs] I think that’s badass. [laughs]

 

Neely Quinn: [laughs] I think that’s badass, too.

 

Steph Davis: I’m very proud of that.

 

Neely Quinn: Is that your crowning achievement, do you think?

 

Steph Davis: Maybe. Difficulty-wise, probably.

 

Neely Quinn: Alright, so how did you train for all of these crack climbs? Were you just climbing a ton in Moab? Or were you doing other training?

 

Steph Davis: Well, like I said, I never really focused on sport climbing, ever, although I love it. To me, climbing has always meant crack climbing, I guess, or traditional climbing, just growing up as a climber. For sure, I’ve spent most of the years of my life climbing cracks and climbing granite and doing alpine routes and climbing in Indian Creek. I mean, my first 5.13 route was Tricks are for Kids, in Moab, which is a really long crack climb so, to me, the idea of a hard project, the first thing I ever saw to project was a crack route so I guess I’m just more of a crack climber. That’s what I’ve done most of my life.

 

Neely Quinn: So when you went out on days crack climbing, if you were training for Tricks are for Kids or something else that was hard for you, were you doing anything specific outside to get stronger?

 

Steph Davis: Every time I’ve gotten motivated about a project, basically what I do is I just get on that route until I do it. I’ve heard people refer to that as ‘training on a route.’ [laughs] I always call it ‘obsessing on a route.’ You know, you have a base level of climbing if you climb all the time and then when there’s something that you want to climb, what makes sense is that you just go and get on that climb. That’s what I did on El Cap. I just trained on the route.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah. For these high altitude things, that was actually one of Jonathan’s questions for you. He was like, ‘I want to know if she trained at altitude for when she did Pervertical?’

 

Steph Davis: You know what? I did, actually. Then, again, with reference to crack climbing, these are always – not always, but the ones that I like are often endurance routes so I do try to make sure I’m trail running a lot to have the endurance but with the Diamond, that summer when I had it in my head to free solo the Diamond, I just kind of took the regular approach.

What I did was, first I hiked up there. There’s a really easy alpine route on the left side of the Diamond called Kiener’s, where you’re mostly climbing snow and going up the left side of the Diamond. I had never done it because every time I climbed the Diamond it was like I wanted to rock climb and do a real, technical route, so I was like, ‘I’m going to go up there and bring some crampons and an ice tool and finally climb Kiener’s.’

So that was the first thing I did that summer. I just hiked up there and climbed Kiener’s and walked across the top and came down and went home. Then, I went and free soloed some other routes in the area that I had never climbed, like the Flying Buttress. There’s a 5.9 route on it that’s really aesthetic and I had never climbed it. I was like, ‘I’ll go free solo the Flying Buttress. It’s up in the same cirque, it’s shorter,’ but these were all fitness days. Then, I hiked up there and I climbed the Casual Route with a friend and spent the night because every time you go up there you get more fitness. The first time you go up there you’re just like, ‘Oh god. I’m dying up here.’ [laughs] Then you go up, you come down, you spend the night, and you come down so I didn’t just arrive in Estes and charge up and free solo the Diamond.

 

Neely Quinn: [laughs] That’s kind of what I figured but when you say that you would go up and then go home, were you living near Estes at the time or were you going all the way back to Moab?

 

Steph Davis: I was living in Boulder that summer because that was the summer I started skydiving. I was learning to skydive in Longmont, so my main focus was basically skydiving in Longmont and, you know, I was going and climbing at Cats, and Boulder Canyon and stuff. Then, I was like, ‘Ah, I want to free solo the Diamond this summer,’ so then I was like, ‘Okay.’ Then, I started going up into the park and doing all that stuff I just talked about.

 

Neely Quinn: So you were living sort of at altitude?

 

Steph Davis: I was living in Boulder.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah, I mean you were living at altitude compared to being in Florida or something.

 

Steph Davis: Yeah, and in Moab we’re here at 4,500 feet so I seem to always live between 4,000 and 6,000.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah. So, you’ve done a lot of free solos. It’s interesting to me because a lot of these are, your ascents in general, are first female ascents. Of course, your free solos you’ve been credited with – I don’t know if this is true. I wanted to ask you: have you done the hardest free solo for a woman or are there others who are doing harder stuff?

 

Steph Davis: I haven’t heard of anybody, to tell you the truth. You know, Catherine Destivelle was always someone I have admired so much, like, my whole climbing life. She was known during her free soloing time for – I think one of the things that she did that was really famous was when she went down to Indian Creek. Well, they call it Super Crack but it used to be called Luxury Liner, but Super Crack, the really famous 5.10? I think there was footage of her free soloing that and I was always like, ‘Wow.’

But yeah, I don’t really know that many people, honestly, that free solo a lot.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah, I mean you’re right. There aren’t that many people, in general, who do it and there definitely aren’t that many women. One of our questions that we wanted to know of you is where do you think that comes from? Like, where do you think that mental fortitude and desire to do that kind of thing comes from in you?

 

Steph Davis: Well, I think free soloing gets a lot of attention from people, I’ve noticed. Sometimes positive, sometimes negative, and it’s always been kind of funny for me because, I mean, I’ve been climbing for a long time and I’d like to do a lot of different styles of climbing, you know? Like, I obviously got really psyched on alpine style climbing, climbing in Pakistan and Baffin Island, putting up new big wall routes and new high altitude free routes and then, climbing in the desert.

I don’t know. To me, it’s just another kind of climbing and when I started climbing in the beginning, I was just by myself a lot because this was 22 years ago. There weren’t climbing gyms and youth clubs and parents driving you to your route. It wasn’t like that. You had to just go out into the woods and find somebody or find where the boulders would be. It just wasn’t like that so I was, a lot of times, by myself because there was nobody to climb with. I was just trying to figure out how to boulder higher and not be scared and then eventually you’re bouldering 20 feet and that’s really scary, but you kind of have to overcome it. Then, I don’t know why that’s different than free soloing.

 

Neely Quinn: I don’t think it is.

 

Steph Davis: To me, it was just something that I’ve done and then, during the time I lived in Yosemite, sometimes you’d just feel like going out by yourself and having a nice, relaxing time. All the locals go and solo the Manure Pile as a little, quick morning outing. Royal Arches is just a very common Yosemite outing. Sometimes Snake Dike if you just want to be fit that day, like, have a big day.

Then, when you’re climbing in the mountains, shoot – you’re constantly free soloing. Sometimes you’re free soloing with your partner attached to you by a rope and you’re both going to die. [laughs]

Then, speed climbing. I’ve done a little bit of speed climbing in Yosemite and Patagonia. There’s a lot of simul-climbing that goes on. Simul-climbing, that’s like free soloing times two because if you’re the bottom person and you fall, you pull off the person above you and everybody dies so there’s a lot of no-fall type climbing in these different styles of climbing. To me, it’s just one more thing that’s a part of climbing. That’s why I’ve always been a little puzzled when there’s a lot of attention on free soloing, whether for good or for bad, because I’m like, ‘You know, it’s just another part of climbing. It’s something we do.’

 

Neely Quinn: Right, and I think it seems like it must – I guess it seems like you’ve cultivated it over the years where this is just the way that climbing is for you. Like, there wasn’t really ever an option to not do that stuff.

 

Steph Davis: Yeah, it’s just another part of climbing. It’s not like every day I’m free soloing the Diamond. [laughs] There are certain times where I focus more to a different degree and other times, free soloing means going and climbing the Manure Pile every day. It’s just part of the flow I think.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah. I have a feeling I know what the answer to this next question is going to be, but we’ve been debating a lot about first female ascents. Whether or not it should even be a thing, whether it’s even something that should be – I can’t think of the word right now. Do you think it should be recognized when a female does something for the first time? Or what do you think about that?

 

Steph Davis: Well, that’s an interesting discussion and I think it’s all part of this huge problem that I see in climbing. My opinion with the problem with climbing is that climbing grades have turned into some kind of award system instead of an informational system. As soon as you turn grades and firsts into an award and this means that I’m better and I should receive something, whether it’s praise or whatever, that just makes everything all weird. If we could just separate ourselves from that, which we won’t, because that’s our culture and that’s how the whole world seems to operate, but if we could separate ourselves from that stuff and take it back to the purity of information, then it’s nice to know what people are doing. It informs you and it gives you something to look at and it lets you say, “Hey, maybe I could do that, too, because I can relate to that person.”

For example, when I first started BASE jumping and I was learning at the bridge, I was in a group with five guys and one other girl. All the guys did their first BASE jump and I watched them because that’s what you do. You watch and you try to learn and think, ‘What’s going to happen when I do it?’ It just didn’t tell me much because I just thought that guys are not the same as me. Then, the other girl in the course, she jumped before me and I was watching her like a hawk. I was like, ‘Watching her is going to tell me something because she’s more like me.’ To me, that was better information to say, ‘What’s it going to feel like for me?’

That’s how I see it.

 

Neely Quinn: You see it the same way in climbing?

 

Steph Davis: Yeah, I mean that’s how I see it. I know most people don’t see it that way and that’s why it’s a debate topic. ‘Should we consider this worthy?’ or something. I just don’t see it that way. I mean, the whole thing with the numbers and the ratings and who did what first and this and that. I’m like – I don’t know. I just don’t really see it that way. To me, it’s more information. Like when you are in the mountains, if you have some information that tells you: do I belong there? Is it going to be safe? Is it possible? It’s information. It’s not like: do I get a cookie when I did it?

 

Neely Quinn: Well that’s interesting to talk to you about this, as a sponsored climber, because I mean, how much of your sponsorships had to do with those first female ascents and the numbers?

 

Steph Davis: I don’t know. Definitely, everyone wants to look at something and they want to have something to talk about. I’ve tried really hard to focus on things beyond that along the way and I always try to put forth that concept of: why are we climbing? Are we climbing because we want to win? Maybe for some people the answer is yes. Or, are we climbing because we have this powerful, personal experience when we climb with our friends or with ourselves or with nature? Why are we doing it?

I think the answer is different for everybody but I think it’s important to realize that it’s not all one thing, you know? I don’t think this is Nascar racing so I don’t think the only thing that matters is winning or getting there first.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah, it’s definitely not Nascar racing.

So have you ever been truly motivated to do a certain climb in a certain style because you would be the first woman to do it?

 

Steph Davis: No, definitely not.

 

Neely Quinn: It’s just been like: you see this goal and that’s what you want to do.

 

Steph Davis: Yeah, like I say, I do a lot of things and then, when you’re doing a thing – you know, when you’re climbing at a certain area, suddenly there’s that one route and you’re like, ‘I love that route,’ whether the moves feel really good or you feel like, ‘It’s really, really hard but maybe I could do it.’ There’s always something that catches you about a certain thing that you’ll have to work for. Just like anybody else, that’s always been the thing that’s taken me to do certain things.

 

Neely Quinn: So, what about – one of the things that you’re lauded for is your mental ability to, like you said on your free solos, have that control and not be afraid. Then, you’ve taken it to another level with your BASE jumping and wingsuiting. Can you talk a little bit about that? I know you talk to audiences about fear and how to overcome it. Can you talk about that with climbing?

 

Steph Davis: Like I said, I think that’s why I’ve always found free soloing interesting. I just find it really interesting that you’ll go do a climb and you’ll have a rope, and maybe you’re running it out and not placing any gear, and you’re like, ‘I feel great.’ Then, you go without the rope and it just feels totally different. I’m like, ‘Why is that?’ That’s purely a brain thing, you know? That has nothing to do with the reality of the rock so I just find that really interesting. That’s why I’ve always enjoyed free soloing.

It is fear, and I think that’s why I started jumping, too, because when I first started skydiving I was absolutely terrified. I was like, ‘Why am I so terrified?’ It’s just really interesting. Then, to see how you perform or don’t perform when you’re scared and to realize that that’s a weakness. You’re like, ‘Only because I’m scared I’m now doing a bad job when I should be perfectly capable of doing a good job.’ It’s just all really interesting to me. I feel like, at this point, I think everything that is scary to me tends to be stuff that I don’t know, so what I like to do is I just like to try things and just try to do them in a way that I feel prepared to do them and then, I guess, just kind of get rid of the unknowns little by little.

I think it’s cool to have something that you’re way too scared of or just something that’s way too hard and then gradually, over time, figure out what it’s going to take you to do that thing. Then, one day you do it and you’re like, ‘Wow.’ You know? ‘Here’s this thing I couldn’t do for whatever reason and I’m doing it’. I think that’s really cool.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah, it is. For instance, were you ever scared at the top where you were running-out Tricks are for Kids?

 

Steph Davis: Oh, that story when I was talking about – that was actually Concepcion.

 

Neely Quinn: Oh sorry.

 

Steph Davis: That’s okay. No, not really, just more very present, like, ‘Okay, this is a little crumbly crack and just be really careful.’ You just climb in a certain way where you have to be way more solid than if it’s okay to fall.

 

Neely Quinn: Right. So then can you talk about a certain route where you did have to overcome a lot of fear and how you did that?

 

Steph Davis: Yeah. Let’s see. I don’t know. I feel like every time I climbed in Patagonia I was always scared because of the weather. I’m like, ‘You’re just always scared there,’ but I remember the first time this became a big deal for me, which was the first time I free soloed Snake Dike, which is that easy slab route on the side of Half Dome in Yosemite. I had never actually climbed it before and I was like, ‘Oh, it’s what, like 5.6 or 5.7? Whatever. I’ll just go and run up that. It will be a really fun, long day,’ because it’s a lot of miles of hiking and stuff. I was like, ‘This will be great.’

Then, I went up there and first, I got lost. I couldn’t find the base of the route. I was like, ‘Oh no.’ Then I hiked all the way to to the top of Half Dome on the cables route because I was like, ‘What else am I going to do?’ Then I was coming down so I was pretty tired and I kind of saw my mistake and I was like, ‘Oh no. I’m an idiot and I still have time. I should just run back and do it because I’m already up here.’

By the time I got there I was pretty tired. Then, it’s really slabby, which I didn’t know that. I hadn’t done my homework by either doing the climb or really specifically asking people. I was pretty young. I was like 23 or 24 but I hadn’t done the work, right? Just in my mind I was like, ‘Oh, it’s such an easy grade. It will be no problem.’ I showed up and first, I was exhausted. I had already hiked, like, I don’t know, 12 miles or something up and down? Maybe more. And, it’s slabby and the crux is slab. It’s like friction slab. It’s real easy but it’s not like you have something to latch onto, you know? Your legs are tired so you have slab calf and I was like, ‘Oh my god.’

I got really scared on the crux. I was like, ‘I don’t know what to do. I’m so scared.’ Then, I kind of got through it because what else was I going to do? [laughs] That was a really good learning experience for me.

 

Neely Quinn: What did you learn?

 

Steph Davis: Well, I learned not to just assume anything. Sometimes, the hardest part of route finding is finding the route. We all know that [laughs], at least, backcountry routes. Don’t just take it lightly because you think the number sounds easy. If it’s a friction slab, that might be pretty scary on a free solo.

 

Neely Quinn: Especially for a crack climber.

 

Steph Davis: Yeah, exactly. Just respect all – don’t take anything lightly, you know? Give it all the respect. Do some homework and make sure you’re ready before you go putting yourself into extreme situations.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah. When you’re in scary situations do you find yourself doing anything particular, like, do you have any breathing exercises or do you distract yourself with something or do you have positive mantras? Is there anything like that? Or, are you just like, ‘I’m doing this.’

 

Steph Davis: Definitely, the ‘just do it,’ is, I think, a terrible approach. I’m totally against the ‘just do it’ approach. I think it’s terrible. I’ve done it and usually what happens is you force yourself to do something scary and you’re scared and you do a bad job and you don’t perform very well and you don’t have a good experience and then, at the end, you’re like, ‘Well, I made it.’ It’s just not a good experience so I’m really all about trying to take away the fear as much as possible in order to have a better experience and to be safer, because you perform better.

What I try to do is, first, I just try to be prepared for stuff. Like, you know, kind of build up to things. Not just be like, ‘I’m going to show up and immediately do this scary thing, right now,’ because it’s just not realistic. Yeah, you might pull it off but what does that get you? I really try to build up to things so that by the time I’m there doing the thing, I can say to myself, “Hey, you know? I belong here right now. I did all this preparation, whether I trained physically or I trained mentally, or I did this thing but a little easier, I belong here. I’m qualified to do this thing. I can do it.” I think that’s huge.

Also, just trying to feel really positive and smile and be very relaxed. If it’s a jumping situation and I’m nervous, when it’s time to go I’ll just shake my arms a bunch and just shake out the relaxation and breathe. Just feel really positive but it all comes from feeling prepared. If I feel I don’t belong somewhere, I will not try that thing.

 

Neely Quinn: So you have reasonable, rational reasons that ‘this is okay.’ You have confidence in ‘I have done this before.’

 

Steph Davis: Yeah, because I think the worst thing you can do is go try a scary thing when you don’t belong there.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah, it’s probably a really fine line.

 

Steph Davis: It is a fine line but that’s all part of, I guess, taking the time. Saying, “Hey, I want to do this but it’s not going to happen today. It’s going to happen in a year or five years or some day. I’m not just going to assume that everything is going to happen right this second, today.”

 

Neely Quinn: So with wingsuiting and BASE jumping and skydiving, I’m sure you’re constantly just assessing the risks and figuring out – I mean, because accidents do happen. I know that you’ve talked about this a lot and you’ve written about it a lot and people ask you this all the time, but how do you weigh the risks?

 

Steph Davis: I find myself very conservative in these sports. What I try to do is I try to always have that approach. I guess what that means is I try to be really prepared, and that’s kind of what we talked about earlier. Why I find it difficult, because – oh, Cajun wants to come help us. I never locked it. Good girl.

I try to really prepare a lot so, for jumping, what that means is you have to jump a lot and you have to skydive a lot and you have to be doing it. You can’t be like, ‘Oh, I’m going to climb for the next month and not BASE jump and then I’ll go do this difficult jump.’ In jumping we call it ‘being current,’ but climbers call it training. It’s the same thing. You have to dedicate the time to it.

Then, I also try to be very progressive with BASE jumping and wingsuit flying which is to say that when I show up at a new place, first of all I try very hard to never be the first person to go because I want to watch. I want to watch the people’s flight before me. I want to see if I can get some tips about what the wind is doing. I want to see how high they are above terrain. There’s a lot you can get from watching other people so I always try to make sure that I have the opportunity, if I can, to watch people.

And just, I’m really sensitive to conditions. So much of jumping is what the air’s doing. If you jump in marginal conditions you’re kind of rolling the dice a little bit and so I’m pretty strict about it. If I consider it very marginal conditions then there’s no way I’ll jump. I’m perfectly happy to walk down a mountain. I don’t care. I’ve done that all my life, right? I’m not like, ‘Oh, I walked for four hours. I can’t go back down.’ I’m like, ‘Nope. I’m walking down. I don’t care.’

Then, just doing – we call it ‘scouting flights.’ With wingsuit jumping you can do a jump and the first time be diving down to the terrain and falling around a corner and seeing what happens based on the map information that you have, but I will never do that. First of all, I will never fly inches away from terrain. I just won’t. Second of all, I’ll have to repeat a jump multiple times and then each time I do the flight I’ll get a little closer to the stuff I was interested in flying close to. I’ll never do that on the first one. It will always be this progression.

It’s just my style. I don’t know. I take it really seriously and I have a very healthy respect for the air and for all the things we can’t see, and just for the fact that sometimes, things happen. Right? I always want to give myself as big of a margin as I can. All of this is not to say that I now think that that’s why I’m going to be invincible. I certainly don’t. I’m just trying to be as careful as I can in these environments.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah, you seem to be able to take your ego out of it and be humble with it.

 

Steph Davis: Yeah, I think climbing makes you very humble. [laughs] For me, I think BASE jumping makes me very humble, too.

 

Neely Quinn: There must be some really good reasons that you do it. Can you just sum up, briefly, what it feels like to fly?

 

Steph Davis: It’s an amazing feeling. It’s funny because we went on a trip a few days ago and I hadn’t flown my wingsuit in a couple weeks. I just felt like, ‘Oh god. I’m so uncurrent and I’m not sure.’ All those doubts and stuff. I’m asking myself the same thing. ‘Why do we do this? It’s dangerous and intense and should I be here right now? Do I belong here?’ All those things. I was asking myself all that stuff and then the first flight, the second you’re in the air flying, it’s unbelievable that we can fly, you know? To see all the stuff – I always like to be up high. That’s why I like the mountains. I like to be up when I’m climbing. I want to see everything from above. To be in that space, in the air, and you’re above and you’re seeing everything come before you and making choices about where to fly and what to look at. It’s just hard to describe how amazing it is to experience that as a human.

 

Neely Quinn: Right, it must be very freeing.

 

Steph Davis: It’s just amazing that we can do it, you know? It’s definitely, in some ways, freeing, but there’s a lot of parameters, too. There’s a lot of stuff you can’t do. I mean, in a wingsuit you can never go up. It’s like skiing – you’re always going down, but it’s just so amazing to be able to be in that space, in the air, by the rocks like that.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah, it sounds like it.

So, I know this podcast is about climbing training but I have just always been intrigued by what you do so I’m glad we got to talk about that a little bit.

 

Steph Davis: And you know, there’s a lot of training there, too. I know that my history as a climber and growing up as a climber, that absolutely has shaped the way that I approach wingsuit BASE jumping, and I do consider that I train for it.

 

Neely Quinn: What do you do to train for it?

 

Steph Davis: A bunch of things. First of all, for the most part, as with climbing you spend 90% of your time carrying things up a hill. If you’re not fit and you walk up and climb up a mountain for four hours because you want to do this wingsuit jump, if you get to the top and you’re really tired, you’re not going to have a good jump and you may be unsafe. All wingsuit BASE jumpers are very fit. A lot of them are alpinists because you have to be able to get up there and feel good. That means you need to be able to walk up a mountain with a backpack on. [laughs] I have to train for that.

Then additionally, in order to fly well, that’s where I kind of compare it to climbing in a gym in order to feel really good when you go to the crag. That’s why we skydive wingsuits, because when we skydive we’re developing the skills. It takes some shoulder power, actually, to fly wingsuit, and then to have that body awareness to maneuver and be in control. It’s exactly the same as training in the gym or on the climbing wall so that when the big day comes and you’re like, ‘Yes! We can go to Rifle today,’ when you show up you feel good instead of doing that training at the crag and kind of wasting your trip.

I find it very similar.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah, I can see how those things could conflict, like you training for Rifle while at the same time doing these big, huge hikes.

 

Steph Davis: It’s horrible. It’s the complete opposite. It’s like, when I want to go on expeditions all the time, I’m like, ‘Oh geez. Now I have to carry backpacks up snow hills because I’m going to Patagonia and I would really like to go rock climbing and climb well, which means I shouldn’t be carrying a backpack up a hill.’ That’s the story of my life. [laughs]

 

Neely Quinn: You just have too many interests, Steph.

 

Steph Davis: I know, and most of them involve carrying things up a hill.

 

Neely Quinn: All of them except Rifle.

 

Steph Davis: I know. We were laughing the other day. Ian and I were carrying things up a hill, as usual, and I was like, ‘Why does everything I do always come down to carrying things up a hill?’ I was like, ‘Maybe there’s some part of me that actually likes it,’ although I don’t think there is.

 

Neely Quinn: I want to ask you about your diet but I just want to go back to that for a second, the whole ‘carrying things up a hill’ and how you train. So like, in Patagonia, did you just go to Patagonia in the shape that you are always in with carrying things up a hill? Or what did you do with that?

 

Steph Davis: I always trained for that. The first year that I went, yes – I did do that, then I immediately realized that I was suffering the whole trip. I was like, ‘This is terrible.’

I did go to Patagonia for seven years, seven winters, so I learned my lesson. What I would do is – and I would always be torn, right? It would be climbing season, because you go to Patagonia in the winter, so it would be fall and I would want to be rock climbing at Indian Creek or Rifle and, obviously, not carrying things up a hill. I would be like, ‘I need to train or I’m just going to get my butt kicked in Patagonia,’ so what I would always do is I would go up to the La Sal mountains here above Moab. There would be snow and I would just go up there in snowshoes, with a backpack, and I would carry like three gallons of water in the backpack and just trudge up snow in snowshoes.

 

Neely Quinn: Oh my god. That sounds awful.

 

Steph Davis: It was horrible. Then, on the way down, I would dump out the water because I would be like, ‘Okay, I don’t need to suffer this much.’ That’s what I would do to train for Patagonia and then, when I would get there, I would be so glad I did that because that’s the majority of what you’re doing in Patagonia, carrying things uphill for hours and hours.

 

Neely Quinn: So you weren’t even training for climbing really?

 

Steph Davis: No, just for carrying things up a hill.

 

Neely Quinn: Oh my god.

 

Steph Davis: It was so terrible.

 

Neely Quinn: You must really love summiting things.

 

Steph Davis: Well, I mean if you’re going to go down there, right?

 

Neely Quinn: Right, but you chose to go down there for seven years so you must love summiting things.

 

Steph Davis: Well, the thing is, when you do finally get to the rock climbing in Patagonia, it’s amazing. Then, for me, that was the part that wasn’t tiring because everything slows down when you’re rock climbing. You know, you’re climbing, you’re not just carrying a load up snow. For me, I was like, ‘Oh okay. Now I feel good,’ but my weakness was just carrying loads to basecamp or postholing up the glacier, because that’s what we don’t want to do when we’re rock climbing.

 

Neely Quinn: That’s funny. You take your perfect fall season and go walk up snow mountains.

 

Steph Davis: I know. To be fair, it was more like November or December that I would start doing it. Those are really nice months in the desert. You’re probably used to that, so I would just be like, ‘Dammit.’ I would still climb but obviously, that stuff really wears you out and it’s not so good for rock climbing.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah. Okay, we only have a few more minutes and, as a nutritionist, I’m totally fascinated by your vegan diet. Are you still vegan all the time?

 

Steph Davis: Yeah. Occasionally in Moab they have local chickens that live here and people just have them running around their yards. I’ll eat those eggs if they’re available but otherwise, not.

 

Neely Quinn: How long have you been vegan?

 

Steph Davis: Since 2002.

 

Neely Quinn: Oh my goodness. That is a very long time.

 

Steph Davis: It is. Time goes by.

 

Neely Quinn: I’ve seen you and you look pretty healthy. It must be working for you.

 

Steph Davis: [laughs] Yeah, I think so. I just started doing it because I was playing with diets back then. I was reading all these books. Remember the Atkin’s diet? That was really big then, and the Zone diet was big, and the blood type – those all had books so I just read all those books and I was like, ‘Okay, I’ll just try all these things for a few months and just see what happens.’ Then, that ended up taking a year to try four different things. At the end of them all I did – have you ever heard of the Master Cleanse?

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah.

 

Steph Davis: Okay, so I did that and then the Master Cleanse is weird because when you’re done with it, you’re really finicky and you don’t want to eat anything. I was like, ‘Ew. Everything is disgusting.’

 

Neely Quinn: Ew, food.

 

Steph Davis: Yeah, ew food. Then I was just really particular and I only wanted to eat hot, 5-grain cereal, of all things, with butternut squash. I was just like, ‘Ew.’ Like, baby food I guess. Then I was just kind of doing that to come off from it and after a couple weeks, I was like, ‘Wow. I’m not really eating any meat or cheese right now. I guess I’ll just go with this for a while.’ That’s just kind of how it started.

 

Neely Quinn: It seems like you have an animal/humanity part in there, too.

 

Steph Davis: That developed over time. I admit, I was pretty ignorant. Okay, I’m not going to say that I didn’t know that animals get killed when you eat them, but I didn’t understand about the whole mass production system.

My parents had, when I was growing up, a farm in Missouri and we had some cattle. The cattle just cruised around the farm so I guess, in my brain, that’s kind of how it was. Then, I know it’s kind of dumb, I guess I just saw a couple movies and read a couple books and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. This is terrible. I can’t. That’s terrible. I can’t support that, what they’re doing to these animals. That’s terrible.’ That kind of became more of the reason, I guess, over time.

 

Neely Quinn: I understand that. I was vegetarian for 11 years solely because of that, but now I eat humanely raised animals. For me, it doesn’t seem like it can be the only reason for being vegan because you can get those chickens.

 

Steph Davis: Yeah, exactly. I think it’s just – I don’t know. People are always like, ‘Well, what’s your opinion?’ I just think people should always think about the things that they do and if you have a reason for what you do and you stick to that, I think that’s great.

 

Neely Quinn: So you think that it works well for your climbing.

 

Steph Davis: Yeah, I do. I mean, I feel really healthy and frankly, Ian, my boyfriend, he’s vegan, too. It was interesting to me because he solely wanted to be vegan originally for health reasons. He’s a nurse and he’s like, ‘You know what? Every study that I read is that animal products are what causes heart disease and diabetes and what encourages cancer to form.’ He’s like, ‘Every time people cut that stuff out, their health improves.’ That was his motivation. That wasn’t my original motivation but I’m like, ‘Hey, that’s great. I’m down for being more healthy.’

 

Neely Quinn: You sort of came into this more organically where you were like, ‘Oh, I feel good,’ and then you were like, ‘Oh, okay. These are the reasons to back up why I’m doing this.’ You probably had to come up with some reasons because people were probably asking you annoying questions like I’m doing right now.

 

Steph Davis: No, that just all developed over time. At first, I was like, ‘Hey! This is great! I’m freeing El Cap in a day and climbing Torre Egger in a day, and freeing the Salathe. This is working really good.’

 

Neely Quinn: Right.

 

Steph Davis: That’s just kind of where I was at and then, over time, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. They do that to the animals? That’s terrible!’

 

Neely Quinn: Good thing I’m not eating them.

 

Steph Davis: Yeah. I’m not giving those people my money. That’s awful. Then, learning over time about the health benefits, I’m like, ‘Okay, cool. Right on.’ [laughs]

 

Neely Quinn: Well, not that I agree with you guys about the health benefits but I do agree that everybody has their own particular diet that works for them. I think it’s impressive that this has worked for you for so long because I hear so many times that people will be vegan for a year and they feel great, and then they start to get super depleted and sick. They gain weight and they get fatigued. That’s pretty common, I’m sure you’ve heard.

 

Steph Davis: It’s funny and I’m glad you said that because I didn’t say it before, but usually when people ask me about being vegan, I usually just say, “Hey, it’s not so much about being vegan, it’s about eating a whole foods, very natural diet. Not eating anything very prepared or processed, avoiding sugar, avoiding alcohol, just this very simple diet of whole grains, vegetables, fruit, nuts, legumes.” That’s not that outlandish.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah. So for protein, because obviously with climbing and doing all the walking that you’re doing, which can be sort of powerful when you’re carrying big loads up like that, what are your main protein sources?

 

Steph Davis: I eat a lot of tofu because I really love tofu, so I eat a lot of it. I also like to soak beans. I have a pressure cooker because I don’t really like to eat a lot of canned food. I’m always kind of suspicious of canned foods so I eat a lot of garbanzo beans, lentils, kidney beans, just pretty much every sort of bean. I like almonds. I don’t really like peanuts that much so I don’t really do a lot of peanut butter but I do like almond butter. Then, I like to eat whole grains which, obviously, have protein in them so I really like rolled oats and things like that.

I feel like I get enough protein by eating that way.

 

Neely Quinn: It’s crazy how different people are. Like, if I did that I would die. I would literally, actually, die I think.

 

Steph Davis: Really?

 

Neely Quinn: I did try to do that for 11 years and it wrecked me. That’s why I’m fascinated by it, is it’s crazy how different everybody is.

 

Steph Davis: Yeah, it’s interesting seeing Ian, too. He’s 6’3” and he’s a really tall, muscular guy. That guy can carry things uphill, fast, and he’s just been thriving. He was already vegetarian a year ago when we started living together and since I cook all the time, he’s basically vegan at this point and he’s in better shape than I’ve ever seen him. It’s amazing.

 

Neely Quinn: That’s cool.

 

Steph Davis: Yeah, it’s interesting.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah, I guess we are just very adaptable creatures, us humans.

 

Steph Davis: That’s true, that’s true.

 

Neely Quinn: Alright, one last question, because I always like to ask this of people. With your diet and with climbing and training and weight, because weight for climbers is a big topic and it’s something that a lot of us are concerned about, have you noticed anything with your weight and how your climbing performance is?

 

Steph Davis: I think that my generation – like I said, I started climbing 22 years ago. At that time, all the best climbers were always, frankly, anorexic. A lot of them. I mean, that was just the concept at that time. I definitely grew up in that environment and it was sort of a big issue for me. That’s kind of why I was always experimenting with diets like 12/13 years ago. I was like, ‘How can I be lighter and stronger?’ and everything.

It’s interesting. Since changing to basically being vegan, I don’t really think about my weight anymore and I never feel that I’m overweight at all. I’ve also noticed that, in climbing, that was not the modern way. When I go into climbing gyms I see young people and I see people that/I look at them, and I’m like, ‘Wow. He kind of looks a little chunky,’ [laughs] and then he’s crushing in the gym. I’m like, ‘Wow.’ You didn’t see that in the past. Anybody that climbed hard just felt that they had to be so skinny and I don’t know. I’m just not really seeing that anymore.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah.

 

Steph Davis: And people are climbing really hard.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah, that’s true. I think it’s still pretty popular to be thin, or lean at least, but people have proven over and over again that it really doesn’t matter that much. That’s what everybody says. Everybody is like, ‘Yeah, it makes a difference, sort of, but it’s not really sustainable.’

 

Steph Davis: I don’t know. I’m just seeing these younger climbers and a lot of them are not that thin and they’re crushing. I just don’t think it’s what we all necessarily thought it was. I don’t know. It’s interesting.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah. Cool. Well, it was good to get your opinion on that. I think that it’s time to wrap up. I want to thank you for your time and I know you’re really busy and you have stuff to do, but are there any last words of advice you would give to climbers who have sort of similar goals as to what you have done throughout your career?

 

Steph Davis: I think what I’ve found that works for me and that makes me happy is just pick something to focus on and then focus all your attention on it. Then, don’t be afraid to do something radically different from that. I think that’s what keeps it fresh.

 

Neely Quinn: Yeah, and you’ve definitely done that. Some radically different things and changed gears and it’s cool to watch your career.

 

Steph Davis: Yeah, I mean I love climbing just as much now as I always have. I think part of it is just always doing different things. That’s what keeps it so much fun.

 

Neely Quinn: Well keep doing what you’re doing and thanks again.

 

Steph Davis: Thanks, Neely.

 

Neely Quinn: Alright. That was Steph Davis. I hope you enjoyed that interview. She’s definitely an inspirational woman. She’s done a lot to further the sport for women, in both climbing and wingsuit flying and jumping off of cliffs in general, so I really appreciate her for that. And, it’s cool to see her doing all kinds of things. You don’t have to be just an alpine climber or just a sport climber. You can do both and have fun at all of them.

So, that’s Steph Davis. You can find her at www.highinfatuation.com and, again, if you haven’t checked out our training programs I would love it if you did. You can find them at www.trainingbeta.com under the ‘Training’ tab. If you need any help with training for a specific project or comp, or just improving your power endurance or getting your power up, we’ve got something for you in there.

Next time, next week, actually, I already interviewed Adam Ondra and I am really excited about how that went. That will be up next Wednesday, so stay tuned for that. Until then, happy climbing.

 

[music]

Thanks for listening!




TrainingBeta is a site dedicated to training for rock climbing. We provide resources and information about training for routes, bouldering, finger strength, mental training, nutrition for climbers, and everything in between. We offer climbing training programs, climbing training classes, nutrition classes, regular blog posts, interviews on The TrainingBeta Podcast, personal coaching for climbing, and nutrition for climbers.


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