Steph Davis: The Interview
Steph Davis is one radical lady. She has certainly been there and done that. From climbing desert towers to jumping off them to Patagonia alpine to Yosemite big walls she has had a sticky little hand in each and every pot of climbing joy. Her life is one to be envied for sure. With a book out and a climbing resume that stretches well beyond the length of most, this lady certainly deserves some attention. She took some time out to answer some questions for P&C the other day while she was house ridden with some kind of sickness that only served to give her a bad case of cabin fever.
Interview by Wig (Andrew Tower)
Pictures provided by Steph Davis
Where are you living and how long have you been there?
Moab. Since 1995, I think. I’m very bad with dates.
But definitely over ten years?
Because it is the best place in the whole world!
I can see it as a good wintering spot but isn’t it just unbearable in the summers?
Yes, but then you can go to Rifle. And it’s still the best place in the whole world, that’s how good it is.
Do you have any winter projects in “the best place on earth?” or are you planning on traveling this winter?
I am psyched to be in Moab all winter. It is the winter paradise. I want to climb down at Indian Creek, but I’m also doing a very short trip to Italy. Four days!
What’s in Italy and what can you do in four days?
I’m going to the Lecco Film Festival, because they translated my book into Italian. I would stay longer, but it’s kind of cold in late January, and I really do love Moab in the winter.
While you’re in Moab all winter are you going to see Sparkle Motion at all?
I hope so. I miss every show and it’s just awful. Lisa has nearly given up on me. See the problem is scheduling. They usually start playing around 9:30. I am usually asleep around 8:30.
Are you an old lady sleeper?
I am like a puppy. I use a lot of energy so I have to sleep a LOT. I wake up at 5:00 a.m. usually.
That’s ridiculous. Way too early.
Well, it’s light out. I mean, usually.
If you didn’t live in the “best place on earth” what would be your second pick?
So I suppose I don’t have to ask you where your favorite overseas climbing area is then.
Yes, but I also like Patagonia. Arco is awesome because it’s kind of like Moab, except Italian, and limestone instead of sandstone, and a massive terminal base cliff instead of short ones. But Moab is still better, of course.
What’s on your Christmas list this year?
Nothing. I want nothing. Seriously!
I’m easy to shop for.
Did you have any New Year’s resolutions this year that actually happened?
Well. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions because that makes no sense to me. I was born on November 4, so New Year’s Day is not a year. I do that on my birthday.
So you must have just made some.
But it’s kind of different from resolutions, actually. I always try to do something on my birthday that is something I hope I will be doing a lot in the year to come. So this year on my birthday I was doing wingsuit BASE. jumps in Lauterbrunnen.
And then I pay attention to the things that happen on that day, because I feel like that has some implication too.
Speaking of, why did BASE jumping stick so hard with you?
A lot of things. There is a lot to learn and it exemplifies freedom in many ways. I also feel very comfortable with people who are living on the fringe. As normal as BASE seems to me, I’m realizing that it is still very little understood or accepted by many people.
A while ago, after a certain event, Patagonia dropped their ambassador program and then magically they brought it back and left a few people off the list including you. Since then I have sensed maybe some bad blood it seems between you and P-Funk. What’s the deal with that? You were one of their golden children and then nothing. From the outside it seemed like a case of climbing (again) being taken too seriously but then that’s just what I saw.
That was a sad situation, so I don’t talk about it. But I think your observations are very insightful.
What is your favorite rest day activity?
Reading, gardening, running, BASE jumping, shampooing my dog, cleaning the house, cooking.
What’s he best book you’ve ever read?
Oh, that’s hard! I can read two books a day sometimes. I have some favorite authors. I love TC Boyle. I love Haruki Murakami. I love Isabel Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marques.
I love Love in the Time of Cholera.
Me too. You know what book is awesome? Refiner’s Fire by Mark Helprin. I love that book.
Here’s a loaded question. Why do you climb?
Right now I climb because when I don’t climb, I miss it too much.
Yeah but WHY do you miss it?
Mostly because it simply makes me feel good. It can be a lot more involved than that, of course, but it really is that simple. But recently I have sometimes gotten sucked into BASE jumping binges, and it’s easy to let four or five days go by with no climbing. Then I feel really edgy and bummed out, and I realize that climbing is a big part of what makes me content.
You used to do a lot of alpine climbing it seemed like. I haven’t noticed as much in that arena lately. Hiatus? Done with it?
No, you’re right. I spent a bunch of time up at the Diamond last summer, which obviously isn’t alpine climbing but is more like being in the mountains. I’ve been missing it. I always go in cycles or phases with different types of climbing, just kind of following it. I am missing the peaks in Patagonia again.
What cycle are you in now?
It’s the best season in Moab. In the winter I get really excited about crack climbing here. It’s also the best season for jumping here, because the winds are more stable and calm, but I will be heading to Argentina within the year, I’m sure.
We just witnessed a horrific BASE accident a few weeks ago in Clear Creek. Have you had any accidents?
I didn’t know there was any jumping at Clear Creek. That sounds bad. I did have an accident last August. I fractured my sacrum, and I am totally recovered, but my insurance company is denying the claim so now I am really having a hard time with it.
Yeah. I’m pretty sad about the whole thing. I’ve had insurance since I was living in my car, and this is the first time I’ve actually needed it. I should have stayed in law school…
If you could only climb one route for the rest of your life what would it be?
Hmm. Tricky. I do love to repeat routes I like a lot. One route, geeze. I don’t know! It would have to be something with lots and lots of pitches, since it could only be one route. Probably Salathe.
Is there a lot of variety on that route?
Yes, so if it was the only one you got, you could be pretty content, I think. Would that mean that nobody else could climb it? Would rangers not be allowed there? Could you jump it too?
Okay. Definitely Salathe. That’s actually a pretty good deal! Could I do a time share, with someone who picked Rifle?
Perhaps…You haven’t been in Yosemite in a while either just not in that zone right now?
I actually went on a clandestine um, hiking trip there last May. I didn’t climb. I just… hiked.
And how was that?
It was awesome!
Well, sometimes I hiked with friends, and sometimes I hiked by myself. Yeah, it was sick
Sounds wonderful. Last question. What’s something every climber should know?
The exclusions on your insurance policy.