Rock climber Steph Davis has been scaling walls for more than two decades. In that time she became the first woman to free climb the Salathe Wall on Yosemite's El Cap, and she has free soloed the Diamond on Longs Peak in Colorado four times. These days, when she gets to the top of a cliff, she takes the quick way down—she BASE jumps. For the past ten years she has also been vegan—and says it has made her a better athlete. It sounds counterintuitive to our conventional understanding of how to fuel performance. But Davis says it works. Below Steph answers some of our questions about her extraordinary experiences.
See Steph and Mario Richard BASE jumping in our Extreme Photo of the Week gallery >>
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ADVENTURE: How long did you consider BASE jumping before you tried it?
Steph Davis: I really never considered BASE jumping at all, and then I randomly started skydiving. After a few months of jumping, it just made sense to start to jump from cliffs since I’m on them all the time.
Can you explain the feeling of BASE jumping from start to finish?
SD: The start of a jump is about assessment, and it’s very scientific. You have to evaluate your gear, the altitude of the cliff, the sheerness of the wall under your exit point, the wind conditions, the landing area and alternative landing areas. Then you have to evaluate how you feel about all of it, and if it all adds up to a safe and good jump. After all that, it’s a mental switch to the physical side of what you need to do in terms of having a good exit, a good free fall, and a good landing. And once you have all that figured it, you get into action mode and go. It’s always scary before you leave the edge, and then things are just happening.
What has it been like to be a woman pushing boundaries in the sport?
SD: It’s just like everything else in life. I have learned to stay on my own path and follow my passion.
Which women rock climbers do you admire most?
SD: I climb the most with my best friend Lisa Hathaway in Moab, and I’d rather climb with her than just about anyone.
What does the next generation of rock climbers look like?
SD: Right now a lot of my friends are bringing their kids to the crags and going on family climbing trips with them, so I think it’s going to be a very different world for climbing in the next generation.
Why did you go vegan?
About ten years ago, I was trying to figure out the most effective eating system for climbing and running. Finally I went on a cleansing fast and afterward just didn’t want to eat any animal products. I just kept eating that way, and eventually realized I was vegan. I free climbed El Capitan in a day, climbed Torre Egger in a day, and freed the Salathe Wall, and noticed that I was climbing better than I had before. After a while, I got educated about factory farming. Now taking action not to support that industry through my consumer choices is even more important to me than the physical benefits of my eating habits.
What are the top three benefits of being vegan?
SD: 1) Reducing the suffering I cause to other creatures; 2) increased athletic performance; 3) eating well.
What's your next big adventure?
SD: I just got engaged.