From: What Matters?
April 23, 2011
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Last fall, Steph Davis got an idea: to free climb four desert towers in Moab, Utah, and BASE jump off the summits. When she told photographer Keith Ladzinski, the seeds of a film, "The Ups and Downs of Steph Davis", were instantly planted.
Ladzinski, who's been delving into video, quickly gathered a team of photographers and climbers to assist with the production which required extensive rigging. Jorge Visser, Andy Mann, Chris Hunter and Mario Richard (both BASE jumpers) collaborated with Ladzinski and Davis on the project.
"The opportunity to photograph and film Steph Davis climbing classic desert towers, making first free ascents, doing jumps no women has ever done, was something I couldn't possibly turn my back on," Ladzinski said.
Steph Davis is an accomplished climber who began BASE jumping four years ago. Today she is part of an elite group of climbers who blend free soloing and BASE jumping into one big adrenaline-fueled sport, a.k.a. freeBASEing .
"Soloing and jumping have a lot in common. They're both high commitment, but I find they take a very different type of mental focus," Davis says. "When free soloing, you're in serious risk for a really long time. So the mental control is a lot more drawn out, and obviously the physical control matters a lot for a really long time, too."
But BASE jumping is more about assessing the situation than the mental and physical tenacity soloing requires. "To jump safely and well, there is a lot of analysis and decision making that goes into deciding if the conditions are even good for jumping," Davis said.
Visser admitted he was a little nervous to shoot Davis on her ropeless ascents, but her calm confidence soothed his worries. He also said that the BASE jumping was a lot more calculated than he had expected.
"The way I jump, I am always thinking three steps ahead, ready to respond to anything that might happen," Davis said. "Even if you are a very analytical, careful jumper, there's always the unexpected element with everything in life and you have to be prepared for that, too."
Few women do what Davis does. Davis speculated that one reason there aren't more female BASE jumpers could have to do with the sport's macho, adrenaline junky image. "After getting to know my friend Marta Empinotti, a very respected longtime base jumper," said Davis, "I realized that kind of like naughty dogs at the crag, the noisy, rowdy creatures are the ones you notice more than the smart, well-trained ones. Base jumping can be done in a loud, crazy, careless way but it can also be done in a calculated, intelligent way with technique and skill."
Davis strives to balance her inner daredevil with expertise and precaution.
"I like to take the highly conservative approach to base jumping and free soloing, where my skill level has to be much higher than what's needed for what I'm actually doing so there is a healthy margin for error or the unexpected. I don't like just "getting away with it." I want to keep doing all this stuff for a long time."
Davis lives in Moab, Utah, where she can jump and climb every day. She is also a writer, vegan chef and loves animals.
Check out this trailer and get a taste of high adventure in the Utah desert with one bad chica.
-- Caroline Treadway
Including news, features, photo galleries and videos, What Matters? is dedicated to covering adventure sports, active travel and the outdoor lifestyle on behalf of VentureThere.com--a member of the USA TODAY Travel Alliance.