Name a mountain, and Steph Davis has probably climbed it with her bare hands.
In 2003, this superstar athlete became the second woman to free climb Yosemite's El Capitan in one day. She's also summited peaks all over the world, in places as far away as Patagonia, Pakistan, and Kyrgyzstan.
KS: I've heard that climbing is a mental game. What's your take?
SD: I think climbing is so compelling because it's demanding physically, emotionally and mentally, kind of like yoga. If any one of those elements is lacking, things become difficult.
Do you consider yourself an adrenaline junkie?
No, I think it's a stereotype of climbing and base jumping that it's all about adrenaline. I'm sure for a lot of people, that's the attraction.
For me, doing things that are high-commitment forces me to have complete focus, and I like figuring out how to do things well and safely, maximizing the enjoyment while minimizing the stress.
Surely your profession brings some scares. Can you talk about that? I'd love to know how do you deal with stress... Self-talk? Preparation? Good genes?
I really don't enjoy being scared, and I'm always trying to figure out how to do something that seems impossible in a way that actually feels good.
At this point, I think that if I'm feeling too much fear, it's for a reason—I probably don't belong there at that moment, and I need to listen to it. But I do work hard at not being controlled by anxiety or unreasonable fear, and I think as with everything else, it's a learned thing. Repetition and analysis (both before and after doing something) are really important.