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I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote

- Herman Melville


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Focus

Dec 30, 2016

On Freedom, and the Facade of the American Dream

Many people spend their entire adult existence trapped in what others might consider a dream.

Me? I stand for freedom; and it’s worth dying for.

The fact is that life, for the most part, is spent sleeping, dreaming. The only thing you maybe do more than sleep is work at some shitty job, which someone may have convinced you is your dream. You pay for a place to live, to stay in the town you work in, and to keep working so that you can have your house and car to get back to your job.

America as a whole has lost track of its foundation. Lost respect for its populace. Lost direction towards the greater good. The federal government is fucking all of us, and we just take it like a skinny white inmate. Try for yourself to make a change — you will be met with rifles and police who are brainwashed by the system. Paid not to think, paid not to feel, with promises of benefits later in life. Just follow orders and keep the status quo at all costs. Many people haven’t even read our constitution, and when you do, you will see how far away from our roots we have traveled.

“The land of the free and home of the brave,” has turned into “the land of the fat, and home of the afraid, lazy, pathetic, and insecure;” many people turn to drugs for help. People barely go into nature anymore and can’t even start relationships on their own, turning to the internet as a helpful, non-committal, courage-less way to meet people. What happened to courage?

The fact is that most of these “social problems” stem from the horrid way of life America has put upon you. Everything, I mean every-fuck-ing-thing, is standardized, regulated, and controlled specifically to benefit a third party you probably aren’t even aware of. It’s utter bullshit, and the fact that people can’t take responsibility for their own actions anymore, without regulations, astounds me. This is why I think it is bullshit when people complain to me about the dangers of BASE-jumping. They tell me I’m crazy, that I am stupid, that I am selfish, that it’s a dumb sport, and it’s heavily regulated because of this. Did you know it’s a felony to BASE jump in Yosemite National Park? Seriously, you will be arrested, fined, and stripped of all your gear, for parachuting in a national park that is supposed to be for the public. I still jump there, partly because it’s got the most amazing cliffs in the world, but also because I really want to just say “fuck you” to the park authorities. If you want to stop me, you will have to catch me. Plain and simple.

Even though BASE-jumping is risky — the consequence can be death, or serious injury — what is wrong with that? I’m consistently immersing myself in nature, developing social relationships, staying physically active, and enjoying the fuck out of my life! Not only that, but because I have an intimate relationship with death I appreciate my life more. Why do you think death, injury, and drama in general are on TV? It’s edgy, it’s interesting, it’s moving.

The fact that many of my closest friends have died BASE- jumping, and many others have been seriously injured in their pursuit of the sport wears hard on me. But the media speaks nothing of the benefits and positivity surrounding the sport, just the negatives. Why doesn’t the media talk about fat, lazy, sickly insecure people rotting away in a pathetic facade of an existence? Well, because the system is designed for them to be there.

I clearly remember walking up to the fresh corpse of my best friend, 22-year-old Daniel “Money Makin’” Moore, and not understanding it. I got a call from a friend. He said, “Hurry, Daniel hit hard, he needs help.” I was in the car, and didn’t know what had happened. I turned around and rushed to the cliff. I ran up to the base and, well, people had told me that my friends would die, but I never really thought it would happen. In fact death and dead people these days are almost entirely removed from daily life. Families no longer bury one another, feeling the weight of the body, and naturally dealing with the passing. Morticians do that for us now, to “protect us” they say. Well there is some logic to it, because it does and has affected me heavily. Seeing his face, eyes helplessly open, dripping blood slowly from their corners, down his cheeks and from his mouth. I held his hand, which was still warm, but there was no pulse, no life, just meat and bones. It was the most intense experience I have ever had and I cried and fled. But, I’ve come to think that people need this feeling. TV tries to manifest this feeling because it is potent, visceral, and meaningful, but mostly it keeps people watching through the commercials that pay $$.

Well I am sick of this shit. Yes, BASE is scary. Yes, it kills people. But part of being human is death, injury, and the emotional and spiritual connections made from those experiences. If BASE takes my life too soon, yes it is going to be tragic, yes it is going to be wasteful, but it’s going to be my choice. It’s my life, and my death.

America has let me down. Insurance and liability are ruining our society’s ability to pursue happiness freely. The general public isn’t even trusted to make their own decisions anymore. That’s why the police can say that they are just protecting me from myself. Well, from me to everyone out there: Fuck you and fuck off. I’m going to live this way no matter what, so you may as well let me live the way I want to, and maybe even embrace it too. I don’t come into your office and ask you why you are a CPA, or a waitress. In fact, that would probably come across as condescending, because it is.

If you enjoy pretending that money makes you happy, keep going because there are pills you can take to fill the void inside you. None of my fallen comrades died in vain, because they all the stood for freedom, which is something most people these days take for granted. Soon it will be gone forever, and the sad thing is most people won’t even see that it’s missing.

What would you die for? Or would you die for anything? My bet is that most people in America would choose to be a coward like the rest of the brainwashed, uninspired, pathetic populace that crowds our lands like mosquitoes in a stagnant pond.

Me? I stand for freedom, and it’s worth dying for.

Feature Image: Without a harness or protection, Sketchy Andy doing justice to his name. Photo by Apoorva Prasad / The Outdoor Journal

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Athletes & Explorers

Dec 13, 2018

Steph Davis: Dreaming of Flying

What drives Steph, to free solo a mountain with nothing but her hands and feet, before base jumping? “Bravery is not caused by the absence of fear."

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WRITTEN BY

The Outdoor Journal

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In the coming days the Outdoor Journal will release an exclusive interview with Steph Davis, follow us via our social networks and stay tuned for more.

Do you have to be fearless to jump off a mountain? Meeting Steph Davis, you quickly realise: no, fearlessness is not what it takes. It’s not the search for thrills that drives her. She’s Mercedes travelled to Moab, Utah to find out what does – and to talk to Steph Davis about what it takes to climb the most challenging peaks and plunge from the highest mountaintops.

Steph Davis, getting ready to jump. Photo by Jan Vincent Kleine

At noon, when the sun is at its highest point above the deserts of southeastern Utah and when every stone cliff casts a sharp shadow, you get a sense of how harsh this area can be. Despite Utah’s barrenness, Steph loves the orange-gold landscape with its towers and elegantly curved arches of sandstone. But Steph is not here because of the natural spectacle. Here, in this area which is as beautiful as it is inhospitable, she can pursue her greatest passion: free solo climbing and BASE jumping.

Castleton Tower… Look closely. Photo by Jan Vincent Kleine

Today, Steph wants to take us to Castleton Tower. We travel on gravel roads that are hardly recognizable, right into the middle of the desert. Gnarled bushes and conifers grow along what might be the side of the road. Other than that, the surrounding landscape lives up to its name: it is deserted. Steph loves the remoteness of the area. “One of my favourite places is a small octagonal cabin in the desert that I designed and built together with some of my closest friends. It’s not big and doesn’t have many amenities but it has everything you need: a bed, a bathroom, a small kitchenette … and eight windows allowing me to take in nature around me. That’s pretty much all I need.” Steph Davis cherishes the simple things. She has found her place, and she doesn’t let go.

Whilst pictured with ropes here, Steph often free solo’s without any equipment at all. Photo by Jan Vincent Kleine

Castleton Tower is home turf for Steph. She has climbed the iconic red sandstone tower so many times she’s lost count. The iconic 120-metre obelisk on top of a 300-metre cone is popular among rock climbers as well as with BASE jumpers. Its isolated position makes it a perfect plunging point and it can easily be summited with little equipment – at least for experienced climbers like Steph Davis.

“It would be reckless not to be afraid. But I don’t have to be paralysed by fear.”

Steph is a free solo climber, which means she relies on her hands and feet only – not on ropes, hooks or harnesses. She loves to free solo, using only what’s absolutely necessary. She squeezes her hands into the tiniest cracks in the stone and her feet find support on the smallest outcroppings, where others would see only a smooth surface. Steph climbs walls that might be 100 metres tall – sometimes rising up 900 metres – with nothing below her but thin air and the ground far below. She knows that any mistake while climbing can be fatal.

Flying. Photo by Jan Vincent Kleine

The possibility of falling accompanies Steph whenever she climbs. Is she afraid? “Of course – it would be reckless not to be. But I don’t have to be paralysed by fear.” She has learned to transform it into power, prudence, and strength. “It’s up to us to stay in control.”

“You have to learn to face your fears and accept them for what they are.”

That’s what, according to her, free soloing and BASE jumping are all about: to be in control and to trust in one’s abilities. “It’s not about showing off how brave I am. It’s about trusting myself to be good enough not to fall. It takes a lot of strength, both physical and mental. You have to learn to face your fears and accept them for what they are.”

Touchdown. Photo by Jan Vincent Kleine

Steph Davis likes to laugh and she does so a lot. She chooses her words with care, and she doesn’t rush. Why would she? There’s no point in rushing when you’re hanging on a vertical wall, with nothing but your hands and feet. Just like climbing, she prefers to approach things carefully and analytically. That’s how she got as far as she did. “I didn’t grow up as an athlete, and started climbing when I was 18,” she smiles, shrugging. But her work ethic is meticulous and she knows how to improve herself. Whenever she prepares for an ascent, she does so for months, practising each section over and over again – on the wall and in her head – until she has internalised it all. She does the same before a BASE jump and practices the exact moves in her head until she knows the movement is consummate.

Steph loves the orange-gold landscape with its towers and elegantly curved arches of sandstone. Photo by Jan Vincent Kleine

“Bravery is not caused by the absence of fear.”

Would Steph consider herself brave? She says that she wouldn’t know how to answer that, you can see the small wrinkles around Steph’s eyes that always appear whenever she laughs. In any case, she doesn’t consider herself to be exceptional. “I’m not a heroine just because I jump off mountaintops,” Steph says she has weaknesses just like everyone else. But she might overcome them a little better than most of us do, just as she has learned to work with fear. “Bravery is not caused by the absence of fear. It is brave to accept fear for what it is, as a companion that you should sometimes listen to, but one you shouldn’t be obedient to.”

She slows the car down. We have reached Castleton Tower. It rises majestically in front of us while the sun has left its zenith. If Steph started walking now, she’d reach the top at the moment the sun went down, bathing the surrounding area in a golden light. She takes her shoes and the little parachute; all she needs today. Then she smiles again, says “see you in a bit”, and starts walking. Not fast, not hastily, but without hesitation.

All photos by Jan Vincent Kleine

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