When Steph Davis is home in Moab, Utah, her daily routine involves a 40-minute hike in the morning with her cattle dog, Cajun, a jump in a wingsuit off a cliff, then greeting Cajun after he's raced down to catch up with her.
Then she goes home, eats breakfast, and goes back out for a climb or does research preparing for a climb.
"This may appear insanely crazy," Davis said after showing an audience a clip of one of her jumps Tuesday evening at the Pine River Library.
But from the other end of the lens, Davis said she wonders about people who aren't curious about their surroundings.
"How would anyone not want to do this?" she said, as the audience watched her zoom through the air.
She is the first woman to complete many climbs around the world, from Patagonia to Afghanistan, and climbed Yosemite's El Capitan in 22 hours, the second woman to ever climb the 3,000-foot granite face in a day.
Davis, the author of Learning to Fly: A Memoir of Hanging on and Letting Go and High Infatuation spoke in Bayfield as part of the library's Amazing Authors series. She was scheuled to speak Thursday night in Cortez and tonight in Telluride. Her talks cover risk, fear, and why she climbs and jumps.
Davis began climbing 25 years ago while attending college.
She began her climbing career living out of the back of her grandmother's Buick and freeclimbing, which uses one rope as a tether in case of a fall. Later, she switched to free solo climbing, with no rope.
"Suddenly everything changes," without a rope, she explained. "To me, free solo climbing is very simple. You just don't fall."
Davis took up skydiving and BASE jumping 10 years ago. She said after 15 years of tenaciously clinging to rocks, often without any tethers or ropes, it was "totally overwhelming" to learn how to let go. BASE jumping involves practitioners leaping off a building, antenna or cliff wearing a wingsuit, reaching speeds of 100 mph as they fall to the ground. A parachute released at the end of the jump slows their descent to earth.
In 2013, Davis's husband died making a jump behind her in Italy. An exceedlingly careful and experienced BASE jumper, Davis said the loss was a huge shock, but she had to continue doing what she loves.
"I had to keep jumping, keep flying, and keep living," she said.
That's the message Davis imparts in her talks.
"Things are not in our control," she said. "But I choose joy, not just to endure. We can choose how we feel."
Embracing risk and fear is difficult, but it brings more to her life than not climbing or jumping.
"We don't choose what happens in life," she concluded. "We do choose how we live."
After her hour-long talk, Davis answered questions from the audience, including several teens and children in attendance.
The highest peak she climbed was almost 20,000 feet high and in Pakistan, she said, without the use of oxygen.
When asked what is her favorite or most memorable climb, Davis said she can't pick just one, comparing it to asking a parent which child is the favorite.
She uses a variety of tools to look at wind and weather when she's preparing for a jump. Ideally, there is no wind at all. She'll check forecasts, look at flags at the landing site, watch birds, throw handfuls of dirt, and even spit off a cliff to see how winds are blowing.
She doesn't like climbing in groups, she explained, because it often leads to a tense and more aggressive dynamic than when she makes her own decision about whether it's safe to climb or jump that day. She leads clinics in Moab twice a year for her company, Climb2Fly Productions, and does some occasional stunt work. Her next planned trip is to Chamonix, France.
Davis's website includes vegan recipes and links to her blog, High Places and Simple Living. Her website is http://stephdavis.co.