Mixing Love and the Dangers of the Outdoors | the risk is worth it.

Today’s post was going to be about training for my return to climbing in the southeast, but those plans got derailed when I read about the tragic passing of Steph Davis’ husband Mario Richard during a BASE jump accident in Italy – my mind was overcome with heavier things, and thoughts about what it means to combine love and extreme sports.

For Mario and Steph, their relationship was bound by their love of BASE jumping. For Niko and I, it’s all about climbing. Each activity is unique, but they both share the same inherent dangers we subject ourselves to each time we decided to head outdoors for adventure. Every day is a risk when you live a life filled with daring leaps, long pitches, tall climbs, and ever-changing conditions.

The news about Mario instantly made me think about all the times I’ve worried about Niko’s safety while climbing. I remember when he bagged his first big trad summit, Cathedral Peak in Yosemite. I stayed at camp in Tuolumne Meadows while Niko and his crew journeyed towards the summit, and my standard girlfriend worrying turned into genuine concern as I watched threatening storm clouds roll over the mountains. I grimaced every time I heard a vicious strike of thunder, and spent the next few hours pacing in the rain, waiting for the sound of his return.

As he always is, Niko was totally fine, and returned to camp with grand tales of his experience on Cathedral Peak. Yes, they got rained on, and endured a hailstorm during the final pitch of the climb, but the only thing that mattered was the fact that he was back, safe and sound.

Luckily for Niko, I’m nowhere near as daring as he is, so I doubt he worries about me very much – but there is still always a certain dose of danger one has to consume when a loved one engages in any extreme activity. But what can we really do about it? Should I tuck Niko away in a little safety bubble to make sure he doesn’t do things like break a toe in Indian Creek or take a massive fall off a highball? I can’t, and I wouldn’t. Climbing makes our relationship what it is. We live to climb, and we love each other so deeply because we’re connected through climbing.
At the summit overlooking Lake Catherine in Alta, Utah. (Photo by Teton Sports)

There is always going to be that risk, but for me, it’s always going to be worth it. The memories Steph will have of her husband will be moments that most couples will never experience. Their time together was spent living life to the absolute fullest, no matter what – and that’s exactly how I intend to spend my time with Niko.

Live freely, adventure often, love wildly, and don’t worry about tomorrow – because if tomorrow doesn’t come, you’ll forever have the thoughts of everything you did do together.

I can’t imagine what Steph is enduring right now, and my heart breaks to think of one of my role models grieving for sure a loss. But I don’t worry for a second that she’ll be regretting a moment of her time with Mario – they lived their relationship as it should be: every moment was an experience, and every second was spent doing what they loved. Make sure you do the same.

* Thanks to Teton Sports for the shot of Niko and I from our hike out in Alta, Utah. 


  1. says

    Beautiful post Katie. I too enjoy taking risks with my better half (Dikko – rhymes with Niko ha ha creepy!) and letting him take risks. I wouldn’t change a thing. To me, not much beats sharing a rope with my husband. Sure, there’s been some hairy moments, but the memories created through sharing such intense experiences are what we founded our relationship upon. I’ll definitely be giving out extra long hugs tonight!

    • says

      I’m glad you connected with the post, Kristy. And I agree, sometimes sharing risks with our better half leads to some scary moments, but I think overcoming those situations really makes the bond even stronger. Keep climbin’, and give out lots of hugs.

  2. says

    Couldn’t agree more Katie! My husband (Rob) and I met through sports, and we quickly started introducing each other to a variety of more extreme activities. I remember just a mere two months into dating, Rob wanted to jump off a 65′ cliff into a deep natural pool below. Anxiety and internal freaking out set in, but that’s when I learnt that in order to keep us going strong and true to our selves, we had to let the other take risks. He made the cliff jump… and then several more times. Needless to say, Rob has always been the daredevil in the relationship.

    But like you, and all significant others out there, the feeling of worry is always in the back of my mind. The important thing is to make sure that you can change the feeling from being a roadblock to encouragement, preparation, and understanding. Memories are in the making.

    • says

      Niko is totally the daredevil in our relationship too. I think that having our s/os take the lead helps us be more daring ourselves, but it sure doesn’t help ease my worrying! Glad to see so many other couples embracing the idea of letting the thrill and passion of extreme activities override those moments of fear and anxiety. Memories in the making indeed.

  3. says

    This. Oh man.

    I always get this false sense of security in doing dangerous things together (like somehow we can keep each other safe? which is ridiculous). But when he’s off riding his motorcycle, I become the wife who worries the minute he’s late while playing it all off as I’m okay.

    But I worry. And I try not to because riding his bike is part of who he is (he’s happier as an individual and we’re happier as a couple) when he gets out riding now and then. Because things happen.

    (And Forrest is asleep and I’m just learning this news now and he’s going to be really confused when I wake him up in about two minutes.)

    • says

      I do the same thing, Beth! When we’re in it together, I get a false sense of “oh well nothing bad can happen now because I’m here too.” Funny how that works, eh? Give Forrest a real good squeeze – and one for Sprocket too! 🙂

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