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.
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.