AMA: Would You Trade Your Dirtbag Days?

Hi Steph,
I wanted to say hi and I have about a billion questions. I just got into climbing a few months ago (still around 5.9 or a V2-3 level) and I’m considering living the van life for a few months.

I know your time is valuable so I’ll start with just a couple:

It looks like you have a nice Sprinter for van living these days, but the cover of High Infatuation shows you living out of a truck. If you could trade your truck living days for the more luxurious Sprinter, would you?

Have you always had at least a dog with you while being nomadic?

Like I said, I have a lot more questions that I would love to get your insight on, some a little deeper.

Thanks!
Mark
PS I plan on buying, well just about all of your products, I’m just thinking of an inscription that I would like.

Hi Mark,
Thanks for your email and the fun questions! I do have a really nice Sprinter these days, and I don’t live in it, but I use it for trips….mainly because sometimes in life you have to make your impossible dreams come true 😉 It seems like everyone who climbs has a really nice van nowadays, but back in the 90s and early 2000s when I was living in an Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera (with all the passenger seats taken out, and a plywood board for my bed going from front to back) and then in a 2 door, 2 wheel drive Ford Ranger, only a couple climbers I knew had even a rusty, beater Toyota minivan. And they were the ones who were super stylin’.

Of course any van has so many advantages over a truck or a car–not least of which that you feel safer because if you ever wake up in the night feeling kind of nervous you can easily leap into the driver’s seat and peel out. I did have a slider window in both my truck cab and the truck topper (an investment I felt was a safety decision). I always tried to make sure my shelf had a little empty pathway cleared of stuff if I was sleeping somewhere that felt sketchy at all: in case I woke up scared and had to dive through that little window into the drivers seat and get out of wherever I was parked. I really can’t even describe how much I coveted a beater old minivan back then, for all the reasons, but to me at the time, it seemed like a pretty impossible fantasy. And the truck was already an amazing upgrade from the Oldsmobile 🙂

I have to say, climbing has changed a lot since 1995. 20 years ago the floating community of dirtbags was a lot smaller, first of all. And nobody had any money at all (the Red Rocks crew was always bragging about the amazing dumpster diving opportunities in the Vegas Trader Joe’s, the Camp 4 people would literally snatch cafeteria trays off tables almost before people even got up, and start eating the leftover food, not even cutting off the teethmarks, and I saw a few Hueco Tanks people actually get food stamps until the other, equally broke, climbers shamed them out of it), nobody had a decent vehicle, “training” meant bouldering or maybe sport climbing, even when cell phones started to happen nobody could afford one, and honestly that bare bones, soul climber lifestyle where you had to scrap and live in the dirt just to get to go climbing is a cherished part of my history.

I’m sure 25 year old me would have died and gone to heaven if I suddenly woke up in a Sprinter (until I had to change the oil, and then I wouldn’t have been able to afford it, and would have had to give it back), but 45 year old me is grateful for those years spent sleeping in an Oldsmobile and the back of the Ranger. When I was younger I wished more things were handed to me–now I’m glad they weren’t. I know how little I need to be happy, I deeply appreciate everything I have, and things like running hot water in my house still get me kind of excited ;P

Re: dog partners! I had my dog Fletch with me for most of my travels until she died in 2009, and now Cajun comes on most every adventure. My only regret about the animals is that when my cat Mao decided to move into my house I at first didn’t know he was a. moving in and b. a teenage aged cat, so by the time I figured all that out he was grown up and no longer adjustable to van living. I wish he could go on trips too because I miss him a lot when we travel. Some cats are amazing in vans, and even out on adventures. But Mao is a free spirit and he can’t be boxed in, so he’s happier at home where he can come and go in his little domain.
🙂 Steph


LET'S STAY CONNECTED, SO I CAN SHARE ADVICE, REVIEWS & RECIPES.

These are my sponsors. THEY ARE FABULOUS!