Randy LeavittAge 50, Climbing Pioneer, BASE jumper (BASE #39), Businessman, Kite Surfer, Big-wave Surfer
During a two-wave hold down, on a very big day while paddle surfing at Todos Santos Island, I learned what it was like to drown. Almost. That is where my life started, or almost ended. My life is a timeline from there, both forward and backward. That doesn’t count the few times I almost died climbing or BASE jumping.
But I am not a risk taker. I am a risk manager.
Be a good listener. People will tell you everything you need to know about them.
With first ascents, I can be a perfectionist. I am much more concerned about how future climbers will enjoy the climb than whether I put the bolts in with the rope above or below me. But if I really want to get your attention I won’t put the bolts in.
Business is like climbing–set goals, work on them and obtain them. Don’t waste your time on stuff that doesn’t work.
Two requirements: the activities that I do have to make sense to me, and take me from point A to point B. That is why I will never take up bungee jumping. BASE jumping is a different story. I’ll never forget standing on top of the Dawn Wall of El Cap in 1978 after climbing the Pacific Ocean Wall. Dale Bard and I threw off our haul bag with a drag chute to slow it down. Two years later, I had learned BASE jumping, climbed El Capitan and jumped off, completing my vision of how it could work.
My parents gave me a lot of latitude to make my own choices. Fortunately, I didn’t screw up.
You learn a lot about yourself solo aid climbing a big wall. As a teenager, I was so scared on Electric Ladyland [on Washington Column], that I had to recite things to talk myself into continuing. Like, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
I’ll never forget, as a beginning surfer, sitting at Lower Trestles on a double overhead day after failing to paddle out because I got my ass kicked by the waves on the inside. It was humbling to get denied even though I could climb 5.14 at that time. I went out for another try because climbing, above all else, had taught me tenacity.
I thought I wanted to be a mountaineer. When I was growing up, Boardman and Tasker were my heroes. After my first big Himalayan expedition in 1986, I realized that a lot of the fellow climbers didn’t return alive from the Karakoram. That is when sport climbing started looking like a better long-term option.
The best day surfing is better than the best day climbing.
I am still improving my shortcomings as a human being. For this and many other reasons, my wife, Karin, has been my biggest inspiration.
Climbing has been the key to staying fit, especially as I get older.
For the most part, people don’t change.
Friends are our greatest assets. This is why we are all on this planet together.
On February 16, Jim “The Bird” Bridwell, captain of numerous El Cap voyages of physical and psychological expansion, inventor, writer, thinker and fashion setter died of complications from hepatitis C. He was 73.read more
Georgia Witchel is a former student at The Climbing Academy, a specialized high school program for climbers in which they travel the world to climb and train. Sweet deal? Without question. Vacation free of typical studies and teenage stress? Think again.read more