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.
Excerpted from Allen Steck’s new memoir, A Mountaineer’s Life.read more