Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Review: Learning to Fly: An Uncommon Memoir of Human Flight, Unexpected Love, and One Amazing Dog

I was expecting Learning to Fly: An Uncommon Memoir of Human Flight, Unexpected Love, and One Amazing Dog by Steph Davis to provide me with an armchair adrenaline rush. If Davis isn't doing some ridiculously tricky climbing attempt, then she's probably doing some ridiculously tricky BASE jumping feat. Apparently she's wired to embrace the kind of activities that cause me to sweat just reading about them.

I really enjoyed how she took me into both the climbing and falling worlds, providing me with just enough background to appreciate what she's accomplished, but not so much that the book ever became tedious. I especially liked her explanation of her free solo attempts. Free soloing is when a rock climber skips all of the safety of ropes and a partner and just climbs. It is by all measures absurdly dangerous with an incredibly slim margin of error. Still, I was surprised at the process Davis uses to prepare for and execute a free climb. In the book she describes how she practices with ropes first, and then effectively memorizes the holds she intends to use. Essentially, a free climb for her is a dance with hundreds, if not thousands, of specific steps. It's a remarkable process and one I was delighted to join her on. Her discussions of learning to BASE jump were no less impressive.

The book, however, isn't just about crazy sports I'm never going to do. It's also about how Davis copes with a failed marriage and a climbing career that comes crashing down around her. I found this aspect of the book no less compelling, and found myself rooting for her to regain her life balance just as I was pulling for her to accomplish her next big stunt.

All in all, an excellent read.

But enough words, let's watch Steph Davis be amazing:

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