Animal Book Club: “Learning to Fly” by Steph Davis

Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF's Staff Writer on May 28, 2013

In Learning to Fly: an Uncommon Memoir of Human Flight, Unexpected Love, and One Amazing Dog, Steph Davis tells the story of an immensely difficult period during her life. Her book is a hot-off-the-presses must-read that chronicles the adventures of one incredible woman and her beautiful dog Fletch. It is about deep inner transformation, love and loss, letting go and learning to fly, in more ways than one.

Steph writes like a friend, telling her story of a soulful journey in a relatable way. Steph was the first woman to free-climb the Salathé Wall on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, as well as Torre Egger in Patagonia. Her free-solo of the thousand-foot granite wall known as The Diamond, in Colorado, was filmed by Peter Mortimer of Sender Films. But after losing her footing in the events chronicled in her book, she found herself also lacking the ability to trust. Though intensely and famously skilled as a mountain climber, climbing became an emotionless, lonely experience. So she turned to free-falling, base jumping, and wingsuit flights in which she soared through the sky like a bird of prey. Learning to Fly tells the story of finding herself in a new community with her beloved companion pup Fletch, who saw her through it all.

5 Questions with Steph Davis

5. Companion animals often help us through emotional and physical upheavals. Can you talk about what it meant to you to have Fletch back in your life during this most challenging period?

Fletch basically meant everything to me, as I’m sure most people can relate to. She was my first dog, and we spent all of our time together. We were both completely connected to each other’s thoughts and feelings all the time. When you’re going through a hard time in life, knowing you need to take care of someone else can help keep you going, and Fletch also helped me that way too. I have another dog now, Cajun, and she is a wild little ball of joy–and a cat too, who is in the book. But Fletch was really special.

4. You have an incredible career as a climber, a base-jumper, a skydiver. What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?

Right now I’m most proud of Moab Base Adventures, the business that my husband Mario and I started in Moab. It’s the only place in the world where you can do a tandem base jump off a cliff, and we’re doing something that did not exist until now and sharing our passions with people who could never otherwise experience them.

3. How did the control of climbing and the release of jumping correlate with what you were going through?

I think it’s even harder for a climber to start jumping than for someone who doesn’t climb–falling is really anathema for a climber. So it’s empowering as a climber to be able to take that step.

2. What lead you to start your blog, which is so inspiring to so many people?

I started High Infatuation in 2007, just wanting to connect with the climbing and outdoor community. I love being able to communicate with people without any other filter, so that’s what has kept me doing it.

1. Considering your great love of animals, do you make any dietary choices to reflect that?

I’ve been vegan since 2002. Initially I just wanted to climb better, and I ended up going vegan to see what it would do (it made me climb better). Since that time, I’ve become really passionate about reducing harm to animals, and the animal farming industry is among the worst of the worst. So for me, it’s not so much about wanting to prevent creatures from dying, because we are all going to die–it’s about not keeping animals in miserable conditions to serve someone’s bank account or dietary whims.

Learning to Fly, just out in April 2013,is now available from Amazon. Steph’s brilliant website, www.HighInfatuation.com, is a great resource for veganism and recipes as well as “simple living.” You can also learn more about climbing, jumping, and skydiving, with mind-blowing photography of Steph’s adventures around the world. Steph now lives in Moab, Utah with a rescued dog named Cajun and a black cat who named himself Mao, along with her husband Mario.

You could win a copy of this book by leaving a comment below! Contest ends June 7! For more information visit the Animal Book Club at aldf.org/bookclub.

How have dogs helped you through rough times in your life? Leave a comment below!


One thought on “Animal Book Club: “Learning to Fly” by Steph Davis

  1. Tom Krepitch says:

    When you read the reviews of Learning to Fly on the web, many of them focus on the climbing and skydiving accomplishments of the author – and rightly so. Steph Davis’s boldness and courage are quite impressive, particularly when compared to those of this reviewer (who takes the stairs at work because he gets a little queasy even in short elevator rides…though he shamefully lets people think he does it for health reasons).

    But it’s not the climbing and diving stories that put this book on the Animal Book Club list. It’s the author’s relationship with an incredible dog named Fletch. Though Fletch isn’t discussed on most of the pages in the book, the reader always knows she’s there and recognizes her importance, even when left unsaid by the author.

    Perhaps the most memorable parts of the book will depend on the reader’s background. If you are a climber or a jumper, there are some incredible stories, but for me, those stories have begun to fade somewhat. I can’t stop thinking about Fletch, though, and I don’t think that anyone who understands the bond between humans and our animal companions will, either.

    It’s difficult to write this review without giving away too much, so I will stop here (with a strong recommendation that everyone read this book), but I can tell you that is one of those books that is hard to put down once you get started. And if it is the middle of the night when you put it down after finishing the last chapter, expect to get out of bed and go give your own companion animals an extra hug.

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