XX Factor


Dec 1, 2003
Outside Magazine
Araceli Segarra

Araceli Segarra

Steph Davis

Steph Davis

Barcelona, Spain

WHY SHE RULES: There are a few important things to know about Spanish climber Araceli Segarra: She doesn't believe in ropes, oxygen, or porters. As was the case on Nepal's 28,169-foot Kanchenjunga in 2000, if she doesn't think she can ascend safely on her own, she'll turn back—even when she is just shy of the top. She hasn't sought out sponsorship, preferring instead to fund her climbs—among them, her 1996 ascent of Everest; a 1997 expedition to the Ganesh Himal, in India; 1999 ascents of the Kagatondo and Warnerdu routes, in Mali; and a 2000 north-south traverse of the Lebanon Mountains—with money she made from stints as an exercise physiologist and magazine model for Elle, Vogue, and Marie Claire. And as two unsuccessful attempts on K2 in the past three years have shown, she's a stridently independent climber who isn't afraid of the f-word. "Failure? What is that?" she says. "I learn something every time I'm on a mountain, no matter how high I go." SAYS WHO: "The best thing about Araceli is her mettle," says Jeff Rhoads, a filmmaker and mountaineer who climbed with Segarra on K2 in 2002. DON'T GO THERE: Rumors are flying about Segarra's engagement to 35-year-old Mexican mountaineer Hector Ponce de Leon, her frequent expedition partner. Ask her about it and you'll feel some of the same stubbornness that gets her up an 8,000-meter peak. Her answer: It's nobody's beeswax. FORWARD SPIN: Next spring, she'll scout a few of Nepal's 150-plus newly opened peaks, as well as big walls in Iran. —SHANTI SOSIENSKI

Vail, Colorado

WHY SHE RULES: Sue Nott is a climber's climber: one of only a handful of individuals with the skill and boldness to play the toughest alpine game there is. Her résumé is filled with obscure-sounding routes—the Glass Onion, in Valdez, Alaska; the Sorcerer, in the Canadian Rockies; Scotch on the Rocks, in the French Alps—and that's the way she likes it. Ever since she started ice-climbing at age 20 in her hometown of Vail, Nott has gravitated toward technical ice-and-rock climbs rather than long snowplods up 8,000-meter peaks like Everest and Kanchenjunga. In 1999, she came close to paying the ultimate price when a tower of ice in Vail called the Seventh Tentacle collapsed, crushing her abdomen and severing an intestine. "I flatlined, but they brought me back," says Nott. According to 30-year-old John Varco, her frequent rope mate, Nott was alpine climbing in Peru after two months, despite the fact that "the staples were practically popping out of her stomach." Four years later, in 2003, she became the first American woman to climb the Eiger's north face and the Croz Spur on the Alps' Grand Jorasses in winter; and just last June, she and Varco established a new route on the north buttress of Kalanka, in the Indian Garwhal. SAYS WHO: Varco describes Nott as incredibly committed: "When it gets grim, there are always a thousand reasons to go down, and it's hard to find just one to go up. Sue always finds that one." WHAT MATTERS MOST: "People always bring up the gender issue, but it's not a big deal to me," says Nott. "Women are doing cool, notable ascents all over the world. To climb hard routes, it is essential to have a strong connection to your partner, and I've had this with both men and women." FORWARD SPIN: As she has for the past three winters, Nott will head to Chamonix to continue her assault on the Alps' classic north faces; then it's off to the Peruvian Andes and some very thin air in India. Sound cryptic? "I have to keep the objectives top secret," says Nott. "You don't want anyone cutting in front." —MARK JENKINS

Moab, Utah

WHY SHE RULES: Illinois-born Steph Davis got her first taste of rock climbing in 1990, when a college classmate at the University of Maryland persuaded her to cut calculus and head for a local crag. Since then, the bold but bookish 31-year-old—she holds a master's in British and American literature from Colorado State—has become one of the best all-around climbers in the world. Davis frequently leads tough 5.13 trad routes (no bolts—only natural protection) and free-solos (no ropes) finger-wide cracks hundreds of feet off the ground. She is also an accomplished alpinist with first ascents on high-altitude peaks and big walls in Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Baffin Island, and, most recently, Patagonia, where in 2002 she became the first woman to summit all seven major peaks in the Fitzroy Range. Her marriage last year to a fellow climbing star, speed soloist Dean Potter, brought a new set of challenges—and stoked her competitive fire. After spending last winter and spring helping Potter pull off one of his longtime dreams—free-climbing Half Dome and El Capitan in a single 24-hour period—Davis balked when he asked her to provide similar assistance on a notoriously hard crack on Tombstone, a sandstone slab near Moab. Instead she insisted on a share of the lead-climbing responsibilities. "As a woman, it's easy to always be supportive—you really want to give and help your husband feel manly," she explains. "But after Yosemite, I made a point of changing the rules." SAYS WHO: "Steph is one of the most dedicated and hardworking climbers I know," says Lynn Hill, the first person to free-climb the Nose on El Cap. "She wants to push her career as far as it can go, so she picks big projects and gets them done." DOMESTIC BLISS: With a cozy house in Moab and a new cabin near Yosemite, the formerly nomadic First Couple of Climbing appear to be settling down. But don't expect any revelations about parenthood—yet. "We really like our dog Fletcher a lot," says Davis, laughing. "Pretty much more than anyone has ever liked a dog." FORWARD SPIN: "Dean and I are focusing on Yosemite projects that we can work on together at first," Davis says. "I'm too superstitious to say exactly what they are, but basically I want to free some of the bigger stuff on my own." —ROB BUCHANAN