Her list of physical feats seems almost impossible. Win national sport-climbing competitions starting at the age of 13? Check. Summit Mount Everest? Check. Free-climb El Capitan in under 24 hours? That, too. But in order to cement her status as one of the world’s best climbers, there were more daunting obstacles to overcome.
Two years ago, the climbing photographer known as Nathan Smith saw no way out, after struggling for years with gender-identity issues in the male-dominated outdoor industry. Then—slowly, bravely—Nikki introduced herself to the world.