Most humans run from it.
Very few go searching for it.
One woman embraces it.
Amanda Smith hit my radar when she moved to the New River Gorge. Traveling there to work as a climbing instructor, she fell in love with the outdoor culture and the community that surrounds it. What’s not to love? Chris Kalous once deemed the New River Gorge as “the world’s best crag”, and for good reason. It has a lot to offer. Bullet hard sandstone, world class sport and trad routes, established bouldering, deep water soloing (for those brave enough to buck the system). There are also endless hikes, paddle boarding, kayaking, and rafting (we all need something to do on rest days, right?).
I started following her exploits on social media, more curious to see if her lifestyle lived up to her nickname. It didn’t take long for me to be believe that she is a presence to be respected.
In the past year that I’ve gotten to know Amanda, she has also shown impressive resilience. She has the drive to tackle obstacles that would have dropped most people where they stand. While in the process of rebooting her life in Chattanooga, her van was stolen. Knowing that the Red River Gorge was a place that she could survive out of a tent and find work, she joined a friend who was making the trip. Two months after her relocation, she got news that her van had been discovered in a salvage yard. When she made the trip with a few friends to recover what was left (not much at all; it was trashed and there were crack pipes left inside), she didn’t appear to wallow in misery. Despite the substantial setback, she kept doing what she loved doing: climbing. They hit up Little River Canyon and got some amazing routes in.
After tying up the loose ends, she returned to the Red and the community seemed to understand that one of our own was in distress. No climbing gear, no house (not sure which is worse), her situation was a bit unknown. The community seemed to rally. Soon enough she had a replacement harness, a local cabin to care for in exchange for boarding, and more importantly, friends that wouldn’t let her down.
I’ve been told that New River climbers tend to be on the move when the seasons change, Amanda is certainly no exception. With experiences from the local crags here in the mid-west, to desert towers in Utah (and countless locations in between), her adventure resume speaks for itself.
She and I finally got a chance to share a rope right before spring season hit. My 9-5 causes a lot of trouble with climbing during the week, and Amanda is living the dream. We got an open weather window right before she was scheduled to leave for a contract job in Alaska. Amanda carries a Master’s Degree in Geology from the University of Missouri. Her experience as a field geologist is extensive by itself, and it seems to be a profession that agrees with a life of adventure.
We spent the day at Military Wall in the Red, joined by friends both old and new. It came as little surprise that she started the day by warming up on 12b.
Do yourself a favor and check out her blog!
Side: This essay was difficult to put together, and I’m not entirely sure that I am doing the subject any real favors by publishing it. I felt confident that there was a not only a story here, but a damn good one. Little did I know that I was only scratching the surface.