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Astounding Ascent

Nikki Smith BS’02 doesn’t have a favorite climb. What excites her most is a new challenge. “Walking up to a wall and envisioning how you might reach the top is exhilarating,” says Smith. She’s a professional climber, photographer, and writer with more than 150 first ascents—including this route dubbed “Corporate Hippy,” above Scout Lake in the Uintas. She took this photo of Cerre Francis BS’06 following her path up the rock face in 2007. Smith has now written five guidebooks and is sponsored by REI, Mountain Hardware and others.

Climbing treacherous rock faces isn’t the only obstacle Smith has faced. As a woman who happens to be transgender, she’s met discrimination in everything from getting work to finding safe bathrooms while on climbing trips. An advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, she encourages everyone to speak out in support of transgender people. "You don’t have to understand why people are trans," Smith says. "What’s important for you to know is that people you care about are trans. It’s up to you to be vocal in your support."


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