Editor’s note: Matador Ambassador Katie Lambert, along with her climbing partner and husband Ben Ditto, have spent the last several decades traveling for new climbing objectives. Last year they were part of a team that climbed Mt. Proboscis in a single day, only the second group to achieve this since 1963. The pair also explored some of the world’s best limestone in Catalonia, Spain.

After she sustained an injury and took some time off this past winter, I asked Katie to put together some thoughts on her life as professional climber.

1

Getting to know the locals

I have a hazy memory of standing in front of the TV flipping the channels and stopping on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. This was In the back living room of the mid-century house I grew up in, during the heat of the southern Louisiana summer. Two men were on the very tip of some skinny spire, the ground dropped below them hundreds of feet away. I stood there in awe at what I later came to learn was Ron Kauk and Jerry Moffat making a rare free-climbing ascent of Lost Arrow Tip in Yosemite. I recall wondering what they were doing and imagining if I could do that, too.
Photo by Ben Ditto

2

On my home turf: Peace, 5.13d, Tuolumne Meadows

I think that’s where it all started. A tiny seed of an idea was planted and no matter how far fetched it seemed and how far away I lived from the rocks, I was destined to follow that seed. In my mid-30s, when I arrived at the threshold of being a professional climber, my first instinct was to run into that world without looking back. However, after spending years around some of the first professional climbers in the industry, I had gained some insight into the game and one question kept coming to mind: “Could I maintain my integrity, my soul, my story, but also be a good rep for the business?” I said yes to some opportunities that seemed in line with my ideals and no to the ones that felt like they would pull me in the wrong direction.
Photo by Jim Thornberg

3

The world within worlds

Something I have learned from climbing is that by spending time in nature one becomes more aware of other life—the worlds within worlds. We are all connected by at least one common thing—striving to survive but enjoying the time in between. It’s interesting that as humans we have the capacity to create how we will survive. The mind is a powerful thing. The imagination creates and the body enacts and between the two is the self and the spirit. Being a pro climber means that I get to practice my craft, perfect my movement, refine my technique. It allows me the opportunity to fine-tune my body and my movement as well as my mind.
Photo by Ben Ditto

4

#Vanlife

I’ve been fortunate in my climbing to experience faraway places, world-class destinations, dream climbs, amazing partners, and a lot of inspiration from both people and place. We travel much of the year and so it feels like life is in flux. Constantly on the move—to the next adventure, the next objective. So, there is no real solid definition of a home to settle into—save our camper van. Our sense of belonging to a place is fleeting despite spending large amounts of time in the Sierra Nevada. Every place we travel becomes our home. We have become 21st-century nomads on a landscape perpetuated not by the need to survive but by the desire to rock climb.
Photo by Ben Ditto

5

So tired

There have been so many places, so many moments—it’s only in looking at photographs that I can bring back the memories. Otherwise it’s as if it were another life. The idea of returning to place comes back time and time again. Through all of my years of flux I realize that the connections to place are deeper than a home to rest one’s head. The connection to place runs deep in our psyche—the relationships we have with the rocks, the landscapes, the people we meet along the way, and the experiences that build in us—these return us to “place” and help guide and center our lives. These are intimate and give us a connection to something concrete and tangible despite being ephemeral.
Photo by Ben Ditto