Climber Story: Nadya Dooley

June 20, 2023 5 min read

Climber Story: Nadya Dooley - Dynamite Starfish

To start, tell us a little bit about yourself

Hello! I’m Nadya and I’m 25 years old. I work a number of different jobs, but primarily as a seasonal ornithologist (bird biology!) where I travel around to different areas to do conservation work, like species/nest monitoring and bird banding.

During the off-season, I work as a barista and desk staff at a climbing gym called The Boulder Field, in Sacramento. I am also a remote office assistant for my parent’s healthcare practice, and I teach full-force women’s self-defense. I’ll never have a lot of money doing what I do but I love it!

How did you start climbing?

I started climbing in late 2014 or early 2015 during my freshman year of college at UC Davis. My partner Vince introduced me to the rock wall on campus, and then we went to Donner summit for Valentine’s Day in 2015.

I top-roped Desire, a techy 5.9 slab route, in a pair of his old shoes that were probably 6 years old and about 3 sizes too big for me. It was a struggle! Then, I wrestled the crack next to it. I’ve been a granite climber and a trad climber ever since!

What impact has climbing had on your life?

Climbing has helped me in so many ways. It has helped me tremendously with staring down fear and handling myself under stress. On the other hand, it reminds me to be silly and have the most fun I can. It’s absolutely ridiculous to try so hard to climb a rock, and taking myself too seriously in any avenue of life would be a shame.

Climbing gets me outdoors into beautiful places that I couldn’t get to otherwise and has introduced me to thousands of awesome people. It led me to moving into a van full time 6 years ago which impacted my perspective on other things like sustainability, necessities, and houseless people in a very personal way.

Climbing gave me femme role models that are incredibly strong physically and mentally, and helped me overcome body dysmorphia and an eating disorder that was encouraged by running. It has helped me with my breathing work, focus,  patience, and helps me solve puzzles while not overthinking.

Climbing helps me feel confident and capable and equal.

What are some other things you do that you find most fulfilling?

I honestly like to do almost everything, and I have never felt like we should limit ourselves to certain hobbies or define ourselves by a couple of things because of time, age, or thinking we won’t be good at something. We are all inherently creative and capable of learning, and I love the process of improving at something new.

My favorite possession is probably my guitar, and I can get deeply absorbed into playing and singing for hours. I also love to draw, paint, wood burn, make pottery, or any other type of creative work. I love to roller skate, swim, pole dance, trail run, slack line, hacky sac, do acro yoga, and ski.

I’ve also been working on my handstands for a couple years. It’s been a really neat journey filled with lots of struggle, but I can finally hold them pretty consistent. The mental aspects of focus, body awareness, and breathing have been really valuable and gone hand in hand with my climbing!

If you could tell the world one thing, what would it be?

Cultivate empathy as much as you can!

For yourself, for other people, and for all life. This practice helps me understand other views and actions, look at the big picture, recognize how privileged I’ve been to live this life, do my part to help solve issues in ways that I can, and foster a sense of gratitude for the whole experience. 

Favorite thing about Dynamite Starfish?

The artwork, the community you foster, and all of it! 

Is there something you're working on that you'd like to tell our community about? We love a good story.

I just summited and skied Mount Shasta — my first 14er! This was a culmination of a lot of skills and training for me, including lots of practice during my second season of skiing, trail runs, stair stepper workouts, and skinning up Sugarbowl resort a lot of times.

The day-of we started at 4:30am from Bunny Flat and set a turnaround time of 2pm so we could minimize avalanche hazards. But as we approached the summit on Misery Hill, we realized we may not make it on time. I had been trying to pace myself, but at the end I had to push myself hard at 14,000 feet. It paid off because we topped out at 1:55pm!

Both my partners have summited several times before so they were incredibly supportive, and I honestly wouldn’t have made it on time without them. One of them kicked footsteps out into a staircase for me to follow at the top, and the other valiantly chased my ski down the mountain and jumped on it when I lost it after hitting a block of ice that was hidden under the snow.

The scariest part was when I was following other people’s footsteps along a ridgeline and post-holed in up to my chest, only to realize that I was actually falling through a cornice and there was a hole under me that dropped straight down the vertical side of the mountain. My friends were several hundred feet away, but fortunately I pulled myself out with my ski pole unharmed, and quickly learned to stick to the rocky sections.

All in all, the whole experience tested all my skills physically and mentally, but it was actually mostly first-hand fun and less of a sufferfest than I expected. I was high on sugar, electrolyte drinks, and endorphins the whole 9.5 hours up and 2 hours down.

You can find Nadya on Instagram at @boogabump.

Want to get to know more of the climbers in the amazing Dynamite Starfish community? Check out our archive of Climber Stories here.

We hope you have enjoyed these sneak peeks into climbers' lives. We're on a mission to share diverse stories about rock climbing. Let's push the boundaries of who we know as climbers. Let's use our energy and passion for the outdoors to love our environment and inspire one another.

Have someone you think we should feature? Send us a message and let us know!

Until next time!

Dynamite Starfish
Dynamite Starfish

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