When I first met Drew Smith, he was covered in so much dirt and grime that I thought he might have recently lost a fight with a mud puddle. The only thing on him that was clean was his camera. “So this is the guy everybody’s talking about down here,” I thought to myself. In just a few short weeks in Chile’s CochamÃ³ Valley, Smith had amassed quite the following. I soon learned why.
One of the most likable guys you’ll ever meet, “Dreamy Drew,” as some have called him, is truly a modern renaissance man. He’s pounded nails, raced dirt bikes, rode and fixed snowmobiles, guided climbs of Mt. Shasta, worked for Yosemite Search and Rescue, lived out of vans, traveled the world, established new routes at home and abroad, and he really knows how to take a picture. In fact, he may be one of the best photographers you’ve never heard of.
Even if you don’t know the name, you’ve probably seen some of his shots. He has participated in social media takeovers for Alpinist and Rock and Ice magazines and the American Alpine Club. A number of his photos have been shared through Black Diamond’s Instagram account, including a shot that has become their most liked Instagram post ever. He’s had tons of work in print, including the inside cover shot of Alpinist 52 and a full spread in Sidetracked Magazine. And he’s worked on hire for the likes of Black Diamond and Patagonia.
Talking on the phone, Smith said, “You know, I don’t have as much stuff out there as some other guys, but the ball’s definitely rolling.” I’ve been following his career closely since we became dirt brothers down in southern Chile back in 2012, so it’s old news to me. I’ve been watching him put out consistently high caliber material for years now. Whether it’s on his blog, or his Instagram, or in print for his growing list of clients – keep an eye out for Drew Smith. You’ll be glad you did.
Chance Traube, soaks in the morning light on the FA of Positive Affect 12b, Cochamo Valley, Chile. In 2013 Chance Traube and I spent two months in the Cochamo Valley establishing this 19 pitch, 1000m route. It was put up in memory of Chance’s late wife, Jennifer Dinaburg, who he had lost to cancer months prior to the trip. We would awake in the mornings and usually sit in silence looking over the massive valley. We spent long days cleaning vegetation out of cracks to make the climb free climbable.
Savannah Cummins reaches for a hold slightly out of reach on Blue Fin 5.12, El Potrero Chico, Mexico. El Potrero Chico is a little paradise with short approaches, big margaritas, and varied limestone sport climbing.
Its not always fun and games. Back in my early 20s I commercial fished for three seasons to fund my adventures. Twenty-hour work days in crappy weather was the norm. I think back and it makes me cringe, living on the cramped boat damp and cold, with a crew who I struggled to get along with.
Jack Cramer leading the groove pitch on the Shield, El Capitan, Yosemite Valley, California. As we looked up this blank face it was hard to believe it would be possible to continue up. The positioning and exposure of this blank face thousands of feet off the ground is indescribable.
Justin Willis goes for a bold onsight of this unclimbed line we found 10 miles in the backcountry outside of Cooke City, Montana. Just after this photo was taken a hold broke and Justin took over a 30ft ground fall onto his head. He walked away without a scratch, fortunately having the soft snow cushion his fall.
I worked for this farmer, Jim Hagemeister, from age 13 until I graduated high school. I’m fortunate to have a good family and people like Jim who helped formed me throughout my youth. Jim’s a character who would always make me laugh. When I visit home in Miles City, Montana, I visit Jim and hang out with him like a good friend.
Noah Brickner-Wood making the crux move on Scary Poodles 5.11c, a tricky, little bit scary, Joshua Tree Climb in California.
This is the Yosemite Valley Search and Rescue team rescuing an injured person off of El Capitan. I’ll be returning for my second season to work on YOSAR, who ranks among one of the best teams in the world. It is humbling and inspiring to be part of this crew living in the Valley for six months out of the year.
Whit Magro pulls onto the ice dagger of the first free ascent of Alpha Blonde M9 in Hyalite Canyon, Montana. As he got onto the dagger he calmly yelled down heads up this might rip off. This is a butt shot, but one of the most impressive leads I’ve ever witnessed.
Neil Grimaldi and I getting chased out of Titcomb Basin, Wind River Range, Wyoming, after having a few successful days of climbing.
Caro North taking a rest on Big Guy 5.11, Indian Creek, Utah. Caro came to visit Indian Creek from Switzerland and quickly picked up the crack technique needed for the area.
Hitchhiking in Cuba, my friends and I were picked up by this local farmer who insisted we join his family for fried fish and rum. These are the experiences I love. The family was so generous and happy despite having nothing compared to developed world standards.
Photos by Drew Smith.
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