Ben Ditto and Jon Gleason cozy up for a cold night 19 pitches up Fitzroy, a patagonian mountain located in Argentina. Photo courtesy of Ben Ditto.
We all have a different connection to nature. For those who have a love of outdoor adventure and spend much of their time in nature, that connection is imperative to who they are. This is the case for Ben Ditto. Ditto is an avid climber and has climbed all over the world, including in the Indian Himalayas and the Peruvian and Patagonian Andes. He is also a photographer and filmmaker and has done work to spotlight the peregrine falcon. During his summers, Ditto serves as a “climber in residence” in Yosemite Valley. In the following interview, learn more about Ditto’s connection to the forests and environment in which he thrives.
Q: Do you think it was nature or nurture that created in you the seeds of the passion you have for outdoor adventure?
A: A mix of Nature and Nurture combined to allow me to find inspiration in the outdoors as a youngster. My outdoorsy father has a weak spot for unknown places on any map. As a kid growing up around Chattanooga, Tenn., there are a great number of forests, mountains and Canyons to explore. In those days it was very common for me and my brothers to join my father at cold winter campsites and on isolated trails. It was through him that I learned to love the unknown and be okay with being lost in the woods, the canyon or the white-out. Thanks to my Dad and the landscape around Chattanooga, I had exposure to climbing, trails, rivers and, believe it or not, a little bit of snow every now and then. So, it was quite a fun childhood.
Ben Ditto climbing, Fish Eye, in Spain at the well known cliff, Oliana. Credit: Doug Mcdonnell.
Q: Of all the creatures to go to bat for, so to speak, what is it about the peregrine falcon?
A: Due to our behavior as humans, we are culpable for the extinction of a great many species whose habitat is rapidly changing. As a climber, one of the species that I have encountered worldwide is the great cliff dwelling raptor, the peregrine falcon. Between the 1950s and 1980s, the peregrine almost became extinct due to the pesticide DDT. Due to recovery efforts from scientists around the world, and the ban of DDT, top tier predators, such as the peregrine falcon, have made a remarkable recovery. I find the peregrine falcon to be an inspiring success story, and I love to see them soar and hunt among the steep walls of Yosemite. My work filming the peregrine falcon is motivated by a desire to promote respect among climbers for something beyond themselves.
Peregrine falcon as seen from el capitan. Photo courtesy of Ben Ditto.
Q: As a photographer, filmmaker and blogger/adventurer, what impact do you hope your work will have on others?
A: I think that we all have a personal perspective that can inform our friends and families about issues that are important in our lives. My goal as a content creator is to provide information about environmental issues and low impact ways of living so that people who may be paying attention can take this information into account while making decisions about their own lives. I think people make better decisions when they have more information about subjects. I hope to inspire people to live outside of the box when it comes to work, living simply and respecting nature and all the organisms on the earth, including themselves.
Ben Ditto navigates another tyro lean traverse above a river in Argentina. Credit: Andrew Mclean.
Q: What is the connection for you, if any, between your adventure life and your view of the natural world?
A: Being out in the landscape keeps me focused on the important things in life. Whether I’m climbing, skiing or just out for a walk, being in nature keeps me humble by reminding me to pay attention to what I’m doing and that I’m just a tiny part of what is happening on the planet. The tiredness I feel after a long day in the mountains also helps me to appreciate the simple things in life.
Ben Ditto (orange shirt) runs back and forth to complete the king swing on El Capitan’s famous nose route. Credit: Tom Evans.