Member of the Month – Couples Edition: Nick Stefanile and Alison Monk

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We have a ton of cool folks clambering around our walls at every one of our gyms, each with their unique stories and perspectives on life. Our Member of the Month feature is a chance to get to know some of those folks, and serves as a reminder of how vibrant our community really is. This month, Jason Bove gives us our first Couples Edition with an interview of one of our favorite dynamic duos, Nick and Alison from Sacramento Pipeworks.

You were both raised near West Coast “destination cities” that have active, outdoor-loving communities. Where did you grow up, and what do you feel would make your hometown a destination hotspot?

Nick Stefanile: I grew up in Issaquah WA, and I think it’s an EPIC destination hotspot. You are like 30 minutes from Seattle (if there is no traffic), tons of hiking, paragliding off Poo Poo Point; head 20 minutes east, and you can sport climb at Little Si or Exit 38; then, it’s 45 minutes to Snoqualmie Pass for hiking in the summer or skiing in the winter. There are lakes and rivers everywhere! We lived on Tiger Mountain where there are tons of mountain biking trails and some fun caves.

Alison Monk: I grew up in Santa Rosa, CA, about 45 minutes north of San Francisco. As a family we did a lot of skiing in the winter and a lot of boating and camping in the summer. It’s a great location for active families, because there are so many possibilities relatively close. It was nice to be able to have day trips to Bodega Bay or to the Redwoods. I’m very thankful to my parents for making spending time outdoors a pretty big priority when raising us.

That being said, since we grew up in a time when the mall was the place to be, how does the Grand Ridge Plaza compare to the Santa Rosa Plaza?

NS: Ha! I had to look up the Grand Ridge Plaza. Never heard of it before. When I was a kid Issaquah was pretty much just farms. We had to drive out to Bellevue to go to the Bellevue Square Mall and go shopping, if we wanted to get Orange Julius. Not really sure how the two compare. All malls are the same.

AM: I’m not sure how they compare, because I’m not familiar with the Grand Ridge Plaza, but Santa Rosa Plaza was definitely the place to be when I was a preteen. And buying pounds of candy from the Sweet Factory was always a necessity.

California and Washington are hosts to both mountain range and ocean recreational zones. Would you say that most of your outdoor adventures together include these places?

NS: Absolutely! Although, I would say that 90% of the time we go to the mountains. The ocean is amazing too. I did a fair amount of sailing and kayaking growing up, but the mountains will always be my favorite. We also LOVE the desert—Bishop, Joshua Tree, basically everything in the Eastern Sierras. It seems like someday that is where we will end up.

AM: Definitely, most of our adventures consist of going to the mountains for climbing. But we have also done some bouldering at Goat Rock on the Sonoma Coast, which is great, being right next to the ocean. But, I think the Eastern Sierras are one of my favorite places to be. There’s something very special about that part of the state.

Do you have any rock climbing heroes, and, if so, which of their qualities do you look up to?

NS: I think Michael Cane (Pipeworks member) is the most badass climber I know. I mean, I don’t even know him that well, but he seems very modest about his achievements. In December, in Red Rocks, he and his buddy did Crimson Chrysalis, Cloud Tower, Rainbow Wall, and Levitation 29 in 17 hours, car to car. Look up the routes, because that is INSANE!

Anyway, I just like that he crushes and has such a chill attitude. Calder Davey and Toru Saito are also my heroes.

AM: Steph Davis is one of my heroes. Her strength, emotionally and physically, is remarkable.  She has the type of self-confidence and fearlessness that you can’t help but look up to. She is someone I would love to meet one day. I just hope that I would be able to keep it just as cool and calm as she is.  

With both of you working at the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op, you must have a hankering for good food! If you were to cook each other a meal that you believe would be your partner’s favorite, what would you prepare?

NS: I am a vegetarian and Alison eats meat. I know she loves my hot and sour soup, and my eggplant parmesan, but if I were to cook her a meal that I think would be her favorite it would probably be some kind of steak.

AM: Oh man, honestly I’m not much of a cook; it sorta stresses me out. But, if I were to try to make something for Nick it would probably be pizza. Mostly, because he loves it, but I also feel like it would be really hard to screw up.

Bouldering or roped climbing? Why?

NS: Both, but mostly bouldering. Bouldering is my thing, but nothing really scares me like trad climbing. It sucks at the moment when you are super scared, but afterward you are like, “Holy shit, I totally did that!”, and I don’t really get that feeling from bouldering. We went sport climbing yesterday and I had a great time. Still got kind of scared, though. Also, if all you do is boulder, then you just get so pumped when you try to climb routes. You have no endurance. I think ideally every climber should do a mix of ropes and bouldering, but bouldering is the best!

AM: I think I might have to say bouldering, just because it’s a little more fun and easygoing for me. I also feel like I can push myself a little harder than I would rope climbing. But, on the flip side, the heights and exposure that are always a part of rope climbing intrigue me. And I always feel a little more proud of myself after a day for rope climbing, just for being able to handle something that I never really thought I could.

What would your ultimate rock climbing adventure consist of?

NS: I think our ultimate rock climbing adventure would consist of driving around in a sweet van, going climbing somewhere in the Eastern Sierras, and soaking in hot springs at the end of the day…which we pretty much do all of the time. We are just missing the sweet van, but we are working on it!

AM: My ultimate rock climbing adventure would most likely consist of going to some exotic destination for some deep water soloing. I think that would be a total blast.

One of the most striking things about you as a couple is the noticeable height difference. Do you feel that your different heights make it easier or harder to give beta to each other?

NS: Definitely harder. I always try to give Alison beta, but I feel like most of the time it doesn’t work for her because I’m like,”Just reach up here!”, and she just ends up figuring out her own beta. Plus, she can match hands on ridiculous crimps that I would never even think of. On the flip side, I feel like she is usually really good about reading the route and giving me beta. Thanks babe!

AM: I don’t usually give Nick too much beta other than sometimes reminding him to breathe.  But, when it comes to him giving me beta, I do find it to be super helpful. He’s a great climber and is usually pretty good at trying to find what would be most helpful for me. He’s also good about adding a little disclaimer at the end of his suggestions like “…but that totally might not work for you.”

Based on your experiences thus far, how would you explain the “meaning of life” to a 5 year old child?

NS: I am a big Joseph Campbell fan, so I would just tell them these quotes: “People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re all seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” Also, “If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Wherever you are, if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.” Maybe that is too deep for a 5 year old but, whatever, they will get it someday.

AM: I think it could be as simple as living a life that makes you happy. Love deeply, try things that might scare you, and hold on to those moments that move you. I’m really starting to understand that everything in your world is created by how you think, so keep it positive.

I believe that you share a mutual interest in tattoos. Can you tell us more about this?

NS: We both love tattoos. I am not really sure how to explain it more. It is just an exhilarating feeling, and a fun way to express yourself. I got my first tattoo when I was 18 in England and have been hooked ever since. When I am an old man I hope to be covered in tattoos, guess I am already kind of there.

AM: Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved tattoos and knew I wanted them. And, being an artist, it’s just another creative outlet that I love. I even thought at one time that I may want to do it for a living, but honestly I think it would be too much pressure for me. Some of mine are reminders of what I’ve gone through, and some are just there purely because I liked the way they looked. I think they’re a fun way to express yourself, not to take yourself too seriously, and just another way to share your story.