Nikki Smith

Grivel Beal Cypher

Hometown: Salt Lake City, UT

Activities: Rock Climbing, Ice Climbing, Photography


Grivel, Beal, Cypher Climbing, Mountain Hardwear, REI, Bronwen Jewelry, Organic Climbing, Scarpa


Time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think. You were born worthy of love and belonging. Courage and daring are coursing through your veins. You were made to live and love with your whole heart. - Brené Brown

Nikki has been climbing since 1992 and privileged enough to travel the world to climb. She is also an artist working in the outdoor industry. From award-winning photography to soul-bearing writing to graphic design, illustration, product design and more. Nikki's work has been used by companies large and small to help bring their thoughts and ideas to life.

Nikki also spends a lot of her time advocating for the LGBTQIA+ community in the outdoors and beyond.

Mountain Resume:

Author of 5 guidebooks. Beehive Ice, A Granite Guide , and Uinta Rock. One of the founders and designers of Cypher Climbing. Over 150 roped first ascents of sport, trad, mixed and ice climbs from 30’ to 1600’ in the following areas: Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, and Mongolia.

Notable first ascents include:

  • The One Who Knocks WI6 M5 R/X. 550’. Ice/Mixed. Reid’s Peak, Uintas, UT
  • The Bone Collector WI5 M5. 595’. Ice/Mixed. Hellgate, Little Cottonwood Canyon, UT
  • Siren Song WI4- M4 R/X. 1600’. Ice/Mixed. Ostler Peak, Uintas, UT
  • The Kennedy Route WI3+ M4. 900’. Ice/Mixed. Hayden Peak, Uintas, UT
  • Ice Giants WI4 M4 5.8 R. 400’. Ice/Mixed. Hellgate, Little Cottonwood Canyon, UT
  • Corduroy Cascade WI3- M3. 300’. Ice/Mixed. Mt. Agassiz, Uintas, UT
  • Natasha Fatale 5.12d. 40’. Sport. The Dead Moose Wall, East Canyon, UT
  • Barracuda 5.12c. 90’. Sport. The Hideaway, American Fork Canyon, UT
  • Boris Badenov 5.12a. 50’. Sport. The Dead Moose Wall, East Canyon, UT
  • Chinggis Gold 5.12a. 50’. Sport. Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, Mongolia
  • Tipping the Vessel of Knowledge 5.11d. 40’. Sport. Notch Lake, Uintas, UT
  • Belladonna 5.11c. 90’. Sport. The Orange Wall, American Fork Canyon, UT
  • Honeymoon in Almo 5.11a. 100’. Sport. Castle Rocks, ID
  • Digging Up the Past 5.10b. 700’. Trad. The Contact Buttress, Little Cottonwood Canyon, UT
  • Mongolian Hi-Steppe 5.9-. 200’. Sport. Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, Mongolia
  • Hellgate Highway 5.8+. 400’. Sport. Hellgate, Little Cottonwood Canyon, UT
  • Walking WIth Giants 5.8+. 400’. Sport. Hellgate, Little Cottonwood Canyon, UT
  • It Takes Two 5.8. 200’. Sport. Castle Rocks, ID
  • The Mulkey Way WI4. 160’. Ice. Cody, WY
  • Trivium WI4. 95’. Ice. Henry’s Fork Basin, Uintas, UT
  • Coma Toast M9-. 50’. Mixed. Provo, UT
  • Winter Equinox M5. 80’. Mixed. Big Cottonwood Canyon, UT
  • Over 100 bouldering first ascents

Blog Posts

Hayden Peak - Kennedy Route First Ascent

Less than a week after Hayden Kennedy's death, I headed to the Uintas to scout for ice. It had been a good fall and I'd already climbed ice a few days in September but haden't climbed any October ice yet. I've been watching Hayden peak for years as there are many potential lines on it but they come and go, sometimes within a few days time. This time I was lucky enough to catch a series of smears that linked together would offer up to 900' of ice.

Uintas - Siren Song, Ostler Peak

The sounds echo’d off the cliffs. Intermittent yet consistent. I kept hearing it over and over but could not place it. Natural yet foreign. It sounded like whales talking. Matt finally reached me, and I asked if he heard the sounds as well. “I don’t hear it…wait, I do now. What is that?” We tried to place it until it dawned on me. “It’s the lake.” Amethyst Lake more than 1000’ below was just coming into the sun. Partially frozen over, the ice was reacting to the heat and started to sing. The lake kept up its symphony for over an hour while we climbed before stopping.

Little Cottonwood Canyon - Hellgate Cliffs

Lots of snow followed by warm sunny temps, then a quick drop in temperatures put more ice on the Hellgate Cliffs than I have seen so far. In the fall of 2016 I established a new four pitch route, Walking With Giants 5.8 on the Main Wall at Hellgate. The route is mostly bolted with a mixed second pitch. The route was named after Kyle Dempster and Scott Adamson who were lost in the Pakistani Karakorum while attempting the Ogre II. In December there was ice on half the route, so I called up Jewell Lund and suckered Tom Adams into coming along for his birthday. "It will be a casual day on the ice. You'll have lots of fun. I don't think it will take too long and the conditions will be warm and sunny. Perfect for your birthday." Turns out I lied...

Podcasts & Articles

She Explores Podcast

Episode 116: To Be Seen

Featuring Photographer, Climber, & Writer Nikki Smith

Photo: Louis Arevalo

Being Nikki Smith

Article by Outside Magazine

Photo: Laura Hughes

What Pride Means to Nikki Smith

Article by Mountain Hardwear

Nikki Smith photographing a climber below her.

Photo: Jake Hirschi

Nikki Smith and a Life Dedicated to Adventure Photography

Article by Fstoppers

Nikki mixed climbing a steep roof.

Photo: Jake Hirschi

In Conversation with Nikki Smith

Article by Climbing QTs

Unlikely Hikers Podcast

Episode 03: Nikki Smith

The Curious Climber Podcast

Nikki Smith - 'Dancing Saved My Life'

Women Who Travel Podcast

What Rock Climbing Taught Me About Facing My Fears

She Explores Podcast

Episode 144: Our Outdoor Memories

Featuring Nikki Smith, Becky Marcelliano, Fran Turauskis, Genevieve, Madi Salvati, Mary Straub, Gretchen Powers, Amber Brusak, Iz La Motte, Andrea Di Maio, Jasmine Jones, Erin Espinosa, Lindsay, Paola Lopez, Annelise Del Rio, Julie Hotz, Sharlene, and Somang Lee

Favorite Gear Picks

Beal Opera 8.5mm

"I love backcountry alpine routes and the Opera helps keep my weight way down without sacrificing on safety. It's my go-to rope when the snow starts to fly and I start hiking for new route potential!"

Grivel G20+

"One of the lightest technical crampons out there, the G20+ is also among the best when it comes to climbing."

Grivel Sigma Twin Gate Carabiner

"My partners hate me at first for using these, but after a little familiarization, they quickly realize how beneficial these carabiners can be. Quick to open and close, there is no worrying whether the screw gate came open or if I forgot to do it in the first place. Transitions are quick and easy, and I never have to worry about the screw gate freezing shut or filling with sand or mud, making it unusable."

Cypher Mydas Quickdraw

"A lightweight carabiner and draw set that is still decent sized to allow for easy clipping with gloves on. Pair the Mydas with the Beal 6mm Dyneema Slings for an ultra-light and low bulk alpine draw option."

Katadyn BeFree Microfilter 0.6 L

"This simple filter allows me to leave a heavy water bladder behind on most of my long approaches as I can get water from streams or lakes along the way to my objective. It's small enough to be tucked away in a trail running pack for super long distances too."