If there’s one thing to know about Savannah Cummins, it’s that she refuses to be constrained by boundaries, stereotypes, or expectations. She is simultaneously a world class climber, photographer, story-teller, and friend. She’s exactly the type of person we created The James Brand to serve and represent, and we’re thrilled to have worked with her in developing the Redstone— our new ultra-light backing knife— and to introduce her as the newest member of the team.
We all know that even the best laid plans are bound to shift, sometimes in ways we can never expect. It’s more how you adapt to change that defines you as a person than how you plan or prepare for it. To us, that’s what makes Savannah and her story unique and captivating— her ability to adapt, overcome, and pioneer throughout life’s changes.
“Life rarely goes as planned and remaining flexible, adaptable to life’s curveballs, allows me to flow through life with a positive attitude unattached to outcomes I can’t control.”
A New Perspective.
How it started.
Born and raised in the suburbs of Cincinatti, Ohio, Savannah fell in love with the mountains when she moved out west at 18 years old, and instantly developed a passion for climbing. That passion quickly became an obsession, as she was eager to prove and make a way for herself in an extremely male-dominated field. She was often forced to teach herself and figure things out on the fly. Then, in her first year of climbing, she sustained a shoulder injury that forced her to stay on the ground.
Earned, Not Given.
“I get injured a lot, I mean a lot. Sometimes my injuries are small tweaks and other times they’ve got me laid up for six to twelve weeks at a time.”
How it’s going.
While that first injury certainly wasn’t the last, it turned out to be a potential blessing in disquise, forcing Savannah to find a way to stay connected and involved with the sport she’d grown to love. It was going to be a long, hard 6 months without climbing, so she decided to pick up a camera and learn to shoot photos of her friends climbing— that way in a sense she could still go climbing. This revelation set her on an entirely new path, one that would take her to places she’d never expected.
Her passion for visual storytelling grew and grew, eventually into a full-fledged second career as a professional photographer, shooting everything from engagement photos on the Tetons’ Grand Traverse, to Mary Harlan sending Sheer Lunacy in Zion National Park, to professional mountain runner Kelly Halpin in the Arctic Circle in Greenland, to clothing lines for The North Face.
Made For Adapting.
“I love capturing these moments whether it’s nature’s beauty in the fading light of a hazy canyon, or the raw emotion on the face of a friend who just completed a goal they have been working on for years.”
All too often, the only constant is change.
What we make of that change however, is up to us.
In November, 2020, Savannah took a fall climbing at the gym. At the time, she thought it was relatively inconsequential. It turned out, however, that a bone in her wrist collapsed and died, along with major cartilage tears. A bone graft and reconstructive wrist surgery was needed.
In her classic upbeat attitude, looking back on it, Savannah sums it up with “3 surgeries, thousands of dollars, and 5 months later I'm back on my feet with some serious scars to show for!”
“My plans seem to change often and very quickly, like the weather in the mountains.”
Growing back from grief.
The next chapter in Savannah’s story of adaptation is best told by Savannah herself:
”2020 was especially difficult. My boyfriend died while climbing a 3,000 ft wall in northern, remote Mexico and simultaneously the pandemic hit the US and everyone was going into lock down. At the time, I felt like I was living in a bad dream and would snap out of it at some point. The bad dream never seemed to end but with time it became easier to understand how precious life is. Up until that point I was a “glass half empty” person, I didn’t consider myself negative, just a realist. This past year I’ve hit what has felt like a turning point in my life. I didn’t know losing a partner could be so painful, but since feeling that low everything else feels pretty damn easy in comparison so throughout this experience I think I’ve learned how to be more positive.”
“Climbing has taught me a lot about patience, work ethic, motivation, and has helped me find my community. It helps me focus on the small shit and take life one step at a time. Life can seem overwhelming, but if you break it down into individual pieces or “moves” you can work through it one “move” at a time and accomplish big things.”
“When things aren’t going my way I try to remember how lucky I am to have a roof over my head, friends and family that support me, and food to eat.”
Made For Savannah.
Inspired by adaptation.
When we reached out to Savannah for input in the early stages of designing the Redstone, she gave us a great insight; there are always three things in the top of her pack: a Bic lighter, some lip balm, and a small pocket knife. The thing about a pocket knife is that you never know when you are going to need it, but when you need it– you really need it. No other tool will do the job. Making one that is small enough to make the cut when you are packing your gear, but useful enough for hard and repeated work is a difficult undertaking. That was the mission of the Redstone.
Like Savannah herself, the Redstone is unexpected, intriguing, and remarkably adaptable. We look forward to seeing where this dynamic duo goes next.