An Interview with Nick Fuentes

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An Interview with Nick Fuentes

Leaving it all behind to pursue the dirtbag dream 

Living on the road as a full-time adventurer seems like an unattainable dream. The need for financial stability and the pull of responsible adulthood grounds many of us, leaving us to live vicariously through social media feeds of those who escape such concerns.  

Nick Fuentes is one of the most layered and down-to-earth climbers I know. A native of San Antonio, his talents and careers cut a wide swath—he has been a drummer, a skateboarder, an arborist, a chef, and a business owner. When he discovered his love for climbing, he left all the securities behind, eschewing steady paychecks, a home base, and all material possessions that wouldn’t fit in his Jeep. I caught up with him in Red Rock National Conservation Area, where he was training to be a rock climbing guide, to have a beer, talk chef life, road life, and pursuing passions. 

ME: Need one? 

NICK: Uhhh…yeah, sure. Thank you, sir. [Beers crack]. Ohhh—it’s getting cold.  

I remember (my ex-girlfriend) Missy used to give me a hard time about it, like ‘remember you used to be a chef?’ And I’d be like, ‘oh yeah,’…. It’s funny.

M: Ok, so Nick Fuentes. People could think—on the outer surface; people could think you’re a chef from San Antonio. What would be your response to that? 

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N: I guess it would depend on who you ask. But most climbers I know might laugh a little bit because it seems far-fetched. I remember (my ex-girlfriend) Missy used to give me a hard time about it, like “remember you used to be a chef?” And I’d be like, “oh yeah,”…. It’s funny. 

M: How did you get into climbing in the first place? 

N: I got out of the cooking world and into climbing careers—tower and tree work. I was working hard and needed a vacation, so I decided to visit my buddy Chris in St. George. He was stoked I had been doing professional climbing, and he wanted to show me rock climbing. After that, I jumped in head first and started running with it.  

M: Disaster style. 

N: Exactly, just started picking up all these tree jobs and making all this money. I would get ahead of bills and rent, and then Missy and I would take little trips—Hueco Tanks, Enchanted Rock (rock climbing areas in Texas). All of a sudden we were driving to Reimer’ Ranch (sport climbing area near Austin) from San Antonio almost every weekend. And then if I didn’t have tree work during the week? You bet I was dragging somebody with me to Reimer’s on a Wednesday or a Thursday. And from there it just kept going. Spread like wildfire.  

Like no matter how hard it gets, you have to remember: you wanted to come out here! And now you’re doing it; you’re living it, you’re breathing it.

M: And now you’re… 

N: Past the point of no return? [Mutual laughter]. 

M: Past the point of no return, yeah! And it’s more gratifying to trade in the security that you enjoyed in Texas for the freedom of the road? Was any of this frightening to you? Leaving the relative security that you undoubtedly worked hard to obtain? Do you have any regrets? 

N: The only decisions we regret are the ones we never make, the only chances that slip past us are the ones we hesitate to make. The biggest regret was that I didn't cut away sooner, but in the end, we will find security one way or the other no matter where we go or what we do. No doubt it was scary at the time. Fueled by the excitement, I blanked out the fear and stayed focused on my dream to travel and climb. Life as I otherwise knew it was simply anchoring me down in a world of possibilities.  

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It feels better out here. I mean it's scary at first, but it’s inevitable that you’ll find work anywhere you go. That’s not the hardest part. I think the hardest part is staying focused, staying true to yourself. Like no matter how hard it gets, you have to remember: you wanted to come out here! And now you’re doing it; you’re living it, you’re breathing it.  

M: How do you feel like your experiences as an entrepreneur, and a business owner—because I know you’ve run a food truck—prepared you for the uncertainty of what you’re doing now? 

N: My career changes have taught me if you pour yourself into something because you genuinely want to do it, it’s going to happen—nothing can stop you. Cooking has taught me about getting creative with minimal ingredients, like my money. [Mutual laughter]. Otherwise, you know, you go bankrupt. Right now, I’m working on that…. 

M: “Sponsors, please send money.” [Mutual laughter]. 

N: Yeah. Begging? I will wear whatever brands you want me to. Also, if Nina Caprez (female climbing icon) needs anything at all—and I mean anything—at all…. 

M: And he repeats—anything. [Mutual laughter].  

N: I can cook, I can clean, do yard work. I’m a great belayer. Cedric (Nina’s partner), I respect you. But I want to belay her. 

After completing his training, Nick continued to the St. George, Utah area. He plans to pursue a Wilderness First Responder certification and prepare to take the AMGA Single Pitch Instructor exam, all while climbing as much as possible and finding work where he can. Though many will only dare to dream about the dirtbag life, Nick's tenacity and genuine appreciation for the simple things propel him toward success on the road. His aptly-handled Instagram account, @nickthemadman, routinely features photography from the road, as well as useful dirtbag tips. 

Sam Anderson