Misty Murphy was singing the lyrical “Float,” which she and her friend Kris “Odub” Hampton wrote as a tribute to Todd Skinner, when she saw Todd’s widow and children in the audience at the Lander International Climbers’ Festival.
At that moment climbing and music coalesced. “Singing ‘Float’ to Amy and her family was the most moving performance of my life,” Murphy says. She laughs. “There’s a video and I don’t sound too good. I kept choking up.”
Amy Skinner says today, “I am still amazed by that song. Her clear, lovely voice and Kris’s rap came together perfectly. … For the first months after Todd died, every time I closed my eyes I saw him falling, but he was always looking up, it was quiet, it wasn’t scary, I never saw him hit the ground.” The song, she says, “expressed what I had felt but not been able to explain.”
Murphy, 40, contributes to climbing in ways artistic, athletic and loony. She performs original music at climbing events, sometimes gratis, as in the case of HERA gatherings in Las Vegas and Salt Lake City, and the “I pledge” Outdoor Foundation campaign, as well as for hire at others, such as climber cleanups and other meets.
Misty may be best known for her nutty, bold and often hilarious blog. She morphs heads onto torsos, such as her own onto various strong climber women’s shoulders, complete with fanciful projections. Her latest poll asks readers to vote for a “male climber that you cannot stand for little or no reason.” When she receives objections or insults, she fires back with glee. Someone suggested that she was so hideous that intercourse would require a paper bag over her head, and she instantly put up a photo of herself wearing one. As of late spring, her blog had received over 40,000 hits (including over 2,000 in one day).
Murphy lives with her husband, Bill Ohran, in the small town of Saint George, Utah. She is a restaurant server by night, and spends her days climbing and developing new routes. She and Ohran found and helped develop the Chrysalis Wall in Ely, Nevada—where her routes include the excellent Liquid Skin (5.12b)—and the Shire in Southern Utah. She has also put up routes at American Fork, Utah, and, Sun City and Arrow Canyon, the site of her matrimonial homage Kill Bill (5.12b/c), Nevada.
An experience on the route Rhinopotamus (5.13a) at Cathedral, Utah, demonstrates Murphy’s primary climbing characteristic of persistence: “Pulled my tendon on it, got dropped on it, and still managed to send it.”
How does climbing inform your songwriting?
It never had until Odub and I wrote “Float.” I usually write about my crappy relationships.
What sort of a little kid were you?
I caused trouble, but rarely got caught. Top student. Honor roll. But I was banned from “playing” with my Mormon neighbor’s boys (all six of them). Little did this mother know that one of her precious boys had exposed himself to me unprovoked.
I grew up skiing. My dad was founder of the NordAlp Club at Alta, so I grew up at these ski-jumping meets. My first time on skis, when I was 10 years old, was going off a jump, with my dad at the bottom of the hill. It was probably 30 or 60 feet.
Your first time on skis? What, didn’t he like you?
It was a day my mom didn’t go. I think he wanted me to be the first name female ski jumper. My mom put a stop to that.
When did you become interested in music?
When sperm and egg collided. My siblings are both musicians and my grandfather was a respected jazz drummer.
What do you do for fun?
I make up funny songs about dinner, slow drivers, Mormons, emos, nachos, it doesn’t matter. It’s in my blood. You think I’m bad? You should hear my brother!
Do people have a favorite or most notorious section of your blog?
The “Six Degrees of Separation” [chart showing climber relationships]. People can’t stop loving it or hating it. Btw, people, for the record, I have the worst link of all. To a guy who is now gay!
Sometimes your blog goes too far. Do you ever think so?
Of course I think I have gone too far. Almost every time. I started taking it on like a comedian would. You make fun of people and situations about climbing and meaningless shit. It is just rock climbing, for hell’s sake.
Are you toning it down?
[laughs] No, but there are some people out there that are really, really bad. They’re worse than me. They’re sending me bad emails. One of my ideas is to post them and have people guess who they are from.
What dreams do you have in climbing?
I just want to do my next project. And the next and the next .... Bill Ramsey sent me an email on my 40th birthday telling me he sent his hardest routes in his 40s.
Are you still improving?
Yeah. I think as you get older your body just learns more movement. Well, it hurts more. I guess we’re a little bit more tolerant as we get older.
Do you have a regime?
Coffee and alcohol and chocolate and bread. I try to be good but it’s really hard. I’m, like, the fat girl of climbing.
Strengths, weaknesses in climbing?
Finger strength. I can pretty much crimp on anything. I guess my weakness would be my [leading] head and my big ass.
What was your 40th birthday like?
Wild. Thirty of us climbed, camped and partied till 4 a.m. Kegger, beer bong, loud music, even some UFC amateur wrestling.
OK, a few adjectives to describe you. Let’s start with defiant.
Deaf, thirsty, twitchy, wasted, horny, sleepy.
What are people’s first and eventual impressions of you?
They really don’t like me. They really like me.
You can download “Float” or “Sean’s Song,” about the late Sean Patrick, on www.mistymurphy.com for $1 to benefit the Todd Skinner Foundation or the HERA Women’s Cancer Foundation.