Brittany "BAG" Griffith

Brittany Anne Griffith Jonathan Thesenga

You can take the BAG out of the dirt, but you can’t take the dirt out of the BAG

By Brittany Anne Griffith
(aka “The BAG”)

It’s been a long time since I’ve been impressed with an airline policy, but the Delta upgrade system for Medallion members kicks ass. I guess it’s hard for the computer to discriminate between a frequent-flyer number and a grubby climber.

The aircraft I was boarding was a CRJ900, so not really super-deluxe first-class seating, but I was hoping to score a free gin and tonic nonetheless. I was dressed in what I thought was appropriate: no jeans, T-shirt, or flip-flops. I was stylishly sporting hemp trousers that only had a couple of stains on them, the Patagonia webbing belt that can open a beer bottle, a cashmere sweater, suede boots, and a scarf. I thought I looked pretty good.

True, I hadn’t showered in three days, had chalk residue on my hands, had been sleeping on a friend’s futon, and had spent the previous night swillin’ PBR and stomping to North Conway’s own Audio Kickstand among 150 of my closest dirtbag friends. But now, six hours after last call, I was sitting down in 3C. I shouldn’t have been surprised at the reaction—I can spot a dirtbag myself from a mile away. I’d seen three that day in the Portland airport. Telling signs include, but are not limited too: random display of a carabiner, approach shoes paired with $200 jeans, dirty fingernails, buff shoulders, and the omnipresent BYOWB.

“Miss, I’m going to need to see your boarding pass!” the flight attendant spat after I plopped down in the leather seat. (Miss? Apparently shoddy hygiene takes years off your appearance.) I dug into the depths of my “black hole” shoulder bag but couldn’t produce a boarding pass. Somehow I had lost it during the 30 seconds of walking down the jetway. This was unfortunate because for some reason the woman didn’t believe I was first-class material.

“I can show you the Delta logo impressed into my butt to prove that I’ve spent a lot of time sitting in these airline seats,” I offered. Despite other first-class passengers finding this funny, she was not amused. She eyed her paperwork and pursed her gooey lips. “What’s your name?” I attempted humor one more time: “Spears.” The flight attendant blushed and cracked a smile. It was obvious I wasn’t a pop star. I was Brittany Griffith, unwashed and unpretentious, and the only attitude I put forth was that of levity. She glanced at my gnarled hands and said, “Welcome aboard, Ms. Griffith.”

I put on my seatbelt, pulled out my unsanitary water bottle, and politely asked for a gin and tonic. Drink in hand, I reflected on the weekend I’d just spent in New Hampshire. It was so great to catch up on everyone’s lives. I had known some of these friends for over 15 years. We had all been perfect examples of dirtbags at one time, but we had “grown up.” Freddie and Janet lived in a 10×10 structure they call the Shabin. (I joked that they lived in a tradeshow E-Z Up.) Jimmy and Sarah’s “chalet” was a double-high trailer with green wood paneling. Anne and Bayard had converted an old hunting cabin into a livable space. I, too, had recently bought a house in Salt Lake, but I counted the hammock and hose in the backyard as a bedroom and shower. It was gratifying to know that we had all done this without giving in to convention. We had scraped together livings, directly or indirectly, from climbing. Whether it was photography, writing, guiding, owning gear shops, or filming and starring in reality shows, it allowed us to keep climbing and keep the passion.

Sure, we had moved out of our cars, vans, and pickup trucks, but only literally. We could still go days without showering or brushing our teeth, and we wouldn’t put on airs for the first-class cabin. We continued to exist in the world on our own terms and in our own skin.

Previous Alpine Life:
January 2009
December 2008