This professional sports model with a full-time climbing habit started helping Afghan women train for the mountains. Then she brought those leadership skills back to her home state of Utah. 

As a child growing up just outside of Zion National Park, Camille Fiducia had a front row seat to wild, towering sandstone walls. But instead of exploring the canyons surrounding her home, she spent her teens getting in and out of trouble. At age 19, while attending college at the University of Utah, she started climbing and everything changed. Fiducia fell in love with all aspects of the sport, from swinging a pick into the frozen waterfalls in Ouray, Colorado, to jamming into the sandstone cracks of Indian Creek, Utah. She became a full-time climber living in her van and a top-tier sports model for big, mainstream brands including Nike, Reebok and Adidas. She thought she had it made.

But that dream lifestyle slowly lost its glow. So in 2018, she flew to South Asia to volunteer for Ascend: Leadership Through Athletics in Afghanistan and work as a nutritionist and fitness trainer for Afghan women planning to climb the country’s highest peak, 24,580-foot Noshaq. After she returned, she started Embark as a program of Utah based 501c3, Elevated Mountain Guides, with a goal to bring outdoor mentorship, climbing and mountain skills to Utah’s refugee youth. The young girls she now works with come to the Beehive State from the world’s highest conflict zones in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and South Sudan—and Embark teaches them athletic skills without the pressures of high school sports. Today, Fiducia, 26, spends most of her time running Embark (and pays the bills through modeling gigs). She still lives in her van.

How did you get involved in your non-profit work?

On the expedition that helped bring one woman to the summit of Afghanistan’s highest peak for the first time in the country’s history, I helped the team apply Steve House and Scott Johnson’s uphill athlete training programs, mostly for base fitness. When I discovered Ascend, I found a way to use my skills in climbing and the outdoors and combine that with the human condition in various parts of the world. I started my non-profit Embark, an outdoor recreation program for refugees and newly immigrated teens, after my first trip to Afghanistan, Now, I apply those skills I learned with Ascend domestically, helping refugees between the ages of 16 and 24.

What’s the hardest part of what you do?

Balancing it all—balancing my non-profit work and my modeling career and also making sure I can climb and get outside. Sometimes I get so buried in work that I can’t get out to climb for weeks. But even though I don’t get out as much as I used to, my enjoyment has changed from following my own pursuits to sharing the sport of climbing. I get me time in once in awhile but those times when I bring my girls out on a climbing or camping trip is fulfilling. Since my non profit work brings people outside, I still glean enjoyment from that.

Where are you parking your van these days?

I’m still basing around Salt Lake City because of the non-profit. I also have an office in town. When I’m not using my van, I rent it out to people visiting Zion. My dad runs an Airbnb there and he rents it as a dwelling unit on his property. 

And where are you traveling to for work and climbing?

East Coast, West Coast. I recently had a shoot in Idyllwild, California, and one in Pinedale, Wyoming. In Idyllwild, I was hanging out with old-school climbers and they showed me the area. I had no idea that Idyllwild is where [Patagonia founder] Yvon Chouinard used to climb. And I just got back from Squamish in British Columbia. I’ve been spending more time on granite lately. Granite’s so different from sandstone that I’m used to that it’s great new challenge.

What are you favorite places to go climbing?

Zion. I love Zion. I love sandstone trad climbing and alpine-style routes as well —and even bigger expeditions. I’ve also climbed in the Cordillera Blanca in Peru. But, honestly, I love ice climbing the most.

Are you headed back to Afghanistan soon?

I go back at least once a year. I’ll return in early and late winter this year. I go two times a year at minimum. I spend about six weeks a year there. I go as a personal trainer and nutritionist, and I work with women as a mountain skills instructor. This past winter when I came, it was mostly backpacking skills and ice climbing. I was also there to build fitness routines with the uphill athlete program.

What’s one thing you want to share with the next generation?

Recognize that your passions are sharable skills—these things you do in your own life you can share with others. There’s two parts to your life, investing in yourself and investing in others. I think the key to life is the yin and yang of learning and growing and sharing. In the past year and a half, I’ve really invested in the serving side and I’m definitely busier but more fulfilled. Sometimes I do miss the Instagram-model life and the ability to do whatever I want with my time, but today that’s so far at the bottom of my to-do list. There are times when I miss when my career was focused on modeling, but when I think about my life in 10 years and what I’ll be proud of, it’s my work with Embark and Ascend.