Author: Sasha DiGiulian

The moment when everything clicks and I trust my body to take over:

The boundary between what I can and cannot do becomes blurred.

During my Fall Break from school I went to the Red River Gorge, Kentucky with my mom. Last March, I went to the Red River Gorge for my Spring Break.  I began working on a climb called “Thanatopsis.” This climb is located at a sector of the ‘Red’ called the “Motherlode.” which is known for having the highest concentration of steep, hard climbs at the Red.

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Climbing has the potential of being a year-round sport. There is always good weather to find during the year. Though, I cannot think of a sport in which athletes are expected to Peak Perform at all times during the year. In order to keep a healthy routine, maximize psyche, and remain non-injured, I think that it is really important to have rest periods; also known as, an Off Season.

Due to my school schedule, I have the most consecutive free time to travel and to climb during the summer. Essentially, from mid May until the beginning of September, I have a break from University. This time off from school is my time to really maximize my climbing trip schedule and to chase after my goals that I set for my season. For this plan to work, from February into May, I am training for my upcoming objectives. Therefore, I always hope to be in my best shape by early summer and into early fall. Then, during the Fall, I wind my training down and focus on Sport Specific Training, including Strength Training and High Intensity Intervals.

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Image: “Flying Circus,” M10

Prior to venturing into the realm of ice climbing, the only thing I knew about Ouray, Colorado, was that it was the setting for Anne Rand’s book Atlas Shrugged. Apart from that, the small Victorian mountain town may be most known to climbers for the annual Ouray Ice Festival. This year marked the 20th anniversary. Ouray is hemmed by mountains with charming old buildings and restaurants that date back its mining days. When the festival is not in session, Ouray is a quiet town.

This year, I competed in the International Elite Mixed Climbing Competition. Granted, I’m not exactly the typical, seasoned mixed-climbing veteran to be competing. I actually began learning just over a week ago.

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Debate is healthy and really there are valid points to both sides. One side of the debate argues that the inclusion of “female” as a qualifier for why an ascent may be significant has negative implications on women in that it deems women as inferior to men. This side argues for “first female ascents” to be eradicated and for all ascents to be the same. The other side of the debate argues that men and women are biologically different and that there is no reason to eradicate gender in sports. Female and Male climbers have the potential to achieve equally, but there is no reason to eliminate the celebration of female firsts in climbing in that women are historically the minority in climbing and reinforcement of progression is a powerful tool in encouraging female achievements. What is important to recognize is that as climbing fills a more macro level space, we consider the role that it can have on issues like gender politics and the need for women’s empowerment still at hand today.

While I recognize and fully engage with the fact that women and men are capable of climbing equal difficulty, it is important to still reiterate the first ascents done by women. In my opinion, the actual flagging of Female highlights this notion of empowerment. While yes, the name of a female achieving something could theoretically be a sign enough, the fact is that the world is not yet at that point to not still need extra reinforcement of female achievement.

I receive letters from young girls often thanking me for inspiring them. This is something that fuels my motivation. I want to serve as an example that anyone no matter what gender, size, or demographic you represent can pursue his or her dreams.

Following my initial blog I spoke with Lynn Hill about this topic. She read my blog and texted me,

“I agree that women should support women and that it’s important to have female role models. Back in the early days, women were left out of books such as, “The Vertical World of Yosemite” by Galen Rowell. In his intro to the 90’s, he didn’t put a single photo of a woman climber in the book because he said that there were no significant first ascents done by a women during the formative years of climbing in Yosemite. I felt that it was important to show what women WERE doing rather than ignore them because of what they weren’t doing!”

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