The colour pink, Sasha DiGiulian’s favourite colour, has connotations of light hearted fluffiness and softness.
But Sasha’s climbing achievements contradict these preconceptions. The fact that she is one of three women to have ever red pointed 9a (36) is a clue to her real characteristics: hard working, determined, focused and professional.
According to her coach ‘she is, by far the most determined and committed climber I have ever worked with. She has always been a happy and joyful athlete, but when it comes to work she (is) all business.’ (quote from Rock and Ice)
These characteristics have caught the eye of Adidas, a global mainstream sponsor, when such sponsorship is rare for climbers.
Sasha took some time out to answer a few questions in advance of her trip to South Africa:
Apparently you started climbing when you were seven years old. Can you tell me more about how you started climbing and your early experiences.
I first started climbing when I was seven years old, 1999, at my brother’s birthday party at a local climbing gym. I was hooked from the beginning and kept going back to the gym, then to outdoor areas. I began competing when I was 9.
At what stage did you realise that you were going to be a really good climber ?
I never had a point in my career where I was like “hey, I’m going to be professional;” everything just worked out that way because I was doing what I loved and pushing myself to limits without realizing how hard I was trying because I was having so much fun.
Can you give any kids just starting climbing any tips on how to manage climbing and their school work ?
Time management is key. Find your passion and strive towards goals that revolve around that passion. In my opinion, having a balance is important as well. After I finished high school I took one year to just focus on climbing professionally, but I decided to return for University because I wanted to be more than just a rock climber. When you know what motivates you academically and intellectually, work towards putting forth your best efforts.
What is the best advice you have ever received for climbing better ?
Push your maximum when you want to improve. Don’t go half-way. Feel exhausted after training.
Have you had any mentors or role models that helped you a lot, if so who and how did they help you ?
My friends are my premier role models. I am inspired by motivated, optimistic people around me and truly, climbers of all levels with these attributes have inspired me to push my own boundaries.
I have read that you can do 40 – 50 pull ups. Is this an urban legend or is it true ? What sort of training and how much do you do ?
Haha, I have done 40 pull ups in a row but to be honest I very rarely do pull ups. When I am not out on a climbing trip climbing outside which is ideal, I train in a gym 5 days a week for 2-3 hours each session and I cross train with cardio fitness for about an hour 4-days a week. I hate days with no physical activity because I feel lazy and bored 😀
What draws you to climbing as a sport ?
The cathartic movement and total physical and mental focus that you need to have in order to excel at your limit draws me to climbing. I am also in love with the community, the lifestyle, and the unparalleled bliss of satisfaction when I achieve a personal feat.
You are one of three women to have red pointed 9a, with Pure Imagination at the Red River Gorge and Era Vella in Spain. Could you tell me more about your experience on these climbs. For instance, how long did it take for you to do them, did you need to do any special training, do you think the climbs made use of your specific talents ?
Pure Imagination I did my 6th try. Era Vella I did after trying the route in total 7 days. Grades can be very subjective. One climber’s hardest route may be much easier for another with a different physique. For example, crimpers and slightly overhung, endurance oriented routes are easier for me than powerful big moves on pinches. For some, this may be the opposite. So, the hardest graded routes that I have done have been most fitting to my style. Other routes of lesser grades have been maybe just as hard for me but easier for someone else.
Do you have any climbing advice for women climbers (especially those who are relatively short like yourself) ?
Don’t look at the physical limitations – be open to finding an alternate way and don’t put a cap on your progression. The world is your oyster 😀
Where is your favourite place to climb and why ?
My favorite place to climb is Spain because of the incredible concentration of beautiful hard routes and the genuine community and motivation that accompanies the environment.
Where else would you really like to visit ?
Greece is at the top of my bucket list!
Where would you like to be in a few years time / do you have any plans for the future ?
Still loving every day of my life and inspiring people to aspire to their dreams. I love to see the community of climbers grow and to share my passion with as many people as possible.
Come and meet Sasha at 6pm Friday 5th July at the SA Climbing Academy and at the Chosspile 9am on Saturday 6th July.