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1/6/15 – Sasha DiGiulian, who cranks 5.14 on rock, is mixing it up this winter and trying out ice and mixed climbing in Colorado. DiGiulian has been coached by Will Mayo in a weeklong “boot camp” at crags in East Vail and Ouray, and this weekend she will compete at the annual Ouray Ice Festival.
DiGiulian, who had never climbed ice before last week, flashed an M8 pitch in Vail on top-rope during her first day of mixed climbing. After three days in Vail, she and Mayo headed to Ouray, where, on her fifth day of boot camp, she redpointed The Flying Circus (variously given M8+ to M10), a variation of the 2008 competition route at Ouray. On April 6 she followed Mayo up Bridal Veil Falls (WI 6) for her second-ever pure ice climb, doing the Telluride classic in one 80-meter pitch to the top of the steep ice.
Asked why she decided to check out ice and mixed climbing, DiGiulian responded, “Why not? Learning to mixed climb is another dimension to the sport. I feel like I have come across a whole new frontier. Instead of just going on another sport climbing trip and having a guaranteed awesome but similar experience to all my other winters, I chose to try something new. You never know until you try, right?”
DiGiulian said that figuring out tool placements was the biggest challenge she faced with mixed climbing. “I have good endurance, so if I have the right placement, I don’t really get too pumped because the axe is a jug, but the third degree of separation is entirely different from sport climbing,” she explained. “In mixed climbing you are hanging from a tool that is attached to the rock, instead of directly pulling on the rock. I also am struggling to get the perfect ice climbing placements, though it is so satisfying when that tool thunks perfectly into the ice!”
Mayo said his protégé is “a remarkable individual. It’s amazing to see a world-class athlete step out of her element and embrace an extremely different discipline, and to do it with such an open mind. She’s exceptionally intelligent and is learning the new game quite quickly. Most of all, the girl is just genuinely having a blast, which is so often the the most integral aspect of success.”
As for the Ouray competition, DiGiulian said she’s competing just for fun. Some of the world’s best female mixed climbers will be competing, including Italian woman Angelika Rainer, ranked second overall in last season’s UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup series. “Having just a week under my belt, I’m not sure what to expect,” DiGiulian said. “But that is what’s awesomely exciting!”