My Perfect Adventure
You probably wouldn’t expect to find America’s best female rock climber taking notes in a lecture hall at Columbia University, her fingernails painted with pink polish, but Sasha DiGiulian has never liked sticking to expectations—at least not when it’s possible to exceed them. The 20-year-old freshman has won the past three U.S. National Championships, last year’s World Championships, and many other international competitions, prompting The Washington Post to describe her as “arguably the best female rock climber in the world.”
DiGiulian, originally from Alexandria, Virginia, has been turning heads since she started climbing at the age of seven. In a gap year before starting college in New York this fall, she made history by becoming the first woman to climb the 80-foot Pure Imagination in Kentucky and the 140-foot Era Bella in Spain, both at grade 5.14d. Now her challenge is balancing life as a professional athlete and a full-time student. Despite her rigorous academic load, she says she still finds time to train three hours a day.
Here she tells us what makes her suitcase so heavy, why she loves heading to Spain, and what scares her while she’s climbing.
Describe your perfect day, from dawn 'til dusk. Where would you be, who would you meet, and what would you do?
I wake up at a reasonable hour, probably 8 or 9 a.m. I have a leisurely breakfast including lots of bold coffee and steamed milk. After breakfast, my friends and I hike to the crag. The sky is a crystal clear blue, the sun warms the ground, and there’s a slight breeze. The colorful autumn leaves flutter from the ground. Next I have my harness on, and I’m tying in to the end of the rope with my good friend standing there, ready to belay me on my latest project. We climb all day and eat lots of trail mix and fresh Honeycrisp apples. At the end of the day when the sun is setting, we walk back down from the crag and have a warm hearty dinner over laughs and red wine. Then we have cookies to celebrate our day’s hard sending. We look down at our hands and compare the day’s battle wounds.
If you could travel somewhere you've never been, where would you go and why?
Greece is at the top of my bucket list because the whole ambiance seems incredible—amazing climbs to try, rich culture, tremendous food, and a tranquil environment. Many of my friends have traveled to Greece to climb at Kalymnos, though I don’t have any particular climbs in mind; the entire area just sounds and looks amazing. Also, Greek food is my second favorite cuisine next to Japanese, so I’d be sure to eat lots of yogurt and fresh honey.
Where is the best place you've ever visited? What made it so special?
One of the best places I’ve ever visited is the Cataluna region of Spain because the amount of rock to climb is endless; there is always a plethora of strong, motivated climbers there; and the lifestyle is positive and relaxed. No pasa nada; the Spanish know how to live!
I first visited Cataluna in 2008. There was just so much limestone and so many strong climbers in the region. I think they go there both because of the Mecca of rock, and because climbers like Dani Andrada and Chris Sharma are there, establishing hard, world-class routes. I usually spend two weeks at a time there, and I’ve gone about six times. Hopefully I’ll be back in January if it’s not too cold!
If you could have lunch with any adventurer, explorer, or athlete, who would it be and why?
I would have lunch with Reinhold Messner because he’s such a charming, humble pioneer. I first met him last year at the winter trade show for the Outdoor Inspiration awards, and he’s also on Team Adidas. He has accomplished so much, yet he remains interested in the present and is so modest about his past.