At the inaugural Psicobloc Masters competition on US soil back in 2013, Sasha DiGiulian climbed to victory in the women’s division. The full-time student has been enjoying her summer break this year, her time off from Columbia University allowing for the travel and outdoor projects that every climber yearns for.
The Psicobloc Masters returns this week, with Sasha set to defend her title at the Utah Olympic Park on Friday, August 8. We caught up with her before the event to chat about competition and her plans for the rest of the summer…
RedBull.com: How’s your summer break going?
Sasha DiGiulian: My summer break is going well. I was just climbing in Wyoming -- I was there and then I went home for a little and came back for more. Now I’m in Southern California getting ready for Utah.
With summer being in full swing, are you able to tackle some bigger projects?
Actually, in Wyoming I was able to do some first female ascents, as well as two first ascents, so I was excited about that. I’ve been climbing outside mainly, so getting ready for Psicocomp is a little bit of an adjustment just because it’s on plastic, but I’m excited.
[Watch Sasha's South African first ascent in 2013 in the video below]
Do you do much deep-water soloing?
Typically I don’t; last year for the comp was the last time I did deep-water soloing. It was super fun, my favorite competition of the year last year. I’ve climbed over the water outside in Mallorca and France, but that’s about it.
Is it a big adjustment for you to get ready for contests?
It is a bit of a change; the more you climb outdoors, the more different climbing on plastic becomes. So it may not have been the ideal training situation [for me to climb outdoors] but more of what climbing is about for me is outside, rather than training in the gym.
You have to focus on climbing as fast as you can and executing the sequences as best you can. All you’re thinking about is getting to the top.
It’s great training overall, because you get really fit climbing outside and climbing all day, but the main difference with going to plastic is with the holds. You get really accustomed to climbing on rock, finding crevices in the wall that you can grab on to and adjusting your hands on these different formations, whereas on plastic it’s a little bit more contrived and it’s pretty subjective according to the route-setter.
They have a collection of plastic holds that they put on the wall in different sequences, so it can be long moves between holds or different technical sequences. And Psicocomp is going to be a unique comp as well because it has a race element to it, so the faster you go, the better, whereas with outside climbing you’re not climbing for time.
When you’re “racing” the other climber, are you conscious of what they’re doing or do you ignore them?
You’re not thinking about the other climber; you have to focus on climbing as fast as you can and executing the sequences as best you can. All you’re thinking about is getting to the top.
How do you feel about climbing competitions in general?
I think that competitions are great for getting climbing out to a larger audience, especially an event like the Psicocomp, because it’s super spectacular to watch. But I would say that the authentic form of climbing, the most impressive form to me is climbing outside. You’re out there in nature, challenging yourself. It’s limitless; the hardest competition out there is the world championship; there’s nothing harder. Whereas outside, there may be 5.15c, but there’s also 5.15d yet to be climbed. There’s always the next level to aspire to. [Learn more about climbing grades here.]
Do you feel any pressure to defend your 2013 Psicobloc Masters title?
Totally. Mainly the pressure comes from myself to defend my title from last year, just because it’s so fun to win. I’d like to do my best and hopefully I’m successful.
What projects do you have coming up?
My main project for the rest of the summer is this route in Switzerland, which is currently one of the world’s hardest multi-pitch climbs. It’s near Interlaken in an area called Wendenstock.
Then it’s back to school?
I go back September 2. But on the 7th I fly to Europe for a competition, and I go back to Europe on the 17th. Every weekend during school I’m traveling and the weekdays I’m in class. I have two years left…
Ever feel like putting school on hold to focus on climbing?
I’m super stoked to finish school and just be able to focus on climbing again, but I’m really motivated to finish first, just so I don’t need to go back.
See Sasha and the other Psicobloc Masters competitors in action during the live stream of the finals on Friday, August 8, starting at 6 p.m. MT.