See a Top Climber Tackle Ice for the First Time

What happens when world-class sport climber Sasha DiGiulian becomes a rookie on ice? Watch it here.
By Josh Sampiero

To the non-climber, the differences between ice, mixed and pure rock climbing probably get a little lost in translation. If you can do one, you can surely do the others, right? But not so – most pro climbers are specialists within their disciplines.

See Sasha's first ice climb in the video above

For example, it's rare to find a sport climber who also excels on ice, or an ice climber who's as proficient on rock. But Sasha DiGiulian may just be the exception. The rock chick just got her hands on some ice tools for the first time – and she's already proving to be pretty skilled...

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The Bridal Veil, a famous ice climbing location © Andy Mann

That degree of separation wasn't enough to keep sport climbing queen Sasha DiGiulian off the ice. The 22-year-old – who has been sport climbing for 16 years – had a crash-course introduction to mixed and ice climbing in Colorado early this January.

adding a whole new dimension to the sport gives me the chance to be a beginner again and that's refreshing

Leading her up the route was experienced ice climber Will Mayo. And once she learned the rhythm, mixed climbing and sport climbing became more alike.

What DiGiulian could do was climb. “One of the things I've learned is "quiet tools" – place your tool on the rock and make sure it's quiet as you slowly shift your weight underneath your tool, then hold that pose,” DiGiulian said. “Once I learned the rhythm, mixed climbing and sport climbing became more similar.”

See Sasha's climbing photogallery below

 

“Coming out and learning something with a foundation in climbing, but adding a whole new dimension to the sport gives me the chance to be a beginner again and that's refreshing,” DiGiulian said. “I didn't know what M5 versus M10 meant – Will put me on the route, and let me see what I could do.”

Quickly enough, DiGiulian was able to climb some difficult established routes at Bridal Veil Falls, one of North America's most iconic ice climbing locations.

Lead climbing on ice is so exhilarating. You're so exposed – you're climbing frozen water!

“It's one of the most aesthetic climbs I've ever been on,” DiGiulian said. “Lead climbing on ice is so exhilarating. You're so exposed – you're climbing frozen water! You look at the screw in the ice and realize that's what's supposed to protect you – that's really trippy for me, trusting the gear that's in the ice.”

Tooling up the route © Andy Mann

Her ascent of a mixed route graded at M10 and a water-ice route graded at WI6, combined with her World Cup gold medal and two 9A ascents, puts her in the upper echelons of the world's most well-rounded climbers – and she's only just begun exploring colder climbs.

It was hard for me to realize that sharp, pointed axe is my friend

Nevertheless, DiGiulian is jumping in with no reservations. After just a week of learning to swing an ice tool, Sasha threw her name in the ring for competition at the Ouray Ice Festival, one of the world's most prestigious ice climbing competitions. She didn't place, but she had fun.

And she'll be back for more – now that she's gotten over her fear of sharp metal objects. “It was hard for me to realize that sharp, pointed axe is my friend!” Sasha said.

Learn more about this climber on Sasha DiGiulian's official athlete page.

 

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