AlexBrylov/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Rock-climbing phenom Sasha DiGiulian put herself in the record books again by becoming the first woman to successfully free-climb the Mora Mora in Madagascar — a more than 2,300-foot multi-pitch natural granite wall.
DiGiulian accomplished the amazing feat, which up until now had only seen one other person complete the intense vertical route, in August, after 26 grueling days on the formation, starting with trial climbs before her final three-day ascent.
She made her ascent without any extra aids, using ropes only to catch a potential fall. DiGiulian is a free climber, which means trusting the strength of her hands and feet. Sometimes she uses just her fingertips and toes to grip and scale the wall, which the 24-year-old compared to dancing.
“Every move is super delicate — it’s like tiptoeing … dancing on your feet. Super balletic climb.”
Making the incredible ascent alongside DiGiulian was Edu Marin, her climbing partner who has been by her side for many of her other attempts and accomplishments.
Back in 2014, the pair traveled to Sardinia to take on Viaje de Los Locos, meaning “The Mad Man’s Journey.” At the time she called it, “by far, the hardest route that I’ve ever attempted.” She now says that it was also one of the most transformative of her life because her father had passed away suddenly two months before that climb.
“Sasha is definitely the forefront of female rock climbers. She’s certainly one of the best in the world,” adventure videographer Keith Ladzinski said of the professional climber.
“I would say that the main thing that has increased in the last three years — is my confidence in myself,” DiGiulian added.
Ahead of the recent record-breaking climb at Mora Mora, the Red Bull-sponsored athlete spent nearly a month with Marin mapping out the best route, scaling various sections on the side of the Tsaranoro massif domes in the East African island of Madagascar.
The name Mora Mora translates to “slowly, slowly,” an indication of how to traverse the 12-pitch, 5.14b-graded cliff.
And although she would make the climb with Marin, DiGiulian said climbing big walls is a very personal experience.
“It’s really a personal journey. Like, climbing isn’t in competition with anyone else but yourself,” she said.
Once the free climb started, they had to remain on track without ever coming down, even to sleep. The two had to anchor a portable 4-by-7-foot flat hammock, known as a porta-ledge, to sleep on.
They brought sleeping bags, essential foods, toothpaste and wet wipes but did without many other little luxuries.
“It’s a good test for us — we don’t have wine, coffee, Red Bull. No alcohol. No books, no phones. Maybe like 11 hours of waiting,” she said in a video during the climb.
DiGiulian prepared both physically and mentally for this type of challenge, even attending a Red Bull’s Performing Under Pressure camp in 2016, where extreme athletes sharpened their mental skills.
“In climbing, you enter different zones of thoughts. When I’m performing my best, I’m solely thinking of what’s in front of me,” she said.
So when it came time for the duo’s final three-day push to the summit of Mora Mora, DiGiulian was ready.
The pair made it to the top and Marin called it an “amazing experience with the most strong lady in the world.”
“You can be feminine and a badass,” DiGiulian said. “I like to climb massive cliffs while also painting my fingernails pink — there’s no certain mold to a certain identity — Be who you want to be.”
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