Sasha DiGulian on Her First Ascent at Waterval Boven
In July, 20-year-old rock climbing phenom Sasha DiGulian made the first ascent of Rolihlahla, a new 8c/+ at South Africa’s Waterval Boven. It took her just three days to redpoint the route, which is the first she has ever freed. It also happens to be one of the hardest female first ascents ever done.
WM: How does it feel to nail your first ascent—and be the first woman to do it?
Sasha: I was incredibly excited to complete this project. There is such a special element to that process of unlocking sequences and realizing the formerly impossible, and this route embodied this experience for me. Since it was first bolted in 2008, no one had managed to figure the route out, so to be the first to prove that indeed the line was climbable was quite moving. 😀
WM: What makes Rolihlahla one of the most spectacular (and hardest) lines you’ve ever climbed?
Sasha: Rolihlahla includes very technical movements, small edges, a crack, and some dangerous falls that pushed my limits mentally as well as physically. In order to send the climb, I had to narrow in on the sequences in front of me and let everything else fade away. If you think about falling while climbing the route, you will probably fail. The route is spectacular in its movements and its aesthetics. It traverses an exposed blank face that before I climbed it was completely blank. Putting chalk on the holds and figuring out ways to make the moves possible was a really neat experience.
WM: What was the scariest or toughest part of the climb for you?
Sasha: The scariest part of the climb for me were some of the gnarly falls that I took and the potential to get hurt. The time before I did the route I fell and flipped upside down, hitting my back into the shark fin ledge beneath the initial crux. This fall footage will definitely be included in the video that 3 Strings Productions is producing coming early this fall! I had to zone the potential of falling out and just focus on climbing.
WM: What was the most beautiful or satisfying part of the climb?
Sasha: The most beautiful parts of the climb were the fragile and technical movements and the line’s sheer exposure. The most satisfying feeling was unlocking sequences and figuring out that the route was possible. I felt the sensation of satisfaction clipping the anchors at the top and knowing that I had figured out the way to succeed on this line.
WM: Why did you choose to name the climb Rolihlahla?
Sasha: “Rolihlahla” is Nelson Mandela’s middle name and I chose this name as a tribute to Nelson Mandela. Mandela is one of the greatest men in history and it is moving to be here during such a critical period for South Africa. With Mandela’s ailing status, the world is on high alert for his dwindling well being. Driving through the country, we can feel the community’s deep-hearted passion and love for him.
As for the difficulty, I chose to grade the route “8c.” I think that this is an appropriate grade in comparison to other 8c’s that I have done. Arjan de Kock, who I worked the route with from the start, nabbed the second ascent and confirmed this grade as well to me. Grades are obviously subjective, though, and ultimately what matters most is the unique exquisiteness of this line. [This answer from http://www.sasha-digiulian.com/blog.]
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