Sasha DiGiulian: A Few Thoughts on Climbing
We are at a junction with pure projecting and new media culture circling around climbing…
Climbing is growing exponentially. Similar to more people starting climbing, there is also more attention being driven to climbing. In general, I think that this is great. More publicity for the sport doesn’t just mean more people to share the passion of climbing with, but it also means more funds are available to enable accessibility, gear, training, equipment improvements, rapid progression, and also the possibility of professional climbers making enough of an income to be true professional athletes.
With the progression of climbing and with more people getting involved with climbing, First Ascents and First Female Ascents become more rare at popular areas. So, how do we manage who has access to these routes? Sure, new development is crucial, yet when there is a standing project bolted and the person that has equipped this route opens it up to the climbing community to try, and then everyone should have equal opportunity to try it, right?
This is a controversy that may be occurring more often than before.
Production companies need to film climbers in order to produce climbing videos. Furthermore, story lines are important for the success of the videos.
When professional climbers decide on a project to film, this, at least for me, is a unique experience of finding what is aesthetically inspiring, physically challenging, and has that extraordinary special factor to it in my eyes. This extraordinary factor includes the line being undone before, or for women, undone by other females. First ascents and First Female ascents are proud because essentially they open the flood gates to everyone else – they prove that a stream of movements all link together and that the climbing is possible.
Someone asked me a good question about the climbing and filming process during my Reddit AMA
I have been contemplating this topic more heavily recently, and a current controversy sparked my interest to convey my thoughts.
I have told several media outlets and friends about my plans to try Iker Pou’s route, Orbayu in Northern Spain with Edu Marin, my climbing partner from Bellavista. Iker Pou established the route a few years ago, and since, the route has seen few ascents, and no women. We had arranged media and aligned our sponsors with the project proposal, yet this morning I received a message from a friend of mine from Switzerland, Nina Caprez, informing me that this has been her dream project and that her and her boyfriend, Cedric Lachat, have plans to rig the route with static lines and equipment for the film crew in June, and then they will be on the wall and try to complete it by August.
I have tremendous respect for both Nina and Cedric as professional climbers. Due to this respect for them, I have decided that I am not going to intertwine myself with doing this route this summer because their film agenda already seems prebaked; but, perhaps if you’re making a film about a piece, then have designated times to be filming and not be filming and climbing at the same time. Multipitch projects are difficult because people cannot exactly climb the route at the same time, but there could be windows of opportunity as a solution, perhaps. Then, maybe projects like this are real duels… who does the ascent first does the first (female) ascent.
No one should have the right to claim the first ascent if it’s an open project; but at what point has a claim been developed enough to a point that as one professional climber to another, you respect that person’s film project and go elsewhere to try a different route?
That said, I have the utmost respect for the initial bolter. I believe that if he or she would like to take ownership or flag the line that he or she bolts and cleans for a designated amount of time, this is completely valid. Though, when the lines get blurred is when someone else has bolted the route and left it open to anyone to try.
A prime example of me having the privilege to climb an Open Project was in South Africa. There were two routes that I did that were Open Projects. One of which, the film that I produced with 3StringsMedia, RedBull, and Adidas was on a climb that was bolted by Andrew Pedley and left standing open to anyone to try. I felt so lucky to have come across this precious gem, and to have had the opportunity to go for the first ascent. Sure, other people were working on the climb and trying to do the first ascent as well. Though, it was not clearly in my domain to say – Hey, don’t try the route –my film crew and sponsors have already invested in this project. Maybe were I to have freshly bolted the line and wanted to have the first opportunity to try it after cleaning it and finding it, then I would think that I deserve a designated window to work on doing it first. But, if I were not to be able to in that window, in my opinion I would open the route then to share it with the community and to cheer for the people who may be able to climb stronger than me on it.
Really, it is hard to rule out media from climbing. In my opinion, ruling it out is not a good idea at all – climbs should be documented, and also I love to watch climbing at its cutting edge. Though, there needs to be a more inclusive way to deal with multiple people trying the same project – even if it comes down to failure within videos. Trying a new project may be time consuming and take years. One of my inspirations, Chris Sharma, admitted this himself with several of his achievements. What was really unique to me about the Reel Rock Tour 7 was that both Adam and Chris were vying for the first ascent together. This was a great way to capture this notion of projecting and to shine light on both athletes performing at their best for themselves in order to complete the climb.