Sasha DiGiulian is the best female climber in the world. In 2012, she became the first American woman (and only the third woman of all time) to climb grade 5.14d, only three steps below where the scale tops out. She’s graced the covers of 12 different magazines, received the Rubicon and Salewa Rock Legend awards and been sponsored by Adidas, Five Ten and Petzl, among others. The craziest part? She’s only 21. We caught up with the Columbia University undergraduate to talk about climbing, philosophy and piña coladas.
Q. What’s one thing every person should know? Every man?
A. For a woman, how to set your own limits. For a man, be sincere — good looks attract but character lasts.
Q. What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
A. Removing myself from my comfort zone of typical sport climbing/bouldering and climbing Bellavista in the Dolomites, Italy. I had to stay alive on top of Cime Oeste with a wet thin jacket in minus-degree weather during a storm.
Q. What are you working on right now?
A. Columbia University! I’m in my second semester of my second year.
Q. Name one thing you can’t live without.
A. My blender.
Q: Who or what influences you?
A: My friends and my family.
From Sasha’s Blog: “The thought of falling was not something that occurred to me because it was something that I just could not let happen.”
Q. What are you reading right now?
A. Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes and The Autobiography of Gandhi. Lots of Econ for school…too many textbooks. And I always keep an issue of The New Yorker close by.
Q. Name one thing no one knows about you.
A. Your readers will have to get to know me to find out…but few people know that I’m a homebody at heart.
Q. It’s your last drink and meal on earth. What’ll it be?
A. A piña colada and frosted coconut cake — I guess I’m in a tropical mood!
Q. If you could go back and tell your 16 year old self something, what would you say?
A. Be yourself and you’ll be happiest. Surround yourself with people who are genuinely kind and make you want to be a better you.
Q. How do you want to be remembered?
A. As having a smile and inspiring others by living a healthy, passionate, active lifestyle.
Q. How did you get into climbing?
A. My brother Charlie’s birthday party at a climbing gym when I was seven.
Q. What’s the coolest place you’ve ever climbed?
A. South Africa or Getu Valley, China — it’s a tie.
Q. What’s the most important thing for a beginning climber to remember?
A. Challenge yourself and don’t be grade-fixated. When you fall, try again.
Q. What’s the scariest moment you’ve ever had while climbing?
A. I’m in the Dolomites, 100 feet from the top, with nowhere to place gear. I’m free soloing, and the rock that I’m holding with my left hand and have my left foot on breaks…
Q. What is the dynamic between male and female climbers?
A. There are many dynamics but typically people bond over a shared passion so a lot of relationships tend to blossom through climbing. Also, there are generally more boys around than girls. That’s in my favor!