It’s official: Marked as the first female ascent of 1,000 feet, professional rock climber Sasha DiGiulian conquered Italy’s “Viaje de los Locos,” a treacherous feat put up in 2002 by Daniel Andrada and Daniel Dulac with seven pitches up to 8b+.
Before going back to college this year, the 5’2 Colombia University student, along with Spain-based climbing partner Edu Marin, wanted to achieve one last challenge— an-end-of-summer goal. Where? In the Bernese Oberland of Switzerland, where a cliff dubbed Zahir Plus had a climb rating of 5.14a, making it a challenge to say the least.
Yet, things quickly fell apart. “When I got there, I didn’t personally know if I could do this route,” she said in a statement to Red Bull . “My dad went from being perfectly healthy to passing away within two weeks.”
Working through personal hardships, Digiulian remained diligent. Upon arriving in Switzerland, however, she faced more difficult news: Rain. And a lot of it. The cliff’s route was soaking wet, reminiscent of a waterfall. “Edu and I talked and we realized that if we stay here, we’ll hardly climb and we won’t have any project,” Sasha explained.
So they left Switzerland and traveled to Sardinia, Italy where route developer and rock climber Dani Andrada advised them of a different route, of one featuring larger multitudes and even more challenging maneuvers than Zahir: “Viaje de los Locos”—The Madmen’s Journey.
The bigger and more intense climb included more reach-dependent moves and was riskier overall. Yet, with a pressing deadline to return to the states for school, Digiulian was left with little time to doubt herself. After practice runs with Edu and a breakthrough of confidence after sending the crux 5.14 pitch, Digiulian was ready. “It was like, ‘Okay, I’m going to go for it,’” she said. “I experienced that moment of clarity [where] I’m not going to fall. I was climbing with my heart in my throat. I was petrified. But when I was able to let go of those feelings, it was like, ‘Wow, I can rock climb again.’”
“Because of how the trip played out, because I didn’t think I could do it, and because my dad was with me on this climb, I would say that this was the most rewarding climbing experience of my life.”