Peaking Sending

I’m sure I’ll never climb on Sasha’s level, but at what grade will I peak? And when? And does it really matter? Photo by Mati Grajciar and courtesy of Sasha DiGiulian’s Facebook.

My friends like to joke that they have tons of time till peak sending age: 33. I don’t know where they got this number from, but it got me thinking: When will I peak? And, perhaps more concerning: At what grade?

Climbing is one of those sports that seems to have endless possibilities. Depending on the crag, you could be projecting a 5.10 two climbs away from a guy on a 5.13c, and you’ll likely even get to chat with him after he’s sent. It’s not like soccer where pros are far removed from the rec league team. Climbing is also a relatively new sport and a small one. There are fewer people separating me and Alex Honnold in ability level than are between me and David Beckham or Tom Brady.

As climbers, we also like to watch videos and read interviews of our favorite climbers, and after 10 hours of watching Dave Graham and Hazel Findley interviews, we somehow feel like we know them and hope they’d find us cool enough to climb with on one of their rest days. This makes us feel like climbing near their grade, or at least higher than our current level, might be possible. No, I probably won’t ever project a route with Sasha DiGiulian, but if she is three inches shorter than me and climbs 5.14, then why can’t I send my project? It can’t be because I’m too short.

And then there are these crazy stories of people crushing into their 70s. If Hermann Gollner can send Pump-O-Rama (5.13a) when he’s 71, who says I’ll peak in my 30s? I hope that one day I’ll have biceps half as strong as Gollner’s.

Many professional climbers discovered the sport in college, so I can’t blame my current inability to send 5.13 for not having started climbing as a 65-pound 10-year-old. Cedar Wright didn’t start climbing until he was 21, and now look where he is now: Crushing in the Rock and Rave 2015 pro highball bouldering comp.

fat cedar resize-2.jpg
Photo courtesy of Dead Point Magazine.

However, what if I’m not like Wright or Gollner? What if I only ever send up to 5.12a sport or V5 boulder problems? For one thing, all hopes of getting Dunkin Donuts to sponsor my coffee and chocolate butternut donut addictions are off but will my climbing life be any less awesome? At first this thought made me a little sad: What’s the point of climbing if I’m not striving to send harder routes? But then I thought about all of the 5.10s (there are over 150) that I haven’t sent at Rumney. There are dozens of V0-V4 problems that I’ve yet to send in Pawtuckaway. And that’s just two climbing areas. What about all the trad routes on Cathedral, Whitehorse, and Sundown? I have years worth of climbing in New Hampshire alone. So even if I do peak next year, or next week, I’ll never run out of routes to work and projects to send. There is no way I could visit, let alone send, every 5.12 and V5 and below in the world. So, no matter when and where I peak, I’ll be happy just climbing, no matter what the grade.

But for now I’m going with the Sasha principle: If a 5’2” female can crush, why can’t I?

Originally published March 22, 2015, on 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s