Sasha DiGiulian is already a champion climber, but now the 22-year-old is scaling the dangerous and deadly Eiger mountain in the Swiss Alps. In the summer between her junior and senior year at Columbia University, DiGiulian is hoping to pad her resume by becoming the first woman to scale the alpine peak with the nickname “murder wall.”
The 6,000-foot vertical sheet of grey limestone is considered one of the world’s most dangerous climbs. Dozens have died trying to reach the top.
After a long day scaling the mountain, DiGiulian Skyped with CBS News Tuesday night from her makeshift bed perched on the edge of a cliff.
“When you’re alpine climbing, you’re dealing with factors like unanticipated weather, which means storms can roll through,” DiGiulian said. “It’s really full on. You’re facing like 12 to 18 hour days.”
In his book “Eiger Dreams,” mountaineer Jon Krakauer wrote, “The rockfall and avalanches that rain continuously down…are legendary. …This makes the Eiger North Face one of the most widely coveted climbs in the world.”
DiGiulian is attempting to become the first woman to reach the summit.
“When other women open the floodgates to showing that something is possible then all of a sudden you see progression in a sport,” DiGiulian said, explaining why this climb was important to her.
DiGiulian, who’s been climbing since she was 6 years old, won three national rock climbing championships and was female overall world champion. She’s traveled to dozens of countries to compete and climbed some of the world’s most difficult rock formations.
But when she decided to attempt Eiger, she said she faced more resistance than she expected.
“People saying like, ‘Little girls don’t belong on the Eiger.’ Actually like in real life being laughed in my face when saying I was trying something on the Eiger,” DiGiulian said.
That hasn’t stopped her. Nor has the fear she admits she sometimes feels up there.
“I think that it’s wrong to think that people can be fearless. I think that fear is inevitable, but I don’t think that fear needs to be inhibiting,” DiGiulian said.
Fear certainly hasn’t inhibited her. DiGiulian hopes to reach the summit sometime next week, but it could all depend on the weather, which can be brutal there. Her father, who died last year, used to tell her three things before every climb: have fun, be safe and do your best.