sasha digiulian rayu
Sasha DiGiulian on Rayu 5.14b/8c; (photo/Red Bull Content Pool)

DiGiulian, Harrington, and Soderlund Climb 5.14b/8c Big Wall in Spain

The three women captured a team free-climb of the nails-hard Pou brothers route that Sasha Digiulian called ‘the hardest graded big wall achieved by a female team.’

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on Explorersweb.

Three of the world’s leading climbers — Matilda Soderlund, Sasha DiGiulian, and Brette Harrington — worked together to send a 5.14b big wall route in Spain this week. They climbed “Rayu,” a 15-pitch, 2,000-foot route in Peña Santa in Picos de Europa, Spain. Established by the Pou brothers and Kico Cerda in 2020, the latest ascent marks the route’s first repeat and a major milestone for women climbers.

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DiGiulian, Soderlund, and Harrington share a moment at the belay; (photo/Red Bull Content Pool)

“Second ascent and first female ascent!,” DiGiulian wrote on Instagram. “This also marks the hardest graded big wall achieved by a female team…The route is mainly trad climbing, making it very adventurous and exposed at some places.”

DiGiulian and Soderlund both sent the 5.14b crux pitch, while Harrington climbed every pitch except that one — which would have been her first send at that difficulty.

However, Harrington led the team up many of the scariest pitches, the team said in a Red Bull interview.

“She’d fiddle in small wires, set Totem cams, and brave no-fall terrain,” the article said. “She then showed the team key gear placements so they could swap leads on the next round. With protection points 30 or more feet apart, the fall potential is more than 60 feet.”

A ‘Very Adventurous’ Route

The line begins with several pitches of primarily 5.12 climbing before the pitches increase in difficulty. Its often overhanging walls require tricky gear placements and bold climbing that make it “very adventurous and exposed,” Soderlund wrote online.

Sending the route required combining the team’s skill set, DiGiulian said. That meant leaning on the trad climbing and alpine experience of Harrington and Soderlund.

It’s also a major comeback for DiGiulian, who underwent her second hip reconstruction just 2 years ago, and didn’t know if she’d ever return to professional climbing.

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DiGiulian questing on the techy route; (photo/Red Bull Content Pool)

“This route been a mentally challenging journey — with heady leads on adventurous trad climbing terrain,” DiGiulian wrote on Instagram. “Learning the fickle gear placements and the direction of the route with @bretteharrington and @matilda_soderlund has been a cool challenge to grow from.”

Climbing spectators will have a chance to see these crushers in action on “Rayu.” They took a film crew and expect to release a documentary about the accomplishment sometime next year.

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Andrew McLemore

An award-winning journalist and photographer, Andrew McLemore brings more than 14 years of experience to his position as Associate News Editor for Lola Digital Media. Andrew is a musician, climber and traveler who currently lives in Cuenca, Ecuador, which he uses as a home base for adventures throughout the Americas. When he's not writing, playing gigs or exploring the outdoors, he's hanging out with his dog Campana.