In some ways, Sasha DiGiulian has her brother to thank for becoming one of the greatest rock climbers in the world. It was his birthday party at an indoor climbing gym in their home state of Virginia that introduced her to the sport at the ripe age of six. After that, she started hanging out at the gym a couple days a week before stumbling on a comp. Watching those athletes tackle cruxes with confidence and pull off daring dynos hooked her.

And while her bro may have introduced her to the sport, DiGiulian did the rest all on her own: The 31-year-old has gone on to become one of the most accomplished climbers of all time. She won gold in the Overall category at the International Federation of Sport Climbing World Championships twice, logged more than 30 first ascents and first female ascents, and became the third woman in the world to accomplish a grade 9a, 5.14d (that’s one of the world’s most difficult-known climbs, for any newbs out there).

Now, DiGiulian is adding a different kind of achievement to her already impressive resumé: starring in an HBO documentary about her life and career. The Boulder-based climber will premiere Here to Climb at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House on May 31 before it’s released to stream on Max on June 19. Ahead of the documentary release, we caught up with DiGiulian to learn more about her journey—and how much of it made it to the big screen.

Editor’s note: The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

5280: How did the documentary come about?
Sasha DiGiulian: We started working on this about four years ago, actually [around the time] I found out I was going to face about five hip reconstruction surgeries. My future was pretty uncertain in climbing, and I didn’t really know what was going to happen. But I did know that despite anyone telling me my climbing career could be in jeopardy, that just wouldn’t be the case. That’s how it all started. We were like, ‘Let’s record this and chronicle this journey that’s so uncertain and see what comes of it.’

Can you give us any sneak peeks as to what the documentary covers?
A big part of it is seeing how I get through this massive injury and make my comeback. It also showcases what it’s like to be a female athlete in a male-dominated sport and how being a woman doing something different can be perceived negatively.

Sasha DiGiulian in Kalymnos, Greece. Photo by Alex Grymanis / Red Bull Content Pool

Why is being a woman in the sport of climbing important to you?
I’ve always been really proud of being a woman in climbing, and I see it as a positive. I’ve spent a large portion of my career really defining myself as a woman who embraces my femininity as well as my athleticism. Those two shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. There’s a lot of grace and elegance and strength and power that come to the table. First female ascents are worth noting because it’s a historical achievement, and I think that’s a big part of my message and a consistent theme across the film.

What did the behind-the-scenes look like?
I had a camera crew around a lot. Because I’ve climbed for so long and been sponsored since I was 12, I’m pretty used to cameras. But I still think it was vulnerable to record and be in front of people during some of my darkest lows. I’m excited but nervous that the film is my experience told in a really intimate way.

At the risk of revealing your choice spots, do you have any favorite places to climb here in Colorado?
I love climbing in the Flatirons. I also love Clear Creek, Boulder Canyon, and Eldorado Canyon. The reason I moved from New York City to Boulder is because of the access to the outdoors. I mostly train [inside] at the gym I have at my house. It was something I built during the pandemic when I wasn’t climbing for nine months. I’m a pretty private person, and it can also be really great for me to have meetings and then just knock out some training in the garage. I do like all of the Movement gyms, though.

Sasha DiGiulian in Kalymnos, Greece. Photo by Alex Grymanis / Red Bull Content Pool

Do you have any advice for new climbers or younger climbers?
Consistency is key. Climbing is one of those sports where you see gains over time. If you can, I would suggest climbing two to three times a week to start. The more you can build that foundational base, the quicker you can become at climbing better. There’s a lot of cross-training that you can do, too, but for beginners, the act of climbing is really the best way to start.

Is there anything you hope viewers take away from your documentary?
I hope it inspires more young women and girls—and really anyone—who identifies with my story. I hope it gives people the confidence to be themselves, which is a large part of the messaging. It’s about embracing who you are and unapologetically pursuing your own path.

Here to Climb will premiere at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House on May 31 at 7 p.m. Tickets (starting at $20) can be purchased in advance through the AXS website.

Barbara O'Neil
Barbara O'Neil
Barbara is one of 5280's assistant editors and writes stories for 5280 and