Three Questions: Carlo Traversi

Carlo on the FA of Ground Swell |V13| in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo: carlotraversi.com

What happened

On September 5th, 2016, Carlo Traversi did something crazy. Something only a handful of people ON EARTH could do. He calls it the "Triple 14 Day." What a humble title, for something so freakish. What is the Triple 14, exactly? Here's a nice bulleted layout, so you might better understand what happened.

Over a 20 hour span in Rocky Mountain National Park, Carlo climbed:

  • Jade, V14. A Daniel Woods boulder problem located in Upper Chaos Canyon, originally given V15.
  • Sarchasm Arete, 5.14a. A stunning Tommy Caldwell sport climb near Chasm Lake, at the base of Long's Peak.
  • Long's Peak itself, 14,259 feet, by way of Pervertical Sanctuary, a six pitch 5.11a traditional route up the peak's east face – aka The Diamond.

Not only did he climb all of these, he also hiked between them, eventually racking up 23 miles of foot work.

It's almost impossible to imagine what it takes to accomplish something like this without knowing what these grades feel like – and most of us will never possess that knowledge. Can you imagine having complete knowledge of infinity? Can you imagine having the ability to observe all the wavelengths on the spectrum of light? Yeah, me neither. But that doesn't mean we can't be awed by the spectacle.

So first, a polite round of applause. Clap clap clap clap, amazing work Carlo.

Three Questions

Carlo and I grew up in Santa Rosa, a mid-sized city in Northern California's famed wine country. We went to the same high school, we climbed together at Vertex Climbing Center (the best gym on the planet, of course), we even got in trouble with the law together during a fateful teenage climbing trip to Bishop. Later, we both moved on to Colorado to go to college in Boulder. Many days and nights of debauchery ensued. Though we eventually drifted onto separate paths, our friendship remains strong.

A very old photo of Carlo and I outside of Moab in 2007. Trad climbing...photo by David Allwine.

I've seen Carlo only a couple of times since our epic journey through space and time in Indian Creek, but I was curious about his reasoning behind the Triple 14 Day, as well as the experience itself. So I asked him about it. And, being the intelligent and well-written scholar that he is, Carlo responded.

The following is the first in (what will hopefully become) a series. Mini interviews with interesting people. Tiny questions for big humans. Thin inquiries for wide-reaching individuals. So I give you...

THREE QUESTIONS: CARLO TRAVERSI

1. What was your intention behind the endeavor?

The biggest consistency in the 10 years that I have been living in Colorado has been RMNP.  It was the first place that I went climbing in this state and I've spent more days climbing in the park than anywhere else in the entire world.  The most surprising thing is that it's never gotten boring.  As I've progressed as a climber over the years I've gone from bouldering mainly in Lower Chaos to eventually climbing alpine routes on the Diamond of Long's Peak, and everything in between.  Some of the most memorable experiences in my life have been big days in the alpine of RMNP.  While I can't take credit for the original idea for doing the triple 14 day, it has been on my mind for many years now.  If your skill level is high enough in each of the disciplines (bouldering, sport, trad), it just makes sense to try it.  Ultimately my intention was to enjoy a huge day in RMNP experiencing all the types of climbing that I enjoy and pushing myself to new limits in mental and physical exertion.  I'm happy to say it provided just that.  

2. What went into planning it?

It's been in the back of my mind for a few years now, but international travel during the summer has made it nearly impossible to plan for it.  This summer I was committed to staying in Colorado for the whole season and this gave me plenty of time to train and plan.  I pitched the idea to one of my sponsors, Black Diamond, and they were interested in supporting the video documentation of the challenge.  Once that aspect of the idea gained traction it really started to grow wings.  The logistics proved to be a bit of a nightmare, mostly because planning the exact timeframes of everything is really difficult.  In the weeks leading up to the proposed dates, I made sure to complete each of the individual aspects of the challenge to make sure the schedule for the day was feasible.  Jade was the biggest question mark for me.  I hadn't climbed on it since 2010 and I was nervous about how it would feel.  Luckily during one of my prep days I was able to climb the boulder quickly and without losing much skin.  This was the moment where I realized the whole challenge was possible.  Having a good partner was a key component of planning as well.  I had a short list of people as possibilities but it ultimately worked out that my good friend Jonny Hork was willing to support the mission.  More than anything I needed someone who I could trust and could also keep the mood light throughout the day.  It was a huge commitment from him and I can't thank him enough for helping me succeed with the challenge.  

3. How do you view this feat in terms of your future as a climber? Would you do something like this again?

I've never considered myself as just a boulderer, or a sport climber, or a trad climber.  I've always viewed myself as a climber who is ready and willing to enjoy any type of climbing on any given day.  If the future continues to hold more days like this, where I can challenge myself across multiple disciplines, then I welcome those opportunities with open arms.  I will most likely never attempt the triple 14 day in RMNP again, but maybe in another state or country.  It would be great to combine the skills involved into one line.  A big wall project at high elevation with V14 level difficulty and the need for a high level of mental and physical stamina would be a great progression for myself and the sport.

What this means

Recently I wrote a news article for MojaGear highlighting the record-setting destruction brought down upon the Long's Peak Triathlon by Anton Krupicka and Stefan Griebel. Yet another impressive display of mind-boggling endurance that's very difficult to imagine for mortals like us. 

Will feats of human strength and endurance like these become the norm? I can picture it. Climbing grades might taper off – V16 & 5.16 will exist, but fewer and fewer people will achieve them – but creative bouts of stamina like Carlo's might just be ramping up. A huge variety of possibilities opens up when athletes start to combine individual events (like one V14 in a day) into multiple ones (like four V14's in a day). While this may not constitute the entirety of climbing's future, I can certainly see mega-events like these snowball in popularity.

But who cares about me. What do you think?