Sending “A line above the Sky” La Sportiva athlete Angelika Rainer has become the first woman in the world to climb D15

La Sportiva meets Angelika Rainer for a chat about her latest big achievement: with her ascent of "A line above the Sky", the South Tyrolean climber has become the first woman in the world to climb D15 and, in doing so, she has equalled the maximum difficulty ever climbed by her male counterparts.

How would you describe “A line above the Sky” at Tomorrow's World?
The ‘ A line above the sky’ route is situated at the Tomorrow’s World Dry-tooling cliff, at Malga Ciapela in the Dolomites. English mountaineer Tom Ballard, first freed the cliff and carried out the first ascent of the routes. Tomorrow’s world is a large cave and “A line above the sky” crosses the entire overhang, with 40 metres of horizontal climbing.   It can be said that it is currently the best place for Dry-tooling with some of the hardest routes in the world, having as many as 8 routes graded between D13 and D15. 

Which is the key passage/the most difficult section of the climb?
There is no real key passage, but there are 5 very long moves, distributed all along the route. It is constantly overhanging and there are no good resting places and so it becomes very difficult to keep the level of strength required to face the last long move, which is the penultimate of 27 quick draws. 

How much did you train for this project?
When I first tried the route in February 2016, compared to my male colleagues, I was barely able to reach these long moves due to my limited arm span. This winter I trained a lot on long moves, as they are also required for women in the World Cup.  Returning to Tomorrow’s World, this February I immediately felt the benefit of all that training.

You know Tom Ballard: did he give you any advice on how to tackle the route?
It was Tom Ballard who invited me to Tomorrow’s World to try his routes, an invitation which I accepted with great pleasure, also because I was happy to finally have such hard projects so close to home, after having travelled as far as Canada and Colorado to put myself to the test on some of today’s hardest routes. Tom did not give me any real advice, because our climbing styles are so different, but he always encouraged me and he has always believed in me, just like my partner Marco, who helped me with specific training.

Do you think it is possible to climb higher than D15?
I think it is possible to make even harder moves, maybe on more delicate holds.  One often tends to think that longer moves are the only difficulty, but this is not so, as this discipline becomes more and more technical everyday, other types of moves can elevate the grade of the route too: for example open or very insidious lateral movements, where not only resistance is needed, but also a deeper understanding of how to tackle these specific passages.  It is important to train constantly and always have the best climbing equipment at hand.

Dry-tooling or ice climbing?
I like both of them, in the same way that I like climbing on rock in both spring and summer.  I would not be able to choose between the different disciplines, because they make my year more varied, keeping my motivation high and presenting me with ever new and challenging projects. Ice climbing is a privilege for just a few weeks a year: Dry-tooling gives me incredible adrenaline: climbing on rock, is my first love, I will never abandon it. In this way I think that I can climb anywhere in the world.

“Being able to become the strongest athlete in the world for dry tooling” is no longer a dream. Do you think it is possible to overcome men in these grades too?
Being smaller and with a reduced arm span compared to my male colleagues, makes many moves much more difficult for me.  I am therefore extremely happy that with this climb I have entered into that close circle of athletes who have achieved this grade in Dry-tooling.  I will constantly try to improve, competing with myself more than with other men and women. 

How important is it to use your feet correctly on a route?
The correct use of the feet is essential. Even if I used many ‘Yaniri’ and ‘Figure4’ to do the moves, it is essential to position your feet in a way that you are able to sling hook. Not all movements are easier with the Yaniro.  I did three key moves with a Yaniro and 2 key movements by pushing down on my feet. I believe that there is no one style of dry-tooling that prevails over another, all of them are essential to climb at these grades.