Climbing is a unique sport in that it’s both communal and intensely solitary. This is because no matter how much time is spent with other climbers discussing strategy, routes, and gear in a strange pidgin language utterly indecipherable to outsiders, it is, at the end of the day, just you, alone with the rock. What you do in that place—how hard you’re willing to try and how much trial you can endure—is entirely up to you.
This is, of course, true of other similarly solitary sports, a fact I always think about whenever any woman accomplishes an unprecedented physical feat. Like Merry Lepper, who in 1963 became the first woman to finish a marathon, or Diana Nyad, who, in 2013 at the age of 64, became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a protective cage, or Lael Wilcox, the first woman to win the 4,000 mile Trans Am bike race. Now, 31-year-old Angela Eiter has become the first woman in the world to send (climber for “ascend”) the 5.15b grade La Planta de Shiva route in Andalucia, Spain. Which is to say: She finished a really god damn gnarly climb, one that only a two other people—both men—on Earth have completed.
Eiter modestly posted about her mammoth achievement on Instagram, where she wrote that completing the route was “one of the most memorable days of her life.”
According to BBC, Eiter had been chasing La Planta for two years. To train, she made replicas of its holds and stuck them in a climbing wall in her native Austria. Then, she practiced. Over and over and over again.
“For me, it was kind of a challenge if I could ever do it,” she said. “This route really showed me my limits. And yeah, it was really wonderful that I really did it.”