Q&A With Carlo Traversi: The Peace Is In The Journey
He recently established a new boulder in the Wild Basin region of Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. He told us all about his experience and more:
FloClimbing: Congrats on your most recent first ascent. Can you tell me about it? What's its story?
Traversi: Thanks man! Stoked to add another fresh problem to RMNP. Unfortunately there isn't much story behind this one. A friend showed me a photo of the boulder a little while ago and gave me some vague directions on how to find it. Wild Basin can be a confusing place when you stray far from the trail. The further you walk into the dense forest everything begins to look both familiar and strange at the same time. I knew that finding this boulder on my own would be a long shot, but I was in need of a walk in the woods regardless of the outcome, so I went for it anyway. After an hour in the trees, I was lost. I still had a sense of where the original trail was hiding and with that confidence I decided to follow my nose and look for new blocs. Sometimes abandoning your original goal is the best way to arrive in front of it.
After an hour of looking for new blocs, I spotted a dark mass looming in the trees. It hardly looked like a boulder, but I could feel its presence. Alone and on the hunt, your senses can pick up on the details lost in our over stimulated life. As I approached the dark mass, I quickly realized that I was staring at one of the largest and most intriguing blocs I've seen in the Basin. It was the boulder I set out looking for in the first place. After embracing the hunt for something new, I was honestly a little bummed that it was something that had already been found. There's a certain excitement in seeing the unseen I tried some of the moves that day, but darkness arrived quickly and I wandered back to the car.
I returned the following day with Shawn Raboutou, my first time climbing with him outside. Because of our similar size (short), we tend to use similar beta. I figured it would helpful for unlocking this beast of a roof. Plus, he's strong and has a positive attitude.
The beta came together slowly over the course of a few hours. A scrunchy bicycle proved to be the way through the midsection for us. After a couple close efforts and some more time on a rope cleaning holds, I managed to pull it all together. I didn't propose a grade and have yet to name it.
Your climbing existence within the upper echelon has been prolific for over a decade. What is most rewarding for you these days after all this time as a professional climber?
I am rewarded everyday when I get to go climbing in unbelievably beautiful locations with great people in pursuit of something that is completely irrelevant in the greater context but at the same time the most fun, intricate, and challenging activity I have ever tried. The reward is a sense of belonging to the greater climbing community that after 15 years still feels like family.
You've climbed nearly 500 double-digit boulder problems across the globe. While only a small percentage of the human population can dream of this achievement, it is fair to say that it also goes unnoticed by most people today. From a philosophical standpoint, how does this effect the meaning you derive from climbing?
As humans, we were not given the ability to comprehend the infinite (even though we know it exists) so we focus instead on the finite -- things we can wrap our brain around. We pour our time and energy into our understanding of what it means to live and have a life. And that understanding gives us purpose. From a philosophical standpoint, climbing is pointless. But on a deeper level, so is everything else. So why not spend your time pursuing an activity that inspires you, challenges you, and helps you make sense of the time between your birth and your death? As long as you aren't hindering others in their pursuit of the same, there is no such thing as an irrelevant activity.
When you first started climbing, you were obviously a much different person. From then to now, what would you say has evolved the most in your approach to the sport?
My perspective has changed a lot. For the most part, I've stopped comparing myself to others. Grades have become meaningless. We all have our strengths and our weaknesses and numbers are shallow representations of our successes and failures. As I get older I'm finding more joy in the subtleties of climbing, particularly across a variety of disciplines. Although my progression through the grades might not show it, I honestly feel like I'm a better climber than ever before. Technique is a far more rewarding skill than brute strength.
There are probably very few people who truly know the ins and outs of the professional climbing industry like you do. Living your lifestyle is extremely risky. What is it like to be a full-time pro climber amid an ever-expanding globe of mutant crushers such as yourself?
For me, nothing has changed in that regard. While I still like to compete for the personal challenge, I do not compete against others, particularly when it comes to outdoor climbing. When it comes to maintaining a valuable persona for my sponsors, I believe that now, more than ever, we are being judged less and less on our accomplishments and more on our ability to market climbing to the greater public in the most responsible and authentic way possible. I still want to remain on the cutting edge of climbing difficulty for as long as I can, but that's a personal pursuit, not something I do for a company.
Throughout the course of a year, we all have our peaks and valleys. When do you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally strongest?
I feel the best when I am climbing the most and pushing myself the hardest. This year, that time was during the summer in Colorado. Setting routes at the gym in the morning, driving to RMNP, hiking four miles, putting up new boulders, hiking back down, eat, sleep, and repeat. Even when my body felt completely destroyed I tried to stick to this schedule as best as possible. And then I would throw in some days on the Longs Peak Diamond. It's crazy how fast your body adapts.
But you're right; there are always peaks and valleys. For me, the more I climb everything tends to even out a bit more. Not quite flat line, but close.
Obviously you're still young and climbing at the sport's uppermost benchmark, but as a 28-year-old you are no longer a rising, preeminent protege as you once were. How do you feel age affects your climbing ability?
In some ways I feel like age is all in the mind. Or maybe I don't remember what it feels like to be 18. I may not be as strong as I was when I was in my early 20s, but I'm definitely a better climber. I know how to move more efficiently and how to stand on my feet. These are more important skills to me than strength.
If you could impart some wisdom on your 18-year-old climbing self, what would it be?
Try hard and enjoy the ride.
One time I offered you a cheese stick after dinner and you politely declined, telling me that you eat only for energy. With all the dieting trends on a constant cycle of evolution, do you have any specific eating rituals that you feel comfortable following other than chocolate croissants?
I turned down a cheese stick! Are you sure? I don't remember this. Haha. I don't stick to anything specific. I eat a lot. I like to cook. I try to cook most of my meals. Usually a really big breakfast, a small lunch, and a decent sized dinner that usually consists of some type of meat, some rice, and a lot of veggies. I do have a weakness for chocolate croissants. One a day keeps the doctor away…I hope.
As someone who has dedicated their life and soul to climbing, do you feel your path has been fulfilling? How do you maintain balance? Is there peace for the restless rock warrior?
Absolutely fulfilling. I've met so many cool people, traveled to some of the most beautiful places on the planet, and shared countless adventures with good friends. What more could I ask for? The peace is in the journey.
By Dave Wetmore