You could easily argue that Carlo Traversi is the model for the modern climbing professional. The Colorado based American is a prolific traveller, developer and content creator. Over the past decade he has repeated some of the world's hardest problems and has put up test pieces such as The Kingdom V15 (Font 8c), in Brione, Switzerland which featured in his 2013 film Heritage.
Throughout your career you've done a wide range of first ascents and repeats. Which problems stand out to you as being landmarks of progress in your climbing?
In terms of landmarks of progress, when I made the second ascent of The Game in Boulder Canyon, Colorado, that moment stands out for me as the first time I realized that I could potentially climb at a world-class level. Overall, I didn't feel like I was climbing at that level at the time, but it gave me a glimpse of what I could achieve in the future. It's those perspective-shifting moments that are most valuable to progression. I've seen people who are world class in ability never have a perspective shift and in turn never realize their full potential. I was lucky to have these moments at the right time.
The other moment that stands out for me is when I completed the first ascent of The Kingdom in Brione, CH. I was at my peak in confidence and strength at the time. I had put a lot of effort into making that particular problem a reality. When I climbed it, it felt really easy. Just flowed like it should. It's moments like those that are important to me because they help you understand what climbing is supposed to feel like. Effortless. Those moments are so rare though. That's why it's important to take the time to grasp them as they are happening. Put that feeling in your back pocket and hold onto it for the rest of your life.
What do you think drives you to put the effort you did into problems like The Kingdom? How do you approach a project like that mentally?
At the time, I was driven to put effort into the project that became The Kingdom because it was an aesthetic, obvious and inspiring line. The moves fit me really well and I knew they were at the upper end of the difficulty scale for me. It's not often that you find projects that are just barely outside of your ability and when you find them it's important to take the time to make them a reality.
I approached that particular project with curiosity at first. I spent a few days figuring out the moves and really enjoyed that part of the process. Once I solved the individual moves, I knew it was only a matter of time and dedication to piece it all together. Luckily I had other projects in Switzerland at the time, so the process didn't become a life consuming thing. It helped me mentally relax by not focusing on one objective. The day I sent I didn't really have any expectations. I thought it was going to be wet that day and it ended up being a bit damp but I remember just being stoked that I would be able to at least try it. Sometimes it's best to just be happy with the chance to climb and not get too wrapped up in the send.
A lot of climbers at every level can struggle to send their projects by becoming too attached to them. How do you get into the right mental zone like that to detach and get them done?
For me it's all about maintaining perspective. The pursuit of our individual climbing goals is easy to get lost in, but it's important for me to always remember that even though it's "my" project, it's still just a piece of rock. Our ascents are not going to affect the world or anyone beyond our small bubble in any significant way. It can be hard to tread the line of detaching yourself enough to keep emotions from preventing a send and being invested enough to stay connected with your inner motivation. Emotional awareness is one of the most important attributes of climbing. Coming to terms with the construct of your motivation as well as the basis of your fears will go a long way towards achieving a balanced mental state while projecting.
Once you realized you could potentially climb at a world class level, how did you train to get there and break through?
I've never specifically trained to reach a new level in my climbing. However I climb a ton and I feel like my ability to reach that upper level is mostly to do with technique rather than strength. Power means nothing if you don't know the appropriate times to use it and the correct applications of it. I have never felt like the strongest climber, but I do feel like I have become extremely proficient at using the power and strengths that I do have in the best ways possible.
Do you think with the growth of indoor climbing over the past couple of decades there is often now too much focus on developing power? What advice would you give to people in how to become proficient in using it?
The emphasis on developing power and strength has definitely increased with the growth of indoor climbing. I don't think this on its own is the issue. It's the lack of emphasis on footwork and efficient movement that is the issue. As far as advice goes, power is useless without understanding how to apply it. I highly recommend experimenting with different ways of climbing problems in the gym while limiting the amount of pulling. Focus on climbing around holds and not through them whenever possible.
For any climber, executing at their limit needs a level of confidence both in their ability and mental strength to go through the projecting process. How do you deal with maintaining the level of confidence needed? Do you do use any mental training techniques or specific processes when approaching a project?
I don't really have any specific mental techniques or processes when approaching a project. I just try to find ways to keep everything light and fun. As long as you maintain this mindset throughout any process everything feels a bit easier. It's also more enjoyable. Sometimes when I get a little too deep into a project, where the process becomes a little too serious or feels laborious, I like to take a step back and try other things. Climbing easy multi-pitch trad has become a great way for me to reset and remember why I enjoy going climbing in the first place.
That's a good strategy to deal with it. You've produced a number of long form films over the past decade. How has your climbing career helped you develop your creative side and storytelling?
Living the life of a full-time climber has been an amazing opportunity for me. It's not a lifestyle that most people have the ability to live and I feel very grateful to be able to experience the world in this way. Out of necessity my climbing career helped develop my creative side. Early on, selling videos and photos was one of the best ways to pay for my travels. Once climbing media became more and more ubiquitous, as a media producer, I was consistently pushed to improve in my ability to tell interesting stories in order to continue to make enough money to travel and continue the lifestyle I had chosen.