(Need to catch up on Episodes 1 and 2? Read those first!)
At first glance, the third leg of the competition on adventure reality show The Climb seems pretty simple. The remaining contestants, now in Albarracin, Spain, will be bouldering on short rock formations. They kind of look like the piles any Joe Schmo wandering around Joshua Tree National Park can crawl around on. But no, legit bouldering, which has been gaining in popularity and is host Jason Momoa’s favorite style of climbing, actually necessitates some of the hardest possible moves a climber can do.
The peak might not be that high, but you have to get there in three to six moves without a rope or harness, often dangling upside down under overhangs or on slabs with tiny feet and hand holds. It’s still possible to get seriously injured. Spotters and thin foam mats overlapping the seams are the only thing below you to catch your fall.
It’s the “purest form” of climbing, his co-host Chris Sharma notes. “It will keep you on your toes, no pun intended.”
As a shorter climber, “I have to have a larger wheelhouse of technique,” says Cat, who opens up for the first time on camera about being a transgender man. Cat played sports like basketball his entire life but after he transitioned, was told he couldn’t compete in team activities anymore. The year after his top surgery, he discovered climbing. “I was finding myself in this sport as I was finding myself as a human.” Luckily, he found that climbing was an inclusive, welcoming place for everyone.
This Week’s Climb
The main challenge was scaling a red sandstone boulder called “Pais de las Bicicletas.” It only stands 26 feet high but has a scary overhanding bulge with small quarter inch edges. It takes major core strength for sure, but also pushes the climbers psychologically. They have two attempts to top it.
Tiffany, who overcame a debilitating spine injury, laments that she’s not thrilled to attempt this feat, and we learn that bouldering is wunderkind Brad’s weak spot. But it’s okay because he’s totally vibing with Robyn. They would make a cute couple, they’re both happy positive people who share a love of climbing. If Chris and co-host Meagan Martin are the Superman and Wonder Woman of the sport, Brad and Robyn could be the Ken and Barbie.
So anyway, with a $100,000 prize and a sponsorship with prAna literally dangling in front of the contestants, there’s no crying in bouldering. Except after Tiffany makes it to the top on her second try and sobs with relief. You can’t blame her, the bravery it takes to attempt these climbs is epic. “Let’s be honest,” Mario explains, “anytime you hit the ground it’s fuckin’ scary.”
Mario and Tiffany end up in the bottom two — everyone else “sends,” climber lingo for making it all the way without falling or resting — with what appears to be ease. Deco dances at the top. It’s not an issue for Alice. Dom’s knee is throbbing, but he pretends he’s fine. Brad still looks like a front-runner. Cat moves like a cat. It’s anybody’s game right now.
But first the elimination round. It’s a roof climb called “Techo de Menos,” a low-slung shelf that looks like a lamb’s head. “That’s a sexy piece of rock,” Mario says. It’s only 8 feet off the ground and Mario and Tiffany will basically have to be horizontal underneath it, holding on for dear life by their fingertips, then flip their leg over the mantle to hoist themselves up.
They both miraculously make it, so they move on to a slab called “Sietea,” only 20 feet tall, but has credit card sized crimps making the route tough to find. Mario barely gets his toes off the ground, but Tiffany glides to the top gracefully. Sadly, that’s Mario’s ticket home.
Sharma pointed out a couple times that Mario didn’t look like a typical climber, he didn’t have that stereotypical lean physique. But that’s what’s cool about this sport and this show. People of all shapes and sizes and ages can climb. Your gender doesn’t matter. Men and women and everything in between are on a level playing field. In the end, it’s all about the send.
Read More About HBO’s The Climb:
- Episode One: The Rain in Spain
- Episode Two: The Right Route
- Episode Three: Looks Can Be Deceiving
- Episode Four: Tufa, We Hardly Knew Ya
- Episode Five: Leave Your Mark
- Episode Six: The Crack