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The Crack: Here’s What We Thought of HBO’s The Climb, Episode 6

When we last left off on The Climb, Dom and Decco were spared the axe because Tiffany contracted COVID. So instead of an elimination challenge, Cat and Alice faced off in a head-to-head battle on a majestic piece of rock in Wadi Rum Jordan for immunity in the next climb.

This time, Alice is too pumped with adrenaline to focus and barely makes it off the ground before her heel slips. As always, Cat pulls off yet another impressive win, drawing admiration — and a tear — from his buddy Dom back on the ground.

Cat picks the perfect time to earn Safety and Tiffany picks the worst time to make her return from quarantine. For the next climb, host Chris Sharma announces the most dangerous type of route in the competition so far — crack climbing. If they’re looking for the most well-rounded climber, “it’s a true test.”

Wasn’t the last one the hardest test? They’re all hard. It’s the reason the cash prize is $100,000. It’s a life insurance policy.

Crack Is Wack

This time, the group won’t be able to rely on fixed anchors. Finding cracks is the origin of the sport. Traditional or “trad” climbing involves carrying and placing protection such as chocks and camming devices, rather than clipping into preplaced bolts. The key is making good decisions and taking calculated risks.

It’s totally safe if done properly, however, if not, they could “easily” fall to their deaths. Oh my.

The six remaining contestants will have to wiggle their way up, jamming their hands and feet in the cracks, using camming devices to help. But there’s no guarantee they’ll hold, especially if they’re not placed in the right direction. When that happens, it’s called zippering, pop pop pop, they all come out. “More times than not, that’s not gonna end well,” Dom says.

Image by Warner Media

Several of the contestants admit they’ve never even attempted a crack climb before. Now they’ll be doing it on sandstone. “I don’t have a bloody clue what I’m doing,” Tiffany frets. She also hasn’t climbed in three weeks because she was sick (and anyone who’s had COVID knows you can be weak for weeks afterwards). She’s concerned about her fitness on top of everything else.

Robyn shares that her friend tragically died crack climbing. She had three pieces of gear in and all of them popped. She hit the ground and that was it. Robyn hasn’t done it since. “I don’t like trad climbing at all,” she admits.

There’s no crying in baseball… or in climbing. And definitely no chickening out. “As climbers we adapt to the unknown so we can face new challenges with courage and trust,” Sharma says. “It’s empowering to come to a virgin climb with no bolts and regulate your own safety.”

Or a death wish, jeez. 

The Main Climb: Double Elimination

The crack climb is a very vertical 85 feet and is called a Fist Full of Jebels (now that’s a name, Alice!). It’s a splintered crack, an open book with a clean seam in the back. There’s not much for hands and feet outside of the crack. It’ll take hand jabs and flexibility. Wedging versus holding on.

It’s a double elimination. Last one up the main climb is going home, then 4th and 5th place will face an elimination climb.

The tension is palpable. Robyn, lucky girl, is first up. The look on her face is sheer terror. “Have fun,” Deco says. She does not look like she’s having fun. She says there’s a weight on her chest. But then she bravely starts ascending and by God, she makes it to the top. Where she starts sobbing. Who can blame her.

“It was actually really fun,” she insists. “My friend would have been proud. She would not have wanted me to avoid trad climbing. It brought her a lot of joy.”

Deco heads up next. He has almost zero experience doing this but after a few lectures from Sharma on his goofy behavior, he’s taking this climb dead serious. He thrashes a little bit and spends too much energy early on. He’s in trouble and co-host Meagan Martin warns that if you panic, you can not know where to go. Deco refocuses and makes it to the top.

Alice is straight-hand jamming on her turn and little Cat’s small hands don’t do him any favors but they, along with Dom, top. Tiffany is the only one who doesn’t make it and she’s going home. “I didn’t know how to do it,” she says. “I tried my hardest but it proved to be a step too far.”

Unfortunately, she doesn’t get to go on a cool camel ride and tea party in the middle of the desert at dusk with everyone. “This is bucket list shit I didn’t know was on my bucket list,” Cat says. 

Since everyone else made it to the top, 4th and 5th place comes down to who did it the slowest, which is Dom and Deco in the bottom two, for the second week in a row. “Do you want to be here or not?” Dom pep-talks himself. “Get your shit together.”

Deco’s Redemption

The elimination climb, a beautiful crack called “Enter the Jebel,” will be the most difficult in your entire climbing career,” Sharma warns. He’s starting to sound like Chris Harrison when he said on The Bachelor, “The most dramatic rose ceremony ever!” like every week for 20 years.

This crack is 125 feet high, though, so where’s the lie? The climbers will have to jam not just with their hands and feet, but their entire body, to wiggle their way to the top. Dom chooses to go first and Sharma remarks that it’s like a samurai choosing his own fate. His palms are sweaty with nerves watching his two proteges battle. 

Decco, Image by Warner Media

Dom chooses wisely because he crushes it and makes it to the top. He turns his eyes towards the heavens for thanks. Now Deco has the added pressure of not only making it, but being faster than Dom. “Let’s see if Deco can get to the top,” he says in third person.

Deco’s not even annoying this time because he finally gives it his all. He didn’t even know how to hand jam last week. “Never give up, man,” Deco says. “Sometimes life surprises you.” Unfortunately, his best isn’t good enough. He makes it but not as fast as Dom. It’s the end of the road for the beloved buffoon. But in the end, everyone agrees that the Brazilian redeemed himself with dignity.

“He tried harder than he ever had,” Sharma explains. “He’s going out on a high note. I was really proud of him.”

And all of the amazing amateurs frankly. They make what they do look easy. And it doesn’t even look easy. Each week they continue to awe and inspire us. “When we face our fears and trust in ourselves,” Sharma adds, “we are stronger than we ever imagined.”

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