For every sophomoric route name that makes you cringe when you have to tell someone you sent it, there is a route name that makes you think a bit more, that actively augments the experience of the climb through its very label. That is what Carlo Traversi has in mind with his new 5.15a, Empath, out in Tahoe, California.
“An empath is rare in today’s world and I feel like it should be a more highly regarded attribute,” Traversi said. “It’s a quality that I find myself continuing to strive for as I grow older. In some small way, I hope that the name inspires more people to work towards being more empathetic of others.”
The granite of Empath—name aside—is inspiring, too.
“Most of the cliff is typical Sierra granite, but this one section of the wall has these crazy tufa-like features,” Traversi said. “They look kinda like cracks but upon closer inspection are actually more like folds in the rock.”
Traversi first visited the cliff in the summer of 2019, after Jimmy Webb had sent him a picture of it in 2018. Webb had spotted it on a recon for new boulders in the area.
That very first day, with Dave Wetmore, Traversi bolted and cleaned the line that would become Empath.
“Without a doubt it was the most obvious and best line of the cliff and I went to work prepping it up right away,” he said. And then he got to work projecting.
Traversi described the line as follows: “Empath is slightly overhanging, about 65 feet tall and it’s difficult all the way from the bottom to the anchors. It’s a power endurance test piece with very few resting positions. The minimal shake spots are on bad liebacks with smears for feet. The route revolves around squeezing this refrigerator-like feature from bottom to top. There are only two down-pulling holds on the entire route. One of the uniquely difficult aspects of the climb is that your left hand is always on the ‘good’ holds and your right hand is always on bad holds. Your left arm gets completely smoked, because there are few opportunities to rest it.”
Ultimately, he invested somewhere between 10 and 15 days of work into the route. There was no stopper crux sequence; rather the challenge was linking all the sections. “When you start to stack sections on top of each other,” Traversi explained, “it really starts to build in difficulty because of the lack of rests and also because the style of each section is so similar.”
A week ago it all came together. Traversi hiked out to the crag with Jimmy Webb and Daniel Woods—who was visiting from Colorado. With a belay from Woods, Traversi linked the two stacked V10/11 boulders one after another, kept it together at the top, and clipped the chains.
“It’s the hardest thing I’ve climbed on a rope,” he said.
While Woods and Webb spend most of their time these days bouldering, they still tie in from time to time, and with a fresh new route of Empath’s quality, both were gunning for the first repeat.
Jimmy Webb nabbed the second ascent—his first 5.15a—while Woods followed suit right after.
Traversi was there for their redpoints. “It was awesome to witness,” he said. “They put the work in and got it done. It’s not often you have some of the strongest climbers in the country climbing with you on one of the best lines in the world. We all fed off each other’s stoke.”
With Empath, Traversi’s multi-discipline mastery is that much more apparent. While he can now add 5.15 to his route log, he had already bouldered V16 (Creature From the Black Lagoon, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado) and climbed 5.14+ trad (the second ascent of Meltdown, Yosemite National Park, California).