They Climbed a Frigid Mountain to Meet Each Other

They Climbed a Frigid Mountain to Meet Each Other
  • PublishedSeptember 25, 2023


In late December 2017, Sasha Renata DiGiulian arrived in New Hampshire to ice climb Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast, with Mark Synnott, a fellow professional climber. They were there to be filmed over three days and two nights for the pilot of a docuseries sponsored by Red Bull. Their episode, which took place amid snow and 120-mile-per-hour winds, was directed by Erik Hartel Osterholm, who was also an executive producer.

“We were supposed to start at 4 a.m. the next day,” Mr. Osterholm said. “Sasha showed up at 11 p.m. or 12 a.m., a few hours before we had to wake up. I remember her bursting with energy, surprisingly, at midnight.”

When filming wrapped, Ms. DiGiulian and Mr. Osterholm shared a car for a three-hour drive from Jackson, N.H., to Boston Logan International Airport. Ms. DiGiulian, now 30, and Mr. Osterholm, 37, each in a relationship at the time, got to know each other better by discussing topics ranging from family to Bitcoin.

Ms. DiGiulian flew home to Boulder, Colo., while Mr. Osterholm boarded a flight to Aspen, Colo., for a ski trip with friends before returning to Bozeman, Mont., where he had recently moved after eight years in New York. Ms. DiGiulian had moved from New York a year earlier, and, coincidentally, the two had lived near each other in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood and even belonged to the same Equinox gym, though they had never crossed paths.

In April 2018, the two met up at a coffee shop in Midtown Manhattan to discuss working together again. Ms. DiGiulian was in town for a gala, while Mr. Osterholm was visiting for meetings and work. Both were still in relationships; neither felt a romantic spark.

Two months later, on July 11, 2018, Ms. DiGiulian, was driving from Boulder to Banff National Park to climb the trilogy, three of Canada’s most challenging big wall climbs in a single season. She stopped in Bozeman for the night. At 9 p.m., while out with friends at Plonk wine bar, Ms. DiGiulian invited Mr. Osterholm to join. Both were newly single.

He was getting ready for bed when he received her text message and quickly changed plans to go out. “We were having our own conversation in a swirl of other people talking,” Mr. Osterholm said. He felt something romantic could be there.

The next day, Ms. DiGiulian realized she had feelings when the two met for a five-mile jog and hike on the M Trail in Bozeman, and grabbed lunch after. Not wanting to lose momentum, Mr. Osterholm had fibbed, telling Ms. DiGiulian that he had plans to visit her town when he did not.

The couple’s first official date was six weeks later, on Aug. 24, 2018, for a weekend in Boulder, where they hiked, climbed and cycled, among other outdoor activities. Having gone on only a handful of dates before each departed for two months of work-related travel, they spoke frequently on the phone between late September and early November.

Mr. Osterholm invited Ms. DiGiulian to spend Thanksgiving in Bozeman with him and his mother, Anne Osterholm, a real estate agent in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. Ms. Osterholm was impressed by Ms. DiGiulian’s hugs. “I have never been hugged as strongly and as firmly and for the longest period of time,” she said.

The two women bonded while wearing aprons as they cooked a squash casserole, laughing and drinking wine. They brought the dish to a Thanksgiving dinner at a neighbor’s home.

“I saw Sasha and Erik laughing and smiling,” Ms. Osterholm said. “I know my son, and when his eyes are sparkling like that, it’s rare. And it’s magical.”

As a professional climber, Ms. DiGiulian has achieved the title of the Female Overall World Champion and completed more than a dozen first ascents all around the world. Her memoir, “Take The Lead: Hanging On, Letting Go and Conquering Life’s Hardest Climbs,” will be published on Sept. 26 by Macmillan Publishers.

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Ms. DiGiulian, who has celiac disease, an autoimmune condition, is also a founder and the chief executive of Send Bars, a gluten-free, plant-based and vegan superfood nutrition bar company. Raised in Alexandria, Va., she graduated from Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in nonfiction creative writing.

Mr. Osterholm grew up in Bethesda, Md. He earned a Primetime Emmy in 2015 for his production work on “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.” For the series, he traveled with Mr. Bourdain to several places, including Iran and the South Pole. Mr. Osterholm has also worked on HBO’s “Vice” series, Netflix’s “The Business of Drugs” and CNN’s “Nomad with Carlton McCoy.” He has a bachelor’s degree in television production from Emerson College.

In May 2019, Mr. Osterholm moved to Boulder, into a house with Ms. DiGiulian. The couple moved to another house in Boulder in September 2019. They have two cats, Pixie and Twix, and a bernedoodle, MooseChaga.

In early 2020, after almost two years of hip pain, an M.R.I. showed that Ms. DiGiulian had hip dysplasia. “I had shredded through all of the surrounding ligaments that were holding things into place within my pelvic bone,” she said. The diagnosis called for double hip reconstructive surgery, which could potentially end her career.

After Ms. DiGiulian’s “graphic and intense” surgery in April 2020, Mr. Osterholm says he was thrust into a new multifaceted caregiving role. “Deep into that process of helping carry Sasha to the bathroom, and hospital visits, and all that P.T. madness, and Covid all around, Sasha thought it was a really good idea to get a puppy,” he said. Ms. DiGiulian fully recovered.

In the spring of 2021, the couple started talking about getting engaged. After finding a radiant cut diamond and working with a designer, Mr. Osterholm acquired an engagement ring that summer. “I had the ring and it was burning a hole in my pocket,” he said. So much so, that despite Ms. DiGiulian having recently sprained her ankle, his goal was to propose on July 21, 2021 at Lion’s Lair, a trail the couple often hikes, located on Sanitas Mountain in Boulder.

Mr. Osterholm convinced Ms. DiGiulian to walk their dog together. Unfortunately, she was “hobbling and limping,” as they walked along the nearby Dakota Ridge Trail, Mr. Osterholm had to quickly find a spot to propose.

He announced he was going to urinate behind a rock. Once he was kneeling — or rather, crouching — he asked Ms. DiGiulian to walk over with the dog. “She was like, ‘Why would I come over to where you just peed?’” he said.

Clutching an unintentionally closed ring box, Mr. Osterholm asked Ms. DiGiulian to marry him. “I think she was confused at first because it wasn’t open,” he said. After asking to see the ring, she said yes.

The couple married Sept. 2 at the Planet Bluegrass, an outdoor venue in Lyons, Colo., about 25 minutes north of Boulder. Robin O’Leary, a friend of the couple who was ordained by the American Marriage Ministries for the occasion, officiated before 165 guests. This included the groom’s mother and his father, Alan Hollis Osterholm, and the bride’s mother, Andrea Lynn DiGiulian. A moment of silence was held for the bride’s late father, John A. DiGiulian.

MooseChaga served as “best canine” (and best man), and walked Mr. Osterholm down the aisle. Ms. DiGiulian wore a white multilayered A-line gown with embroidery by the designer Dany Tabet. The groom wore a light blue suit of wool, silk and linen that was custom made.

The couple shared their first dance to the song “This Year’s Love” by David Gray, played by a D.J.

The couple travels often, and all over the world, so when it came time to plan a wedding, they decided to bring everyone to them. “I just wanted to be outside,” Ms. DiGiulian said, “and welcome our friends and our family and loved ones into the lifestyle that we live.”

Where Planet Bluegrass, Lyons, Colo.

When Sept. 2, 2023

An Active Program At 8:30 a.m. on the day of the wedding, Mr. Osterholm held an 11-mile trail run for guests near their home, including the Anemone and Lion’s Lair Trails to the summit of Sanitas Mountain. The morning of the rehearsal dinner, the bride hosted a 50-minute cardio and strength class for 11 guests at Mecha, a fitness studio in Boulder, followed by smoothies. And that afternoon the groom held a three-hour Ultimate Frisbee game with aunts, uncles, cousins and friends, at North Boulder Park. “It was a wonderful, sweaty multigenerational affair,” Mr. Osterholm said.

Gluten-Free Energy The reception dinner included a vegan and gluten-free crispy polenta cup with wild mushroom ragu and truffle cream; a dairy-free and gluten-free Thai curry chicken summer roll; a gluten-free arugula and mushroom stuffed rainbow trout with lemon butter; and a gluten-free flourless chocolate terrine with sea salt and whipped cream.

Missing In Action The couple had hoped to have their friend Jeff Provenzano, a professional sky diver, descend from above to shower the wedding guests with rose petals at the start of the ceremony. But the venue did not approve it. Mr. Provenzano attended on the ground.


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