The Climb champion Cat Runner in action in Mallorca. | HBO Warner Bros.


Legendary world-leading climber Chris Sharma and Hollywood Aquaman, Games of Thrones superstar Jason Momoa are regular visitors to Mallorca, where the two close friends love nothing better than to practise psicobloc, which is when rock climbers take on very high and difficult routes on cliffs over open water with no ropes to protect them from injury if they fall. Last year, they decided to create and co-host a new competition series called The Climb for HBO Max and the gruelling competition began and ended in Mallorca.

Why? Because Mallorca is considered to be one of the best places in the world to psicobloc. But it’s not for the faint-hearted, as the series shows in glorious Technicolor and with amazing images of the island.

“The Climb is a visually arresting and life-changing adventure that represents the foundations of rock climbing and exploration of the human spirit. In this all-encompassing competition, amateur climbers are put through a rigorous series of mental and physical challenges, utilising some of the most intimidating ascents in the world to crown the world’s best amateur climber,” said Chris.

The series, filmed last year, began with ten climbers, with one climber being eliminated in each episode until the final three were left standing in the final and the challenges in Mallorca. With the help of champion climber and American Ninja Warrior competitor Meagan Martin, the final three climbed the Devil’s Cave, which is located not far from Porto Cristo. Other Mallorca faces included Es Pontàs on the coast of Santanyí, and there was plenty of climbing and filming out of their main base in Puerto Soller.

At stake was a $100,000 grand prize and year-long PrAna, sponsorship worth $100,000, and the winner was twenty-four-year-old Cat Runner from Louisville, Kentucky, who told the Bulletin that he is still coming to terms with what he achieved and his new fame, because Cat has had to overcome a number of major challenges to have reached this landmark in his life.

Apart from only having taken up climbing just six years ago, he had never climbed with no ropes over open water until he came to Mallorca. He also came out as a transgender man when he was a teenager and underwent the transition aged 16, so his achievement in The Climb means so much to Cat on many levels.

“It’s been a lifetime thing, nothing like it can ever compare. Winning has given me a lot of fluidity in what I can do from here, this has been life-changing for me.
“I love climbing and now, with the support of PrAna and the prize money, I can go out and climb. And I know that this will also be life-changing for others because there is a trans community out there which will have watched this and may be it will give them that push they need to follow what they want - the sky’s the limit,” he said.

According to Chris “the path of a climber never ends as we continue to explore new places on this rock we call Earth; the potential is limitless because our determination is infinite to rise up to climb”.
And Cat did just that. He faced some very tough competition against climbers of various ages with much more experience from the United States, Brazil, England and Scotland.

“It was not just all Mallorca, we were tested in other forms of climbing in some of the most dangerous and demanding climbing locations in the world on mainland Spain in Catalonia and Jordan. I had heard about Mallorca, it’s a Mecca for psicobloc, and that’s mainly down to Chris, but I had never been there and I can’t wait to return.

“We didn’t have too much downtime to explore the island but I saw enough and got a feel for the culture to make me want to return, not only to climb again but also to see more of the beautiful island. I know there is now a real buzz about Mallorca in the climbing community in the States. Yes, they’ve been heading to the island for years, but I think there’s going to be like a gold rush on the back of The Climb and the way it was filmed. The island just looks awesome in the series, the camera and production crew do the island more than justice, they capture the island in an amazing way,” Cat said.

And having watched it, I have to say it’s the best cinematography of Mallorca I have ever seen and it really does the island proud; it’s priceless publicity and it’s Mallorca, not a backdrop location.
“But there was not much time to absorb the beauty of it all and, yes, it was very scary at times for all of us I think, because falling from 40 plus feet into open water is not fun and can be extremely dangerous if you don’t fall right.

“That said, climbing is a major source of joy in my life, it’s the sport’s physical and mental connection - attaining the so-called ‘flow state’ - instils a feeling of trust.

“You’re giving your entire self to just listening to your body and letting it do its thing. And then your body and your mind are finally talking to each other on the same wavelength,” he said.
“And they’re not conflicting with each other. They are just one thing, and it’s peaceful.

“Plus, figuring out how to navigate the world as this other person where I feel comfortable and confident and doing that in the climbing space, where I found myself as a climber - they merge together. It’s very special. I never feel more at peace with myself and so grounded and aligned.

“But the weather was also challenging. The first climb in Mallorca was not what we were prepared for. We were hit by some freak cyclone, so it was wet, cold and very windy. We only had a very tight window to complete the first challenge so that added to the pressure. When we returned for the final, that was a different thing altogether. The weather was perfect, despite having to climb twice as high as the first round, some 60 feet above open water with an overhang,” he said.

“So, I intend to come back to Mallorca with my climbing guys and explore the island more. I know we have a special to film later this year and I have a number of media commitments plus a big climbing trip to South Africa, so right now, I’m kind of busy. I’ve also got my job as a full-time commercial filmmaker and photographer and I plan on using my new sponsorship and platform to grow the Queer Climber’s Network, an Instagram group I launched in 2022.

“Never mind the challenges of climbing, like I’ve said, once I’m on the face and in my zone, it all comes together. I guess the main hurdle I have as a trans athlete is the growing number of anti-trans laws in the United States and how we are increasingly marginalised and used as scapegoats.

“Just in January alone, 150 news anti-trans bills were passed across the US. There’s new legislation on the age the transgender community can access health care; in some states it’s 26. If that’s introduced in Kentucky, I’m moving and quite probably to Spain, where they’ve just changed the laws and approved a transgender law letting anyone 16 and older change the gender on their ID card. That’s awesome and life-changing for millions.

"But here in the States I can see it becoming even more of an issue, mainly fuelled by the media, as we get closer to elections, and the fallout is not going to be positive. I don’t understand it. We’re not a threat to anyone; more and more countries get it. Why can’t the United States? We’re probably one of the smallest populations or communities but the media are so vocal and loud about it, as are certain politicians and that’s scary. It’s a minority group and mainly made up of young people who need to be empowered not demonised because it’s not going to go away, never.

“And that is another reason I feel so proud of what I achieved on The Climb. To think that I first began climbing as a kid in playgrounds and up trees, like any other kid and then, after having practised and excelled in a number of other sports, I finally opted for climbing while I was going through my transgender process; I feel I’ve come a long way. My parents always supported me, which I think is always important, but society as a whole needs to open its minds and be more inclusive or just keep quiet and allow people to get on with their lives in peace,” Cat said.

“It was an epic adventure, to have climbed to the top of the face in the final in Mallorca, it was life-changing.
And in the eyes of Chris, Cat and all of the other competitors are “heroes”.
Climbing is a hero’s journey,” he said. And Jason Momoa was also in his element climbing with Chris in the series in Mallorca.

Momoa said, “It’s a dream come true to create a show with one of my idols, my good friend, and legendary climber Chris Sharma in Mallorca and some of the most demanding climbs in the world in Spain. I’m thrilled to be partnering with HBO Max and to produce alongside IPC to bring you this incredible show about my favorite sport, rock climbing.

Sharma is a beast and as we’ve grown up together, we now love bringing our families together on the island while we enjoy and share our passion for climbing with them.
“Climbing is something that’s been in my blood since I was 13 or 14,” Momoa said.
“The way that I act, the way that I move, the way that I see the world - this comes from a lifestyle of climbing.
“Right now, I’m passing the baton to my children,” says Momoa, with, of course, “Uncle Sharma, he’s a beast on the rock face.”
It’s a must see series. Don’t miss it!