11-Year-Old Climber Ashima Shiraishi Sends South Africa

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Ashima on Steady Plums Direct. Photo: 27crags

Last we heard from fifth-grade climbing wunderkind Ashima Shiraishi, she was fresh off a spring bouldering trip to Hueco Tanks, Texas, and getting some serious press. The New York Times gave her front-page sports coverage (and a cool video) for becoming the youngest female ever to climb a V13 bouldering problem, and she later riffed about climbing in the Olympics in these pages. Now reports are trickling in from South Africa, where she’s spent the past few weeks bouldering outside of Cape Town as the youngest member (by far) of the upcoming bouldering flick Chasing Winter. By all accounts, Ashima, 11, is living up to the massive hype.

The climbing blog 27crags reports that Ashima has made the first female ascent of a route called Black Demon, graded V11 on bouldering’s difficulty scale (V16 is the hardest). She climbed it on her first try without falling, making her the first 11-year-old to “flash” that grade. She also put up the first female ascent of In Search of New Sound (a V11) and climbed Cheek Bone (V10).

Last week, she sent her second V13, Steady Plums Direct, repeating the ascent that was first put up last summer by 24-year-old Paul Robinson, whose cragging career—it’s worth noting—took a similar trajectory. An urban prodigy, he started climbing when he was 11 at an indoor gym near his home in south Jersey. New York-born Ashima first climbed Rat Rock, a 15-foot-high boulder in Central Park, when she was six. Now she trains indoors at Brooklyn Boulders and competes around the country. In March, she won the American Bouldering Series Youth National Championship. The South Africa trip marks only the second time she’s climbed outside of the U.S.

Next up? Sixth grade.

—Katie Arnold

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