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Stewart Green

11-Year-Old Girl Ashima Shiraishi Tears Up Red River Gorge

By November 3, 2012

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Ashima Shiraishi, the 11-year-old wonder climber from New York City, had a pretty good road trip at the Red River Gorge in Kentucky back in late October, onsighting a 5.14a, doing a 5.14a second try, and climbing two 5.14c routes.

Shiraishi impressively flashed Omaha Beach, a 5.14a (8b+) endurance crimpfest up the Madness Cave at the Motherlode sector. She received only minimal beta about some of the holds beforehand. With her ascent of the 130-foot-long route, Shiraishi became the first female climber in the world to flash, or climb a route from base to anchors without falling on her first try, a 5.14a route. The day before, Ashima climbed God's Own Stone (5.14a) on her second attempt.

Previously, Sasha DiGiulian, possibly the best woman climber in the world right now, onsight flashed Omaha Beach in 2011 at age 18, while Katie Brown onsighted it in 1999 when the route was rated hard 5.13d. Since Brown's ascent, several key holds have broken off, upping the grade.

Ashima also made more climbing history on her trip to the Red by climbing two 5.14c (8c+) routes on successive days, becoming the youngest climber in the world to climb 5.14c. On Friday, October 26, Shiraishi climbed Southern Smoke (5.14c) at Bob Marley Crag on her fourth try in two days, become the youngest 5.14c climber. The next day, October 27, she did Lucifer (5.14c) at Purgatory. Ashima did the second female ascent of both routes; Sasha DiGiulian had previously climbed them in 2011.

Photograph above: Chris Sharma, another climbing kid prodigy, climbing at The Motherlode at age 14 in the early 1990s. Photograph Stewart M. Green

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