Thirteen-year-old Ashima Shiraishi recently became the first female to ascend a 5.15a rock climbing route. If you're not a climber, that number may not mean much to you, but believe me when I tell you it's super hard to do. That accomplishment has catapulted Shiraishi to a level of rock climbing reserved for the ultra elite.
Shiraishi climbed a route called Open Your Mind Direct in Spain's Santa Linya on March 17. She spent four days planning her route, according to her Instagram post announcing the climb. Shiraishi is not only the only female to climb a 5.15a route (according to Rock and Ice magazine), she is also the youngest person to climb a route of that difficulty.
A resident of New York City, Shiraishi began rock climbing in Central Park when she was 7 years old. She has since climbed tougher routes every year. In 2012, at 11 years old, she climbed a route called Southern Smoke in Kentucky and became the youngest climber to ever ascend a 5.14c route.
Rock climbing routes are rated on a system called the Yosemite Decimal Rating System, which breaks down routes into classes and grades. Climbers share the ratings of various routes with each other in guide books and on websites so that rock climbers can seek out routes that fit their skill level. A Class 1 route is basically the equivalent of walking on a well-established trail. Things get to technical around the Class 5 level. For some perspective, here is how the hardest levels of rock climbing are described on the blog Outdoors with Dave:
5.13a, b, c, d: If you can climb upside down on a glass window, these climbs are right up your alley.
5.14a, b, c, d: These climbs are among the hardest in the world.
5.15a: This is as hard as climbing gets, folks. Keep in mind that very few climbers can actually climb at this level, although Spiderman eats these climbs for breakfast.
That last level is what Shiraishi climbed this week. Looks like our favorite comic book character might be coming to her for pointers soon.
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