Ashima Sends Southern Smoke (5.14c)

posted by dpm on 10/26/2012


Today, at the Red River Gorge, 11-year-old Ashima Shiraishi sent Southern Smoke (5.14c) and became the youngest person to tick the grade. It's a remarkable ascent for sure, but not nearly as remarkable as Ashima is as a person. I've been fortunate enough to hang out with her for the past few days and watch how she climbs and approaches the sport in general.

It might be easy to just see the numbers on the screen: 5.14a 2nd try, 514a flash, 5.14c redpoint... But those numbers don't really reveal the amount of work and dedication that Ashima puts towards climbing while still remaining a carefree 11-year-old.

It's been just six days since Ashima sent her first 5.14a, God's Own Stone. The very next day she flashed her first 5.14a with Omaha Beach. With confidence soaring, she set about the region in search of the next challenge. For the past four days, Ashima has been simultaneously working both Lucifer and Southern Smoke (both 5.14c). Most of her early effort was spent on Lucifer, a vicious climb up a relatively gentle overhang involving terrible pockets and edges. But after two days, she and her family opted to try Southern Smoke instead. She gave it three tries yesterday and four today, sending on her last go of the day.

Just a reminder in case you didn't catch that. First day: 14a 2nd go, 2nd day: 14a flash, four days of multiple sessions on 5.14+ routes and finally, today, a send...that's six days with no rest, sending the hardest route she's ever done in the final hour. I asked Ashima why she wasn't going to take a rest day during her trip to the Red. Her response: "I'm only here for a week!"

Congratulations to Ashima Shiraishi for a huge accomplishment that comes after much hard work! Thanks to Nick Duttle, Katherine Williams, and Dru Mack for supporting Ashima in her Red River journey. She still has one day left! Back to Lucifer!

All images are screen grabs from video. Look for that in the near future. 

Check out the line of draws. This route is steep!