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Chasing Winter Debuts: Q&A with Ashima + Video

Two years ago Paul Robinson spent two months bouldering in South Africa, and a year later he returned with a whole crew of bouldering friends. The other visitors to Cape Town and the Cape of Good Hope included the young bouldering phenom Ashima Shiraishi, 11, who is pictured here on Scorpion, a V11 she climbed in a day, in a segment from the new film Chasing Winter.

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If it’s nice to have a dream, it’s even better to share it. Two years ago Paul Robinson spent two months bouldering in South Africa, and last spring and summer he returned with a whole crew of bouldering friends.

The other visitors to Cape Town and the Cape of Good Hope included the young bouldering phenom Ashima Shiraishi, 11, who is pictured in the video below on Scorpion, a V11 she climbed in a day, in a segment from the new film Chasing Winter. Also cranking hard on the bulgy, bullet, often orange stone were Carlo Traversi, Obe Carrion, Daniel Woods, Courtney Sanders, Mary Mecklenburg, Alex Kahn and Griffin Whiteside.

Of Scorpion, Ashima says, “I guess it’s pretty powerful. You know, you kind of jump to some holds. You have to be really efficient with your footwork. There are some heel hooks in it. You’ve gotta know the beta ….When I first saw it I was pretty excited because I love overhanging [rock], and I knew I had to try it.”

Chasing Winter documents the three-month trip, and premiers online on Monday, January 21. See 27crags.com/films.

Robinson, originally from Moorestown, New Jersey, has bouldered up to V15 and 16 outdoors, with hard ascents from Bishop to Mount Evans to Hueco Tanks to Magic Wood, Switzerland. He is a former ABS national champion and has placed as high as third at a World Cup in Vail, Colorado.

Chasing Winter, created with Alex Kahn, was the pair’s biggest film project ever, with five months of editing following three months of consistent filming.

Mecklenburg, one of the crew, says, “Our goal was to put more of a story that goes along with climbing trips, and elaborate the athletes’ personalities more. Sending hard is only a small part of the story.”

Rock and Ice interviewed the youngest member of the trip, Ashima Shiraishi, in her home city of Manhattan. An only child, Ashima lives with her parents and is in sixth grade at The Rudolf Steiner School, on the Upper East Side. She has a young girl’s lilting voice, often soft and hard to hear over the phone, and she laughed often and bashfully.

Q&A

What is your favorite class?

Well, obviously, like recess and stuff. We also have things like woodworking, we make spoons and stuff, which is really fun.

Do your friends in New York climb?

At the climbing gym, I don’t climb with kids much. I climb with big people. I climb some with Sasha DiGiulian. She’s been really nice to me. My really close friends from school, they don’t really climb. I take them sometimes to the gym. They don’t take it seriously, but they say it’s fun. They do other sports. They have different hobbies.

How did you happen to go on this trip?

When Paul [Robinson] and Daniel [Woods] and Sasha [DiGiulian] came to Brooklyn Boulders, the gym that I go to, Paul just invited me. He told me about the climbing in South Africa. I got super excited and told my parents. They said I was only going [on a planned trip] to Japan, and I kind of begged. Every single day. Finally they said yes. I got to go to both. I went to Japan over the summer for two months, and to South Africa for one month.

Did your father come with you?

For most of the time, I was with Obie, who is my coach, and was my guardian. I went on the plane with Obe. Kind of at the end of the trip, I did a commercial for a Japanese medicine company. It was shot in South Africa, and my dad had to come, and he was there for about a week.

Were your parents worried?

My parents knew that South Africa wasn’t the safest place in the world. But I’m not like a little baby anymore. I’ve been to, like, Texas and a bunch of places. I guess they kind of trusted me.

Do you always travel with Obe or some other adult?

Sometimes with my dad, sometimes with my aunt, sometimes with Obe.

On that trip, you did three different V11s, flashing two of them. How many have you done all together?

Oh. I have no idea. I’ve done a lot.

How many V12s?

I think…. Two V12s, three V13s.

What are your ambitions in climbing?

Right now it’s, like, ABS. The competition series. Nationals are coming up. So I’m going to try to have a good time there. After that I’m going to Hueco again, for spring break. I’m going to try Terre de Sienne, which is a V14, super crimpy. I tried it the last day my last trip. I was pretty close but I couldn’t get it.

Who will you travel with?

I think it’s Obie. And my aunt. Over the summer I want to go to Japan again and go sport climbing in France, in Ceuse. I’ve always heard about that place. I’ve always been inspired by videos and pictures of Ceuse. I also want to go to Spain. When it’s not that hot. Maybe next winter.

Was the trip to South Africa one of your best?

It was incredible. Everything: the adventure, the nature, the animals. It’s beautiful. There’s rock everywhere. It’s kind of like a maze.

When you go away, do you ever feel like you’re missing something at home?

I miss my parents when I’m out there. I’m always happy when my parents are happy with me and my climbing. If they’re, you know, proud of me. They’ve put a lot of their lifetime into me. Sometimes I get nervous about school, if I’m missing anything, any tests, or if I will have to do extra work. My teachers are really nice about it. But through it all, I’m just excited I’m climbing.

Anything you’d like to add?

For the kids who are new to climbing … The first time climbing basically, I couldn’t even really do a V0. I was pretty frustrated. Everyone around me was easily doing V3s and I was falling on the first part of V0s. There was a guy called Yuki Ikumori there. He calmed me down and told me to enjoy climbing. And then I calmed down and did the climb I was working on. So you can’t just give up.