Ashima Shiraishi has been called the most talented rock climber in the world. In this week’s issue, Nick Paumgarten profiles the “Gretzky of the granite.” Read the full story:
  1. For more than ten years, Ashima’s parents tried to have a child. When her mother turned fifty, they were ready to give up, but their doctor urged them to try once more. In 2001, their daughter was born. “She was a miracle baby,” her mother says.
  2. "The real miracle may be that a little girl from the unmountainous island of Manhattan, born to insular, artistic immigrants who had never tied a figure-eight knot, became, by the age of fourteen, possibly the best female rock climber ever,” Paumgarten writes.
  3. A native New Yorker, Ashima first started climbing at Rat Rock, in Central Park, when she was six. The “sensei of Rat Rock,” known to everyone as Yuki, started helping her learn the rock’s routes. But her father quickly took over her training, and works as her coach today.
  4. At thirteen, Ashima became the youngest person to complete a 5.15-rated climb, one of the hardest routes in the world.
  5. Ashima prefers bouldering rather than the big walls of Yosemite, to say nothing of serious mountaineering. “I’m not really into Alpine,” Shiraishi tells Paumgarten. “I don’t like the cold. I don’t like ice or snow.” For her, a climb is a puzzle, not an expedition.
  6. She practices five days a week, mainly at the Cliffs, a gym in Long Island City, or at Brooklyn Boulders, near the Gowanus Canal. Her father accompanies and belays her on the high climbs.
  7. Ashima has endorsement deals with Clif Bar, The North Face, Petzl, and Evolv. The Japanese station Fuji TV has produced a show about Ashima, called “The Spider Girl.”
  8. At the 2015 world championships, she won two gold medals in the fifteen-and-under bracket. She was also the only climber, of any age, to reach the top of all four bouldering courses. She and her parents have their eyes on the 2020 Olympics, which they hope will offer rock-climbing as a competitive event.
  9. Watch Ashima climb in this New Yorker video: