Ashima Strikes Again! Ciudad de Dios 9a/+

Ashima sending Ciudad de Dios (9a/9a+). Photo credit: Ashima's Instagram c/o Cross Road Studios)

Ashima sending Ciudad de Dios (9a/+). Photo from Ashima’s Instagram c/o Crossroad Studios.

Less than a week after sending Open Your Mind Direct (9a+*), becoming the first female and youngest person to send 5.15a, Ashima is at it again. We’d barely had time to pick our jaws up off the ground, when Ashima posted her ascent of Ciudad de Dios, (9a/+), and in only three days. According to her Instagram, she actually fell on the last move after just one day of working the route, evidence that despite being only thirteen years old, this young lady is a force to be reckoned with. Ciudad de Dios links two routes Ashima is quite familiar with: Open Your Mind Direct and La Fabela (8c+), which Ashima sent last year.

"My fingers are bleeding now!" Ashima wrote post-send, but well worth it! (Photo credit: Cross Road Studios)

“My fingers are bleeding now!” Ashima wrote post-send. In our humble opinion, well worth it! Photo by Crossroad Studios.

Of course with breaking world records and claiming “firsts”, must always come controversy. While most cheered Ashima’s ascent of Open Your Mind Direct and welcomed her being crowned the first woman (girl?!) to send 5.15a, many questioned if the route was actually 5.15a. (Ashima is not the first female to send 9a/+, as our alert and knowledgeable readers pointed out: in 2005, Basque climber Josune Bereziartu climbed Bimbaluna, 9a/+).  Locals speculated that after a high hold on Open Your Mind broke that the route would be upgraded from 9a to 9a+, which is what Ashima graded it after being the first person to send the route with the broken hold. Critics questioned if Ashima could make this claim, having skipped climbing 9a altogether. And others on and similar forums, believe that since Ashima did not climb the last 15 meters of 8b+ on Open Your Mind Direct, or because other lower holds have broken making some parts of the route easier, it actually remains 9a. On the flip side, I have to wonder if these same criticisms would be made had someone other than a 13-year-old girl made the ascent. According to, the last person to send the route prior to Ashima was Mateusz Haladaj in 2013; he gave it the grade of 9a/+. According to the unwritten laws of climbing, if Ashima calls the route 9a/+, it’s hers to grade until someone else comes along and climbs it.

Oh, consensus on climbing grades! How much easier would it be if climbing were as simple to measure as distance ran or goals scored?! But then again, perhaps that’s what makes climbing so uniquely wonderful! I can sit here in front of my computer screen in Boston and speculate all day about Ashima’s sends in Spain, but at the end of the day, all I know is that girl can climb and our climbing community is inspired and better for it! Thanks Ashima for pushing us to climb harder, stronger, and younger!

But hey, don’t get me wrong, I’m always up for a little debate! What are your thoughts on Ashima’s send of 9a/+?

Climb on! ~Cate

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9 thoughts on “Ashima Strikes Again! Ciudad de Dios 9a/+

  1. Shelli says:

    Love it!! Climb on Ashima. Would sure love to see her in a helmet

  2. Beverly says:

    Ashima is such a CONTRAST to the rest of the pro climbing world. Yeeep! She’s going to take over Spain.

  3. Jen says:

    This is awesome. I hope the grade sticks. I hope it doesn’t get downgraded just because a woman (girl) climbed it.

  4. Cassi Haggard says:

    I think people tend to be harsh on Ashima’s achievements based on the fact she’s a 13-year-old girl who is tiny. Most of us can’t fathom what it feels to climb anywhere near that hard at her size or age. We aren’t in her body to know if it’s harder, easier or a combination thereof (I suspect it’s both depending on the move). And like most things we don’t understand we downplay or try to explain away.

    We do need consensus to confirm that it’s harder but I think she’s entitled to grade it however she wants. If she thinks it’s 9a+ but hasn’t climbed 9a but is solid on whatever is below 9a (I’m not used to this grading system) she’s allowed to have that opinion. As probably the strong woman/girl climber, she’s earned an opinion even if others later decide it’s only 9a. I could climb solidly at 11a then climb something and say that it felt 2 letter grade harders and I’d be allowed to say that even if others did not agree. And as I told my boyfriend this weekend when we were climbing a 10d slab this weekend “The difference between 10d and 11a is mostly an opinion.”

  5. Jesse says:

    You make some good points Cassi, especially about her body being radically different than 99% of those who climb routes at the level she’s climbing at. I do think I have to disagree slightly about the grading though. While you’re correct that the difference between 10d and 11a is mostly opinion this coorelation doesn’t hold as you move higher in the grades. At the level of 8c+, 9a, and 9a+ anyone doing those grades is training at an incredibly high level. Basically everyone who reaches 8c+ will need to train at a high level for at least a year, though usually longer, to reach 9a. Most never make it to 9a+. The few who do make it to 9a+ have generally been climbing 9a’s for several years. So while skipping from 8c+ to 9a+ is not impossible it is unprecedented precisely because of the amount of work it would take to achieve.

    Having said that Ashima has a few factors in her favor that can help assuage the doubts as to how hard she can really climb. The first and best in my opinion is comparison. Even if we take Open Your Mind Direct to be only 9a as the website has suggested based on comments from locals we still have the youngest female to climb the grade and the second youngest person (next to Ondra) by a matter of months. However Ashima has an advantage that Ondra did not, namely her bouldering level. Adam Ondra did not send a V14 (Dreamtime) until he was 15 and several months after sending La Rambla, his first 9a+. Ashima has already done two. This level of bouldering strength and power, combined with her incredible talent, makes it easy to believe she’s more than capable of the 9a+ grade.

    The other reason that Ashima has that gives her claim of 9a+ credibility is that she doesn’t get the chance to sport climb outside very often. This seems like a bad thing but really it’s a benefit. What I mean by this is that due to her lack of exposure to real rock, she hasn’t had a good opportunity to send 9a or 9a+ in the past. It’s likely she reached the level where she was capable of climbing 9a a while ago, but having no rock to prove it on, she simply kept training and moved right past it.

    I could go on but this comment is getting long. Regardless of anything else. Ashima is obviously the best climber of her generation and has the potential to grow into the best climber of all time. That is far more important than the difficulty of any of these route’s she’s absolutely destroying!

    • hootie says:

      jesse – jaws 2 (rumney) is a veritable history of people who skipped 9a! it IS possible… unless jaws 2 is soft… uh oh…

      • Jesse says:

        I was under the impression that the only 14d in the Rumney area was The Fly, which is essentially a V14 boulder problem. If you live in the rumney area and are brutally strong you’ve probably sent Livin’ Astro and so the next thing to work on that’s harder would be Jaws 2. Odds are everyone who sent Jaws 2 and had sent no 14d’s because the only one nearby was harder (in terms of absolute difficulty of moves). But I’d be willing to bet they all had/have the fitness to send a 14d that was a bit more of a power-endurance challenge and less of a straight up power challenge.

        Anyway, you are right, it IS possible. Just not very common. I said as much in my third paragraph above.

        • v10Princess! says:

          we’ll just need to wait for someone who really climbs 9a to confirm jaws II.

          • Jesse says:

            I assume you’re trying to make a joke? What, in the entirety of what I posted, would make it seem like I’m trying to suggest that Jaws 2 is soft? Are you assuming that I think that because Jaws 2 has been climbed by lots of people that have not climbed 9a that it’s soft? I’m not sure what I said that would lead you to believe that. All I said was that people in the Rumney area are skipping 9a based off of circumstance, not lack of ability.

            Am I not making myself clear enough or are people just skimming my comments and then trying to think of witty retorts?

            And Jaws 2 has been climbed and confirmed as 9a+ by plenty of people who climb 9a.

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