The Roots of Giving Back

A No Wasted Days™ Story

Sometimes you’re just lucky. You go to the park with your parents to play and find your calling.

“I had an unconventional introduction into climbing,” says Ashima Shiraishi, a professional rock climber who, with friends, founded ALL RISE—an organization with a simple goal: make climbing more accessible.

In 2007, when she was 6 years old, Ashima’s dad took her to a playground just across from a boulder called Rat Rock, the most popular outdoor bouldering area in New York. Grown-ups monkeyed around and leapt between holds. 

Maybe it was their chalky hands that lured her. Maybe it was their laughter or the way they magically rose to the top of the rock. “I was so intrigued and confused as to what they were doing,” she says. “It just drew me in and captivated me.”

Ashima inched closer. One of the climbers invited her to try and she grabbed hold. There was a kind of weightlessness as her dad encouraged her skyward. There was the mesmerizing puzzle of connecting holds. There was the problem—the way to the top—that she unlocked.

But the most important thing on this day, of this chance beginning, was that climbing Rat Rock was free.

“If climbing wasn’t free at Central Park,” says Ashima, “I wouldn’t be where I am.” 

55 feet long and 15 feet tall at its highest, Rat Rock isn’t the beacon of climbing we think of. Not the cathedral granite of El Cap or the ancient, sunlit sandstone of the desert. The rock here is slick and the setting could be perceived as mildly gloomy. Yet, people gather to share their passion. They spot one another and cheer each other on. It’s a tiny but magical part of Central Park, a launching off spot that gives anyone the chance to rise. 

“My personal journey has something to do with it,” says Ashima, about how ALL RISE came to be. “Especially given how serendipitous it felt.”

“As a 6-year-old, I was suddenly surrounded by people decades older than me. There was this connection with people from totally different backgrounds. My parents could just take me to Rat Rock and be comfortable with these adults mentoring me.”

“But it shouldn’t be luck that brings people together,” says Ashima. “People should have this choice of being able to try climbing, enter the community, and have nothing blocking their way.”

This is the driving force behind ALL RISE—to take luck out of the equation and tie everything back to inviting people into the community. 

The DIY feel of the organization matches the eliminate style of climbing that evolved at Rat Rock (where a climber picks and chooses what holds they’re allowed to use on a particular section of wall). There’s lots of playing around and trying different moves, there’s a lot of falling, but there’s always a community there to support you as you inch higher.

From a free-for-all climbing wall that ALL RISE built inside Long Beach Rising gym to a scholarship program that lets anyone who wants to pursue climbing keep at it to curating climbing festivals that raise money for local organizations, ALL RISE is calling everyone into the climbing community and bringing the sport to people who’ve not been included.

“It’s really beautiful to see people lift each other up and cheer one another on as they try their individual projects,” says Ashima, who has made it her job to let others experience the joy of climbing.

A full-time climber with many accolades and firsts, Ashima could’ve just continued to pursue her passion and reap the rewards that grew from that chance first encounter with climbing at Rat Rock. But roots are difficult to severe. The community Ashima entered that day formed a big part of who she is—encouraging, supportive, and always inviting others to try.

“I’ve met so many wonderful friends and found community through climbing that I think it’s necessary for this work to be done.”

From gear and gym memberships to the cost of transportation to and from the gym, there is a prohibitive cost to climbing. This is butted against the fact that you only need your body to climb—a hold to grip, a smidgeon of rock that gives you just enough surface to get to the next one. This is the climber’s way. One move at a time. 

It’s similar to what Ashima is doing with ALL RISE. By raising money one event and city at a time and funneling it to local, grassroots organizations (their inaugural event raised $65,000 while their mission to date has raised close to $275,000), Ashima is helping create a way for people who can’t afford the sport to hold on, giving them the opportunity to rise higher, find connection, and enter the community.

“Each of us has a unique appreciation for climbing and the ways in which it has touched us. I just want that to be shared,” says Ashima.

Building a deep-grained habit of giving back, she lays the foundation for a new generation of climbers. “It shouldn’t be luck that brings people together,” Ashima says again. “The opportunity and community I found at Rat Rock should be there for everyone.”