Angie Scarth-Johnson goes where no Aussie female climber has ever gone before

By Kieran Blake Photos Kamil Sustiak October 25, 2021
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Climbing dynamo, Angie Scarth-Johnson, has set a new Aussie female climbing record on an epic Grade 35 route in Spain.

Angie Scarth-Johnson recently became the first Australian female to climb a grade 35/9a when she successfully climbed Victimas del Futur in Margalef, Spain, and she has already chosen her next ‘victim’. 

“Achieving a grade 35 was like a fantasy,” explains the 17-year-old climbing sensation from the Blue Mountains. “I vividly remember in my first year of climbing as a nine-year-old, I pondered one day achieving a grade 35. Not because I thought I’d ever achieve such a thing, but because in my mind it crossed the line of humanly possible.”

Angie began 2021 with the stated goal of climbing a grade 35, after narrowly missing Olympic qualification in 2020. 

“This year, it was all I wanted to focus on, and I told myself I had to get it done and I was capable of it. It took me one full season and the first week of the second season to achieve it.”

Victimas del Futur held immediate appeal.

“No other 35 stood out to me like this one,” she says. “The climbing style of this area is incredible. The route is set in a 30-metre cave at 45 degrees. Victimas del Futur sits right in the middle of the wall, long and proud. In the beginning I found it slightly intimidating, but after a few attempts I accepted the challenge, and I just knew it was the one.”

Completing this climb required a transition from hugely talented child prodigy to mature world-class rock climber.

“I failed 1000+ times to succeed once,” she recalls. “Persistence was the key to my success. I’ll admit it wasn’t easy, there were times I was really close to walking away for good. The moment I relaxed and accepted the process I believed in my physical ability. I realised, in order to achieve this dream of mine, I needed to accept all circumstances and make peace with the frustration I held with myself with all the times I had failed. I was holding myself back from success. The moment I could release that from my mind was the moment I could climb free of thought, and as a result I could finally send.”

Released and free, she battled more than physical exhaustion during the successful climb.

“The process took a toll on me mentally,” she recounts. “Anything at your limit will do that to you. My physical capacity was often affected by a negative mindset towards my abilities. There were days my fingers would hurt so badly from the cuts on my skin, but I would try again. I fell off the top over 100 times. I would scream or sometimes even cry in frustration. But that’s the process, in climbing you have to accept that process for what it is. I held onto the good moments of progress and used these moments for motivation in my lower times. I’m proud of the physical level I reached, but more than anything I’m proud I held it together. 

“It’s impossible to describe the overwhelming emotions that run through my head in the moments of clipping those chains and reaching the top. I had put so much of my time and work into this project. It all felt so worth it in the end, like a relief of tension. I questioned what else I am capable of.”

This is when she scoped another victim – and another 35. Victimas de Futur will hopefully help her to scale Victimas Perez, also in Margalef. And then there’s the future…

“Attempting grade 36 is definitely not out of the question.”