1 May 2016

Angie Scarth-Johnson


By Ignacio Sandoval Burón & Elda Rodríguez Sela

First contact I had with Angie and her family was last year when I chatted with her mum, Claudia, when Carlos Logroño 'Citro' rung me and put me in contact with them. He knew that we wanted to speak to each other to clear up any issues regarding whether she sent her first 8c, 'Welcome to Tijuana' in Rodellar (Spain).

I expected it to be uneasy since some few days before we published in the Spanish site a piece of news saying that in reality she hadn't climbed the original line but a variation at the bottom skipping a first crux, which made the climb just an 8b+... Much to my surprise, the conversation went well, she explained to me why she did it wrongly (read the interview below for her explanations) and I, kind of feeling guilty for spoiling such a young girl´s thrill after such an awesome performance, expounded that we received several messages from locals about her mistake and just felt the necessity to do what any good journalist should do: to present the facts.

Later on, during a climbing trip in which I shared the car with a family of friends, I had to explain the situation and dilemma of whether to publish these sort of news where kids are involved to Elda, a girl more or less the same age as Angie, who in turn helped me with some questions for this interview.

Pic© The North Face Australia

- When did you start and how did you discover climbing?

I started climbing when I was 7. I climbed everything around the house and loved climbing trees but I had an accident and fell out of a tree. That’s when my mum took me to a climbing gym.

- Did it take you long since you started climbing until you got to climb outdoors? How was that first day in real rock? Did you feel scared by heights or run-outs or anything else?

I was too young to lead at a climbing gym so some of the local climbers who saw potential in me took me outdoors and taught me. This was about 6 months after I started climbing. Not long after I sent on lead my first 6c at 7 years old. This is when I really did realize that all I wanted to do was climb I was hooked. 

I wasn’t really scared of heights but I was and still am scared of run out routes.

Pic© Simon CarterThe North Face Australia

- How much do you train nowadays in a normal week?

I train about 3 days a week on my bouldering wall at home and then I go outdoors on the weekends.

- Do you count with the help of a trainer?

I don’t have a trainer, I tried for a couple of months having an online trainer but it didn’t work out, so I just went back to training myself. 

I write my own programs and have done this since I was 8. I find that this really works for me. 

The hardest thing for me is keep myself motivated. I do this by setting goals, climbing with my adult friends and traveling overseas.

- How are you doing with school with all that time you spend training, climbing outdoors and specially with your trips abroad?

At the moment, while I’m traveling, I do online schooling called Distance Education.  In Australia if you travel a lot for your career or your parents travel you have the option to do this type of schooling. They believe that learning History and different cultures enhances learning.

- Have you always been specially good at P.E.?

I have always been really good at all sports, even though I am very short (139 cm). I play basketball and I am very good at running and shot put.

- What is the subject with which you struggle the most and what's your favourite?

I hate Maths the most, I am really bad at it. P.E. and History are my favorite subjects at school.

- We've heard that some of your family comes from Spain. Is that true? If so, can you tell us that story?

My grandparents come from Cádiz, they migrated to Uruguay, where my mum was born and then they migrated to Australia. Even though I was born in Australia, I am a Spanish citizen as well. This makes coming to Spain for a long time easier. 

- Do you have any siblings? If so, do they climb? And, what about your parents?

I have 2 older sisters, Deseire (23) and Gabrielle (17). Gabrielle likes to climb indoors and works at a climbing gym in Australia. 

My parents don’t really climb. My Dad tries sometimes and has done a multi-pitch with me but he enjoys belaying the most. Even though they don’t really climb, they have learnt everything about the sport to help me.

- Last year you got confused with whether you climbed 'Welcome to Tijuana' 8c or 'Tijuanita' 8b+ basically because of the poor information in the topo you got.

I was not confused about climbing ‘Welcome to Tijuana’. There was no information at all about another route to the left. I am aware that many others have climbed the route the same way that I did and claimed it as an 8c, maybe because they just believe that they had found an easier way though not knowing any better. You just need to look at YouTube and you will see people climbing it this way. 

I started on ‘Welcome…’, went slightly left after the second draw less than a meter nowhere near the left tufa and went back in to clip the third draw. I chose to call it as an 8b+ because I didn’t want any criticism in the future from people thinking I did not do the correct line. I also thought it was better to be honest about how I did the route. This doesn’t mean that I think I did it incorrectly, I just found an easier way of doing it, just like many other climbers had.

- How did you feel when you send the route and how when you found out that you really did the softer version?

I was really upset as you can imagine after people said I didn’t do it but my parents told me it didn’t matter and that I was special and all my achievements were great no matter what.

Angie together with Carlos Logroño 'Citro'. Pic© Carlos Logroño.

- After that you tried to send the original harder line and recently did it... ¡Awesome! Could you explain us how the whole process went?

When I first arrived in Spain , I really didn’t think that I wanted to redo this route. I felt that it wouldn’t give me any psyche, so what would be the point?

But about a month ago, on our first trip to Rodellar, I decided to go and have a look at it again and saw that Carlos Logroño 'Citro' had moved the bolts as he said he would, so that no one else would be confused again. This made me want to give it a go and try to send it on the original line but felt that I wanted to do other routes before trying it again. 

I’ve now come back to Rodellar and was psyched to do it. I just wanted to prove to myself that I could do both ways of this route. I saw it as a mental challenge for myself. The bottom crux / boulder problem on both 'Tijuanita' and 'Welcome to Tijuana' was not the difficult part for me. The crux for me was at the top, just before the chains. This was very reachy for someone of my height and I had to use really small crimps, the same as what it was last year. 

When I sent the route I felt satisfied that I can now say that I truly sent it both ways and am really happy that I didn’t let it beat me mentally. 

- Now you've just sent your first 8c route with 'L'espiadimonis' in Margalef. Congratulations! Can you just explain us what the whole process was?

The route 'L'espiadimonis' was recommend to me by Iker Pou and Dani Andrada, so I thought I would give it a go.

All together it took me 4 days to send. But it was really cold in Margalef and because I had to use one finger monos I had to use the colder days to rest or climb other things. I didn't want to injure my finger so I would stop climbing if I felt to cold. No moves in the route were reachy for me but I did have to use extra intimidate holds to what most adults would use. I was so happy when I sent it.

Pic© Simon CarterThe North Face Australia

- Still with some time left to climb in Spain, what's your next goal?

I am going back to Australia on the 10th of June. I will be in Spain till May and then go to the South of France. I have already achieved everything I set out to do, so I just want to climb routes that I really like and that get me psyched. If I find a climb that I like and challenges me I will attempt it. I am always wanting to improve my onsighting because this is my weakness. Mainly because of my height, it is not always easy to see intermediates in a climb on the onsight.

- It seems you always climb your hardest routes here in Spain. Is it that you train during the rest of the year to perform in your trips to Spain, you like the climbs here better, you don't climb that much at home...?

Spain is my favorite place in the world so far to climb in because I love climbing pockets and crimps. There is so much climbing here it’s awesome you don’t have to settle for climbing something you’re not psyched on because there is so much options and different styles. I look forward to coming here every year. It’s what keeps me motivated. 

Climbing in Australia is very different. It is harder for very short people because the moves are very reachy and there are very limited intermediates and little option for footers. Australia has such amazing climbing areas and there is so much I want to do there when I get a little taller.

- What's the climbing style that fits you best?

I am mainly a sports climber, but I like short powerful climbing. This is my strength.

- Do you participate in competitions? If so, how are you doing in them?

I have been the Austrailan National Lead champion for Youth D category since I was 7 and Australian National champion Youth D for three years up to 2014. Last year, in 2015, my grandmother and grandfather passed away and I was unable to attend Nationals for bouldering. 

Pic© The North Face Australia

- Who are your climbing heroes?

I have so many climbing heroes or climbers that I admire, but I think that Ashima is a climber that has pushed the limits, especially for female climbers.

- Do you practice any other sports?

I play a lot of different sports at school; basketball, running and soccer.

- Do you practice any other climbing discipline (bouldering, trad, multi-pitch, ice...)? If so, how much you like and do them?

I really like bouldering but I don’t really get much opportunity to do it. Where I live in the Blue Mountains in Australia there is a lot of multi-pitches so I do like doing these and am very lucky to do these often. I have just started to learn how to trad climb but I find it really scary.

- What's your dream climbing trip?

Every year I have the dream climbing trip, because every year I get stronger, a little taller and everything is possible again.

- Can you tell us what are your best performances in flash, onsight and red point both in bouldering and sports climbing so far?

My best performance for onsighting is 7c. Flash is the same as my on-sighting because I usually go climbing with my parents and they can’t really help me with beta. I am so short that most people’s beta doesn’t really help me anyway. Redpoint 8c and bouldering V9 / 7C. Maybe next year I will start to concentrate a little more on bouldering.