With so many rock climbers in the world, it’s no wonder why making a list of the best rock climbers in the world is a challenge. Figuring out how to categorize the best climbers in the world is hard enough on its own without even thinking about limiting the list to a certain number, but we’ll try!
There are lots of notable climbers who have left their impact and are continuing to leave their impact on both the competitive world of climbing and the outdoor athletic pursuit, so it is important to understand that this is by no means a comprehensive list. Even though climbing has a relatively short history, it has spiked in popularity fast and has an impressive list of amazing athletes.
The 8 Greatest Climbers of All Time
Giving the best climbers in the world a ranking would be almost impossible since it’s hard to figure out exactly what to rank them on. Here is our list, not in ranked order, of the best climbers of all time. Keep in mind that there are other amazing climbers who are not on this list, and this is just a sampling of some of the best climbers ever.
1. Chris Sharma
Known as one of the strongest rock climbers of all time, Chris Sharma is an exceptional climber whose versatility has made him one of the best. Although originally from the US, Sharma now spends most of his time climbing in Europe. He also owns multiple climbing gyms and spends lots of time in Spain deep water soloing.
Sharma has been featured in many climbing films and TV shows throughout his career. He has developed routes all over the world and has climbed alongside many of the greats on this list. Sharma is perhaps best known for his deep water soloing on the cliffs surrounding the Spanish island of Mallorca.
2. Adam Ondra
When thinking about a list that will include the best sports climbers in the world, you cannot overlook Adam Ondra. Known as the strongest climber in the world, Ondra has set many records and has the sole assent of many challenging climbs.
Ondra had similar beginnings to many other climbers starting out as a competition climber before moving to outdoor rock. He shot to fame when he became the first person to complete a 5.15c climb. Since then, Ondra has set many routes that have only been repeated once or twice.
3. Alex Honnold
Perhaps the most well-recognized climber in the world is Alex Honnold. Although he made a name for himself before the film came out, he is most recognized in the public’s eye for starring in Free Solo about his free solo attempt at the nose of el cap. Free soloing, or climbing with no ropes and no protection, is an incredibly dangerous type of climbing that is only practised by a small handful of climbers.
Although not as strong of a climber technically as Ondra might be, Honnold has made an impressive name for himself with his daring feats and speed ascents. Together with Caldwell, Honnold holds the record for the fastest ascent of The Nose of El Cap at just under two hours.
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4. Tommy Caldwell
Tommy Caldwell is known for many things in climbing. As we said above, with Honnold, he holds the record for the fastest ascent of the nose of El Cap in just under 2 hours. He also was part of the team that first topped out The Dawn Wall, which is known as the hardest climb in Yosemite Valley.
Caldwell first came into the national spotlight in 2000 when he and his climbing partner Beth Rodden were held hostage in Kyrgyzstan. Their ordeal and eventual escape skyrocketed them both into the national spotlight. Since then, both have continued climbing and made names for themselves in the sport.
5. Dean Potter
Although Honnold is now known as the greatest free solo-er ever, he would not be where he is today without Dean Potter. Potter climbed with Caldwell, Hill, and many others in Yosemite during the ’90s when climbing was just getting started. He was known as a pioneer in many aspects of climbing.
Potter is best known for his impressive free solo climbs. Potter was known as an adrenaline junkie and also participated in base jumping, speed climbing, and highlighting. Unfortunately, Potter is perhaps one of the best-known climbers on the list of rock climbers who died. He passed away in a wingsuit accident at the age of 43.
6. Alex Megos
Alex Megos is a strong climber known best for being able to flash 5.14d and being the first to do so. Flashing a climb means climbing it without having any prior knowledge of the climb, a feat which gets harder and harder as the climbs get harder, meaning that very few individuals can even climb a 5.14d, let alone flash it.
Megos is known for his strength and is up there with Ondra and Sharma as some of the strongest climbers in the world. He holds records in bouldering and Sport climbing and does well on the competition circuits.
7. Daniel Woods
Daniel Woods is known as one of the best boulders of all time. He has completed it over 30 times, rated V15 or above. Despite the fact that Woods is mostly known for his incredibly strong performance on outdoor boulder problems, he is also an accomplished competition climber.
He is known as one of the best boulder competition climbers in the US and has won numerous National championships. On top of the impressive amount of V15 climbs Woods has completed, he has also successfully completed a handful of the V16 and even a V17 boulder problem as well, something that very few climbers have ever done.
8. Jim Bridwell
If you have ever read anything about the history of rock climbing, you’ve probably heard of Jim Bridwell. Bridwell trained under Royal Robbins and Warren Harding and climbed primarily in Yosemite Valley during its heyday. He helped advance both Aid climbing and Sport climbing and is credited with being the leader of the Stonemasters.
Although today we know climbing as a competitive sport and as an outdoor athletic activity, this has not always been the case. Climbing really got its start in the US in Yosemite Valley in the 70s and 80s, with pioneers like Bridwell, Robbins, Harding, And John Long paving the way for future climbers such as Lynn Hill and Tommy Caldwell to take on the mantle.
Along with over 100 first ascents in Yosemite Valley alone, Bridwell also completed the first single-day ascent of The Nose in 1975. He went on to found Yosemite Search and Rescue, or YOSAR as they are commonly known, which is one of the premier search and rescue organizations in the US. On top of all these amazing feats, Bidwell is also credited with inventing a number of pieces of gear that helped advance climbing.
Even after his death in 2018, Bridwell has continued to be an inspiration to many climbers. He was one of the best rock climbers in the world for his time and did a lot to move the sport forward, paving the way for the rest of the individuals on these lists. His impact will be felt for years on the sport.
The 7 Famous Female Rock Climbers
Determining who the world’s best female rock climber is nearly impossible, considering how many amazing women there are in the sport. That being said, here are a handful of the best female climbers that rock climbing history has seen.
1. Lynn Hill
Perhaps the best-known female rock climber of all time and one of the best rock climbers ever is Lynn Hill. While Alex Honnold is known for free soloing, which is climbing without ropes or protection, Lynn Hill was a leader in free climbing. Throughout the ’90s, Lynn Hill was the best free climber in the world, meaning she only used the natural features of the rock to get to the top.
Although she started out as a competition climber, Hill quickly discovered her love for big wall climbing. In 1993 Hill was the first climber, male or female, to free climb The Nose of El Cap, a feat that would not be repeated for many years. Although many climbers thought it was impossible to do, Hill proved them wrong! She is still a prominent presence on the climbing scene today.
2. Ashima Shiraishi
Ashima Shiraishi became an internet sensation at a young age. Shiraishi started climbing at six years old and, by seven, was competing across the US. By eight years old, Shiraishi was climbing V10 boulders, something that other children could only dream of. Her viral videos made her a well-known climber even at such a young age.
She has continued to be a presence in the competition world since then and has won many awards and trophies throughout the years. At 11 years old, she became the youngest person to climb a 5.15c sport route. She followed this by being the first woman to climb a V15 boulder.
3. Janja Garnbret
A newer addition to this impressive list of incredible female climbers, Janja Garnbredt, won the first Olympic gold medal in rock climbing at the 2020 Olympics. She beat out many competitors placing highly in all three categories of sport climbing, bouldering, and speed climbing. Her incredible competition prowess makes her one of the best climbers in the world.
She has been competing since a young age and has seen success at many levels of competition. Garnbredt is known for creative movement and incredible power, as well as her intense training routine. She has continued to compete since the Olympics and is likely to continue to be a competition beast for many years. Her incredible strength and body control make her a joy to watch on the wall.
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4. Sasha DiGiulian
Like many others on this list, Sasha DiGiulian started out as a successful competition climber. She was one of the strongest competitors on the US national championship circuit for many years. As she transitioned out of competition climbing, she continued to be an impressive presence in the sport through her many challenging ascents of 5.14 big wall climbs.
On top of being an amazing climber, DiGiulian is also known for her advocacy work. She is known for being a political advocate, for protecting the environment and protecting women’s rights. On a lighter note, she also helped design and was the model for the rock climbing emoji.
5. Margo Hayes
At only 25 years old, Margo Hayes holds some of the most impressive records in women’s climbing. In 2017 Hayes was the first woman to climb a 5.15 climb. Other women, including Hayes herself, have since repeated and improved upon this rating, but this record marked the first time a woman climbed a 5.15 climb, thus breaking the barrier for women into the 5.15 range.
Hayes has seen success across the competition circuits as well and is known for her many wins. Since setting her record in 2017, she has continued to climb hard and has since completed three 5.15 climbs that are completing the 9+ trilogy.
6. Shauna Coxsey
Shauna Coxsey is an impressive British competition climber. Known for her incredible power and versatility on the wall, she has made a name for herself across many international competitions, including the Olympics.
Her strength has allowed her to succeed in various different styles and disciplines of climbing, including bouldering, sport climbing, and speed climbing. Although Coxsey has announced the end of her competition career, she has continued to be a presence in climbing and even continued to climb well into her recent pregnancy.
7. Brooke Raboutou
Brooke Raboutou was born to two of the most successful competition climbers ever and was raised climbing alongside her brother, who is also a successful competition climber. Raboutou represented the US in the Olympics alongside some of her team ABC friends. She trained at Team ABC, the US’s Premier child climbing gym, which her parents owned and operated throughout her childhood.
She has continued competing and has often been seen competing and hanging out with Ashima Shiraishi, as both girls were setting records from a young age. One of her many records is being the youngest woman to send a 5.14d at the age of 11.
Wrapping Things Up: The 15 Best Rock Climbers in the World
From Jim Bridwell and the stone masters of Yosemite Valley to Janja Garnbredt and the Olympic climbers of today, climbing has seen many impressive feats. These are some of our favorite and most spectacular climbers ever, but this list is always changing and growing as the boundaries of climbing are continually being pushed farther and farther every year through new routes and harder climbs.