Who is the Best Climber in the World?

It can be difficult to imagine that even the best climber in the world was once a beginner too, but we must remember that legends are not born, they are made. They too have struggled through seemingly impossible routes, and fell just as they reached for the last hold. There is so much for a…

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It can be difficult to imagine that even the best climber in the world was once a beginner too, but we must remember that legends are not born, they are made. They too have struggled through seemingly impossible routes, and fell just as they reached for the last hold. There is so much for a climber (whether beginner or advanced) to learn from them. 

The phrase “best climber in the world” is subjective. I’m sure your mothers and girlfriends all think that you are the best climber in the world (we think so too!). Simply put, there is no one best climber, but rather a collective of athletes who have achieved great feats in the different climbing disciplines. 

From Alex Honnold to Nalle Hukkataival, boulderers to free climbers – in today’s article we will cover some of the most accomplished athletes in the field of rock climbing.

Do you have a personal favorite? Leave a comment and let us know!

Is Alex Honnold the Best Climber in the World?

Alex Honnold was born on August 17, 1985 in Sacramento, California. He began to climb at the age of 5 and continued to climb both recreationally and competitively throughout his childhood. Honnold is said to have frequently skipped his college classes to go climbing before ultimately dropping out of his undergraduate program at the University of California, Berkeley. 

Honnold is known for many things but most famously his free solo ascent of El Capitan which was the first of its kind. You might also recognize his mother, Diedre Wolownick, who became the oldest woman to climb El Capitan, at the age of 66. She broke her own record in 2022 at the age of 70. Will she attempt to break her record once more? Time will tell. 

Best Climber in the World

Photograph by Benjamin Farren

In addition to his climbing feats, Alex has also lived a full personal life. He spent over a decade of his life traveling in his van to climb at national parks. He co-wrote a book entitled “Alone on the Wall”. Alex began the Hannold Foundation which aims to transition communities into renewable energy sources, like solar. In the last three years Hannold has even married his long-term girlfriend, Sammi McCandless, and welcomed his first child, a daughter, into the world.

Is Nalle Hukkataival the Best Climber in the World?

Nalle Hukkataival was born on September 8, 1986 in Helsinki, Finland. He climbed for the first time at age 12, but did not begin competition climbing until the age of 17. Despite a successful career as a competitive climber, he is better known for his bouldering feats. He is credited with being the first ascensionist of the world’s hardest boulder, Burden of Dreams, located in his home country of Finland. Nalle completed the V17 (9A) boulder on October 23, 2016 after over 3 years (7 seasons) and 4000 attempts. According to a video he did with Black Diamond, Hukkataival is now focused on completing full ascents.

To watch the full video, click here

Is Daniel Woods the Best Climber in the World?

Daniel Woods was born on August 1, 1986 in Richardson Texas but spent the majority of his childhood in Colorado. He climbed his first boulder, a V11 (8A) called “F*ck You Finger” in 2003 at the age of 14 and has been unstoppable ever since. Woods is known for being the first ascensionist of many V16 (8c+) boulders some of his native Colorado feats include; Box Therapy, Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Hypnotized Minds. His most notable climb is his first ascent of “Return of the Sleepwalker” a V17 (9A) located in Black Velvet Canyon, Nevada. He holds the record for most V15s climbed.  Woods was also a notable figure in the world of competition climbing, though that is no longer his focus. 

Is Will Bosi the Best Climber in the World?

William “Will” Bosi was born on December 27, 1998 in Edinburgh, Scotland. He has had a successful career in both sport and competition climbing, but in bouldering is known for being the second ascensionist of the worlds hardest boulder, “Burden of Dreams” in Lappnor, Finland. This achievement was monumental as it confirmed Burden of Dream’s place as the most difficult boulder. As of today, this boulder has yet to have another ascensionist. If you don’t know Bosi from this infamous feat, you may also know him as being the first ascensionist of the V16 (8C+) boulder he established “Honey Badger”.

Is Janja Garnbret the Best Climber in the World?

Janja Garnbret, born on March 12, 1999 in Slovenj Gradec, Slovenia, is a world renowned competitive climber. She is a climber of many firsts including; being the first female gold medalist in the Olympic games, most IFSC medals and the first female climber to onsight a 8c climbing route. Janja has qualified for the 2024 Olympic Games (the second ever time climbing will be in the Olympics).

Is Shawn Raboutou the Best Climber in the World?

Shawn Raboutou, born April 19, 1998 in Boulder, Colorado, is the son of the world renowned climbers Robyn Erbesfield-Raboutou and Didier Raboutou. Having spent his entire childhood in the climbing gym, Shawn and his olympian sister, Brooke, quickly became legendary climbers themselves. Shawn is best known as being the first ascensionist of two V17 (9A) boulders “Alphane” and “Megatron”.  Raboutou is working towards becoming the third ascensionist of Burden of Dreams. You can watch some of his attempts here

Is Aidan Roberts the Best Climber in the World?

Aidan Roberts was born in the United Kingdom in 1998. He began his climbing career in competition climbing and didn’t discover his passion for bouldering until his early twenties. It was then that Roberts began to transition into becoming a boulderer. He is best known for being the second ascensionist of the V17 (9A) boulder “Alphane” in Chronico, Switzerland.

Is Tommy Caldwell the Best Climber in the World?

Best Climber in the World

Photograph by Benjamin Farren

Tommy Caldwell, born on August 11, 1978 in Estes Park, Colorado, was introduced to rock climbing at a young age by his parents who were also mountaineers. Caldwell experienced many hardships throughout his life that for almost anyone, would have made them denounce their climbing passion, but for Caldwell, it only fueled him further. 

The first trauma happened in August of 2000 when Caldwell and three other climbers were held hostage for several days in Kyrgyzstan during a climbing trip. Caldwell pushed one of his captors off of a cliff and was able to escape. Several months later, Caldwell sawed off part of his left index finger. When the doctors told Tommy that he would not have full function of his finger, he opted to have it amputated. 

Despite these challenges, Caldwell has had an extremely successful career as a professional rock climber. Some of his most notable first free ascents include West Buttress, Dihedral Wall and Magic Mushroom all located on El Capitan in Yosemite Valley. Tommy has worked alongside the infamous climber Alex Hannold in several of his feats including a free ascent of The Nose on El Capitan. 

Caldwell has also had a fulfilling personal life. He married his second wife in 2012, Rebecca Pietrisch, and together they have two children; Fitz and Ingrid. They live in his hometown of Estes Park. 

Is Catherine Destivelle the Best Climber in the World?

Catherine Destivelle, born on July 24, 1960 in French Algeria, is considered by many to be the greatest female climber of all time. Destivelle became a professional climber following her involvement in the climbing documentary E pericoloso sporgersi. Some of her most notable feats include her ascent of Chouca (an 8c+) which made her the first female to achieve the grade and to be the first female to climb Bonatti Pillar. Catherine retired from climbing in 2000 in order to focus on her career in publishing and to spend more time with her husband and son, Eric and Victor. 

Is Drew Ruana the Best Climber in the World?

Rudolph “Drew” Ruana was born in Washington, United States in 1999 to two climbers. He is best known for having climbed over 100 problems of a V14 grade or higher, 10 of which were V16s. His goal is to climb every V14+ boulder in Colorado. Us fans will eagerly await the day he achieves his goal.  

Is Lynn Hill the Best Climber in the World?

Carolynn “Lynn” Hill was born on January 3, 1961 in Detroit, Michigan but grew up in California. Lynn spent her childhood as a talented gymnast before being introduced to climbing in 1975. She immediately became entranced in the climbing culture, sparking a life-long love of the sport. Some of her many accomplishments include; the first free ascent of The Nose on El Capitan, first woman to climb Midnight Lightening, and the first team free ascent of a 4810 meter wall. To this day she remains one of only two people to have completed a one day all free ascent of The Nose on El Capitan. 

Is Adam Ondra the Best Climber in the World?

Adam Ondra was born on February 5, 1993 in Brno, Czech Republic. Some sources say that Ondra began to climb as early as 3 years old, no surprise considering his parents were also avid climbers. Ondra has had an extremely successful career as a competitive climber. He also climbed several of the most difficult boulders in the world including V16 (8c+) boulders; Terranova, Brutal Rider, and Ledorabec in the Czech Republic and Gioia in Italy.

Was Wolfgang Güillich the Best Climber in the World?

Despite his short life and career, Wolfgang Güllich was among the most prolific climbers thus far. Born on October 24, 1960 in Ludwigshafen, West Germany, Güllich began to climb at the age of 13. At only 18, his brother Fritz died in a climbing accident but this did not discourage him from continuing with the sport. 

Wolfgang would go on to become the first climber to achieve a 9a grade and the first to free-solo a 7c. If you don’t know who Güllich is from his climbing achievements, you might know him from his invention, the campus board. Campus boards are installed in nearly every climbing gym across the globe. 

Güllich went on to marry a nurse named Annette Favery in 1991 their marriage would be short lived. Less than a year later in August of 1992, Wolfgang would fall asleep while driving and died two days after the incident. 

Is Katie Lamb the Best Climber in the World?

In September of 2023, 25 year old Katie Lamb became the first female to climb a V16 (8c+) boulder. She is the 4th ascensionist of the infamous boulder “Box Therapy” which was first climbed by Daniel Woods. The most remarkable aspect of this feat is that Lamb surpassed the V15 grade, jumping right from V14 to the V16 Box Therapy.

Is Chris Sharma the Best Climber in the World?

Chris Sharma, born on April 23, 1981 in Santa Cruz, California, grew up in a household that practiced buddhism. Sharma began to climb at the age of 12 and shortly after began to enroll in competitions. He is best known for being among the first to climb an 9b+ (5.15c) route. In March of 2023, Sharma climbed his second 9b+ route (Sleeping Lion in Spain). 

Though Chris continues to climb professionally, he has started a family of his own. In 2015, he married model Jimena Alarcón. Together they have two children; a daughter and a son. 

Is Dai Koyamada the Best Climber in the World?

Dai Koyamada, born on August 23, 1976 in Kagoshima, Japan is seen by many as the founding father of advanced bouldering, completing nearly 30 v15s (8c). Just a few of the boulders he holds the title of first ascent include; The Wheel of Life in Australia, Hydrangea in Japan, Angama in France, Euphoria in Japan, and Daedalus Direct in Switzerland. Even though he is now 47, Dai Koyamada still climbs. 

Is Jimmy Webb the Best Climber in the World?

Jimmy Webb was born on November 7, 1987 in Maryville, Tennessee. Some of his notable ascents include V16 (8C+) boulders; Sleepwalker (first ascensionist), Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Ephyra (first ascensionist).

Is Alberto López the Best Climber in the World?

Alberto López was born October 23, 2002 in Cáceres, Spain. He had been climbing since he was little, and even moved across the country from Cácares to Barcelona in order to train to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. His hard work paid off in November of 2019 when López learned he qualified. Not only did he have the opportunity to compete, but López would go on to win gold in the men’s division at the Olympics! 

Who is Your Favorite?

As you might know, here at Bouldering with Joel we are partial to the boulderers. I love the community and the relatively safeness of the discipline. Drew Ruana, Shawn Raboutou, Aidan Roberts and Daniel Woods are among my favorites. So if you were to ask me who I though the best climber in the world is, I would say one of them.

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