Each generation of climbers has been marked by athletes who have pushed the sport, level or boundaries to new and more difficult heights. But who are currently the best climbers in the world?
Over the past generations we’ve had:
- Pierre Allain
- John Gill
- Wolfgang Gullich
- Chris Sharma
But time moves on and as the wonder children make it through adolescence this brings the next generation of climbers performing at a whole new level.
So who are currently the best climbers in the world? Who are the people discovering new routes, putting up first ascents or owning the competition scene?
What Makes The Best Climbers In The World?
In our precious sport, asking who are the best climbers in the world is bound to spike up heated arguments.
How do you compare sport climbers to boulderers?
How do you compare pure competition climbers to those who only or mainly climb outdoors?
Where do trad or big wall climbers fall within this scope?
How do you take into account the time taken to send a route?
Next we’re going to be concentrating on people who have been climbing the hardest routes outdoors, or in special cases being remarkably different in the competition scene.
Does it mean someone who’s been climbing the hardest grades outdoors but not getting very far in competition climbing is “better” than someone who’s been ranking well on the competition circuit but not doing anything exceptional outdoors? Probably not.
One thing is for sure. When the new generation of ultra-focused wonder-child competition climbers go outdoors, they generally do well.
So let’s move on and see who’s made the cut of the best climbers in the world in 2023.
Best Climbers In The World: The List
Using our criteria above, the best climbers in the world in 2023 are:
- Adam Ondra
- Alex Megos
- Stefano Gisolfi
- Jakob Schubert
- Seb Bouin
- Janja Garnbredt
- Ashima Shiraishi
- Sasha DiGiulian
From: Czech Republic
Notable: Silence 9c. Currently the hardest route in the world. Zvěřinec/Menagerie 9b+, La Dura Dura 9b+, Vasil Vasil 9b+, Change 9b+, Move 9b/+.
Talking of child prodigies, this guy needs little introduction and our “notable” point above does no justice to his plethora of accomplishments.
For sure you can’t name the best climbers in the world in 2023 without having Adam Ondra at top.
Other than the accomplishments above, we also have:
- First and only 9a+ flash, Super crackinette, St Leger, France.
- First V14 flash ever, Jade, Rocky Mountains.
- The Dawn Wall 9a, first repeat.
- Other 9b/+ climbs.
On top of these Adam has also dominated the competiton climbing scene for a long time and continued to rank extremely well, winning gold on multiple circuits even though he continually puts up first hard ascents outdoors.
Unfortunately no medal in the first Olympic climbing; maybe next time.
Notable: Perfecto Mundo 9b+ , Bibliographie 9b+ , first 9a onsight: Estado Critico
Next on our list, Alex Megos is undeniably one of the best climbers in the world. Similar to Adam his list of hard ascents and accomplishments goes on and on.
He’s known for performing quick repeats of some of the hardest climbs out there, did the first ascent of Bibliographie 9c, (which was subsequently downgraded to 9b+), Perfecto Mundo 9b+ and did the first 9a onsight.
Alex didn’t compete much in the competition circuits, though has started to over the past few years, qualifying for the Olympics though no medal.
Notable: Excalibur 9b+, Perfecto Mundo 9b+ , Bibliographie 9b+ , Change 9b+, Move 9b/+.
Continuing the great 1993 pedigree, Stefano, like Alex, has completed some of the hardest climbs in the world.
He got the first ascent of Excalibur 9b+ in Arco, repeated Perfecto Mundo 9b+, Bibliographie 9b+ (suggesting the downgrade after finding new beta), Change 9b+ and Move 9b/+ in Flatanger.
He’s also known to be working on Silence 9c. Perhaps we will have a first repeat sometime soon.
Stefano also competes in the competition scene. In 2017 and 2018 he ranked 2nd in the IFSC World Championships and qualified for the Italian Olympic team in 2020, although he didn’t qualify for the Olympics.
Notable: Perfecto Mundo 9b+, three times World Cup winner (2011, 2014, 2018) and three times World Champion (2012, 2018, 2021) in Lead climbing. Olympic Bronze in Tokyo 2020.
No stranger to the competition scene, Jakob started to climb when he was twelve years old and went on to participate in the European Youth Cup and World Youth Championships.
Since 2007 has participated regularly in the World Cup for lead climbing as well as bouldering, ranking three times a world cup winner in 2011, 2014 and 2018 as well as three times world champion in 2012, 2018, 2021.
He equally won Bronze at the first climbing Olympics at Tokyo 2020.
Although he’s drawn less attention outdoors he’s repeated Perfecto Mundo 9b+, La Planta de Shiva 9b and is known to be working Seb Bouin’s DNA.
Notable: DNA 9c, Supreme Jumbo Love 9b+, Change 9b+, La rage d’Adam 9b/+, Move 9b/+, Nordic Marathon 9b/+.
Until recently when mentioning this guy from down south in France, you’d hear retorts of “Who?”. However given the multitude of hardest routes in the world that Seb Bouin smashed out over the past few years, he’s now well earned his nickname of the Undercover Crusher.
A short list of his achievements:
- First ascent of DNA 9c. Like Adam Ondra’s Silence, if confirmed this would be the second 9c in the world.
- Supreme Jumbo Love 9b+
- La Rage d’Adam 9b/+
- Change 9b/+
- Move 9b/+
- Nordic Marathon 9b/+
For his repeats of Move and Change in Flatanger, he gave 9b/+ grades. These are slightly lower than the grades proposed by Adam, explaining that the use of knee pads makes a large difference.
Seb has never really participated in the international competition scene, explaining his undercover status, however is definitely now considered one of the strongest climbers out there.
Notable: Going an entire IFSC Bouldering World Cup season undefeated (2019). Olympic gold Tokyo 2022.
In comparison to men, where the notable climbs are primarily outdoors, Janja is known for absolutely dominating the women’s competition scene pretty much since she started participating.
In 2018 and 2019 she won the combined World Cup Championship. Remarkably in 2019 she also won every single event of the bouldering World Cup series, which has never been done before.
In 2021, she won the sports first gold medal for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. On top of that in 2021 and 2022 also she won the Lead world cup series.
With the amount of medals she has, she must be running low on cabinet space.
More recently she’s started to move outdoors and she could do amazing things. Already in 2021, she was the first female to onsight an 8c, when she climbed Fish Eye in Spain. She’s equally bouldered 8B+ and sent multiple 9a’s. Bring on the harder stuff.
Notable : The youngest person to climb 9a/9a+ (in 2015): Open Your Mind Direct (5.14d) and Ciudad de Dios in Santa Linya, Spain
Back to child prodigies and it doesn’t get more prodigy-like than this.
In 2012, at age 11, Ashima climbed Southern Smoke, 8c+, in Red River Gorge, making her the youngest person ever to take on a climb of this difficulty.
In 2015, at age 13, she climbed Open Your Mind Direct, 9a, and Cuidad de Dios, 9a/+, making her the youngest person ever to send climbs of this difficulty!
In 2016, at age 14, she climbed Horizon, V15, in Japan. This also made her the youngest person ever to boulder at this grade and the first female to do so. Later in 2016 she also sent Sleepy Hollow, V15, though there is more controversy around the grade of this one…
Notable: Era Vella 9a, Pure Imagination 8c+, multiple first female ascents of big walls: Bellavista 8c, Mora Mora 8c, The Misty Wall.
You know those climbing emoji that we now use regularly? Well, you have Sasha to thank.
After complaining that a climbing emoji didn’t exist, she submitted a design to EmojiPedia and it was eventually published! Where would we be without her.
Other than designing emojis, Sasha has been the first female to send multiple hard routes and over the past years has knocked back multiple big wall first ascents.
In 2011, after high school she sent Southern Smoke and Lucifer, both 8c+, followed by Pure Imagination 9a, (which has since been downgraded to 8c+) in Red River Gorge. She’s equally won the World Championships in Arco.
In 2013 she was the first American woman to send Era Vella, 9a.
In 2015, she successfully sent a notoriously difficult route on the North Face of the Eiger, ‘Magic Mushroom’, 7c+. To date she has over 30 first female ascents in her bag.
More recently she has been sending multiple big walls including Bellavista 8c, Mora Mora 8c in Madagascar and The Misty Wall in Yosemite.
Departing Thoughts on the Best Climbers in the World
With so many sports being dominated more and more by younger generations, it’s going to be interesting to see what the next generations of climbers will bring.
Just look at the way Shaun Raboutou has been destroying bouldering over the past year!?
What hardcore send or top climber have we missed?