Multiple hardcore routes exist nowadays with the new generation of climbers pushing the limits of the sport. But what are currently the hardest climbs in the world?
New routes are always being bolted and more climbers than ever are raising the level. The most difficult routes are no longer limited to just La Dura Dura or Silence.
The History of the Hardest Rock Climbs in the World
We start off by looking at the evolution of the hardest climb in the world, starting from the very first 9a…
The first and truly benchmark 9a is considered to be Wolfgang Gullich’s Action Directe in the Frankenjura.
Gullich sent this route in 1991, revolutionising the climbing world in the process by establishing new plyometric training techniques.
It took nearly 10 years for things to evolve…
Almost 10 years after Gullich’s Action Directe, Chris Sharma raised the bar with his first ascent of Biographie, 9a+, in Ceuse France.
This was the worlds first 9a+, which he tried over multiple years and finally sent in 2001.
Carrying on his streak of hardest rock climbs in the world, Chris also sent Jumbo Love, 9b, in Clark Mountain USA, in 2008, again raising the bar. His battle with the route was documented in the 2009 classic, Progression.
2010 ushered in a new generation of climbers, leg by Adam Ondra, who would make history putting up the first ascents of the next grades.
In 2012 Adam sent Change, 9b+ in Flatanger, Norway. This was the first climb of the grade to be sent and raised the bar of the hardest rock climbs in the world.
Shortly after in February 2013, Adam also sent La Dura Dura, in Oliana Spain, the second 9b+ in the world at the time. Chris and Adam working the route together is documented in the awesome Reel Rock 7. Adam Ondra got the first ascent, followed by Chris Sharma also making history with his first repeat a month later.
The next level, again, came from Adam Ondra, who sent Silence, 9c, in Flatanger, Norway in 2017. This made it the world’s first 9c and again pushed the boundaries of what is humanly possible, becoming the hardest rock climb in the world.
The Hardest Rock Climbs in the World
Here’s the list as of February 2023, which we cut off at 9b+.
Adam Ondra made history again with his first ascent Silence, 9c, in Flatanger, Norway in 2017.
It’s famous for a heinous inverted drop-knee foot-lock which is at the limit of a knee dislocation.
This was the first route of this grade and is currently unrepeated.
In 2022, Stefano Ghisolfi projected the route, and given his tick-list perhaps we’ll see a first repeat over the next few years.
Seb Bouin’s long-term project in the Verdon gorge, France, is also currently unrepeated (like Silence).
Seb logged over 250 attempts on the route and is no stranger to routes in the mid-9’s. He’s also known for strict grading and given it’s inclusion in Reel Rock 17, there’s no doubt that this is the real deal!
The final send came in 2022, having bolted it in 2019 and working on it over the seasons since then.
We’re all looking forward to seeing someone else try this beast of a route!
A recent addition to the list and the first of 3 new 9b+ ascents sent in early 2023.
The working of this route was well documented, with Adam Ondra, Stefano Ghisolfi, Will Bosi and Jakob Schubert all giving it a try.
Stefano got the first ascent and given the attention given by other climbers, we can probably expect a repeat sometime soon.
Mejorando la Samfaina, 9b+
The second of the 9b+’s sent in 2023. Jorge Diazz-Rullo, sent this animal in February 2023, in Margalef, Spain and was his first of the grade.
Jorge is one of the up-and-coming stars, with already 7 9b routes to his name and this send makes him only the 8th person to make it onto this mini-Mount-Olympus.
Not to be confused with Biographie, which is a few metres to the side, Alex Megos sent this long term project in Ceuse, France, in 2020.
Alex initially graded this 9c based on the number of days working the route. This would have been the second in the world after Silence. Stefano Ghisolfi got a first repeat shortly after, however suggesting 9b+.
After discussions with Alex, the consensus has remained on 9b+.
Perfecto Mundo, 9b+
Another Chris Sharma project line which he bolted back in 2009 but unfortunately never sent.
Cycle forwards nearly 10 years and Alex Megos grabbed the first ascent in 2018, followed by Stefano Ghisolfi and Jakob Schubert.
The route is located in the infamous Raco de la Finestra sector of Margalef and features true Chris Sharma style climbing including a dyno!
Vasil, Vasil, 9b+
Perhaps one of the lesser known 9b+’s and currently unrepeated. Adam Ondra sent this route in 2013, having bolted it many years before.
It’s based in one of his native crags of Sloup in the Czech Republic, which is perhaps why it’s got less repeat attempts.
In comparison to other routes on this list, Vasil, Vasil, is relatively short at only 12m long.
La Dura Dura, 9b+
This route was epitomized in the 2012 Reel Rock 7, which featured Adam Ondra and Chris Sharma’s “battle” to send the then, hardest climb in the world, along with Change which Adam had sent in 2012.
Adam clinched the first ascent with Chris adding the first repeat a month later.
Adam Ondra, again, made history with the ascent of Change, 9b+, in Flatanger, Norway in 2012.
Although this was at a similar time when Adam and Chris had been working La Dura Dura, Adam’s send made this route the first 9b+, making history.
Since the initial ascent the route has seen two repeats by Stefano Ghisolfi in 2020 and Seb Bouin in 2022.
Supreme Jumbo Love, 9b+
The “original” Jumbo Love was the feature piece of the 2009 Progression climbing film, featuring Chris Sharma’s first attempt of the then hardest climb in the world and first 9b.
This route is a whopping 70 meters endurance fest, linking up effectively 3 different pitches.
Chris had also bolted a more direct start to the route, which introduced a more difficult first pitch and pushing the grade upwards.
Fast forwards to 2022. Seb Bouin visited Clark Mountain and managed to send both!
Sport climbing grades are like bouldering grades, they get established by consensus.
The first ascensionist proposes a grade which is then confirmed or changed based on feedback from climber who repeat it.
Until these routes get further repeats we therefore keep the current proposed grades.
Departing Thoughts on The Hardest Rock Climbs in the World
The last century has seen the strongest climbers in the world putting up and repeating climbs that would have never seemed possible before.
As it stands, the two hardest climbs in the world are:
- Silence, 9c, in Flatanger, Norway
- DNA, 9c, in Verdon gorge, France
Both are unrepeated, but given the history and pedigree of the first ascensionists, these climbs are well and truly believed to be of the next level.