Professional climbers are an impressive bunch. Boasting exceptional upper body strength, precise footwork, and astonishing mental fortitude, pro climbers are some of the most athletic people on the planet.
But, who exactly are the best climbers in the world?
It turns out that determining precisely who the top climbers are is no easy feat. With so many different types of climbing out there, it can be tricky to rank climbers against each other.
To get you started, we’ve put together this list of the best indoor and outdoor rock climbers in the world right now. Taking into account each climber’s history of personal achievements and their most recent climbing accolades, we’ve compiled a group of the 10 top athletes in the vertical world for you to check out.
So, without further ado, and in no particular order, here are the best rock climbers on Earth right now!
1. Alex Honnold
Perhaps the best-known rock climber of all time, Alex Honnold is an accomplished traditional climber and free soloist who came into the national spotlight in 2012 after he free soloed the Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park.
Although his 2012 ascent of Half Dome garnered him international recognition and even an interview on CBS’ 60 Minutes, Honnold has been putting up impressive free solos since the early 2000s. In 2007, Honnold free soloed both the Rostrum and Astroman in Yosemite in 1 day and in 2008, he free soloed the absolutely stunning 5.12d (7c) finger crack on Moonlight Buttress in Zion National Park.
In the years since his Half Dome climb, Honnold has also made waves in the climbing world for his speed climbs of Yosemite’s El Capitan, all while living out of his converted camper van. He currently co-holds the speed record on El Cap’s Nose route with fellow legend Tommy Caldwell, having climbed the route in just 1:58:07 - a truly staggering feat, considering it takes most climbers a week to ascend the same route.
Honnold’s biggest accomplishment to date?
That’s easy: His 2017 free solo of El Capitan, which was chronicled in the Academy Award-winning documentary Free Solo is easily his most impressive and most high-profile endeavor.
Honnold’s free solo ascent of El Cap’s Freerider was the first time anyone had ever climbed El Capitan without a rope and it is often considered to be one of the most impressive climbing feats of all time. Winning an Oscar isn’t a bad accomplishment, either, for a professional rock climber.
These days, in addition to climbing, Honnold is also a philanthropist, having started The Honnold Foundation to help bring solar power and environmentally-conscious energy to people around the world.
2. Sasha DiGiulian
Sasha DiGiulian got her start in the climbing world at the ripe old age of 6 years old in the indoor climbing circuit. By the age of 7, she was competing in various climbing competitions and by the age of 11, she was climbing at 5.13b (8a).
In high school, DiGiulian was redpointing 5.14c (8c+) and, soon after leaving school she became the first North American woman to ever climb 5.14d (9a) with her 2011 redpoint of Pure Imagination in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge.
During the early 2010s, DiGiulian was particularly active on the indoor competition climbing circuit, winning gold, silver, and bronze in multiple Pan-American Championships, IFSC World Championships, and USA Climbing National Championships.
In more recent years, DiGiulian has set her sights on challenging outdoor pursuits, including an ascent of the Magic Mushroom on the North Face of the Eiger, a free ascent of the Misty Wall in Yosemite National Park, and the first all-female ascent of Pico Cão Grande in Sao Tomé & Principe.
Oh, and when she wasn’t working as a professional climber, DiGiulian also found the time to complete a degree in nonfiction writing and business at Columbia University. She’s also a philanthropist who’s active in a number of different organizations that work to get more women into climbing and other outdoor pursuits.
3. Adam Ondra
Impossibly strong, Adam Ondra is a professional climber from the Czech Republic whose known for his first ascents of some of the world’s most difficult climbs, including more than 1,500 ascents of routes harder than 5.13b (8a).
Ondra first formally got into climbing at the age of 6 and, by the age of 13, he was already climbing 5.14d (9a). By 2011, at the age of 18, Ondra was onsighting 5.14c and, by that point, he had both won a gold medal in the lead climbing World Cup and repeated most of the world’s hardest climbs.
A year later at 19, he was the first climber to ever climb 5.15c (9b+), having made the first ascent of the route Change in a cave in Flatanger, Norway. In 2013, he also made the first ascent of La Dura Dura and Vasil Vasil, both of which were graded at 5.15c (9b+).
Although he was known mostly as a sport climber in his younger years, Ondra has since branched out to other disciplines. In 2016, he made the second ascent of the Dawn Wall on El Capitan, climbing the route that took Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgensen years to complete in just 8 days.
Never content with his past accomplishments, in 2017, Ondra went back to the cave in Flatanger, Norway and put up Silence, the world’s first 5.15d (9c). If that wasn’t enough, a year later Ondra also flashed Super Crackinette in France, making him the first person to ever onsight 5.15a (9a+).
4. Ashima Shiraishi
One of the youngest climbers on the international climbing scene today is Ashima Shiraishi, a world-class boulder and sport climber who got her start in climbing at the age of 6 on boulders in New York City’s Central Park.
Shiraishi came into the national spotlight in the early 2000s and the mid 2010s after she was the youngest person to ever climb 5.14d/5.15a (9a/9a+) at the age of 13. Around the same time, she also started putting up impressive ascents of tricky boulder problems in Hueco Tanks, Texas, including the V13 Crown of Aragorn, the V11 Roger in the Shower, and the V11/12 Chablanke.
In 2015, over the course of just 2 days, Shiraishi climbed 2 V14 boulder problems in Bishop, California - The Swarm and Golden Shadow. This made her the second woman to ever climb a V14 (after Tomoko Ogawa).
By the mid 2010s, Shiraishi had started to take much of her climbing outside, though she still found time to compete on the international circuit. She won the IFSC World Youth Championships for lead and bouldering in 2015, 2016, and 2017, as well as the USA Climbing Sport & Speed Open National Championships in 2017.
Perhaps her most impressive ascents to date, however, were her ascents of Japan’s Horizon and Australia’s Sleepy Rave, both boulder problems rated V15. But, at just 19 years old, Shiraishi still has a long career ahead of her, so it will be exciting to see where she takes her climbing next!
5. Jakob Schubert
Compared to some of the others on our list, Jakob Schubert was a relative late comer to climbing, having gotten into the sport when he was 12 years old, though he’s made a name for himself in competition climbing ever since.
Just 1 year after he started climbing, in 2004, Schubert competed in the World Youth Championships and the European Youth Cup, first winning silver in the World Championships in 2005.
Since then, he’s won or medaled in lead, combined, and bouldering events at the IFSC World Cup, the IFSC World Climbing Championships, and the European Championships over 2 dozen times. Schubert has also dabbled in speed climbing over the years, finishing second in the World Championships in 2018.
Although he’s best known as an indoor competition climber, Schubert is no stranger to real rock. He’s climbed multiple V14 boulder problems, including Witness the Fitness in Spain and Hide and Sick in Austria, as well as Austria’s Sierra Madre, which is rated at V15.
As far as sport climbing goes, Schubert once onsighted 5.14b (8c), having climbed Aitzol in Spain on his first try. In recent years, he’s also redpointed the 5.15c (9b+) Perfecto Mundo as well as over a dozen climbs rated 5.15a (9a+) or harder.
6. Angy Eiter
Angy Eiter isn’t quite a household name yet, even in the climbing world, but she definitely should be. Over the course of her career, Eiter has racked up an impressive list of ascents and accomplishments which more than merit her inclusion on our list of the best climbers in the world right now.
Eiter started climbing at the age of 11 after moving to Austra’s Imst Region. When she was 15 years old, she climbed a 5.13b (8a) route at a local climbing gym and started competing on the World Cup lead climbing circuit.
The next few years saw her win gold at the 2004, 2005, and 2006 World Cups, as well as a number of other major competitions, such as the World Championships, European Championships, and the World Games, all in lead climbing.
While Eiter made her mark early on in her climbing career on the indoor competition circuit, she’s recently taken her climbing to new heights in the outdoors. In 2014, Eiter climbed her first 5.14d (9a) on Hades in Austra, which made her the 6th ever woman to complete a climb of this difficulty.
Her biggest accomplishment to date was her 2017 redpoint of the route La Planta de Shiva in Spain, which made her the first ever woman to climb a 5.15b (9b).
7. Alex Megos
An accomplished outdoor and indoor climber, Alex Megos is known for putting up first ascents and redpoints on some of the world’s hardest sport climbs and bolder problems.
Megos first started climbing with his father at the age of 6 and, by 10 years old, he had become a fairly experienced multipitch climber in his home region of Bavaria, Germany. When he was 14, Megos climbed his first 5.13b (8a) and by age 16, he had climbed his first 5.14d (9a).
Around the same time, Megos also started competing in international climbing competitions, winning the European Championship’s youth division in 2009 and 2010, as well as the Vice World Championship youth division in 2011.
After graduating from school, Megos started spending more of his time on his outdoor projects. His first major accolade was his 5.14d (9a) onsight of Estado Critico in Spain, which was the first time anyone had ever onsighted a climb of that difficulty.
Over the years, Megos has also repeated a number of major climbs in just a few hours, including the 5.14d (9a) Action Directe in Germany, Modified (5.15a/9a+) in Switzerland, First Round First Minute (5.15b/9b+) in Spain, and Biographie/Realization (5.15a/9a+) in France.
Some of Megos’ more recent accomplishments include a first ascent of the 20 pitch 5.14b (8c) route FLY in Switzerland, a first ascent of the 5.15c/9b+ Perfecto Mundo in Spain, and the 5.15d (9c) Bibliographie in Céüse, France.
8. Shauna Coxsey
The most successful British competition climber of all time, Shauna Coxsey is an indoor climbing phenom who has dominated the climbing world since 2012.
Coxey began climbing at the age of 4 and started competition climbing on the international circuit in 2012 when she placed third in the World Cup bouldering division. One year later, she sent her first ever V13 outdoor boulder problem, the challenging Nuthin’ But Sunshine in Colorado, and in 2014 she sent the V14 New Base Line In Switzerland.
The next half dozen years saw Coxey medal at nearly every World Cup and British Championship in the bouldering division. She was ranked the number 1 female climber in the world for bouldering in 2016 and 2017 and has consistently ranked in the top 10 since 2012.
While she’s best known as a boulderer, Coxey has also branched out into speed climbing during the last few years, setting a British women’s record during the 2019 IFSC World Championships and securing a qualifying spot for the (now) postponed 2020 Summer Olympics.
For her contributions to British sport, Coxey was even appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) at the Queen’s 2016 Birthday Honors.
9. Tommy Caldwell
Although most professional climbers specialize in one discipline of climbing, Tommy Caldwell is one of the best all-around rock climbers on the planet.
Caldwell grew up in Colorado’s Front Range and he got his start as a climber at a young age, climbing in Rocky Mountain National Park and Yosemite National Park alongside his father, a professional mountain guide.
Perhaps the biggest event of his early career occurred when he and fellow pro climber, Beth Rodden, got kidnapped and held hostage on a climbing trip in Kyrgyzstan in 2000 before escaping a few days later.
In 2001, Caldwell experienced yet another tragedy, this time losing his left index finger in a construction accident.
Despite this, Caldwell has managed to put up some of the hardest and most impressive climbs in the world, including first ascents and first free ascents of The Honeymoon V 5.13 (7c+) on Longs Peak, Flex Luthor (5.15a/9a+) on the Fortress of Solitude, and the Fitz Traverse V 5.11d/7a C1 65º in Patagonia.
Caldwell’s real claim to fame, however, is his impressive ascents on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Over the years he’s put up a number of first free ascents on El Cap, including the West Buttress V 5.13c (8a+) and the Magic Mushroom VI 5.14a (8b+).
His most notable El Capitan climb to date is easily his first free ascent of the Dawn Wall in 2015, a 5.14d (9a) climb up one of the most challenging faces of the monolith alongside Kevin Jorgeson.
10. Janja Garnbredt
One of the most promising young climbers on the international competition scene, Janja Garnbret is a lead climbing and bouldering phenom who’s best known for being the first climber to ever win all Bouldering World Cup titles in a single season.
After she started climbing at the age of 7, Garnbredt first hit the international climbing competition scene in 2015, winning most of the IFSC competitions that she entered.
She quickly established herself as a major contender in both the lead and combined divisions, winning the 2016 Adidas Rockstars and Rock Master competitions, as well as gold in the World Cup and World Championships that very same year.
The following 3 years saw Garnbredt winning or medaling in nearly every major competition - including the World Championships and World Cups - in lead, bouldering, and combined from 2017 to 2019.
While she was sweeping medal podiums in the indoor climbing circuit, Garnbredt also started venturing outside, onsighting challenging routes like Avatar, a 5.13d (9b) in Croatia. In 2015, she also redpointed Miza za šest, a 5.14c (8c+) in Slovenia and the 5.14b (8c) La Fabelita in Spain.
Two years later in 2017, Garnbredt took her climbing accomplishments one step further by sending a pair of 5.14d (9a) climbs - Seleccio Natural and Fabela pa la Enmienda in Spain - in just a few days.
Although the 2020 international climbing competition circuit was more or less cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we can only imagine where this talented young climber will take her career when competition climbing starts up again in earnest.
Out of the hundreds of professional climbers that are crushing the international competition climbing scene or putting up hard routes around the world, these 10 climbers stood out among the rest.
Whether they’re best known for their impressive streak of championships or for their incredible list of first ascents, all 10 of these top climbers are helping to advance the sport of rock climbing. Although the list of the top climbers in the world will invariably shift and change over the years, these climbers have certainly left their mark on the sport they love.