In the world of rock climbing, there is no shortage of exceptional athletes who make it look easy, effortlessly scaling heights that most people can’t even imagine. But what are they doing differently than their fellow climbers?
The 10 Best Rock Climbers in the World – 2022 guide explores the traits, habits, and strategies that set these climbers apart from peers- how they train their bodies for maximum power and endurance, traverse tricky routes with confidence, and execute difficult free climbing techniques to get higher off the ground than ever before.
While there is plenty of debate on this list, we’ve assembled an all-star cast of elite climbers that we are confident are the best rock climbers in the world today!
The Best Rock Climbers in the World
When Free Solo and The Dawn Wall came out in 2018 they skyrocketed the popularity of climbing and made the names Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell recognizable to many outside the climbing world.
Most of the best climbers, however, are still relatively unknown. Until now!
While not the best-known climber in the world to those unfamiliar with climbing, there is little doubt that Ondra is the best climber in the world currently. Ondra’s list of climbing achievements is capped off with being the only person to free climb a 5.15d when he conquered Silence in Norway in 2017. Other notable climbs include:
- 1st climber to ever climb 5.15c (9b+) with his ascent of La Dura Dura and only one with 2 (La Dura Dura and Change)
- Only climber to Flash a 5.15a (9a+) with Super Crackinette
- Second ascent of The Dawn Wall 5.14d, the hardest big wall climb in the world
- First-person to win a boulder and lead world championship in the same year
- 20 lead World Cup medals, 14 of which are gold
- 12 bouldering World Cup medals, 4 of which are gold
- Most 5.15 ascents of any climber in history
- Most 5.15 FA’s of any climber in history
Most climbers on our list have a specialty, not Ondra. He’s done sport climbing, big wall climbing with The Dawn Wall, he’s an elite level boulder climber. Currently, Adam is in his mid-20s and it will be exciting to see where he goes in the next 5 years!
I still find it weird when I’m talking to one of my friends who doesn’t climb and they know the name Alex Honnold. The Free Solo documentary brought fame to the sport of climbing when historically it has lived outside of mainstream culture’s view.
The fact of the matter is that no one in the world is doing Free Solo climbing on routes as tough as the ones that Alex is doing. Along with his now-famous attack on El Capitan, he’s also soloed Half Dome, Moonlight Buttress, and high ball boulders like “Too Big to Flail”.
While he really shines and distinguishes himself as a free soloist, Alex also has multiple speed records, climbed 5.14d sport routes, V12 bouldering problems, and completed some super impressive feats with Tommy Caldwell including the Fitz Traverse in Patagonia.
While not too many would argue that Adam Ondra is the best all-around rock climber in the world, Janja Garnbret is by far the best female climber and possibly the best competition climber in history.
In 2021 she took home the first Olympic Gold medal for climbing and in 2019 she was the first person to ever sweep an entire IFSC World Cup season… that’s right, no one beat her that year.
Janja turned pro in 2015 at the age of sixteen, her first few years saw her compete in 31 Lead World Cup events. She failed to reach the podium in only four of those 31 events, culminating in her clean sweep in 2019 at the very top of the podium.
With the indoor wall all but conquered, Janja has started to climb outdoors with more frequency where she already has multiple 5.14s under her belt. With Ondra getting older, we easily could see Janja become the best overall climber in the world in the next few years.
Sharma was one of the first of the generation of climbers that would come to be known as the gym kids. He has time and time again set reset the bar, pushing climbing grades to new heights. He worked with Adam Ondra to conquer “La Dura Dura”, and to this day he and Ondra are the only two climbers in the world to have topped out the 5.15d.
While Sharma has an impressive number of 5.15s under his belt, he may be best known for his Deep Water Solos. Like Free Soloing, this style of climbing uses no safety gear but is done over water so the risk is much less.
When talking about deep soloing, Sharma pinned one of our favorite quotes about climbing :
“The essence of climbing is finding out how far I can push myself, having the freedom and purity of no equipment and finding the limit of difficulty we can go to”
Alberto Gines Lopez
The “new kid on the block” came in and ruined everyone’s party at the Olympics in Tokyo, winning the first-ever gold medal on the men’s side. At just 18 years of age, Lopez has already been competing for four years and has established himself as a force.
While not as established as many of the other names on this list, keep an eye on Alberto. This very well could be the next generation of climbing greatness!
Ashima has family photos of herself climbing boulders in Central Park at the age of 7. That, combined with an intense training regime learned from her father, has 19 year old with tons of talent, experience, and hard-earned skill.
Her outdoor accomplishments are impressive to start with, being the youngest climber ever to summit a 5.14d/5.15a, and only the 2nd female to do so. Along with her rock-climbing feats, Shiraishi has a lot of bouldering experience, bagging herself a good list of V14s and V15s.
While Ashima did miss out on the Olympics, she has won both Lead and Bouldering in her category three years in a row and will likely be making an appearance in Paris in 2024 on the Olympic stage.
The first female, and only 2nd ever free ascent of Mora Mora in Madagascar belongs to Sasha DiGiulian. Sasha has several 9a/8c+ climbs to her name including a lot of first female ascents. While not the biggest athlete, Sasha is known for her dynamic climbing style and big, powerful moves.
While an accomplished outdoor climber, Sasha might be better known on the competition circuit where she has won the USA Climbing National Championship three times, the Pan Ams 5 times in multiple disciplines, and an IFSC World Championship!
Daniel Woods is possibly the best bouldering climber in the world at the moment, and that includes Ondra. Woods admits to being obsessed with the sport and routinely watches videos and information about any climb before attempting it.
Whatever his methods, it’s working. Daniel has more V15 bouldering problems under his belt than anyone in the world.
The Final Pitch
Admittedly, putting together a list of the best rock climbers in the world is a difficult task and one that many people will likely disagree with. Climbers like Tommy Caldwell, Angy Eiter, Jim Reynolds, Alain Robert, Stefano Ghisolfi, Rishat Khaibullin, and Alex Megos have all been included in similar lists and we understand the arguments for them.
In the end, we should be thankful we live in a world that has provided the means for so many of us to scale peaks and solve problems, pushing our bodies and climbing to our limits!
Growing up in Fresno, CA, Yosemite has always called to Robert. From camping trips as a kid, he quickly became a regular to the parks granite walls.
His favorite, and most difficult climb to date is Serenity Crack at the Royal Arches in Yosemite, rated a 5.10d. Robby spends most of his time bouldering these days, and loves the Camp 4 Boulder area.