Not too long ago, the bouldering world lacked even a single consensus V16. There are now about eight (depending on what you call “consensus”): Box Therapy, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Ephyra, Grand Illusion, Hypnotized Minds, No Kpote Only, Off the Wagon Sit, and Sleepwalker.

Two proposed V17s have been downgraded, and two still await a second ascent: Nalle Hukkataival’s Burden of Dreams and Daniel Woods’ Return of the Sleepwalker.

What follows is a sortable list of all the hardest boulder problems in the world. Many of the problems do not yet have a consensus grade, so I came up with a formulaic way to assign one to each based off the existing grade suggestions.

Cutting-edge bouldering ascents have accelerated rapidly over the last three years. Climbing V15 remains a remarkable accomplishment and a badge of honor for the best boulderers in the world, but it has become increasingly common. Since our last update, climbers logged over 200 V15 ascents.

To preserve the focus of this article (as well as the sanity of its author), I’ve raised the cutoff grade from V15 (8C) to V15/V16 (8C/8C+). Even with this restriction, the number of included ascents more than doubled since 2019.

I’ve tried my best to be as comprehensive as possible with this list. However, I’m still human. If I’ve made any mistakes or left off any problems or people you think should be added, let me know in the comments and I’ll take a look at it during the next update.

Highlights from the Latest Update

  • The V17 Curse: Since the last update, two proposed V17 (9A) boulder problems have been downgraded. Charles Albert’s No Kpote Only was downgraded once by Ryohei Kameyama and again by Nico Pelorson. Simon Lorenzi’s Soudain Seul fared slightly better, receiving an initial downgrade (again by Pelorson) followed by a V17 suggestion from Camille Coudert. According to our formula, that leaves its current grade at V16/V17 (8C+/9A), though future ascents may move the consensus back to V17.
  • A New Contender: Daniel Woods proposed a new V17 with his ascent of Return of the Sleepwalker in 2021. Like Nalle Hukkataival’s Burden of Dreams, Return of the Sleepwalker has yet to see a repeat.
  • V16 Bonanza: There are now 27 boulders in the world that have been proposed or confirmed at V16 (8C+). More than half saw their first ascent in the last three years, and the number of unique ascensionists at the grade more than doubled during that time.

The World’s Hardest Boulder Problems

Boulder ProblemGradeCragCountryClimbers
Big ConvictionV16 (8C+)FontainebleauFranceSimon Lorenzi
Big ZV16 (8C+)TahoeUSAShawn Raboutou
Bokassa's Fridge SitV15/V16 (8C/8C+)KochelGermanyFlorian Wientjes
Box TherapyV16 (8C+)Rocky Mountain National ParkUSADaniel Woods
Drew Ruana
Sean Bailey
Brutal RiderV16 (8C+)SloupCzech RepublicAdam Ondra
Burden of DreamsV17 (9A)LappnorFinlandNalle Hukkataival
Creature from the Black LagoonV16 (8C+)Rocky Mountain National ParkUSADaniel Woods
Dave Graham
Jimmy Webb
Daisuke Ichimiya
Griffin Whiteside
Shawn Raboutou
Carlo Traversi
Drew Ruana
Matt Fultz
Dylan Barks
Andy Lamb
CrisisV15/V16 (8C/8C+)CrevillenteSpainNacho Sánchez
Jonatan Flor
Alberto Rocasolano
Drop a LineV16 (8C+)CousimbertSwitzerlandPirmin Bertle
El IndomableV15/V16 (8C/8C+)TamajónSpainAlberto Rocasolano
Nacho Sánchez
EphyraV16 (8C+)ChironicoSwitzerlandJimmy Webb
Niccolò Ceria
Giuliano Cameroni
Floatin'V16 (8C+)MizugakiJapanRyuichi Murai
GaneshV16 (8C+)TintoraleItalyElias Iagnemma
GioiaV15/V16 (8C/8C+)VarazzeItalyChristian Core
Adam Ondra
Nalle Hukkataival
Niccolò Ceria
Elias Iagnemma
Grand IllusionV16 (8C+)Little Cottonwood CanyonUSANathaniel Coleman
Sean Bailey
Daniel Woods
Matt Fultz
Zach Galla
Hallucination (After Breakage)V16 (8C+)HouraiJapanKazuma Ise
Hazel Grace SitV15/V16 (8C/8C+)TicinoSwitzerlandGiuliano Cameroni
Hypnotized MindsV16 (8C+)Rocky Mountain National ParkUSADaniel Woods
Rustam Gelmanov
Dave Graham
Matt Fultz
Hypothèse assisV16 (8C+)FontainebleauFranceCharles Albert
InsomniacV16 (8C+)Lincoln LakeUSADrew Ruana
La Révolutionnaire ExtensionV16 (8C+)FontainebleauFranceCharles Albert
LedoborecV16 (8C+)Moravský krasCzech RepublicAdam Ondra
Low PrioraV15/V16 (8C/8C+)Djan-tuganRussiaVadim Timonov
Alexey Rubtsov
MinimalomaniaV15/V16 (8C/8C+)InterlakenSwitzerlandPirmin Bertle
Alexander Rohr
Moonlight SonataV16 (8C+)Joe's ValleyUSATaylor McNeill
NayutaV16 (8C+)GeroJapanDai Koyamada
NexusV16 (8C+)ShiobaraJapanRyuichi Murai
No Kpote OnlyV16 (8C+)FontainebleauFranceCharles Albert
Ryohei Kameyama
Nico Pelorson
Off the Wagon SitV16 (8C+)Valle BavonaSwitzerlandShawn Raboutou
Daniel Woods
Jimmy Webb
Giuliano Cameroni
Sergei Topishko
Yannick Flohé
Poison the WellV16 (8C+)BrioneSwitzerlandGiuliano Cameroni
Jimmy Webb
REMV16 (8C+)CrescianoSwitzerlandGiuliano Cameroni
Return of the SleepwalkerV17 (9A)Red RockUSADaniel Woods
SleepwalkerV16 (8C+)Red RockUSAJimmy Webb
Daniel Woods
Nalle Hukkataival
Drew Ruana
Nathan Williams
Matt Fultz
Pablo Hammack
Soudain SeulV16/V17 (8C+/9A)FontainebleauFranceSimon Lorenzi
Nico Pelorson
Camille Coudert
TerranovaV16 (8C+)HolstejnCzech RepublicAdam Ondra
The ProcessV16 (8C+)BishopUSADaniel Woods
The Wheel of Life DirectV15/V16 (8C/8C+)GrampiansAustraliaJames Kassay
Jorg Verhoeven
Tonino '78V15/V16 (8C/8C+)MeschiaItalyMauro Calibani
Julien Nadiras
Antione Vandeputte
UnitedV16 (8C+)Mt. MizugakiJapanRyuichi Murai
VrtuleV15/V16 (8C/8C+)HolstejnCzech RepublicAdam Ondra

The World’s Current Hardest Boulder Problem

Based solely on grade, the title of world’s hardest boulder problem is currently shared by two problems: Burden of Dreams and Return of the Sleepwalker. Both are currently graded V17 (9A).

Both problems have only one ascent. Nalle Hukkataival sent Burden of Dreams in October 2016, making it the first problem ever to receive a proposed grade of V17 (9A). Daniel Woods sent Return of the Sleepwalker in April 2021.

» MORE: The Hardest Sport Climbs in the World

List Criteria & Grading Guidelines

  • The grade had to be V15/V16 (8C/8C+) or higher. In other words, problems graded V15 (8C) and lower were left off the list. For the remainder of the article, I will refer to problems graded V15/V16 (8C/8C+) or higher as “hard” problems.
  • For problems with no consensus grade, I averaged the V Scale translation of the grade suggestions. If the average had a remainder less than ⅓, I rounded down. If the average had a remainder between ⅓ and ⅔, I treated it as having a slash grade. If the average had a remainder above ⅔, I rounded up. I also averaged slash grades: V14/V15 was treated as 14.5, for instance. For example, let’s consider the problem Soudain Seul. Currently, three climbers have sent it. Simon Lorenzi proposed a grade of V17 (9A). Nico Pelorson proposed a grade of V16 (8C+), and Camille Coudert suggested V17 (9A). I averaged the V Scale translation of these grades (17, 16, 17) to get 16⅔. Since the remainder is ⅔, I treated Soudain Seul as having a slash grade of V16/V17 (8C+/9A).
  • I did not take into account anything other than the proposed grades. Some climbers are known for grading hard. Some problems are considered soft for their grade. Some problems on this list could be considered traverses. I didn’t consider any of this. I respected each climber’s suggestion and just considered the proposed grade(s).

Who Is the Best Boulderer Ever?

Here are two tables based on the data in the above list showing who has sent the most hard boulder problems and who has racked up the most hard boulder first ascents (FAs).

ClimberHard Boulders Sends
Daniel Woods8
Jimmy Webb5
Giuliano Cameroni5
Adam Ondra5
Matt Fultz4
Drew Ruana4
Shawn Raboutou3
Ryuichi Murai3
Nalle Hukkataival3
Charles Albert3
ClimberHard Boulder FAs
Daniel Woods5
Adam Ondra4
Charles Albert3
Giuliano Cameroni3
Ryuichi Murai3
Jimmy Webb2
Pirmin Bertle2
Shawn Raboutou2
Simon Lorenzi2

Daniel Woods tops both charts. Sheer volume is not the only way to assess a boulderer’s ability, but as Woods also shares the spotlight with Nalle Hukkataival for the world’s only proposed V17 ascents, he has a strong claim to the title of “World’s Best Boulderer.”

Adam Ondra holds or shares the second position in both categories. This is a remarkable confirmation of Ondra’s versatility as a climber — his sport climb Silence remains the hardest in the world at a proposed grade of 5.15d (9c).

Grade-Chasing

YearHard Boulder Sends
20042
20051
20060
20070
20081
20090
20101
20112
20121
20131
20142
20153
20164
20178
20188
20198
202020
202123
2022 (as of March)4

The first boulder problem to ever receive a suggested grade of V15 (8C) was Dreamtime, which Fred Nicole put up in 2000. Dreamtime has since been downgraded, but in 2002 Nicole climbed Black Eagle SD and Monkey Wedding which both currently stand as consensus V15s.

Put another way, it took just two years from the time the V15 grade was first proposed for a problem to be put up whose V15 grade would hold after multiple repeats.

(There is another V15 that was put up before Black Eagle SD and Monkey Wedding. But the problem, Gossip, has only two grade suggestions and is therefore still at risk of being downgraded.)

The story is different for the V16 (8C+) grade. The first problem with a proposed grade of V16 appears to have been Tonino ’78, first sent by Mauro Calibani in 2004. It wasn’t until 12 years later, in 2016, that Creature from the Black Lagoon would become the world’s first consensus V16. Another Woods problem, Hypnotized Minds, has since reached consensus and currently stands as the world’s earliest confirmed V16 (FA in 2010).

Assuming Creature from the Black Lagoon’s grade continues to withstand the test of time, it took a decade longer for the V16 grade to go from suggestion to consensus than it did V15. That’s a staggering, and intriguing, difference.

GradeClimbers That Have Climbed It
V15/V16 (8C/8C+)19
V16 (8C+)33
V16/V17 (8C+/9A)3
V17 (9A)2

Until a grade has been widely established, downgrading is common. Sometimes new beta gets found that makes a problem easier. But that doesn’t explain all cases. Nalle wrote a blog post way back in 2010 detailing his thoughts on why this apparent stalling of grade progression happens. In our last update, I wondered: Shouldn’t there be more V16s?

They seem to have finally arrived. 33 climbers have now climbed a V16 (8C+) problem, and the number of V16 boulders has risen from 12 to 27. The mystery around the grade seems to be (finally) dissipating.

The drop-off remains precipitous above that level. Only five climbers have climbed V16/V17 (8C+/9A) or higher, and only two have climbed V17 (9A).

Nearly six years have already passed since Nalle Hukkataival first suggested V17 (9A) for Burden of Dreams. No climber has managed a second ascent, and that’s not for lack of attempts — the problem has repelled several world-class boulderers.

Although its first ascent was only a year ago, Return of the Sleepwalker also remains unrepeated. This may be an early sign that the grade on these two problems is more likely to stick. The only other proposed V17s, No Kpote Only and Soudain Seul, were repeated (and downgraded) within months of the first ascent.

Even so, the timeline of previous grades shows that advancement is slow. If history is any indicator, it may take several more years before the bouldering world sees a consensus V17.

Where in the World Are the Hardest Boulder Problems?

Here’s a table for that:

CountryHard Boulder Problems
USA10
Switzerland7
Japan5
France5
Czech Republic4
Italy3
Spain2
Russia1
Germany1
Finland1
Australia1

Currently, only 11 countries are home to a hard boulder problem. And it’s quite incredible to realize:

  • 8 of those countries are in Europe
  • There is only one country from the Southern Hemisphere on the list: Australia.

If hard boulders are anything to go by, bouldering’s global potential remains largely untapped.

When to Project vs. When to Train, Backed by Data

Finally, for fun I tallied the ascents of all the hard boulder problems by month for the northern hemisphere. (There weren’t enough sends for the southern hemisphere.)

MonthHard Boulder Sends
January10
February10
March7
April6
May3
June4
July5
August6
September4
October14
November7
December11

Most of the hard boulder sends came in the coldest months of the year. At the very least, this table can give you some insight on when to tackle your outdoor projects and when to focus on training.

Willis Kuelthau contributed to this latest update.

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23 Comments

Frank

April 1, 2022

Paul Robinson has also climbed REM (V16) but graded it V14.

Alex Beale (Author)

April 4, 2022

Thanks for letting us know Frank. We’ll add that in the next update.

Timon

April 15, 2022

If I am not mistaken, La révolutionaire was also climbed by Ryohei Kameyama, Simon Lorenzi and Niccolo Ceria of which the latter didn’t give a grade. Charles climbed it barefoot, so then V16 probably makes more sense.

Timon

April 15, 2022

Aiden Roberts also FA’d Superpowers V16/8C+ in the UK, there is a video on YouTube

MD

April 14, 2022

Livin’ Large was suggested as 8C+ by Shawn/Mellow crew after Shawn’s ascent, which by your math I believe would put it in the V15/16 category.

Alex Beale (Author)

April 15, 2022

Ah, thanks for letting us know. We’ll make the edit in the next update.

R

April 15, 2022

Nice list, i have a few some more additions. Adain Roberts made the FA of Superpower which he gave 8C/+, Shinichiro Nomura did Gakido 8C+ FA and Toru Nakajima did the FA of Epitaph (after breakage) 8C+ (after this list was updated). According to Dave Graham Shawn Raboutou did the FA
of Foundation’s Edge Low, a low start to the 8C which makes it hard 8C+, but the only information i can find about this is Graham mentioning it in an instagram post.

Also Livin’ Large would be 8C/+ on this list since Nalle and Jimmy gave it 8C and Shawn 8C+ (though both Nalle and Jimmy accept 8C+ now i think but it’s not their initial grading). And Romain Desgranges did Kaiser Sauzé in 2008 giving it 8C/+, it has since been vandalized and is not possible anymore but since there are already boulders on this list that are not possible anymore (or at least not the same grade anymore as when first climbed), eg. The Process and Nayuta, it would fit here.

Alex Beale (Author)

April 15, 2022

Thank you for these! We’ll incorporate them in the next update.

Alex

April 15, 2022

Ryohei Kameyama, Simon Lorenzi and Niky Ceria climbed “La révolutionnaire” in font. Also I don’t think “La révolutionnaire extension” exists. The name is simply “La révolutionnaire” (See https://bleau.info/gros/301141.html)

Alex Beale (Author)

April 15, 2022

Thanks for the catch Alex! I’ll make those changes next time I update the article.

Alex

April 15, 2022

Also, Paul Robinson repeated REM and suggested 8b+ (https://www.lacrux.com/en/bouldern/paul-robinson-repeats-rem-8c-and-suggests-8b/)

Alex

April 15, 2022

Simon Lorenzi has also done Off the Wagon sit (8c+), so he has in total 4 hard boulder sends.

Alex Beale (Author)

April 15, 2022

Thanks for catching that omission. I’ll add it in the next update.

Martin

April 15, 2022

Simon Lorenzi has also repeated Off the Wagon sit (V16)

Grant

April 15, 2022

Isn’t Living Large in Rocklands a slash V15/V16. Opened at V15 but V16 was proposed by 2nd ascensionist

Pedro

April 16, 2022

Nacho Sanchez recently added “Daños con-laterales”, 8c+, in Fortuna, Spain.

Kyle

April 17, 2022

Griffin Whiteside has also done Sleepwalker (fourth ascent).

André Lima

April 18, 2022

Hey Man great post. But I think you missed one of Shawn’s 16 FA : Foundations Edge Sit in Switzerland.
Also Living Large was upgraded to 16.

Timon

May 23, 2022

Shawn recently made an insta post in which he calls the low start of Foundations Edge: Fuck the System (V16/8C+). Apparently he has climbed another 2 hard (probably V16) projects in Switzerland recently.

Thomas Moirarty

April 25, 2022

Griffin Whiteside has sent Sleepwalker, his ascent was third or 4th I believe he’s tagged in a post of him doing it

Thomas

April 25, 2022

Griffin Whiteside put up a lesser-known V16 in bishop I believe Drew Ruana talks about it in his podcast with thundercling climbing, apparently, it’s very upper end v16

Avery

July 26, 2022

Revisited the podcast; Drew mentioned that Griffin climbed the sit-start to No Additives in Joe’s Valley, but looks like it’s “just” V15 according to Griffin’s post on 27crags.

Timon

May 10, 2022

Daniel Woods has updated his 8A profile ascents in which ice knife (sit start) has been upgraded to V16. Probably a few other ones too, but since I don’t have an 8A.nu profile I can’t see all of them. I’ve also heard a lot of comments on Lucid Dreaming V15, that it’s probably one of the hardest boulders in the world, would make sense with such a few ascents… V16 might in the end be the appropiate grade? Time will tell.