The Hardest Boulder Problems in the World
LAST UPDATED: August 17, 2017. If you notice any omissions, broken links, or other errors, leave a comment below letting me know!
Have you ever wondered what the hardest boulder problems in the world are?
The list is in a sortable table, so have fun with sorting it however you wish.
As for ascensionists, I’ve listed the first ascensionist first and then listed later ascensionists in chronological order as best I could. If an ascent had a video, I linked to it from the ascensionist’s name — so have even more fun watching all the crazy videos of top boulderers on the hardest problems.
The World’s Hardest Boulder Problems
|Airian||V15 (8C)||Baltzola||Spain||Iban Larrión, Alberto Rocasolano|
|Angama||V15 (8C)||Fontainebleau||France||Dai Koyamada, Paul Robinson|
|Asagimadara||V15 (8C)||Mt. Mizugaki||Japan||Tokio Muroi, Toru Nakajima, Toshi Takeuchi, Jongwon Chon, Adam Ondra, Sachi Amma, Ryuichi Murai|
|Assassin, Monkey and Man||V15 (8C)||Kochel||Germany||Toni Lamprecht|
|Babel||V15 (8C)||Shiobara||Japan||Dai Koyamada, Motochika Nagao, Sachi Amma, Ryuichi Murai|
|Babylon||V15 (8C)||Toyota||Japan||Toshi Takeuchi|
|Black Eagle SD||V15 (8C)||Rocklands||South Africa||Fred Nicole|
|Bokassa's Fridge||V15 (8C)||Kochel||Germany||Toni Lamprecht|
|Burden of Dreams||V17 (9A)||Lappnor||Finland||Nalle Hukkataival|
|Byaku-dou / The Road to the Heaven||V15 (8C)||Hourai||Japan||Dai Koyamada, Motochika Nagao|
|Bélial||V15 (8C)||Fontainebleau||France||Charles Albert|
|Bügeleisen Sit||V15 (8C)||Maltatal||Austria||Nalle Hukkataival, Jakob Schubert|
|Carinthian Dreams||V15 (8C)||Kärnten||Austria||Christof Rauch|
|Catalán Witness the Fitness||V15 (8C)||La Cova de l'Ocell||Spain||Chris Sharma, Alberto Rocasolano, Felipe Camargo, Nacho Sánchez, Martin Stráník, Jernej Kruder|
|Cháron||V15 (8C)||Petrohrad||Czech Republic||Adam Ondra|
|Creature of the Black Lagoon||V16 (8C+)||Rocky Mountain National Park||USA - Colorado||Daniel Woods, Dave Graham|
|Crisis||V15/V16 (8C/8C+)||Crevillente||Spain||Nacho Sánchez, Jonatan Flor Vazquez, Alberto Rocasolano|
|Cthulhu||V15 (8C)||Arnao||Spain||Nacho Sánchez|
|Defying Gravity||V15 (8C)||South Platte||USA - Colorado||Daniel Woods, Jimmy Webb|
|Delirium||V15 (8C)||Lincoln Lake||USA - Colorado||Jimmy Webb, Daniel Woods, Dave Graham|
|Der mit dem Fels tanzt||V15 (8C)||Chironico||Switzerland||Martin Keller, Dai Koyamada, Giuliano Cameroni|
|Dust Devil||V15 (8C)||Saalachtal||Austria||Bernhard Schwaiger|
|Délire Onirique (assis)||V15 (8C)||Fontainebleau||France||Charles Albert|
|El Diablo||V15 (8C)||Peñoles||Mexico||Daniel Woods|
|Emotional Landscapes||V15 (8C)||Maltatal||Austria||Klem Loskot, Martin Moser, Nalle Hukkataival|
|Entropia||V15 (8C)||Castillo de Bayuela||Spain||Nacho Sánchez, Alberto Rocasolano, Ignacio Mulero|
|Epitaph||V15 (8C)||Horai||Japan||Dai Koyamada, Ryuichi Murai|
|Eskerrik Asko||V15 (8C)||Araotz||Spain||Markel Mendieta|
|Eternal||V15 (8C)||Hinokage||Japan||Dai Koyamada, Kazuma Watanabe|
|Eternal Sunshine||V15 (8C)||Mudeungsan National Park||South Korea||Jongwon Chon|
|Fortaleza||V15 (8C)||Ubatuba||Brazil||Felipe Camargo|
|Foundation's Edge||V15 (8C)||Fionnay||Switzerland||Dave Graham|
|From Dirt Grows the Flowers||V15 (8C)||Chironico||Switzerland||Dave Graham, Bernd Zangerl, Radovan Souček, Adam Ondra, Nalle Hukkataival, Rok Klančnik, Manuel Brunn, Nils Favre, Kilian Fischhuber, Jan Hojer, Alexey Rubtsov|
|Ginga||V15 (8C)||Kanoto||Japan||Yuji Hirayama|
|Gioia||V15/V16 (8C/8C+)||Varazze||Italy||Christian Core, Adam Ondra, Nalle Hukkataival|
|Gossip||V15 (8C)||Frankenjura||Germany||Markus Bock, John Gaskins (?), Markus Windisch|
|Half-Life||V15 (8C)||Frankenjura||Germany||Felix Knaub|
|Hazel Grace||V15 (8C)||Gottardo||Switzerland||Giuliano Cameroni|
|Highlander||V15 (8C)||Sustenpass||Switzerland||Martin Keller|
|Horizon||V15 (8C)||Mt. Hiei||Japan||Dai Koyamada, Ashima Shiraishi, Daisuke Ichimiya|
|Hull Shea Nation||V15 (8C)||Horai||Japan||Dai Koyamada|
|Hurricane||V15 (8C)||Birgkar||Austria||Bernhard Schwaiger|
|Hydrangea||V15 (8C)||Shiobara||Japan||Dai Koyamada, Daniel Woods, Motochika Nagao, Sachi Amma, Ryuichi Murai|
|Hymn||V15 (8C)||Mudeungsan National Park||South Korea||Jongwon Chon|
|Hyper Ballad||V15 (8C)||Shiobara||Japan||Dai Koyamada|
|Hypnotized Minds||V16 (8C+)||Rocky Mountain National Park||USA - Colorado||Daniel Woods, Rustam Gelmanov|
|Il Pirata||V15 (8C)||Lake District||UK||John Gaskins|
|In Search of Time Lost||V15 (8C)||Magic Wood||Switzerland||Daniel Woods, Dai Koyamada, Carlo Traversi, Tamás Zupán, Ryuichi Murai|
|Insomnio||V15 (8C)||Crevillente||Spain||Nacho Sánchez|
|Iron Knuckles||V15 (8C)||Kärnten||Austria||Christof Rauch|
|Karamu||V15 (8C)||Unknown||Japan||Dai Koyamada|
|Kikela||V15 (8C)||Teverga||Spain||Isaac Montes|
|Kimera||V15 (8C)||Piemonte||Italy||Christian Core|
|Kintsugi||V15 (8C)||Red Rocks||USA - Nevada||Nalle Hukkataival, Jimmy Webb|
|Knocking on Heaven's Door||V15 (8C)||Petrohrad||Czech Republic||Petr Resch|
|Kryptos||V15 (8C)||Basler Jura||Switzerland||Franz Widmer, Fred Nicole|
|Kráter||V15 (8C)||Holstejn||Czech Republic||Adam Ondra|
|Kuzan||V15 (8C)||Mie||Japan||Toshi Takeuchi|
|La Colombe||V15 (8C)||Vernayaz||Switzerland||Dave Graham|
|La Force Tranquille||V15 (8C)||Magic Wood||Switzerland||Daniel Woods, Nalle Hukkataival|
|La Grosse Tarlouze||V15 (8C)||Magic Wood||Switzerland||Michael Piccolruaz|
|La Révolutionnaire||V15 (8C)||Fontainebleau||France||Charles Albert|
|La teoría del todo||V15/V16 (8C/8C+)||Albarracín||Spain||Alberto Rocasolano, Rubén Díaz Torres|
|Le Boa||V15 (8C)||Unknown||Switzerland||Fred Nicole|
|Le Marathon de Boissy||V15 (8C)||Fontainebleau||France||Jan Hojer, Guillaume Glairon-Mondet|
|Le Pied à Coulisse||V15 (8C)||Fontainebleau||France||Guillaume Glairon-Mondet, Jimmy Webb, Charles Albert (barefoot)|
|Le Poinçonneur des Lilas||V15 (8C)||Basler Jura||Switzerland||Fred Nicole, Franz Widmer|
|Livin' Large||V15 (8C)||Rocklands||South Africa||Nalle Hukkataival, Jimmy Webb|
|Lucid Dreaming||V15 (8C)||Bishop||USA - California||Paul Robinson, Daniel Woods, Alex Megos, Toru Nakajima|
|Lurragorri||V15 (8C)||Araotz||Spain||Markel Mendieta|
|L'Alchimiste (right version)||V15 (8C)||Fontainebleau||France||Nalle Hukkataival, Alban Levier|
|Maria Singer||V15 (8C)||Kochel||Germany||Toni Lamprecht|
|Methuselahzation||V15 (8C)||Yatsue||Japan||Dai Koyamada|
|Mikelon||V15 (8C)||Baltzola||Spain||Iban Larrión|
|Monkey Wedding||V15 (8C)||Rocklands||South Africa||Fred Nicole,
Paul Robinson, Adam Ondra, Daniel Woods, Nacho Sánchez, Shawn Raboutou, Vadim Timonov, Nalle Hukkataival, Dave Graham, Charles Albert (barefoot), Alex Khazanov, Alex Megos
|Nayuta (那由多)||V16 (8C+)||Gero||Japan||Dai Koyamada|
|Obseja||V15 (8C)||Kusięta||Poland||Łukasz Dudek|
|Orochi||V15 (8C)||Kanoto||Japan||Dai Koyamada, Makoto Yamauchi, Alex Megos, Toshi Takeuchi, Ryuichi Murai|
|Paint It Black||V15 (8C)||Rocky Mountain National Park||USA - Colorado||Daniel Woods, Paul Robinson, Dave Graham, Ian Dory, Toru Nakajima, Nicholas Milburn|
|Parálisis Espástica||V15 (8C)||Navalosa||Spain||César Quero|
|Pata Ledovce||V15 (8C)||Holstejn||Czech Republic||Adam Ondra|
|Pipe Dream SD||V15 (8C)||Saalachtal||Austria||Bernhard Schwaiger|
|Poslední mažoret||V15 (8C)||Labské údolí||Czech Republic||Rostislav Stefanek|
|Practice of the Wild||V15 (8C)||Magic Wood||Switzerland||Chris Sharma, Tyler Landman, Daniel Woods, Adam Ondra, Carlo Traversi, Jimmy Webb, Nalle Hukkataival, Anthony Gullsten, Martin Stráník, Toshi Takeuchi, Dave MacLeod, Gabriele Moroni, Baptiste Ometz, David Firnenburg, Ryuichi Murai|
|Quoi de Neuf||V15 (8C)||Toit d'Orsay||France||Rémy Bergasse, Sébastien Bouin, Alban Levier|
|Road Sweet Home||V15 (8C)||Grampians||Australia||Nalle Hukkataival|
|Rokudou||V15 (8C)||Toyamagawa||Japan||Dai Koyamada|
|Satan i Helvete (broken version)||V15 (8C)||Fontainebleau||France||Alban Levier|
|Serenata||V15 (8C)||Maltby||UK||Mike Adams|
|Serenation||V15 (8C)||Maltby||UK||Mike Adams|
|Shadowplay||V15 (8C)||Lake District||UK||John Gaskins|
|Shantaram||V15 (8C)||Osen||Norway||Bernd Zangerl|
|Shiva||V15 (8C)||Fontainebleau||France||Thomas Willenberg|
|Soyuz (low start)||V15 (8C)||Zarzalejo||Spain||Alberto Rocasolano, César Quero|
|Spray of Light||V15 (8C)||Rocklands||South Africa||Daniel Woods, Dave Graham, Shawn Raboutou, Toshi Takeuchi, Ryuichi Murai|
|Styrian Delirium||V15 (8C)||Weststeiermark||Austria||Christof Rauch|
|Terranova||V16 (8C+)||Holstejn||Czech Republic||Adam Ondra|
|Terremer||V15 (8C)||Hueco Tanks||USA - Texas||Fred Nicole, Paul Robinson, Daniel Woods, Dan Beall, Simon Parton|
|The Big Island||V15 (8C)||Fontainebleau||France||Vincent Ponchon, Lucas Menegatti, Arjan de Kock, Guillame Glairon-Mondet, Jan Hojer, Toru Nakajima, Chris Schulte, Griffin Whiteside, Niccolò Ceria, Edward Feehally, Michiel Nieuwenhuijsen, Jimmy Webb, Jonas Winter|
|The End||V15 (8C)||Zalog||Slovenia||Urh Cehovin|
|The Finnish Line||V15 (8C)||Rocklands||South Africa||Nalle Hukkataival, Alex Megos|
|The Game||V15 (8C)||Boulder Canyon||USA - Colorado||Daniel Woods, Carlo Traversi, Jon Cardwell, Jimmy Webb|
|The Ice Knife (sit start)||V15 (8C)||Guanella Pass||USA - Colorado||Daniel Woods|
|The Matriarch||V15 (8C)||Rocktown||USA - Georgia||Jimmy Webb|
|The Mystical Patatohead's Direct Edge||V15 (8C)||Gais||Italy||Alexander Feichter|
|The Nest||V15 (8C)||Red Rocks||USA - Nevada||Daniel Woods, Jimmy Webb, Paul Robinson, Nalle Hukkataival|
|The New Chapter||V15 (8C)||Ozark Mountains||USA - Arkansas||Paul Robinson|
|The Process||V16 (8C+)||Bishop||USA - California||Daniel Woods|
|The Stepping Stone||V15 (8C)||Grampians||Australia||Nalle Hukkataival|
|The Story of Two Worlds||V15 (8C)||Cresciano||Switzerland||Dave Graham, Dai Koyamada, Paul Robinson, Jernej Kruder, Carlo Traversi, Giuliano Cameroni, Gabriele Moroni, Toru Nakajima, Jimmy Webb, Jan Hojer, Samuel Ometz, Martin Stráník|
|The Story of Two Worlds (low start)||V16 (8C+)||Cresciano||Switzerland||Dai Koyamada|
|The Understanding||V15 (8C)||Magic Wood||Switzerland||Nalle Hukkataival, Jimmy Webb|
|The Wheel of Life||V15 (8C)||Grampians||Australia||Dai Koyamada, Christopher Webb-Parsons, Ethan Pringle, James Kassay, Benjamin Cossey, Dave Graham, Ian Dory, Alex Megos, Daniel Woods, Alex Barrows|
|The Wheel of Life Direct||V15/V16 (8C/8C+)||Grampians||Australia||James Kassay, Jorg Verhoeven|
|The Wheel of Wolvo||V15 (8C)||Lincoln Lake||USA - Colorado||Jimmy Webb, Daniel Woods, Dave Graham, Matt Fultz|
|Tonino '78||V15/V16 (8C/8C+)||Meschia||Italy||Mauro Calibani, Julien Nadiras, Antione Vandeputte|
|Topaz||V15 (8C)||Wild Basin||USA - Colorado||Dave Graham, Daniel Woods, Paul Robinson|
|Transdendenz||V15 (8C)||Sachsen||Germany||Thomas Willenberg|
|Triangular Face||V15 (8C)||Triangular Lake||Russia||Vadim Timonov|
|Trip Hop||V15 (8C)||Fontainebleau||France||Sebastien Frigault, Thomas Willenberg, Paul Robinson, Guillaume Glairon-Mondet, Jan Hojer|
|Vanitas||V15 (8C)||Horai||Japan||Dai Koyamada, Ryuichi Murai, Daisuke Ichimiya|
|Viva La Evolution||V15 (8C)||Flirsch||Austria||Bernd Zangerl|
|Walk Away (sit start)||V15 (8C)||Fairy Steps||UK||John Gaskins|
|Whirlwind||V15 (8C)||Saalachtal||Austria||Bernhard Schwaiger|
|Witness the Fitness (broken)||V15 (8C)||Ozark Mountains||USA - Arkansas||Chris Sharma, Fred Nicole, Daniel Woods|
|Wrath of the Lichking||V15 (8C)||Frankenjura||Germany||Felix Knaub, Alex Megos|
|Ziqqurat||V15 (8C)||Gaby||Italy||Niccolò Ceria|
|Zunami||V15 (8C)||Saalachtal||Austria||Bernhard Schwaiger, Hermann Schwaiger, Klem Loskot, Florian Schmalzl, Tamás Zupán|
The World’s Current Hardest Boulder Problem
Based solely on grade, the world’s hardest boulder problem is currently Burden of Dreams. It was the first — and is still the only — problem to ever receive a suggested grade of V17 (9A). Nalle Hukkataival has the first and only ascent.
List Criteria & Grading Guidelines
In order to create this list, I had to come up with criteria for deciding what problems made the cut. To remove as much subjectivity as possible, I also had to come up with a formulaic way to assign grades to problems that don’t yet have a consensus grade.
Here they are:
- The grade had to be V15 (8C) or higher. This means problems graded V14/V15 (8B+/8C) and lower were left off the list.
- For problems with no consensus grade, I converted all the suggested grades to numbers and averaged them. 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. For example, let’s consider the problem Khoikhoi. At the time of writing, 3 climbers have sent it. Jimmy Webb proposed a grade of V14 (8B+) while Nalle Hukkataival and Shawn Raboutou both proposed a grade of V15 (8C). I ‘converted’ these suggested grades to numbers by simply looking at their grades on the V Scale, which gave me the numbers 14, 15, and 15. The average of these numbers is 14⅔. Since the remainder is ⅔, I treated Khoikhoi as having a slash grade of V14/V15 (8B+/8C) and thus left it off the list. If one more climber were to send it and propose a grade of V15 (8C), I would add it since, based on this formula, the average of all the suggested grades would be 14.75 and I’d round up to a grade of V15 (8C).
- I did not take into account anything other than the proposed grades. Some climbers are known for grading harder while others are known for grading easier. I didn’t consider any of this. I just considered the suggested grade(s).
Special Notes on Specific Problems
- Gioia: Many people think of Gioia as a V16 (8C+) boulder problem since Adam Ondra proposed that grade after nabbing the second ascent. However, following my grading guidelines, I have included it on this list with a grade of V15/V16 (8C/8C+). This is because Christian Core gave it a grade of V15 (8C) when he got the FA and Adam Ondra gave it a grade of V16 (8C+) when he got the second ascent. (Nalle Hukkataival also sent it but didn’t suggest a grade.) With these two grade suggestions to go off of, following my grading guidelines I included it as a slash grade.
- The Finnish Line: Neither Nalle Hukkataival nor Alex Megos proposed a grade for this boulder. However, Nalle did say in this Instagram post that it is “a new contender for the hardest in Rocklands”. Livin’ Large — the other Rocklands boulder on this list that Nalle has sent — is graded V15 (8C). Therefore, to make the data easier to graph, for the time being I have listed The Finnish Line as V15 (8C) as well instead of as “Unknown” or “N/A”.
- Drop a Line: Because this is a traverse, I have left it off the list.
- Bokassa’s Fridge – Assassin, Monkey and Man: I removed this problem because Jens Larssen from 8a.nu brought to my attention that it is an “elimination boulder”, or, a problem where the climber doesn’t climb the natural line but instead creates the difficulty by avoiding certain holds.
I’ve tried my best to be as thorough and comprehensive as possible with this list. However, I’m still human, so if I’ve made any mistakes or left off any problems or people you think should be added, let me know in the comments!
Who Is the Best Boulderer Ever?
Using the data in the table above, I put together some graphs to help you visualize who has sent the most hard boulder problems and who has gotten the most hard FAs (first ascents).
These graphs open the door to some interesting discussions about who is the best boulderer ever.
Daniel Woods, Dai Koyamada, & Nalle Hukkataival
Just going off of the two charts above, it’d be easy to make the case for Daniel Woods, Dai Koyamada, or Nalle Hukkataival as the best boulderer of all time. They have racked up more hard ascents and FAs than anyone else.
Daniel Woods has the most hard ascents and second most hard FAs.
Dai Koyamada has the most hard FAs and second most hard ascents.
Nalle Hukkataival is third in both categories and has the first and only ascent of the world’s first proposed V17 (9A).
It should be noted that there are a few unrepeated Dai Koyamada problems he graded 8B+/8C (V14/V15) which I left off of this list due to my criteria. If repeat ascensionists confirm the higher grade then I might have to add them to this list, boosting his numbers of hard FAs and hard ascents.
To me, the data suggests that Daniel Woods, Dai Koyamada, and Nalle Hukkataival are neck and neck and neck for the title of best boulderer ever.
Admittedly, though, sheer volume of hard ascents and hard FAs is not the only way to assess someone’s ability. While someone could make the case that someone else might be the best boulderer ever, at the very least these three are the most prolific when it comes to hard FAs and hard ascents.
The Quest for a Boulder Problem with a Consensus Grade Higher than 8C (V15)
The list above has six V16s (8C+s) and one V17 (9A).
Only one of those problems, Creature of the Black Lagoon, has more than one grade suggestion. Daniel Woods and Dave Graham both sent it and suggested a grade of V16 (8C+). (Rustam Gelmanov got the second ascent of Hypnotized Minds but didn’t suggest a grade.)
During my research, I came across many hard problems that were downgraded after more climbers sent them. The Game and Dreamtime are two well-known examples.
In other words — based on history — every V16 and V17 (8C+ and 9A) on this list is at risk of being downgraded.
While doing research for this article, I ran across the following thought multiple times:
The first problem to ever receive the V15 grade was Dreamtime in 2000. That was subsequently downgraded, but, in 2002, five V15s were put up that still stand as V15 today. So, depending on how you look at it, it has been either 15 or 17 years since the first V15 (8C) was established. That was a while ago and the sport of bouldering has come a long way since then — so why isn’t there a boulder problem with a consensus grade higher than V15 (8C)?
One of the most obvious reasons is that there are currently so few boulderers capable of sending problems worthy of grades higher than V15 (8C). There just aren’t enough people sending and grading these types of problems to create consensus grades.
To shed some insight on this topic, I created another graph of the number of hard ascents by year. Top boulderers are collectively sending 30+ hard problems per year now, mostly V15 (8C). Seeing this data, it seems only a matter of time before a consensus V16 (8C+) emerges.
However, another interesting factor that could be slowing the establishment of a consensus V16 (8C+) is general confusion around how hard a problem of that grade should be.
According to 8a.nu, Rubén Díaz Torres suggested a grade of V15 (8C) for La teoría del todo — which at the time had only one grade suggestion of V16 (8C+) — because, in his words, “Don’t know what an 8C+ is and that’s why I think it’s a solid 8C.”
Rustam Gelmanov, after getting the second ascent of Hypnotized Minds, wrote in a Facebook post that he didn’t “have enough experience” to judge the problem’s difficulty despite it being “not extremely difficult” for him.
And some of the confusion might come from climbers who believe they aren’t strong enough to send problems of that difficulty. On the TrainingBeta Podcast, Carlo Traversi explained part of his reasoning for downgrading problems such as Jade and The Game by saying, “I’d never considered [downgrading] as in, like, this just isn’t as hard as, like, I can do… It’s, like, I can’t climb that hard, so, like, this can’t be that hard… Or if I [send a problem] too fast or it doesn’t feel that bad, then it’s kinda like, well, maybe it isn’t that bad.”
To be fair, both Jade and The Game are now recognized to be the grades that Carlo suggested, so it appears his downgrades were correct in both these cases. However, I found it interesting that part of his reasoning for downgrading problems was because he didn’t believe he was strong enough to be able to send problems of the higher grades.
It appears there is no boulder problem with a consensus grade higher than V15 (8C) because there is no consensus on how difficult a problem like that should feel.
Should We Even Be Focusing on Grades?
Some top climbers (e.g. Nalle) have expressed some dislike or frustration in grading problems, especially hard ones. Yet, it isn’t difficult to imagine the intense pressure they feel from the community to do so and to chase the high grades.
Should we even care about grades, though?
Some of the world’s best climbers and boulderers don’t seem to think so and instead try to view a problem or a route as a mental and physical challenge to be overcome rather than a number to achieve.
Should we take after these people and try not to think about the grades? Or are the grades a necessary proxy to reflect the progression of the sport, and one that we should pay attention to?
Obviously I’m aware of how much attention I’m calling to grades with this article, and how I’m definitely not making it easier to ignore them. Above all, though, I’m interested in starting a discussion around the topic of hard boulder problems, and the question of grading is one that must be brought up when you do that.
Where in the World Are the Hardest Boulder Problems?
There’s a map for that:
And here is the data in chart form:
The Potential of the Sport of Bouldering
Currently, only 20 countries are home to a boulder problem that is graded V15 (8C) or higher. This makes sense given the newness of the sport, but it is also quite incredible to realize:
- 13 of those countries are in Europe
- There is only one country from Africa and South America on the list (South Africa and Brazil, respectively)
- There are only 2 hard boulder problems in all of mainland Asia: Hymn and Eternal Sunshine, both located in South Korea.
Just imagine in a few decades all the amazing crags, problems, and climbers that will come about as the sport expands.
When to Project vs. When to Train (Backed by Data)
Finally, I graphed the ascents of the hardest problems by month for both the northern and southern hemispheres. At the very least, these graphs can give you some general insight into the seasonality of the sport and when to train versus when to project.
Generally, the data suggests that if you’re in the northern hemisphere you should tackle projects near or during October and March.
However, the data is — of course — more nuanced than that.
While this could potentially be thought of as a good rule of thumb, location of the project also plays an important role. For example, all five ascents of Terremer, V15 (8C), in Hueco Tanks, Texas, have been done in either December or January. This could be because the warmer climate of Texas necessitates you project there in the coldest months.
If you’re climbing in the southern hemisphere, it seems June to September is the best time to project.
The Stories of the First Ascents
The hardest boulder problems usually have an interesting backstory to their FA (first ascent). Here are the stories for some of the problems listed above.
Babel, 8C/V15. Dai spent THREE YEARS working on this project at Shiobara. The problem consists of 30 moves (!!) on a 12 meter roof.
Cháron, 8C/V15. Adam Ondra worked on Charon for three days one year, but didn’t send. The next year, he came back and needed only 30 minutes to reach the top. According to Adam, the problem fit his style exactly… it would appear so.
Defying Gravity, 8C/V15. There’s an article for that.
El Diablo, 8C/V15. El Diablo was initially spotted by Jimmy Webb on an expedition to Peñoles and Dave Graham popped a finger tendon while trying it. Daniel Woods had to climb the problem at night since it was too hot to climb during the day, finally getting the ascent on the last day of the trip.
Fortaleza, 8C/V15. At first sight, Felipe Camargo wasn’t sure whether or not the problem was possible. He eventually rappelled down the boulder and, in the process, discovered a small pinch on the problem’s arête that made him think it was doable. In the end, the line took Felipe Camargo four one-week trips to complete. As of this writing, Fortaleza is Brazil’s hardest boulder. Camargo was interviewed after the send, the transcript of which you can read here.
Hurricane, 8C/V15. Hurricane consists of 10 tiny holds on a steep overhang. Bernhard Schwaiger wasn’t strong enough to climb the line when he first tried it in Fall 2008. He trained for the FA by working other projects and revisiting Hurricane every so often to practice the moves. The perfect conditions came together in Fall 2009 and — with the help of a cool mountain breeze — he was able to reach the top.
Hydrangea, 8C/V15. Dai Koyamada added a six-move sit-start to the existing problem Hydra (8B+/V14) to form Hydrangea. Ever the fan of insanely long problems, Hydrangea consists of 25 moves and includes a 30-foot section of horizontal roof.
Hypnotized Minds, 8C/V15. There’s an entire video on this problem’s backstory.
La Force Tranquille, 8C/V15. Daniel Woods spotted the line for this problem in Fall 2010, but didn’t send. He returned in Fall 2011 and it took him five days to finish. At the time of his FA, Woods said it was one of his hardest ascents so far.
Livin’ Large, 8C/V15. Nalle Hukkataival started off by top-roping the boulder to figure out his route. This process alone took him five days. After days of trying, he finally woke up to perfect bouldering conditions. This time when he went out, he only had four pads to break his fall from the crux which was 8 meters (~26 feet) off the ground. However, he sent the problem without falling from that height, and called it “a proper 8C”. Read the full story here.
Lucid Dreaming, 8C/V15. The night before the day of his FA, Paul Robinson had a dream that inspired him to check the weather. The weather forecast called for rain later in the morning, so he — while it was still dark — packed up some pads and set out alone to attempt the problem before the weather got worse. He sent it and called his friends up to tell them the good news. The route follows the south face of a 60-foot boulder called Grandpa Peabody. The name is a tribute to Robinson’s father, who passed away eight months before the FA.
Paint It Black, 8C/V15. Jamie Emerson first spotted this boulder in 2011, and Daniel Woods first ascended it in 2012. The boulder overhangs 65 degrees and juts out over a river. According to Woods, falling from the top of the problem would cause you to fall 20 feet (~6 meters) into the water below. Yikes. Hope they checked that water for submerged rocks beforehand…
Pata Ledovce, 8C/V15. Adam Ondra got the FA of this problem the SAME DAY he got his first ascent of a 5.15a route called Perlorodka. That’s right — he sent an 8C/V15 and 5.15a in the same day.
Terranova, 8C+/V16. Adam Ondra spent a total of 11 days working this problem. He consistently says that the line is, well, pretty lame. It’s a simple traverse along a limestone wall that never takes you more than a few feet off the ground and consists of some downright ugly moves. However, the problem was a longstanding challenge for Ondra — he found the limestone walls when he was younger (they’re near his home in the Czech Republic) and always wondered if they were climbable. When he got older he returned to satisfy his curiosity. It seems they are climbable — they’re just damn hard!
The Bridge of Ashes, 8C/V15. Check out the video of Dave Graham’s FA.
The End, 8C/V15. Check out the video of Urh Cehovin’s FA.
The Game, 8C/V15. The Game had been tried by elite climbers for years, but went unclimbed until Daniel Woods snagged the FA in 2010. Woods had worked on the problem for at least 17 days over the course of two years. While warming up for an attempt, Woods broke a crucial handhold and had to figure out another beta. He was able to send the same day.
The Nest, 8C/V15. Daniel Woods himself wrote a blog post on Evening Sends about his FA.
The New Chapter, 8C/V15. In early 2013, Paul Robinson took friends Daniel Woods and Jimmy Webb to try an old project of his in the mountains of Arkansas. The three friends quickly sent the roof problem, called it Child’s Play, and graded it V13/8B. Robinson then spotted a line of holds deeper into the roof that led into the start hold of Child’s Play. Nighttime came and the group had to leave, but Robinson thought about the problem constantly for the next couple months and finally got the FA on his third trip. With the ascent, Robinson felt as if he had started a new chapter of life, hence the name. Here is the story in his own words.
The Process, 8C+/V16. Here is the amazing write up of the FA.
The Story of Two Worlds, 8C/V15. There isn’t much known about the story of Dave Graham’s FA (the footage didn’t come out until many years later), but the story of the second ascent is quite interesting. Dai Koyamada was confused as to where the start of the problem actually was (no footage, remember) so he started from what he thought was the proper location, sent the problem, and graded it 8C/V15. However, it then came to Dai’s attention that he might have started at the wrong spot. He returned to the problem and then started from an even lower spot than the original. He sent this this new interpretation, The Story of Two Worlds (sit start), and suggested an 8C+/V16 grade for it.
The Understanding, 8C/V15. This video tells all.
The Wheel of Life, 8C/V15. When Dai Koyamada nabbed the FA of this 60-move boulder problem, he gave the line a grade of 8C+/V16. Later ascensionists have either downgraded the problem (some to as low as 8B+/V14) or given it a route grade due to its length.
The Wheel of Life Direct, 8C/V15. James Kassay added 10 moves to the already incredibly long Wheel of Life line to create an even more difficult problem to grade.
The Wheel of Wolvo, 8C/V15. Rock and Ice interviewed Jimmy Webb about his FA.
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