The Hardest Boulder Problems in the World (2018 Update)
Last updated: January 22, 2018. If you notice any omissions, broken links, or other errors, leave a comment below letting us know.
V16 (8C+) boulder problems are finally starting to become more common. In this last update alone I added six V16 ascents to this list.
And it appears the world’s first consensus V16 has emerged — Creature of the Black Lagoon has been sent by four climbers, all of whom suggested a grade of V16.
What follows is a sortable list of all the hardest boulder problems in the world. The lower cutoff grade is V15, or 8C on the Font Scale. 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.
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.
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|
|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, Jakob Schubert|
|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, Jimmy Webb, Daisuke Ichimiya|
|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|
|Drift||V15 (8C)||Holstejn||Czech Republic||Adam Ondra|
|Drop a Line||V16 (8C+)||Cousimbert||Switzerland||Pirmin Bertle|
|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|
|El Indomable||V16 (8C+)||Tamajón||Spain||Alberto Rocasolano|
|Emotional Landscapes||V15 (8C)||Maltatal||Austria||Klem Loskot, Martin Moser, Nalle Hukkataival, Florian Schmalzl|
|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|
|Eterno Legado||V15 (8C)||Hoya Moros||Spain||Alberto Rocasolano|
|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|
|Gekirin||V15 (8C)||Ryutosen||Japan||Dai Koyamada|
|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 Révolutionnaire Extension||V16 (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|
|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, Alex Khazanov, Alex Megos, Toby Saxton
|Nayuta||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|
|Papa Oso||V15 (8C)||Torrelodones||Spain||Alberto Rocasolano|
|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, Alex Khazanov|
|Quoi de Neuf||V15 (8C)||Toit d'Orsay||France||Rémy Bergasse, Sébastien Bouin, Alban Levier, Jan Hojer|
|Red Bottom Sky||V15 (8C)||Rocklands||South Africa||Dave Graham|
|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|
|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, Taylor McNeill, Ryohei Kameyama|
|The End||V15 (8C)||Zalog||Slovenia||Urh Cehovin|
|The Finnish Line||V16 (8C+)||Rocklands||South Africa||Nalle Hukkataival, Alex Megos, Toby Saxton|
|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 Last Jedi||V15 (8C)||Remete-barlang||Hungary||Tamás Zupán|
|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, Facundo Langbehn|
|The New Chapter||V15 (8C)||Ozark Mountains||USA - Arkansas||Paul Robinson|
|The Outer Limits||V15 (8C)||Lake Tahoe||USA - California||Jimmy Webb|
|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, Alex Khazanov|
|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, Thomas O'Halloran|
|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, Sam Weir|
|Transcendance/Transdendenz||V15 (8C)||Sachsen||Germany||Thomas Willenberg|
|Trinity||V15 (8C)||La Peixcave||Spain||Alberto Rocasolano|
|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|
|Vrtule||V15/V16 (8C/8C+)||Holstejn||Czech Republic||Adam Ondra|
|Walk Away (sit start)||V15 (8C)||Fairy Steps||UK||John Gaskins|
|Whiplash||V15 (8C)||Lietlahti Park||Russia||Alexey Rubtsov|
|Whirlwind||V15 (8C)||Saalachtal||Austria||Bernhard Schwaiger|
|Wintertime Love||V15 (8C)||Cousimbert||Switzerland||Pirmin Bertle|
|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|
|Yocuto||V15 (8C)||Gero||Japan||Dai Koyamada|
|Ziqqurat||V15 (8C)||Gaby||Italy||Niccolò Ceria, Gabriele Moroni|
|Zunami||V15 (8C)||Saalachtal||Austria||Bernhard Schwaiger, Hermann Schwaiger, Klem Loskot, Florian Schmalzl, Tamás Zupán, Christof Rauch|
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 problem — and is still the only — to ever receive a proposed grade of V17 (9A). Nalle Hukkataival has the first and only ascent.
List Criteria & Grading Guidelines
- The grade had to be V15 (8C) or higher. In other words, problems graded V14/V15 (8B+/8C) and lower were left off the list. For the remainder of the article, I will refer to problems graded V15 (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 Khoikhoi. Currently, three climbers have sent it. Jimmy Webb proposed a grade of V14 (8B+). Nalle Hukkataival and Shawn Raboutou both proposed a grade of V15 (8C). I averaged the V Scale translation of these grades (14, 15, 15) to get 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 — or if Jimmy Webb were to bump his suggestion up to V15 — I would add it.
- 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, while others are considered hard. I didn’t consider any of this. I just considered the proposed grade(s).
Notes on Specific Problems
- Gioia: Many people think of Gioia as a V16 (8C+) boulder problem. However, I have listed it as V15/V16 (8C/8C+). Why? It currently has two grade suggestions: V15 from Christian Core, V16 from Ondra. (Nalle didn’t propose a grade after nabbing the third ascent.) With these two to go off of, following my grading guidelines I listed it with a slash grade.
- Wintertime Love & Drop a Line: Pirmin Bertle has stirred up grading controversy before by proposing world-class grades on routes like Meiose. To make matters more complex, Drop a Line is a traverse and Wintertime Love could be as well, yet Bertle suggested a bouldering grade for both. I decided to respect his grade suggestions and have included both problems at their proposed grades.
- Bokassa’s Fridge – Assassin, Monkey and Man: I have left this problem off the list because Jens Larssen from 8a.nu brought to my attention that it is an “elimination boulder” — a problem where the climber doesn’t climb the natural line but instead creates the difficulty by avoiding certain holds.
Who Is the Best Boulderer Ever?
Here are two charts 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).
Dai Koyamada and Daniel Woods are currently tied for number of hard boulder sends and are first and second, respectively, in number of hard boulder FAs. Nalle Hukkataival is third in both categories and has the first and only ascent of the world’s first proposed V17 (9A). One could make the case for any of them as the world’s best boulderer.
Sheer volume of hard sends and FAs is admittedly not the only way to assess a boulderer’s ability. At the very least, these three are the most prolific boulderers of their time.
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 Monkey Wedding in Rocklands which has been sent by over a dozen climbers and — despite Nicole himself proposing an FA grade of V14 (8B+) — now stands as a consensus V15.
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 were a couple other V15s put up before Monkey Wedding. But one, Black Eagle SD, has only one grade suggestion and the other, Gossip, has only two. Both are 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. And the problem that has thus far demonstrated the strongest potential for becoming a consensus V16 is Creature of the Black Lagoon. Daniel Woods claimed the first ascent in 2016 — 12 years after the FA of Tonino ’78.
Assuming Creature of the Black Lagoon’s grade does withstand the test of time, it has taken a decade longer for the V16 grade to go from suggestion to consensus than it did V15. That’s a staggering, and intriguing, difference. Nalle wrote a blog post way back in 2010 detailing his thoughts on why this apparent stalling of grade progression happened.
Though V16 sends have remained elusive, as I updated this article throughout 2017 I sensed that start to change. By my count, seven sends in 2017 were accompanied by a V16 grade proposal.
Of course, a proposed V17 (9A) also exists. Nalle climbed Burden of Dreams in October 2016, just a month after Woods climbed Creature of the Black Lagoon. If history is any indicator, it’s likely that Burden of Dreams will be downgraded by future ascensionists. As for how long it will take for a consensus V17 to emerge…well, that’s anyone’s guess.
Where in the World Are the Hardest Boulder Problems?
There’s a map for that:
And a chart:
Currently, only 20 countries are home to a hard boulder problem. And it’s 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)
- There are only two hard boulder problems in all of mainland Asia: Hymn and Eternal Sunshine, both located in South Korea. (Whiplash is located in the European part of Russia.)
Bouldering’s global potential remains largely untapped. As the sport matures one can only imagine all the new crags and problems that will arise.
When to Project vs. When to Train, Backed by Data
Finally, for fun I charted the ascents of all the hard boulder problems by month for both the northern and southern hemispheres.
Most of the hard boulder sends in both hemispheres came in the coldest months of the year. At the very least, these charts can give you some insight on when to tackle your projects and when to focus on training.