The Hardest Boulder Problems in the World (2018 Update)

A map of the worldLast 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.

» MORE: The Hardest Sport Climbs in the World

The World’s Hardest Boulder Problems

Boulder ProblemGradeCragCountryAscensionists
AirianV15 (8C)BaltzolaSpainIban Larrión, Alberto Rocasolano
AngamaV15 (8C)FontainebleauFranceDai Koyamada, Paul Robinson
AsagimadaraV15 (8C)Mt. MizugakiJapanTokio Muroi, Toru Nakajima, Toshi Takeuchi, Jongwon Chon, Adam Ondra, Sachi Amma, Ryuichi Murai
Assassin, Monkey and ManV15 (8C)KochelGermanyToni Lamprecht
BabelV15 (8C)ShiobaraJapanDai Koyamada, Motochika Nagao, Sachi Amma, Ryuichi Murai
Black Eagle SDV15 (8C)RocklandsSouth AfricaFred Nicole
Bokassa's FridgeV15 (8C)KochelGermanyToni Lamprecht
Burden of DreamsV17 (9A)LappnorFinlandNalle Hukkataival
Byaku-dou / The Road to the HeavenV15 (8C)HouraiJapanDai Koyamada, Motochika Nagao
BélialV15 (8C)FontainebleauFranceCharles Albert
Bügeleisen SitV15 (8C)MaltatalAustriaNalle Hukkataival, Jakob Schubert
Carinthian DreamsV15 (8C)KärntenAustriaChristof Rauch
Catalán Witness the FitnessV15 (8C)La Cova de l'OcellSpainChris Sharma, Alberto Rocasolano, Felipe Camargo, Nacho Sánchez, Martin Stráník, Jernej Kruder, Jakob Schubert
CháronV15 (8C)PetrohradCzech RepublicAdam Ondra
Creature of the Black LagoonV16 (8C+)Rocky Mountain National ParkUSA - ColoradoDaniel Woods, Dave Graham, Jimmy Webb, Daisuke Ichimiya
CrisisV15/V16 (8C/8C+)CrevillenteSpainNacho Sánchez, Jonatan Flor Vazquez, Alberto Rocasolano
CthulhuV15 (8C)ArnaoSpainNacho Sánchez
Defying GravityV15 (8C)South PlatteUSA - ColoradoDaniel Woods, Jimmy Webb
DeliriumV15 (8C)Lincoln LakeUSA - ColoradoJimmy Webb, Daniel Woods, Dave Graham
Der mit dem Fels tanztV15 (8C)ChironicoSwitzerlandMartin Keller, Dai Koyamada, Giuliano Cameroni
DriftV15 (8C)HolstejnCzech RepublicAdam Ondra
Drop a LineV16 (8C+)CousimbertSwitzerlandPirmin Bertle
Dust DevilV15 (8C)SaalachtalAustriaBernhard Schwaiger
Délire Onirique (assis)V15 (8C)FontainebleauFranceCharles Albert
El DiabloV15 (8C)PeñolesMexicoDaniel Woods
El IndomableV16 (8C+)TamajónSpainAlberto Rocasolano
Emotional LandscapesV15 (8C)MaltatalAustriaKlem Loskot, Martin Moser, Nalle Hukkataival, Florian Schmalzl
EntropiaV15 (8C)Castillo de BayuelaSpainNacho Sánchez, Alberto Rocasolano, Ignacio Mulero
EpitaphV15 (8C)HoraiJapanDai Koyamada, Ryuichi Murai
Eskerrik AskoV15 (8C)AraotzSpainMarkel Mendieta
EternalV15 (8C)HinokageJapanDai Koyamada, Kazuma Watanabe
Eternal SunshineV15 (8C)Mudeungsan National ParkSouth KoreaJongwon Chon
Eterno LegadoV15 (8C)Hoya MorosSpainAlberto Rocasolano
FortalezaV15 (8C)UbatubaBrazilFelipe Camargo
Foundation's EdgeV15 (8C)FionnaySwitzerlandDave Graham
From Dirt Grows the FlowersV15 (8C)ChironicoSwitzerlandDave Graham, Bernd Zangerl, Radovan Souček, Adam Ondra, Nalle Hukkataival, Rok Klančnik, Manuel Brunn, Nils Favre, Kilian Fischhuber, Jan Hojer, Alexey Rubtsov
GekirinV15 (8C)RyutosenJapanDai Koyamada
GingaV15 (8C)KanotoJapanYuji Hirayama
GioiaV15/V16 (8C/8C+)VarazzeItalyChristian Core, Adam Ondra, Nalle Hukkataival
GossipV15 (8C)FrankenjuraGermanyMarkus Bock, John Gaskins (?), Markus Windisch
Half-LifeV15 (8C)FrankenjuraGermanyFelix Knaub
Hazel GraceV15 (8C)GottardoSwitzerlandGiuliano Cameroni
HighlanderV15 (8C)SustenpassSwitzerlandMartin Keller
HorizonV15 (8C)Mt. HieiJapanDai Koyamada, Ashima Shiraishi, Daisuke Ichimiya
Hull Shea NationV15 (8C)HoraiJapanDai Koyamada
HurricaneV15 (8C)BirgkarAustriaBernhard Schwaiger
HydrangeaV15 (8C)ShiobaraJapanDai Koyamada, Daniel Woods, Motochika Nagao, Sachi Amma, Ryuichi Murai
HymnV15 (8C)Mudeungsan National ParkSouth KoreaJongwon Chon
Hyper BalladV15 (8C)ShiobaraJapanDai Koyamada
Hypnotized MindsV16 (8C+)Rocky Mountain National ParkUSA - ColoradoDaniel Woods, Rustam Gelmanov
Il PirataV15 (8C)Lake DistrictUKJohn Gaskins
In Search of Time LostV15 (8C)Magic WoodSwitzerlandDaniel Woods, Dai Koyamada, Carlo Traversi, Tamás Zupán, Ryuichi Murai
InsomnioV15 (8C)CrevillenteSpainNacho Sánchez
Iron KnucklesV15 (8C)KärntenAustriaChristof Rauch
KaramuV15 (8C)UnknownJapanDai Koyamada
KikelaV15 (8C)TevergaSpainIsaac Montes
KimeraV15 (8C)PiemonteItalyChristian Core
KintsugiV15 (8C)Red RocksUSA - NevadaNalle Hukkataival, Jimmy Webb
Knocking on Heaven's DoorV15 (8C)PetrohradCzech RepublicPetr Resch
KryptosV15 (8C)Basler JuraSwitzerlandFranz Widmer, Fred Nicole
KráterV15 (8C)HolstejnCzech RepublicAdam Ondra
KuzanV15 (8C)MieJapanToshi Takeuchi
La ColombeV15 (8C)VernayazSwitzerlandDave Graham
La Force TranquilleV15 (8C)Magic WoodSwitzerlandDaniel Woods, Nalle Hukkataival
La Grosse TarlouzeV15 (8C)Magic WoodSwitzerlandMichael Piccolruaz
La RévolutionnaireV15 (8C)FontainebleauFranceCharles Albert
La Révolutionnaire ExtensionV16 (8C+)FontainebleauFranceCharles Albert
La teoría del todoV15/V16 (8C/8C+)AlbarracínSpainAlberto Rocasolano, Rubén Díaz Torres
Le BoaV15 (8C)UnknownSwitzerlandFred Nicole
Le Marathon de BoissyV15 (8C)FontainebleauFranceJan Hojer, Guillaume Glairon-Mondet
Le Pied à CoulisseV15 (8C)FontainebleauFranceGuillaume Glairon-Mondet, Jimmy Webb, Charles Albert
Le Poinçonneur des LilasV15 (8C)Basler JuraSwitzerlandFred Nicole, Franz Widmer
Livin' LargeV15 (8C)RocklandsSouth AfricaNalle Hukkataival, Jimmy Webb
Lucid DreamingV15 (8C)BishopUSA - CaliforniaPaul Robinson, Daniel Woods, Alex Megos, Toru Nakajima
LurragorriV15 (8C)AraotzSpainMarkel Mendieta
L'Alchimiste (right version)V15 (8C)FontainebleauFranceNalle Hukkataival, Alban Levier
Maria SingerV15 (8C)KochelGermanyToni Lamprecht
MethuselahzationV15 (8C)YatsueJapanDai Koyamada
MikelonV15 (8C)BaltzolaSpainIban Larrión
Monkey WeddingV15 (8C)RocklandsSouth AfricaFred 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
NayutaV16 (8C+)GeroJapanDai Koyamada
ObsejaV15 (8C)KusiętaPolandŁukasz Dudek
OrochiV15 (8C)KanotoJapanDai Koyamada, Makoto Yamauchi, Alex Megos, Toshi Takeuchi, Ryuichi Murai
Paint It BlackV15 (8C)Rocky Mountain National ParkUSA - ColoradoDaniel Woods, Paul Robinson, Dave Graham, Ian Dory, Toru Nakajima, Nicholas Milburn
Papa OsoV15 (8C)TorrelodonesSpainAlberto Rocasolano
Parálisis EspásticaV15 (8C)NavalosaSpainCésar Quero
Pata LedovceV15 (8C)HolstejnCzech RepublicAdam Ondra
Pipe Dream SDV15 (8C)SaalachtalAustriaBernhard Schwaiger
Poslední mažoretV15 (8C)Labské údolíCzech RepublicRostislav Stefanek
Practice of the WildV15 (8C)Magic WoodSwitzerlandChris 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 NeufV15 (8C)Toit d'OrsayFranceRémy Bergasse, Sébastien Bouin, Alban Levier, Jan Hojer
Red Bottom SkyV15 (8C)RocklandsSouth AfricaDave Graham
Road Sweet HomeV15 (8C)GrampiansAustraliaNalle Hukkataival
RokudouV15 (8C)ToyamagawaJapanDai Koyamada
Satan i Helvete (broken version)V15 (8C)FontainebleauFranceAlban Levier
SerenataV15 (8C)MaltbyUKMike Adams
SerenationV15 (8C)MaltbyUKMike Adams
ShadowplayV15 (8C)Lake DistrictUKJohn Gaskins
ShivaV15 (8C)FontainebleauFranceThomas Willenberg
Soyuz (low start)V15 (8C)ZarzalejoSpainAlberto Rocasolano, César Quero
Spray of LightV15 (8C)RocklandsSouth AfricaDaniel Woods, Dave Graham, Shawn Raboutou, Toshi Takeuchi, Ryuichi Murai
Styrian DeliriumV15 (8C)WeststeiermarkAustriaChristof Rauch
TerranovaV16 (8C+)HolstejnCzech RepublicAdam Ondra
TerremerV15 (8C)Hueco TanksUSA - TexasFred Nicole, Paul Robinson, Daniel Woods, Dan Beall, Simon Parton
The Big IslandV15 (8C)FontainebleauFranceVincent 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 EndV15 (8C)ZalogSloveniaUrh Cehovin
The Finnish LineV16 (8C+)RocklandsSouth AfricaNalle Hukkataival, Alex Megos, Toby Saxton
The GameV15 (8C)Boulder CanyonUSA - ColoradoDaniel Woods, Carlo Traversi, Jon Cardwell, Jimmy Webb
The Ice Knife (sit start)V15 (8C)Guanella PassUSA - ColoradoDaniel Woods
The Last JediV15 (8C)Remete-barlangHungaryTamás Zupán
The MatriarchV15 (8C)RocktownUSA - GeorgiaJimmy Webb
The Mystical Patatohead's Direct EdgeV15 (8C)GaisItalyAlexander Feichter
The NestV15 (8C)Red RocksUSA - NevadaDaniel Woods, Jimmy Webb, Paul Robinson, Nalle Hukkataival, Facundo Langbehn
The New ChapterV15 (8C)Ozark MountainsUSA - ArkansasPaul Robinson
The Outer LimitsV15 (8C)Lake TahoeUSA - CaliforniaJimmy Webb
The ProcessV16 (8C+)BishopUSA - CaliforniaDaniel Woods
The Stepping StoneV15 (8C)GrampiansAustraliaNalle Hukkataival
The Story of Two WorldsV15 (8C)CrescianoSwitzerlandDave 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+)CrescianoSwitzerlandDai Koyamada
The UnderstandingV15 (8C)Magic WoodSwitzerlandNalle Hukkataival, Jimmy Webb
The Wheel of LifeV15 (8C)GrampiansAustraliaDai 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 DirectV15/V16 (8C/8C+)GrampiansAustraliaJames Kassay, Jorg Verhoeven
The Wheel of WolvoV15 (8C)Lincoln LakeUSA - ColoradoJimmy Webb, Daniel Woods, Dave Graham, Matt Fultz
Tonino '78V15/V16 (8C/8C+)MeschiaItalyMauro Calibani, Julien Nadiras, Antione Vandeputte
TopazV15 (8C)Wild BasinUSA - ColoradoDave Graham, Daniel Woods, Paul Robinson, Sam Weir
Transcendance/TransdendenzV15 (8C)SachsenGermanyThomas Willenberg
TrinityV15 (8C)La PeixcaveSpainAlberto Rocasolano
Trip HopV15 (8C)FontainebleauFranceSebastien Frigault, Thomas Willenberg, Paul Robinson, Guillaume Glairon-Mondet, Jan Hojer
VanitasV15 (8C)HoraiJapanDai Koyamada, Ryuichi Murai, Daisuke Ichimiya
Viva La EvolutionV15 (8C)FlirschAustriaBernd Zangerl
VrtuleV15/V16 (8C/8C+)HolstejnCzech RepublicAdam Ondra
Walk Away (sit start)V15 (8C)Fairy StepsUKJohn Gaskins
WhiplashV15 (8C)Lietlahti ParkRussiaAlexey Rubtsov
WhirlwindV15 (8C)SaalachtalAustriaBernhard Schwaiger
Wintertime LoveV15 (8C)CousimbertSwitzerlandPirmin Bertle
Witness the Fitness (broken)V15 (8C)Ozark MountainsUSA - ArkansasChris Sharma, Fred Nicole, Daniel Woods
Wrath of the LichkingV15 (8C)FrankenjuraGermanyFelix Knaub, Alex Megos
YocutoV15 (8C)GeroJapanDai Koyamada
ZiqquratV15 (8C)GabyItalyNiccolò Ceria, Gabriele Moroni
ZunamiV15 (8C)SaalachtalAustriaBernhard 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?

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.

Grade-Chasing

 

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

When to project vs. when to train
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.

I have to give a special shout-out to 8a.nu and HardClimbs.info. Both sites were instrumental in putting together this article. It wouldn’t exist without these incredible resources.

About the Author:

Alex is the owner of 99Boulders and has been testing and reviewing outdoor gear since 2015. He was once an avid boulderer but has been sidelined indefinitely by a chronic wrist injury. To fill the gaping hole in his heart he's recently gotten into ultralight backpacking.