The hardest sport climbs in the world

Gone are the days when climbing a 5.15 was truly rare. By our count, there have now been more than 500 ascents of 5.15 climbs.

It’s been a while since our last update, and sport climbing has refused to slow down in spite of a global pandemic. In 2021, there were 73 ascents of 5.15 routes. That’s the most of any year in history, although 2022 is on track to set a new record.

Many of those ascents were made by young guns rising through the ranks, including Jorge Diaz Rullo and Jonatan Flor. Laura Rogora and Julia Chanourdie joined Anak Verhoeven, Angela Eiter, and Margo Hayes on the list of women to climb 5.15.

But some things are eternal, and one of them seems to be Adam Ondra. Ondra retains his title as the best sport climber in history — he has three times as many 5.15 ascents as the next contestant (the formidable Alex Megos). Ondra’s landmark 5.15d, Silence, remains unrepeated.

In total, 115 climbers have now climbed a 5.15 route, and 38 have climbed a 5.15b. Jakob Schubert and Sean Bailey became the fifth and sixth climbers to reach 5.15c, joining Ondra, Megos, Ghisolfi, and Sharma. The latest contribution comes from Seb Bouin, who proposed a new 5.15d (9c) with his ascent of DNA.

To help keep track of it all, this article includes a running list of the hardest climbing routes in existence. To keep things simple, I cut the grade off at 5.15a (9a+) and above.

I spent many, many hours researching and tallying these ascents. However, I’m still human. If you notice any missing ascents or data entry errors, let us know in the comments and we’ll take a look at it during our next update.

The World’s Hardest Sport Climbs

RouteGradeCragCountryClimber
120 Degrees5.15a (9a+)FlatangerNorwayAdam Ondra
Ali Hulk5.15b (9b)RodellarSpainDani Andrada
Magnus Midtbø
Ali Hulk Extension5.15a (9a+)RodellarSpainDani Andrada
Magnus Midtbø
Danilo Pereyra
Dimitri Sharafutdinov
Jorge Diaz Rullo
Enrique Gallardo
José Luis Palao
Ali Hulk Extension Total5.15a (9a+)RodellarSpainPiotr Schab
Jonatan Flor
Alex Garriga
Daniel Fuertes
Ali Hulk Extension Variation5.15a (9a+)RodellarSpainJorge Diaz Rullo
Ali Hulk Sit Start5.15a (9a+)RodellarSpainDani Andrada
Magnus Midtbø
Ali Hulk Sit Start Extension Total5.15b (9b)RodellarSpainJonatan Flor
Jorge Diaz Rullo
Daniel Fuertes
Laura Rogora
Dave Graham
Alex Garriga
Domen Skofic
All You Can Eat5.15a (9a+)Mount PotosiUSAJonathan Siegrist
Anesthésie5.15a (9a+)Fetid BeachFranceLoïc Zehani
Apocalipsis de la Gioconda5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)RodellarSpainJonatan Flor
José Luis Palao
Jorge Diaz Rullo
Artaburu5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)MargalefSpainIker Pou
Aubade Directe5.15a (9a+)Sainte VictoireFranceGérôme Pouvreau
Enzo Oddo
Anatole Bosio
Becoming5.15a (9a+)FrankenjuraGermanyMarkus Bock
Alex Megos
Beyond (After Break)5.15a (9a+)Pic Saint-LoupFranceSébastien Bouin
Beyond Integral5.15b/5.15c (9b/9b+)Pic Saint-LoupFranceSébastien Bouin
Bibliographie5.15c (9b+)CeüseFranceAlex Megos
Stefano Ghisolfi
Sean Bailey
Big Men5.15a (9a+)FraguelSpainIker Pou
Biographie/Realization5.15a (9a+)CeüseFranceChris Sharma
Sylvain Millet
Patxi Usobiaga
Dave Graham
Ethan Pringle
Ramón Julián Puigblanque
Enzo Oddo
Jonathan Siegrist
Alex Megos
Adam Ondra
Sachi Amma
Stefano Ghisolfi
Jon Cardwell
Sean Bailey
Margo Hayes
Piotr Schab
Stefano Carnati
Jorge Diaz Rullo
Sébastien Bouin
Black Block5.15a (9a+)CuencaSpainLuis Alfonso Felix
Bohemian Rhapsody5.15a (9a+)RovisteCzech RepublicAdam Ondra
Bomba5.15b (9b)ArcoItalyAdam Ondra
Bombardino5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)ArcoItalyAdam Ondra
Cafe Solo5.15b (9b)MargalefSpainJorge Diaz Rullo
Carlota la Colombiana5.15a (9a+)MargalefSpainJorge Diaz Rullo
Catxasa5.15a (9a+)Santa LinyaSpainChris Sharma
Ramón Julián Puigblanque
Sachi Amma
Jakob Schubert
Piotr Schab
Jakub Konečný
Adam Ondra
Sébastien Bouin
Gonzalo Larrocha
Catxasa (R2)5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)Santa LinyaSpainRamón Julián Puigblanque
Change5.15c (9b+)FlatangerNorwayAdam Ondra
Stefano Ghisolfi
Chaxi5.15a (9a+)OlianaSpainAdam Ondra
Chris Sharma
Cédric Lachat
Jonathan Siegrist
Chaxi Raxi5.15b (9b)OlianaSpainAdam Ondra
Chikane5.15b (9b)OrgonFranceLoïc Zehani
Chilam Balam5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)Villanueva del RosarioSpainBernabé Fernández
Adam Ondra
Sébastien Bouin
Dani Andrada
Edu Marin
Sindre Saether
Jonatan Flor
Chiroptera5.15a (9a+)SulovSlovakiaMichal Mikusinec
Clash of the Titans5.15a (9a+)GötterwandlAustriaAlex Megos
Close Encounters5.15a (9a+)Las VegasUSAJonathan Siegrist
Companion of Change5.15a (9a+)ZillertalAustriaJakob Schubert
Alex Megos
Corona5.15a (9a+)FrankenjuraGermanyMarkus Bock
Adam Ondra
Felix Neumärker
Alex Megos
Dai Koyamada
Daniel Jung
C.R.S.5.15b (9b)MollansFranceAdam Ondra
Cryptography5.15b (9b)Saint LoupSwitzerlandAlessandro Zeni
Czech Trip5.15a (9a+)MavrovoMacedoniaAdam Ondra
Deep Spot5.15a (9a+)La Balme de YenneFranceMathieu Bouyoud
Delincuente Natural5.15a (9a+)RodellarSpainDani Andrada
Jonatan Flor
Demencia Senil5.15a (9a+)MargalefSpainChris Sharma
Iker Pou
Ramón Julián Puigblanque
Stefano Ghisolfi
Alex Megos
Sangwon Son
Stefano Carnati
Gabriele Moroni
Demon5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)OrgonFranceLoïc Zehani
Des Scènes Bizarres dans la Mine d'Or5.15a (9a+)JenseggSwitzerlandPirmin Bertle
Disbelief5.15b (9b)CanmoreCanadaAdam Ondra
DNA5.15d (9c)Verdon GorgeFranceSébastien Bouin
Dugi Rat5.15a (9a+)VruljaCroatiaJernej Kruder
Eagle 45.15b (9b)Saint Léger du VentouxFranceAdam Ondra
Hugo Parmentier
Julia Chanourdie
Pierre Le Cerf
El Bon Combat5.15b (9b)La Cova de l'OcellSpainChris Sharma
Jakob Schubert
Felipe Camargo
Jorge Diaz Rullo
El Picacho5.15b (9b)RodellarSpainJonatan Flor
Empath5.15a (9a+)TahoeUSACarlo Traversi
Jimmy Webb
Daniel Woods
Nathaniel Coleman
Keenan Takahashi
Ethan Pringle
Connor Herson
Empreintes5.15a (9a+)Saint-Pierre en FaucignyFranceFred Rouhling
Energia Cosmica5.15a (9a+)BilicoItalyAlessandro Zeni
Erebor5.15b (9b)ArcoItalyStefano Ghisolfi
Laura Rogora
Adam Ondra
Jakob Schubert
Es Pontas5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)MallorcaSpainChris Sharma
Jernej Kruder
Jan Hojer
Et Pour Quelques Dégaines De Plus5.15a (9a+)St Léger du VentouxFranceAlex Megos
Fight Club5.15b (9b)CanmoreCanadaAlex Megos
Fight or Flight5.15b (9b)OlianaSpainChris Sharma
Adam Ondra
Jakob Schubert
Sachi Amma
Matty Hong
Piotr Schab
Fin de Ali Hulk Extension Sit5.15a (9a+)RodellarSpainJorge Diaz Rullo
Dave Graham
Daniel Fuertes
José Luis Palao
Jonatan Flor
Finest Pedigree5.15a (9a+)Cheedale CorniceUnited KingdomSteve McClure
First Ley5.15a (9a+)MargalefSpainChris Sharma
Alex Megos
Mateusz Haladaj
Stefano Ghisolfi
Daniel Woods
Shawn Raboutou
Buster Martin
William Bosi
Jorge Diaz Rullo
Dave Graham
Marcello Bombardi
Marco Zanone
Santiago de Alba
First Round First Minute5.15b (9b)MargalefSpainChris Sharma
Adam Ondra
Alex Megos
Stefano Ghisolfi
Jorge Diaz Rullo
Flex Luthor5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)Fortress of SolitudeUSATommy Caldwell
Matty Hong
Carlo Traversi
Following the Leader5.15a (9a+)CuencaSpainPablo Barbero
Ramón Julián Puigblanque
Jorge Diaz Rullo
Alex Garriga
Full Metal Brisket5.15a (9a+)New River GorgeUSAJonathan Siegrist
Furia de Jabali5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)CapellaSpainWilliam Bosi
Alex Megos
Jakob Schubert
Adam Ondra
Geocache5.15a (9a+)FrankenjuraGermanyAlex Megos
Adam Ondra
Gioconda Smile Total5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)BahchisarajUkraineSergey Shaferov
Goldrake5.15a (9a+)CornalbaItalyAdam Ondra
Gabriele Moroni
Stefano Carnati
Stefano Ghisolfi
Silvio Reffo
Luca Bana
Francesco Castellano
Jonathan Siegrist
Golpe de Estado5.15b (9b)SiuranaSpainChris Sharma
Adam Ondra
Gran Guggenheim5.15a (9a+)MallorcaSpainIker Pou
Guggen-Hell5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)MallorcaSpainIker Pou
Hell Racer5.15a (9a+)HellNorwayAdam Ondra
Hello Kitty5.15a (9a+)FrankenjuraGermanyAlex Megos
High Line5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)Banja LukaBosnia and HerzegovinaAdam Ondra
Hyper Finale5.15a (9a+)RawylSwitzerlandAdam Ondra
Iron Curtain5.15b (9b)FlatangerNorwayAdam Ondra
Jaws II5.15a (9a+)RumneyUSAVasya Vorotnikov
Daniel Woods
Mike Foley
Andrew Palmer
Paul Robinson
Alex Megos
Tristan Chen
Jesse Grupper
Joe Mama5.15a (9a+)OlianaSpainKlemen Bečan
Chris Sharma
Jakob Schubert
Matty Hong
Jonathan Siegrist
Jon Cardwell
Sean Bailey
Anak Verhoeven
Cédric Lachat
Sébastien Bouin
Piotr Schab
Jorge Diaz Rullo
Jumbo Love5.15b (9b)Clark MountainUSAChris Sharma
Ethan Pringle
Jonathan Siegrist
Jungle Boogie5.15a (9a+)CeüseFranceAdam Ondra
Sachi Amma
Stefano Ghisolfi
Alex Megos
Stefano Carnati
Kangoroo's Limb5.15a (9a+)FlatangerNorwayAdam Ondra
Jakob Schubert
Kinder Cakes5.15a (9a+)RifleUSAJoe Kinder
King Capella5.15b/5.15c (9b/9b+)CapellaSpainWilliam Bosi
Alex Megos
Jakob Schubert
Kmira5.15a (9a+)Pic St LoupFranceSébastien Bouin
Kout Pikle5.15a (9a+)Moravsky KrasCzech RepublicAdam Ondra
La Barriere5.15b (9b)JanseggSwitzerlandPirmin Bertle
La Capella5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)SiuranaSpainAdam Ondra
Stefano Ghisolfi
Daniel Woods
William Bosi
Jakob Schubert
Alex Megos
La Castagne5.15a (9a+)Saint Léger du VentouxFranceAdam Ondra
La Cène du Lézard5.15a (9a+)JenseggSwitzerlandPirmin Bertle
Cédric Lachat
La Côte d'Usure5.15a (9a+)Verdon GorgeFranceSébastien Bouin
La Dura Dura5.15c (9b+)OlianaSpainAdam Ondra
Chris Sharma
La Madone5.15a (9a+)LourmarinFranceGérôme Pouvreau
Sébastien Bouin
Loïc Zehani
La Moustache qui Fâche5.15a (9a+)EntrayguesFranceEnzo Oddo
Stefano Ghisolfi
Hugo Parmentier
Sébastien Bouin
Tanguy Mérard
La Planta de Shiva5.15b (9b)Villanueva de RosarioSpainAdam Ondra
Jakob Schubert
Angela Eiter
Jonathan Siegrist
Jorge Diaz Rullo
Jonatan Flor
Lapsus5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)AndonnoItalyStefano Ghisolfi
Adam Ondra
Marcello Bombardi
Jonathan Siegrist
La Rage d'Adam5.15b/5.15c (9b/9b+)Verdon GorgeFranceSébastien Bouin
La Rambla5.15a (9a+)SiuranaSpainRamón Julián Puigblanque
Edu Marin
Chris Sharma
Patxi Usobiaga
Adam Ondra
Enzo Oddo
Andreas Bindhammer
Sachi Amma
Felix Neumärker
Alex Megos
Sangwon Son
Daniel Jung
Jonathan Siegrist
David Firnenburg
Matty Hong
Margo Hayes
Stefano Ghisolfi
Jacopo Larcher
Klemen Bečan
Tomas Ravanal
Gerard Rull
Jon Cardwell
Piotr Schab
Dave Graham
Gonzalo Larrocha
Cédric Lachat
Jorge Diaz Rullo
Jonatan Flor
L'Arenauta5.15b (9b)SperlongaItalyStefano Ghisolfi
L'Etrange Ivresse des Lenteurs5.15a (9a+)CeüseFranceAdam Ondra
Alex Megos
Le vent nous portera5.15a (9a+)SocaireChilePirmin Bertle
Les Affranchis5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)OrgonFranceLoïc Zehani
Les Gardes Fous5.15a (9a+)Saint-Guilhem-le-DésertFranceSébastien Bouin
Les yeux plus gros que l'antre5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)RussanFranceSébastien Bouin
Licht und Schatten5.15a (9a+)Chli SchijenSwitzerlandStephan Schibli
Lider Iberico5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)CuencaSpainAlex Garriga
Lider Negra5.15a (9a+)CuencaSpainAlex Garriga
Little Fish5.15a (9a+)OrgonFranceLoïc Zehani
Lord of Darkness5.15b (9b)Sand in TaufersItalyAlexander Feichter
Madame Ching5.15b (9b)KanonenwandAustriaAngela Eiter
Malleus Maleficarum5.15a (9a+)CuencaSpainAlex Garriga
Jonatan Flor
Mamajama5.15a (9a+)Women CaveUSAJoe Kinder
Mamichula5.15b (9b)OlianaSpainAdam Ondra
Sébastien Bouin
Marina Superstar5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)DomusnovasItalyAdam Ondra
Massacrate5.15a (9a+)Golobove PecineSloveniaJernej Kruder
Maya5.15a (9a+)MargalefSpainRamón Julián Puigblanque
Me I Eat Dust5.15a (9a+)UnknownUSACody Roth
Meiose5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)CharmeySwitzerlandPirmin Bertle
Adam Ondra
Mejorando Imagen5.15a (9a+)MargalefSpainRamon Julian
Alex Megos
Jorge Diaz Rullo
Mentawai5.15a (9a+)AvignonFranceLoïc Zehani
Modified5.15a (9a+)FrankenjuraGermanyAlex Megos
Adam Ondra
David Firnenburg
Molekuly5.15a (9a+)Moravsky KrasCzech RepublicAdam Ondra
Mona Lisa Intégrale5.15a (9a+)RodellarSpainJosé Luis Palao
Move5.15b/5.15c (9b/9b+)FlatangerNorwayAdam Ondra
Sébastien Bouin
Move Hard5.15b (9b)FlatangerNorwayAdam Ondra
Myr5.15a (9a+)Saint-Guilhem-le-DésertFranceSébastien Bouin
Naturalmente5.15a (9a+)CamaioreItalyAdam Ondra
Gabriele Moroni
Lorenzo Bogliacino
Neanderthal5.15b (9b)Santa LinyaSpainChris Sharma
Jakob Schubert
Adam Ondra
Nit de Bruixes5.15a (9a+)MargalefSpainIker Pou
Ramón Julián Puigblanque
No Pain No Gain5.15a (9a+)RodellarSpainDaniel Fuertes
Gonzalo Larrocha
Piotr Schab
Jonatan Flor
Jorge Diaz Rullo
Sébastien Bouin
Antoine Kauffmann
Nu World5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)Las VegasUSAJonathan Siegrist
Obrint el Sistema5.15a (9a+)SantanaSpainAdam Ondra
Obsession5.15b (9b)OrgonFranceLoïc Zehani
Odyn's Crack (Valhalla)5.15a (9a+)Getu ValleyChinaEdu Marin
One Hundred Proof5.15a (9a+)Mount PotosiUSAJonathan Siegrist
One Punch5.15a (9a+)ArcoItalyStefano Ghisolfi
Adam Ondra
One Slap5.15b (9b)ArcoItalyAdam Ondra
Stefano Ghisolfi
Open Air5.15a (9a+)SchleierwasserfallAustriaAlex Huber
Adam Ondra
Outro5.15a (9a+)AchleitenAustriaRoland Hemetzberger
Overshadow5.15a (9a+)MalhamUnited KingdomSteve McClure
Adam Ondra
Pachamama5.15a (9a+)OlianaSpainChris Sharma
Sachi Amma
Ramón Julián Puigblanque
Jakob Schubert
Adam Ondra
Jonathan Siegrist
Sébastien Bouin
Piotr Schab
Cédric Lachat
Panorama5.15a (9a+)PatonesSpainJorge Diaz Rullo
Papichulo5.15a (9a+)OlianaSpainChris Sharma
Adam Ondra
Ramón Julián Puigblanque
Sachi Amma
Cédric Lachat
Jakob Schubert
Domen Škofic
Magnus Midtbø
Mateusz Haladaj
Jonathan Siegrist
Daniel Woods
Matty Hong
Piotr Schab
Said Belhaj
Klemen Bečan
Patxi Usobiaga
Jon Cardwell
Felipe Camargo
Margo Hayes
Kamil Ferenc
Sébastien Bouin
David Firnenburg
Mathieu Bouyoud
Stefan Scherz
Lucien Martinez
Patanics5.15a (9a+)RodellarSpainJorge Diaz Rullo
Sébastien Bouin
Jonatan Flor
Daniel Fuertes
Perfecto Mundo5.15c (9b+)MargalefSpainAlex Megos
Stefano Ghisolfi
Jakob Schubert
Perlorodka5.15a (9a+)Moravsky KrasCzech RepublicAdam Ondra
Peruvian Necktie5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)Pop Tire CaveUSAJames Litz
Jonathan Siegrist
Picacho Increible Total5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)RodellarSpainJonatan Flor
Poisson Pilote5.15a (9a+)OrgonFranceLoïc Zehani
Power Inverter5.15a (9a+)OlianaSpainChris Sharma
Adam Ondra
Ramón Julián Puigblanque
Sachi Amma
Jonathan Siegrist
Pure Dreaming Plus5.15a (9a+)ArcoItalyAdam Ondra
Laura Rogora
Davide Picco
Alex Ventajas
Queen Anne's Revenge5.15a (9a+)KanonenwandAustriaAngela Eiter
Queen Line5.15b (9b)ArcoItalyAdam Ondra
Stefano Ghisolfi
Rainman5.15b (9b)Malham CoveUnited KingdomSteve McClure
Red Ram5.15a (9a+)MontserratSpainRamón Julián Puigblanque
Rehabilitation5.15a (9a+)PlombergAustriaKlem Loskot
Rise5.15a (9a+)Mt. FutagoJapanSachi Amma
Robin Ud5.15b (9b)Alternatívna stenaSlovakiaAdam Ondra
Sachidananda5.15a (9a+)OrgonFranceGérome Pouvreau
Loïc Zehani
Victor Guillermin
Sacrifice5.15a (9a+)CanmoreCanadaAdam Ondra
Evan Hau
Elan Jonas McRae
Sahara5.15a (9a+)GargantuaFranceLoïc Zehani
Salamandre5.15a (9a+)Saint-Pierre en FaucignyFranceFred Rouhling
Baptiste Dherbilly
Selección Anal5.15a (9a+)Santa LinyaSpainRamón Julián Puigblanque
Sachi Amma
Edu Marin
Magnus Midtbø
Jakob Schubert
Piotr Schab
Kamil Ferenc
Jonathan Siegrist
Seta Iberica5.15a (9a+)CuencaSpainJorge Diaz Rullo
Alex Garriga
Jonatan Flor
Silence5.15d (9c)FlatangerNorwayAdam Ondra
Soul Mate5.15b (9b)Gozen RockJapanSachi Amma
Soul Rock Dance5.15b (9b)SeoulSouth KoreaHyunbin Min
Stoking the Fire5.15b (9b)Santa LinyaSpainChris Sharma
Adam Ondra
Jakob Schubert
Sachi Amma
Stefano Ghisolfi
Stone Butterfly5.15a (9a+)Baile HerculaneRomaniaAdam Ondra
Super Crackinette5.15a (9a+)Saint Léger du VentouxFranceAlex Megos
Adam Ondra
Gérôme Pouvreau
Julia Chanourdie
Anatole Bosio
Sébastien Berthe
Cédric Lachat
Thomas Ballet
Nico Pelorson
Nolwen Berthier
Supernova5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)FrankenjuraGermanyAlex Megos
Sweet Neuf5.15a (9a+)Pierrot BeachFranceAnak Verhoeven
Cédric Lachat
Taurus5.15b (9b)Moravsky KrasCzech RepublicAdam Ondra
Team Frisouille5.15a (9a+)La BalmeFranceMathieu Bouyoud
Terapia d'Urto5.15a (9a+)ArcoItalyStefano Ghisolfi
Laura Rogora
The Balcony5.15a (9a+)PlombergAustriaKlem Loskot
The Bow5.15a (9a+)ArcoItalyStefano Ghisolfi
Laura Rogora
The Clinic5.15a (9a+)ShangfangChinaEdu Marin
The Dream5.15b (9b)BrarAlbaniaSébastien Bouin
The Lonely Mountain5.15b (9b)ArcoItalyStefano Ghisolfi
Adam Ondra
Thor's Hammer5.15a (9a+)FlatangerNorwayAdam Ondra
Alex Megos
Jakob Schubert
Daniel Woods
Ethan Pringle
Dave Graham
Domen Škofic
Sachi Amma
Sébastien Bouin
Magnus Midtbø
Piotr Schab
Tinipi5.15a (9a+)Mont KinabaluMalaysiaDaniel Woods
Sachi Amma
Trofeo dell'Adriatico5.15a (9a+)MargalefSpainGabriele Moroni
Adam Ondra
Stefano Ghisolfi
Torture Physique Integrale5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)GastlosenSwitzerlandAdam Ondra
Ultimatum5.15a (9a+)MassoneItalyStefano Ghisolfi
Eric Albertini
Adam Ondra
Vasil Vasil5.15c (9b+)SloupCzech RepublicAdam Ondra
Vicious Circle5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)Mišja PečSloveniaAdam Ondra
Violent New Breed5.15a (9a+)GiggleswickUnited KingdomJohn Gaskins
Wheelchair5.15a (9a+)GrampiansAustraliaAlex Megos
Wonderland5.15b/5.15c (9b/9b+)ArcoItalyAdam Ondra
Zeleputza5.15a (9a+)IlarduiaSpainJonatan Flor
Alex Garriga

List Criteria

  • Climbs had to be graded 5.15a (9a+) or higher. Adding 5.14d (9a) climbs would have made this list horrifically long. If routes were given the slash grade of 5.14d/5.15a (9a/9a+), I did not include them.
  • For climbs where there was disagreement about the grade (of which there were surprisingly few), I averaged the grade suggestions. Surprisingly, there few cases of real controversy over grade. Where climbs have been repeated, climbers by and large tend to agree on the grade. After averaging grade suggestions, some routes included in previous updates (like Akira and Bone Tomahawk) dropped below our 5.15a threshold and were therefore omitted.
  • I included all claimed ascents. Some of these (see notes below) have since been called into question. These are rare cases, and generally climbers tend to be an honest bunch about FAs (let’s not talk about Cerro Torre). It’s much more likely that some of the proposed grades will shift. Most of these routes haven’t been repeated, and downgrading/upgrading is still relatively common at the upper edge of the sport. Where there is only one ascent, I included the climb at the grade proposed by the first ascensionist.

» MORE: The Hardest Boulder Problems in the World

Notes on Specific Climbs, Climbers, & Ascents

  • Fred Rouhling has drawn more than his fair share of controversy. A scapegoat for chipping tactics in the 90s, he drew an especially large barrage of flak when he proposed an unheard-of grade 9b for Akira. For a long while, Akira stood as the world’s first proposed 5.15b (9b). In 2020, Seb Bouin and Lucien Martinez became the first climbers to repeat it. Although they confirmed the grades of other Rouhling routes, both suggested 5.14d (9a) for Akira (Bouin believes the grade would drop further with a kneepad). Rouhling claims that broken holds are responsible. After the downgrades, Akira drops off of our list.
  • Chilam Balam is another controversial first ascent. At first, Bernabé Fernández’s route drew criticism for many of the same reasons as Rouhling’s: Fernández did not have a track record of 5.15 ascents, and he was known for questionable practices on other climbs (most notably Orujo). Then Dani Andrada went to try the climb and reportedly saw very little evidence of rubber or travel, especially on the upper sections. It’s hard to say how much of this is verifiable or useful, and Fernández has been fairly open about his feelings on the climb and the grade. Chilam Balam has since settled at 5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b), though some still doubt that Fernández ever climbed it. With Akira and Chilam Balam downgraded, the mantle of “World’s First 5.15b” falls to Sharma’s Jumbo Love.
  • Alex Huber is one of the most outspoken critics of both of the above ascensionists, which may or may not be related to the fact that he also owns a groundbreaking first ascent. Huber’s Open Air, originally proposed at 5.14d, was upgraded by none other than Ondra himself. Huber later revised his grade upward. Although it may lose its title as the only 5.15 climb of the 1990s (see below), Huber’s ascent was a groundbreaking moment for climbing and came a full five years before Sharma’s famous ascent of Biographie.
  • Qui and Mutation, two 1990s routes originally graded 5.14+, may provide Open Air with some competition. Adam Ondra became the first climber to repeat Qui since Stefan Fürst put it up in 1996, and he suggested an upgrade to 5.15a (9a+). Similarly, Scottish up-and-comer Will Bosi repeated Steve McClure’s Mutation (FA 1998) and suggested a grade of at least 5.15a. These climbs remain absent from our list because of grade averaging, but if other climbers confirm the upgrades, they may prove that Huber wasn’t the only 5.15 climber in the 1990s.
  • Pirmin Bertle rounds out our discussion of grading controversy. Yet another ascensionist to propose a controversial 5.15b on Meiose, Bertle offered as justification only the fact that it took him longer to project the climb than a 5.15a would have. In February 2018, Ondra sent the route and did indeed suggest a downgrade to 5.15a. Bertle was not pleased. Though Ondra is probably the climber best equipped to judge grades at this level, the climb sits at 5.15a/b in our table due to averaging. Not one to be discouraged, Bertle went right ahead and suggested 5.15b for La Barriere, a linkup in Jansegg.
  • As deep water solos, Alasha and Es Pontas are in many ways a category of their own. Consequently, Chris Sharma has been reluctant to grade either one. Jernej Kruder, the first climber to repeat Es Pontas, agreed with Sharma that “this thing is so specific” and did not assign a grade. Jan Hojer followed suit. In 2021, Jakob Schubert became the first climber to repeat Alasha. His grade suggestion of 5.14d (9a) dropped it from our list, but he agreed that deep water soloing is an art all its own: “If you just want to climb difficult, you go somewhere else.”
  • Tinipi, Daniel Woods’ epic-looking climb on Mont Kinabalu, is unique on this list as the only climb no longer in existence. Just weeks after Sachi Amma claimed the second ascent, a magnitude 6.0 earthquake hit Malaysia and toppled the Donkey’s Ears formation. Sadly, this means that no one will ever attempt the route again.

The World’s Current Hardest Sport Climb

Based solely on grade, the world’s hardest sport climbs are currently Silence and DNA, both rated 5.15d (9c).

This title was previously shared by Change, La Dura Dura, and Vasil Vasil — all of which are graded 5.15c (9b+). With his 2017 ascent of Silence, Ondra opened a new grade. Silence has yet to be repeated, but Ondra isn’t generally one to give soft grades.

As I was compiling data for this update, Seb Bouin announced that he had sent his Verdon Gorge project, which he dubbed DNA. Bouin estimated that he spent close to 200 days working the route and proposed a grade of 5.15d (9c).

He’s not the first to join Ondra in suggesting the grade. In 2020, Alex Megos made the first ascent of Bibliographie and also proposed 5.15d (9c). Stefano Ghisolfi downgraded the route to 5.15c (9b+) after he repeated it in 2021, and Megos agreed. Bibliographie is now the world’s fifth 5.15c.

» MORE: The Hardest Trad Climbs in the World

The Best Sport Climber in the World

The numbers here don’t lie — Adam Ondra is far and away the best sport climber in the world. He has logged triple the 5.15 ascents and FAs of the next most prolific hardmen in each category (Alex Megos and Chris Sharma). He is the lone ascensionist of what may be the world’s hardest climb, and many of his ascents took shockingly little time. In February 2018, Ondra made history by claiming the world’s first 5.15a flash on Saint Léger’s Super Crackinette.

ClimberHard Route Sends
Adam Ondra71
Alex Megos27
Stefano Ghisolfi24
Sébastien Bouin22
Chris Sharma20
Jorge Diaz Rullo20
Jakob Schubert18
Jonathan Siegrist18
Jonatan Flor15
Sachi Amma14
ClimberHard Route FAs
Adam Ondra45
Chris Sharma15
Alex Megos11
Loïc Zehani10
Sébastien Bouin10
Stefano Ghisolfi8
Jorge Diaz Rullo6
Iker Pou5
Jonatan Flor5
Jonathan Siegrist5
Pirmin Bertle5
Ramón Julián Puigblanque5

There is one major factor to commend Sharma, and it’s how far he was ahead of his time. A full 80% of Sharma’s 5.15 climbs were first ascents. He is rightfully renowned for putting up some of the most groundbreaking and excellent climbs of our generation — climbs like Biographie, Pachamama, and Jumbo Love. That’s not to mention his mastery of that tricky medium, deep water soloing: Es Pontas and Alasha remain in a class of their own.

Still, it’s possible that one day we’ll be speaking about Change the way we now talk about Biographie. Adam Ondra is currently so far ahead of the curve that no one can confirm how classic his new climbs are.

Anak Verhoeven made history as the first woman to make a 5.15 FA with Sweet Neuf, and Angy Eiter made it again when she became the first woman to send a 5.15b (Laura Rogora and Julia Chanourdie have since repeated the feat). Limits are being pushed all over the place, and it’s exciting to imagine what’s yet to come.

Grade-Chasing

It took a while for climbers to really break into the 5.15s. There were a couple flares in the late 90s and early 2000s (including some truly revolutionary ascents), but 5.15 ascents didn’t become a regular occurrence until the late aughts.

YearHard Route Sends
19961
19970
19980
19990
20000
20011
20020
20033
20043
20050
20065
20078
20087
20099
201015
201123
201214
201323
201415
201539
201639
201748
201848
201953
202062
202173
2022 (as of May)27

After Huber climbed Open Air in 1996, it took more than a decade for Chris Sharma to make the first ascent of Jumbo Love in 2008. Four years later, Ondra bagged the first 5.15c on Change, and in 2017 he proposed the world’s first 5.15d.

In the last update, I noted the recent pattern of progression every four or five years and wrote: “if things continue as they have, we can expect to wait until the early 2020s before seeing a 5.16a (9c+).”

We’re now about due for that 5.16a, but I’m not sure it’s coming. There’s another, simpler explanation for the march of progress through the 2010s: Adam Ondra was ahead of his time. Barring another exceptional talent, we may be back to waiting a decade or more for new frontiers to be unlocked.

A few other conclusions stand out from the data. One is that grades tend to get pushed by a very select few. It takes a while for other ascensionists to catch up. It took about a decade after Open Air for 5.15a ascents to become common, and frequent 5.15b ascents didn’t start popping up until the 2010s. To date, we’ve still seen only eleven ascents of a 5.15c.

On the other hand, at a level just below the tip-top, the sport seems to be accelerating. The total number of 5.15 climbers grew by about 140% in the time since our last update. Many of those climbers are young and still improving.

GradeClimbers That Have Climbed It
5.15a (9a+)116
5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)30
5.15b (9b)31
5.15b/5.15c (9b/9b+)5
5.15c (9b+)6
5.15d (9c)2

Climbing itself is growing, so it makes sense for the number of top ascensionists to grow as well. Training methods, accessibility, and equipment are all improving. In the future it seems likely that we’ll see more high-level ascents from an increasingly diverse group of climbers.

All the same, the fact that 5.15c/d ascents have remained so elusive is a testament to how difficult it is to push through the plateaus. Not only does it take exceptional athletes with exceptional drive, but it takes projects at just the right level and in just the right style.

This is part of what makes iconic ascents — from Es Pontas to Silence — seem so revolutionary. Almost all top climbers want to be pushing the boundaries, but grade-wise, only a handful ever do. Technology and growth will surely change the sport, but it seems likely that limits will still be broken inch by laborious inch, over long periods of time, by an extremely elite few.

My final note is that it’s hard to predict when ascents and grades will happen, and even harder to predict which grades will stick. It might take another decade for someone to repeat Silence or confirm another 5.15d, or it might happen in the next year. The rise of 5.15 ascents means that this is an exciting time for climbing, and personally I’m excited to see what the next generation has in store.

Where in the World Are the Hardest Sport Climbs?

CountryHard Sport Routes
Spain61
France36
Italy19
USA13
Norway9
Austria8
Switzerland8
Czech Republic6
Germany6
United Kingdom4
Canada3
China2
Japan2
Slovakia2
Slovenia2
Albania1
Australia1
Bosnia and Herzegovina1
Chile1
Croatia1
Macedonia1
Malaysia1
Romania1
South Korea1
Ukraine1

Mostly in Europe, it turns out. Nearly 90% of the world’s 5.15 climbs are in Europe.

Most of the remaining climbs are in the USA and Canada. Only a handful are not located in Europe and North America.

That’s both a testament to the insular nature of climbing and a bright look at the future. Imagine all the difficult routes that could be put up around the world — as the sport continues to expand, it finds most of the globe unexplored.

Share

Leave a Comment

2 Comments

Diego

June 4, 2022

Hi! Thanks for making this list. Just wanted to let you know that Eder Lomba climbed Rainman 9b (5.15b) just a couple of weeks ago.

Diego

July 14, 2022

Hi again, in 8a.nu Alexander Rohr has Meiose as an ascent and also mentions that Alex repeated it as well. The climb is from 2021