Alexander Megos climbs The Sacred and Profane (5.14c) at the Promised Land near Red Rocks outside Las Vegas, Nevada, USA On March 28, 2018
© Ken Etzel/Red Bull Content Pool
Climbing

Meet the 14 best climbers in the world right now

Climbing is in one of its most exciting eras, with the Free Solo and Dawn Wall movies taking the sport to the mainstream, but which of the activity’s new superstars are the best?
Written by Will Gray
11 min readUpdated on
A new era of climbing fame has arrived. After the pioneers of the 1950s and '60s came the cool hippies of the '70s then the TV stars and ad-funded pros of the '80s and '90s. Now, as climbing becomes more popular as an everyday pastime, there's a new wave of incredible climbers who providing inspiration for the masses, whether in sport competition in events like Red Bull Dual Ascent or on the rocks on some of earth's most ragged terrain.
Alex Honnold’s Free Solo and Tommy Caldwell’s Dawn Wall movies have put the sport back on the celebrity chat show sofas, while talents like Janja Garnbret, Sasha DiGiulian and Ashima Shiraishi are proving that both genders can go big on any type of wall.
With so many different styles and approaches to climbing, it’s almost impossible to say who's the best – but here’s our pick of the bunch in no particular order.
01

Alberto Gines López

  • Born: October 23, 2002
  • Birthplace: Cáceres, Spain
  • Speciality: Lead/Speed/Combined
  • Standout climb: Gold at Tokyo 2020

36 min

Red Bull Dual Ascent

Sixteen world-class athletes on eight teams battle to be the fastest up a wall of six gruelling pitches.

English +6

Alberto Ginés López, just 18 back then, swooped in and shocked everyone by snagging the first-ever Sport Climbing gold in Tokyo. He took on the pros, defied the odds and carved out his spot as a dark horse young climber.
López faced a barrage of comparisons to the seasoned competitors, who said his victory was luck. But his determination, training hustle and long-term game plan revealed one thing: he's the real deal.
As a youngster López overcame several doubts and failures to become a European champ and World Cup winner. He also appeared at Red Bull Dual Ascent in 2022 and will be back again competing at the 2023 edition this coming November. But that's not the end and despite the media noise, he's focused on a second gold medal.
I’ve always liked puzzles, riddles, and all those things, and climbing is a bit like that, every day there’s a new challenge, a new mystery to solve
02

Jain Kim

  • Born: September 11, 1988
  • Birthplace: Goyang, South Korea
  • Speciality: Lead/Bouldering/Speed
  • Standout climb: Climbed the 555m Lotte World Tower in Seoul, South Korea in 2017

2 min

Jain Kim wins combined climbing IFSC World Cup

See Jain Kim take second place in the lead competition during the IFSC World Cup final in Slovenia.

Jain Kim’s skill on the rock face led her to early success and a debut win on the world stage in Brno, Czech Republic in 2009 aged just 21.
For Kim, it’s all about the challenge in front of her and about figuring out the best route to get to the top. She knows that each type of climb uses different muscles but that, crucially, it also uses the mind. This is something she admires in other climbers too – always observing how they choose to get to the top and how their routes differ from hers.
Kim has continued to be a regular on the podium since her debut in Brno, winning IFSC Climbing Lead World Cup in 2018 and 2019 and claiming bronze at the IFSC Climbing World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria, in 2018. In 2023, Kim claimed first place again at IFSC Climbing Lead World Cup in Chamonix, France.
03

Oriane Bertone

Climber Oriane Bertone seen in Forêt de Fontainebleau, France on March 9, 2022.

Oriane Bertone bouldering in Fontainebleau

© Bastien Seon/Red Bull Content Pool

  • Born: March 10, 2005
  • Birthplace: La Réunion, France
  • Speciality: Bouldering/Lead
  • Standout climb: Completed a V14 (8B+) boulder problem in 2018 aged 12
Oriane Bertone has been marked for climbing greatness ever since she became the youngest person ever to complete a V14 (8B+) boulder problem in 2018 at the age of just 12.
It was an incredible feat that put the teenager from Reunion Island on the fast-track to the top of both bouldering and lead climbing, and Oriane has been climbing her way to the top ever since.
04

Angie Scarth-Johnson

  • Born: May 20, 2004
  • Birthplace: Canberra, Australia
  • Speciality: Free
  • Standout climb: Climbing Welcome to Tijuana 8c (33) in Rodellar, Spain at only nine years of age
Angie Scarth-Johnson checking out the moves on a boulder problem in Nowra, New South Wales, Australia on September  20, 2022.

Angie Scarth-Johnson checks out her line

© Kamil Sustiak / Red Bull Content Pool

Born in the Australian capital city of Canberra, Angie Scarth-Johnson’s favourite thing to do as a kid was to climb trees. What she enjoyed most was reaching the highest and most inaccessible branches. After falling out of a tree when she was seven years old, her father decided to take her to the local rock gym. She could explore her obvious passion for climbing in a safer, more controlled environment.
Her prodigious talent was obvious from the outset: she climbed her first 31 (8b) — Swingline in Red River Gorge, USA, at only nine years of age; a year later, she did Welcome to Tijuana 8c (33) in Rodellar, Spain.
Scarth-Johnson currently spends six months a year in the Blue Mountains, the focal point of Australian climbing, and the other six months travelling the world, visiting the major climbing destinations in Spain, France and the USA.
A lot of things can make a good climber: you'll never meet a climber that has everything. Everyone has different qualities, and it makes you your own type of person, but a very good climber
05

Adam Ondra

  • Born: February 5, 1993
  • Birthplace: Brno, Czech Republic
  • Speciality: Sport/Bouldering
  • Standout climb: Silence in Flatanger, Norway – hardest-ever free climb route [Grade 9c] (2017)

21 min

Age of Ondra part 1

Czech Republic's Adam Ondra has set out to be the best climber in every aspect, and he has achieved that.

English +10

Ondra’s unique ability to save energy and manage his breathing – which includes shouting from the rock face during climbs – is what makes him extra special. His pulse rate goes down, not up, when he climbs.
At 190cm tall, he’s a tower of a climber and his long neck acts as a balance tool. He doesn’t have as much arm strength as others, but his hip mobility allows him to put more weight on his legs and pull his centre of gravity closer to the face, saving power and helping him climb like a machine.
Sometimes I almost feel as if I were a Lego toy, the movements of my hands and legs being made by someone else with me just watching it from a distance
Adam Ondra
06

Janja Garnbret

  • Born: March 12, 1999
  • Birthplace: Šmartno pri Slovenj Gradcu, Slovenia
  • Speciality: Bouldering
  • Standout climbs: Going an entire IFSC Bouldering World Cup season undefeated (2019)

20 min

The perfect season part 1

Janja Garnbret has been dominating the climbing competition scene. Can she complete the perfect season?

English +9

It was evident from an early age that Janja Garnbret was born to be on the wall: “I remember when we were kids, the others were just playing ball or other games. I didn't want to get off the wall. I’d be on it for an hour and a half at a time, moving left to right, right to left, up, down. Even back then, I knew this was it. This was what I wanted to do.”
Janja Garnbret of Slovenia seen at the IFSC Austria Climping Open in Innsbruck, Austria on June 26, 2021

Garnbret pauses for thought at the IFSC Austria Climping Open

© Erich Spiess/ASP/Red Bull Content Pool

Even back then, I knew this was it. This was what I wanted to do
To say she's reached incredible heights since that early enthusiasm would be both an understatement and a terrible pun. With her signature languid, flowing style, she became the first person to ever clean-sweep an entire IFSC World Cup season – winning all six events in 2019 – and took home the sport's first gold medal from Tokyo. She's now turning her hand to outdoor routes and the prospect of what she could achieve is truly frightening.
07

Chris Sharma

  • Born: April 23, 1981
  • Birthplace: Santa Cruz, California, USA
  • Speciality: Sport / Deep Water Solo
  • Standout climbs: Es Pontàs/Alasha in Mallorca, Spain – hardest ever deep-water solo ascents (2007/2017); La Dura Dura in Oliana, Spain – hardest confirmed free climb (2013)

5 min

Chris Sharma Free Climbs a Giant Redwood Tree

The accomplished rock climber returns to his roots (no pun intended) on an old-growth sequoia.

Polish

For Sharma, climbing is all about reaching the absolute limit, which he does by climbing as much as possible. Lost without a project, he is consistently raising the bar and is the only person other than Adam Ondra to have climbed the world’s hardest confirmed route, La Dura Dura.
Despite being part of the ‘gym generation’ he prefers to learn on the route and lives a nomadic lifestyle to do so. On a climb, he says, he can become ‘animalistic’ and his love of deep water soloing is down to the fact he can climb to the max without the fear of dying if something goes wrong.
The essence of climbing is finding out how far I can push myself, having the freedom and purity of no equipment and finding the limit of difficulty we can go to
Chris Sharma
08

Alex Honnold

  • Born: August 17, 1985
  • Birthplace: Sacramento, California, USA
  • Speciality: Free Solo/Speed
  • Standout climb: Freerider in Yosemite, USA – first free solo ascent on El Capitan (2017)

21 min

A line across the sky part 1

An unlikely pair of climbers try to complete one of alpinism's crown jewels: Patagonia's Fitz Roy Traverse.

German +9

Honnold’s spectacular feats are achieved through disciplined training, focused preparation, consistency and sheer single mindedness – how else can you fearlessly climb without a rope up a giant wall like El Capitan?
He visualises moves and memorises sequences to give him confidence, goes through scary positions in his head to expand his comfort zone and manages his climbs with metronomic consistency. And he does it all with speed – he even has a unique technique to take off and stow a layer without stopping.
I don’t actually climb fast, I just don’t get tired and slow down. As you approach your own physical limits it gets harder to improve – getting better requires major dedication and focus
Alex Honnold
09

Ashima Shiraishi

  • Born: April 3, 2001
  • Birthplace: New York, USA
  • Speciality: Sport
  • Standout climbs: Open Your Mind Direct and Ciudad de Dios in Santa Linya, Spain – youngest ascent of a Grade 9a/9a+ route (2015)
Ashima Shiraishi as seen climbing the Flatanger Cave in Flatanger, Norway.

Ashima Shiraishi climbs Norway's Flatanger Cave

© Brett Lowell

Shiraishi is little more than 150cm tall, with a short reach that makes big momentum moves a challenge, but her high strength to weight ratio, dynamic agility and strong fingers let her scamper up cliffs and swing through overhangs like a spider.
Having started on boulders in Central Park aged seven, she has an intense gym training regime and uses a unique mind-focus technique from butoh dancing, an experimental Japanese performance art practiced by her father. Her other secret ingredient, she says, is having fun.
If you don’t remember to have fun, you will get stressed and doubt yourself. I want to help to inspire others to do what they love to do and to really work for it
Ashima Shiraishi
10

Sasha DiGiulian

  • Born: October 23, 1992
  • Birthplace: Alexandria, Virginia, USA
  • Speciality: Sport/Multi
  • Standout climb: Mora Mora in Madagascar – first female ascent and second ever free ascent (2017)

5 min

Sasha DiGiulian's Canadian trilogy

Stripped of music and slow-motion, Sasha DiGiulian makes her way up three of Canada's most gnarly routes.

English

Sasha DiGiulian’s small stature is a big benefit on steep climbs and to make the most of it she puts her focus on dynamic technique, making powerful big moves and paying big attention to footwork and body positioning. And positivity.
Described as tenacious, with a never give up attitude, she trains constantly and understands the importance of recovery using a total of six techniques – cryotherapy, Graston massage, dry needling, infrared saunas, foam rolling and simple resting – to stop her body from breaking down.
I am generally optimistic. Even if I'm falling, there are few days where I get too negative about climbing. It's all just having fun
11

Daniel Woods

  • Born: August 1, 1989
  • Birthplace: Richardson, Texas, USA
  • Speciality: Bouldering
  • Big climb: Creature of the Black Lagoon in Rocky Mountain NP, USA – first climb of the world’s hardest consensus boulder problem (2016)
Scene from the climbing film ?The Network? shows Daniel Woods from the USA bouldering in Magic Wood of Switzerland.

Daniel Woods bouldering in Switzerland

© CFF / Red Bull Content Pool

Woods admits to being totally obsessed about climbing and it’s that pursuit of perfection that has driven him to the top of bouldering, completing more V15 (second hardest confirmed grade) problems than anyone in the world.
Confident and humble in equal measure, he's also so meticulous and committed to the task that he will painstakingly watch every video he can find and study all the information he can pull out of the beta for a climb before he takes it on. And that clearly helps.
I think to do something top notch, you have to tap into a different side of yourself and to do that you have to become obsessive about it
Daniel Woods
12

Tommy Caldwell

  • Born: August 11, 1978
  • Birthplace: Estes Park, Colorado, USA
  • Specialty: Big Wall Free
  • Big climb: Dawn Wall in Yosemite NP, USA – first free climb of this ultra-challenging route on El Capitan (2015)

4 min

The turning point

Rock climber Tommy Caldwell hit a turning point on pitch 14 of the Dawn Wall on California's El Capitan.

English

Caldwell is a long-standing superstar climber who's still at the top of his game, despite a rollercoaster life story that includes a kidnapping, divorce and a near-career-destroying accident that saw him chop off his finger.
His determination to overcome that missing finger turned him into a big wall legend and his switch to focus on scientific indoor training is now keeping him there. Just last year, he and Alex Honnold set a record speed climb on The Nose of El Capitan of 2 hours, 10 minutes and 15 seconds.
I believe the successes I've had do not come primarily from natural ability. I'm genetically built to be a pretty good climber (scrawny) but for me it's more motivation and attitude
Tommy Caldwell
13

Angy Eiter

  • Born: January 27, 1998
  • Birthplace: Arzl im Pitzal, Austria
  • Speciality: Sport
  • Standout climb: La Planta de Shiva in Villanueva del Rosario, Spain – hardest climb by a female climber (2017)

2 min

Angela Eiter breaks new ground in women's climbing

The action-packed story behind Angela Eiter's record-breaking 9b climb on La Planta de Shiva in Spain in October 2017.

Angy Eiter is a four-time world champion indoor climber and has channelled that experience and attitude into the outdoors, with a never give up, try, try and try again attitude that has taken her to the top.
After failing on La Planta twice in 2015, she was so determined to beat it she went back seven times to try different sections, made exact replicas of holds and moves on a climbing wall at home and watched videos of Adam Ondra on the route before she finally achieved her goal two years later.
You need to be able to produce a perfect performance at a specific moment, and competitions teach you this to perfection
14

Jim Reynolds

  • Age: 1994
  • Birthplace: Weaverville, California, USA
  • Speciality: Free solo/Speed
  • Standout climbs: The Nose on El Capitan in Yosemite, USA – fastest ascent (2017 - since bettered by Honnold/Caldwell); Afanassieff on Cerro Fitz Roy in Patagonia, Argentina - first free solo ascent/descent (2019)
Described as the ‘dark horse’ of climbing, Reynolds built an impressive resume in Yosemite while working for the park’s search and rescue team before free soloing Cerro Fitz Roy in March. Boom. Welcome to the big time.
Before making his mark on the walls, the business graduate was best known for eclectic hobbies like playing heavy metal on a mandolin and messing around with samurai swords. Part of that, he says, helps discipline him in mind, body and spirit.
(Free solo) is a soulful and personal thing. It’s a blessing and a curse. I’m blessed because I’m good at it, but it’s a curse because you know it could hurt the people you love
Jim Reynolds

Part of this story

Red Bull Dual Ascent

This head-to-head multi-pitch climbing competition features 12 mixed teams made up of 24 of the world’s best climbers across various disciplines battling it out on 180m-long artificial routes.

Switzerland

Janja Garnbret

A hugely successful Slovenian climber, Janja Garnbret was crowned World Champion in both Bouldering and Difficulty climbing in 2019.

SloveniaSlovenia

Sasha DiGiulian

American climber Sasha DiGiulian has made a career of overcoming the odds, with more than 30 first female ascents to her name.

United StatesUnited States

Angela Eiter

You won’t find anyone more determined than serial winner Angela Eiter, who became the first woman to conquer one of the world’s toughest climbing routes.

AustriaAustria

Alberto Gines López

Spanish climbing prodigy Alberto Ginés López has burst onto the professional scene, winning elite level medals while still in his teens.

SpainSpain

Ja-In Kim

A talented and skilful lead climber and bouldering champion from South Korea, Jain Kim is one of the sport's most accomplished athletes.

South KoreaSouth Korea

Angie Scarth-Johnson

Australian climbing phenom Angie Scarth-Johnson has come a long way since scaling trees as an infant, but she's never stopped reaching higher and higher.

AustraliaAustralia

Oriane Bertone

The youngest-ever climber to master a V14 boulder problem, French phenomenon Oriane Bertone is one of the sport's hottest properties.

FranceFrance

Red Bull Dual Ascent

Sixteen world-class athletes on eight teams battle to be the fastest up a wall of six gruelling pitches.

36 min

Reel Rock

See the allure of the ascent through the eyes of the best climbers and mountaineers on the planet.

9 Seasons · 74 episodes