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

Meet the 11 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
9 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 providing inspiration for the masses.
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.

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

30 min

Age of Ondra part 2

Adam Ondra challenges himself to flash a 9A+, which means he only gets one ascent to make it to the top.

English +9

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

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

23 min

The perfect season part 2

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 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 in 2021. She's now turning her hand to outdoor routes and the prospect of what she could achieve is truly frightening.

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)
Chris Sharma climbing at the highest level

Chris Sharma climbing at the highest level

© Ricardo Giancola

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.

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.


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

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)
Alex Honnold climbs through the enduro corner on El Capitan's Freerider during the filming of Free Solo.

Alex Honnold climbs through the enduro corner on El Capitan

© National Geographic/Jimmy Chin

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?
Alex Honnold stand in front of El Capitan in Yosemite.

Honnold pictured with El Capitan in the background

© Jimmy Chin/Free Solo Movie

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

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

21 min

A line across the sky part 2

The two most capable rock climbers in the world continue their trek across the Fitz Roy Traverse in Patagonia.

Turkish +9

Watch Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell tackle 17 of Colorado's highest peaks in Reel Rock's Cuddle part 1 and Cuddle part 2.

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

Alain Robert

  • Born: August 7, 1962
  • Birthplace: Digoin, France
  • Speciality: Urban Free Solo
  • Standout climb: Burj Khalifa in Dubai – first ascent of the world’s tallest building (2011)
Alain Robert's climb of the Canyan Tower in Dubai was no ordinary free solo climb.

Alain Robert climbing Canyan Tower in Dubai

© Emmanuelle Aguire

Robert, known as ‘spiderman’, is famous for his often illegal rope-free climbs of enormous skyscrapers. His skills are rarely compared to others on this list, but his ability to continually onsight mindboggling urban ascents puts him firmly on it.
He applies the techniques normally used for route-finding on natural rock cracks, pits and scars to window frames, ledges and protrusions on modern buildings and has climbed more than 100 to date, including the Sydney Opera House, the Petronas Towers, the Eiffel Tower and the Burj Khalifa.
When I moved into free solo climbing I’d found my passion: blissful solitude mixed with the exhilaration of being caught in a place between life and death
Alain Robert

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)
Sasha DiGiulian conquers a first ascent in Brazil

Sasha DiGiulian conquers a first ascent in Brazil

© Christian Pondella/Red Bull Content Pool

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.
Sasha DiGiulian climbs a challenging 5.12c over water in Thailand.

Sasha DiGiulian climbing Lord of the Thais a 5.12c

© Cameron Maier/Red Bull Content Pool

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
Sasha DiGiulian

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.



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

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 Capita (2015)
Tommy Caldwell en route to the first free climb of El Capitan’s Dawn Wall.

Tommy Caldwell en route to the first free climb of El Capitan’s Dawn Wall

© Corey Rich

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.
Yes, Tommy Caldwell is missing a finger

Yes, Tommy Caldwell is missing a finger

© Corey Rich/Big UP Productions/Aurora Photos

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

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.


Watch Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell tackle 17 of Colorado's highest peaks in Reel Rock's Cuddle part 1 and Cuddle part 2.

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)
Photo of Angela Eiter climbing the 8c+ Zauberfee route.

Angela Eiter climbing the 8c+ Zauberfee route

© Martin Hanslmayr/Red Bull Content Pool

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.

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.

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
Angy Eiter

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

Janja Garnbret

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


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.


Reel Rock

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

8 Seasons · 64 episodes