Nicolas Hojac resting while mountaineering in the Jungfrau Region, Switzerland on March 30, 2021.
© Thomas Senf / Red Bull Content Pool

12 of the best mountaineers on the planet right now

Mountaineering is as extreme as it gets – but tackling perilous ridges in ‘the death zone’ is just another day at the office for these world-class climbers.
Written by Will Gray
8 min readUpdated on
Making a mark in mountaineering is getting tougher. The highest and most remote peaks on the planet have long been reached, but that doesn’t mean there are fewer challenges for modern mountaineers. Far from it in fact.
From multiple summits of Mount Everest to high-speed traverses across the towering spires of Patagonia, there's always a new achievement or a new record to be had.
The sport means different things to different people. It’s about style, independence, small groups, good lines, single pushes and – for some – doing it all without oxygen. There are hidden heroes everywhere pushing the boundaries all around the world and there are also legends that have been taken away too early by the sport they love.
That makes it tough to list the top mountaineers right now – but here are some of those with the most impressive or most famous achievements...

Nicolas Hojac

1 h 6 min

Tribute to Failure

Four Swiss alpinists attempt the first ascent of a new route on the 6,543m Shivling in India.

English +2

Nicolas Hojac is a Swiss mountaineer with a passion for adventure that incorporates everything from ice climbing and free climbing to paragliding and photography. He shot to fame in 2010, at the age of 18, when he achieved his first ascent of the notoriously challenging north face of Switzerland's Eiger mountain.
Fast forward to today and Hojac has conquered the Eiger more than 10 times, including one ascent in 2015 alongside Ueli Steck that set a new speed record of three hours and 46 minutes. While Hojac’s devotion to speed climbing sees him making quick ascents of his home mountains of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, before paragliding back down again, he's also completed numerous expeditions across Asia and South America, including gruelling ascents of the K7 north ridge in Pakistan and Cerro Cachet in Patagonia.
Hojac was part of a team that attempted an ascent of India’s Mount Shivling in 2021. A new film, Tribute to Failure, charts how it didn’t go to plan… watch it now in the player above.

Nirmal ‘Nims’ Purja

  • Nationality: Nepali
  • Born: 1983
  • Instagram: nimsdai
Nirmal Purja poses for a portrait at Großglockner, Austria, on August 24, 2021.

Breaking barriers and dreaming big – Nims Purja

© Stefan Voitl

Nims Purja blasted through the world’s 14 highest mountains in little more than six months in 2019 – which certainly gives him some pretty high credentials in the world of mountaineering.
The former Gurkha and soldier of the Special Boat Service (SBS) climbed Everest, Lhotse and Makalu within two days and 30 minutes and smashed the previous 14 summits record of seven years, 11 months and 14 days. In 2021 he was part of a team that completed the first summit of K2 in winter, something that was often referred to as 'the last great mountaineering challenge.'
“International attention and sponsors rush easily towards foreign climbers, but Nepalis don’t get such opportunities. I hope my climbs put a spotlight on the talented climbers here.”

Andrzej Bargiel

Andrzej Bargiel during Gasherbrum Ski Challenge on Gashebrum II in 2023.

Andrzej Bargiel

© Bartłomiej Pawlikowski / Red Bull Content Pool

Not only does this headline-hitting alpinist scale the toughest mountains at super-fast speed, Bargiel often skis back down them. In 2018 he became the first to ski down from the 8,611m high summit of K2 without removing his skis.
Before that, he'd done the same on Manaslu (8,163m), Broad Peak (8,051m) and Shishapangma (8,027m) and won the ‘Snow Leopard’ award for climbing the five highest peaks of the former Soviet Union.
The Polish ski mountaineer achieved yet another record in 2023 when he became the first person ever to scale and ski down all the 8,000m peaks in the Karakoram range without the use of oxygen.

Denis Urubko

  • Nationality: Russian/Polish
  • Born: 1973
  • Facebook: denisurubko
Denis Urubko holds a lecture in Ankert, Budapest, Hungary on the April 27, 2016.

Denis Urubko

© Elekes Andor/Wikimedia Commons

This speed climber has made 22 climbs on 8,000m high mountains in the last 20 years – and he’s not done ticking off new routes, starting the new decade with a winter attempt on the world’s 12th highest summit, Broad Peak.
He’s one of only eight climbers to have reached the top of all the world’s 8,000m mountains with no supplementary oxygen and has set countless new routes around the world including the Himalayas, Tien Shan and Patagonia.

Conrad Anker

Conrad Anker climbs the Lunag Ri (6,907m) in the Himalayas of Nepal on November 24, 2015.

Conrad Anker

© Servus TV/Mammut/Red Bull Content Pool

Famous for finding George Mallory’s body on Mount Everest in 1999, Anker has achieved several alpine firsts, including Meru, Vinson Massif, Ulvettana and El Capitan and has climbed summits from Alaska to Antarctica.
He led The North Face climbing team for 26 years, survived an avalanche in 1999 and overcame a heart attack while climbing Lunag Ri in 2016. That year, he also won Climbing Magazine’s Golden Pitons Lifetime Achievement.
“[In life] the first 20 years you’re getting taken care of, the next 20 define what you’re going to do, the next 20 is what you’re doing, the next 20 is: ‘what do you take that you’ve learned and turn that into something?’”

Colin Haley

Colin Haley self portrait during the first solo ascent of the Infinite Spur, Mount Foraker, Alaska.

Colin Haley selfie at Mount Foraker, Alaska

© Colin Haley/Wikimedia Commons

Haley specialises in fast ascents of technical routes and has so far made his biggest mark in the towering spires of Patagonia, with 16 trips to the region and two traverses of Torres del Paine, one in 24 hours with Alex Honnold.
He's also achieved notable new routes in North America, particularly in Alaska where he has set several record-slashing speed records up some of the region’s most impressive peaks.
“The mountains have always been my priority. I feel that every year I am improving as a climber, and I think that every year I become more dedicated and disciplined.”

Paul Ramsden

  • Nationality: British
  • Born: 1971
Winning one of France’s Piolet d’Or alpinism accolades is impressive, but Britain's Paul Ramsden has achieved FOUR – only, he prefers to stay under the radar and let his partners take the limelight.
His first three, with Mick Fowler, were on the north face of Siguniang in China, the Prow of Shiva in India and Gave Ding in a remote region of Nepal. His fourth, with Nick Bullock, was a first ascent of a 7,000m peak in Tibet.
“As a mountaineer, when you are at your fittest you are at your least experienced and vice versa. It’s a balancing act. To succeed on unclimbed 7,000m peaks I think you need a lot of experience.”

Will Gadd

6 min

Will Gadd explores inside a glacier

Climber Will Gadd and glacial hydrologist Jason Gulley investigate the water flowing beneath a glacier.


A specialist on ice, Will Gadd is a United Nations ‘Mountain Hero’ and is recognised for his spectacular icefall ascents on Helmcken Falls and Niagara Falls as well as his exploits in the mountains.
He achieved the first one-day ascent of the tallest mountain in the Canadian Rockies, Mt Robson, doing it solo, and he continues to explore new rock, ice and alpine routes all over the world.
These days, Will likes to set himself more creative challenges. “I’ve done enough, won as much as I need to,” he says. “I’m at a point now where I feel like I have a lot less to prove.” All he wants to do now is take what he’s learned and apply it in the most interesting locations on Earth.

Kami Rita

This legendary Sherpa is a Himalayan record breaker. He has scaled Mount Everest more times than anyone – 24 ascents, including two in one week in 2019 - and has also summited K2, Cho-Oyu, Manaslu, Annapurna and Lhotse.
He was born in the same village as Tenzing Norgay and made his first ascent in 1994. Climbing is in the family – his father was one of the first pro Sherpa guides and his brother has also reached the summit 17 times.
“I treat every climb with the same sincerity as the first. Whenever a client is successful, it makes my day. I believe breaking records is just a by-product.”

Robert Jasper

Robert Jasper (centre) with Holger Heuber (left) and Stefan Glowacz (right) on the Baffin Island Expedition 2008

Robert Jasper, centre, with Holger Heuber and Stefan Glowacz

© Klaus Fengler/Red Bull Content Pool

Jasper describes himself as an “extreme alpinist” and has raised the level in his native Europe, Patagonia, the Himalayas and most recently Greenland, focusing on mixed terrain and ice and often going solo.
He first hit the headlines three decades ago when he climbed the three largest north faces in the Alps in record time and has since completed 17 different routes up the legendary Eiger.
“I practice various disciplines of alpinism and am therefore more like a decathlete. In climbing, you have to try to minimize risk but nevertheless step towards your passion, your adventures. That’s my philosophy.”

Simone Moro

Simone Moro enjoying the view at the Nanga Parbat.

Simone Moro on the summit of Nanga Parbat

© David Goettler

Moro is the only alpinist to have reached four 8,000m peaks entirely in the winter season - Shisha Pangma, Makalu, Gasherbrum II and Nanga Parbat. He also gets his kicks as a high altitude helicopter pilot and Wingsuit skydiver.
On his 16th winter expedition in 2019/20 he had a lucky escape when he fell into a half-metre wide bottomless crevasse while attempting a Gasherbrum traverse. Luckily, he was roped to partner Tamara Lunger and was rescued.
“Impossible doesn’t exist exactly as a limit. Something that was impossible some years ago represents the limits of that time. Now it is not impossible and the limit gets higher… dream high.”

Ed Viesturs

The master of high altitude, Viesturs is the only American to climb all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks. In fact, only four other climbers in the world (all Sherpas) have achieved more high-altitude ascents.
As well as his Himalayan climbs he has made three Denali ascents, seven Volcano climbs in Ecuador and Mexico, summited mountains in Antarctica and Russia and made more than 200 successful summits of Mount Rainier.
“Really ‘pushing it’ means relatively small teams and climbing without oxygen. Ultimately, though, most of us as mountaineers don’t really look to be placed on lists as ‘the greatest’ or ‘the best’...”
Get to know how a paralysed ex-rugby player climbed the equivalent height of Mount Everest:

Part of this story

Nicolas Hojac

Swiss mountaineer Nicolas Hojac is known for scaling peaks all over the world – including many speedy ascents of the Eiger north face in his home country.


Nirmal Purja

Nepalese mountaineer Nirmal Purja has climbed all 14 of the world's tallest mountains and made history by summiting K2 in winter.


Andrzej Bargiel

A Polish ski tourer, Andrzej Bargiel made headlines around the world when completing the first-ever descent of K2 on skis.


Will Gadd

Known as the captain of adventure, no challenge is too daunting for paraglider pilot and renowned Canadian climber Will Gadd.


Tribute to Failure

Four Swiss alpinists attempt the first ascent of a new route on the 6,543m Shivling in India.

1 h 6 min