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Alpinists, Boulderers, Sports Climbers: The Ten Most Famous Rock Climbersa

Alex Honnold, Ashima Shiraishi, Adam Ondra: The Ten Strongest Climbers in the World

Adam Ondra and Chris Sharma are, without a doubt, at the top of the world in the climbing scene.  We present the ten strongest climbers in the world and remember David Lama and Hansjörg Auer who we lost much too soon.

A new generation continues to give new impulses to sports climbing. We will be presenting the most important ones.
A new generation continues to give new impulses to sports climbing. We will be presenting the most important ones.

Adam Ondra and Chris Sharma are, without a doubt, at the top of the world in the climbing scene. But there’s already a new generating of young savages at the ready cracking the most difficult routes in the world – with Alexander Megos and Ashima Shiraishi leading the way. But who will confirm Ondra’s “Silence” route in the Hanshelleren Cave in Norway – possibly the first route at the difficulty level of 9c?

Passion, diligence, and absolute strength of will: Pro climbers live for their sport. But a professional career also demands sacrifice. Training and studies come second. Only two of the strongest climbers in the world have thus far managed to climb through routes at the 9b+ difficulty (French scale): Adam Ondra and Chris Sharma.

Adam Ondra is considered the strongest – he’s always setting new standards. His skills are all self-taught. Only since 2014 has he received professional coaching. What we do know is: He’s constantly pushing the difficulty scale for climbing higher and higher. His latest success could once again revolutionize climbing sports. In September 2017, the Czech athlete celebrated the first ascent of the “Silence” route in Flatanger, Norway. Who else will measure up to the route? We present the ten strongest climbers in the world.

Lena Herrmann’s favorite climbing region is the Frankenjura.
Lena Herrmann’s favorite climbing region is the Frankenjura.

Lena Herrmann is Northern Germany’s climbing star

Hildesheim resident Lena Herrmann (*January 28, 1994) is Germany’s strongest female rock climber. Inspired by her father and Northern German climbing personalities, she developed her passion for the competitive sport early on. In 2015 she won the title of German Champion in lead climbing in Frankenthal.

She’s also won multiple competitions in bouldering. She won the German Youth Championship in 2012 and the Junior European Cup in 2013. However, the focus of her career has been sport climbing on the rock face. She’s an especially frequent visitor to her favorite climbing region, Frankenjura: there, in June 2016, she was the first woman to climb the 8c+ difficulty “Battle Cat” route. Lena Herrmann currently lives and studies in Bayreuth, Germany. She’s a member of the Petzl team, and also sponsored by Marmot and Scarpa.

Chris Sharma took yoga class in the forest

American Chris Sharma (*April 23, 1981) is, next to Adam Ondra, the strongest climber in the world. He grew up in the mountains of Santa Cruz, California. He spent his school years at the Mount Madonna Center, a holistic yoga center where he took yoga class in the forest.

Chris Sharma in an interview: Why the indoor trend is good for climbing

He began climbing as early as 12 years old. Two years later, he won his first competitions. He’s considered the first child phenomenon in climbing sports. Since then he’s established some of the hardest routes in the world, been a pioneer in “deep water soloing” – climbing on the rock face without rope protection deep under water – and a protagonist in numerous climbing films (including ‘King Lines,’ 2007).

His achievements: In 2009 he established what is currently the most difficult climbing route, “La Dura Dura” (9b+), in the climbing region of Oliana in Catalonia. In 2015, he was the first to master the “El Bon Combat” (9b/9b+) in the Cova de L’ocell region near Barcelona, Catalonia – one of the most technically demanding routes in the world. In 2013 he repeated “La Dura Dura” (9b+) after Adam Ondra’s first ascent. Current project: “Le Blond” (9c?) route in Oliana, Catalonia. Chris Sharma’s sponsors include Red Bull and Petzl.

Alex “No Big Deal” Honnold is still touring the USA in his van

American Alex Honnold (*August 17, 1985) is a free solo climber and extreme mountain climber. His biggest achievement to date: On June 3, 2017, he crested the El Capitan in Yosemite Valley on the “Freerider” route, free solo, in 3:56 hours. Free solo means that he climbed the route alone with no rope protection.

In 2014, Alex Honnold climbed the route “El Sendero Luminoso” (7c+) near Monterrey, Mexico, free solo – a 15-pitch tour. He received the Piolet d’Or in 2014 for “The Fitz Traverse” (4,000 vertical Hm, 7a, C1, 65°), Patagonia, which he championed in five days together with Tommy Caldwell. He broke off his studies at the University of Berkeley to climb. He lives in his van to this day. His sponsors include: La Sportiva, The North Face, Black Diamond, Goal Zero.

In 2018, the second edition of his book “Alone on the Wall” was published, focusing on his extraordinary life, taking risks and maintaining focus even in the face of extreme danger.

Alex Megos reached the first on-sight ascent of a 9a route

Franconian Alexander Megos (*August 12, 1993) is one of the strongest rock climbers in Germany and acting European runner-up in bouldering. In Spain’s Siurana in 2013, he achieved the world’s first on-sight ascent (that is, a first ascent without having seen the route beforehand) of a 9a route: “Estado critico.”

Alex Megos in an interview on overnight fame and the disputed issue of the Olympics

In 2015, he climbed the “Supernova” route in Franconian Switzerland, thus presumably establishing the first 9a+/9b-difficulty route in the German-speaking world. He’s also known for extremely fast repetitions of difficult routes: For example, “La Rambla” (9a+) on the second try in 2013.

Sasha DiGiulian scores points in Madagascar

American Sasha DiGiulian (*October 23, 1992) has won various bouldering and climbing competitions in her career. But she can also produce achievements in rock climbing: In 2011 she was the first woman to ascend the “Pure Imagination” route (9a, later devalued by Adam Ondra to 8c+). In 2012, she climbed the “Era Vella” route (9a; downgrade to 8c+ being discussed) in the Spanish Margalef. In 2017, she will be the first woman to overcome the 700-meter wall “Mora Mora” (8c) in Madagascar. Sponsors include Adidas, Red Bull, GoPro, La Sportiva, Petzl.

Adam Ondra is the man for the records

Czech citizen Adam Ondra (*February 5, 1993) is considered the strongest climber in the world. As early as 13 years of age, he was already among the world’s elite in the climbing scene and won numerous competitions, including the Lead World Cup at age 16. In 2016, he succeeded in the first repetition of the “Dawn Wall” (9a) on the El Capitan in Yosemite Valley, California – the hardest multi-pitch route in the world.

In 2012 he climbed the “Change,” the first route rated at 9b+. Thus far, only he and Chris Sharma have scaled a route of this difficulty rating. Most recent success in sport climbing: First ascent of the “Silence” route (9c according to his assessment) in the Hanshelleren Cave, Norway in September 2017. According to his assessment, it’s the hardest route ever climbed. Sponsors include Black Diamond.

Tommy Caldwell experienced a kidnapping on expedition

American Tommy Caldwell (*August 11, 1978) is a successful big wall climber – his roster includes eleven routes on the El Capitan in Yosemite Valley, California (including “The Nose,” which he climbed in less than twelve hours). He also established some of the hardest sport routes in the US. Together with Alex Honnold, he succeeded on “The Fitz Traverse” in 2014 (4,000 Hm, 7a) – the crossing of Mount Fitz Roy from north to south, for which they received the Pilot d’Or.

In 2017, he published his autobiography: ‘The Push: A Climber’s Journey of Endurance, Risk, and Going Beyond Limits,’ in which he processes his kidnapping by the Turkistan Islamic Party during a stay in Kyrgyzstan in August 2000. Sponsors include Patagonia and Edelrid.

Ashima Shiraishi is the strongest young star

American Ashima Shiraishi (*April 3, 2001) began climbing back when she was seven years old in Central Park, NYC. She’s among some of the most extraordinary personalities in bouldering and rock climbing. She’s currently considered one of the strongest junior climbers, of any gender, in the world. At the age of 13, she was the first woman to succeed in two 9a+ climbing routes: “Open Your Mind Direct” and “Ciudad de Dios,” Santa Linya, Spain. Sponsors: The North Face, Coca Cola, Petzl.

David Lama succeeded in the first free ascent of the Cerro Torre

Innsbruck, Austria native David Lama (*August 4, 1990 - †April 16, 2019) was a sports climber, alpinist – and son of a Nepalese mountain guide. The world’s exceptional talent was discovered at the age of five by Peter Habeler during a climbing course.

David Lama in an interview on his twice-failed first ascent in the Himalayas and the eternal goal of Lunag Ri

In 2006, he was the first athlete ever to win both the bouldering and lead world cup, and was also the youngest World Cup winner in history. He’s dedicated his career to mountaineering. In 2012, he succeeded in the first free ascent of the Cerro Torre (Patagonia) via the “Compressor” route (8a).

The film on the ascent (‘Cerro Torre – Not the Ghost of a Chance’) caused a stir because new supports needed to be installed for the filming. Other first ascent: Moose’s Tooth in Alaska via the “Bird of Prey” route (6a, M7+, 90°, A2), Lunag Ri in Nepal. His sponsors were: The North Face, Glorify, Kästle and Leki.

David Lama died in April 2019 in an avalanche accident in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Together with Hansjörg Auer and Jess Roskelley, who also died, he took a difficult route at Howse Peak.

Hansjörg Auer mastered “Path Through the Fish” free solo in record time

Hansjörg Auer (*February 18, 1984 - †April 16, 2019) was known above all for his free solo ascent of the “Path Through the Fish” route (7b+, 850 m, 37 SL) on the south face of the Marmolada in the Dolomites. The typically two-day tour only took him two hours and 55 minutes – with a preparation period of just five hours the day before.

Hansjörg Auer in an interview on motivation and risks when climbing

Starting in 2004, he pulled off first ascents and repetitions on various expeditions, including in Patagonia, Pakistan, and the Yosemite Valley. Achievements include “Eternal Flame” on the Trango Towers in Karakoram, Pakistan. He ended his professional career as a sports and math teacher to begin his climbing career in 2009. Partners and sponsors included The North Face, Smith Optics, Garmin und Komperdell Bergstöcke.

Hansjörg Auer was also killed in an accident on a joint tour with David Lama and Jess Roskelley in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The three top athletes were hit by an avalanche during their descent. 

Barbara Zangerl is convincing in alpine routes

Tyrolean Barbara Zangerl (*May 24, 1988) loves climbing and bouldering in equal measure. In first six years of her climbing career, she traveled around the world and tested all kinds of bouldering regions. Her greatest achievement: She was the first woman to boulder an 8b (“Pura Vida” in the “Magic Wood,” 2008, Switzerland).

Due to an injury in 2009, she had to go on a long break from bouldering – and discovered sport climbing. Here, she’s moving at the 8c/+ difficulty. Achievements: First female ascent of the “Alp Trilogy” – “Emperor’s New Clothes,” “Silver Vultures,” “End of Silence” – and the first ascent of the trade route “Hope Principle” (E9/10, 8b) in Voralberg, Austria. In addition to training, she works part-time in a hospital as a radiology assistant. Sponsors: Adidas, Five Ten, Black Diamond.


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