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The Hard 100: The Hardest Boulders In the World (2023 Edition)

LAST UPDATED: 8th June 2023

Hold onto your chalk bags folks, we’re about to dive head-first into the wild world of bouldering – where the only thing standing between you and a sketchy fall are your freakishly-strong fingertips.

For those who have been around the bouldering bloc for a while will know that the progression over the last few decades has been nothing short of jaw-dropping. Thanks to climbers who refuse to let a little thing like gravity hold them back, we’ve gone from saying “No way, that’s impossible!” to “What’s next?” in a matter of years.

But how do we keep track of it all? Enter the V-scale and Fontainebleau grading systems, the barometers of bravado that climbers use to measure their mettle. With boulder grading systems like these, we’ve been able to track the evolution of bouldering and set a global standard that unites climbers and climbing difficulty from all corners of the globe.

Keeping tabs on thousands of ascents is no easy task, which is why we have created the Hard 100: Bouldering Edition, an archive where you can explore the toughest, meanest, most finger-twisting boulder ascents up until June 2023. 

Timeline of Bouldering Progression 

Fred Nicole Bouldering in the 80’s

Before we dive into the current hardest boulders in the world, I think it’s only right that we take a moment to appreciate some of the big milestones in Bouldering history. After all, without these crushers of yesteryear throwing down some gnarly beta, the modern standard of V16 or V17 bouldering wouldn’t have been possible. 

Grading is an immensely subjective affair, which is why problems are up and downgraded as more climbers make ascents of established boulders. This makes keeping track of “firsts” and key milestones a little tricky. Nevertheless, here are a few of the biggest moments every climber can appreciate:

  • 1977: An ascent of Le Carnage in Fontainebleau by Jérôme Jean-Charles is considered the first-ever ascent of a 7B+ (V8).
  • 1989: Catherine Miquel makes the first female V8 (7B+) ascent of Le Carnage. 
  • 1996: After three days of work, Fred Nicole makes an ascent of Radja, the first boulder to be awarded the grade of V14/8B+.
  • 2000: Dreamtime is suggested as V15 by Nicole, the first boulder at this grade. This was later downgraded to V14, but after a key hold breaking in 2009, Dreamtime is again considered V15.
  • 2002: Fred Nicole tops out Monkey Wedding in the Rocklands, which is the first consensus V15/8C in history. 
  • 2004: Mauro Calibani climbed Tonino ’78 (first proposed V16, downgraded to V15/V16).
  • 2008: Christian Core sends his long-term project Gioia, suggesting a grade of V15. After Ondra claimed the second ascent in 2010, he suggested an upgrade to V16, making it the first V16 ever.
  • 2016: Ashima Shiraishi claims the first female ascent of V15/8C after climbing an Ascent of Horizon in Japan.
  • 2016: Nalle Hukkataival claims the ascent of his long-term Lappnor project. The boulder, later named the Burden Of Dreams, is recognized as the first-ever V17 boulder, and the highest level of modern bouldering.
  • 2023: Katie Lamb becomes the first woman to climb a V16 with her ascent of Box Therapy.

These awesome achievements are just a drop in the ocean in the narrative of climbing.

Right, enough chit-chat! Let’s get started with the Hard 100 Boulders.

The 100 Hardest Boulders In The World

Will Bosi on what is considered the hardest boulder in the world – Burden of Dreams (V17) ©Diego Borello

Below you will find the complete list of the hardest boulder problems in 2023. For the sake of my sanity, as well as yours, this list only covers boulder problems graded V15/V16 (8C/8C+) and above. If we were to extend this list to V15, the Hard 100 list would be infinitely more difficult to manage.

Boulder ProblemGradeDate of FACountryClimbed By
Burden of DreamsV17 (9A)October 2016FinlandNalle Hukkataival
Will Bosi
Simon Lorenzi
Return of the SleepwalkerV17 (9A)March 2021USADaniel Woods
AlphaneV17 (9A)April 2022SwitzerlandShawn Raboutou
Aidan Roberts
Will Bosi
Simon Lorenzi
Jakob Schubert
MegatronV17 (9A)Spring 2022USAShawn Raboutou
L’Ombre du VoyageurV17 (9A)November 2023FranceCharles ‘Barefoot’ Albert
Backflip SDSV16/V17 (8C+/9A)May 2023RussiaVadim Timonov
Soudain SeulV16/V17 (8C+/9A)February 2021FranceSimon Lorenzi
Nico Pelorson
Camille Coudert
Big ConvictionV16 (8C+)January 2022FranceSimon Lorenzi
Big ZV16 (8C+)December 2020USAShawn Raboutou
BookkeepingV16 (8C+)December 2022USADrew Ruana
Colin Duffy
Brutal RiderV16 (8C+)May 2020Czech RepublicAdam Ondra
CelestiteV16 (8C+)March 2023SwitzerlandDave Graham
Creature from the Black LagoonV16 (8C+)September 2016USADaniel Woods
Dave Graham
Jimmy Webb
Daisuke Ichimiya
Griffin Whiteside
Shawn Raboutou
Carlo Traversi
Drew Ruana
Matt Fultz
Dylan Barks
Andy Lamb
Dylan Barks
Daños Con-LateralesV16 (8C+)June 2022SpainIgnacio Sánchez González
DistortionV16 (8C+)August 2022USADrew Ruana
Drop a LineV16 (8C+)November 2016SwitzerlandPirmin Bertle
EphyraV16 (8C+)March 2019SwitzerlandJimmy Webb
Niccolò Ceria
Giuliano Cameroni
Will Bosi
Yannick Flohé
EpitaphV16 (8C+)April 2022JapanToru Nakajima
EuclaseV16 (8C+)April 2022SwitzerlandDave Graham
Floatin’V16 (8C+)December 2021JapanRyuichi Murai
Fuck the SystemV16 (8C+)July 2021SwitzerlandShawn Raboutou
Dave Graham
Clément Lechaptois
GaneshV16 (8C+)February 2022ItalyElias Iagnemma
GakidōV16 (8C+)March 2022JapanShinichiro Nomura
Ryuichi Murai
Grand IllusionV16 (8C+)August 2020USANathaniel Coleman
Sean Bailey
Daniel Woods
Matt Fultz
Zach Galla
Hallucination (Post-Break)V16 (8C+)December 2021JapanKazuma Ise
Honey BadgerV16 (8C+)August 2022EnglandWill Bosi
Howl at the Moon SDSV16 (8C+)May 2023USADrew Ruana
HydrangeaV16 (8C+)November 2019JapanAkira Waku
Hypnotized MindsV16 (8C+)October 2010USADaniel Woods
Rustam Gelmanov
Dave Graham
Matt Fultz
Hypothèse assisV16 (8C+)December 2018FranceCharles Albert
Into the SunV16 (8C+)Bernd Zangerl
InsomniacV16 (8C+)July 2021USADrew Ruana
Daniel Woods
Shawn Raboutou
Jimmy Webb
Isles of Wonder SitV16 (8C+)July 2022WalesAidan Roberts
Will Bosi
La Révolutionnaire ExtensionV16 (8C+)November 2017FranceCharles Albert
Ryohei Kameyama
Niccolò Ceria
Tim Reuser
Michiel Nieuwenhuijsen
LedoborecV16 (8C+)May 2020Czech RepublicAdam Ondra
Maxwell’s Demon LowV16 (8C+)Februray 2023USADrew Ruana
Moonlight SonataV16 (8C+)October 2021USATaylor McNeill
Matt Fultz
NayutaV16 (8C+)April 2017JapanDai Koyamada
Yuta Imaizumi
NexusV16 (8C+)October 2021JapanRyuichi Murai
No Kpote OnlyV16 (8C+)December 2018FranceCharles Albert
Ryohei Kameyama
Nico Pelorson
Off the Wagon SitV16 (8C+)October 2018SwitzerlandShawn Raboutou
Daniel Woods
Jimmy Webb
Giuliano Cameroni
Sergei Topishko
Yannick Flohé
Niccolò Ceria
Florian Wientjes
Francesco Berardino
Poison the WellV16 (8C+)February 2019SwitzerlandGiuliano Cameroni
Jimmy Webb
REMV16 (8C+)February 2019SwitzerlandGiuliano Cameroni
Paul Robinson
Return of the DreamtimeV16 (8C+)January 2023SwitzerlandYannick Flohé
SleepwalkerV16 (8C+)December 2018USAJimmy Webb
Daniel Woods
Nalle Hukkataival
Drew Ruana
Nathan Williams
Matt Fultz
Pablo Hammack
Ryuichi Murai
TerranovaV16 (8C+)November 2011Czech RepublicAdam Ondra
The Ice Knife SitV16 (8C+)November 2013USADaniel Woods
Drew Ruana
The Lion’s ShareV16 (8C+)Februray 2023SwitzerlandAdrian Robert

Hard 100 Footnotes

  • All boulders are shown as their “suggested grade” factoring in the initial proposed grade and the consensus of repeats from other climbers. If two different degree of difficulty is still debated, then the boulder is shown as a split grade (V15/V16). If the general consensus has settled on a grade after multiple repeats, then that grade will be shown (Gioia at V16, for example).
  • No problem, below V15/V16 will make it onto the Hard 100 list. Based on the initial FA grade, there are boulders that would have a spot on the Hard 100, but after subsequent downgrading, they no longer meet the minimum V15/16 threshold. 
  • This list is based on ascents up until 10th October 2023.

How many people have climbed V16?

Since Christian Core made the first V16 ascent of Gioia in 2008, the number of people who have climbed V16 has increased drastically. Even in the last year alone, the standard of hard bouldering has grown exponentially, with 15 new crushers claiming an ascent of V16 or harder in the last 12 months. As of October 2023, there are 48 people who have bagged a V16 boulder problem. 

Daniel Woods on Off the Wagon (V16)

Perhaps you’re curious as to why we’ve held our tongues on the tantalizing topic of V17 boulders. This captivating subject has been merited with its own dedicated spotlight. If you’re eager to delve into the awe-inspiring world of V17 bouldering, then make sure to check out our guide dedicated to the hardest bouldering grade in the world.

GradeNumber Of Climbers
V175
V17/16 4
V1648

Who has climbed the hardest Boulders?

Drew has been one of the biggest crushers in 2022-2023, having amassed 10 V16 boulders in his career. ©IG/DrewRuana

It’s safe to say that there is no shortage of crushers out there. Some, like Dave Graham, Daniel Woods, Or Nalle Hukkataival have been the faces of gnarly bouldering for most of the 21st century. While these household names are undoubtedly some of the best boulderers out there, there are plenty of up-and-coming young guns that are carving out a legacy for themselves too. 

Shawn Raboutou has blown the collective mind of the climbing community by putting down first ascents for two V17s. On the other side of the pond, Will Bosi and Aidan Roberts are arguably some of the strongest boulders in the world right now, both with a handful of V17 ascents to their name respectively. 

Take a look at the table below for the leaderboard on who has climbed the most boulders graded V15/V16 and above.

ClimbersNumber of Hard Boulders Topped
Daniel Woods11
Shawn Raboutou10
Drew Ruana10
Jimmy Webb8
Will Bosi6
Matt Fultz6
Giuliano Cameroni6
Nalle Hukkataival5
Adam Ondra5
Dave Graham5
Ryuichi Murai5
Aidan Roberts4
Niccolò Ceria4
Simon Lorenzi4
Charles Albert4
Vadim Timonov3
Yannick Flohé3
Florian Wientjes3
Nico Pelorson2
Sean Bailey2
Daisuke Ichimiya2
Pirmin Bertle2
Elias Iagnemma2
Ryohei Kameyama2
Nacho Sánchez2
Alberto Rocasolano2
Camille Coudert1
Colin Duffy1
Griffin Whiteside1
Carlo Traversi1
Dylan Barks1
Andy Lamb1
Ignacio Sánchez González1
Toru Nakajima1
Clément Lechaptois1
Shinichiro Nomura1
Nathaniel Coleman1
Zach Galla1
Kazuma Ise1
Akira Waku1
Rustam Gelmanov1
Tim Reuser1
Michiel Nieuwenhuijsen1
Taylor McNeill1
Dai Koyamada1
Yuta Imaizumi1
Sergei Topishko1
Francesco Berardino1
Nathan Williams1
Pablo Hammack1
Nils Favre1
Jonatan Flor1
Christian Core1
Alexey Rubtsov1
Alex Megos1
Toby Saxton1
Antoine Girard1
James Kassay1
Jorg Verhoeven1
Mauro Calibani1
Julien Nadiras1
Antione Vandeputte1
Jakob Schubert1
Katie Lamb1

Which Country Has the Hardest Boulders?

With climbing becoming an international phenomenon, it’s hardly surprising how diverse the range of hard boulder problems there are across the globe. 

That said, if we dig a little deeper into the data, there are some interesting points here. Of the 64 boulders graded V15/V16 and over, all but three are in the Southern Hemisphere (One in Australia and two in South Africa respectively). Currently, there are no boulders in Central or South America. Considering there are over 9 million climbers in the United States It’s hardly surprising that 26% of the hard boulders are found in the USA. 

What is more surprising, however, is how many hard problems can be found in Switzerland. With 23% of the boulders on our list being found in Switzerland, this small European country undoubtedly has the highest concentration of hard bouldering over any other country.

Follow the Mellow crew on an epic adventure climbing some of the best boulders in Switzerland
CountryNumber Of Hard Boulders
Australia1
Czech Republic4
England1
Finland1
France7
Germany1
Italy3
Japan8
Russia1
South Africa2
Spain3
Switzerland15
USA16
Wales1

Bouldering Grade Deflation

Alex Megos on the iconic yet controversial Dreamtime – ©IG/AlexanderMegos

Legendary climber Nalle Hukkataival delves into the complex world of bouldering grades, putting a fresh spin on the understanding of progression in his blog post. He challenges the perception that the sport has stagnated over the last decade, suggesting it’s not a lack of progression, but a deflation in grading that’s at play.

Hukkataival believes the issue started with the first ascent of Dreamtime by Fred Nicole in 2000, which set a new high-water mark for difficulty, the 8C (V15) grade. But as the decade rolled on, it seemed like every new hard problem was also 8C, leading to a seemingly static state of progress. The twist? These new 8C problems were actually harder but were still graded relative to Dreamtime, which was later found to be easier than initially thought, leading to a wave of downgrades​.

Hukkataival laments the media pressure on climbers to strive for new grades, leading to overgraded problems, and the resulting confusion as many high-grade problems ended up being downgraded. He also underlines the need for a solid foundation for grading, despite the risk of being left behind in the professional climbing world​.

In his riveting conclusion, Hukkataival urges us to see grades as estimates or personal opinions of a climb’s difficulty, rather than absolute truth. He underscores the responsibility that comes with grading, especially for upper-scale problems, as it has a ripple effect on the grading of many other climbs. A poignant reminder that while grades are a small part of climbing, they still hold significant value in helping climbers understand and compare difficulties​.

Some interesting thoughts by Nalle, and a topic that certainly deserves more attention and open discussion within the climbing community, particularly as the sport continues to evolve and more climbers push the boundaries of what’s deemed possible.

Hardest Boulders FAQs

Angel

Meet Angel, a former desk-jockey turned global wanderer. After catching a severe case of the climbing (and travel) bug, she's now a world traveller, living the dirtbag dream. Highballs? Too mainstream for her taste. She's all about the thrills of lowballs, where the real action happens. Nowadays, you'll find her in Thailand, either precariously balanced on a granite slab or trading stories with Nemo and his buddies underwater!

4 thoughts on “The Hard 100: The Hardest Boulders In the World (2023 Edition)”

      1. Indeed it’s v14! It’s also located in Canada, not the USA.
        If anything, The Singularity should be on this list given the fact it’s only been climbed by Nalle, and more recently Lucas Uchida.

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