Help grow the archive! drop a knowledge bomb here.

Barefoot Charles Albert

Charles Albert, often known as “Barefoot Charles,” is a pioneering French rock climber renowned for his remarkable achievements in bouldering, particularly for tackling some of the world’s most challenging problems without the use of climbing shoes. His unique approach and exceptional skill have not only pushed the boundaries of the sport but also inspired a conversation about the essence of climbing and human potential.



Date Of Birth




Hardest Sport


Hardest Boulder


Hardest Trad


Barefoot Charles Albert

Ascent Log

ClimbTypeSuggested GradeDate of AscentNotes
L’Ombre du VoyageurBoulderV17/9A18th Oct 2023FA. Charles gave it the elusive grade of V17 even though he risks having future ascentionists downgrade it. Instagram Post
La Révolutionnaire AssisBoulderV16/8C+Nov 2017FA. Fanatic Climbing Post
Hypothèse AssisBoulderV16/8C+Dec 2018FA Fanatic Climbing Post
No Kpote OnlyBoulderV15/V16 – 8C/8C+Dec 2018He gave it a V17 but was later downgraded to a V15 by Nico Pelorson. Video
La RévolutionnaireBoulderV15/8CDec 2016UKC Article
Monkey WeddingBoulderV15/8CJun 2017Video

Climbing Career

Early Life

Nestled in a quaint village shadowed by the legendary bouldering haven of Fontainebleau, Charles Albert’s journey into the climbing world began. Influenced by his father, a climber with a passion for the rugged outdoors, Charles’s childhood was steeped in the lore and allure of Font’s majestic boulders. It was here, among these geological titans, that he first felt the irresistible pull of climbing.

Charles Albert Monkey Wedding V15

As Charles matured, so did his feet, outgrowing his climbing shoes faster than he could replace them. But where others saw a problem, Charles saw an opportunity. Eschewing the conventional path, he embraced the challenge of climbing barefoot. 

This decision wasn’t just about avoiding the expense of new shoes; it was a testament to his innovative spirit and a step towards defining his unique identity in the climbing world.

Embracing the Barefoot Path

Charles’s approach to life and climbing could easily be likened to a modern-day Mowgli: a slender figure with flowing locks and an air of nonchalance, seemingly indifferent to the fame and fanfare that captivates so many.

Despite his elusive nature, whispers of a young boy conquering Font’s formidable boulders barefoot—and occasionally blindfolded—began to permeate the climbing community. It wasn’t just his audacity to climb without shoes that captured the imagination of many but the elegance and effectiveness of his technique. 

Charles Albert, now affectionately known as “Barefoot Charles,” redefined what was possible in climbing, achieving feats that left onlookers in awe, questioning the very necessity of climbing shoes.

Charles Albert (barefoot Charles) climbing

But why choose the path less trodden, the barefoot route? For Charles, the answer lies in the connection to the rock; a tactile feedback loop that shoes could never replicate. This intimate bond with nature allows for precision and harmony that transcends traditional climbing methods.

In a move that further solidified his bond with the bouldering landscapes of Fontainebleau, Charles adopted the forest as his home. Finding solace in a cave beneath a boulder, equipped with nothing but a sleeping bag, jars of food, and a makeshift oven, he lived a life many climbers might dream of but few would dare to embrace. This proximity to his beloved boulders wasn’t just a matter of convenience; it was a declaration of his commitment to a sport that had given him so much.

Open Projects

In the verdant expanse of Fontainebleau, amidst its legendary boulders, Charles Albert is on a relentless pursuit of climbing’s holy grails. Among these, a project stands out, not just for its difficulty but for the sheer will it demands—Charlatan. This elusive boulder problem has captivated Charles for half a decade. For five years, he has been locked in a dance with the same two moves, a ballet of grit and determination, despite voices like Guiliano Cameroni hinting at its impossibility.

Barefoot Charles Albert on his project
Barefoot Charles Albert on his project

Yet, the spirit of Barefoot Charles is not one to be quelled by the specter of failure. His recent revelation through a video, where he hints at being on the cusp of conquering Charlatan, speaks volumes of his perseverance. Only time will tell if Albert can send Charlatan, and what grade he will give it (could this be the first V18?).

Notable Ascents

No Kapote Only

In January 2019, Barfoot Charles, achieved the first ascent of a boulder in Font which he named “No Kpote Only,” meaning ‘no shoes only’. What makes this ascent remarkable is not just the physical feat but the grading controversy it sparked. Albert proposed a grade of 9a (V17), positioning it among the hardest boulders in the world. This grade was significant, suggesting “No Kpote Only” was pushing the upper limits of bouldering difficulty at the time.

Barefoot Charles on No Kpote Only boulder V17
Barefoot Charles on No Kpote Only

The grading of “No Kpote Only” quickly became a focal point of discussion within the climbing community. Following Albert’s ascent, Ryohei Kameyama, in March 2019, was the next to conquer the boulder. He suggested a slight downgrade to V16/V17, noting the climb felt easier compared to other climbs of similar grades he had attempted. This perspective introduced the first wave of debate over the problem’s difficulty.

The controversy didn’t end there. In October 2020, Nico Pelorson added another layer to the discussion by completing the third ascent and proposing a further downgrade to V15 (8C). Pelorson’s assessment was based on his experience with the climb, utilizing different beta that included a heel hook instead of a toe hook, which significantly altered the climb’s difficulty for him.

No Kpote Only Ascents

Despite the debates over its grade, “No Kpote Only” remains a legendary climb within the Fontainebleau forest and the broader climbing world. Its story is a fascinating chapter in the ongoing development of the sport, highlighting the subjective nature of grading, the impact of individual climbing styles, and the evolution of bouldering techniques.

Charles Albert’s ascent of “No Kpote Only” and the subsequent discussions it ignited underscore the dynamic and evolving nature of climbing. It challenges climbers to reconsider the relationship between difficulty, technique, and the grading system itself. As with many climbs in Fontainebleau and beyond, “No Kpote Only” is more than just a physical challenge; it’s a conversation starter, a puzzle that continues to intrigue and inspire climbers around the globe.

L’Ombre du Voyageur

Barefoot Charles has once again pushed the boundaries of what’s possible in bouldering with his latest ascent, L’Ombre du Voyageur (The Traveler’s Shadow). This climb, set in the limestone caves of Salève, France, represents a pinnacle of difficulty and commitment, with Albert suggesting a grade of V17 (9A).

Barefoot Charles Albert Climbing L'Ombre du Voyageur V17
Albert Climbing L’Ombre du Voyageur, a proposed V17

True to his pioneering spirit, Albert tackled this beast without the aid of shoes or knee pads, a choice that significantly amplifies the difficulty of any climb.

Albert’s journey with this project has been long-term, culminating in a successful ascent after years of dedication. The climb itself is nearly 50 feet long, a marathon by bouldering standards, featuring a mix of monos, bad finger locks, and a crucial section where the crack becomes too thin for use, forcing Albert to rely on tiny holds in the roof.

The grading of L’Ombre du Voyageur is bound to stir discussion within the climbing community, much like Albert’s previous V17 proposal, No Kpote Only. Albert believes that when climbed barefoot and without kneepads, this problem could edge closer to V18 (9A+), a grade not yet established in the climbing world. However, recognizing the potential for climbing shoes and kneepads to mitigate the challenge, he has settled on V17.

Barefoot Charles on L'ombre de Voyager

This ascent adds to a growing list of V17 boulders worldwide, a grade that represents the zenith of climbing difficulty. Albert’s suggestion of V17 for L’Ombre du Voyageur is not just about the physical challenge but also about inviting others to experience and reinterpret the climb, potentially with different techniques and aids.


Charles’s appetite for challenge is insatiable. He sets his sights only on those boulders that whisper the promise of being V17/9A or beyond. It’s not the certainty of success that drives him but the allure of the impossible. To him, the value lies not in the conquest of peaks already scaled but in the relentless pursuit of those that stand defiantly at the edge of human capability.

Barefoot Charles might not be taken seriously in the climbing world with his outrageous ascents and grading. But, Charles has pushed the boundaries of what is possible in climbing, all barefoot and puts even the most professional athletes to shame.

I think there is a thing or two we can learn from Charles Albert and on how he views life.

Video Library


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!

John Gill

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top