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Lynn Hill

From breaking gender barriers to setting new records for climbing, Lynn Hill has left an indelible mark on the sport. She has done everything from trad, big wall, sport climbing and bouldering, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest climbers of all time. Her incredible skill and unwavering dedication have inspired generations of climbers and helped to transform the landscape of climbing.


United States

Date Of Birth



Sport Climbing

Hardest Sport

8b+/c (5.14a/b)

Hardest Boulder


Hardest Trad


Lynn Hill

Ascent Log

Check out Lynn Hill’s hardest ascents below, from trad, sport to bouldering.

ClimbTypeSuggested GradeDate of AscentNotes
Ophir Broke IIFree Ascent7c/5.12d1979First free ascent and first-ever female ascent in history of a 7c. Lynn Hill Blog
Pea BrainFree Ascent7c/5.12d1979First free ascent
Stairway to Heaven IIIFree Ascent7a+5.12a1979First free ascent, with John Long and Tim Powell
Coatamundi Whiteout IIFree Ascent7a+5.12a1980First free ascent, with John Long and Keith Cunning
Hidden ArchFree Ascent7a+5.12a1981First free ascent
Levitation 29 IVFree Ascent6b+/5.11a1981First free ascent, with John Long and Jorge and Joanne Urioste
Blue NubianFree Ascent6b+/5.11a1982First free ascent
Yellow CrackFree Ascent5.12R/X1984First free ascent
VandalsFree Ascent7c+/5.13a1984First ascent, and first-ever female ascent in history of an 8a
Organic IronFree Ascent7b+5.12c1984First ascent
Organic IronFree Ascent7b+5.12c1985First free ascent with Russ Raffa
Girls Just Want to Have FunFree Ascent5.12 X1987First free ascent
The Greatest Show on EarthFree Ascent7c/5.12d1988First free ascent
Running ManFree Ascent8b/5.13d1989First free ascent
Masse CritiqueFree Ascent8b+/5.14a1990First-ever female redpoint in history of an 8b+
SimonFree Ascent8a/5.13b1992First-ever female onsight in history of an 8a
The NoseFree Ascent8b+/c – 5.14a/b1993First to free climb with partner Brooke Sandahl. It took them 4 days to complete the climb.
Mingus VFree Ascent7c+/5.13a1994First free ascent, onsight
The NoseFree Ascent8b+/c – 5.14a/b1994Lynn came back a year later and free climbed The Nose in 24 hours! Video
Clodhopper Direct IVFree Ascent5.10+1995First free ascent with Greg Child
Perestroika Crack VFree Ascent7b/5.12b1995First free ascent with Alex Lowe
West Face VFree Ascent7b/5.12b1995First ascent
Tete de ChouFree Ascent7c+/5.13a1997First female ascent
To Bolt or Not to BeFree Ascent8b+/5.14a1998First female ascent
ScarfaceFree Ascent8b+/5.14a1999First ascent, with Nancy Feagin, Kath Pyke, and Beth Rodden
Bravo les Filles VIFree Ascent5.13d A01999First ascent
Viva la LiberdadFree Ascent7b/5.12b2004First female ascent
SprayathonFree Ascent8a+/5.13c2004First female free ascent, with Katie Brown
West Face, Leaning TowerFree AscentV 5.13b/c2005First female free ascent with Katie Brow. Video
Midnight LightningBoulderV8/7B1998First female ascent. Video
King CobraBoulderV8/7B1998First female ascent

Kit Bag

Climbing Career

Learning the Ropes

Lynn Hill was born on January 3, 1961, in Detroit, Michigan, and spent most of her childhood in Fullerton, California. Growing up, Hill was an active child who climbed everything from trees to street lights. At the age of eight, she began taking gymnastics lessons but became dissatisfied with the rigid, gendered expectations of the sport.

Despite quitting gymnastics at age 12, Hill’s interest in athletic pursuits continued to develop. During her teenage years, she picked up gymnastics again and became one of the top gymnasts in her state. Her gymnastics training would later prove useful in her climbing career, as it taught her the ability to break down complex movements into smaller parts and to perform well under pressure.


In 1975, Hill’s sister took her out on her first climbing trip and the rest is history. She did a lead route on her very first day and was instantly hooked. At the age of 16, she went to Yosemite, the Mecca of climbing, where she met all the Yosemite climbing bums in Camp 4. Charlie Row became her first boyfriend and together she climbed her very first big wall (5.11).

During her teenage years, her main focus was to earn enough money for food and gas so she can drive to climbing spots. She primarily climbed at Joshua Tree National Park and during the late 70s and early 80s she spent her summers at Camp 4 in Yosemite Valley.  

Camp 4 was a wild place, and as Lynn describes it, “a ragged occupying army, annoying park rangers by eluding camp fees, overstaying their welcome, and comporting themselves like gypsies.” But she fit right in, as climbing in the late 70s and early 80s was “something that people who were outcasts in society did, people who were not conformists.”

Despite being broke and living off condiments and leftover food from tourists, Lynn had the time of her life. And she wasn’t alone – though the climbing scene was male-dominated, Lynn and her friend Mari Gingery teamed up to complete some epic climbs. Together, they tackled The Nose and even became the first women to climb The Shield on El Capitan, taking six whole days to do so!

Lynn Hill in Yosemite ©John McDonald

Through it all, Lynn learned the essence of her climbing technique from the Stonemasters group. She embraced the traditional climbing style, which involves using removable protection rather than bolts and rewards climbers who can climb a new route from bottom to top without stopping or starting over. 

She became a dedicated free climber, which meant climbing an entire route without relying on equipment to skip difficult sections. That didn’t come without its costs though. After a few death-defying experiences, Lynn started to take safety seriously.

Lynn started out by making history in 1979, becoming the first person ever to free climb the insanely difficult Ophir Broke in Colorado. Ophir was a 5.12d and was one of the hardest routes to be climbed by a woman at the time. But she didn’t stop there. In college, she moved to the Shawangunks and took the climbing world by storm, pioneering new free climbing routes and climbing the most difficult routes on the East Coast.

Lynn on Chouca. Buoux. 80s

Her climb of Yellow Crack was so daring that her partner at the time called it “one of the boldest leads I’ve ever seen.” But it was her climb of Vandals that really changed the game. Instead of restarting the climb every time she fell, she hung on the rope in her harness to learn more about the climb. This gave her the edge she needed to succeed.

Lynn Hill proved that climbing isn’t just about size and strength. It’s about creativity and finding your own unique style. She was one of the most impressive climbers of her time, and no man could out-climb her!

Competition Climbing

In 1986, Hill was invited to climb in Europe with a group of elite American climbers. She quickly fell in love with French culture and the limestone cliffs that make for wildly acrobatic climbs with low risk. This was a game-changer for Hill, who discovered that her small stature was ideal for the technical climbs.

Lynn Hill and Catherine Destivelle at Bardonecchia, Italy in 1986, ©Dario Rodriguez

But that wasn’t enough for Hill. She wanted to push herself even further, so she tried her hand at sport climbing in Arco e Bardonecchia Sportroccia ’86, the second edition of the first international sport climbing competition. She went up against other fierce women, gaining points for style and speed. She lost to Catherine Destivelle in a “disputed ruling,” but Hill didn’t let that stop her. She continued with competition climbing because she loved climbing with other strong women.

Hill became a professional climber in 1988, and her incredible talent led to her becoming a spokesperson for climbing. She was aware that the sport was evolving and growing, but she remained true to her traditionalist roots. In fact, she had even participated in the “Great Debate” in 1986 at the American Alpine Club, where a panel of all-star participants discussed the merits of traditional climbing versus new sport climbing that required the insertion of fixed bolts into the rock.

Lynn Hill on the comp walls

Hill went on to win over thirty international titles, including five victories at the Arco Rock Master, between 1986 and 1992. But her most satisfying win came in 1990, at the final stage of the World Cup Final, where she was the only woman to reach the top of the wall and the only climber to complete the hardest move. She had defeated Isabelle Patissier, who received information on how to do the climb from Hill’s own friend and coach. Talk about a victory!

First Free Ascent of The Nose – It Goes Boys!

Lynn didn’t really fit in with the indoor climbing scene. She found it too focused on training and felt like it didn’t represent the true essence of climbing. In 1992, she left indoor climbing behind her and went back to traditional rock climbing, where she truly belonged. She was looking for different challenges and set herself the task of free climbing The Nose, a famous route on El Capitan in Yosemite Valley.

Lynn Hill first free ascent of The Nose, Yosemite
Lynn on the first free ascent of The Nose, El Cap ©Helnz Zak

She had previously attempted to defeat the monstrous climb in 1989 with Simon Nadin, a British climber she had met at the World Cup that year. They both shared a desire to free-climb The Nose but unfortunately, their attempt failed.

Hill wasn’t deterred, and four years later, in 1993, she teamed up with Brooke Sandahl to make history. Together, they became the first people ever to free-climb the entire Nose. This was a monumental achievement, and Hill’s original climbing grade for the “Free Nose” was 5.13b. 

However, one of the most difficult pitches – Changing Corners – was almost impossible to grade. Hill said the most accurate grade for it would be to call it “once, or maybe twice, in a lifetime.” To ascend the section, Hill had to use a carefully coordinated sequence of opposite pressures between her feet, hands, elbows, and hips against the shallow walls of the corner and turn her body completely around.

Lynn Hill free climbing the Great Roof on The Nose of El Capitan, 1994 ©Helnz Zak

But Hill wasn’t done yet. The next year, in 1994, she set an even more impressive record by becoming the first person to free-climb the Nose in a single 24-hour period. Climbing the route in a day was a daunting task, and most climbers used mechanical aids to assist their ascent, but Hill relied only on her skill and body. Once she made her ascent, she famously said, ‘It Goes, Boys!’.

Hill’s ascent of The Nose was more than just a climbing achievement; it was a statement. She wanted to show that climbing wasn’t just for men and that women could do anything they set their minds to. The Nose remained unrepeated for 10 years.

Other Notable Ascents

The Nose is by far Lynn’s most monumental achievement that will be talked about by generations of climbers to come. What’s even more impressive is that Lynn had done the first ascents and first female ascents of more than 30 routes around the world.

Lynn on Half Dome, Yosemite 1977, ©Charlie Row

She made the first ascent of Ophir Broke and was the first female to do a 5.12d. She was the first woman to redpoint a 5.14a (Masse Critique 1990), and she was the first female to send the iconic Midnight Lightning boulder (V8) in Camp 4 as well as King Cobra (V8). I could be here all night listing every route Lynn has bossed her way up, but take my word, no one has ever come close to achieving what Lynn has. Male or female. 

Lynn Hill on Stem Gem climb
Lynn on Stem Gem, Joshua Tree 80s

One of her most recent achievements was the first female ascent of the West Face, Leaning Tower in Yosemite with Katie Brown, graded a 5.13b/c.

What is Lynn Hill Up To Now?

As for what Lynn is up to now, she is still heavily involved in the world of climbing but has also taken on other interests and pursuits. She offers coaching and even runs climbing camps on a limited basis.

©Lynn Hill

Lynn also works as a motivational speaker, sharing her experiences and lessons learned from her climbing career with audiences around the world. She has written a memoir called “Climbing Free” published in 2002 and in 2015 she was inducted into the Boulder Sports Hall of Fame.

She is also currently working on a climb with Sasha DiGiulian in the Flatirons!

©Lynn Hill

While Lynn may not be climbing at the same intensity as she did in her prime, she still remains as one of the top climbers in the world and a respected figure in the climbing community. She continues to inspire others with her passion and dedication.


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!

Shauna Coxsey
Wolfgang Güllich

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