Hardest problem in the World?

Posted on 17. Feb, 2011 by in News

A few years ago the Italian boulderer Christian Core made the FA of Gioia in Varazee, Italy. He suggested it to be V15. Core is well known for his fast repeats of many hard problems in Switzerland, and his smooth and controlled style. Recently wunderkid Adam Ondra went there and repeated the stand start, which is hard V12 or V13. Ondra comments on his scorecard that “the sit is another level, 8C+ for sure”. Here is video of Core climbing the problem. I’m not sure where the stand start begins, but after Ondra’s recent repeats in Switzerland of Big Paw and From the Dirt Grows the Flowers, both V15, the sit start looks to be a contender for the world’s hardest problem.

Here is a link to the correct pronunciation of Gioia, which translates into English as Joy.

50 Responses to “Hardest problem in the World?”

  1. BA

    17. Feb, 2011


    Here is a video of Niccolo Ceria on the first repeat of the stand start.

  2. alex

    17. Feb, 2011

    I bet Rastaman sit, excuse me Lucid Dreaming, is harder. I may be biased, but after feeling those moves and holds in person I just can’t believe something harder exists. Not to mention its hard in Paul’s preffered style, and he has a much more distinguished ticklist than Christian Core.

  3. B3

    17. Feb, 2011

    @alex, I know of several climbers who have suggested Lucid Dreaming could be potentially hard V14 or easy V15, including Matt Birch, Tim Clifford and Daniel Woods. None of them have repeated the line. Nalle Hukkataival is currently in Bishop, and perhaps he will make a repeat and comment on the grade. Also, Livin Large remains unrepeated and the hardest problem in the Rocklands.

  4. matt

    17. Feb, 2011

    i can suggest a grade for hundreds of problems i haven’t done too. i think Lucid Dreams is V16, based on the (only) ascentionist’s opinion – the only one that carries any weight at this moment.

  5. New Yorker

    17. Feb, 2011

    I always get a little confused re: Lucid: what exactly is the difference btw the stand and the start? My understanding is that Rastaman is hard v12 and starts with the left hand on the infamous pinch and the right hand low, presumably on the undercling?

    Is it correct to say that Lucid adds two moves to set up on the undercling, then makes the heinous left hand move to the pinch, and then follows Rastman to the top?

    Is there any further difference between the v12 stand and the 16 sit?

  6. Justin

    17. Feb, 2011

    Somone could always come along and find a new sequence through livin large and downgrade it. What about the story of two worlds, in one interview dai said compared to the other potential 8C+ he had done it felt harder, and Adam Indra said the link was too hard/complicated for him. Has anyone put substantial effort into the game yet? I feel like you’d have more info on that than any of us.

  7. Justin

    17. Feb, 2011

    This is slightly off topic but I watched dosage 3 the other day and realized if only heard of 3 of the problems Sharma did being repeated (king lion, witness te fitness, and whatever that climb Jimmy Webb just repeated was) do you know anything about them or are they all unrepeated

  8. André

    17. Feb, 2011

    I have no doubt that the climbers you’ve mentioned have the experience to assess difficulty at that level, but then again I don’t think it’s fair towards the climber who’s done the first ascent to speculate about overgrading when the climb hasn’t even been repeated. I climb nowhere near that level but I’ve been on problems that felt easy enough to do them in a couple of tries, but then it still took me days to do them…

  9. André

    17. Feb, 2011

    totally forgot to say that I think it’s great that you help giving Christian Core the recognition he deserves, in my opinion one the most underestimate climbers! And it’s great that there are a few climbers like Ondra who actually also comment on the boulders they have failed to complete. Would be great to see that more often!

  10. DaveH

    17. Feb, 2011

    I’ve watched the Gioia video a bunch. I’m amazed at how light he looks when climbing it. It’s really remarkable. So inspiring. How much do you think Core weights in the video?

    You’ve really got to give a lot of credit to Ondra’s opinion. He sounds pretty certain that the full Gioia line is “another level”.

    I’m sure this post will contain a lot of speculative contenders for hardest problem. I agree with Jamie that Livin’ Large could be a contender. Just think about the number of days that it took Nalle to complete it.

    Maybe someone in the know can comment on some Gaskins hard stuff?

    With less popular problems it’s hard to get a gauge on the difficultly because fewer people try it. It would be great if Jamie could compile a list of the hardest problems based on failures.

    Example: Problem X has been tried by strong climbers a, b, c, d and only a, c have completed it. This may show us at least which popular problems are the most difficult.

  11. Thanks

    17. Feb, 2011

    The laziest cameraman I’ve ever seen.

    Selfish… Just selfish…

  12. Adam M

    17. Feb, 2011

    I believe you’ve heard that, but no way. No…way…is Derailed, Amandala, Madiba, Mandala sit, Ode to the Modern Man, Singularity, The Swarm, or even Monkey Wedding, the same difficulty as Lucid Dreaming. Uh-uh. No way v14.
    ( I know some may say that one or two of the problems I mentioned have been downgraded, but don’t miss the point)

    There’s only one “Hardest Boulder in the World” and that’s Big Wednesday at Haycock Mt.

  13. B3

    17. Feb, 2011

    The singularity is another contender. As always subsequent
    Ascentionist will give their opinion. I doubt Nalle
    would call it v16 if he climbs it. Does that mean
    that livin large is v17?

  14. Adam M

    17. Feb, 2011

    Guess it means he can call it whatever he wants. i could climb Mandala sit and downgrade it to v12. Or I can send Sunseeker and upgrade it to v14 because poo ran out my asshole on the mantle.

    Sayin’ it don’t make it so. (no matter how awesome Nalle is)

    Grades just put the boulder into a range so the climber knows what he/she is getting into. The minute difference between a “hard v14” and “Easy v15” is irrelevant.
    In my own travels that is. I like the discussion though.

  15. B3

    17. Feb, 2011

    What it means is that I need to get a lot stronger!

  16. Adam M

    17. Feb, 2011

    Now that’s what I’m talking about man! Let’s get stronger and go WORK these freakin lines! They’re all GORGEOUS!

  17. Micah

    17. Feb, 2011

    I like the Dosage 3 question.
    Something I’ve been wondering for a long time. I’ve even looked for those particular problem names in the 8a.nu database but to no avail.
    What about that one compression problem with the heinous low percentage stab to the slot?
    BTW, one of the best pieces of climbing footage EVER!
    Never fails to get me psyched.

    I would take Ondra’s perspective very seriously. Hasn’t he flashed 3 V.13’s and a V.14 (even though he downgraded it to .13!!??).

  18. cardboard_dog

    18. Feb, 2011

    Adam, dude I told you I sent Big Wednedsday like 5 threads ago. So easy. That vertical crack crimp you thought was so tiny is actually a jug. Of course .. there’s no uncut footage of the send, and I was drunk at the time, and I think BW was wearing a mini skirt and high heels and maybe that just made her seem easy, but whatever. cruiser.

  19. IWalters

    18. Feb, 2011

    I’m just wondering if everyone here is aware of the Sisu project on Nalle’s blog

  20. Peter Hill

    18. Feb, 2011

    You can’t debate the grades of these F.A.s until they have been repeated. You just really can’t. I feel like if you are writing on this blog you should know that. I think it’s safe to say that Lucid, The Game, and Livin Large are at least V15 though….sure, maybe, whatever, you wanna climb soon?

  21. Jabroni

    18. Feb, 2011

    I asked the Livin Large question a while ago on this blog – it looks bone-numbingly hard. To the comment that a new sequence could be found on it: I don’t see how! But then I’ve only watched video of it.

    We just need Christian, Daniel, Paul and Nalle to each climb each of these boulders, and then go and score them in private. A consensus should emerge. Come on chaps, do it for the fans.

  22. Mojo

    18. Feb, 2011

    I think a lot of those lines that Sharma did in Dosage 3 are on private property, or areas with access issues. That’s why we haven’t heard anything more about them.

  23. michael rathke

    18. Feb, 2011

    i want to go to haycock sometime, the rock there looks good

  24. matt

    18. Feb, 2011

    there’s tons more (near) haycock too.

  25. andy

    18. Feb, 2011

    haycock is a fun place to climb. big wednesday looks very difficult.

  26. sidepull

    18. Feb, 2011

    The Daniel > Paul bias seems to have appeared again.

    Here’s a question: If we’re giving Ondra props for failing on a project and admitting it’s hard then shouldn’t we question Birch, Woods, Clifford et al’s opinions? In other words, why should we place equal credibility on someone failing and admitting it’s hard with others failing and arguing that it’s easy. If it’s so easy they would have climbed it – right? – especially given their collective resumes? It seems that their suppositions that it’s easy, especially given the fact that it’s right in the parking lot of one of the most highly trafficked bouldering areas in the world would cause us to look at their opinions a bit suspiciously.

  27. Mason

    18. Feb, 2011

    Just curious. . .. . Where do you think Warpath sits as “hardest boulder problem”? Is it not tried / repeated because it’s hard / bad location? Or because it’s chossy and not aesthetically pleasing?

  28. alex

    19. Feb, 2011

    Jaime said: “@alex, I know of several climbers who have suggested Lucid Dreaming could be potentially hard V14 or easy V15, including Matt Birch, Tim Clifford and Daniel Woods. None of them have repeated the line. Nalle Hukkataival is currently in Bishop, and perhaps he will make a repeat and comment on the grade.”

    Dude, really?? You seem so connected to the hard bouldering world but that comment is so off that I think I may need to reconsider how much stock I put in your opinion.

    Adam M said: “I believe you’ve heard that, but no way. No…way…is Derailed, Amandala, Madiba, Mandala sit, Ode to the Modern Man, Singularity, The Swarm, or even Monkey Wedding, the same difficulty as Lucid Dreaming. Uh-uh. No way v14.
    ( I know some may say that one or two of the problems I mentioned have been downgraded, but don’t miss the point)”


  29. B3

    19. Feb, 2011

    I simply stated facts. I’m not sure how that demon
    Strayed bias on my part.

  30. Josh

    19. Feb, 2011

    Ok, I gotta say that I think Lucid Dreaming will experience a harsh downgrade.

    Why do I think this? Purely based upon Paul’s own reasoning for giving it the mythical 8C+ grade. He proposed that it was harder than Terremer and Jade, but they’re both soft for their grade (8C). Additionally, he makes the ridiculous argument that we should push forward with grading, and not stay stuck on 8C (so just inflate grades then?). I’m going to copy and paste some comments from Paul’s 8a.nu profile and old blog site (I had to copy and paste before it redirected me to his new one).

    “Since I climbed my first v15’s, Jade in late 2007 and Terremer in early 2008, a lot of time has passed. Since the day that I climbed terremer until the other day I had not sent a climb that was rated the same grade or harder. I have climbed well over 500 days since the day that i climbed terremer and know that i have become a much better climber in this time period. I have climbed multiple v14’s and 5.14d in a very quick fashion and have competed well in both national and world cup bouldering competitions, all of which preparing me for the climb i sent yesterday. Not only have i competed and climbed outside, but i have also put in more than my fair share of days in the climbing gym, training as hard as i possibly could to one day push the standards of boudering. I would say that in the two year time frame from Terremer to now, I have climbed multiple problems in CATS that are of very similar difficulty to “lucid dreams”, “terremer”, etc. This, I know does not count for anything but again has prepared me for the hardest of climbs outside.”

    From 8a.nu:

    Terremer 8C – “2nd ascent, 4 days. originally rated 8c+, feels like hard 8c amazing climb! sustained and very hard! props to fred on FA and the vision!”

    According to DWoods, Terremer is soft 8C. Additionally, Jade has been downgraded (by many INCLUDING Paul Robinson) to 8B+.

    So Paul rates Lucid Dreaming 8C+ by comparing it to Terremer (soft 8C) and Jade (8B+). Does that make sense? I believe that the baseline for 8C hasn’t even been made yet, so how can he determine what 8C+ is?

    Additionally, Paul wrote the following on 8a.nu about Big Paw:
    “4th asc. 3 days. First and foremost, Dave, this is by far one of the best boulders on this planet. Truly perfect and having the FA of this is very amazing. 2ndly, in reference to the grade, in my eyes 8C is a new level of hard. It is so hard that it should take days and days just to figure out the moves. I feel like I did this thing way too quickly for me to give it the 8C grade. 7C+ to an 8B for me. This is my justification and I understand that for others this climb may feel easier or harder. I do not wish to create drama but rather ensure that 8C remains a new standard as I am sure Dave would agree.”

    So he wants to both push the future of climbing by calling LD 8C+, but wants to make sure that 8C is a new standard and downgrade it to 8B+. Those two statements are somewhat contradictory.

    I think The Game has a better shot of being 8C+ simply because I think Dwoods has a better understanding of what 8C is. Although I believe that Livin Large, The Story of Two Worlds, and Gioia have the potential to be even harder than either of them.

    In the end, I like Dave Graham’s and Nalle’s viewpoint that it’s better to be conservative with grading than to sway to the allure of an inflated grade. Nalle found Livin Large to be the hardest climb he’s ever completed, and even though he could have he decided to call it 8C. Same with Dave Graham and the Story of Two Worlds. I will be surprised if either of those ever get downgraded. I wouldn’t be surprised if they get an UPgrade.

  31. cardboard_dog

    19. Feb, 2011

    dude at this moment Big Wednesday is impossible. But I will say for an obscure pile of rocks in the middle of NEPA, Haycock has been the home crag of more high end, double digit boulderers than probably any other crag in the North East. And not one of them is sponsored. Coincidence??

  32. peter beal

    19. Feb, 2011

    “demon strayed”


  33. Jon

    19. Feb, 2011

    As usual these discussions are missing the main point. The grading system has evolved in different ways in various places around the world. And as yet, because bouldering is such a young sport, the systematic discrepancies between different areas and different groups of people haven’t had enough time to get ironed out. What any one person thinks 8B+ “is” depends on which subset of the world’s boulders they have climbed in and around that grade – and clearly where you have done most of your hard problems is going to have a significant effect on what you view a certain grade to “be”.

    The older generation in the UK have (or at least had – things are slowly ironing themselves out) much tougher ideas of what each grade is. So yes – it’s true that Matt Birch said after coming very close to doing Lucid Dreaming before Paul did it, that he would have graded it 8B+. But yes it’s also true that he thinks it’s at least a grade and a half harder than The Swarm or anything else he’s climbed. How does that work? There was no standard translation back when he did The Swarm – he graded it 8B (and not a particularly hard one) – but he translated that to V14 as he thought it was harder than the other problems he’d done in the US like Slashface (which most people agree with). Since then a standard translation was introduced with V14 being 8B+ and lots of the old V14s in Hueco like Slashface were downgraded to V13 to come into line. But most people in the US still take The Swarm as 8B+, whereas the older generation from the UK – Birch / Clifford – think it “is” 8B.

    For anyone thinking that an accurate grading system is completely impossible due to differences in body type etc – well obviously for any one person on a particular problem, that is true. But for 98% of people on 98% of problems grades do work although obviously some styles suit some better than others. And the vast majority of the hard problems which are argued about in terms of which is hardest, are NOT particularly height dependent etc. If asked to put problems they have all climbed in order of difficulty, most hard climbers would agree give or take the occasional problem which didn’t suit them. But the point is that different climbers would currently assign different grades to those problems due to systematic differences in grading systems. At the end of the day, this is really just an argument about how wide you want grades to be – and it’s one on which a consensus will be reached in time as people travel more, and problems get more repeats.

    So for now, until Paul Robinson repeats The Singularity, Livin Large, The Game or Gioia, or someone else repeats some of those problems and Lucid Dreaming , we don’t really know which of those (and other unrepeated) problems is the hardest. But it IS clear that Lucid Dreaming is harder than the other problems Paul has climbed (especially as it suits his style). So it’s certainly going to be considerably harder than The Swarm, Amandla, Ode etc etc. (It’s equally clear that The Singularity, Livin Large and The Game are harder than the other things that Tim, Nalle and Daniel have climbed – all have done things like The Swarm pretty easily.) Whether that makes it 8B+, 8C or 8C+ depends on what “version” of the grading system you use.

    But of course the people who are likely to determine the consensus grading system in the end are those like Paul who are travelling the most and systematically comparing the problems in the different areas. Although he could or course, after doing more travelling, change his mind and decide that Lucid Dreaming is 8C rather than 8C+ (ie decide to use wider grades). But if that is the case then – as quite a few people actually think – there aren’t very many 8C’s in the world and probably no 8C+’s…

  34. Rich Simpson

    20. Feb, 2011

    What about A Tale of Two Gabors? Unrepeated, yet tried by many.

  35. boredinthelab

    20. Feb, 2011

    Re: The question on Warpath:
    It hasn’t been repeated yet, but I bet it will once someone strong goes up there for a few days. Several climbers have come fairly close. The main reason it hasn’t seen a repeat yet is that it is somewhat out of the way in terms of destinations for people who climb at that level (despite the City and Castle Rock hosting many wonderful sport, trad, and bouldering lines). Having seen it and many of the 14s/15s in Colorado, it seems comparable.

    As a disclaimer, I can’t even do the intro V11 (Jared’s Roof) to Warpath.

  36. sidepull

    21. Feb, 2011

    When did reciting second-hand opinions count as facts?

    I’m not sure where the stand start begins, but after Ondra’s recent repeats in Switzerland of Big Paw and From the Dirt Grows the Flowers, both V15, the sit start looks to be a contender for the world’s hardest problem.

    Recently wunderkid Adam Ondra went there and repeated the stand start, which is hard V12 or V13.

    I know of several climbers who have suggested Lucid Dreaming could be potentially hard V14 or easy V15, including Matt Birch, Tim Clifford and Daniel Woods. None of them have repeated the line.

    None of them have repeated the line.

    Now, go back through past posts and count how many are favorable towards Daniel’s new sends and how many are questioning Paul’s. I think you’ll find that it’s a bit uneven.

  37. Jake

    21. Feb, 2011

    Warpath is not only fairly easy to access, there is tons of other great bouldering in the same cave, and in the area, but it also is definitely not chossy, and super aesthetic. A lot of strong people have tried it, yet it still hasn’t been repeated….

  38. cj

    22. Feb, 2011

    Who knows who is right? By the way grade accuracy changes between areas, it seems that no one really knows.

  39. mike b

    22. Feb, 2011

    @Mason Re: Warpath

    I just want to ask a simple question and state a couple of facts. Have you been to the Taco Cave?

    If indeed you have and actually think that this problem is not a beautiful line and chossy to boot, then I respect your opinion on the aesthetic value is in the eye of the beholder. The choss comment is pretty unreasonable. I will fully agree that much of the rock surrounding the taco cave is in fact crap, but I have personally climbed in the cave for quite a few seasons and never broken a single hold. To deem on the interweb for the masses to read that such a spectacular boulder is choss is a bit harsh.

    What do I know you may have never been there. That and the video quality of James doing the FA is pretty poor.

  40. B3

    22. Feb, 2011

    Yes the roof with Warpath in it is one of the best in the world, unquestionably.

  41. Mason

    22. Feb, 2011

    I was mearly asking why Warpath is left out of the conversation as “hardest boulder problem”. To my knowledge, it IS everything you say it is but that is as far as my knowledge goes. Here say. I was asking WHY has it gone unrepeated and WHY is it not included. Because of bad location? Is it really choss and not as good as I have heard? Chill pal.

  42. Jabroni

    23. Feb, 2011

    It’s been stated a few times that the maximum difficulty of a single move probably maxxes out at V13. Thoughts?

    From the outside looking in, this assertion seems to be true of routes as well. The hardest moves remain the hardest moves; there is a point where friction, strength, body tension etc are inadequate to the task of keeping someone on the rock. Now harder routes and problems just have more of the maximum difficulty moves, with fewer rests, making it, as Paul Robin asserted about Lucid Dreaming, a one in a million shot when you stack up multiple 1/100 chances of sticking a move. What will this culminate with? Campussing a 50 metre roof entirely on monos for a V20? Downclimbing a V15 to get a V18?

    I just wonder when the push for harder will tip us over the edge into absurdity.

  43. mikeb

    23. Feb, 2011

    Mason, I obviously came off a bit intense, my apologies. I think for lack of a better reason, nobody strong enough has gone there for the proper amount of time with the correct temps. Trying that particular problem in “good bouldering conditions” i.e. 30-40 F is not a good plan. 25 moves is a lot, and being completely numb by move #13 is not all that conducive to sending. If Daniel, Dave, Paul, Nalle, JE or any of the super strong folk want to come try it I would be psyched to shoot photos and video. It is a bit out of the way as well, for someone of that caliber to want to come all the way here to do. There is another problem there that has not seen a repeat that Litz put up, the full line of the Green Wall boulder, an extension to Green in the Face.

  44. ben

    25. Feb, 2011

    someone mentioned earlier in the thread something about nalle’s sisu project. by the sounds of it, it seems like that if that line ever gets done then it will be a new level of difficulty. or at least something extremely hard.

  45. Justin

    26. Feb, 2011

    What about the sit start to the island v13 into v15, Dave graham said when it gets done it will be a “true” v16

  46. sit start to island

    28. Feb, 2011

    just aint that cool though…

  47. Jake

    01. Mar, 2011

    This is what Nalle tells about the Sisu project in his recent Facebook comment: “The Sisu project is still buried in snow. I’ve been able to do 5 individual moves out of about 17 on it. For comparison, I did all the moves on The Game (V16) in a quick session and made some good links. So is it possible? Maybe.”

  48. Zach

    12. Apr, 2011

    According to Courtney, Daniel W just did all of the moves to Gioia in one day even w/ high temps. Hope he gets the chance to send soon.

  49. Dave B

    28. Jul, 2011

    I remember seeing a video of D Woods working on a project in Hueco near another line (Terremer?) he said it was another level as well. Never the less, I think I have strayed into “what-will-the-hardest-boulder-problem-be-in-the-future-when- someone-sends-it?”

  50. Aaron S

    06. Sep, 2011

    What about the sit to Hydra, Hydrangea? Something like 3 or 4 outrageous moves into an already stout v14. Just saying.

Leave a Reply