The five famous rock climbers on this list range from multi-terrain rock climbers to bouldering experts and free solo climbers. They have racked up several climbing awards and accolades between them. They have also done more than most in popularizing the sport of climbing and its various subspecialties.
- John Bachar. Unlike many of the famous rock climbers on this list, John Bachar was a noted free solo climber. This means he climbed without the assistance of ropes. He first gained attention with climbs of New Dimensions and The Nabisco Wall in Yosemite National Park. Later famous ascents of Bachar’s include the self-titled Bachar-Yerian in the Tuolumne Meadows, El Capitan, and Half Dome (all in Yosemite). Tragically, Bachar fell to his death in July 2009 while soloing at the Dike Wall in Mammoth Lakes, California.
- Steve House. Perhaps no other famous rock climber today has popularized the “alpine style” of climbing than Steve House. House is a master on mixed terrains, be it snow or hard rock, and he is adamant that climbs should be performed with as little gear as possible while leaving minimal gear and ropes on the mountain face. This is how he climbs, and he has been extremely successful with it. His more popular climbs include the K7 in Pakistan and the Central Pillar of the Rupal Face, also in Pakistan.
- Mark Twight. Twight’s most noteworthy achievement has been, among many others, ascending The Reality Bath of the White Pyramid. It has often been cited as the hardest climbing route in the world. He was nominated for the Piolet d’Or (The Golden Axe) award, given annually to climbers who have performed significant and often unparalleled climbs. He now runs Gym Jones in Salt Lake City, Utah, and is often regarded as one of the best and most famous rock climbers in the world.
- Chris Sharma. Sharma is of American descent and one of the most famous rock climbers in the world today, particularly in the niche known as “bouldering”. He has won a slew of awards, including the U.S. Bouldering Nationals, the 1997 UIAA World Cup (at the age of 16), and a gold medal in the Bouldering competition at the 1999 X Games. Some of his key ascents were Necessary Evil, The Mandala, Es Pontas, and Jumbo Love, among others.
- Reinhold Messner. Many claim Messner to be the best climber in the sport’s history. This is supported by the fact that Messner was the first climber to ascend Mount Everest unassisted and without supplemental oxygen, as well as being the first climber to traverse all fourteen “eight-thousanders”, or mountain peaks that extend beyond 8,000 feet above sea level. Messner, an Italian-born climber, won the Piolet d’Or Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009 for his many contributions over the years to the sport of climbing. Messner is arguably the most famous rock climber of all time.