The Four Toughest Rock Climbs in North America


When we thing about rock climbing, it’s not hard to see it as the ultimate physical challenge that we can put ourselves through. Free climbs are extremely difficult, and even when there’s a safety rope and harness providing no actual climbing assistance, it is literally a battle of man or woman, vs some of the most challenging rock formations that Mother Nature can throw at us. When considering the hardest climbs in North America, there are a few that stand out above the rest. With the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS), we are able to accurately gauge different climbs against each other, with a standardized system.

The following climbs are some of the most difficult that you will find in North America. They can be grueling, punishing, and should only be attempted by the most capable climbers. Of course, the challenge is what rock climbing is all about, and with these, the satisfaction and reward is well worth the effort.

Southern Smoke Direct in Kentucky

Rated at 5.14d, Adam Taylor was the first to complete this climb. Located in the Red River Gorge, some climbers will be familiar with the area, as it contains a few easier climbs that have already been completed numerous times. Of course there are some harder ones like Lucifer and Pure Imagination, but none are as challenging as Southern Smoke Direct.

Jaws II in New Hampshire

Fittingly named, Jaws II is a horror of a climb. Like any of the climbs on this list, this is a serious challenge that will only be mastered by climbers who are of the highest level. It took some two years to completely redpoint the climb, and some climbers have taken weeks to master it. Mike Foley did it in two weeks, which won’t be easy to replicate.

Colorado’s Flex Luther

This climb has the honor of being the first that was ever rated as a 5.15 on the YDS scale. It is actually a 5.15a, which is almost at the top of the difficulty scale. Many try this, and many fail, but there are some who have beaten the challenge, including Tommy Caldwell, who was the original climber. 120ft in total, this rock face is a steep overhang, and is not for the meek.

Jumbo Love in Clark Mountain California

Few would argue that this is the most difficult climb in North America. It is famous within the climbing community, and that’s not because many have tried and failed. In fact, this climb is so challenging that you would either have to be crazy, or extremely confident to attempt it. Chris Sharma, who has been described as the best rock climber in the world, once said that Jumbo Love was the hardest climb of his life. Not many would disagree with him.

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