In free climbing, a first ascent (FA), or first free ascent (FFA) is the first successful, documented climb of a route or boulder performed without using equipment such as anchors, quickdraws or ropes for aiding progression or resting. In this article, notable first ascents of hard routes and boulders are listed, which are regarded worldwide as milestones in the history of sport climbing.
Ratings on the hardest climbs tend to be speculative, until other climbers have had a chance to complete the routes and a consensus can be reached on the precise grade. This becomes increasingly difficult as the grade increases, because fewer climbers are capable of repeating the route and passing judgment on its grade.
9c (5.15d) (Unconfirmed):
- Silence (formerly known as Project Hard) - Flatanger (NOR) - September 3, 2017 - First ascent by Adam Ondra, who described it as "much harder than anything else" he had previously done, and cautiously suggested the 9c rating. The route is about 45 m long. The first 20 m are about 8b (5.13d), followed by three distinct boulder problems: an extremely hard 8C, a "burly 4-move" 8B and a 7C+ with slippery feet. The first of these was described by Ondra as the hardest 8C (V15) he ever climbed. It consists of 10 hard and unusual moves, including single-finger locks, climbing upside down and a variation of a figure four move.
- Change - Flatanger (NOR) - October 4, 2012 - First ascent by Adam Ondra, who claimed it to be the hardest ascent in history. Second ascent by Stefano Ghisolfi in September 2020.
- La Dura Dura - Oliana (ESP) - February 7, 2013 - First ascent by Adam Ondra. Route bolted by Chris Sharma, who repeated the ascent one month later and confirmed the grade.
- Vasil Vasil - Moravský Kras (CZE) - December 4, 2013 - First ascent by Adam Ondra. Not repeated yet (2021).
- Perfecto Mundo - Margalef (ESP) - May 9, 2018 - First ascent by Alexander Megos. Repeated by Stefano Ghisolfi and Jakob Schubert, who confirmed the grade. Route bolted by Chris Sharma. By climbing it, Megos became the third, Ghisolfi the fourth and Schubert the fifth climbers in history to redpoint this grade or harder, after Ondra and Sharma.
- Bibliographie - Céüse (FRA) - August 5, 2020 - First ascent by Alexander Megos, who originally proposed the grade 9c (5.15d). Route bolted by Ethan Pringle back in 2009. Second ascent by Stefano Ghisolfi on August 24, 2021,  who suggests the route's grading to be in the range of Change or Perfecto Mundo (9b+ (5.15c))  which Megos agree to. Third ascent by Sean Bailey on September 30, 2021. 
- King Capella - Siurana (ESP) - March 29, 2021 - First ascent by Will Bosi. Hard route bolted by David Brasco, it is a quite long route based on hard finger-climbing with a big dyno
- Akira - Vilhonneur cave (Périgord, FRA) - June 06, 1995 - First ascent by Fred Rouhling. He proposed a grade of 9b (5.15b). The route was later repeated by Seb Bouin and Lucien Martinez, both of whom proposed a grade of 9a.
- Chilam Balam - Villanueva del Rosario (ESP) - July 4, 2003 - Unconfirmed first ascent claimed by Bernabè Fernandez. He proposed a rating of 5.15c (9b+) but the route was later repeated by Adam Ondra, who graded it as a "low end" 5.15b (9b).
- Jumbo Love - Clark Mountain (Mojave National Preserve, USA) - September 11, 2008 - First ascent by Chris Sharma. This route is 250 ft long (76 m). Sharma has called it his hardest ascent to date. In climbing it, he skipped up to three clips in a row due to the difficult sequences, which resulted in falls of 70 ft (21 m) or more. Repeated by Ethan Pringle, May 2015 and Jonathan Siegrist in May 2018. 
- Open Air - Schleier Waterfall (AUT) - 1996 - First ascent by Alexander Huber, who initially proposed a 9a rating. Heralded as the world's hardest route upon completion, the route was first repeated twelve years later by Adam Ondra, who upgraded it to 9a+, trying to fit the grade to the "new school" rating conventions. According to Alexander Huber, the route is at least as difficult as La Rambla, first climbed by him in 1994. Those who doubt that the original version of La Rambla is 9a+ (including Huber), might consider Open Air to be the first 9a+ in history.
- Biographie - Montagne de Céüse (FRA) - July 2001 - First ascent by Chris Sharma. Heralded as world's first 9a+ upon completion, because at that time Huber's Open Air was still considered to be a 9a route (see above).
- Flex Luthor - Fortress of Solitude, CO (USA) - Jan 2003 - First ascent by Tommy Caldwell, despite the fact that he lost his left index finger in 2001. It's considered one of the first 5.15 in the United States. Route named as a play on Superman’s archenemy, following the naming logic of another close-by hard route called Kryptonite (5.14d), also established by Caldwell. It remains unrepeated, mainly because of the inconvenience of approaching and potentially harder difficulty.
- La Rambla Extension - Siurana (ESP) - 41 metres (135 ft) long extended version of Alexander Huber's route La Rambla, obtained by Dani Andrada by linking Huber's route to another route nearby, via a traverse - March 8, 2003 - First ascent by Ramón Julián Puigblanque, after more than forty failed attempts. Puigblanque proposed a 9a+ rating, later confirmed by many other repeaters.
- Action Directe - Frankenjura (DEU) - 1991 - First 9a in history, by Wolfgang Güllich. Still described as one of the hardest routes worldwide. Originally graded 8c+, it is now widely considered to be a challenging 9a.
- La Rambla - Siurana (ESP) - 1994 - First ascent by Alexander Huber, who graded it 8c+ (5.14c). Based on its similarity with La Rambla Extension, a 6 metres (20 ft) longer version of the same route, La Rambla might be considered to be the world's first 9a+, but Huber would probably disagree. In his opinion, both routes are "not harder than" Wolfgang Güllich's Action Directe, the world's first 9a, which in 1994 was still rated 8c+. In 2003, Ramón Julián Puigblanque climbed both routes and graded them 9a+. Since the additional 6 meters of La Rambla Extension were much easier than La Rambla's crux, Puigblanque believed that they did not increase the difficulty of the ascent enough to justify a higher rating.
- Bain de Sang Saint-Loup (Pompaples, SUI) - First ascent by Fred Nicole, 1993. Third 9a route in the world.
- Liquid Ambar - Lower Pen Trwyn (Wales) - May 30th 1990 - First 8c+ in history, by Jerry Moffatt. Originally graded at 8c, Liquid Ambar was later upgraded to 8c+ making it the first of this grade in the world. A year before, Jerry Moffatt made it to the last move before falling off, he then crashed his motorbike shortly after the attempt and was unable to complete this route in 1989.
- Ben Moon completed Hubble at Raven Tor (8c+) 15 days later.
- Ravage - Basel (SUI) - 1985 - First 8b+/c in history, bolted by Wenzel Vodicka but first ascended by Antoine Le Menestrel.
- Punks in the Gym - Mount Arapiles (AUS) - 1985 - First (or second after Terminator, see 8b (5.13d):) 8b+ in history :, by Wolfgang Güllich.
- Kanal im Rücken - Frankenjura (DEU) - 1984 - First 8b in history, by Wolfgang Güllich.
- Terminator - Totoga (I) - 1984 - First 8b in history, by Manolo. According to Marco Zanone, who repeated the route in Spring 2021, could be also graded 8b+. Manolo gave it 8a+ at that time because "was harder than any other 8a I've climbed till that moment"
- Grand Illusion (8a) - 1979 - Sugar Loaf, Lake Tahoe. First 8a in history, by Tony Yaniro
- Oyster (8a) August 1983 Pen Trwyn Wales. First 8a in the UK by Jerry Moffatt.
- The Phoenix (7c+) - 1977 - Yosemite. Ray Jardine
- Erebor - completed by Laura Rogora. The first ever female ascent of a 9b/9b+, on October 2, 2021.
- Bimbaluna - Saint Loup (SUI) - 1 May 2005 - World's first female ascent of a 9a/9a+ route, by Josune Bereziartu.
- Open your Mind direct - Santa Linya (ESP) March, 2015 - Second female ascent of a 9a/9a+ route, by Ashima Shiraishi. The route has been repeated by several others, but they have not reached consensus about its grade
- Bain de Sang - Saint Loup (SUI) - October 29, 2002 - World's first female ascent of a 9a route, by Josune Bereziartu, after 15/20 trials. First ascent by Fred Nicole in 1993. Third 9a route in the world. The grade was confirmed by many repeaters.
- PPP - Verdun (FRA) - August, 2011 - Second female ascent of a 9a route, by Charlotte Durif.
- Action Directe - Frankenjura - May 2020 - First female ascent by Mélissa Le Nevé.
The east face of Monkey Face at Smith Rock, containing Just do it
(8c+), onsighted by Ondra
in 2018. When it was first ascended by Tribout
, in 1992, Just do it
was considered the hardest route in the United States.
- Super crackinette - Saint Léger (FRA) - 10 February 2018 - First 9a+ flash in history by Adam Ondra.
- Bizi Euskaraz - Etxauri (ESP) - December 11, 2007 - First 8c+ onsight in history by Patxi Usobiaga. Project by Ekaitz Maiz.
- Kidetasunaren balio erantsia - Etxauri (ESP) - 6 March 2011 - Second 8c+ onsight in history, by Adam Ondra.
- Just Do It - Smith Rock (Oregon, USA) - November 12, 2018 - First ascended onsight by Adam Ondra. Bolted by Alan Watts in 1989 and first ascended in 1992 by Jean-Baptiste Tribout. Although this is the twentieth 8c+ route onsighted by Ondra, it is mentioned herein because it is USA’s first 8c+. Moreover, it is a particularly long slab (140 feet, 18 bolts) plenty of tricky moves, with small holds, hardly visible from the ground. This kind of classic route is considered to be particularly difficult to onsight, by both Alan Watts and Adam Ondra.
- Massey Fergusson - Calanques (FRA) - 1995 - World's first 8b+ onsight, by Elie Chevieux. In the same year, Chevieux onsighed a second 8b+ route (Maldita Maria, Cuenca, ESP).
- Mortal Kombat - Castillon, (FRA) - November 25, 1999 - Onsighted by Yuji Hirayama. Initially announced as the world's first 8c onsight. A few days later, Hirayama himself downgraded the route to 8b+. In the following years, the grade of the route settled at 8b.
- Liaisons dangereuses - Les Calanques (Les Goudes), (FRA) - 1993 - Elie Chevieux
- Centre Court - Frankenjura, (GER) - 1989 - first 8a+ on-sight in history by Jerry Moffatt.
There are few climbers who have free-soloed in the 5.14 grade range. This list does not include "highball" boulder ascents because the climbers here did not use any padding or spotters. There is some debate on the blurred line between "highball" bouldering and short free solo climbs.
- Panem et circenses - Length: 15 metres (49 ft) - Arco (IT) - December 2019 by Alfredo Webber.
Possibly harder than 9b+ (5.15c):
- Le blond - Oliana (ESP) - Project by Chris Sharma, immediately to the right of La Dura Dura (world's first confirmed 9b+). Named after Patrick Edlinger, who died while Sharma was bolting the route.
- King line Arco (ITA) - Project by Stefano Ghisolfi and Adam Ondra, bolted by Mauro Mabboni on the Laghel crag, which was initially used only for dry tooling, as it was thought to be impossible to free climb. A variant of Queen Line, a 9b (5.15b) route first ascended by Ondra in 2017 and repeated by Ghisolfi in 2019. The crux is in the final section, starting at the end of the hardest part of Queen Line.
9b (5.15b) (unconfirmed):
- Alasha - Mallorca (ESP) - September 12, 2016. First ascent by Chris Sharma, who estimated its grade based on the effort it took to climb it without rope: "If it had bolts on it, it probably wouldn’t be a 9b (5.15b). But when you’re 60 feet up with no bolts, it takes the same amount of effort.” Sharma named the route after his daughter, Alana Sharma.
- Es Pontàs - Mallorca (ESP) - September 26, 2007. First ascent by Chris Sharma. Repeated by Jernej Kruder in November 2016. It features a 7 feet (2.1 m) dyno that took Sharma over 50 attempts to stick.
Bryan Kennedy free soloing the Kennedy variant
to the Organ Pipes, Mount Wellington