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Top Five Female Lead Climbers of 2021

This year's top 8a.nu lead climbers describe a European affinity for the longer style of climbing

As with bouldering, finding those athletes that appear at the forefront of our sport has value in determining climbing’s direction. These statistics come from 8a.nu and represent only those athletes who choose to participate.

While these scores do not reflect strength they showcase progressing athletes and suggest potential trends moving forward. For example, the fact that both Martina Demmel and Solveig Korherr hale from Germany and lead the top two spots could describe progression in German climbing.

1 – Martina Demmel – 12,587

Demmel climbed her first international competitive season over this last year and found results pushing her just outside the top positions she might have hoped for. Despite this, Demmel walked away excited by her performance and looks forward to another year of competition climbing. Although Demmel is strong on plastic, she perhaps shines most bright on the limestone sport crags of western Europe.

This year, Demmel took down several challenging routes peaking at 9a for the season. What is most interesting about Demmel’s record from this season is the shape of her pyramid. While she may climb 9a, Demmel does not skimp on routes of lower difficulties and instead logged 110 routes between 8a and 8b+.

2 – Solveig Korherr – 12,191

This last year has found Korherr atop her hardest ascents and numerous North American test pieces. This year, the 23-year-old German climber moved between multiple styles. She began her season with Lead and found  success in difficult red-pointing.

Although Korherr is less prolific than her German compatriot, Korherr has managed numerous difficult ascent ranging from La cabane au Canada 5.14d to Pure Imagination 5.14c through to Titan, Ontario’s first 5.14a. Like Demmel, Korherr has a solid base of ascents to her pyramid with 44 climbs logged at 8a or 5.13b.

What’s more, Korherr has moved into bouldering as the temperatures dropped, ticking her first V12 just last week. Korherr managed to put down Lethal Design in a single session as she continues her trip in Las Vegas.

3 – Eva Hammelmüller – 12,087

After a difficult competition season, Eva Hammelmüller turned to outdoor climbing and made progress in the outdoor space. In November, she was able to complete two 8b+ (second and third go), four 8b (three second go, one third), seven 8a+ (four onsights, one flash) three 8a (one onsight, one flash, one second go). Although Hammelmüller struggles to make semi-finals or finals with consistency on the World Cup Circuit, her general level appears to increase with the passing time.

4 – Vita Lukan – 11,996

Slovenia’s Vita Lukan is one of the strongest competition climbers in the world, and in this year has taken time to develop outside the normal regimen of competitive climbing to earn numerous 8c+ and 8b+ ascents.  Lukan climbed through to earn a bronze medal this season. She seems like one to watch in the upcoming season as she has maintained consistency across the season.

Lukan won her first Slovenian Nationals last weekend and though Garnbret did not compete, the stacked Slovenian field is a good precursor to the upcoming competition.

5 – Ida Kupś – 11,688

Poland’s Ida Kupś travelled between Czech sandstone and Spanish limestone to attain three 8c ascents this year, pulling herself just into fifth position. Although Kupś climbed numerous hard sport routes this season, one of her most interesting achievements came down to climbing Spider in Paklenica State Park. This marked her first 8a multi-pitch ascent.

This European dominance in Lead climbing suggests either a proclivity North American and Southeast Asian climbers have for bouldering, or another trend. It does seem that many of the strongest female climbers in North America spend a majority of their time climbing and training for competition, or bouldering outside.

With that said, it is possible that North American lead climbers do not record their routes on 8a. For example, Paige Claassen and Mikaela Kirsch had strong seasons in which they climbed Dreamcatcher, but they do not appear to have logged their ascents.

Disclaimer

The 8a.nu ranking game has been in use since the early 2000s and works with two simple assumptions: The grading scale is linear, and on-sighting a certain grade is about as hard as redpointing 3 grades harder. An 8a redpoint gets you 1000 points. For every (+) grade, the score changes by 50 points. The other modifiers are onsight (+147) flash (+53), toprope (-50), second go (+2), Trad (+33) and FA (+33). Keep in mind that it’s a game.

Featured Image of Solveig Korherr by Jon Shen.