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Drew Ruana, 16, Establishes Smith Rock’s Hardest Route

Drew Ruana makes the first ascent of Assassin (5.14d) - the new hardest route at Smith Rock, Oregon.

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Drew Ruana has made the first ascent of Assassin at Smith Rock, Oregon, proposing a grade of 5.14d for the new line. If the grade sticks, Assassin, climbed last weekend, will be the hardest sport climb at Smith, where Ruana
grew up.

“Home for me has always been Smith Rock,” Ruana told Rock and Ice. “That’s where my climbing style was molded, and the technicality of all the routes made me better at climbing.”

In Smith Rock, Drew, 16, has finished off most of the hardest routes in the area.

Assassin is a linkup at the Aggro Gully—home to Smith testpieces such as Repeat Offender (5.14b), Badman (5.14c),White Wedding (5.14a),Villain (5.14a), and other 5.13’s. Shock and Awe (5.14c), an unrepeated linkup at the Gully, was previously considered one of the hardest routes at Smith. 

Assassin shares the start of Repeat Offender, established by Joe Brooks in 1998, before it branches right and links into Villain via a mono-pocket move, according to DPMAssassin moves left before the chains on Villain, however, and finishes at the anchors for White Wedding. All in all, Ruana is confident that the linkup clocks in at 5.14d.

This is a new level of difficulty for Smith Rock, an area considered the birthplace of sport climbing in America after Alan Watts bolted Watt’s Totts (5.12b) in 1983 – the nation’s first sport route. Furthermore, Smith Rock was the home of America’s first 5.14a and its first  5.14c, To Bolt or Not to Be and Just Do It, with the latter put up in 1992. Ruana’s new line breaks a 24-year dry-spell in the area’s development of hard routes.

Just one month before completing Assassin, Ruana took third place in the Youth A category of the USA Climbing National Championships in Madison,

On a recent trip to Bishop, California, he ticked off his first V14, Direct North in three climbing days—an impressive send, since Ruana considers himself a sport climber and spends one week per year on outdoor boulders.

Ruana holds himself to a strict training program and dedicates his time entirely to the balance between school and climbing, but he says, “It’s been getting harder and harder to balance a rigorous training routine with a rigorous class schedule.

“I’ve had to resort to doing homework on the car rides to practice, so I can get enough sleep. Over the past couple years, classes have gotten harder,
and it just gets harder to balance getting straight A’s and staying fit enough for routes and competitions.

“That being said, it’s still manageable. Just difficult.”

Ruana plans to return to Smith this spring. Stay tuned.