In between a hectic competition schedule as he tries to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, American Drew Ruana has had a productive few months on real rock, culminating at the beginning of this week with his hardest boulder to date, Sleepwalker, a Jimmy Webb V16 in Red Rocks, Nevada.
“Sometimes dreams come true, and this is a dream I’m never waking up from,” Ruana wrote on Instagram below a picture of him on the problem.
In a follow-up interview with 8a.nu, he explained the process of projecting Sleepwalker: “I just dialed all the moves perfectly before considering redpoint attempts. I did it on my 4th [redpoint] try today but I made sure over the last seven days before that I could do all the sections perfectly each session. I was going for ‘low points’ and yesterday did it from the 2nd move to the top which gave me confidence.”
Ruana’s was the fifth ascent of the boulder. Webb made the first ascent of Sleepwalker in mid December 2018. He worked on it for 11 days before getting the send. Just over a month later, Daniel Woods nabbed the second ascent of the problem. Sleepwalker had “some of the harder individual moves” he had ever tried, Woods wrote on Instagram. Just another couple of weeks after Woods, Nalle Hukkataival swooped in for the third ascent. Finally, undercover crusher Griffin Whiteside made the fourth ascent.
Watch Jimmy Webb on the First Ascent of Sleepwalker (V16)
Ruana’s past four months have been good—really good. On October 3, he made the second ascent of the long-unrepeated Insurgency, a James Litz V14/15 in Joe’s Valley, Utah, established in 2010. Litz originally graded the problem—a sit start to the preexisting Skeleton Key (V11)—V14, but Ruana gave it a slash grade after climbing it. Upgrades have been suggested for a number of other infamous Litz routes and problems during the past several years.
Watch Ruana on the Second Ascent of Insurgency (V14/15)
November brought more of them same, as Ruana moved on to Red Rocks. First he put down Meadowlark Lemon Sit (V14). Then, just days later, he sent Squoze, another Jimmy Webb rig. Webb originally suggested V14 after his first ascent in December 2018, but after making the second ascent, Daniel Woods wrote on 8a.nu, “Jimmy proposed 14 but damn it felt a level up from that. Amazing compression climbing.” Since then the grade seems to have settled at the low-end of V15.
Finally, in December Ruana took down Trieste (V14) and then Trieste Sit (V15), the latter a Daniel Woods variation that adds in two hard moves to Paul Robinson’s original stand-start. Ruana wrote on Instagram, “Definitely the hardest bloc I’ve done yet!”
In the past, Ruana’s best sends have come while tied into a rope. Notably, he made the first ascent of Assassin (5.14d), Smith Rocks, Oregon, in 2017, at just 16 years old; and the first ascent of Brave New World (5.14d), Little Si, Washington, at 17.