Daniel Woods – The Best American Boulderer

By: Ashley Vitiello | Last Updated on December 22, 2023

Bio

Daniel Woods is a professional rock climber from America who’s known for sending some of the hardest boulder problems in the world. He was born in Richardson, Texas, and started climbing as a child at five years old, dabbling with indoor gyms in Dallas. In 1997, he started climbing with a team when his family moved to Longmont, Colorado, and he climbed his first 8A (V11) in 2003. To this day, he continues to lean into hard boulder problems and sport climbs, and he’s one the only climber in history to have more than twenty-five V15+ ascents to his name.

He claimed the first ascent of Echale (V14) at age 15, and made the first ascent of the well-known Jade (V14 – downgraded from V15) in Rocky Mountain National Park. He’s made many notable first ascents, including but not limited to Return of the Sleepwalker (V17), The Process (V16) In Search of Time Lost (V15), El Diablo (V15), Witness the Fitness (V15), etc. We’ve broken down some of the best moments from a handful of these notable climbs below.

Stats:

Ape Index: 1.06 / +4″
DOB: 8/1/1989
Started Climbing: 5 yrs. old
Hometown: Richardson, TX
Highest Grade: V17

As for competition climbing, he’s won the American Bouldering Series National Championship in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012, and 2013. He’s also won the Teva Mountain Games in the bouldering category three times (2006, 2007, and 2010), as well as the ABS National Championship nine times. He’s competed in many IFSC World Cup events, winning the gold medal in the Vail World Cup in 2010. In addition, he has the most open wins at the Hueco Tanks Rock Rodeo.

In 2010, Daniel got engaged to his girlfriend of one year, Courtney Sanders. He proposed to her at Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder and they got married, but have since been divorced since 2017. He’s currently based in Boulder, Colorado, and is very active in the climbing community. For a more robust list of his ascents, see his profile on 27 Crags and Climbing History. You can also follow him on Instagram.

Notable Climbs

Return of the Sleepwalker (V17) – 2021

Back in 2021, Woods spent 52 days projecting a boulder problem in Red Rock Canyon (more specifically Black Velvet Canyon) near Las Vegas, Nevada. Jimmy Webb’s Sleepwalker (V16) had its first ascent in 2018 and Daniel Woods was its first repeat in 2019. The idea of a sit start with six extra moves emerged in 2021, and Woods returned to project it, attempting it countless times and even put himself “in complete isolation in the desert and camped” for the last 16 days. This route became Return of the Sleepwalker and was the world’s second V17.

Daniel Climbs His 3rd V16 – 2016

After 15 days of hard work mentally and physically, Daniel finally climbed Creature from the Black Lagoon (V16), a Black 90 project in Chaos Canyon. It was the boulder’s first ascent, and Woods had a lot to say about it on his Instagram post, but overall he was happy to “look back at all those failed attempts over the course of 15 days and smile.”

Papichulo (5.15a) – 2016

In Oliana, Spain, Papichulo has become one of the most iconic repeated 5.15’s. Daniel added his name to the list in March of 2016 and joined some big names like Chris Sharma (FA) and Magnus Midtbø. It took him three weeks of work and he said it was “the most resistant route” he had climbed on.

The Process – A Bishop Mega Project (V16) – 2015

Described as “the last king line in the Buttermilks” by Dan Beal, The Process (V16) is the most obvious, yet most elusive line on the Grandpa Peabody highball boulder in Bishop, California. Daniel Woods claimed the first ascent of the mega project in early 2015, successfully climbing one of the hardest blocs in the world. You can watch a video of Daniel’s nighttime ascent.

The Process – photo by Reel Rock / Sender Films.

El Diablo (V15) in Peñoles, Mexico – 2014

On a trip to Peñoles, Daniel Woods spent some time night climbing a boulder in the Mexican desert. It was too hot to climb during the day, so Daniel, Jimmy Webb, and Dave Graham were forced to climb mostly at night. This route was referred to as the ‘omega king line‘ of Daniel’s dreams and nightmares, and he was able to claim the first ascent in 2014.

First Ascent of The Purge (V14) – 2013

Daniel established another V14 in Colorado’s Elkland Boulders in May of 2015, and he called it The Purge. Dave Graham suggested Daniel try it out after Dave couldn’t send it before he left for Europe, and Daniel went to visit the problem. He sent it during a night session to take advantage of cooler temperatures, and said it was “the full package line!”

The Bubble Wrap Project – 2013

At Boulder, Colorado’s CATS climbing gym, Daniel climbed The Bubble Wrap project, which was an indoor route that was set five years prior and hadn’t been completed since. It has been projected in the past by big names like Carlo Traversi, but Daniel was the first to complete it.

Witness The Fitness (V15) – 2013

Located in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, Witness the Fitness was first climbed by Chris Sharma back in 2005 (and repeated in 2006 by Fred Nicole). The boulder is on private property, but Daniel Woods, Jimmy Webb, and Paul Robinson got permission from the landowner, and Daniel took the third ascent. It required three days of work, and the trio found that multiple handhold breaks led to them having to figure out completely new beta for the crux.

5.14d and V15 For Woods: White Noise & Moonshine – 2012

Over the course of only a few days, Daniel sent several routes, including a 5.14d and V15. On a weekend trip to Wyoming, he claimed the second ascent of Moonshine (5.14d), which was a “short bouldery power endurance line” (quote by Daniel’s ex-wife, Courtney) by BJ Tilden. After driving back home to Colorado, he established a V15 boulder problem in Rocky Mountain National Park called White Noise.

Mission Impossible (9a/5.14d) – 2012.

In Clear Creek Canyon near Golden, Colorado, Mission Impossible (5.14d) became quite possible with Daniel’s first ascent in mid-2012. It took him 7 days of projecting but he said it was “such a sick line with incredible movement.” The route was bolted by Jay Samuelson in 2011 and Woods proposed at least 9a/5.14d, making it his hardest ascent to date.

First Ascent of a V15 in Magic Wood – 2011

La Force Tranqille is a V15 problem in Magic Wood, Switzerland. Woods completed the first ascent back in 2011, and this was his third V15 first ascent and his fifth V15 in Magic Wood.

Practice of the Wild (V15) in Switzerland – 2011

In 2004, Chris Sharma sent a problem in Magic Wood, Switzerland. It was “Chris Sharma’s hardest problem,” and Daniel Woods claimed the third ascent for the V15 (behind Ty Landman in 2008). At the time, Practice of the Wild was one of the few V15’s in the world – Daniel said it took him “3 days of mental/physical warring” and that it was a “majestic testpiece.”

Warpath – V14 in 2011

After two days of effort, Daniel came away with the second ascent of Warpath, a V14 boulder in southern Idaho. First climbed by James Litz in 2007, it wasn’t repeated until Daniel Woods, James Webb, and Dave Graham visited the area to give it a shot. According to Daniel, the route is “pure resistance climbing.”

Invisible Man Project in Hueco Tanks – 2011

In February of 2011, Daniel Woods and Jimmy Webb were in Hueco Tanks, Texas, for some winter climbing. They brushed up on some holds to the left of Terremer (8c), Terre de Siene (8b), and Diaphanous Sea (8a+) to create the “Invisible Man Project.”

Third Ascent of Ill Trill (V14/15) – 2011

Located in Magic Wood, Switzerland, Ill Trill was first climbed by Paul Robinson, who suggested the V15 (8c) rating. Almost a year later, Daniel claimed the third ascent but suggested a downgrade to a hard V14 (8b+). He had been working on it for a few days over the course of the past couple years, and the conditions were perfect for a send. Daniel said: “One of the best movements climbs I have done in a while.”

Fantasia (V14) at the Bambi Boulder 2011

Fantasia is to the right of Bambi in Matthews-Winters Park: it’s a sit start with about 25 moves that comes out on a roof and finishes on the last section of Bambi. Daniel claimed the first ascent of the V14, which has since been downgraded to V13. You can watch the video of his attempt on Fantasia.

Jaws II – photo by Lee Hansche

Jaws II (5.14a) in 2010

Originally a 5.14b worked by Dave Graham, Jaws became Jaws II after several holds broke, making the line significantly more difficult. Vasya Vorotnikov claimed the new first ascent, and Daniel claimed second after spending a few days on it over the course of a couple years. Although it was estimated to be 5.14d, 5.15a has been sticking thus far after a few ascents, making it one of the hardest routes east of the Rockies.

Woods FA’s New V15 Warrior Up – 2010

After three days of projecting, Woods claimed the first ascent of Warrior Up (V15/8c), located in Lincoln Lake, Mt. Evans, in Colorado’s Wolverine Land. This route is a roof project that Daniel said was a “sick power line revolving around 3 moves.”

Daniel Woods, Alex Puccio, and Chris Webb Parsons in Colorado – 2010

Daniel, Alex Puccio, and Chris Webb Parsons spent some time bouldering in the Lincoln Lake area of Mt. Evans in Colorado. You can watch the video of them bouldering and it shows Woods working on a roof project that would become Dying to Live (V14) , Chris Webb Parsons flashing Unshackled Sit (V11) and sending Exfoliator (V12), and Alex Puccio sending Unshackled Sit (V11).

The Game (V16) – 2010

The Game is an infamous project in Boulder Canyon that Daniel first tried in 2008. He came back a couple times over the years, getting stronger each time. He finally sent it on February 10th in 2010, claiming the first ascent of the V16. Daniel said “I called this problem The Game, because for me the climb was a game I had to play, I had to click into game mode, and really train myself for these moves. I had to grow mentally strong and also physically strong to be able to put it together.” It has since been downgraded to a V15 by Daniel and a couple others like Carlo Traversi. You can watch the teaser for his climb.

Jade (V14/15) in 2007

In Rocky Mountain National Park’s Chaos Canyon, Woods made the first ascent of Jade, which was previously Dave Graham’s The Green 45 Project. The original suggested grade was V15, put it has since been downgraded to V14. Either way, it’s become of the most popular boulders in the west and has been climbed by big names like Alex Puccio, Adam Ondra, Ashima Shiraishi, and more.

Cover photo from 8a.nu.

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About The Author

Ashley is an adventurous soul who loves all things nature, especially warm sunshine, wildflowers, scenic snacking, and mushrooms. She is an avid outdoor enthusiast who has spent years enjoying time outside doing things like hiking, camping, and rock climbing.
Her goal with Know Nothing Nomads is to make these hobbies easily accessible through knowledgeable content and how-to's based on all the stuff she's learned on her journey. If she isn't writing an article, she's probably in a forest looking at big mountain views and tiny pieces of moss on the side of the trail.

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