The depolymerization of cellulose is carried out in the ionic liquid 1-butyl-3-methylimidazolium chloride in the presence of hydrogen gas. First, the ketal 1,1-diethoxycyclohexane and cellobiose were used as model substrates. For the depolymerization of cellulose itself, the combination of a heterogeneous metal catalyst and a homogeneous ruthenium catalyst proved effective. One of the possible roles of the ruthenium compound is to enhance the transfer of hydrogen to the metallic surface. The cellulose is fully converted under relatively mild conditions, with sorbitol as the dominant product in 51–74 % yield.