Wide Boyz Blog

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Hairy Welsh Cracks, Hannah and (H)Ireland

As it's only a couple of weeks before heading off to America, Pete and I have been up to a few random things - some fillers, some projects and some general trad climbing.

At the moment, Pete is over in Ireland in the Mourne Mountains. No doubt, he'll be smearing his way up some desperate slabs somewhere in the mist. I spoke to him on the phone yesterday and it sounded like he'd already had "an emotional experience" on an E4 sandbag. Must be all that offwidthing that's wrecked your footwork Pete!

Photo: Pete most definitely not working on his footwork!

The previous week I headed over with my wife and daughter, to South Wales to have another look at a couple of cracks. Last year I spent a day trying a roof crack project at Dinas Rock, which splits a pretty sizeable roof on finger-locks. Simon Rawlinson had very kindly done some of the cleaning for me, but it was really to no avail as I was out of shape and the jams were just hideously painful. This year however, I vowed to return in slightly better form and to be a bit more careful how I treated my fingers.

Photo: I'm working the roof on the left-hand side of the pic. (Thanks to Robin Richmond for taking the photo)

I was really pleased this time to get all the moves on the crux crack sequence done, but still quite way from linking sections or large sequences together. I think it'll end up being around V11 for the roof crack and a tricky 20ft section to get there. Something to come back to in the future!

On the second day we braved a bushwacking walk-in with a pushchair (Hannah and wife were not amused!) to go and repeat a really unique looking roof crack on sandstone. The Clart Mountain Project was established by a mate of mine (Si Rawlinson) after it was donated to him by a local bolter and activist. Whilst it did seem unusual to have bolted the line, I can't really say I blamed them considering that every other route in the entire quarry was bolted. All in all, a great little crack and would be around 7b or E6 6b on trad gear.

Photo: Simon on the 1st ascent of the Clart Moutain Project.

The last "H" in this blog will be Hannah, my daughter. It's been a huge challenge over the last few months trying to fit in family life, keep on top of my work and still train hard. The one thing that has kept me going though, when I'm totally knackered and feeling like I can't face yet another session in the cellar has been the little cheeky grin on Hannah's face. It's absolutely brilliant; like liquid-happiness.

Friday, 26 August 2011

8c offwidth. Surely not...

A long time ago..... in a far, far land..... Well, Kalymnos to be exact, myself and Pete dreamed up this concept of an offwidth cellar underneath my house. It seemed like a total pipedream that would never happen at the time (partly because I'd still not actually agreed a price on the house!) but with a bit of psyche, hard work and a few kitchen worktops a cellar like no other was born.

Photo: Pete on the original prototype

At first, we worked quite hard to just do a couple of laps on the 7 inch horizontal offwidth, but with time, tape and a LOT of training, it all seemed to come together. I remember when we both first did a 100ft continuous section of roof crack and being so wasted that we could hardly walk afterwards. The lactic acid had consumed almost our entire body - biceps, hands, core and legs were destroyed.

Photo: Tape gloves had to be reinforced with duct tape the abrasion was so bad over 100ft reps.

After quite some time and with even more additions to my strange cellar (a 9-inch roof crack, The Hastonator and Kneebar sit-up machine), we came up with an ultimate Offwidth Link-Up. Miles of hand fist stacking, into double fist stacking, into handjams and bathangs. When we considered a 200ft section of continuous roof climbing to be fairly reasonable (and definitely repeatable in sets) this ultimate link up seemed the living end. Nothing could be harder it seemed and in our minds we set that if we were able to do this before leaving for America, then our conditioning would be complete.

Photo: Pete focussed and working hard. (c) Richie Patterson

Sure enough, last week both Pete and I completed this 8c link-up that we'd dreamt up. Who knows if it's the grade or if it'll even be useful for a Vedauwoo 5.9, but what I do know is it makes anything else I've done seem pretty light. In many ways I think I feel more scared about the trip now that I have done this link as I know there's no excuse physically. Everything else will be in the mind.

Please dear God, some beta on Lucille would be great... 

Monday, 15 August 2011

The Original Ray's Roof Solo

A while back when Pete and I originally soloed Ray's Roof, we wrote a few thoughts on the matter. I'm not sure that I ever did anything with those thoughts, so here they are to enjoy. Looking back at it, I'm not sure who took the piss out of who, more effectively.

Cue Time Warp............................

As many people know, the first ascent of Ray's Roof was done by the visiting american, Ray Jardine. A pioneer of hard, burly cracks in the US, it was no surprise that he managed to put up a "real fighter" on God's own rock. Much like many of his rarely repeated US offwidths, he gave his Baldstones route a fairly modest grade of 5.11c, which comes in around E4. I'm guessing that he never ventured over to Ramshaw to see how Ramshaw Crack (at the same grade, but not difficulty!) compared....

Over the following decades, Ray's Roof saw the odd repeat by local obsessives and crack deviants. However, it wasn't until Dawes, Plant and Woodward decided to have a very public tussle with this roof crack that it really began to build a reputation. These demi-gods were thoroughly shut down and shut out - even the enigmatic Dawes with his 3D (or is that 4D??!) brain couldn't work out an appropriate sequence. Tales of hidden pebbles, gardening glove ascents and missing chockstones only added to the mystery of yet another desperate Jardine test-piece. 

It wasn't until myself and Pete Whittaker headed over to the Baldstones to climb Ray's Roof in 2008, that the spell of this route started to break. After working out a more reasonable sequence of moves and passing these on to other local climbers, a number of stylish ascents followed over the next couple of years. Hearing of even the crimp-master personified - Ryan Pasquill - ascend this beauty, we knew it was time to set the next challenge. No ropes, no cams.... just some pads, friends and a load of finger tape.

Pete and I have described each other's ascents, so you can tell what's going on inside the twisted mind of an offwidther. It's not pretty, it's not very complimentary and it's certainly not fair. Enjoy:


So here we were again, sat underneath Ray's Roof. Our last soloing attempt had been aborted over a year ago after I'd catapulted over Pete's mum's head in an over-eager handjam dyno and the winds had picked up to near hurricane levels.... This time though, it was going to be different; we'd spent countless hours hanging by our feet in offwidths around Europe and picked off most of the hardest that anyone could throw at us. We felt confident.

Pete stepped up to the plate first, mainly because I let him. Mostly with these tough offwidths it's best to let your adversary go first as they'll waste untold amounts of energy working the beta out for you and perfectly lining all the best jams with chalk. Unfortunately, Pete looked really rather at ease on his warm-up attempt and pushed straight on for the leg-jam rest. As he's quite a bit weaker than me, he tends to hang around on his feet considerably more, so my hands rubbed in glee as I watched him slowly look more tired in this position. As with most offwidths, it's a considerable advantage to have small knees and large fists; something Pete is extremely well endowed with. Obviously as this makes most offwidths hugely easier for him, I try to employ ample amounts of tight rope (so he can't move up), bad beta (so he falls off), spit in his chalk (for poor friction) and demoralising shouts (come on Pete, just fall off so we can all go home...). He was too fast for me this time though - my calls of "it's starting to rain" and "I think I've just seen a buzzard nesting in the break" did little to stifle his enthusiastic jams through the crux. Damn, he'd just made the first solo ascent; as a bloody warm-up.


We were back - taping up at the bottom of Ray’s pondering the best way to start it.
Without the “Staffordshire Reach” it is impossible to reach into the good part of the crack from the good foot and hand holds and so most people who live outside of Staffordshire have to find a different way to get into the crack. Some things just aren’t fair are they?!

As Tom can actually only jam, he couldn’t use my safer crimp beta to get into the crack. As a result he had to take the bolder flake approach on the left, which seeing as though he is getting on a bit, I thought was a fine effort. This approach is fine when leading the route, but when soloing it could probably leave you over at Gib Torr if you got it wrong, as it involves a massive cut loose and swing from a horizontal position with your head actually slightly lower then your feet.

After getting through this section without any of the mishaps of last time, which involved a dismount face first into the grass slope, he crossed the roof section with relative ease. On approaching the lip he realised the offwidth genetics that had been passed on by his mother and father were all wrong and his mini-fists didn’t fit to well, so had to drop off for a re think and more importantly - a re-tape.

After redoing his tape job, which now looked more like a plaster cast, he set off again. On reaching the lip he managed to get a better seated jam, went hunting for dung at the back of the crack and pushed on. After a lot of shuffling, followed by some well executed randy humping, he found himself halfway round the lip with a dodgy knee jam. I gave no sympathy to him here as he does have skinny knees (a useful offwidthing tool) so watched and went for the arms folded, classic “British Spotting Technique” as he struggled to get a knee jam seated properly and grunt up to the top.
With relief and “an emotional experience” he eventually landed himself on the funnel and left the Staffordshire boys standing at the bottom with their chins on the floor!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Want More Wide in Your Life?

If you'd like more wide in your life, more crack in your backyard and more brutal chickens in your nightmares, then look no further.....! Pete and I (well, it's mainly me actually as I'm the geek) have decided to dip into the murky world of Twitter and we'll updating our adventures on the Twitter account TomRandall2.

So please do follow us if you DON'T know what's best for you!

Tweet me up baby

Photo: Pete showing Paul his Wide Pony. Naughty.  (c) Richie Patterson

We'll be keeping you in touch with all the American stuff, madness in the cellar and of course everytime Pete gets on a Wide Pony..... don't ask!


We're really proud to be now supported by Sterling for our ropes and also ClimbOn (to recover from multiple scabbing injuries). Sterling make some flipping brilliant ropes and I'm looking forward to having my ass saved over a few more sharp edges! The "Marathon" single that we've used so far has already taken a harsh beating and no signs of any problems yet.

Thanks Sterling!

Monday, 1 August 2011

Filming the Wide and Wonderful - Part 3

Day 7 – Ogwen
We thought we would make a short trip up to George’s Crack in the Ogwen Valley today as it has some good wide pony technique going on. I think, although not sure, Will Perrin and Tom might be the only people to onsight this problem, which is quite surprising for a V5 I guess they just know how to tickle that trout. Anyway I also managed to onsight the problem aswell. Its pretty simple really, just involves some nice hand/fist stacking and abit of wide ponying.
There’s a short video of me climbing the problem below:

Anyway after this short little warm up we decided to have a go on Cobalt Dream which is high up on the other side of the valley. After a walk in which I expected to be shorter then it was, we realised that we only had time for one lead. Me and Tom flipped for the lead and I lost which meant I was sent up first. It’s E1ish up to the roof, which was unfortunately looking bigger by the time I got up there.

I just thought, stick to what your good at and get the invert on, so I went upside down for most of the roof then pivoted left side in, in the end slot. It was a bit of nightmare to get fully into the slot with a rack on, but you just had to keep moving an inch at a time.
In the end I was pretty glad I didn’t fall off as Tom was getting the real E5 treatment on belay from death by midges. After telling me he was thinking about jumping off the top after walking up because they were so bad, I wasn’t entirely sure whether he was holding the other end of the ropes, especially as I also had to untie one end because the rope wasn’t long enough!

Day 8
Today was quite restful as Richie wanted some falling off shots for a Helium Promo. So I did some jumping off Offspring which was fun. Well really it wasn’t jumping off at all, it was falling because I’m so weak.
Tom did a bit of chat for this Crack School thing as he is good at that and I’m a complete punter at it, and that’s about it really.

Day 9 – Cellar session
Possibly the physically hardest part of the last 9 days was saved until last. Tom’s cellar. Paul wanted to get some footage of some of the training we have done down there recently.

Paul filming (c) Wild Country

Fortunately it turned out that the session wasn’t as hardcore as usual, so that was a relief, as usually it feels like you should be trying harder then you are as all Tom's motivational messages seem intimidating!

Motivational message (apparently)

I think the Hastonater seemed to cause the most amusement as Tom showed me a new exercise he had been doing in it. The chicken wing and deadbar curls. Destined to be a favourite over the next 6 weeks I reckon.

Crack sit ups

Tom on the wide pony

Anyway I’ve been on 2 days rest now, Tom is probably still driving around trying to find Ratho, Theres 6 weeks until we go to America and we are psyched!!!