Wide Boyz Blog

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Loving Lucille

I remember seeing a guidebook topo for Lucille about 2 and a half years ago and I didn’t know what the scale of the route was. I thought it was an upside down shuffle with your feet inverted above you and your bum on the wall below...how wrong I was. The next photo I saw of this big bad offwidth was a picture of Craig Luebben making the second ascent and first onsight of the route. I couldn’t believe how small he looked turning the lip compared to the rest of the route and couldn’t work out how he had got through that massive 40ft roof.

One Scary MoFo - Lucille

It was then 2 and a half years later that I somehow found myself taping up on the slabs below trying to convince myself that the roof wasn’t that big and everything in Britain was way more intimidating. It’s not just the line that is intimidating it is the history behind the route; the tale from the first ascentionist, the onsights that have followed, the stories of failures, epics and puking on route. Everything about this route had built up in my mind and it felt like a big deal to me.

When Tom and I got to the belay I already knew I was up first as we had flipped a coin the night before to see who it would be. Unfortunately I lost out and had to go first.

The rack for Lucille

I was so nervous at the beginning of the route I could barely pull off finger lock moves of about 5.8 difficulty. However I got to a ledge filled with greasy bird poo and it made me feel like I was back in England and I soon realised I was even more at home as my head and upper body were stuck in a massive crack. With all nerves completely settled I found the sequence to conquer the 40ft roof and got myself into a “side winder position”. I got into such a rhythm of advancing chicken wings and armbars that when I started to turn the bulge I forgot to move my last Friend #6 with me and didn’t place my #5. Suddenly I found the chicken wings became a lot less secure and I had to really do some hip scumming to get to the secure knee lock. With a mild amount of swearing, thankfully the knee lock appeared (knee lock and hand stack combined = belay), I then knew I wasn’t falling out of there and punched it out to the top, fortunately without my rope getting stuck behind the lobe of my last Friend miles beneath.

Pete finally reaching easier ground on his onsight

I got back down the belay cave and found Tom shaking away, I told him not to worry and that this puppy would warm him up. He told me he wasn’t cold but nervous. I had actually never seen him this nervous before a route so reassured him that it was his style of climbing, (even though I knew we had done nothing like this before) and that because he looked after chickens he was really good at chicken winging. Tom put in a solid effort on his first go but got stopped by a massive flapper on his palm and the full body exhaustion. However an hour later he sent that wide crack in super style. Quickly, efficiently and without any swearing and made it look about E2. Well good!!!

So what about the grading? There is no trick to this route like many of the other offwidths in Vedauwoo, which is why I believe it has been onsighted a few times and some of the easier graded ones haven’t. To climb the route you’ve got to build a threshold to sickness, seat a chicken wing and get moving. The grade of the route comes through its continuity not the difficultly of a few single moves that are hard to read, like on some of the other wide ones out here. Awesome route Jay.

Pete showing off his chicken wing on 8oz

Friday, 23 September 2011

Big Bro's, Big Pink and Big Psyche

It's been a couple more days up in the freezing cold of the Vedauwoo campsite - we've been caught speeding at 25mph, eaten a whole Jamaican Schlong and ticked a few more Wide Cracks. Both of us have hit some serious low points in mental ability, with one epic day spent looking for one route for hours in the woods, only to realise we didn't know the difference between East and West. I thought the offwidths would just be cruel on the body, but the mind has definitely suffered in equal proportions....

I'm starting to see strange signs

The last 2 days have been filled mainly with two thought processes; Big Bros and Big Pink.

Big Bros

It's nothing to do with a family relationship - it's actually a form of protection. A key piece of protection that takes us from Wild Country 6 to....... BIG!! Really big. Unfortunately we need some for Pamela Pack's testpiece Gabriel 5.13c/d in the desert that we've been obsessessing about. Yup, we've not even finished at Vedauwoo and we're thinking about the next invert masterpiece. I think we need a shrink.

Yesterday saw me ticking On a Wing and Prayer (5.12c) which is a pretty spicy invert offiwdth flare, put up by Pamela Pack. It's mainly spicy because when you fall off, the dive is totally hideous and you whack your head back into the crack in an upside position - I definitely tested that one!
On a Wing and a Prayer (c) Alex Ekins

In the afternoon, we headed over to do Justin Edl's hardest offwidth "Simiantics" at V9. Pete pulled off some powerful kneelocks and foot-jibbery to get an ascent - Good work young Whittaker! Justin also put us to shame by cruising the problem right in front of our eyes; I think we're still complete beginners at knee-locking compared to him... Some photos of the problem on Alex Ekins' website!

Big Pink

Ever since we arrived in Vedauwoo, the locals and internet pundits have been going on about a route called "Big Pink." Our tick list of all the hard stuff was pushed aside - "Man you guys have to man up and do Big Pink. That thing is so classic!"

Basically, this means you're going to get a massive sandbagging. When everyone is telling you to forget the 5.13 invert and get stuck into a 5.11b vertical shuffle you know you're in trouble. Pete and I managed to put the route off for a week, but in the end we knew we'd have to get it done eventually. To make our life a bit easier (read, get some excuses in early) we tried it on a boiling hot day in full sun and totally fucked from the previous day's climbing. We were very nervous about this one! Fortunately, Pete did it as his warm-up, onsight and I flashed it 10 minutes later. Thank God for that; we weren't total punters.
Two plonkers divided by a "Big Pink"

Some more photos can be found on Alex Ekins' website, covering our last 2 days.


Wednesday, 21 September 2011

First week in Fat Crack City - Vedauwoo!

The last blog post that we stuck up a few days after arriving in the States was mostly filled with doom and gloom... Rain, rain and more rain. Despite being British, I think we're terrible at coping with bad weather when we travel away from the UK - we expect perfect blue skies in every other country!

Fortunately that all changed after a few days and we finally got stuck into some nasty, flared wide cracks. All the time sitting in a rain-swept tent we had pondered how sandbagged we'd get, how much skin we'd lose and whether every 5.9 would shut us down.

Vedauwoo as the storms clear
We're a week into the trip now and we've finally got some routes and boulders done - we've experienced the Vedauwoo Sandbag, the invert shuffle and armbar-induced hyperventillation. We've met up with some really cool and helpful US offwidthers who've showed us the way to some of the best stuff. Many thanks Justin, Brad, Adam and Eric!

Rather than dissect every route and boulder problem for the moment (grades, cruxes etc etc!) we've opted to give a bit of summary of the stuff we've done and some links to photos that Alex Ekins has put up on his blog. Hope you enjoy them...

Alex Ekins photos

Pete shows off his terrible taste in hats

Man, what a shit day. It rained and rained, but by the afternoon there was a break in the cloud and we dashed out to some boulder problems with towels and chalk socks. First up in "The Dungeon" were Life Without Parole (V4) and The Warden (V7-8, 5.12c) which Pete flashed in very fine style. It's worth pointing out that he did possibly the world's biggest sit-up on The Warden, so I'm tempted to award him extra points! It was great to finally get some climbing done and actually realise that we weren't complete punters.

Tom on Life Without Parole, V4

On our second day of climbing we decided to follow up on the bouldering front (as suggested by local Justin Edl) and get on Desiderata (V5) and Monsters Inc (V8, 5.13a). Desiderata was a superb roof splitter much like the famous "Cedar Eater" in Yosemite. This served as a quick warm up for Monster Inc later that afternoon, (see photo below).
Desiderata, V5
Monsters Inc is a pretty strange boulder propblem because its probably just as long as quite a few of the hard offwidth routes in Vedauwoo. It's a 5 inch crack that splits a 45 degree roof for perhaps 40ft. Unfortunately Pete and I didn't quite realise where the problem started so we ended up ticking a shorter version of the problem weighing in at about 5.12d. We were totally gutted when we realised we missed the start and so we'll have to go back up there next week to finish off the full 5.13 version. Oh well!!


We promised at the beginning of the trip that we would never do more then "2 days on", however we found ourselves taping up under Bob Scarpelli's testpiece Squat (5.12b) on Saturday. Pete duly dispatched the route on his warm up to make possibly the first ever onsight of the route. Good effort! After a few more tries I found myself groveling over the top after seating the crux knee lock properly.
Looking up at the roof of Squat, 5.12b

REST, flipping heck we needed that.


In the morning we succeeded in climbing what is touted as possibly Vedauwoo's hardest offwidth route - Spatial Relations (5.13a, put up by Pamela Pack). We were pretty pleased to get the route done in just a couple of hours. Overall we thought it was a really good route with some unique moves including an invert pivot-to-chicken-wing.

In the afternoon we went out to an old school classic, Worm Drive (5.11b). Plenty of people have this as a sandbag for the grade so we were again pleased to onsight and flash the route.


Our next day's objective was Trip Master Monkey (5.12b) another Scarpelli testpiece from back in the day. Modern day offwidthers ave called this anything from 5.12c - 5.13a, which prepared us for a possible massive sandbagging. Neither of us onsighted the route but I managed to fudge it on my second go and Pete got it 30 minutes later. We thought this route was definitely a sandbag and would rate considerably harder then Ray's Roof.

In the afternoon we persuaded Justin to show us an offwidth that had been put up recently by Pamela Pack and Patrick Kingsbury, The Wing (5.12c). Yet another invert test piece presented itself on the side of a dome shaped like a vulture. I stubbornly attacked the route  in my usual upside manner but 3D Pete put his thinking cap on and came up with a brilliant sequence of tenuous chicken wings and palm smearing. As a result he quickly ticked the route that afternoon and I'll be coming back on a different day to use this beta.

Finally at the end of our tether Justin put us on one of his classic boulders, Crack Named Sue (V5). We were so tired our arms felt a little numb but we managed to both top out first try.
Feeling papped on Crack Named Sue

Wednesday - REST!!!!!! - So we're thankful for a rest day now, My shoulder looks like I've just had a motorbike crash and Pete's triceps feel like he ran a lawnmower over them. Bring on the Climb On cream, Savlon and Tremadol.

Trip Master leaves its first mark
Alex Ekins has been with us on each of the routes and you can see some really great pictures over on his blog at http://alexekins.co.uk/category/blog/

Sunday, 18 September 2011

First Stop - Vedauwoo. Fat Crack City.

We’ve finally made it over to America – the plane didn’t get turned around and customs didn’t find my huge stash of offwidth porn. Pete, Alex and I touched down in Salt Lake City to perfect blue skies and 20 degrees temperatures. The start to the trip was pretty much perfect and it went steadily downhill from there...

Getting to Vedauwoo, wasn’t too difficult; although we did have a few issues with the gaps between petrol stations and what a “pickle chip” was. After driving through the night we arrived at a brilliant little campground surrounded by complex domes of rock. Pete and I couldn’t really contain our excitement and ended up running off into the woods with head torches looking for any route we knew.

The next day dawned with drizzle. It then turned to steady rain and finally mist with some more rain mixed in. Arse. The ultimate British holiday take-down had struck – a whole pile of shit weather. Forlornly we searched in the rain for some of the test pieces we’d climb later in the trip. For a day and half we traipsed around in the rain, desperately trying to find something dry [Pete insists that he didn’t traipse, but “soared like an eagle”]. Fucking rain – it’s such a killer of climbing psyche.

Photo: Pete gets psyched as he finally spots some clear sky!

On Wednesday a trip was made back to Laramie to nurse our weather-depression with coffee and cakes. Local crack legend Justin Edl came to meet up with us and eventually reassured us that the trip wasn’t going to be a total disaster care of the rain. He gave us a tick list of glory to be going on with and we ventured back up into the Vedauwoo mist.

We'll put up a blog post in a few days once we've hopefully ticked some more stuff and can put it all together. Until then, there's some cool photos on Alex Ekins' blog of our first forays onto the lovely coarse rock of Vedauwoo http://alexekins.co.uk/wide-boyz-in-vedauwoo-part-one/

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Off to America! It could be emotional....

Tom and I finally set off to America tomorrow. Having been waiting for so long now, it might not be possible to contain ourselves fully on the journey – I can see us having to whip the size 5s and 6s out in the airport and crack out some upside down sit-ups!

Hopefully we should arrive at Vedauwoo, Wyoming on Wednesday morning. I say “hopefully” though as it’s not fully guaranteed with our amazing sense of direction that we’ll actually get anywhere further than oversized baggage at Heathrow.

For our final blog post before we go away we thought it would be good to see how each person was feeling about the trip. We decided to do this by asking each other some questions – some sensible, others not so!

Photo: Tom trying to bite his own face off in preparation for "American Pain."


(Q)PETE: Tom, I've heard and witnessed that you travelled back from Ilkley to Sheffield via Birmingham and that when checking weather forecasts on the internet for Yorkshire you used the postcode for Llanberis. How do you actually expect to find any of the crags you want to climb on whilst out in America?

(A)TOM: It is true that I get lost even trying to find the bathroom in my house, but I have a secret weapon up my sleeve; a MAP! Yup, I've heard (from your Dad) that you're a reliable map reader and boy am I going to be using this resource a lot. I'd say that Alex Ekins might help out, but I know he's absolutely diabolical with directions as well, so we might end up waiting in a US airport until Kim arrives!

PETE: If you make it to the crag, you may realize that we’ve actually climbed very few offwidths on real rock, how do you think the training that we have done will transfer?

TOM: My suspicion is that the training will transfer pretty well on the really steep stuff, but we'll still be pretty rubbish at the vertical stuff. I'd like to say that it's because the American's have so many more vertical offwidths to practice on, but in reality it's the size of their biceps and cowboy boots that really counts.... 

PETE: What part of the trip are you most looking forward to and what part are you most nervous about?

TOM: I've been told by Kim (my wife) that I have to say it's our daughter coming out to visit, that I'm most looking forward to... I might also add that I'm psyched out of my tree for Belly Full of Bad Berries, The Crack House and more new routing shenanigans with your good self.

The part of the trip I'm most apprehensive about is trying Lucille in Vedauwoo (it's such a hugely significant route) or realising that I've actually booked our flights for the wrong country and we’re off to Yemen.

Pete trying some more "facial training"


(Q)TOM: So Pete, we've done loads of training and preparation for this trip now. What shall we do if we start falling off all the 5.9s?!

(A) PETE: I'm actually expecting to fall of all the 5.9s, especially in Vedauwoo where its meant to be sandbag city. However whenever you fall off something easy its best to just get on something much harder and steeper and fail on that instead because it will make you feel better and your mates won't think you're as much of a punter. Failing that i'll send you up everything and say i'm still jet lagged from a month ago.

TOM: What do you reckon of all these American offwidth wads?

PETE: America isn't just known for its offwidths, but like you say, the offwidth wads that it breeds. I have spoken to a few of the wads by email and my assessment is...that they are going to be well hardcore and I might get scared and run away!!! From the stories I've read and pictures I've seen these people feel no pain brother.
I also think they will have really slick technique and I may get to witness something really special, which is the illusion they can create when it looks like they slip up offwidths. I'll be psyched to see this as i've only ever seen you stuck in one...

TOM: What part of the trip are you most looking forward to?

PETE: I think 99.9% of people wouldn't look forward to anything we have planned on this trip, (offwidths, crying babies and no sense of direction...hmmmmmm!) However I couldn't be more excited. There are so many parts I am looking forward to...getting to climb a load of different offwidths; meeting new people; coming away from Vedauwoo with some skin and alive; climbing new routes; getting jet lag (never had it, want to see what all the fuss is about); getting to watch you and others feel pain; Kim, Laura and Hannah coming, man the list is endless.
But really there is one part and route that stands out...I think you know what that is. Should be a good adventure!!

 Photo: Wild Country come up with the goods. Thanks guys - you're legends!

Photo: Toilet rolls or Strappal Support?!

Friday, 2 September 2011

Indoor Offwidths and The Spread of Wide Love

Most people think of indoor climbing as being a pleasant experience. Bright blue crimps splattered all over a gently overhanging wall and funky wrestling with resin volumes at The Climbing Works. Think again....

Photo: Gaz Parry approaching a Wide Pony (c) Mike Langley

Over a year ago, myself and Pete were invited down to the Castle Climbing Centre in London to guest route set for their "King of the Mezz" boulder competition. Unfortunately I don't think Mike (the big man on campus) quite factored in how silly things can get when we double team at events. Normally, (I'm a route setter by trade) it's all quite reserved and I will set pretty standard stuff at most walls and comps, but for some reason as soon as Pete steps into the building with a drill in his hand anything can happen!!

Video of the Indoor Offwidth: See video HERE

To cut a long story short - at the King of the Mezz comp, we ended up setting some hideous V8 overhanging offwidth that required invert technique, hand-fist stacks and more than a little risk taking. All the wads from London turned up expecting 45 degree crimping and all they got were upside-down shuffling and Whittaker's V5 "Quarryman Problem" which was bloody impossible. Heads were shaken, lapis brushes were snapped and and steely-fingered beasts were shut down. We walked away from that comp expecting never to be invited back again and for the Castle to set an official policy of NO OFFWIDTHS ALLOWED.

That all changed when I received an email this week from route setting manager at The Castle - Mike Langley ..................

Photo: Mike trying the conceptual "Air Armbar" and failing....

"...In the true spirit of country “Wide” pride I thought I would drop the chiefs of the Mega-Ming a quick message of how we roll down on the South Side. No longer is it "London flicks" whilst sipping the perfectly foamed Cappuccino – us crazy men are now true aficionados of The Wide and would like to put our names forward and join the world wide elite and become BOYZ!

A truly rank set of foot stacks was set in the Castle’s roof yesterday by Gaz Parry, Mike Langley and Alex Lemel. In true Wide style the bloc was completed using a climbing shoe on one foot and a 5.10 trainer on the other from Gaz and a pair of sweaty stiff hire shoes from Mike. As for Alex he tried to flick his way through off the volumes edges..."

Good work BOYZ!!