In 2011 I was one of the thousands of rock climbers around the world who kept up with the wideboyz blog. This young team of Brits had travelled to the US and were basically destroying all the hardest off-width in what can only be described as fantastic style. This film in essence is their right of passage to become the best off-width climbers the world has arguably ever seen, although this is a title that neither of them would give themselves.
Tom Randal’s and Pete Whittaker’s determination, dedication and 2 year training regime are captured amazingly well in this film and was one of the highlights showing the real story behind the story. If you are old enough to remember Johnny Dawes’ Best Forgotten Art about crack climbing then this takes the climbing of the world’s widest cracks to a whole new level.
Armed with measurements for the worlds hardest unclimbed off-width, Century Crack a 120ft offwidth. Given to them by Stevie Haston who was first to attempt the line some ten years ago or more. We see these two climbers become obsessed with a basement training regime with that 7 inch crack in mind. With no routes to practice on, necessity proved the mother of invention, when they created their own torture chamber. Whilst the climbing is of course spectacular, it is the dedication to the cause that this film captures. For two years Tom and Pete locked themselves in a cellar and carried out the sort of training that not even the CIA would use to rendition the latest terrorist.
Whilst, if you followed their blog you knew what the outcome was going to be, the journey is captured more thoroughly and far more intimately in this film. For me it was the insight into their focus that made it stand out for me. Only in the Olympics do you see athletes spend so long focusing on one thing, that to me felt like I was watching two great friends who would flip a roll of hand tape for first try of a route, win their own gold medals for off-widthing.
Over in the US they are given a guided tour of the best and hardest off-width the country has to offer. Climbing many on-sight or second go, including a stunning onsight of Belly Full of Bad Berries. Which appears to have left their US hosts shocked. After all surely two climbers from a country devoid of really hard off-widths couldn’t turn up and do the impossible.
The list of the hard routes they did in the US is a long one, however their main goal was Century Crack. A route that was still unclimbed and thought to be harder than any other off-width in the US. We see them climb the route after only one day practicing it, returning the next day to redpoint it first go with all the gear still in place. The two years of training comes to a head and the emotions of succeeding on a route that you have dreamt of climbing for so long is captured in the film as both climbers well up.
That would of course be that, but here the commentary by Stevie Haston and other leading figures in the dark under world of off-width climbing, focus on the pre-placed gear. The internet at the time lit up with debate over whether it was indeed an ascent or not if the gear was in place. We see Pete and Tom faced with those inner demons trying to decide whether or not to return to the crack and silence those critics as they come under enormous international peer pressure to show it could be done, ground up placing the gear.
You’ll have to watch the film to find out what happens but all in all it is a great film about a very perverse niche of rock climbing. At the same time we come to know both Pete and Tom in a way that engages the viewer.
You can find more about this film or head to the hotaches website to buy a copy for someone for christmas.