Tom Randall and Pete Whittaker spent two months in Wyoming and Utah this fall climbing the United States's hardest offwidths—awkwardly sized, unpopular cracks that are too wide to fist jam but too narrow to chimney. In October, the pair established what is believed to be the world's most difficult offwidth route, a 170-foot roof crack under Canyonlands' White Rim that they dubbed Century Crack. To train for the trip, Randall and Whittaker, who call themselves the Wide Boyz, spent two years climbing in a makeshift gym in Randall's basement in Sheffield, England. Hot Aches Productions will release a film about their project next fall.
Why offwidths? Most climbers think of wide crack climbing as pure suffering. What drew you to it?
Tom Randall: The experience you get out of those styles of climbs is so different. It's more like getting in the ring with Mike Tyson than doing ballet. I've just always really enjoyed that full-on fight. Most of the time when I first started, I got my ass handed to me, and I didn't think it was a bad experience. It encouraged me to come back and do more.
How did you train for this trip?
Pete Whittaker: We turned Tom's cellar into a dungeon of wide cracks. We didn't really call it a dungeon. It was like one, though. Lots of dust, it was horrible.
Randall: We got a load of wood together, and built a five-inch roof crack, and about an eight-inch roof crack, and a big long crack for hand jamming. Then we built a forty-five-degree overhanging crack that was about nine inches that you could just hang in and do a variety of nasty exercises, and another thing to do a lot of upside-down situps on.
Whittaker: Tom's cellar was really specific to our final goal. If we hadn't had the cellar, it would have been like trying to train for a crimpy route without actually doing any crimpy climbing.