My America trip which i came back from in the middle of November last year, was probably my best, most fun and exciting climbing trip i've ever been on, here is a brief report summing up the places I visited and offwidths that I climbed.
Summing up my America Trip - Peter Whittaker
It has been strange coming back and not completely beasting myself on a cellar offwidth in preparation for this trip, but I've moved onto other things now and hopefully I can reach my new goals.....
Vedauwoo - Wyoming
This was the first place we visited. It is known as an offwidthing heaven, where the cracks are wide, flared and tough. The reputation of every route in the area being a complete sandbag is known internationally and skin loss on them is a certainty.
Tom and I had only allotted 2 weeks to repeat the areas hardest wide fests and felt we may as well warm up in the country in ‘a hard man area.’ We had set ourselves a goal of repeating ‘The Big Five’ – Vedauwoo’s five hardest offwidth routes, Lucille 5.13a, Spatial Relations 5.13a, On a Wing and a Prayer 5.12c, Trip Master Monkey 5.12b, Squat 5.12b.
In the first week we had both repeated the last 4 on the list all in super quick time and I’d also made the first ever onsight of ‘Squat’ as my first route of the trip.
During the second week the emphasis was put on repeating the nationally famous ‘Lucille’. This is a massively intimidating line, being a 40ft horizontal squeeze chimney roof. I managed to make the 4th onsight of this route, which I was so happy with as it was such an iconic route and one I had been waiting to climb for so long.
As an added bonus, because we finished what we hoped to climb so soon, we managed to climb all the hardest offwidth boulders in the area as well. Most were flashed or onsighted with the two hardest taking a couple of sessions.
Salt Lake City
There was only one route which we had in mind here, ‘Trench Warfare’, Originally put up by ex-pat Brit Jonny Woodward. We knew that it had never been flashed before so (as with every other route) we knew to give it our best shot first go. I managed to flash the route adding an extension to it in the process, and Tom managed to flash the original, then promptly soloed it afterwards, awesome!
Century Crack, Moab, Utah
So this was the route that we had been training towards, for two years, a route strong man Stevie Haston had failed on. A 120ft horizontal roof of perfect size 5 Friend and then another 25ft of vertical grovel.
The approach to the route is a journey within itself. It’s situated right in the heart of Canyonlands National Park, so backpacking permits need to be obtained, 2/3 days of food/water and a massive rack of size 5 and 6 friends all need to be taken down. The drive down is a gruelling 3 and a half hour 4x4 ride which sickens you before you’ve even made it to the climb.
When we first approached the climb you can see it from across the Rim and the whole route is so big it just looks like an innocent hand crack. Then after abbing in and walking up the approach gully it really starts to hit you. The route is an absolute monster, it just blew my mind. I hadn’t expected for it to be so big, exposed and aesthetic. The few photos I’d seen of Stevie working the route hadn’t prepared me for scale of the whole thing.
After we’d finally found our feet again and stopped tripping over things from looking up to much we got to work on the route. By the end of the first day we’d done every move on the route, but only ever done links of 20ft sections.
We only had two days of food, water and permits with us, so the next day we knew we would have to leave after climbing. As we had done all the moves the day before, we decided that it would be a good idea to try the route as a whole to see what it would really be like to try and link the whole thing together. We had left the gear in the route from the previous day of working it and didn’t strip the route as we knew it would waste far too much energy for the rest of the days climbing. Unbelievably both Tom and I climbed the route on our first redpoint attempt to make the FA.
Tower enthusiast Crusher Bartlett, who originally solo aid climbed the route had come down with us and it was so cool that he got to see me and Tom climb the route. There is a piece below of what Crusher said about the route after we had climbed it:
“Watching Pete sending Century Crack was definitely one of the all-time best displays of rock climbing I've ever seen. And that's saying something. I've been climbing over 30 years. In that time, I've witnessed many top climbers: Lynn Hill boldly launching herself up the then-aid climb Vandals; a gifted, inspired Skip Guerin displaying a cat-like grace on the boulders; a young Jerry Moffatt demonstrating his own gift of brute determination and hunger, Ben Moon cruising the Eldorado testpiece Rainbow Wall for its first onsight flash. These ascents are engraved on my brain—the very best climbers pulling it all together, showing the rest of us the potential that we all have, if we could only dig as deep. Thanks Pete and Tom!”
Zion National Park
After climbing Century Crack the plan was to go and try to repeat the former hardest offwidth in the country, ‘Gabriel’. This was only put up in 2009 and had been a project to the previous generations beforehand. It was Pamela Pack who eventually made the FA along with her climbing partner Patrick Kingsbury, who made the second sometime afterwards.
After acquiring some Big Bro’s and a Valley Giant to protect the crack with, we went to find the route. The style of this route hadn’t really been what we had been training for as it was a lot wider and the techniques to climb it wasn’t by using stacks and bat hangs, but by using an upside down chimney technique. This position felt a lot more solid then I had been expecting and I managed to climb the route on my first day trying it.
Indian Creek, Utah
We moved onto Indian Creek where there were two main offwidths that we wanted to do. First was the world famous ‘Belly Full of Bad Berries’. Before going I knew this route hadn’t been flashed and knew that it was my style of offwidth climbing. Professionally I did 10 pull ups to warm up and then managed it on my first go, but not without running it out at the top after the guidebook had sandbagged me on the amount of Friend 5s to take.
Next up was the slightly harder but less well known newer addition to The Creek, ‘The Price of Evil’. It was more of trick route and once you knew the trick to the crux it felt ok. I managed to climb it in a day, which was cool as again, it had previously been a project from the past with Bob Scarpelli trying it and more recently Pamela Pack, before Mason Earle eventually did it last season.
Century Crack 2, Moab, Utah
Nearing the end of the trip we realised we had done all of the main routes we had wanted to do and so decided to go back down to Century Crack to try and do it placing the gear on lead.
We knew we would not be able to place all the gear that had been pre placed when we initially did it, so had to thin down the rack to about half the number of cams we used. Again, we both managed to do the route placing the gear on lead. In the end I placed seven #5 cams in 140ft of climbing making the start of the route incredibly bold. At the end the ground is a lot further away and only massive falls would have been taken if we’d fallen.
I couldn’t believe we’d both managed to do it again.
A load of other climbing was done within this trip, these are just some of the main highlights. It’s definitely one of the best climbing trips I’ve ever been on. Amazing! Thanks.