‘It is a stepping stone, it’s not the end. It’s a really important door now opened to other things.’
It’s a measure of how far Pete Whittaker and Tom Randall – the Wide Boyz – have come, that a route such as Cobra Crack, which forms the basis of Wide Boyz II, is regarded as a stepping stone to potentially bigger and greater things. For those not au fait with the route, Cobra Crack is a 5.14 (what’s that in Euros – F8b+/c on gear?) in Squamish, British Columbia, first put up by Sonnie Trotter in 2006. It’s had a few repeats – not many – and all by international superheroes; Alex Honnold, Nico Favresse, etc … you get the idea.
‘As climbing partners, a lot of what we achieve we wouldn’t be able to do singularly, we have to do it as a duo. It’s really cool to have that.’
Unless you were living in a cave two years ago, shut off from the outside world, you’ll have been aware of Pete and Tom’s offwidth training and subsequent trip the US where they read the riot act to almost all the country’s hard, wide cracks, establishing the first ascent of Century Crack – the world’s hardest offwidth – in the process. Their quest was immortalised in the first Wide Boyz film by Paul Diffley and Hot Aches, including their two years of brutal training on wooden crack machines in Tom’s cellar in Sheffield.
But if you’re that obsessive, you’re not going to knock it on the head there, are you?
‘Maybe sometimes I come up with an idea or something that I want to do, and I have to subtly let it infiltrate Pete’s mind. First goal was to get Pete interested, because he’s got massive sausage fingers. He’s genetically not made for finger cracks. He’s got everything not going for him really.’
Roll on two years and – not withstanding many numerous impressive local ascents – the Boyz are back, and this time Cobra Crack is where it’s at. And what’s the best way to train for one of the world’s most difficult finger cracks? Wooden finger crack machines in Tom’s garden and cellar.
Wide Boyz II – Slender Gentlemen is the story of Pete and Tom’s mission to climb Cobra Crack, and, you’ve got to hand it to Hot Aches, they know how to tell a good story. The film does a great job of bringing together the Boyz training in Sheffield on ridiculously painful-looking wooden rigs, Sender Films’ archive footage of Trotter’s first ascent, interview footage with Trotter and, of course, footage of Pete and Tom working and – it’s not really a spoiler, is it – climbing the route. The filming is first class, the soundtrack – which borrows from the original Wide Boyz – really adds to the highs and lows, and it slowly builds to a last-day-of-the-trip, will-it-rain-won’t-it-rain crescendo.
‘I think finger cracks are really flipping bad for your fingers. It’s like slamming your hands in a car door.’
Whereas everything in the original Wide Boyz film appeared to go smoothly, their ascents of Cobra Crack feel harder won, which certainly adds to the narrative. It’s clearly more stressful, and you don’t get the sense that the route will be considered ticked until they’ve both topped out. In climbing, which can feel a little ‘every man for himself’ sometimes, it makes a refreshing change. Indeed, you really warm to the Boyz – here are two climbers at the top of their game on an international footing, they’re working hard, getting stuff done and having fun. They take their climbing seriously, clearly, but they don’t take themselves too seriously.
It’s inspiring stuff, and makes me wonder whether I’m really trying hard enough to get some of the things done that I’d like to do in my climbing. So, consider Wide Boyz II a 50-minute boot up the arse. And let’s hope the fun continues with Wide Boyz III.
Wide Boyz II – Slender Gentlemen premieres at the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival on Friday 4 April.
It will be available to download from www.steepedge.com from Monday 7 April.
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