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Perfect Partners #15: Pete Whittaker and Tom Randall

© WideBoyz

Tom Randall and Pete Whittaker, better known as the Wide Boyz, are one of Britain's most prolific climbing partnerships. The Sheffield based pair are well suited. Both share a penchant for cracks, training, and adventures. Unlike most fledgling partnerships, which start with a casual couple of routes or a wall session, the first time Tom and Pete climbed together they soloed 550 routes on grit in a single day! After this outrageous start, the Wide Boyz continued in a similar vein.

Pete Whittaker and Tom Randall on Freerider  © WideBoyz
Pete Whittaker and Tom Randall on Freerider
© WideBoyz

In 2011, after spending two years training for it in Tom's cellar, the pair made the first ascent of the gruesome Utah offwidth, Century Crack. They then went from wide to thin with ascents of Squamish's Cobra Crack in 2013. In 2016 they returned to Utah, making the first ascent of the 100m long Millennium Arch. Closer to home they have done a fair number of ridiculous things including all the Joe Brown and Don Whillians routes on Gritstone in 22 hours, and the Staffordshire Nose in a ludicrously quick 2 hours 44 minutes. They have also climbed Master Edge is just about every fancy dress costume you can think of.

Pete on Tom


How did you first meet?

We met at the Edge Climbing Centre in Sheffield. Tom was route setting and I was the customer. I guess I was about sixteen or seventeen, and Tom was eleven years older - an old man.

Did you know Tom by reputation before meeting him?

No. Because he was a punter when I met him. I just knew he was another keen climber at The Edge. Really motivated.

What was your first impression?

Very motivated, friendly, and had a similar personality and attitude to me. We just got along very easily and had a laugh straight away.

Pete Whittaker and Tom Randall, 550 grit routes in a day  © Jill Whittaker
Pete Whittaker and Tom Randall, 550 grit routes in a day
© Jill Whittaker
What was the first route you climbed together?

The first major thing was repeating an old John Arran and Shane Ohly challenge to climb over five hundred gritstone routes in a day. Tom had already tried this challenge, but couldn't find anyone else to do it with, and he couldn't do it by himself, so he asked me to do. I'd already done things like the Stanage Traverse so was pretty into challenges.

Why do you enjoy climbing with Tom?

He's always up for a laugh and doesn't take himself too seriously. I don't take myself too seriously. Although actually we do take ourselves seriously, we don't, if you see what I mean. We're both serious and determined about what we are doing, but it is always quite light-hearted on the outside. Plus, we've got similar personalities, which is why it is always quite enjoyable.

What's the most memorable route you've climbed together?

Pete Whittaker and Tom Randall looking at their route Century Crack  © Wild Country Collection
Pete Whittaker and Tom Randall looking at their route Century Crack
© Wild Country Collection
It sounds really boring, but the first thing that comes to mind is Century Crack. That's so boring because everyone knows about it. Maybe I should think about something different? We both put two years of proper dedication into it. Before we started training for that we'd only known each other for a couple of years. We knew each other well, but we'd never done anything like that before, and we just threw ourselves at it. That said, there have been so many fun things it is hard to pick one. I'd say all those desert adventures are the most memorable. I wouldn't find anyone else to go and do those with.

Sum up your partnership in three words.

Getting very lost.

What's the most scared you've been when climbing together?

We were out in Orco Valley. We went there on a new routing trip. Every day we would drive down the valley, look up at some crags and climb something. We were on this three pitch route and it was horrendously, horrendously loose and awful. Think of the Llyn Peninsular type of climbing, but with large blocks. I led the second pitch and it is the only time I have shed tears through fear. Tom pulled off some blocks and fell off seconding.

photo
Pete Whittaker and Tom Randall
© Tom Randall

If you could change one thing about Tom what would it be?

I wouldn't change too much. We've gotten along for ten years without falling out. And we know when to give each other space. He's basically my perfect man.

What are your plans for the future?

We've got this desert project that we're working on. We've done loads of first ascents down in the desert, but we've got this one thing that is lingering, undone. It's much harder than any of the things.

And maybe try and get him up another big wall. He bottled it after 2014 and has never come back. Be good to get him up another one.

What's the least enjoyable route you've done with Tom?

It was one of Tom's terrible decisions, again, which I didn't think through. We decided to go to Dumbarton to try Requiem, in January. It was a bizarre decision, but I never questioned it. Awful.

Pete attempting Cobra Crack - another of the Wide Boyz's conquests:

Has Tom ever cheated on you and climbed a route you really wanted to do together with someone else?

I can't think of anything. We both climb with other people. I'm not that emotionally attached. I don't get jealous

What have you learned from climbing with Tom?

We've both learned and progressed a lot about crack climbing together. Though Tom did know more than me when we started.

Tom on Pete


How did you first meet?

I met Pete at the Edge Climbing Centre in Sheffield. I was working as a route setter, and he was a customer of the wall. I think he was something like sixteen and I was twenty-seven. I saw him as a junior climber, not really a climbing partner.

Did you know Pete by reputation before meeting him?

I knew of the Whittaker clan. They were part of the Sheffield power group. Pete's mum is a force of nature, definitely a high energy individual. I supposed I noticed Jill the first, and then Pete and Katy, as really good climbers.

What was your first impression?

He was a different sort of climber compared to other people. The thing that I noticed straight away was he always looked for unique sequences. He'd cheat up my routes, pull on the footholds, and find different ways of doing things. That appealed to me because I like climbers who do things differently. That was when I thought maybe Pete and I should climb together.

What was the first route you climbed together?

I think it was a challenge. I'm not entirely sure it was a route. My recollection is the first thing we ever did together, was to try and get that record for the most number of routes soloed in a day. I don't remember going to do a couple of E5s together. We just went big from the outset, which is probably why our partnership works.

Pete Whittaker and Tom Randall breaking the Staffs Nose record in 2016  © Dark Sky Media
Pete Whittaker and Tom Randall breaking the Staffs Nose record in 2016
© Dark Sky Media

Why do you enjoy climbing with Pete?

I think Pete is a really, really unusual mixture of someone who is prepared to climb right at the limit. Whether that is physical or mental, bold or hard, but he's prepared to have a lot of fun with it. I've climbed with loads of other people but it is really difficult to find that mixture of doing something totally cutting edge and inspiring while pissing around at the same time. We both have a similar approach to our climbing. I enjoy trying something hard, but I need the fun element. It sucks me down in a hole if I'm with someone dead serious. I hate that. I can actually try my hardest if I am having fun at the same time, which is why it seems to work with Pete.

What's the most memorable route you've climbed together?

I think it has to be Century Crack. It was such a massive journey. It was our transformation from being reasonably okay Sheffield climbers who did some E7s and E8s, into something that was noticed by a lot of people. It was right at the limit at what we thought was possible at the time. It wasn't one day out climbing, it was essentially two years of climbing together.

Sum up your partnership in three words.

Fun, unique, productive.

What's the most scared you've been when climbing together?

We were doing a new route in the Orco Valley. I'd abseiled down it, and said to Pete it looked a bit loose, a bit Gogarth, a bit chossy, but it'd probably be about E5. We started up it ground up, without having checked it out properly. Pete got committed to the first pitch and was pulling ledges off. It wasn't physically hard but was full choss-fest, and really bold. I think Pete got quite wobbly on that, really emotional, and you don't see that often in Pete. I was quite scared by that. He didn't look in control.

If you could change one thing about Pete what would it be?

We'd have met earlier in life.

What are your plans for the future?

We'll go back to Norway in 2019 to finish off Recovery Drink. We've got another trip booked to the USA, for a crack mission. Aside from that Pete might help me with some 24-hour endurance running things I'm doing. At the end of the year, I might go and belay him on El Cap. And then just climbing together as normal.

What's the least enjoyable route you've done with Pete?

It's hard to think of one. Even stuff that was epic at the time was enjoyable in retrospect.

Has Pete ever cheated on you and climbed a route you really wanted to do together with someone else?

We were both working Silent Scream at Burbage South. I went away to Spain for a week and came back to find Pete had done it. So I had to find a different belayer a week or so later. A lot of the time we share motivation and psyche for stuff so we do them together.

What have you learned from climbing with Pete?

How to try hard. Before I started climbing with Pete I didn't know how to access that last 1, 2, 3 per cent. I don't think I knew how until I started climbing with Pete a lot. We were very similar strength levels, but he was getting up things that were quite a bit harder. When I saw how hard he tried, and then I tried 100%, I started to regularly surprise myself, by doing moves that I would normally fall off. What I realised is It's a discomfort thing. It's quite nice trying at 95% or 90%, but giving it 100% is pretty unpleasant. Pete's really good at tapping into that.

About the Interviewer:

Tom Ripley  © Charlie Low
Tom Ripley has been climbing for over fifteen years in both the UK and abroad: personal highlights include an ascent of Denali's Cassin Ridge and first ascents in Patagonia and Peru. Tom is dedicated to sharing his obsession for all types of climbing through his work as a climbing instructor and guide.

Currently, Tom is part way through the British Mountain Guides' rigorous training scheme. And, as a trainee guide, he is qualified to guide and instruct rock climbing and mountaineering throughout the UK.

Whether you are interested in making the transition from indoor climbing to real rock, working towards your first lead climbs, gaining self-rescue skills, or climbing a classic route that has so far eluded you, Tom can help you achieve your goal. Staying safe, patience and adventure are always a priority. He can be contacted through his UKC profile.




  • Rope soloed El Capitan in 20 hours 6 minutes
  • First ascent of Dynamics of Change (E9 7a), Burbage South, Peak District
  • First ascent of Century Crack (5.14b), the world’s hardest off-width,...

Pete's Athlete Page 21 posts 3 videos

Tom is a trad climber at heart, whose passion for the unknown in climbing has lead to numerous new routes both in the UK and overseas.

FA's of multiple 5.14 trad routes, repeats of many of the world's...

Tom's Athlete Page 35 posts 17 videos

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24 Jan, 2019

Another excellent read, tom , well done.

One question. Is that a doro(old mans simple smartphone) that tom is holding in one of the photos?

It looks like an older model of the one with which I am reading the article.


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