Wideboyz On the Brown & Whillans Challenge Interview

© Wild Country

Tom Randall and Pete Whittaker show off their big crack...  © Wild Country
Pete Whittaker & Tom Randall

Earlier this month, Tom Randall and Pete Whittaker took on the might of Brown & Whillans, not something to be done lightly, climbing all of their routes on the Eastern & Western Edges in a single day. Unbelievably, the Wideboyz pulled it off climbing 125 routes (1800m) up to E6 and running 23 miles in just over 22 hours (UKC News Report).

Tom and Pete are not afraid of a bit of a challenge, having soloed 550 routes in a day way back in 2008 (UKC News Report) and climbed Ron Fawcett's classic Millstone E7 Master's Edge in a variety of comedy costumes. In addition to this, being previous record holders for the Staffordshire 'Nose' Challenge (UKC News Report) combined with Pete's 150 Peak Extreme solos last month (UKC News Report), all point towards the fact that this is another level of stupidity for the pair.

Impressively the pair climbed the challenge on their first attempt, despite the obvious logistical and physical difficulty of climbing a lot of big, burly and awkward crack pitches quickly and travelling a very big distance on foot between them. The pair started climbing at midnight, with their first route being MAy35, E6 6c being climbed in the dark, with their final route being The Sloth, HVS 5a, at The Roaches finishing at 10:30 that night. caught up with Tom and Pete to find out a bit more about what it was like doing all the Brown & Whillans routes on the Eastern and Western Edges and why they do these things:

Which one of you madmen vocalised the idea to do all the Brown & Whillans routes on Peak Grit?

Tom: I think it was Pete's fault. Basically he didn't suffer enough on the original Western Grit version and somehow thought it'd be a good idea to take it further. Naturally I rejected his suggestion straight away (I never like him to think he's come up with a good idea)... but the thought was planted and I got very psyched eventually!

Pete: I think it was my idea, although I'm not entirely sure, usually somebody mentions something, then the idea turns into a gathering ball of psyche and we're never sure how the idea came up in the first place. I just thought it would be funny to watch Tom suffer even more then he did on the Staffs Nose and 550 day.

Speaking of which, Andi and Pete just beat your time! Are you going to go back to reclaim the record?

Tom: Definitely not this year! It's such an amazing effort by Andi and Pete as that's a pretty fast time. I'd like to have a go next year but it'll take quite a bit of preparation. It's great day out for anyone and a truly worth challenge. For now... the "Staffletes" have it!

Do you think there will be anybody trying to break your time on the whole thing?

Tom: I doubt it. Surely no one lacks that much intelligence? I'd of course be psyched if they did!

Pete: Maybe somebody might go for the Eastern Peak, but that's hard enough in itself. I'd be surprised if anybody would go for the whole thing, but I'd be mega keen if they said they were going to try, it is a bit of a beefcake.

Tom Randall relaxing on Right Eliminate while offering advice during a crack school day.
© Wild Country

With a challenge of this magnitude, you must have had to do a lot planning. What level of detail did you go into?

Tom: We went into quite a bit of detail for the planning on this one. We had to recce quite a lot of the sections, plan the approaches, learn the routes, the order and how it would all fit together. The problem with this challenge is that it's so close to the limit that if just a couple of things go wrong it unravels so fast that you'll quickly end up failing.

Pete: Planning was key. We have done the Western Part about 3 times now and climbed the routes individually a lot of times aswell, so we knew that section well. The Eastern part we went out on recce days to work out the fastest ways of doing tricky routes and the fastest way to get from route to route. Efficiency really is the key with this challenge. Trying to cut 5 minutes here and there off descents and getting from crag to crag is really important. In the end I think we had pretty good tactics on going quickly. If you didn't have some of these tactics it would be impossible to complete in under 24hours I think.

Tom mentions Swastika II as his worst route of the day, would you agree with that Pete?

Pete: Swastika II is at Yarncliffe and it is a 'rest in peace' route. To be honest we weren't entirely sure where the route went, but it was my lead so I just picked the most disgusting way up, involving brambles, oak trees and 50 years worth of mud. You come back smelling of undergrowth.

I'd highly recommend the route to others.

What were the main low-points for each of you on the day?

Tom: I think I experienced a few low points. The first one came when realised Pete hadn't packed enough bog roll for two of us... No seriously.... the first was at Stanage when we got lost in the dark trying to find High Neb. I was convinced it was in one direction, Pete certain it was the other. In the end I was wrong (not surprisingly!). The second was at Burbage South when I decked out down soloing an easy chimney to get round to another route. I fell really badly and had no idea of when the ground was coming up to meet me so I landed straight on my hip and arm sideways. Sitting on the ground with a wave of nausea as the pain kicked in wasn't exactly pleasant! Finally Roaches was pretty horrific. The midges came out, we got really slow and we were both entering proper suffer mode on how much our legs were hurting.

Route no.430 after 14 hrs of climbing: Pete Whittaker soloing Mantelpiece Buttress Direct (HVS 5b) at Stanage Popular  © Nick Smith
Pete Whittaker soloing Mantelpiece Buttress during his and Tom's 550 solos in a day © Nick Smith

Pete: Finding the correct buttresses at Stanage was very difficult in the dark. I let Tom navigate for just one section and we ended up halfway inbetween High Neb and The Plantation when we were meant to be climbing Quietus, after that I ignored what he said about navigation. I should have never have listened to him in the first place even though Tom did a Geography Degree his sense of direction is pretty disgraceful. He often has to get his Compass app out on his phone just to see if he is travelling in the right direction.

Burbage South was a low when Tom fell down the chimney. I just heard a massive 'thud' as I was soloing close by, then it all went quiet. I was genuinely a bit worried then, but just made sure he knew that we could stop at anytime if it got really bad. Its alright being stupid and taking the piss but when someone actually hurts themselves you have to be realistic.

Finally, the end of the Roaches was a low point. My knees were suffering badly and I just got sick of walking down the steps. Tom seemed to be slowing on the climbing and I seemed to be slowing on the walking. In the end we came up with a plan. I ended up leading the final routes, Tom would then second to the top, we'd then swap over as if I had just seconded, I'd get lowered down, walk to the base of the next route, start leading whilst Tom was walking down the steps, I worked quite well.

At times like these how do you spur each other on? Is it hard to stay motivated yourself when your partner is flagging?

Tom: It's hard to say really. It seems to happen naturally and I can't put my finger on it. Mainly, we're having a laugh, joking about and getting on with the business. I get massively psyched when I see Pete get psyched and then I think it goes round in a vicious circle! It is hard to be motivated when the other person if suffering, but if you take the piss out of them for a bit, it seems to go away... Pete was joking that I was the old man by the end and it's always the young gun keeping me afloat.

Pete: I think coming up with en-route tactics like I described in my answer above is motivating as you know your partner is helping you out. Also just making sure you are still having a laugh is key and making sure you don't get too grumpy. Telling the other person 'it's not that bad really.' Seems to help.

What was the highlight of the day?

Tom: Highlight for me was all of it! I hated it, but I flipping loved it. It was such a cool challenge to do with Pete and felt like a proper mission. We enjoyed seeing each other suffer and it was nice to complete a bit of a goal we'd set ourselves. As individual moments, it was some of the friendly faces that we saw along the day that were truly memorable. Mike Hutton's face peering over the top of a slab, Graham Hoey heckling us for dubious ethics and Andi Turner guiding us up a 3 man solo on The Bulger. Great friends and good memories.

Pete: I think the whole thing was a highlight rather then particular moments. Although Tom topping out Crack of Gloom was great as I could see he was having a fight with the last hard move. When he got round the boulder at the top I knew the challenge was in the bag.

So, its the day before the challenge, it seems ridiculous, did either of you consider backing out, or is there no way you could have done that?

Tom: Ha ha! Backing out? Well, I guess I would have if it had rained. If I had pulled out I would have had to suffer at least 2 years of taking all the shit leads when out with Pete in penance. It wasn't worth it...

Pete: Nah we wouldn't have backed out, when we set a goal and put the effort and time in to making it happen, we give it everything and either succeed or fail trying. I would never give up before even starting. What's the point in that. I was well psyched about the whole thing before starting.

Tom Randall brings Pete Whittaker up the last route of the day - The Sloth  © Tom Randall Collection
Tom Randall brings Pete Whittaker up the last route of the day - The Sloth
© Tom Randall Collection
What exactly is it that makes you want to do these challenges?

Tom: It's mainly the experience. It's fun, you learn a lot about yourself, you find out if you can achieve a set goal, you basically go on a little mini-adventure.

Pete: It's fun and challenging. Everybody gets satisfaction when they over come a challenge. The bigger the challenge the bigger the satisfaction at the end. Its also about the journey, working everything out strategically then going for it. It's like working a route then redpointing it. It's also good to see Tom suffer, I find it humorous...

What did you learn about each other/yourselves during this challenge that you didn't know before?

Pete: I already knew it anyway, but it showed just how blooming motivated Tom is. All the little things that just go slightly wrong (but add up over the day) such as falling down the descent gully, running out of water at one of the crags, and falling down a bilberry slope, most people would complain and whine about but he just seems to get on with it, which is inspirational and motivational. Recently when I was doing 150 extremes in a day, I got to a sun stroked pretty low point and felt like giving up, but just thought that if Tom was here that wouldn't be an option, so pushed on.

Also running and eating, not a good combination at all.

You mentioned this is one of the hardest things you have done, but you did it on your first attempt - why do you think this?

Tom: I heard that if you onsight or flash these things, it's better than a redpoint on your score card. That's right, yeah?

This year's big Wideboyz/Slender Gentlemen trip is going to be Yosemite - what what will you be known as for this trip? Big-Wall Free Fellows?

Pete: That's a very good question!! We could do with suggestions from the UKC forums please!

What have you got in your sights?

Tom: We're mainly aiming to climb free routes on El Cap and we'll see where it goes from there. We might be better than we thought, but most likely we're worse. I'm not really that keen on heights, Pete's never even sat on a portaledge and we haven't actually booked our car hire yet. Could be another Randall-Whittaker shambles!

The List of Brown & Whillans Routes on the Eastern & Western Edges:

MAy35 E6 6c Bamford
Roof Route HVS 5b Rivelin
The Original Route E2 5c Rivelin
Terrazza Crack HVS 5a Stanage
Don's Delight E1 5b Stanage
The Knutter HVS 5b Stanage
Quietus E2 5c Stanage
Jeepers Creepers HVS 5b Stanage
Counts Buttress E1 5b Stanage
Centaur E1 5c Stanage
Esso Extra E1 5b Stanage
Tower Crack HVS 5a Stanage
The Mangler E1 5c Stanage
Crescent VS 5a Stanage
Overhanging Wall HVS 5a Stanage
Namenlos E1 5a Stanage
The Little Unconquerable HVS 5a Stanage
Left Unconquerable E1 5b Stanage
Right Unconquerable HVS 5a Stanage
Cleft Wing VS 4b Stanage
Cleft Wing Superdirect VS 4c Stanage
BAW's Crawl HVS 5a Stanage
The Nose E3 5c Stanage
Whillans' Pendulum HVS 5b Stanage
The Unprintable E1 5b Stanage
The Dangler E2 5c Stanage
The Z Crack VS 4c Stanage
The File VS 4c Higgar Tor
The Rasp E2 5b Higgar Tor
Surform HVS 5b Higgar Tor
Lethargic Arete S 4a Burbage South
Magog HVS 5b Burbage South
Gog HS 4c Burbage South
Ribbed Corner Moderate Burbage South
Goliath E4/5 6a Burbage South
Valk Corner Severe Burbage South
Scoop Crack VS 4b Burbage South
Plexity HVS 5a Millstone
Great North Road HVS 5a Millstone
The Mall VS 4c Millstone
Swastika II VS Yarncliffe
Strapiombo E1 5b Froggatt
Sunset Slab HVS 4b Froggatt
Hawk Nest Crack VS 4c Froggatt
Cave Crack E2 5c Froggatt
Cave Wall E3 5c Froggatt
Heather Wall Variant HVS Froggatt
Tody's Wall HVS 5a Froggatt
Valkyrie HVS 5a Froggatt
Broken Crack HVS 5a Froggatt
Slab Recess Direct HS 4c Froggatt
Great Slab E3 5b Froggatt
Brown's Eliminate E2 5b Froggatt
Pedestal Crack HVS 5a Froggatt
The Big Crack E2 5b Froggatt
Beech Nut E1 5c Froggatt
Chequer's Crack HVS 4c Froggatt
Chequer's Climb VS 4c Froggatt
Janker's Crack HS 4b Froggatt
Janker's Groove VS 4c Froggatt
Angular Crack Severe Curbar
Short Slab HVS 5a Curbar
Deadbay Groove E2 5b Curbar
Deadbay Crack E1 5b Curbar
Deadbay Climb HVS 5a Curbar
Tree Wall HVS 5a Curbar
Sorrell's Sorrow HVS 5a Curbar
Two Pitch Route VS 4c Curbar
Baron's Wall HVS 5b Curbar
The Corner HVS 5b Curbar
Avalanche Wall HVS 5a Curbar
Predator E2 5c Curbar
Elder Crack E2 5b Curbar
Green Crack HVS 5b Curbar
Maupassant HVS 5a Curbar
L'horla E1 5b Curbar
Left Eliminate E1 5c Curbar
Peapod HVS 5a Curbar
Right Eliminate E3 5c Curbar
Quad Crack HVS 5a Curbar
Pensioner's Bulge VS 4c Baslow
Undertaker's Buttress VS 4c Gardoms
Gardoms Unconquerable VS 4c Gardoms
Whillans' Blind Variant E1 5b Gardoms
Central Crack HVS 5b Gardoms
Wall Finish VS 4c Gardoms
Orpheus Wall HVS 5c Birchen
Puppet Crack HVS 5b Chatsworth
Sentinel Crack E3 5c Chatsworth
Emerald Crack E3 6a Chatsworth
Brown and White HVS 5a Harthill Quarry
The Great Zawn HVS 5a Ramshaw
Masochism HVS 5b Ramshaw
The Crank VS 4c Ramshaw
Don's Crack E1 5b Ramshaw
Brown's Crack E2 5c Ramshaw
Prostration HVS 5a Ramshaw
Ramshaw Crack E4 6a Ramshaw
Bachelor's Climb VS 4c Hen Cloud
Bachelor's Left-Hand HVS 5b Hen Cloud
Hen Cloud Eliminate E1 5b Hen Cloud
Second's Retreat HVS 4c Hen Cloud
Slimline E1 5b Hen Cloud
Reunion Crack VS 4c Hen Cloud
Delstree HVS 5a Hen Cloud
Main Crack VS 4c Hen Cloud
En Rappel HVS 5a Hen Cloud
Choka E1 5c The Roaches
Rhodren HVS 5b The Roaches
The Bulger VS 4c The Roaches
The Mincer HVS 5b The Roaches
Matinee HVS 5b The Roaches
Valkyrie Direct HVS 5b The Roaches
Crack of Gloom E1 5b The Roaches
Dorothy's Dilemma E1 5a The Roaches
Teck Crack HVS 5b The Roaches
Ackit HVS 5b The Roaches
Lightning Crack HVS 5b The Roaches
Slippery Jim HVS 5b The Roaches
Saul's Crack HVS 5a The Roaches
Aqua VS 4b The Roaches
The Sloth HVS 5a The Roaches

Pete Whittaker is sponsored by: Climb On, Casio G-Shock, Five Ten, Patagonia, Sterling Rope and Wild Country

Tom Randall is sponsored by: Climb On, Casio G-Shock, Five Ten, Rab, Sterling Rope and Wild Country. Tom is also a part owner of The Climbing Station

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22 Sep, 2014
Terrazza Crack E6 6c?
22 Sep, 2014
good interview
22 Sep, 2014
A couple of remembrances from my brief time with them: Tom's look of horror and despair when I asked him if he'd got my late night text about 'lost' routes that I'd just discovered on Lawrencefield Quarry that had been climbed by Whillans and Brown (not actually true). Tom backing off from his first go at Jankers Groove musing on how tricky it was for a VS! A stupendous effort. I suggested to them that maybe after a few years (or beers) to allow the pain to fade that they go for the complete Peak District BAW.
22 Sep, 2014
I see you've now changed it to HVS 5a. To the best of my knowledge (and certainly in the latest definitive guide), it's HVS 5b.
22 Sep, 2014
One of the hardest HVSs at Stanage.
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