Somebody gave them a passport. It probably wasn't a good idea. Now Tom Randall and Pete Whittaker have hit Europe and are on the hunt. First stop: Thai Boxing.
Thai Boxing is a route with some history. Hidden up on the hillside above Vallorcine, close to Chamonix, this diminutive offwidth packs a big punch. Even more so now the bolts have been chopped out.
Local resident and crag developer Jon de Montjoye told the story of the route on the UKC forums back in 2009:
"About 15 years ago I bolted a good but small crag here in Vallorcine. I never publicised it as it's on private land. It has half a dozen routes from 6a+ - 8a+. At the left end is a grossly overhanging off width. A few years later an American by the name of Craig Luebben (who invented the 'Big Bro' expanding tube chock) came along and climbed it using his tube chocks, and grading it 5.12c - or 7b+ in French Francs. Just a few years ago a marauding team of climbers from Argentiere discovered the crag and the 'unclimbed' (read unbolted) crack, which they bolted and laid siege to it. I'm not sure if anyone has managed to climb it since. It is now equipped with loooong slings so it can be frigged easily. A grade of 8a+ has been put about!"
After Craig's original ascent Stevie Haston made a repeat and he commented on the route in another UKC forum thread from 2009:
"Thai Boxing took Craig three days (I remember) and took him longer than Trench Warfare which is given 5.12d so really the 5.12b Craig gave it was a sandbag (I told him off, but boys will be boys). I did Thai Boxing twice and I find it hard, my fists are smaller than Craig's and he made the transition to chicken wing later. It doesn't matter that it was harder! Anyway the guy that bolted it did wrong, I told him at the time, and I told him they would be taken out (they should be taken out as the bolts are in the way in a climbing sense), it would have been okay but I think this route should be returned to it's natural state as a memorial to Craig. I know of a few people who want to make the pilgrimage to do this crack, one from the States, and it would be much nicer for them to have the crack clean and gnarly. I am not interested in bolt wars just the memory."
Tom Randall and Pete Whittaker have just repeated the route using large friends for protection and the bolts have now been chopped, restoring the route to its original state.
Tom rated the crack at about E7 and gave UKC some beta:
"We tried it with our good old favourite "invert" but it back-fired as it's too flared on the edge of the crack. Had to resort to straight in old fashioned arm-barring and knee bars. Did manage to swing a quick foot above the head move in the middle just for a rest, but very traditional in style overall. The crux is fairly low down, but the route is really sustained overall, with a really good nausea factor. The top-out consists of a filthy squeeze chimney, which just adds to the experience as you know that any of those bolt clipping fairies would have clipped the lower-off just before that and not even topped the route out properly!"
Tom and Pete are continuing their fetish-quest on the continent and can be currently found hanging upside down by their feet somewhere rather uncomfortable.
- For a discussion on Thai Boxing, including the removal of the bolts - see this current UKC Forum Thread.
Tom Randall is sponsored by Wild Country