UKC

Randall and Whittaker - In Europe and Going Wide

© Whittaker/Randall Collection
Tom Randall, in bulk, on Thai boxing  © Whittaker/Randall Collection
Tom Randall, in bulk, on Thai boxing
© Whittaker/Randall Collection

Pete Whittaker with a double fist-stack on Thai boxing  © Whittaker/Randall Collection
Pete Whittaker with a double fist-stack on Thai boxing
© Whittaker/Randall Collection
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!"

photo
Big cracks need big friends! Pete Whittaker having fun on Thai Boxing.
© Whittaker/Randall Collection

Tom Randall high on Thai Boxing  © Whittaker/Randall Collection
Tom Randall high on Thai Boxing
© Whittaker/Randall Collection
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.

photo
If seen do not approach. They are arm-barred and dangerous...
© Whittaker/Randall Collection

The misplaced bolts from Thai Boxing.  © jon
The misplaced bolts from Thai Boxing.
© jon, Jul 2010


Tom Randall is sponsored by Wild Country

Pete Whittaker is sponsored by Patagonia , Five Ten and Wild Country


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28 Jul, 2010
Sounds like great fun!
28 Jul, 2010
Maybe I've missed it Jack, (probably have... ) but it might help readers to know that Craig was killed in an accident in the mountains last year. I never met Craig, but we did have email contact on a few occasions after H and I made the second ascent of his Madagascar route in 1999. At that time I told him about the retro bolting of TB, and I could sense the sadness in his reply. This is just one of the reasons why the re-climbing of this route and the removal of the bolts is so important. Anyone thinking about re-retro-bolting it, should think again.
29 Jul, 2010
Mixed feelings about this, the route was originally climbed on trad gear but it is in an area where the norm is too bolt almost everything therefore it got bolted then a couple of English climbers bob along and strip the bolts. Some might say what right do two foreign climbers have to go and strip the bolts it seems a little disrespectful to me, everyone on here would be up in arms if a couple of french climbers came over here and messed around with some of our routes or disrespected our ethics now wouldn't they...
29 Jul, 2010
I think you need to do a little more research.. E
29 Jul, 2010
Maybe i do, i understand that the first ascent was done on trad gear and that now unfortunately the first ascentionist has past away so therefore restoring the route to its original state is a respectful thing to do. I also read that Stevie Haston repeated the route on trad gear. Then some french came along thought it to be an unclimbed line, bolted it then proceeded to frig the shit out of it. Which as some will rightfully think is attempting to bring the route down to their level, which maybe so but isn't the ethic in the area to bolt even lines that can be protected by trad gear? I maybe wrong and if i am please tell me. It doesn't really bother me either way as im not really a fan of offwidths and i especially dont climb E7 overhanging offwidths either. It jst seems rather cheeky of Randall and Whittaker, did they get permission from the locals first? If so then its fine.
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