The Adventures of Tom, Pete, Adam and Andy Video

© Tom Randall
Andy Asquith, Tom Randall, Adam Bailes and Pete Whittaker.  © Tom Randall
Andy Asquith, Tom Randall, Adam Bailes and Pete Whittaker.
© Tom Randall

If you have a hunger for adventurous new routing there are a few places left in the UK but you have to look hard and then there's the weather. We all know about our weather. But if you look east there's a whole continent of unexplored rock. Following on from last years episode, Wide Fetish Golden Boys Do Italy, Tom Randall leads a pack of Peakies to Euroland to repeat famous off-widths and to search for new rock to climb.

In July we reported on Tom and Pete Whittaker's repeat of the Chamonix off-width, Thai Boxing in the UKC news report In Europe and Going Wide, here Tom, now joined by Adam Bailes and Andy Asquith, as well as young Pete, gives us account of the whole trip with a special 20 minute video by aspirant filmmaker Adam Bailes and a geeky list of what they did - they won't be appearing in any ranking anytime soon that's for sure!


This summer, Adam Bailes, Andy Asquith, Pete Whittaker and myself packed our big cams into a van and made our annual pilgrimage to Europe.

Pete Whittaker on lower wall of Sadomasochiste Direct E6 6b, Annot, France.  © Tom Randall
Pete Whittaker on lower wall of Sadomasochiste Direct E6 6b, Annot, France.
© Tom Randall

As four keen climbers from Sheffield, we've of course spent many days out on our local gritstone edges, and also on many trips to the outcrops and sea cliffs around the UK. Most of our activity has been based around repeating other peoples' routes and rarely on establishing our own lines. This trend is always broken when we cross the border into mainland Europe.

This summer we spent around 30 days in Chamonix and Annot, France, and the Valle dell'Orco, Italy. Chamonix was mainly occupied with the aim of repeating the fearsome offwidth of Thai Boxing, put up by the late American climber Craig Leubben. After a day of working out what we were doing (including two horrendous onsight attempts!) and lots of cleaning off moss and dirt, Pete and I were ready. We both climbed the route twice on the second day - but ran out of battery on the video camera so sorry for the short footage. The route is a great tribute to Craig's incredible offwidth skills and surely one of the best 'get in and Randy Hump' offwidths out there. Those who wish to travel to experience this little beauty should come fully equipped in their offwidth arsenal including; Trout Ticklers, BNPs and Smoke-in-the-Eyes.

After climbing Thai Boxing on natural pro, we decided to remove the bolts as we felt that the route should be left in its original first ascent status – a controversial move I know, but one we feel strongly about.

Next up was a new trad area that was being developed at Annot, in the south of France.

From Chamonix it was a hideously long drive down back roads to find ourselves in new route paradise! This place has got to be seen to be believed. It's Churnet Valley, Nesscliffe sandstone, Cratcliffe and Indian Creek all thrown into one a paradise of unclimbed arêtes, walls, cracks, grooves, slabs, everything in fact. I would conservatively estimate that there are perhaps 1000+ new trad routes to do, from E1 to E10. So many hard and bold projects, it's quite worrying!

The highlight of the Annot trip for me was Pete's ascent of Sadomasochiste Direct. This route is for anyone who has been to Ina's rock in the Churnet, it is like two Thumbelina's stacked on top of each other, with adequate protection and little respite. Pete's ground-up first ascent was a great effort, which saw some good air-time. Adam and I followed up with the second and third ascents, with both of us shaking our heads in disbelief at the quality of the climb.

First Ascents


Pete Whittaker Loves It!   © Tom Randall
Pete Whittaker Loves It!
© Tom Randall

Sadomasochiste Direct, E6 6b
Bigbrophylia, E5 6a
Firing Blanks, E5 6a
C'est Ta Rate En Realite, E5 6c
aTight Fight, E4 6a
Grimer's Delight E2 5c

Valle dell'Orco

The Peninsula Face, E6 6a
Fat Tony, E6 6b
Rubber Bones, E6 6b
End of the Flare, E5 6b
Gimello, E5 6b
Return to Paradise, E5 6a
Cold Fusion, E5 6b
Into the Groove, E5 5c
Questo Pesto, E4 6a
Subtle Ripping, E4 6a
Nocturnal Nightmare, E4 6a
The Last Totter of David Iliffe, E4 6a

Repeats (E5 and above only)

4th and 5th Ascent of Thai Boxing, 5.12c/d or E7 6c (Randall and Whittaker)
2nd and 3rd ascent of Sadomasochiste Direct, E6 6b (Bailes and Randall)
2nd ascent of Fat Tony (Asquith)
2nd ascent of Rubber Bones, E6 6b (Whittaker)
2nd ascent of C'est Ta Rate En Realite, E5 6c (Asquith)
2nd ascent of Cold Fusion, E5 6b (Randall)

After putting up six or seven new routes in Annot, we were desperate to move on from the boiling temperatures of southern France and get stuck into some quality granite over the border in Italy's Gran Paradiso National Park. Home to the famous crack route Greenspit the Valle dell'Orco is also a huge trad climbing canvass. There are so many crags and walls in this valley, it's hard to know where to start. Each day we would set off with saws, a climbing rack and lots of water, to try and put up new lines we'd spotted from the valley below. As with most of our routes, we would try to establish all lines onsight which resulted in some real epics: loose rock, vegetation, ants, no knowledge of the line, and absolutely no idea of the grade! This style of climbing really is the most special for me – to get to the top of a route near to your physical limit whilst operating under these conditions, with failure always licking at your heels, is so satisfying.

I've never seen a grin so big and as long-lasting as the one Adam's face when he'd topped out his first new route!


VIDEO CREDITS: Directed By Adam Bailes, Edited By Adam Bailes with Tom Randall, Produced By Minus Ten production, Voiceover Script By Tom Randall, Filmed By Adam Bailes, Pete Whittaker, Tom Randall and Andrew Asquith. Special Thanks to Jon de Montjoye and Antoine Barbier for local knowledge and many other things.

Adam Bailes, filmmaker, with a sod on head - it's what hanging around with Randall and Whittaker does to you.  © Tom Randall
Adam Bailes, filmmaker, with a sod on head - it's what hanging around with Randall and Whittaker does to you.
© Tom Randall

Some of the highlights from our new routing included; Adam Bailes decking out on Rubber Bones and walking away unscathed, Adam decking out on an uncompleted multipitch new route (he's a dangerous one, that lad!), Adam splitting his head open and refusing to get it stitched up.... there was a trend emerging.

Probably the best climbing effort in Orco came from our young(ish) superstar Pete Whittaker, who made the fifth ascent of Greenspit. What's impressive is that he did this after probably 10 days of new routing with only one or two rest days and with not a single trademark rock-over move anywhere. I'm worried he's lost his touch! Also of note is Andy Asquith's close effort on getting this test-piece done – his valiant efforts at falling off the last few moves are starting to remind me of my own frustrating trials on this roof crack.

As we headed home, it was hard not to feel somewhat dissatisfied. Despite establishing some 20 new single and multi-pitch new routes it was always so clear what lay ahead for us soon. Even more new routes! These areas have huge potential and I really hope that others out there can see that with a bit of motivation and hard work, this kind of trip is possible and lots of fun.

Tom works at The Edge in Sheffield. You can read more about Tom at, I Want That Job! - Tom Randall, Professional Route Setter by Jack Geldard here. Tom is sponsored by Wild Country

Tom's Wild Country profile is here

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

Pete's Wild Country profile is here

The training never stops.Tom lifted by strongman Adam Bailes.
© Tom Randall

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26 Sep, 2010
I really hope Tom wiil write a report on it, but yesterday has finished the first Orco Valley Trad Climbing Meeting, organized by the Italian CAAI (the Academical Alpine Club), and it was a huge success, with dozens for young, strong climbers from all over the world joining forces to repeat the classics and the hardest routes and create new lines on the granite of Valle Orco. I believe the climbing quality seen has been absolutely outstanding even for Orco's standard, but I think that Tom's contribution (that has included opening a new route near the Fessura della Disperazione) was absolutely outstanding. The spotlight on Tom wasn't exclusively on the crags: he (along with another Brit legend, Lindsay Griffin) has been one of the stars of the post-meeting conference on the state of trad climbing in Orco (and in Italy) organized by the CAAI. This - my opinion - was really one of the highlights on the meeting; Tom made a relatively short but very interesting (and funny) presentation of his Orco activites to a mesmerize audience - and what an audience! There were - among others - some of the greatest senior names of Italian climbing history, among them Andrea Mellano (first Italian ascent of NF of Eiger, first Italian ascent of the Alpine Trilogy), Vasco Taldo (one of the men of the Torres del Paine "race" with Bonington and Whillans in 1963 - BTW, according to him that was mostly a myth, they got along with Whillans quite well) and no one else than Ugo "Pan E Pera" Manera, who started the whole Orco Valley climbing thing in 1970 with Gianpiero Motti, Giancarlo Grassi and Mike Kosterlitz . For me, the most emotional moment of the evening was when Tom stated, quite nonchalantly, that he's been 7 times in Orco and 14 in Yosemite, but he intends to come back to Orco every year, as now he thinks Orco is a time capsule back into what Yosemite may have been once. Manera, who's now 72, was absolutely ecstatic, with a huge grin from ear to ear, and made no mystery he consider Tom's achievement as a continuation, even in spirit, of what he and Kosterlitz (another Brit) and the others did back in the early 70. It was a magical moment of triumph, and really gave everyone the sense that something has gone full circle after 40 years.
27 Sep, 2010
Thanks for the report Luca. It's lovely to hear about how different national climbing 'scenes' often overlap like this and help each other.
27 Sep, 2010
Thanks for posting this Luca. Its always good to hear of people bring joy to climbing communities rather than just rants of peoples unethical practices. Well done Tom. Was this the route you mentioned on Fit club wanting to go back to?
27 Sep, 2010
Likewise. Think first track (with digeridoo) sounded like fat freddy's drop, but don't know the name. Great vid, Tom and Co, nice one.
Thanks Luca - yeah well definitely be something I'll do for the BMC website etc. It's a really important event and I'm glad that the passion was running high there! Lots more people should know about this unique area.... Will post a link on UKC once I've gotten pen to paper/keyboard! Grubes; no luck on project - more of a fun, socialising trip really. No hardcore climbing for me! Probably a bit too full of pasta and cappuccinos to be doing anything like that anyway ;-) Re: music - I'll get Adam, the film maker to post something up.
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