Crack maestro, Tom Randall has just made the first ascent of Anna Kournikova, an 8b+ crack in Orco Valley, Italy, a place well known for its crack climbing.
Tom originally discovered the project in the late 2000s with Pete Whittaker, but niether could do the very difficult start of the route, even having redpointed Greenspit, 8b, niether could climb any of the crucial finger-crack moves to gain the wider roof crack finish. Pete Whittaker did manage to climb a variation start, named Fat Tony, 7b+/c that came in from the right to climb the final off-width finish.
After then turning their attention to the USA and Century Crack, the 'Wideboyz' had some time to appreciate other styles of climbing. However their crack habit was never going to go away that easily and soon Pete and Tom got psyched for cracks again, only this time the thinner the better. The training paid off, with Pete climbing some hard routes in Sweden (UKC News Report), however after a successful but wet trip to Italy earlier in the year, Tom found some time in his very busy schedule to get back to Orco to try this long-standing project.
This time, Tom was able to start working the moves on the crux lower section. Due to the fact that he wasn't solely concentrating on the Kournikova Project, and three days in, Tom needed a rest day. The 4th day on the the route saw Tom start to make redpoint attempts, but was unable to make a clean ascent of the route. This posed Tom with a dilemma, as the next day was his last day before flying home in the evening, deciding to put all his eggs in one basket, he stopped climbing for the day to save as much energy as possible for tomorrow's attempts, "to go big AND go home".
After falling on his first go of the day, Tom psyched himself up for his last remaining chance for the foreseeable future, but unfortunately fell, unable to hold the break after the crux throw. Unable to let himself go, Tom hatched a plan:
"One final, final desperate fling. I know I've not got time to rest properly but I can't bare to accept failure... I reach the final throw again. This time there is no doubt though. I hit the hold perfectly and although I still struggle to hold it, i grimace a little harder and success is in my grasp. After a shake out, I fumble my way through the upper E5/7a ish offwidth section and top out with a huge smile across my face. What an end to the trip. With so little time left!"
You can read more about Tom's ascent on his blog.