Tom Randall and Pete Whittaker have continued their search for ludicrously long and difficult roof cracks at White Rim, Utah, USA and have added another gem to their list: The Millennium Arch 5.14. At 300ft in length, the pair decided to approach the project as another of their inventive challenges and complete it in one push, rather than aiming to climb it as a trad route in good style and in pitches.
The 'Wide Boyz' spent four days dogging, aiding and climbing to get across the entire arch, back-cleaning and spreading out and thinning a rack of about 45 cams. They then opted to leave the gear in place for the marathon attempt. Tom explained:
'Genuinely doing it all placing on lead is silly. You definitely could, but then you'd do the logical thing of breaking the route into 3 nice pitches. We wanted to do it in a one-er, so that's the compromise we made.'
Compared to their latest 5.14a addition to the area - Crown of Thorns (UKC News Report) - The Millennium Arch is considerably longer and more sustained in style, a 'once-in-a-lifetime climb'. Tom described it as follows:
'It's much more constant and sustained than Crown of Thorns and features more hand and fist jamming rather than offwidth. There is some offwidth, but just short sections of 10-30ft in certain parts.'
Having dangled a rope through the centre of the roof at a wide section and left another lead rope waiting on it for a transition, all seemed to be in place - except for the fact that they misjudged the length of rope required to reach the transition point:
'We ran out of rope on rope 1 before the exchange happened, so had to untie and solo along to the next rope, which fortunately was in the middle of some easy climbing!'
To finish the route, the pair down-climbed the right side of the arch - an E6 roof crack - after a whopping two hours of finger-numbing climbing on the pitch.
The primary objective for the trip - The Crucifix Project - is still on the agenda. Seepage had prevented Pete and Tom from going for solid attempts at the 180ft line in the past few weeks, but conditions are improving and motivation hasn't dwindled, as Tom confirmed:
'The Crucifix is all dry and we've just spent a load of days on it. Still nails and still holding out. The whipper at the end is a bit of a pant filler. Can't say I was best pleased about that. At least we know it's safe to fall off on the last crux now though!'
For a full list of all the first ascents by Pete and Tom in the area so far, read this interview.
The Wide Boyz blog: Tom Randall and Pete Whittaker's Stories From The Wide Side.
Pete's webpage: Pete Whitttaker Climber.