Pete Whittaker has made the third ascent of Nico Favresse's 2013 testpiece Recovery Drink 8c+, a steep crack on the Profilveggen - 'Profile Wall' - in Jøssingfjord in Norway. The line has attracted crack connoisseurs including 'Wideboyz' Tom Randall and Pete over the last 12 months, but it was German Daniel Jung who beat them to it for the coveted second ascent in August 2018 (UKC News). Although the route is not officially graded, it is generally considered to be around 8c+.
Pete dedicated three specific trips to the line last year, but returned beaten and bruised. He explained:
'I had a sore right hand from repeatedly stabbing at the same jam. My right heel was left wondering why it was trying to do some bizarre and contorted sequence above my head, whilst squeezing the most tenuous position on the route. And my stomach was rumbling at my first concerted effort to not be 'Beefy Pete' but actually have some lean and lightness about me.'
Pete left Recovery Drink empty-handed. After analysing what went wrong, he concluded:
'If I'm trying to put my foot above me I'm too weak to do real sequences and I'm kidding myself. I need to be stronger. I need to be more reliable. Ok yes, I feel lean, light and 'on it' on the rock, but if I'm hungry and grumpy then that's going to be detrimental to performance. I need to be lean, light, strong and happy. An athlete…'
A plan was put into action: eat more. Pete hit the shops and went from his lightest ever weight to his heaviest in 6 weeks (6 kilos gained). An alternative training plan, perhaps, but one which brought Pete immense joy:
'I recall it as one of the happiest periods in my life; climbing big walls and eating cookie dough until it seeped from my eyelids. My plan was to beef up, and train beefy. But also not to start training too early as motivation can sometimes dip. Christmas, New Year and Spring came and went and I was still perfecting the beef and not starting the climbing related stuff too early. Recovery Drink training couldn't have been any easier if I'm being honest with you.'
One issue remained: how to resolve the awkward foot-above-head method. On a passing visit in May, 'Beefy' Pete revisited the moves in an attempt to find a solution. Pete explained the logic behind the famous 'Karate move':
'It's the crux throw (or stab) to a hand jam. To catch the jam is the crux. The beta I was using did in fact make this move easier than how others were trying, (I was going thumbs down into the jam, rather than thumbs up), so I did catch the jam on multiple occasions, on previous trips, without so much fuss. The problem for me came afterwards - matching the jam. Matching with your hand in the thumbs down position - in a word - desperate. Hence all my foot above the head shenanigans.'
During this May working session, Pete had a breakthrough and realised that he had missed a marginal 3 finger 'doughnut' jam below the Karate Slot. He explained:
'It was quite specific, but it fit my porky fingers perfectly and enabled me to flick the Karate Hand into the desired thumb up position. Winner. With foot nonsense eliminated, it was now time to stop being so beefy, get in climbing shape and lean up in a better, happier and healthier fashion than last time.'
Pete trained back home on boulder circuits, did some fingerboarding and added some weights. He also braved the crux replica in Tom Randall's basement:
'I received a message from Tom 1 week prior to going: 'Don't go on the 50 degree board again, I think it's not that far off collapsing' (classic quality construction).' I lapped it and was feeling solid, (that's solid, as in I was feeling good. Not the construction…)'
On returning to the route, Pete noticed a difference on the 'doughnut jam' now that he was in better condition. He explained: 'The doughnut jam - or is it jam doughnut? - felt better than I remembered, unfortunately though…I couldn't eat it.'
At the end of his second day on the route, Pete decided to have a redpoint attempt. With no expectations, he simply wanted to get used to the moves again - and perhaps take a fall. His body decided otherwise:
'Miraculously I found myself mid crux with some power in the tank. Not much, but some, and albeit feeling the sag, some is always enough for something extra to happen. Left heel went on for the match and it didn't come off, which was a surprise, because I was milking it much more than the hold really allowed. I realised I better carry on, so shut my eyes to try harder and fondled for the jam doughnut. I then realised I couldn't see a bloody thing, so opened them again, found I was still connected to the wall, flipped my hand the 'correct way' and unbelievably found myself established beyond the crux. Blimey! The top crack is no formality - I was just thankful I'd re-familiarised myself with its intricacies.'
Summing up his unexpected send, Pete commented:
'It was kind of anticlimactic, I wasn't supposed to do it now; second session of the season. But I guess everything just went a little smoother this time around. I'm sure the recovery drink for Recovery Drink is meant to be some strong Belgian beer, and although I feel strong, I'm not Belgian and I don't like beer, so a good cup of British Yorkshire tea it is, (yes I've brought it with me).'
It's a bittersweet moment for Pete, though, since his crack partner in crime and fellow Wideboy Tom Randall was not with him to make a team send of the route as per usual, nor was he even there to celebrate. Pete described his feelings as follows:
'I'm pleased with my performance here, but on the cracks it's always only half tick until double tickage. Tom is busy running around the Lake District at the moment preparing for other projects…But, Randall - when you've finished running around and beefing up your sparrow legs, I'm with ye for it!'
Now it's time for some wholesome Recovery for Pete...
'Can someone hand me the Bakewell Pudding please, I've finished. Forget a recovery drink, I'll take some recovery pudding instead.'