Pete Whittaker has made the third ascent of Mason Earle's crack testpiece, Stranger than Fiction, 5.14 (E10), in Bartlett Wash, Utah.
The route was first climbed by Mason Earle in 2015, and was left unrepeated until earlier this month when Lor Sabourin made the long awaited second ascent. Whilst both Sabourin and Earle climbed the route using a taped right foot rather than a climbing shoe, Pete opted for the narrow profile of an Unparallel Up Lace LV.
As mentioned in our report of Sabourin's ascent, the route demands a range of crack climbing skills, starting off with thirty feet of fifty degree overhanging rock which tests feet first climbing, fingerlocks, and thin hand jams. The route then offers a second crux, a hard boulder problem, the reward for which is a good rest. Leaving the rest, the climber faces a thin and unyeilding crack, fifty feet long and overhanging at twenty-five degrees, the end of which features the final crux of the route.
Having spent a number of weeks working Stranger than Fiction, Pete fell from this final crux on his first redpoint attempt. He shared footage of the attempt on Instagram, stating that he had 'made so many mistakes getting there that the pump had added up to be too much'.
At the time, in spite of putting in such a good first attempt, it seemed unlikely that an ascent was on the cards. After a foot slip during the boulder problem, Pete took a not-insignificant chunk of flesh out of his right little finger - or, in Pete's own words, 'I decapitated my little finger' - meaning that he was unable to put in any more attempts on the full line while it healed.
He turned his attention to the top section instead, allowing him to refine his beta whilst waiting for colder temperature and more skin. A few days ago, he returned and was able to make the route's third ascent.
'Always been on mine and Tom Randall's radar this one', Pete said on Instagram, 'but worried I wouldn't be able to fit my meat mitts in the jams'.
'Turns out I can (but only just in some cases, as going crack and tape glove-less was the only option at the beginning)'.
'As it's not had many ascents I'll give my thoughts on the grade to add to the general consensus over time. For me it felt tough 8c, harder than Cobra (Cobra Crack (5.14a)), easier than Recovery (Recovery Drink, 8c+)'.
'With pure cracks like this, hand and finger size does always play a part though. This crack does take in a range of bad sizes so the cruxes are likely to be slightly different for everyone'.
'However, what can be said is it's such a classic for the hard global crack circuit, and you really need to know your pure jamming techniques for this one. Thanks Mason Earle for the vision, and the fight right to the anchor'.
'Now I'm going to go bathe my fingers as they feel beaten'.
Check out the videos below to see Pete and Tom's process of working the route, along with Pete's first redpoint attempt: