Pete Whittaker and Tom Randall climb new E7 and E8

January 9th, 2011

Pete Whittaker and Tom Randall are well known for their new routes, however in December 2010 they excelled themselves by finding new routes at a neglected crag. Following a tip-off from the new route master himself Gary Gibson, the young apprentices fought their way through a jungle of rhododendrons to discover Rainroach Rock and what might be one of the largest roofs on gritstone.

Tom Randall explains how they found the crag .

At a Peak Area Meeting some time ago I got chatting to Gary Gibson about new crags and new routes to be developed in the Churnet region. Quite surprisingly, he actually gave me a rather good tip-off about this place called Rainroach Rock. Mostly people tend to give you pretty duff suggestions for new routes as they always want to keep the best to themselves, but Gary (all credit to him) really came up with the goods.

After trekking through quite a bit of dense woodland and the dreaded Rhododendron bushes we eventually found the fabled Rainroach Rock. As promised, the crag was totally obscured by vegetation, so we got work with a load of bow-saws and cleared a substantial area of land. Once cleaned up a bit, we were greeted with a really awesome bit of rock – perfect Churnet grit, capped with a massive horizontal 7-foot roof! Pete started working on the left hand arete and I got stuck into the main roof on the right hand side. After a day’s top-roping, brushing and cleaning Pete had worked out his sequences but I was getting totally shut down by an impossible reach on my line.

That night I had a strange dream that revealed a new sequence to me – this could be possible! I’ve had dreams like this before (probably like many people) and they always turn out to be useless – the pocket you imagined in your dream is never there or the hidden foothold really doesn’t exist…. However, as it turned out – the new dream sequence worked!! I couldn’t believe it. Just as we were preparing to lead our routes, the hoar frost set in and yet again we had to leave the Churnet empty handed. I fretted for the next 4 days of snowy weather wondering if Andi Turner would turn up and use his Staffordshire reach or Gary would snatch his 4 millionth route from under my nose… God, the worry was killing me. New router’s paranoia!!

Tom Randall on the first ascent of 'Captain Cutloose' E7 6c at Rainroach Rock, England (Alex Ekins)
Fortunately we returned on Friday to find perfect conditions. A quick check of our routes from the comfort of a tight rope confirmed they were ready to go, so we later dispatched them that day. My route features a huge cut loose move across the roof and a bit of spicy climbing up the final arete, which was very enjoyable – this created ‘Captain Cut Loose’ probably about E7 6c. Pete crimped and gnarled his way up the very bold lower arete of his route and ran it out on the upper headwall to create a desperate E8 7a – ‘Pieces Of Eight’.

Below is a very short film of Pete Whittaker climbing the 7a crux of ‘Pieces of Eight’


Pete’s thoughts on his ascent of ‘Pieces Of Eight’

As soon as I walked round the corner and Rainroach Rock appeared I knew I had to climb the square cut overhanging left arete below the big capping roof. The line just stuck out like a sore thumb. The lower moves on the arete are very bouldery, fortunately it was very much my style of climbing with lots of gypsy beta involved and some hard heel hooking. The moves are very on/off with some bad slopers and a couple of classic churnet pebbles (however if taller you may well be able to reach past them, lucky you!).
Unfortunately the landing to the route is not very appetizing, it slopes away and has a tree stump exactly where you would land. I used a few rododendron cuttings and pads to create a bedodendron, making the start more appealing.

After a few false starts I managed to get up the start, pumped myself out on the easier slopey headwall and thankfully topped out. It turned out to be a lovely little route on a great looking piece of rock.

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