The Hardest Offwidth in the World

October 7th, 2011

Hiding shyly under the Canyonlands White Rim in Utah is possibly the longest roof crack in the world. Discovered by desert legend Steve ‘Crusher’ Bartlett, while prospecting for desert towers, Crusher returned and aid soloed the line in 2001 and named it ‘Chocolate Starfish’. Next came Stevie Haston, who gallantly attempted to free the enormous roof crack, failed but tentively offered a ‘9a’ grade. ┬áThe route had now acquired the name ‘Century Crack’ and mentions in magazine articles and internet rumours helped enhance it’s reputation.

Directions to 'Century Crack' taped to Crushers Truck

Inspired by Stevie’s descriptions of the route, Tom Randall and Pete Whittaker began dreaming, and scarcely daring to admit their ambitions, they began a secret training regime in Tom’s cellar. Two years later myself, Tom, Pete, Crusher and Filmmaker Chris Alstrin trundled our way down the dirt track into Canyonlands. An abseil down over the White Rim, an easy descent and then a loose intimidating but easy gully leads back into a wide cave and to beneath the most staggering crack in the world. The offwidth is 120 feet long and completely horizontal from the back of the cave to where it rises up for another 40 feet to the rim.

Crusher and rainbow above 'Century Crack'


Alex Ekins Bivouacing near 'Century Crack'

Tom and Pete spent a day working the route and then on Wednesday the 5th of October Tom won the toss of the tape roll. His first attempt began and with a steady shuffle, wide ponies, knee locks, hand fist stacks and arm bared he ascended the hardest offwidth and what may be the longest roof crack in the world.

Tom Randall the morning before his ascent of 'Century Crack'

Pete looked shocked as he now realised he too had to get on the sharp end and climb one of the hardest trad routes in the world. He grunted his way through his repertoire of wide crack techniques and his two years of training led him to the top of the greatest climb of his life.

Tom Randall on the 1st ascent of 'Century Crack'

Tom Randall on the 1st ascent of 'Century Crack'

Tom Randall topping out on 'Century Crack'

Pete Whittaker on 'Century Crack'

Pete Whittaker at the top of 'Century Crack'

Pete Whittaker Climbing 'Century Crack'

Tom Randall after the 1st ascent of 'Century Crack'

Tom Randalls Hands after climbing 'Century Crack'

Perhaps the last word should go to that wiley desert fox Crusher who said it was the most impressive display of climbing he had seen in 30 years!

Crusher and his trusty Toyota

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15 comments on “The Hardest Offwidth in the World

  1. shark says:

    Monstrous. Well done, well deserved.

    • Alex Ekins says:

      Thanks Simon at UK Bouldering. It was an incredible effort, Crusher said it was the most impressive display of climbing he had seen in 30 years!

  2. That is PROUD!!! Will there be video forthcoming?

  3. JoshJosh Janes says:

    14d and you fellas sent it in one day of work? Quite an accomplishment.

    Chocolate Starfish is a superior name.

    • Alex Ekins says:

      Hey Josh Josh
      I agree regarding the name!
      Tom and Pete spent two days on the route, one day working the moves and then they both got it on their first red points. Also remember they had been training just for this route for two years!

  4. Justin EdlJustin EdlJustin EdlJustin Edl says:

    SICK! Sounds like it went down easy. How hard are the lip(s)?

  5. John K says:

    This is some of the coolest climbing news in awhile. Great job Tom and Pete!!!

  6. Sam Stephens says:

    Amazing and inspiring climbing, good on ya’ll.

  7. Jason Morton says:

    I’ve been looking for a new hobby, and this news has turned me on to climbing! I just need to find a way to start. Love the pictures, can’t wait for the video.

  8. Ed Tieman says:

    What, did you loose your way and started climbing backwards….the photo you upside down. I have done a few climbs all taped up and came back all blooded up.

    I still have some if now all my equipment from 1962.

    Excellent job.

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