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. The route had now acquired the name ‘Century Crack’ and mentions in magazine articles and internet rumours helped enhance it’s reputation.
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.
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.
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.
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!