Gruelling Canyonlands crack climbed by Pete Whittaker, Tom Randall
British rock climbers Pete Whittaker and Tom Randall have made the first ascent of Black Mamba, a 5.14b trad crack climb in The Canyonlands, USA.
Britain's Pete Whittaker and Tom Randall are back in Canyonlands, USA, where in 2011 they made the first ascent the spectacular Century Crack. Hailed at the time as one of, of not the, most difficult roof cracks in the world, it was repeated in October 2018 by remarkabe US climber Danny Parker.
Randall and Whittaker returned to the desert sandstone in 2016 to climb another gobsmacking offwidth roof crack, The Millennium Arch, and it was during that trip that they first began concentrating on what has become known as the Crucifix Project. As the name suggests this is still a project but, when freed, it should up the ante even further.
The Wideboyz duo returned to the US for the Crucifix Project, described in no uncertain terms as "the holy grail of crack climbing", but they have also used this trip to focus on some other lines. They got the ball rolling by climbing the thin hands testpiece Necronomicon, established in 2011 beneath the White Rim Trail by Jean-Pierre Ouellet and hitherto unrepeated, and have now unearthed what they believe may well be their hardest roof crack yet: Black Mamba.
The route in question includes a rarity for Canyonlands, a 50m roof crack that mostly involves crack bouldering close to the ground. In the final 10 meters, the floor drops away leaving a roped section of climbing to finish on flat ground above. In 2016 the duo had initially dismissed the project, preferring to concentrate their efforts of the taller lines, but did actually climb just the short and hard offwidth exit which became The Angry Pirate Finish. Black Mamba now climbs the route in its entirety, from dark recess of the back of the cave.
The style of climbing required all the tricks of the trade and their experience, and according to Randall "In terms of sections, it breaks down into a 10m hand crack into a short Bombay horizontal body slot, followed by another 10m of hand and fists. From here, you shake out the pump and go straight into a hard finger crack crux followed by a Necronomicon-style thin hands move or two. From there, you sustain the pump in some more hands and fists for 8m to set you up for a second, powerful finger crack sequence on sandy holds which then allows you to sprint (or collapse) into an 8m section of hands and fists before the final daunting offwidth."
Whittaker describes the first ascents: “The route is like a mining tunnel, you walk to the back and start in a crouched position with a head torch on and can’t believe you now have to climb the same distance you just walked…but completely upside down.”
Video - The Angry Pirate Finish