In 2011, the Wide Boyz—British offwidth aficionados Tom Randall and Pete Whittaker—made the first ascent of Century Crack, a 5.14b roof crack in Canyonlands, Utah. Following the ascent of the infamous offwidth line, they were introduced to a number of other projects in the area by local developer Rob Pizem. One particular section of caves included a rarity of Canyonlands: a 50-meter roof crack that mostly involved crack bouldering close to the ground. In the final 10 meters, the floor dropped away leaving a roped section of climbing to finish on flat ground above. At the time it remained a project.
Now, several years later, they’ve made the first ascent, each redpointing the monster line, dubbing it Black Mamba and grading it 5.14b.
“When Pizem had shown me and Pete the project, it appeared at first instance a bit unappealing as we were into these big majestic lines way off the deck and which were mainly offwidth,” Randall says. “As a result, we wrote off the majority of the line but did end up leading (well Pete did, as actually I failed to send!) the last 10 meters which became The Angry Pirate Finish at 5.13a.”
Below, watch Hot Aches’ original short film of Whittaker FA’ing The Angry Pirate Finish
On their annual pilgrimage to Canyonlands this year, the duo started off focusing on an already-established roof crack called Necromicon (5.13d/5.14a), put up by Jean-Pierre Ouellet in 2011. Randall and Whittaker managed to make the second and third ascents of the route.
With a hard send under their belts, they decided to take another look at line that would become Black Mamba. “To be honest, me and Pete had sort of written it off a few years back as all being a bit too much,” Randall says. “Walking back into the tunnel of darkness and viewing the individual sections this year, we realised that for sure it was possible, but potentially the length or complexity of it might be too much for a single trip. Trying to remember a really sequence-y 50-meter roof isn’t easy when there’s little room for error.”
As they got deep into project mode, cracking beta and rehearsing individual sections, they found that the 13a grade they had given The Angry Pirate Finish was certainly a sandbag—5.13b was more appropriate.
Randall describes the different parts of the line as follows: “It breaks down into a 10-meter hand crack into a short Bombay horizontal body slot, followed by another 10 meters 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 8 meters to set you up for a second, powerful finger crack sequence on sandy holds which then allows you to sprint (or collapse) into an 8 meter section of hands and fists before the final daunting offwidth.”
And the final offwidth section had the potential to be a heartbreaker.
“On its own it is a struggle,” Whittaker says of the offwidth finish, “but with the continuous upside-down climbing beforehand, it’s a real world of dread when you finally get there on the big redpoint. If the route stopped before this, the whole thing would be like a beef sandwich—reasonably meaty. In totality, it’s that final 9-inch section that really makes it a full Sunday roast.”
Both Whittaker and Randall sent Black Mamba. Randall’s send-go in particular had some entertaining moments. “On Tom’s go I knew he was on his way to a successful ascent when I started to see that he was losing his boxer shorts,” Whittaker says. “When you start to experience ‘panty-slip’ you know your right hip is in deep enough in the final wide section. On both our ascents we managed to start stripping our underwear off our body, maybe another 20 meters and I might have been completely commando.”
With one final week in the desert, the Wide Boyz plan to return to their long term project, The Crucifix. It is sure to be the hardest roof crack in the world once they finish it. Could this be the trip? They are in fine sending form, after all. Whittaker notes, “Black Mamba is one of those routes we’d never have got up a few years back but everything’s come together now, so it’s much more reasonable to climb things like this in a relatively short time.”