Pete Whittaker flashes Freerider
- Tuesday 21st October 2014
Pete Whittaker, climbing with Tom Randall, has just blogged about flashing Freerider (5.12d) in Yosemite Valley.
Pete Whittaker and Tom Randall, collectively known as the Wideboyz, have formed an extremely effective climbing partnership over the last few years concentrating on test-piece cracks around the world. Honing their craft on a purpose-built ‘crack-machine’ housed in a cellar, they emerged a few years ago to succeed on the then world’s hardest crack climbs after which they went on to climb some harder ones of their own. To mis-quote the old famous RURP description, Pete and Tom have “gonnen inside the cracks and are looking out”!
Until now though they have concentrated on short/single-pitches test-pieces. A month ago however they rocked-up in Yosemite Valley intent on some big walls. Never short of a plan, their intention was not only to do the routes free but to try to flash them as well. As Pete and Tom say on their blog, on-sight/flashed ascents of the big long hard Yosemite test-pieces lag behind their single-pitch counterparts despite some big names giving it their best shots.
Complete newbies to big walling, Pete and Tom first did the El Corazon (5.13b) to get into the flow of spending days in the vertical environment. Next up was Freerider. They climbed the first few pitches doing Freeblast quickly but then got caught behind another party and had to retreat from the Heart Ledges. Returning the next day, they got onto the harder and crucial pitches. Pete decided to have a go at the Huber ‘Boulder Problem’ pitch but blogs that he just missed out flashing it having missed a crucial foothold. He redpointed the pitch however. Not content with that, he then dropped back down and tried the original Teflon Corner pitch which he managed to flash. With temps rising Tom wasn’t able to replicate Pete’s flash and had to wait to redpoint this pitch the next day. On the final (third) day they continued upwards Pete flashing every pitch to the top.
Wideboyz hang-out. Photo Wideboyz
It seems however that Pete’s flash of Freerider has ruffled a few (on-line) feathers over in the US. There are those that consider that a true flash ascent should be ground-up without any interruptions or descents with every pitch being flashed on lead. The Huber Brothers, for example, are known to start again on a multi-pitch redpoint ascent if they drop any pitch along the way. Some clear feel that a similar standard should apply to a flash ascent. Notwithstanding, this (largely US on-line) debate, Pete’s flash on Freerider is recognised as a great achievement. Cedric Lachat was reported as doing the route in 2009 in the same style as Pete, ie he 'dropped' the Boulder Problem Huber alternative and then flashed the Teflon Corner. Ethan Pringle attempted the flash on Freerider but had to redpoint one of the harder pitches. Elsewhere in the Valley, Ueli Steck is reported as having done a one-fall ascent of Golden Gate whilst Leo Holding and Patch Hammond did El Nino with two or three falls as Yuji Hirayama doing Salathe itself with only four falls.
Pete 'The Flasher' Whittaker tops out. Photo Wideboyz
Tom Randall was clearly impressed with Pete’s ascent given he blogged; “Pete’s effort on Freerider has to be one of my favourite climbing experiences because I got to see the culmination of 15 years of effort in learning a craft come to fruition. Everything he’s learnt on the gritstne edges, slate slabs, on off-widths with me and in cracks all over the world came together in one 3000ft face.”
Freerider (5.12d/F7c/E6 6c) was established in 1998 by the Hubers and has become a popular, free version of Salathe Wall on the mighty El Cap. Referred to as being “the Astroman of the new millennium”, Freerider climbs much of Salathe Wall free albeit avoiding the corner on pitch 19 by taking the so-called Monster off-width and then skirts off left at the roof missing out the numerous 5.13 pitches on the famous Salathe headwall which were originally freed by Paul Piana and Todd Skinner in the mid 80’s. Freerider itself has two variations. The so-called Teflon Corner, a gnarly smooth-sided corner is often wet in the spring which the Hubers avoided by climbing an alternative – the ‘Boulder Problem’ pitch – as part of their first ascent. Since then most people have opted to go that way – until a crucial hold broke off in 2009 leaving a hard (V7) dyno. The first ten pitches are often climbed as a route in their own right and are known as Freeblast (5.11).
Pete is sponsored by: Climb on, Five Ten, Pategonia, Sterling Rope and Wild Country
Tom is sponsored by: Climb on, Five Ten, Rab, Sterling Rope and Wild Country
You can read more of the detail of Pete and Tom’s ascent of Freerider on their blog here… http://wideboyz.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/beards-bagels-and-big-walls.html?m=1