Monday, 14 January 2013

The Sweet Science-Wide-Boyz review

Grunt and grind: Wide-Boy Tom Randall gives 'The Hastonator'a ride encouraged by Pete Whittaker.Photo..Hot Aches

And so it begins... Brit hot shots, Tom Randall and Pete Whittaker meet at the Edge in Sheffield with Randall the elder deciding that Kid Whittaker might be the answer to his prayers. This particular divine calling being an attempt at the 'world's hardest off-width problem'. Century Crack in Utah. A sensational roof crack which breaks out the echoing shadows into the searing light of the red desert.

Discovered by US off-width specialist, Phil 'Crusher' Bartlett-who despite his moniker looks more like a geography teacher who is into real ale and bell ringing than brutal climbing problems. Crusher- who realizes that it's beyond his powers- hands the project over to legendary Brit hard case,Stevie 'Mad Cow' Haston, who gives it a whirl but who also quickly realizes that he's bitten off more than he can chew. Apart from a valiant  failed attempt, he does achieve one thing. An On the Edge article about the line and his attempts to subdue it ...enter Randall and Whittaker. Stevie's OTE piece lights the blue touchpaper for the intrepid pair who quickly set themselves a two year goal of leading the desert route.

This two year muscle fest kicks off with an unofficial world record for climbing the most routes in a day- 550 !!!- before moving underground. To Tom's Sheffield cellar where,like a mad sado- masochist,he has created all manner of torturous devices, designed to cause maximum pain and maximum muscle.

According to Stevie Haston- whose gnomic interviews act as a narrative throughout the film - 'there are no classic off-width problems in the UK or even Europe'....Really? Certainly Cobalt Dream E5, in North Wales looks the bizz when Pete Whittaker grunts his way through the roof, but perhaps it's not a true offwidth? It's interesting for the average UK climber seeing American climbers like Jay Anderson, Bob Scarpelli, Phil Bartlett and Brad Jackson, each  bearing the subtitle 'offwidth climber'.  I wasn't aware that in the US climbing had evolved a technical sub culture although in the case of off-width crack climbing,that indeed appears to be the case. Bob Scarpelli, who looks and sounds like he used to play bass in The Grateful Dead, offers the philosophical view that this climbing sub-culture is like boxing. Brutal but at it's best...'a sweet science'.

However, before our boys get out there they have to put in a shift in Tom's basement. Lots of almost homo-erotic footage of naked flesh (see pic), rippling torsos oozing sweat and with the participants shouting things like ' can do it, just give me one more' as they insert themselves in devices like 'The Hastonator'-bearing  slogans like 'fuck the pain' ! Going back to the SM theme. Things look decidedly unpleasant as the boys increasingly torture themselves with props like a 45lb weighted gilet... what looks like a butane bottle-for pull ups- various weights and dumb bells which you have to crank while spilling out of The Hastonator. It looks wicked but according to Tom Randall..'we loved every minute of it!'......Weird!

When the duo eventually get Stateside,they offer themselves as innocents abroad to their hosts. Brits...what do we know about your funky US passions! However,it soon dawns on the natives that these guys haven't arrived for the sun, sand and sights. After demolishing various classic OW problems,the time has come for Crusher to take them on a 4 hour 4x4 drive into the desert and introduce them to 'it'!

The Century Crack footage is actually fairly concise and wrapped up in quite a short period. It had to be as the film itself is actually quite short. Around 49 minutes. After a prelim session on the crack which leaves lots of cams in situ, the pair return next day and after tossing the tape roll to see who leads, Tom Randall gets first shot and to his great surprise finds himself pulling out of the shadows and into the light. Quickly followed by PW....job done. But not quite. Despite this historic 'lead' things go awry when news reaches the UK. No surprises when the ethic police and trollmasters of UKC give their ascent short shrift as Tom had used pre placed gear. However, their initial elation is even more brutally dashed when 'Mad Cow' himself-Stevie Haston- goes on record to declare that the route still awaiting a first ascent...bugger!

Not surprisingly, given the mixed reception they receive back home, Tom and Pete have no option but to cut short their US road trip and.....well... you probably know how it pans out but I'll leave it for for you to see how it's captured in all its technicolour glory.

Overall,like all Hot-Aches productions,an entertaining fun film which ticks all the boxes required by the climbing movie viewer. Little wonder the film won best climbing film and the people's choice at Kendal in autumn.

Wide Boyz is directed by Paul Diffley and Chris Alstrin and is available through Hot-Aches' as a download or DVD.

John Appleby:2013