Pete Whittaker, the British that took America by storm alongside his climbing partner Tom Randall, was in Bucharest for 3 days in February 2020, for a presentation and a series of workshops on crack climbing. At the end, we had a short talk with him, asking him a few questions about his philosophy on climbing.
Pete, where did you learn to crack climb?
I can’t remember a specific point of learning. I think I had an understanding of jamming from a young age. But when I was 17 I climbed a route called Ray’s Roof, which is an overhanging fist and off width crack where you have to climb feet first for a short while. I remember thinking that when I climbed this route, the whole feeling of jamming my feet ahead of me felt rather bizarre.
What was it that you considered the most difficult when you started climbing?
I’ll be honest I can’t really remember the point when I started climbing; I’ve been doing it from such a young age. I do remember steep routes being more challenging than the vertical, crimpy technical routes though.
When climbing, what is the most important factor?
It’s all mental. Everything is controlled from your head. If your mind is in the wrong place, no matter how strong you are you’ll never succeed. Also to get physically strong you need a strong mind for motivation. Using your head and mind is everything.
What are 3 essential factors in multi-pitch climbing?
Safety. A good partner. Having fun when you’re up there, because you can’t put your feet straight back on the ground when you feel like it.
When planning a multi-pitch route, what are the steps to take?
Check the route in the guide book (description, pitch grades, where the crux is, what gear you will need, etc). Check the descent. Pack the rack and supplies according to the route (don’t just take a ‘general rack’). Get the topo on your phone or as a print out. Check weather and conditions before setting off. Do one last check before leaving the car to do the climb.
Name 3 things you would want to have with you on a long crack climb.
Lots of Friends (the gear, and people ;). Tape or Crack Gloves. The correct pair of shoes for the type of crack.
Who had the biggest influence on you as a climber?
My Parents, Ben Cossey, Tom Randall
- All necessary equipment, or strictly necessary? Strictly necessary
- Safe and sure, or new and risky? Safe and sure
- Competition, or pleasure? Competition
- Hard training, or native power? Hard training
- Solo, or with a partner? Both
- Plan, or inspiration? Plan for goals and objectives. Inspiration for training
- Leaps, or small steps to big goals? Small steps to big goals
- Luck, or merit? Merit
And one final one: a few words on the events in Bucharest.
I had a fantastic short trip to Bucharest. The thing I liked most was how psyched and friendly everyone was. People were so keen to chat, learn and ask questions (which is why I was there), so I was glad I could help them in a way which will hopefully improve their climbing.
It was great to share the first Romanian Crack School with you all. Thank you very much for having me.