The two Britons Pete Whittaker and Tom Randall manage to climb the steepest and probably longest crack route in the world: The Great Rift (7b + to 8a +, 60-70 pitches). The special thing about it: It is an artificial crack structure of a motorway bridge.

Pete Whittaker and Tom Randall, also known under the pseudonym Wideboyz, surprise the climbing world once again with an extraordinary performance. Not only in terms of climbing. Driven by the restrictions of the corona pandemic, the two were looking for an alternative for their planned trip to the USA.

The two found what they were looking for on the M5 motorway between Birmingham and Exeter, Great Britain. On the highway? You read that right. The M5 runs over a long section over a bridge, divided into two directions. A perfect climbing crack runs between the two elements of the bridge.

Horizontal crack climbing - as far as the eye can see. (Image Ray Wood)
Horizontal crack climbing as far as the eye can see. (Image Ray Wood)

As long as Half Dome high

The bridge in question is not a normal bridge, but a real monument. The crack in the construction is around 760 meters long, so it is as long as Half Dome in Yosemite. But this crack here is completely horizontal!

Horizontal climbing for days, always in a harness or portaledge. The route demanded everything from both of them. (Image Ray Wood)
Horizontal climbing for days, always in a harness or portaledge. The route required everything from both of them. (Image Ray Wood)

Specific training for the route

Tom Randall and Pete Whittaker were obsessed with the project. For a whole summer the two trained specifically for their motorway project, took three trips to reconstruct the bridge, had to give up once in the middle of the bridge, until it finally worked on the fifth trip.

The nights in the Portaledge were anything but relaxing, because the cars and trucks roared overhead even at night.
The nights in the Portaledge were anything but relaxing, because the cars and trucks roared overhead even at night.

Tom and Pete spent four days and three nights at the Portaledge under the highway bridge until the mega-project was completed. The entire tour counts around 60 to 70 pitches and ranges from 7b + and 8a +.

"760 meters of pure horizontal climbing demanded everything from us and we were totally destroyed at the end of the route."

Pete Whittaker

As if such a long and consistently horizontal route wasn't enough, the external circumstances made the ascent very difficult. Pete Whittaker and Paul Randall have certainly spent more relaxing nights in the Portaledge than directly below a busy motorway bridge with the corresponding traffic noise.

There are definitely nicer climbing locations than the M5.
There are definitely nicer climbing locations than the M5.

They often climbed with ski goggles because small particles and dust kept falling through the crack. During their first exploration trips, they also noticed that the traffic of heavy trucks gave climbing a good deal of extra challenge.

“The worst pitches were those on which a heavy truck rolled over the bridge while we were trying to secure something. That was always a kind of extra key point. "

Pete Whittaker

The film about "The Great Rift" will be released in spring 2022

The two mad Brits were accompanied by a film team during the project. The corresponding film about the project will be released as part of the Reel Rock Tour 16 in spring 2022.

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Credits: Pictures Ray Wood / Reel rock