Pete Whittaker: Path to the “Recovery Drink”
Whittaker made the third free ascent of The Recovery Drink last week on August 14. It is considered to be one of the hardest crack climbs in the world, speculated to be around 5.14c. Here, he shares how he finally got it done.
Can some one hand me the Bakewell Pudding please, I’ve finished. I’ve made the third ascent of The Recovery Drink, but forget a recovery drink, I’ll take some recovery pudding instead.
After three specific trips last year, I had a sore right hand from repeatedly stabbing at the same crux jam. My right heel was left wondering why it was trying to do some bizarre and contorted sequence above my head, whilst squeezing the most tenuous position on the route. And my stomach was rumbling at my first concerted effort to not be “Beefy Pete” but actually have some lean lightness about me.
I wandered away from the final trip of 2018 to The Recovery Drink with an empty right hand, a pointless right heel, and an unhappy belly saying “Feed me, you bastard!”
After a short regroup, and analysis of what went wrong, the conclusion in my head was the following:
— If I’m trying to put my foot above me, I’m too weak to do real sequences and I’m kidding myself. I need to be stronger. I need to be more reliable.
— Ok yes, I feel lean, light and “on it” on the rock, but if I’m hungry and grumpy then that’s going to be detrimental to performance. I need to be lean, light, strong and happy. In short, an athlete
— I don’t want an empty right hand again, so this all needs to be put right.
With this in mind I decided to start phase 1 of “getting it right.”
I hit the treat shop hard and went from my lightest-ever weight to my heaviest in six weeks time. Six whole kilos gained—solid work, and it felt so easy to do. I was incredibly happy with the initial progress. I recall it as one of the happiest periods in my life: climbing big walls and eating cookie dough until it seeped from my eyelids.
Watch Whittaker and Randall Working on The Recovery Drink in 2018
My plan was to beef up, and to train while beefy. But also not to start training too early, as motivation can sometimes dip. Christmas, New Years and spring came and went and I was still perfecting the beef and not starting the climbing related stuff too early. Recovery Drink training could’t have been any easier if I’m being honest with you…
By spring time there was still a niggling factor which hadn’t been erased in my mind, and this was, How was I going to get around the whole “weak person”-foot-above-the-head beta? Because realistically it just wasn’t the way.
On a passing visit in May, I revisited the moves—now as Beefy Pete—in an attempt to eradicate this foot-above-the-head nonsense.
Some folks may be familiar with the “Karate move,” but if you’re not: essentially it’s the crux throw (or stab) to a hand jam. To catch the jam itself is the crux. The beta I was using did in fact make this move easier than how others were trying, (I was going thumbs down into the jam, rather than thumbs up), so I did catch the jam on multiple occasions on previous trips, without much fuss. The problem for me came afterwards—matching the jam!
Matching with your hand in the thumbs-down position was, in a word, desperate. Hence all my foot above the head shenanigans.
During my May dogging session, I was amazed to find I’d actually missed a marginal three-finger donut jam below the Karate Slot. It was quite specific, but it fit my porky fingers perfectly and enabled me to flick the Karate Hand in to the desired thumb up position. Winner.
With foot nonsense eliminated, it was now time to stop being so beefy, get in climbing shape and lean up in a better, happier and healthier fashion than last time.
I made solid progress and gradually turned The Works climbing gym’s diffiult yellows into oranges, 20-millimeter edges into 10s on the Beastmaker, and 50 kilgrams to 70 for weighted hangs. Nay bother.
Heading to Norwaym I left the literal shambles of the crux replica in Tom Randall’s garden (message from Tom one week prior to going: “Don’t go on the 50 degree board again, I think it’s not that far off collapsing—classic quality construction”) lapped and feeling solid.
It was interesting coming back to the route and seeing my donut jam (or is that jam donut?!), as an “in shape” Pete. It felt better than I remembered. (Unfortunately, hungry as I was, I couldn’t eat it…)
At the end of day two on the route I decided to have a little redpoint attempt. I wasn’t expecting much—I thought of it more as a cheeky look to get the initial lead out the way, take a fall, and get used to the wall again. Miraculously I found myself mid crux with some power in the tank. Not much, but some, and some is always enough for something extra to happen.
My left heel went on for the match and it didn’t come off, which was a surprise, because I was milking it much more than the hold really allowed. I realized I better carry on, so shut my eyes to try harder and fondled for the jam donut. I then realized I couldn’t see a bloody thing, so opened my eyes again, found I was still connected to the wall, flipped my hand the “correct way,” and unbelievably found myself established beyond the crux. Blimey!
The top crack is no mere formality, so I was thankful I’d re-familiarized myself with its intricacies before this redpoint burn.
Before I knew it, I was at the top.
It was all kind of anticlimactic, really. I wasn’t supposed to do it then, second session of the season. But I guess everything just went a little smoother this time around.
I’m sure the recovery drink for The Recovery Drink is meant to be some strong Belgian beer, and although I feel strong, I’m not Belgian and I don’t like beer, so a good cup of British Yorkshire tea it is.
I’m pleased with my performance here, but on the cracks its always only half a tick until double tickage. Tom is busy running around the Lake District at the moment preparing for other projects… But, Randall—when you’ve finished running around and beefing up your sparrow legs, I’m with ye for it!
— Location – Jøssingfjord, Norway
— Date of Ascent: August 14, 2019
— Third free ascent (following Nico Favresse and Daniel Jung)
— Grade: not officially graded, but considered 8c+(5.14c) (I think)
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