Tom, I certainly don't plan to have the whole conversation in the spirit of the "pandemic," but it seems to me that a lot of good and interesting things have come out of this situation. So I'll touch on this topic a bit at the beginning…
Of course – no problem. The world has been a pretty strange place recently and most of us have had significant changes to both our sport, working and family lives. It feels like almost every single week is different from the last and there’s no consistency!
The world slowed for a moment, the frantic pace calmed. We had time to take a breath and focus more on our loved ones, but also on activities that we could not find the time for before. Did you feel the same way and if so, what did you do differently?
I think for me, it actually got a lot more complicated. This is mainly because I have a number of businesses that I run and also a young family. The businesses (and their employees) all needed very urgent attention and literally everything had to be solved within just a week or so. It was like trying to manage a process that should take 6-12 months and do it in a week! For my two daughters, they were suddenly off school and having to be educated from home. At first, I needed to somehow create 2 school days a week out of my schedule, which had already become crazy. Over the last month or so though, it’s much more reasonable and I just home-school once a week whilst my wife takes the rest of the responsibility. It’s been interesting for sure! As a result of this, I actually had to be kind to myself for once and I stopped almost all training for around a month. I had to do it, as I was already doing ridiculous hours – for example the first week I recorded 124hr (including 2 nights where I worked without sleep). You have to find balance with your health!
Utah, photo: Mary Eden
Due to travel restrictions climbers had to explore local climbing options much more. Did it have the same effect on you? Have you climbed around Sheffield in previously unthinkable areas and paths you wouldn't have considered before?
For a lot of the restrictions of movement I’ve only been able to go running. Climbing has been really difficult and whilst I know some people are ok with going away to unusual places where no one will see them, it’s not what I can do. I guess overall, I’ve explored a lot of the parks in Sheffield, but it did get pretty boring. I’ve complained rather a lot to my friends and family!
Which Tendon rope is your favourite and why?
Ever since I started using ropes made by Tendon, I have been fascinated by their properties. In my experience, it is almost impossible to find a rope with good maneuverability / knottability, that has also got great durability. I found this combination in the Master Pro 9.2 rope, which I used for a few weeks to practice climbing what I consider, from a sports point of view, the most difficult crack route on sharp granite in Norway called "Recovery Drink" (8c). Basically, I checked the rope every day and expected some damage, but I never found any.
Recovery Drink, photo: Tristan Hobson
Tendon is based in the Czech Republic in the village of Bolatice near the industrial city of Ostrava. You're from Sheffield that has similar character. There are many iron structures and concrete buildings in such cities and you can find interesting joint lines. How is your industrial climbing?
Funnily enough, my earliest years in climbing when I was 17 and 18years old had a lot of urban climbing. I grew up in an area with almost no rock climbing and I didn’t have a car to go anywhere. I climbed on the side of my house, walls in the countryside alongside paths and also some building in the town. Occasionally it would get you into trouble! In Sheffield, I’ve done very little climbing on the buildings and it’s mainly been because I couldn’t find any good cracks. I have looked around a lot over the years but never found anything. The one interesting thing about the pandemic is that I do now know about some amazing urban roof cracks around the UK. I’m just waiting for us to be allowed to go there!!
Now that the measures are slowly being relaxed, what are your plans for the rest of the year?
For now, I have cancelled 100% of my trips around the world and am concentrating on a long 24hr mountain project in the Lake District. If the travel situation improves again, I will return to Norway (and perhaps USA) later in the year. We’ll see though…
Itaca Nel Sole
Now let's focus a little on other sports and climbing disciplines than "just" crack climbing. I read somewhere that climbing in the mountains is not the top in your opinion. You said it's always an individual view and it’s not your personal opinion. Has anything changed?
No I don’t think anything has changed. I like my interests and I’m very aware that to pursue to them to my limit, I need to have a true passion for it. Other “parts” or “styles” of climbing are cool, but I’m not that into them at the moment. I like it that way though. It allows me to focus.
Recently, you have taken up long runs, marathons and you are also taking part in European races. Why? What fascinates you about them?
I’ve always had a deep need for travelling across big amounts of terrain having an adventure. I love challenges and enchainments (I’ve been doing them for the last 10yrs) and to be able to finally combine some running and climbing allows me to try some dream projects. Entering the races this year was a personal objective measure for how well I’m doing compared to other professionals. I’m definitely not a “pro” runner, but I would love to learn more from them by hanging out in their circles and competing alongside them. I think there’s a lot to learn…
I saw you somewhere on social networks last year with ice axes in your hand. This year, your colleague from Wide Boyz - Pete Whitetker made a mixed first ascent on the Tour Ronde (3,792 m) in the Mont Blanc massif. Do you have any winter climbing projects or at least a trip to the ice / mixes?
This question is, in some ways, also answered lower down. I did do some ice climbning and thought it was absolutely amazing – as was the drytooling! I found that I could transfer my skills from rock climbing across to it and it was really satisfying to have a quick progression. However, I did realise quickly that I could get obsessed by it and for me, it’s key to only do things if I have the time for it. It tough to walk away, but I know the rest of my life and climbing will be happier for it!
You're English, so what about football?
Well this is a simple one to answer. I’m not interested in it! Ha! I used to play a lot as a kid and I do like to still play for fun in the park if friends are keen, but honestly, it’s just not in my circle of thinking.
After hard climb
You belong to the crack climbing elite, you have a family, you deal in depth with training methods, you started long distance running and you have your own brand of crack holds called "Wide boyz". How do you do it all? Do you have a manager?
Hmmm… that’s a complicated question! So there’s actually a few different elements to it and mainly it’s about finding a balance of “passion and motivation” with “support and team” with “focus and discipline” in my life. For the motivation, I try and work very hard to only pursue the things in life that I’m truly passionate about. I need the energy to be really high and I’ll be fairly strict about not doing things I don’t think I love. For my support and team, I have an extremely giving wife, and quite a lot of employees across the businesses – without them it’d be totally impossible!! Finally, I’ve learnt over the years that whilst it’s appealing to do everything, if you want to be any good at anything you need to periodise your life. I certainly don’t get it right all of the time, but I’m slowly learning ☺.
Text: Jan Haráč
Foto: Archiv Tom Randall
Master PRO 9.2 - Extremely fine SBS sheath significantly prolongs its lifespan. The rope is at the same time soft enough and easy to work with. If you’re looking for a devoted friend for sport climbing, this is your choice.