Venezuela, Acopan Tepui, Araguato King.

By Luis Cisneros, Eric Deschamps, and Meghan Ryan, Tucson, AZ

On February 6, 2009, we left our homes in Arizona for the jungles of Venezuela, already frightened by stories of killer snakes, crocodiles, giant tarantulas, and ticks buried in a body’s nether regions. While the flight to Caracas went smoothly, the 22-hour bus ride to the Gran Sabana, in southeastern Venezuela, proved cruxy—Venezuelan bus drivers like their buses colder than the Tetons in winter, forcing us to hunker down forced bivy–style, barely making it through the night.


Returning from Acopan Tepui. <I>Luis Cisneros<I>

Returning from Acopan Tepui. Luis Cisneros

An hour-long bush-plane ride brought us to the village of Yunek, where climbers are required to hire a guide to take them to Acopan Tepui, the most accessible tepui in Venezuela. A handful of routes exist on Acopan Tepui, but the FA potential is staggering. From base camp we picked a direct line up the steep south buttress, starting 15m right of the well-known Big Wall Gardeners route. The Yunek village chief and other locals know the locations of these routes and did a great job in orienting us.

Day one had us shuttling loads and establishing two nice pitches, the second of which ended up being the crux of the route: a continuous crack through a few roofs with engaging 5.10 and 5.11 climbing. We settled down for a nice night on a ledge. Unfortunately, while tied in on the smallish ledge, it became clear that Meghan had picked up a bad case of the “Hong Kong Phooeys.” The next morning we quickly descended to base camp, where we spent a few days while Meghan slowly and painfully worked the phooeys out of her system.

After a difficult few days, including some internal bleeding, Meghan got better and grew psyched to climb again. Back on the wall, the bottom of pitch three had us under a sea of overhangs looking for a weakness. With some tricky route finding, Luis was able to connect features into a wild overhanging traverse right to a ledge.

Two more good pitches led to another traverse, and then we climbed fun 5.9 up steep fins, huecos, and pockets. The seventh pitch began with a jungle move and was the mental crux of the route, requiring full body-weight commitment to a very small, very movable tree to climb through an overhang. Pitch 8 brought more jungle climbing and the summit.

Araguato King (IV 5.11c) is an excellent route up good rock, climbing the leftmost skyline on Acopan Tepui as seen from the village. The first six pitches are great, while the last two get you to the top. All of the climbing is naturally protected, and six of the eight anchors are bolted, which, combined with the relatively moderate approach (two hours to base camp and another hour and a half to the wall), makes our route repeat-friendly.

The climbing potential in southeast Venezuela is mind-blowing. Venezuela has hundreds of tepuis, each of which has miles of cliff line between 500′ and 3,000′ tall. Considering that only 30 or so routes have been established on these tepuis, literally thousands of good routes are waiting to go. Of course, getting to them is another question.

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