5.12 on Acopan Tepui in Venezuela


The line of Purgatory (VI 5.12+) on the North Pillar of Acopan Tepui.

Stefan Glowacz climbing on Acopan Tepui’s North Pillar.

A German-Venezuelan team established a 20-pitch free route up the North Pillar of Acopan Tepui in Venezuela in December. After an approach by folding canoes and a trail hacked through the rainforest above the Gran Sabana, Kurt Albert, Ivan Calderón, Stefan Glowacz, and Holger Heuber (along with a photographer, cameraman, and doctor) climbed 20 pitches up the 2,300-foot buttress. About two-thirds of the route was overhanging, and the lower section of the wall was extremely loose (“You could scratch out a hole with your finger!” Glowacz said), but the final headwall offered “dream climbing.” The team placed bolt anchors and used a mix of bolts and removable gear to protect the free climbing. The new route, Purgatory, was continuously difficult, with many pitches of 5.11 and 5.12. 

Morning jugging session on the Dempster-Libecki Variation (5.11 A2).

Three other routes have been climbed on Acopan Tepui: the 10-pitch Jardinieros de Grandes Paretes (5.11) on the South Face,  the 20-pitch Unate Arête (5.12 A1), and the 21-pitch Pizza, Chocolate y Cerveza (5.12+) on the Southeast Face. The two long free routes, both established by British-Venezuelan teams, were climbed with no bolts or pitons. 

Dates of Ascents: December 2006 and January 2007 

Sources: Mayr Nell Public Relations, www.glowacz.de, Kyle Dempster, Mike Libecki, 2004 American Alpine Journal

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