Venezuelan Tepui Sees Two New Routes

The three new routes on the Amuri Tepui in Venezuela. Photo from
The three new routes on the Amuri Tepui in Venezuela. Photo from

4/24/12 – After 38 days in the jungle, Nicolas Favresse, Sean Villanueva, Stephane Hanssens, and Jean-Louis Wertz returned to civilization with two new first ascents on the Amuri Tepui in Venezuela, one of the steepest big walls in the world. They started their first route ten days after Mason Earle and his team began the very first ascent of the tepui. They named the two new routes Maria Rosa and Apichavai, and rated them 5.12b and 5.13c, respectively.

When the team reached the wall, they were slightly overwhelmed. “When we first came out of the jungle directly to the base of this wall,” says Favresse, “it looked so overhanging that gravity felt heavy in our minds. We were really not sure whether free climbing this wall would be possible and even more so in the style we had committed ourselves to approach it.” The team decided to try the left side of the tepui, since Earle and the other team were in the middle, and the right side looked near impossible. There they found an appealing line.

“As we did our first pitches,” says Favresse, “we realized the climbing here is completely different from the big wall climbing we are use to. It’s steep and very featured but mostly has horizontal holds, so it’s very difficult to anticipate what’s next. Mostly you just have to commit section and hope for the best.”

In four days, the team made it to the base of a massive roof with a 10-meter crack, with a boulder move that prevented them from freeing the roof. They split up here, with some going around the roof in a free variation, while the others finishing the original line with aid. Maria Rosa was 500 meters with no bolts, pitons, or rap stations, and C1 aid moves up the roof. The free variation has three extra pitches traversing left and then up.

The team went back into the nearby town of Yunek to resupply, then set their sights on another line on the seemingly blank right side of the tepui.

After the first two pitches, the only obvious pitches of the route, they encountered some very hard pitches, taking major whippers. At one point, Villanueva fell 40 meters, ripping out five pieces of gear that had appeared secure. He hit nothing but air, but Wertz, his belayer, suffered some serious rope burns.

The subsequent pitches were sustained and difficult. “Of the 15 pitches,” says Favresse, “we could only onsight four of them.” They reached the summit after 14 days on the wall, four of which were used to rest Wertz’s hands. Apichavai, named for a warrior legend in Yunek, is 500 meters, with five bolts placed.

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Dates of ascents: March-April 2012

Source: Nico Favresse