John and Anne Arran - E7 Venezuelan Big Wallby Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC Oct/2008
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Their new route Amurita climbs a clean wall near the line of an incredible unnamed 600m waterfall (Waterfall Photo). The route took seven days and required all of the couple's tepui free-climbing experience. The easiest pitches went at E4 (F7a). All others were E5 or E6 except for a particularly harrowing 50m adventure John thought worth E7 (dangerous F7c).
The approach required a Cessna flight and then four days of trekking, with the team clearing a path with machetes as they went. Once established on the route, the jungle didn't stop - the Arrans encountered patches of overhanging vegetation (grades up to J4 – J for Jungle), some loose rock and scorpions.
John reflected after the route:
“Being so far from anywhere, so high up and so run-out trying to find a way up necky, technical pitches were some of the best moments I've ever had as a climber. It was a serious and committing venture for just the two of us, but the climbing was superb and the feeling when we finally made it was brilliant.”
Topping out not only brought the first ascent of the route, but the first ascent of the actual mountain or tepui, named Amurí tepui.
A tepui is a table-top mountain found only in the Guayana highlands of South America, especially in Venezuela. The word tepui means "house of the gods" in the native tongue of the Pemon, the indigenous people of the Gran Sabana. Tepuis are usually isolated towers of rock, with their large flat summits cut off from the rest of the world. These summits can host a large array of endemic plant and animal species and have been the subject of many exploration trips in the past. See UKC News on John Arran's last tepui expedition.
The most famous of all the Venezuelan tepui routes is Angel Falls, the first free ascent of the main central section was climbed in 2005 by an international team that again included John and Anne Arran.
Commenting on his latest route, John said: "There wasn't time to try a line directly behind the falls, which certainly has potential for the hardest and most overhanging big wall free climbs on earth. Any takers?"
With the epic approach and jungle warfare - John, we don't think anyone will beat you to those potential projects! (To see a crag shot of the project wall: UKC Photos)
John and Anne are thankful for the support from MEF, BMC and Alison Chadwick Memorial Award grants, and from Arc'teryx, Boreal, Lyon Equipment, First Ascent and Wild Country for supplying fantastic equipment.
Additional source: Wikipedia