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Катерене във Венецуела

John Arran, Planet Fear  |  Редактирана на 18/11/2007

[i:2c86b555f2]В тази статия са обединени две статии : Няма начин Хосе от Джон Арън (Climber August 2002) и Пътешествие в изгубения свят от Ан Арън (On The Edge 120 August / September 2002).[/i:2c86b555f2]

[b:2c86b555f2]Победени ...[/b:2c86b555f2]

Зяпнах когато прелетяхме 3 метра над платото и затаих дъх докато шест-местния ни самолет се гмурна надолу, право по линията на спускащия се водопад. Планът ни беше прост – да направим премиерно свободно изкачване нагоре по стената на чашата на Ангелския Водопад, която е повече от 1000 метра. Това е най-големия водопад на земята и главната туристическа атракция на Венецуела. Самият начин по който достигнахме водопада потвърди качеството и сериозността на това начинание. Вдъхновени от един филм за бейс джъмпинг на Ерик Джоунс и Лио Дикинсън ние предприехме съвместна експедиция за да изследваме по-подборно отвесната и всъщност надвесена стена. И така колко трудно щеше да се окаже това предизвикателство и бяхме ли подготвени за него?

On top of the second pitch on the Angel Falls, a damp and delicate E6 6a, Andre turned to face us looking uncharacteristically pale and worried. His jumaring had just come to an unexpected conclusion with the fixed rope sheath snapping, sending our new found Venuezuelan friend down 5m above the void attached to just a few strands of rope core. The nearby 8mm haul line had saved him, but it was another set back we could ill afford.


We were learning about the jungle, aid climbing techniques and general survival on a big wall - but were we learning fast enough? I would wake up every morning with renewed hope in this spectacular but unforgiving environment, and by nightfall I would be in some state of terror from the day’s events, knowing that the ’Deribos Arias’ (loose rubble wedged in a 45% overhanging crux crack), was still to come. ’Deribos Arias’ comes from the topo of the first and only aid ascent by a Spanish team 12 years prior. But now, on day five we realised that the tattered ropes would shortly make retreat impossible and concluded that our lightweight approach was wrong, so after freeing 10 pitches and reaching a height of 400m we escaped sad but relived in equal measures.

Faced with the prospect of returning home to a grey UK empty handed, we decided to meet up with Jose Pereyra, an old friend of John’s who had been unable to come with us due to being otherwise engaged in Patagonia. 15 years ago in the States they had climbed some of the hardest routes around together and both had shared a love of maths and the theory of relativity! But back in Caracas, would they still get on?

Apparently so. In between stretching our minds with his book ’The Homeless Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics’, Jose offered the ideal solution to our mid-trip crisis. Leo (Houlding) was injured, so couldn’t join his latest adventure - a trip to Cerro Autana Tepui, so would we like to go? It felt like piggy backing on someone else’s adventure but who would complain, we jumped at the chance.


[b:2c86b555f2]... But Not Dejected[/b:2c86b555f2]

Picture the scene deep in the South American jungle, the huge Orinoco river carving an azure swathe through impenetrable and endless green. A small dugout boat casts off from the riverbank, its cargo of climbers and equipment sheltered from the sun’s perils under a thatch of leaves. Fast forward through two days of blissful prelude, punctuated by occasional dips in the warm clear waters as the boat navigates up ever-dwindling rivers until a shallow rapid prevents further progress. Picture here the tiny indigenous fishing village of Seguerra, all ten families of it, where the lives of the local people appear to have changed little for centuries.

Now cast your imagination out across the roof of the jungle and behold a most impressive rock monolith, seemingly having erupted from within the heart of the forest and believed by native Piaroa indians to be the felled remains of the tree of life; the tree from which the entire universe was born. Notice the tower’s flat top and its steep rocky flanks, and feel your eyes drawn to the unclimbed South West face, where the clean yellow rock rises steep and unbroken throughout its full 700m height. Welcome to Cerro Autana - a finer climbing objective it would be hard to imagine on the surface of our shrinking world, and a finer adventure I doubt I’ll ever get to experience.

[b:2c86b555f2]Travelling The Path[/b:2c86b555f2]

Following machete-strikes through the undergrowth with massive haul bags was tough. We were to travel the ’path’, only trodden once, searching for machete-strikes in the vegetation. Lurching upward in the humidity we became hotter and hotter discovering any cotton clothing was a bad idea, the GPS didn’t work, and 100% DEET was a real lifesaver.


[i:2c86b555f2]Big Wall Veteran, Timmy O’Neil[/i:2c86b555f2]

Eventually we reached the base and finally into the light again, having coped with the jungle, and only thought about going home once. The cliff panned out above with the lower reaches covered in green moss gave way to stunning orange, grey and pink walls. The climbing plan was that Jose and Ivan would press ahead, pushing the aid line higher and fixing ropes as they went. John and I would follow, freeclimbing all the aid pitches. Jose was certainly more confident than me. "It’ll go free for sure", he said, "and other than Leo, John, you’re the only one I know who could do it."

John despatched this moss-ridden wall fairly easily at E5 6a with some careful plant-pulling on the more vegetated sections. Jose enjoyed watching, perhaps sensing success, or was it his natural curiosity to see someone with little tepui experience suffering? I then headed over leftwards along a ledge, trying to be as much as one with the wall on my right as possible and ignoring the holes where soil and plants had given way underfoot.

This was wasp hell belay. The bastards would creep in any hole they could find in clothing or helmet and I got stung several times whilst screaming up at John to hurry up. After trying several tactics to ignore them and be brave I was finally following a fine E4 pitch on solid rock surrounded by a cloud of wasps - was I hard enough for this shit? Thankfully as we began to rise higher above the canopy their menace abated and we were joined by a group of agile friends - the lizards. These awesome reptilian climbers would leap over the rock and swallow the wasps whole, instantly terminating their incessant buzzing.


We decided to call it a day early and descended to base camp after a radio call from Jose to collect some water. We wallahed water from the cliff face using jungle leaves; by creating a leaf channel it was possible to collect 25 litres for the others to pull up. This was lucky as most of the rest of the team was ensconced smoking in the lower base camp, and no water would mean no climbing.

The next day, after another three superb pitches with their own little challenges including one of E6 on superb pink orange rock we reached the ’executive suite’ ledge. This beautiful pillar had only one draw back - mice with a taste for any food left around. Andre brought us up some more food and water, but this was the last time we would not be doing the hauling ourselves so we paid careful attention to the techniques involved, and notched up some more jungle wall techniques of jungle leaf poo disposal and washing in a moisturiser lid to conserve water. Now only three pitches lay between us and the aid team which seemed to suggest that free climbing was much quicker.

[b:2c86b555f2]Day Four - Let the Gnarl Begin[/b:2c86b555f2]

Day four, and my mind was focused on a distant hold. Perspective had not been kind and it remained well out of reach, even if I could find a way to stay in balance on the overhanging wall to reach for it. I looked down to my left, where an offset wire was valiantly gripping the edge of a flared crack. I looked down further, past a brass micro to a quadcam I hoped might hold. I tried not to look any further, to the 200m of air beneath, at least 30m of which would see me plunging through it if I was wrong.


I looked up at John staring down, past a brass micro to a quadcam that might hold. The others had aided a different line. "Watch me!" he shouted, twisting a foot high inside and extending across the bulge, one hand tenuously holding a sloping side-edge while the other reached optimistically above. Shit I thought, he’s on for a 30m fall if the gear holds. A knee wobble. Decision time. Phew he’s got the hold and seems to be getting a piece in. John fell off straight afterwards, exhausted and defeated. After aiding and practicing and a good rest John managed to head/red point this 8a pitch which was some of the most determined climbing I’d seen.

An aiding and practice session later I had a sequence, and after a good rest I was able to head/redpoint the pitch, though even with a vast supply of motivation the 8a climbing at the top took everything I had left after four days on the wall. My tips were thin, feet aching and muscles sore, which was unfortunate because above us now loomed a huge roof and if I was to have any chance on it at all I would need some pretty hasty recovering on our ledge that night.

At times on the wall I’d felt uncomfortable being the inferior member of our climbing partnership so now was the chance to take us from bunk bed ledge to the base of the huge off-width roof. With loose rock, bird and bat droppings to cope with I found onsight new routing harder than expected, so had to be content with only a short pitch up to the base of the roof.


[b:2c86b555f2]Blame it on José[/b:2c86b555f2]

It had all been Jose’s fault. He’d enlisted us as replacements after Leo Houlding had retired injured from Patagonia. There we were, kicking around Caracas after having backed off another big wall, when who should arrive in town but my old friend Jose Pereyra, returning to Venezuela on one of his frequent jungle jaunts from his home in Salt Lake City. It was spooky not having seen him for fifteen years since he and I were in the US together, and more so when one of the first things he asked was did we want to come to Autana big wall climbing with them?

We’d heard about Autana from locals Andre and Ivan, who we’d already been on a wall with. We knew the team had tried it last year and had spent nine days bushwhacking and hauling loads through the dense jungle just to get to the bottom. We knew they’d spent fifteen days getting only 400m up and that they’d had to flee in a hurry when the ’authorities’ had got to hear there were people climbing the tower without seeking an official permit, which apparently would never have been granted anyway. We’d heard about the worms that burrow into the skin between your toes and lay eggs, about ants the size of cockroaches and cockroaches the size of rats. We were warned about the humidity and about the almost daily rains, that once your clothes got wet they could take weeks to dry. We knew all this, so when the question was asked Anne and I looked at each other, realised there was never any other choice, and replied "We’d love to."

Jose’s idea was that an aiding team including himself and US speed-waller Timmy O’Neill would press ahead, pushing the aid line higher and fixing ropes as they go. Anne and I would follow freeclimbing all the aid pitches, which sounded unlikely to me but Jose was confident, "It’ll go free for sure", he said, "and other than Leo you’re the only one I know who could do it." I chose not to ponder that his memory of my climbing was fifteen years out of date, and accepted the compliment.


It was not until we were straining under mighty loads, struggling to follow the overgrown trail, that the details started emerging: "There was one pitch I was on for hours - I got real scared and decided I needed a bolt, but the rock was super hard and I was only on a small ledge and the bolt didn’t go in right and ended up sticking out about two inches and bent over. I had to lower off of it in the dark and climb past it the next day. … There’s a pitch higher up will probably be 8a then the one above may be 8a+, after that it could get hard. …" I wasn’t sure if he was winding me up, so I nodded, smiled and kept a nervous silence. He wasn’t.

[b:2c86b555f2]Day Five : The Roof Crack[/b:2c86b555f2]

Jose had sneaked a look as he jugged up past it, thirty feet or so out from the wall.

"The first few moves are gonna be super-hard," he reported, "but after you turn the lip there’s a crack all the way, and it’s really not all that steep."

I sensed understatement in his voice but I so much wanted to believe it I didn’t question him further. I should have known his tactics by now. On the approach he’d said how he was looking forward to watching me lead the first pitch, as he’d so much enjoyed leading it himself last year. Then we arrived at the base to find his first pitch was actually 60m of assorted vines and twigs, poorly attached but tied off as runners anyway, up a steep and blank-looking slab. I’d got away with it that time because the slab turned out to be unusually dry and climbable, albeit without much pro, and I’d had a thoroughly enjoyable time climbing the perfect rock between his vines at about E5 6a. This time I may not be so lucky.


I bridged high and pulled out from the corner on a thin finger-lock, seemingly wrong-handed but allowing me to twist and launch up for an edge high on the side wall. So far so good; I felt I was climbing well and was pleased to have solved that problem first try. A powerful layback past the rounded lip awaited, though an excellent no. 6 flexi-fix ensured these difficulties were purely physical. Only then could I see into the crack above, and only then did I appreciate the true horror of what I had let myself in for. Yes it was only 15 degrees or so overhanging, and yes it had a crack all the way up, but the crack was eight inches wide! What followed must have looked comical and ridiculous, and I really wish it had been videoed, because I spent about half an hour of creative improvisation and sheer hard work trying to gain more height than I was losing, all the while feeling I was any moment to be unceremoniously ejected without warning. I found wires in the back but almost was unable to clip them as both ropes were wedged firmly between body and rock, and throughout the struggle I was unable to turn my head as my helmet would only fit in the crack sideways.

When at last the bits of me I’d managed to keep in the crack finally emerged to hang from a sloping shelf I was exhausted both mentally and physically (but still loving every minute of it!) Unfortunately it still wasn’t over, since after another bulge the crack turned into a shallow square-cut recess, maybe a foot across and six inches deep, and still overhanging. The only way up it was a very strenuous layback, and the only way to start that was a chest-ripping Gaston move. Twenty feet of ferocious barn-door laybacking later I was once again ready to accept failure as inevitable. I’d shouted "watch me!" more times than I could remember and quite frankly I was knackered. I probably would have given up there and then but my last gear was some way beneath me and I really hate falling, so I slapped optimistically onward and upward, somehow managing to stay attached until better holds arrived and I collapsed onto a perfect bivvy ledge with a huge grin on my face.

[b:2c86b555f2]Praise to Lucco[/b:2c86b555f2]

It all would have been impossible without Lucco. A main man in the local town of Puerto Ayacucho, he’s one of those people who knows everybody and is known by everybody. He’s also one of the very few outsiders to speak the language of the Yanomami tribe - a jungle people who live as close to a primeval existence as any in the world - and as such has become the main point of contact for documentary film makers and researchers. Watching him guide our boat upriver, waving and chatting to people in every passing boat or settlement, was a real education in diplomacy. Were it not for him it’s unlikely the Seguerra villagers would have let us near the wall, but Lucco was coming with us and even though he wasn’t a climber he was to be jumarring with us all seven hundred metres to the top.


[i:2c86b555f2]View from the Summit[/i:2c86b555f2]

Equally impressive was watching him guide us through the jungle, sniffing out vague clues as to where the trail once went, keeping a sense of direction when visibility was down to ten metres of dense thicket, and finding drinkable water in the most unlikely of places. He did choose to wear shoes though to protect against the sharp rocks, branches and creatures that lurked in the undergrowth, which is more than can be said for the local villager who also was walking in with us. Still, that made it easier for him to shin up the occasional tree to get a better view, which he did with a speed and grace few climbers would match.

It was a shame that Lucco didn’t make it to the top. He went up a few pitches by way of practice while we were still climbing above, but then Ivan became steadily weaker and more sick. Eventually his symptoms were identified as those of hepatitis, which is really not what you want when you’re days from help, so Lucco escorted him out and as fast as the boat could travel back downriver to the town hospital. Well they call it a hospital, but as they were unable to provide Ivan with so much as a blood test I’m not sure how they justify it. Poor Ivan had to get the first flight back to Caracas the following morning, where he then spent three days in a real hospital being drip-fed and antibioticked before being released to spend a year recovering. A close-run thing by all accounts; it made our wasp-stings (Anne had dozens of them), ant-bites (hundreds each) and foot-worm (Anne again) seem trivial by comparison.

[b:2c86b555f2]Day 9 : Rite of Passage[/b:2c86b555f2]

One of the rites of passage on Autana is that you must accept the inevitability of failure, you must come to realise that in spite of your best endeavours it has beaten you. Only then will it let you pass. We know this now, after spending two days straining, smearing, palming, slapping, falling, swearing and failing on 40 feet of excruciatingly thin technical bridging. Too tired to argue with it any more and resigned to allowing the wall a point of aid, it finally allowed us to climb it yesterday on the third day of asking, to an awkward mixture of relief, elation and extreme fatigue. Today it is the turn of those above us.



The shout came from two pitches above, where the route had led them into a wet and vegetated wall.

"You should come up and look. We can’t find a way through. We may have to go down."
"Just give me half an hour and I’ll be with you."

John the ever thinning machine with ever thinning skin left to save the planet and focus on a different type of toil - vertical smooth greyness with cabbages. This requisitioning by the aid team left me on a slim clean ledge having a pleasant rest day whilst watching carpets of vegetation sailing past. John clearly was unsure whether any of us would make the top and seemed to have abandoned any hope of freeing the route. At least the lizards were on form making mince meat of the climbing above. This however did beg the question, are humans really suited to climbing?

Speed jugging is not my forte, but I sensed that haste was important, and so it turned out as the aid team had already retreated down a short vegetable pitch, pulled back across a wet aid traverse, and were gearing up to have a last look at an unlikely steep line above, which to my eyes could lead only to the terrain of ultimate doom. Water, vegetation, hardly any gear and no prospect of change for two hundred metres had combined to thwart further progress. Naturally they had tried but the slabby wall was too wet, too steep and too dangerous to stand on let alone climb. Now they were seeking solace elsewhere but to my eyes the original way would be the only way, so back we went for another look.


Now each one of us had conceded defeat, and in return the Autana Gods smiled on us. When we arrived back at the highpoint belay the rock had almost dried out, the smears were now graced with friction and the difficulties proved surprisingly short-lived. Swinging leads we gradually gained momentum, relishing the change of angle and the exit from the drainage shower that had blighted the previous two pitches. Five pitches and nearly 200m of climbing took us to within hoping distance of the top, and smiles were the order of the night after we had abseiled in the dark down to our hammock and cave lodgings.

[b:2c86b555f2]Day 11 : Summit Day[/b:2c86b555f2]

Above our ’Guacamaya cave’ bivvy there were now three hundred metres of fixed rope to the top. Jose and Timmy had topped out, but in the process they’d aided the second last pitch, and after all we’d come through we were determined to see it all climbed free. But it shouldn’t be too hard, Jose assured us, now that it was clean. Yeah, right.

An eternity of jumarring and hauling later we finally arrived at the foot of the pitch - the only thing now standing between us and our ultimate goal. Unfortunately arriving at the same time was a huge black storm cloud, and rain was already in the air. We’d had several storms in the past few days and they seemed to be getting worse, which was to be expected since the start of the wet season was imminent, but we’d always managed to get away with it, so far. I set off as fast as possible, in the certain knowledge that rain would stop play, and for once Jose was spot on; there was the occasional 6a move but really the pitch was just a 60m E3 which finished up a long and wide but not terribly difficult crack. In my haste though I managed to generate huge amounts of rope drag, which made sprinting for the top all the more difficult, and as the spots of rain got heavier I was glad the wall was still quite steep. With timing Casio would be proud of I heaved onto a tiny ledge at the top of the pitch to be greeted by a huge clap of thunder and raindrops the size of marbles. Tucking into the corner for shelter I tried to bring Anne up, but the rain was so loud we couldn’t communicate and as I couldn’t take the stuck rope in any more anyway all I could do was huddle in against the cold rain and hold tightly onto the rope.


Only minutes later my semi-sheltered huddling backfired horribly, as all at once a torrent of water exploded out from the very corner I was in as though someone had just opened a fire hydrant, and I was belayed so tight I could do nothing but brace myself and shiver. Anne quickly twigged the rope was stuck and transferred onto the fixed line, but tied into my vertical river (the same torrent Anne was now jugging up in) it all seemed to take an age.

I had only climbed a few meters when a waterfall blasted down on top of me. To make things worse one of the ropes jammed. I quickly abandoned the idea of climbing and transferred onto the jumar line. First my hands went numb, and then my wrist’s and I sensed the seriousness of the situation we were now in. It was impossible to communicate with John because of the noise of the water and passing the knot in the rope with a sack wasn’t going to plan. In what felt like an eon I succeeded in making overcoming the knot. Unable to look up because of the force of the water I tried to keep going before hypothermia set in. Jumaring in a waterfall in your bra top is not a pleasant experience. I was also conscious of Hernando and Henri, the photographer on the ledge below getting colder and colder and the skeletal john who must be shivering violently above. Finally I reached the stance shaking and gasping for breath and put my waterproof on.

I would hardly have believed you could get hypothermia in the jungle, but I can believe it now, since group huddling under a nylon sheet on the top was the only thing which kept us safe as the lightning storm raged into the evening. This further dampened our plans, as by then it was too dark and dangerous to find the Autana Cave, so we all spent a very unpleasant night with few clothes and little or no shelter, warmed only by the knowledge we’d achieved what we set out to do, albeit by the narrowest margins possible at every turn.

When we found the cave the following day (three abseils down!) it rewarded our efforts manifold. Passing clean through Cerro Autana, with a huge arch at either end, the cathedral-sized cavern is said to be the biggest of its kind in the world, providing a serene and surreal place to recover from what felt like the biggest ordeal we have enjoyed to date.

The cave was the most beautiful serene formation I have ever seen. Nestled in one of the passageways were baby bats huddled together amongst the white crystalline roof. The others found an old generator and some 10-year-old dried food to cook that a documentary film crew had left along with stoves and plates. We stayed there recovering for a day and marvelled at the red cathedral roof and views out of either side of the cave in the early morning light.

And as we continue travelling through life collecting memories along the way, I suspect Autana is one that definitely will stay the distance.

This expedition was supported by a BMC/Sports Council grant, HB Climbing, Boreal and Lyon Equipment, to all of whom many thanks are due.

[b:2c86b555f2]Year 2 : The Return[/b:2c86b555f2]

Anne and John Arran are heading back to Venezuela to attempt unclimbed jungle objectives and Angel Falls, the highest free fall waterfall in the world. The oil strike in Venezuela threatened to put a stop to the expedition but now advice and local contacts suggest the situation has improved. John said “I’ve never looked forward to anything more in my life. I just can’t wait to spend twenty days getting stung, bitten, burnt, scraped, scared and knackered on these enormous walls in the middle of the jungle. As Timmy O’Neill pointed out last year, ‘It’s a different kind of gnarly’".

This expedition is supported by The North Face, Petzl, and Beal who are providing equipment. Anne and John are sponsored by Boreal.

Превод от :  Люба Манолова

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Великото приключение
Курт Алберт: Само аз и скалата сме
Лена - руският маршрут на Пти Дрю
Турция и нейните цветя
Долината Ак-Су - "От Русия с любов"
Терзания и утеха на Големият камък
Как да забием един клин
Стената Трол
Lost In America - El Capitan
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Последни новини !!!

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  • 05/09/2017

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    Adam Ondra изкатери първото в света 9c във Flatanger, Норвегия
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  • 05/06/2017

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  • 23/05/2017

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  • 23/05/2017

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  • 11/05/2017

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  • 10/05/2017

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    От днес вече ще можете бързо, лесно и сигурно да плащате своите онлайн поръчки с кредитни или дебитни карти през системата на Борика, без да заплащате излишни комисионни. Вече няма да е нужно да се регистрирате в различни разплащателни платформи и да преминавате през дълги процедури по оторизацията им. Магазин Вертикален свят изцяло покрива ра ...
  • 03/11/2016

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    Представяне на La Sportiva Skwama
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