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South America, Suriname, Duivelsei, First Ascent

Duivelsei, first ascent. Intending to ascend an unclimbed mountain in the southern Suriname jungle, Gerke Hoekstra, Ronald Naar, and I traveled to Paramaribo in September. We chartered a small plane that flew us to an isolated airstrip south of the Wilhelmina Mountains. From the Kaysergebergte airstrip we headed for adventure the next day. Smaller, lower-angle rocks abound in the area, but from the plane we saw Duivelsei, a steep mountain with a big rock face. The native aviators, who have flown people in this area for years and years, told us that they never met people so crazy that they wanted to climb Duivelsei.

With a reporter from a Dutch newspaper and four strong Surinamese, we started the journey in long wooden boats. For the first day we went down the Zuidrivier, and for the next five days we headed up the Lucierivier.

It seemed so unreal to push the boats through difficult passages of the river, standing up to our waist in the fast running water, while seeing cayman every hour and catching 40cm-long piranhas while fishing. The most dangerous fish, however, are the anjumaras. People have left with fewer toes than they started their trip with. Luckily these monsters are easy to catch and provide a good meal at the start and at the end of a hard day’s work. More than once, one of the boats turned over, and our belongings floated away. This is how we lost a map, a lot of rice, and all our coffee just three hours away from the airstrip. For six days we fought with the water, until finally the river became too narrow, and we traveled by foot. The life we were getting used to changed dramatically the next day. Instead of sunshine, water, and dangerous fish, we faced shadows, tough vegetation, spiders, snakes, and monkeys who tried to scare us by throwing branches. Our diet changed with the surroundings and we ate pig for dinner, nothing for lunch, and smoked, salted pig for breakfast. After six days our stomachs were messed up for real.

After six days walking east-northeast, we saw our objective for the first time. While the others slept in camp 3, Gerke, Ronald, and I headed toward the mountain and started the climb. With only one package of dried food and too little water, we hoped to be back down in two days. The first part of the climb goes through steep and sometimes vertical vegetation on the west (left) side of the south face, and we spent the night on a narrow shoulder, an obvious spot nearly around to the north side of the mountain. Here we ate the only food we had. The lack of breakfast gave us a very early start the next day. More vertical jungle took us to the base of a steep, smooth rock face on the north side. There was no way around it, and I started leading, drilling batholes and bolts. After 20m I free-climbed a scary, unprotected section into the next vegetation and belayed from a tree. Another rock wall stood above, but after traversing and creative routefind- ing I got around it. Then I climbed another short vertical, vegetated section and stood on top of the mountain that the natives call “het Duivelsei” (Egg of the Devil, because the lower summit has a big egg-shaped rock on top). With Ronald and Gerke I enjoyed the view from the summit, already dreaming of climbing the 600- 800m high south face. But then we were so tired, hungry, and thirsty that all we wanted was to go back to civilization. It took us another five days to get there.

Our route was 600m, 5.9 jungle, A2 rock. This expedition was supported by Gore-Tex and Haglöfs.

Martin Fickweiler, Vlaardingen, Netherlands