South America, Guyana, Roraima, Cutting the Line

Publication Year: 2007.

Roraima, Cutting the Line. Our expedition to the Pakaraima Mountains in the southwestern corner of Guyana had two objectives: to establish a new route on the east face of Mt. Roraima; and to set up solar power in the village of Wayalayeng, a small Amerindian community where we would begin our trek to the mountain.

Our team included climbers Greg Child, Jared Ogden, and me, as well as filmmakers Scott Simper, Rob Raker, and Angus Yates. Biologist Bruce Means also accompanied us. This was my second expedition to Mt. Roraima with Jared; in 2003 we established a new route on the Prow (an overhanging north-facing buttress) called The Scorpion Wall. We arrived in Wayalayeng by bush plane and helicopter on November 7. Before heading off on the 40+-mile trek to the mountain, we helped install two solar panels on the roof of Wayalayeng’s one- room school house. The panels were soon generating electricity, and it was exciting to watch the Amerindians’ reaction when we turned on a light for the first time ever in their village. More importantly, the power would be used to operate a high-powered VHF radio with which they could communicate with the outside world.

The trek from Wayalayeng to the base of the Mt. Roraima took us five days. About 20 Amerindians accompanied us, leading the way through the pristine rainforest and helping carry our equipment. We saw a lot of wildlife along the way, including a fer de lance, one of the deadliest snakes in the Amazon. In 2003 we climbed a section of the cliff about 200' to the left of the 1973 British Route, which takes a line more or less straight up the Prow. Both routes start on a high ledge accessed by a steep vegetated ridge. This time we traversed left for several hundred feet below the east face to a point below an obvious big red dihedral that started about 300' up the wall. Getting to the dihedral was a nightmare, as the bottom section of the cliff was nearly crackless and covered in thick vegetation. It took two days to get past this section, but once we did the cliff suddenly became severely overhanging, and we found ourselves climbing some of the most beautiful rock imaginable. We managed to climb the next six pitches almost completely free, with the hardest bit going at about 5.12a.

After fixing four ropes, we set up a portaledge camp 700' up the wall, beneath a massive roof. From this camp we Fixed a few more pitches, before making a bid for the summit on Thanksgiving Day. The last pitch nearly shut us down, as it was almost completely blank and wove its way between two waterfalls. After seven-and-a-half hours, Jared topped out just as it got dark. While Greg followed, I was left to jug a free-hanging dynamic rope that was running through a waterfall. I thought I could just punch it, but after a few feet the water was pummeling me so hard I literally started to drown. Greg saw my predicament and managed to swing out and pull my rope into the wall. Our climb ended on a small ledge 15' below the rim. We could have scrambled unroped to the rim, but, as it was dark and pouring rain, we headed down instead, removing everything except 100' of rope that got irretrievably stuck. The route was 10 pitches and ca 1,500' high. We named it Cutting the Line (VI 5.12a A2+ J5), in honor of our Amerindian friends, without whom we could not have succeeded.

Mark Synnott, AAC