Acopan Tepui, Araguato King. On February 6, 2009, we left Arizona for the jungles of Venezuela. Descriptions of snakes, crocodiles, tarantulas, and ticks attached to the nether regions of the body had us scared before we even left. While the flight to Caracas went smoothly, the 22- hour bus ride to the Gran Sabana, in southeastern Venezuela, proved cruxy—for some reason Venezuelan bus drivers like their buses colder than the Tetons in winter, forcing us to hunker down as at a forced bivy, barely making it through the night.
An hour-long bush-plane ride brought us to the village of Yunek, where climbers are required to hire a guide to take them to Acopan Tepui, the most accessible tepui in Venezuela. A handful of routes exist on Acopan, but the FA potential is staggering. From base camp we picked a direct line up the steep south buttress, starting 15m right of the well-known Big Wall Gardeners. The Yunek village chief and other locals know the locations of routes and did a great job orienting us.
Day one had us shuttling loads and establishing two nice pitches, the second of which ended up being the crux of the route: a continuous crack through a few roofs with engaging 5.10 and 5.11 climbing. We settled down for a nice night on a ledge but descended in the morning, as Meghan had picked up a bad case of the Hong Kong Phooeys. After a difficult few days we were back on the wall, below a sea of overhangs on pitch 3. Luis displayed excellent routefinding, connecting features into a wild overhanging traverse right to a ledge. Two more good pitches led to a traverse, then Luis climbed fun 5.9 up steep fins, huecos, and pockets. The 7th pitch began with a jungle move and was the mental crux of the route, requiring full body weight commitment to a very small, very moveable tree through an overhang. Pitch 8 brought more jungle climbing and the summit.
Araguato King (IV 5.11c) is an excellent route up good rock, climbing the left skyline on Acopan as seen from the village. The first six pitches are great, while the last two get you to the top. All of the climbing is naturally protected, and six of the eight anchors are bolted, which, combined with the relatively moderate approach (two hours to base camp and another hour and a half to the wall), makes our route repeat-friendly.
Luis Cisneros, Eric Deschamps, and Meghan Ryan, Tucson, AZ