Acopan Tepui, Chicatino and Takamajaka
South America, Venezuela
In March, German climbers Jens Richter, Tino Kohbach, Michael Baensch, and I, accompanied by Brits Tony and Sarah Whitehouse, spent two weeks in the Gran Sabana. Inspired by a Stefan Glowacz report from 2007, describing a 700m first ascent, we came prepared for a big wall but instead found the faces and pillars not higher than 300–450m (including the buttress where Glowacz opened his route). Nevertheless, the rock was excellent, providing perfect climbing on steep faces. After two days of jungle experience to explore the base of Acopan, guided by the very friendly local chief Leonardo, we went for a major pillar beside a huge cascade, where, in December 2009, a Polish-Venezuelan team established Lapa, Yuca y Kachiri. That route, however, avoided the impressive upper headwall and moved left around half height to a gully to the top. We chose a line starting to the right and continuing directly through the central pillar to the top.
After four days of work and two of rest, we completed and redpointed Chicatino (350m, 8 pitches, 7b/7b+), a route of perfect, sustained, and demanding climbing. The route is mostly very steep face with very few horizontal cracks, so we placed bolts in the blank zones and belays. Bolting itself was limited because the very hard sandstone allowed only 3-4 holes until a drill was dead. Some runouts should be expected.
What makes the route great for Acopan is not only the perfect line and excellent climbing but also the approach: While climbing the jungle to the base of the wall in uncomfortable temperatures, you cross two cascades, each guaranteeing a perfect and very welcome shower. The upper cascade has a pool for bathing in a unique place, high above the jungle with an awesome panorama of the Gran Sabana.
At the end of our trip we left some gear in Yunek for our friends who visited in November. Accompanied by Venezuelan climber Cheo García, they struggled with a rainy season but still opened a new route. Michael Richter and Tilo Waehrich established Takamajaka (310m, 10 pitches, 7a+), on the left of the big buttress where the first route on Acopan Tepui was established (Jardieneros de Grandes Paredes, Botte-Calderón- Gargiter-Obergolser-Obojes-Trenkwalder, 2002) and climbs a more direct line, crossing the Gargitter route and ending near that route.
There is still a lot to explore in the region, including some impressive, unclimbed free-standing towers. The most demanding part is getting to the climbs through the omnipresent jungle. The steep or overhanging rock generally offers very good climbing, whereas lower-angled faces require extensive gardening.
Ruediger Helling, Germany