Over 15 days during February 2012, Mason Earle (U.S.), Sam Farnsworth (U.K.), Siebe Vanhee (Belgium), and I weaved an improbable, intricate path directly behind Salto Tuyuren, topping out within a stones throw of where the waterfall bursts from the summit plateau. Our best estimate is that the 500m wall overhangs by almost 100m. Most of our 21-pitch route crossed immaculate and wildly steep quartz-arenite (pre- Cambrian metamorphosed sandstone).
We met as a team for the first time in Caracas and flew in two Cessnas to Yunek, a remote Pemon Indian village, which is becoming a staging post for this rapidly developing climbing region. We hired a guide and porters to help transport our four weeks of supplies on the three-day trek to Amuri Tepui. This was a real jungle expedition, incomplete without sunglasses and a sharp machete.
We picked an audacious line up the center of the steepest section. Our base camp, to the side of the waterfall, afforded an amazing view of the wall, and we only realized later that the view came at the expense of a drenching from the fall when the wind blew in the wrong direction. A convenient cat-walk gave access to the bottom of our chosen line, so we avoided the initial jungle pitches for which the area is renowned.
From the start we were impressed by the quality of climbing. Technical face-climbing and short sections of loose rock made route finding difficult and progress sporadic, but these were interspersed with many obvious pitches, which allowed faster progress. Twelve days after we began, we were only halfway up the face and beginning to question whether we would have the time—and enough food and water—to top out. As a result we shelved our goal of free-climbing every pitch.
Finally bursting through the first major roof, at half height, boosted morale, enabled faster progress, and made us realize that the top was attainable, despite steepening rock above. Every pitch resulted in a shockingly airy rappel and an invigorating morning start, swinging out 20m from the portaledges before jumaring to the previous day’s highpoint. There were occasional flat ledges, unexpected but welcome.
We named our route Kids with Guns (British E6 6c or 5.13a A3, four bolts for belays and two for protection). The route would almost certainly go free, with roof sections providing wild cruxes. We were happy to establish a new line on the steepest wall any of us have ever seen, in good company, in a unique and beautiful part of the world.
The Tepui was first climbed by the Arrans in 2008. John Arran, who has spent a lot of time in the region, planted the idea for our trip with tantalizing tales of the potential for some of the steepest big-wall free-climbing anywhere. This kind of incentive meant that we were joined on this remote wall, a week or so after our arrival, by Belgians Nico Favresse, Stephane Hanssens, Sean Villanueva, and Jean-Louis Wertz, who made rapid progress on a line to our left.
George Ullrich, U.K.
Editor’s note: Anne and John Arran’s 2008 route, Amurita (British E7 6b), climbs steep rock some distance left of the waterfall. They decided there wasn’t time to try a line directly behind the fall, but felt it had potential to be the hardest and most overhanging big-wall free climb on earth(AAJ 2009). A second route, Wacupuro Amuri (A4 5.12+), was put up over 13 days during March and April 2011 by Venezuelans Ricardo Navas, Federico Pisani, and Alfredo Rangel. It climbs farther right, much closer to the waterfall. Both routes are so steep they stay dry in heavy rain until they reach the summit.