American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Amuri Tepui, South Face, Maria Rosa and Apichavai

South America, Venezuela

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Author: Nico Favresse
  • Climb Year: N/A
  • Publication Year: 2012

In March 2012, when Stephane Hanssens, Sean Villanueva, Jean-Louis Wertz, and I emerged from the jungle and saw the wall, it looked so overhanging that gravity weighed heavy on our minds. We were unsure the face behind the waterfall was free-climbable, let alone in the style we planned. There were no obvious lines, few cracks, and relentless steepness. Our friends Mason Earle, Sam Farnsworth, George Ullrich, and Siebe Vanhee, with a 10-day head start, were high one possible line. Both teams had decided to go to the same place, yet, though we are all good friends, we hadn’t known of each other’s plans.

The right side of the wall looked almost impossible, and our friends had taken the central line (which also looked impossible), so we first tried an appealing line to the left. We soon realized that it was very different from the big wall climbing we are used to. The climbing is steep, very featured, but mostly using horizontal holds, so it’s difficult to anticipate what’s next. Often you have to commit and hope for the best. Rather than climbing straight up, we often found traversing to be the most tempting solution.

However, the line proved easier than expected, and in a mere four days we reached the base of a massive overhang near the top, where we found a perfect 10m roof crack above 400m of exposure. Unfortunately, though, gaining the crack required a boulder- problem move that shut us down. We were unable to free it but found the crack above so beautiful that we played on it for a couple of days, just for fun.

When we pushed for the summit, we split into two teams. One finished by the logical line via the roof crack, with a few moves of C1. The other climbed a completely free variation around the roof to the left, traversing for three long pitches before continuing directly to the top.

We hung out for a day on top of the tepui to enjoy the beauty of this magical place. The next day we descended farther left (looking in), down Wacupero Amuri. We thus left nothing on our route, which we named Maria Rosa (500m, 7b, no bolts, no pitons, no rap anchors), after local cookies that occasionally surprised us with their strawberry filling.

While making a quick trip back to Yunek for more food, we met the other team on their way home. Though we’d been climbing close to each other, wed not been able to communicate, due to the noise of the waterfall. They encouraged us to try a free ascent of their route, Kids with Guns, but when we returned to Amuri, the call of adventure tempted us to explore another new line, this time to the right.

Only the first two pitches seemed obvious and not too steep, while the rest resembled an overhanging quartzite ocean. We encountered difficulties right away, with hard pitches, vegetation, tricky protection, and loose blocks. On an attempt to red point the second pitch Sean fell 40m, ripping five pieces. The ground was still 20m below, and the wall is so overhanging the only thing to hit is air, but Jean-Louis, who was belaying, got bad rope burns on both hands. We were not sure whether he should stay or go home, to avoid infection, but his hands looked better after four days, and he joined us on the wall, though he did not climb.

Many other falls were taken on this climb, perhaps 20 among us. On pitches four, six, and seven, the route tackles the most overhanging section. These were the cruxes, with difficulties up to 8a+. We only managed to on sight four of the route’s 15 pitches, the rest needing cleaning and aid in order to explore and study the pro. Amazingly, though, the line went completely free, many sections only possible due to a single hold. Eight pitches are 7b or harder. The wall didn’t let go until the very end, and we were never sure we would make it. We placed three bolts for protection and two to reinforce belays. The route took 14 days, of which four were spent on the ground waiting for Jean-Louis’s hands to heal. We named the line Apichavai (500m, 8a+), after the warrior who lived in Yunek and killed the Tri Tri, a giant bird that would catch people and eat them in a cave high on the tepuis.

Nico Favresse, Belgian Alpine Club

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