Cerro Autana, new route The Yopo Wall in Venezuela
From January 28 – February 5 2012 Leo Houlding, Jason Pickles, Sean Leary, Alastair Lee, Yupi Rangel, Alejandro Lamus established The Yopo Wall (400m, E6 6b, A1) up Cerro Autana in Venezuela.
At the end of January and the start of February 2012 a strong international team comprised of Leo Houlding, Jason Pickles, Stanley Leary, Alastair Lee, Yupi Rangel and Alejandro Lamus forged a new, 400m trad route up the East Face of the spectacular Cerro Autana in Eastern Venezuela.
Logistics proved complicated since the 1400m high quartzite-sandstone monolith is not only extremely remote, but also sacred and revered by the local Piaroa Indians who believe it the stump of the tree of life from which the fruits of all life grew. After taking part in a memorable Yopo ceremony and having received a blessing from the local Shaman, the team and porters made a four day trek through the jungle to establish base camp. From this, a complex approach - in many ways one of the most dangerous moments of the adventure - led through the vertical jungle, weaving up roots and vines, through hanging gardens and waterfalls to the base of the wall proper.
A whole day was spent leading two thirds of the first pitch and heavy gardening slowed initial progress until the rock quality improved significantly, giving two fantastic long pitches which led to the magnificent Cuevo Autana. Filmmaker Alastair Lee explained "The Autana Caves are the highest elevated cave system in the world. If it were not for their extremely inaccessible position they would surely be one of the wonders of the world. Situated halfway up the east face of the mountain the cave system provided a unique bivying location for the climbers. A cave equal in scale and grandeur to a cathedral proved to be the finest wall camp imaginable with fresh running water, firewood, plenty of flat ground and a truly celestial view over an uninterrupted jungle wilderness stretching for as far as the eye could see."
The route steepened above the cave, following a series of corners, chimneys and hanging walls to a six meter horizontal roof which was breached with A1 aid to reach the end of the rock face. After another couple of hundred meters of vertical jungle the entire team reached the summit, then abseiled down the line of ascent leaving only their trad belay stations in-situ. It is worth noting that no bolts were placed along the entire route.
Cerro Autana was first climbed in 2002 by John Arran, Anne Arran, Timmy O'Neill and José Pereyra who established No Way, José, a massive 700m E7 6c free climb up the South West Face. As it happens, Leo Houlding had been an original member of this team a decade ago but an injury on Cerro Torre in Patagonia forced him to retire from the expedition. Now, after establishing The Yopo Wall, Leo Houlding commented "It really was a journey into the lost world. So many unknowns and hazards, once in a lifetime experiences and unforgettable moments. Indiana Jones would’ve been proud."
The expedition would like to thank Berghaus.