Inside Leo Houlding’s Bold Climbing Expedition to 'The Lost World'

If you would like to scale up the challenges of an uncovered first ascent locked in rainforest wilds, nothing does the trick like pit vipers. Or spider venom that induces blood vomiting.

British adventurer Leo Houlding and his crew took on the additional set of dangers, lately climbing Mount Roraima. The distant tepui on the triple Brazil-Venezuela-Guyana border, is the chain’s highest flat-topped plateau (at 9,220 ft) in a land of dramatic topography. Surrounded by dozens of 1,000-foot waterfalls, Mount Roraima has captivated writers and vacationers alike since Sir Walter Raleigh described it in 1596 following his seek for El Dorado, the fabled metropolis of gold. Dwelling to the planet’s tallest waterfall (Angel Falls), the area additionally impressed Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1912 traditional The Lost World, in addition to Disney-Pixar’s extra up to date 2009 movie Up. Over 10 days on the almost 2,000-foot wall, Houlding’s crew climbed a primary free ascent whereas coping with the hostile critters, in addition to torrential downpours and scary, committing climbing. They topped out on December 4.

“There were a lot of hazards,” journey chief Houlding stated after returning residence to the Lake District in England. “Whenever you climb, you’re reaching above your hand and deep right into a crack the place bugs and spiders and birds and scorpions hang around. You possibly can’t look — you simply have to do it. There are all types of creepy crawlers up there.

“The higher we got there was still a lot of stuff in the cracks, particularly scorpions. There are really small ones that are quite bad and can make you vomit blood. The bigger ones — which we didn’t see — look really vicious, but their sting isn’t as bad.”

Houlding leading hard trad in the jungle
Clouds and stone, Houlding main a tough pitch on Mount Roraima. Matt Pycroft/Coldhouse/Berghaus

“Like any big wall climbed on-sight, pushing into the unknown is challenging,” Houlding’s associate Wilson Cutbirth stated after returning residence to Flagstaff, Ariz., the place he shares a home with a gaggle of dirtbag climbers. “Being in the middle of the rainforest, one minute it will be sunny, and the next it will be a tropical rainstorm making it especially challenging when hiking loads and sleeping on the ground.”

As soon as on the wall, nonetheless, the rock stayed dry as a result of it was so steep. Their line of ascent follows the primary 4 pitches of the 1973 aid line established by Hamish MacInnes, Don Whillans and Joe Brown earlier than the crew broke into new territory for 10 new pitches to set up a climb rated 5.12+ R/X.

“New routing on an overhanging wall is as real as it gets,” continued Houlding. “You’re pushing into danger with a lot of unknowns. The quartzite is super hard but there were quite a few big things that were loose.”

Anna Taylor freeing hard terrain
Anna Taylor discovering steadiness excessive on the wall. Matt Pycroft/Coldhouse/Berghaus

After 15 days approaching the wall by means of 30 miles of jungle and establishing basecamp, the crew spent half a dozen nights at a portaledge camp low on the face after which 4 nights at a portaledge camp excessive on the rock. The journey comprised of Houlding, 39, Anna Taylor, 21, Waldo Etherton, 32, and Cutbirth, 29. The feat added up to almost 2,000 kilos of drugs — which was dropped from the sky by parachute. As well as, two native Amerindians, Troy Henry and James Edward joined the crew to the summit. “They are the first Guyanese people to climb Roraima,” Houlding stated. “They’ve become quite famous.”

Filmmakers Matt Prycoft and Dan Howard of Cold House Media additionally joined the crew.

“Roraima the most famous natural landmark in the country and it’s one of the most spectacular mountains in the world,” stated Houlding. “It’s like Everest and El Cap.” As a result of the tepui is in an space that looks like time has stood nonetheless, “if a pterodactyl flew past, it wouldn’t look out of place.”

Houlding introduced a long time of expedition expertise, whereas Taylor introduced her laborious lead climbing expertise, Etherington introduced rainforest cover expertise, and Cutbirth – Houlding’s frequent climbing associate — introduced his large wall free-climbing expertise.

wall life in the jungle
Morning commute excessive on Roraima. Matt Pycroft/Coldhouse/Berghaus

Journey highlights included climbing over “some of the best rock ever,” stated Cutbirth, who famous the age of the rock, among the oldest on the earth. “When the clouds cleared, we saw a land of tepuis and huge waterfalls all over.”

Although the standard of the climbing exceeded their expectations, the venomous snakes within the space compelled them to rethink their journey. “One day we found a pit viper below the portaledge,” continued Cutbirth. “That’s one of the most venomous snakes in the jungle. If it bit us and we were that far out, we might not have made it. Also, it was a daily occurrence to see spiders that locals said would make you vomit blood if they bit us. We’d find them in our portaledges.”

Wilson Cutbirth leading a hard pitch
Wilson Cutbirth on the sharp finish on Roraima. Matt Pycroft/Coldhouse/Berghaus

“Though everyone was on the same trip, we were on all our own journeys,” Houlding stated. “Anna’s crux pitch was quite hard. The logistics was the hardest for me. People don’t realize how much success comes from planning.”

As soon as on the summit, the crew was greeted with a helicopter that took many of the climbers out. Cutbirth, Houlding and Etherton stayed behind for the following two weeks to climb new targets.

To learn extra concerning the journey, go to

summit shot
Staff summit shot. It’s like a scene out of Shel Silverstein’s “From Where the Sidewalk Ends.” Matt Pycroft/Coldhouse/Berghaus

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