Mount Roraima. Photo: Martin Harvey/Alamy

Mount Roraima. Photo: Martin Harvey/Alamy

Climber and explorer Leo Houlding will brave venomous snakes, mud and mosquitos in a trek to summit a South American ‘lost world’.

The Cumbrian adventurer hopes to help two local Amerindians to the summit of the 2,810m flat-topped tepui Mount Roraima.

Joining his team next month will be fellow Cumbrian climber Anna Taylor, who will be taking part in her first major expedition.

The six-strong group hopes to post a first route on the 600m continually overhanging prow of the Guyanan mountain.

Trad climber Taylor, 21, is the latest to join outdoors brand Berghaus’s team of athletes, which includes Houlding. The company is sponsoring the expedition to the tepui, in the rainforest on the borders of Brazil, Venezuela and Guyana.

Leo Houlding. Photo: Coldhouse Collective

Leo Houlding. Photo: Coldhouse Collective

A Berghaus spokesperson said: “It is the location that inspired Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic work of fiction The Lost World and more recently the Disney animated movie Up.

“The main objective of the expedition is to free-climb a new route on the prow of Roraima, which lies in Guyana, a former British colony that gained independence in 1966. The country has one of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world and is 80 per cent covered in forest.

“It was first climbed with extensive aid in 1973, by a team of British climbing legends, including Hamish MacInnes, Don Whillans and Joe Brown, and documented in a BBC documentary.

“Access to Mount Roraima involves a 53km trek through pristine, untracked jungle from the closest airstrip in the Amerindian community of Philipi.”

Now 39 and a veteran of many successful expeditions, Houlding has assembled a crew with a wide range of backgrounds and skills. Taylor joined the Berghaus athlete team earlier this year. A Cumbrian like Leo, she is viewed as one of the most exciting young climbing talents on the scene today. With a reputation for climbing hard, bold routes, she is the youngest crew member, but also one of the lead climbers.

Leo Houlding said: “In the climber’s eye there is nothing quite like the prow of Mount Roraima.

“Rising above Guyana’s pristine rainforest like the bow of a giant ship, twice the height of the Eiffel Tower and with an approach hill taller than Ben Nevis, it creates its own weather, almost constantly shrouded in cloud.

“The 50km trek through untracked jungle presents a host of challenges, mosquitos, mud, venomous snakes, but brings with it a vibrancy of life often absent from climbing expeditions in high or cold regions.

Anna Taylor. Photo: Berghaus

Anna Taylor. Photo: Berghaus

“Once we’ve finally dealt with the logistics of the approach and get established on the wall above the jungle, I’m hoping we’re going to find some really high-quality quartzite, one of my favourite rock types. I saw Hamish’s film when I was a boy, not long after I started climbing. “They had a pretty epic time and I remember thinking ‘one day…’ and here we are set to recreate their epic but with the added element of free-climbing.

“I’m also really motivated to share the adventure with a young gun local to me in the Lakes, Anna. She reminds me of myself 20 years ago, simply psyched on hard trad with few of the complications of later life. I

“I’ve been on more than my fair share of big trips since then and have learned a few tricks along the way which I’d like to pass on. Anna is really into the adventurous side of climbing; Roraima sits at the extreme end of that spectrum.”

Team members Waldo Etherington, 32, and Matt Pycroft, 30, have both accompanied Houlding on major expeditions before. Etherington has vast experience as a canopy rigger in rainforests and has also spent time on big walls, including Mirror Wall in 2015.

Berghaus said he brings unparalleled knowledge of complex rigging systems and is described by Houlding as ‘the fastest load carrying rope climber in the west’. Also a key member of the Mirror Wall team, Matt Pycroft is a cameraman and director at Coldhouse Collective media productions, with an extensive portfolio of film-making credits and awards to his name. Pycroft will film the Roraima trip as the adventure unfolds.

Roraima is often sheathed in cloud. Photo: Waldo Etherington

Roraima is often sheathed in cloud. Photo: Waldo Etherington

The core crew will be completed by 29-year-old Wilson Cutbirth and Dan Howard, 31. Cutbirth is described as an ‘American Waldo’, who will also be a lead climber and rigger. He has worked with Etherington extensively and climbed with Leo Houlding in 2017, when he linked three towers in one day in the Bugaboos, Canada.

Howard works with Coldhouse Collective and will assist Pycroft in filming and photographing the expedition, and providing other essential logistical and communications support.

A team of local Amerindians will guide the team for about eight days through the jungle to the base of the wall. The climbing team hopes in turn to lead two of the Indians to the summit of the wall, teaching them the required rope techniques on the job. They will become the first locals to climb the wall.

In 2012, Houlding featured in Alastair Lee’s film of an ascent of another tepui, Autana, in Venezuela.

Berghaus said it is supporting the Mt Roraima expedition as part of wider work to support bold adventures that push the boundaries of modern climbing and exploration. As well as sponsoring the trip, Berghaus is supplying team members with its latest kit, including next-to-skin high-performance clothing and other essential lightweight attire and equipment for the humid and changeable weather in the Amazon.

Houlding plans to send back regular updates from Mt Roraima, which will be posted on the Berghaus website and shared on social media.

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