Leo Houlding battles through the slime forest. Photo: Coldhouse Collective/Berghaus

Leo Houlding battles through the slime forest. Photo: Coldhouse Collective/Berghaus

Climber and adventurer Leo Houlding and his team have battled through a ‘slime forest’ and torrential rain in their push towards their Mount Roraima goal.

A generator, essential for powering film and photography gear, was fully submerged in a pond during a parachute drop.

The team, Leo Houlding, Anna Taylor, Waldo Etherington, Wilson Cutbirth, Matt Pycroft and Dan Howard, along with local support guides and porters, completed almost 100km of ‘jungle bashing’ to reach the location of their basecamp in the Guyana rainforest.

The Cumbrian adventurer and his fellow climbers hope to help two local Amerindians to the summit of the 2,810m flat-topped Mount Roraima via the tepui’s prow.

Reporting from the jungle, the team said the final day of the journey provided an insight into the next stage of the expedition and was a very tough slog of almost constant uphill. “There was a significant change in terrain, and everyone was really feeling the steep ascent and the humidity.”

At one stage during that day, they set down their packs and left the trail to find the parachute loads, which had been dropped by a chartered aeroplane. Four of the Amerindian locals on the team have spent over 20 days in the jungle cutting the trail. They had seen the bag drop and guided the crew directly to it.

The team surveys the prow. Photo: Coldhouse Collective/Berghaus

The team surveys the prow. Photo: Coldhouse Collective/Berghaus

The team spokesperson said: “All of the parachutes landed their loads without breakage, but not quite without incident. One of the haul bags had dropped into a pond just off to the side of the target and got fully submerged. It happened to be the bag that contained the generator, essential for filming and sending out the photographs and video.

“Once up to camp, one of the hardier guides, Henry, spent the evening cleaning and drying the generator out before it spluttered into life. He ended the ordeal by asking if the team could now charge the headtorch Leo had sent out to him in advance. They were very happy to oblige.”

Once basecamp was set up and running, the full team of 21 ate together for the last time as a complete unit – the climbing team of six, plus porters, guides and trail builders. The following morning, 10 of them departed, leaving the core crew with five Amerindians as vertical-terrain porters.

The team said Sunday was ‘a real day of days’. The crew planned to wake up early and watch the sunrise from the penthouse hill behind camp, but the rain began about midnight and fell torrentially all night, and into the morning. As the team ate breakfast and drank coffee, there was a sense that the wet season had come a little early, and this might be set in for the rest of the expedition.

Waldo Etherington provides a ropework lesson at basecamp. Photo: Coldhouse Collective/Berghaus

Waldo Etherington provides a ropework lesson at basecamp. Photo: Coldhouse Collective/Berghaus

The first part of the day was spent packing loads, and teaching the remaining local Amerindians how to use harnesses and prepare ascending kit. During the previous day, Etherington and Cutbirth had pre-rigged 300m of the slime forest that separates basecamp from the prow of Mount Roraima, and on Sunday they went up there as a full team.

Film-maker Matt Pycroft said: “It is something else completely. Within minutes we were soaking wet. We may as well have been swimming.

“By the time we got up the first few fixed lines we were coated with mud and slime, but everyone took it in their stride and it felt like a real mission. To be honest, the whole team thought it was brilliant, and it was one of our favourite days so far, even though it was likely the hardest.”

The expedition team’s plan now is to ferry all of the equipment to the top of the vertical ‘slime forest’, across the El Dorado swamp above, and through a bromeliad-clad hill to the base of the prow.

They said the slime forest and the hill above are like something from another world. The team said it is finding it difficult to describe just how muddy, slimy and ancient the place is. “It took five hours to reach the top, with Leo breaking trail, with Anna, Waldo and Wilson keeping the porters safe, and Matt and Dan jumping between to get everything filmed and photographed.”

The prow of Roraima, with figures just discernable at its base. Photo: Coldhouse Collective/Berghaus

The prow of Roraima, with figures just discernable at its base. Photo: Coldhouse Collective/Berghaus

Matt Pycroft added: “The place is wild, but getting up close to Roraima was something else entirely.

“We could see the face in all its glory, and the rain stopped for just long enough to glance up and spend time assessing where we might go in terms of picking a line. Due to the weather, waterfalls are flowing from the summit left, right and centre, and standing underneath Roraima it becomes apparent just how steep it really is.”

The next few days will be spent ferrying loads up through the slime forest to establish an advanced basecamp.

Pycroft said: “We’ve embraced the slime and the mud, but we could do without the rain. We’ve got our fingers crossed that this isn’t the wet season come early. We’ll see.”

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