The climbing team on the summit of Roraima. Photo: Coldhouse Collective/Berghaus

The climbing team on the summit of Roraima. Photo: Coldhouse Collective/Berghaus

Leo Houlding and his expedition team have successfully completed a new free-climbing route on a South American ‘lost world’.

The Cumbrian mountaineer and his entourage spent two weeks living on portaledges on the overhanging cliffs of Roraima above the Guyana rainforest.

The flat-topped tepui is said to be the inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel The Lost World.

The climb was the first big wall expedition for 21-year-old climber Anna Taylor. The team also helped two local Amerindians to make the full ascent.

Leo HouldinThe climbers camping on Invisible Ledge on the big wall of the tepui. Photo: Coldhouse Collective/Berghausg Roraima The hanging camp at Invisible Ledge, tiny in the context of the mountain - photo Coldhouse Collective & Berghaus 1200

The climbers camping on Invisible Ledge on the big wall of the tepui. Photo: Coldhouse Collective/Berghaus

Outdoors brand Berghaus sponsored the venture and supplied clothing and gear for the team, Houlding and Taylor, along with Waldo Etherington, 32, Wilson Cutbirth, 29, Dan Howard, 31 and 30-year-old Matt Pycroft who filmed and photographed the expedition for Coldhouse Collective. Local guides Edward and Troy also made the climb on the prow of the 2,810m-high tepui, which stands on the borders of Guyana, Venezuela and Brazil.

Anna Taylor surveys the weather while waiting for her next pitch. Photo: Coldhouse Collective/Berghaus

Anna Taylor surveys the weather while waiting for her next pitch. Photo: Coldhouse Collective/Berghaus

Anna Taylor said: “It’s been a wild month with highs and lows – crazy storms, spiders, snakes, scorpions, waterfalls, endless ascents, vertical mud slides, swamps, slime forests, river crossings, countless cuts and bruises, plenty of suffering, bags of exposure, and some pretty amazing pitches of rock climbing.

“All in all, it’s been the most incredible experience of my life.”

After arriving in South America and arranging a tricky parachute drop of equipment near the base of Roraima, the team completed a 53km trek through pristine, untracked jungle before starting their attempt on the wall.

They faced dangerous local wildlife, such as poisonous snakes, tarantulas and scorpions. Once on the wall, the climbers lived on portaledges hanging hundreds of metres above the jungle, while the tropical climate presented regular deluges of heavy rain. The route up the overhanging wall itself was extremely challenging, with lead climbers Houlding, Taylor and Cutbirth each putting in long shifts to forge the free route that was their main objective.

With time running out before they were due to leave the country, and despite the weather taking another turn for the worse, the team finally completed the full route and also succeeded in getting Edward and Troy to the top, the first Amerindians to stand on the summit of Roraima.

Leo Houlding in action during the climb. Photo: Coldhouse Collective/Berghaus

Leo Houlding in action during the climb. Photo: Coldhouse Collective/Berghaus

Leo Houlding said: “Journeying through this landscape and up the Prow of Mount Roraima with our Amerindian friends was a unique, profound joy. For centuries, their ancestors have told stories of the Mother of the Great Waters, and there they were, stood atop the summit with their new friends, eight equals, sharing a journey through this sensational environment.”

Matt Pycroft, who has documented progress throughout the expedition, said: “The route is yet to receive a formal name or grade, but Leo mentioned that the grades can be misleading on routes like this.

Matt Pycroft, chief photographer and film-maker on the expedition. Photo: Coldhouse Collective/Berghaus

Matt Pycroft, chief photographer and film-maker on the expedition. Photo: Coldhouse Collective/Berghaus

“Climbing E6 in the Lake District on a summer’s day is a different scene to onsighting unclimbed, loose rock a two-hour helicopter flight from the nearest city.

“What we do have, though, is a new free-climbed route up the Prow of Mount Roraima. Leo’s aim is to summit, of course, but the dream is to climb these lines free.

“This is the first time a route has gone fully free on one of these major expeditions. The magnitude of this cannot be overstated, and is a testament to Leo’s meticulous planning, leadership and talent as an adventurer and climber.”

Free climbing a route involves ascending a route using only the natural features of the rock, without resorting to artificial aids to complete pitches. Climbers place protection and use ropes to guard against injury if falls occur.

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