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World’s Steepest Big Wall?

Anne hunting for holds or gear on pitch 8.

Anne hunting for holds or gear on pitch 8.

John and Anne Arran have just returned from their most adventurous big-wall expedition yet. They climbed the first ever ascent of Amurí tepui in Venezuela up a clean wall near the line of an incredible 600m waterfall which is so off the beaten track it doesn’t even yet have a name!

Since nobody even from the nearest Indian community had been there before, the approach required a Cessna flight and then four days of trekking, often behind Indians clearing a path with machetes as they went. The climb itself took seven days and required all of the couple’s tepui free climbing experience as even the two easiest pitches went at E4 (F7a). All others were E5 or E6 except for a particularly harrowing 50m adventure John thought worth E7 (dangerous F7c).
With patches of overhanging vegetation to overcome too (grades up to J4 – J for Jungle), some loose rock and even scorpions en route, this adventure was particularly memorable.


“Being so far from anywhere, so high up and so runout trying to find a way up necky, technical pitches were some of the best moments I’ve ever had as a climber,” John said afterwards. “It was a serious and committing venture for just the two of us, but the climbing was superb and the feeling when we finally made it was brilliant.”
Their route – Amurita – climbed steep rock a little to the left of the main waterfall. John and Anne decided there wasn’t time to try a line directly behind the falls, which certainly has potential for the hardest and most overhanging big wall free climbs on earth. Any takers?

Many thanks are due for the support from MEF, BMC and Alison Chadwick Memorial Award grants, and from Arc’teryx, Boreal, Lyon Equipment, First Ascent and Wild Country for supplying fantastic equipment.

John returning along a 35m Tyrolean traverse needed to pass a huge roof at 300m

John returning along a 35m Tyrolean traverse needed to pass a huge roof at 300m

The 600m un-named waterfall over the South Face of Amurí tepui lands hundreds of metres clear of the base of the wall.

The 600m un-named waterfall over the South Face of Amurí tepui lands hundreds of metres clear of the base of the wall.

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