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Ascent of Tramen-tepuí on 1981-11-24

Climber: Stephen Platt

Others in Party:Scharlie Wraight
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Tuesday, November 24, 1981
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Tramen-tepuí
    Location:Venezuela
    Elevation:8596 ft / 2620 m

Ascent Trip Report

Tuesday 24/11/81
We woke at dawn as the sky paled behind Kerauren and made its long outline black and sharp. The weather looked fine but the wind was still strong enough to throw you off balance so we stayed warm in the tent till the sun rose then packed the sacks with ropes and boots, cameras, raisins and warm clothes. Scharlie was wearing two shirts and a fleece it was so cool she kept them on most of the day.
We had decided to take sacks, ropes, rock-boots, and to leave the tent and camping gear, in case there was a chance of getting up in one day. The first stretch from the camp was unexpectedly steep and vegetated. From below the vegetation had looked less dense than the climb to the pass, but the bromeliads were every bit as dense and the patches of scrubby woodland were difficult to push through. We ascended with a strange high stepping roll, crunching and slashing up to our armpits in wet bromeliad.
We began to regret the decision – progress was so slow and we had so far to go that we didn’t think we would make it. Still we pushed on, climbing the steepening vegetation, trying always to keep to the crest of the ridge and leaving markers of cut branches and succulents to mark our return in case of mist. We climbed two tree filled gullies where we walked like monkeys on branches only to plunge ignominiously down into the slimy growth below. Another vegetated slope led us to the first step of the rock wall. We now climbed a further forty feet on rock and vegetated holds. Then a ramp left and a hard move up a wall brought us to the top of a pillar with a narrow chasm the width of a stride between us and a steep rocky section of wall.
We roped up and Scharlie belayed to a block while Steve led up the wall. He was stuck for some time eight feet from the top under a large vegetated overhang. There were two possibilities – a steep, overhanging vegetated grove, or a delicate traverse left on tiny rounded edges. Without runners, the only way down would be in a fall. Pulling down the overhanging vegetation and mud revealed a good flat ledge about a foot long and two inches deep. Most of the good handholds were now lying in a great sodden mass at the bottom of the pitch. He tried to move left but the Spanish fell boots he was wearing, not very delicate at best, but now caked in mud and goo, slipped off the tiny ripples. Without a decent handhold it was too risky. So back in the overhanging groove he grabbed the remaining vegetation, whipped his left foot into the one good foothold and pushed his right foot as high as possible in the vegetated mass on the right wall of the groove. Miraculously he stayed on and with a final flurry of kicking and slithering, pulled himself up and moved up the groove to tree roots where he could belay Scharlie.
A series of rock steps and more scrambling through bromeliads led to the first step, a rock platform 200 yards metres wide and half a mile long. To reach it we had to step across a deep chasm that caused our hearts to miss a beat. It was sandy and much drier than the pass and we picked out a possible camping place with a view to moving up the next day if we needed more time on the face. The mist was swirling about and the weird black shapes of rock seemed like a maze. We crawled through a rock arch, keeping to the left edge as much as possible and leaving markers every few metres. Steve cut succulents with the machete and Scharlie built cairns every few metres to help us find our way back if the mist got really bad. We hoped the mist would lift so that we could at least see a possible route.
Suddenly we came to the end of the plateau and the mist lifted and in front of us we saw a rock castle a hundred feet high, like a sentinel guarding the main rock wall that was obviously going to be the crux of the route. We skirted the pinnacle on the left and climbed to the gap between the pinnacle and the wall. It was mid-afternoon, but the sky was clear.
The rock wall seemed very steep but a closer look revealed that the area immediately to the right of the prominent roof we had seen from way below was in fact a series of steep, black slabs. Without talking about it we decided to have a go as there was a chance of getting up to the top and it was best to take advantage of the good weather. We could at least leave a fixed rope and return the next day if we failed to get up. We changed into our rock boots and dry socks at the bottom of the wall and uncoiled the ropes and geared up quickly and Steve began climbing in the middle of the wall at an obvious niche before moving diagonally right.
He climbed the steep black slab on small wrinkles. There were no positive holds and no runners to protect the pitch. Stretching right, he reached a difficult step about thirty feet up but failed to make the move since a fall from here would have serious consequences. He traversed five feet left but found it no easier and finally went straight up and moved up to a flake and better holds. This led to a wide ledge and chock stone belay in a crack from where he could belay Scharlie while she climbed.
A few feet left of the belay Steve climbed a crack line to a small pinnacle. He fixed a runner in the crack and moved up to a narrow ledge. He tried moving left up slabs to a loose block about two-foot square surmounting a loose flake. Moving up quickly, he prayed it would stay put when he stepped on it. Unfortunately, after moving up, the holds ran out on a vertical wall and he had to trust his luck stepping down onto the loose block again. He reversed back down to a narrow ledge and traversed twenty feet right on thin, lichen covered footholds, pulling the only runner out as he went.
Trending right, steep wrinkled slabs proved to be the key to the route. Carefully, testing each handhold because some were loose, he steadily worked his way up these slabs to the grass ledge where he traversed back left until he was above Scharlie and found a block pinnacle belay at the bottom of a steep chimney. Scharlie came up, traversing further right to a corner, before moving up on the slabs. She said she found it hard.
The next pitch led straight up the chimney that Steve climbed direct, bridging between the two sides on small wrinkles. There was a good chockstone at half height, the only good runner on the whole route.
We stayed roped but found that the next pitch was only a short easy wall. A gently sloping gully and a scramble up a short wall led to the summit blocks where we unroped.
The climb had taken us about two hours. Quickly we took off our sacks and leaving the gear on a slab we walked over to the summit plateau. The sky was clear and the sun warm and we could see across the savannah and follow the way we had walked.
The wide chimney we had spotted from the bottom and thought we could climb was a great chasm. Steve persuaded Scharlie to pose on the brink for a photograph. The top was flat and almost bare of plants, being composed of smooth black slabs of sandstone with small pools of rainwater reflecting the sky. We couldn’t decide on the highest point as it always seemed higher wherever we weren’t standing so we built several small cairns. North-south the top measured 1,000m while east west it was only a fifth as wide.
We took photos and built cairns and went to the Guyanan edge and lay on the rocks and looked down into the jungle of Guyana and the Mazaruni River. It was tempting to stay longer, but it was now late afternoon and we would have to be very quick to get back to the tent before dark.
We wrote a note with our names and the date, and put it in a plastic container under a prominent cairn we built. Then we climbed down to the block belay at the top of the chimney and fixed an abseil, leaving one of our tape slings. One long abseil of 150 ft. reached the chock-stone belay at the top of the first pitch and here we arranged a further abseil directly back to the niche at the start of the first pitch.
The mist held off so we had no problem finding the way across the rock plateau. We crossed the pinnacle and the plateau and arranged a third abseil at the top of the vegetated groove of the first step. That used all the slings we had brought with us. From here, we slid and slipped back down the bromeliads, slithering most of the way and drenching ourselves with muddy water. Following our markers we made it to the tent as the dark was closing in and had just time for a quick wash, collecting water from bromeliads for supper. Warm and comfortable, we listened to the rain pattering on the tent. We made dinner and Ovaltine by touch in the dark. It rained heavily in the night but we stayed cosy for once. It was much warmer than the previous night.
We had been able to do the climb in the one day because the weather had been perfect and because nothing had gone wrong. The route we had chosen without prospecting the other possibilities was a good way up and gave excellent climbing. The abseils had gone without a hitch and we had had perfect visibility to retrace our steps. Had we waited a day we would have been faced by wet rock.
More than two people in misty conditions might find it difficult to complete the ascent in one day from the camp on the pass and a higher camp could be made on the plateau before the main wall.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:5643 ft / 1719 m
    Quality:10 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Bushwhack, Rock Climb
    Gear Used:
Rope, Tent Camp
    Nights Spent:10 nights away from roads
    Weather:Clear fine weather
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:5643 ft / 1719 m
    Start Trailhead:Uroy-Uray  2953 ft / 900 m
Descent Statistics



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