STAVELEY climber Leo Houlding has become the first man to climb one of the Amazon’s most remote and sacred mountains.
He tackled the 1,400-metre Cerro Autana in Venezuela with his team of fixers, climbers and expedition film maker Alastair Lee.
Cerro Autana is a table-top mountain, deep in the jungle in the east of the country, and the local Piaroa Indians revere it as the stump of a tree of life.
Due to its sacred status and close proximity to the Colombian border, access to Autana is prohibited and extremely difficult to secure.
The starting point for the expedition was the frontier town of Puerto Ayacucho in central Venezuela. From there, the team made its way to the Piaroa community of Ceguera via an eight-hour boat ride up the Rio Orinoco and tributary Rio Autana. After a blessing from the local Shaman and a ceremony, they began a four-day trek through virgin jungle to establish a trail and base camp below the rarely-visited east face of the Cerro Autana.
They were forced to battle through 100 per cent humidity and 35-degree heat, as well as torrential downpours and a barrage of mosquitos, flies and ants as well as the more deadly tarantulas, scorpions and snakes.
“It really was a journey into a lost world,” said Leo. “There were so many unknowns and hazards, once-in-a-lifetime experiences and unforgettable moments. If it were not for their extremely inaccessible location, the Autana Caves would surely be known as one of the wonders of the world and the top of Cerro Autana was an amazing place.
“It was an adventure that none of us will forget. Indiana Jones would have been proud.”
The initial climbing was slow going, said Leo, but as the rock quality improved, they climbed above the roof of the jungle and into the rarely-visited Autana Caves (Cuevo Autana), the highest elevated cave system in the world, before pushing on for the summit.
A film about the expedition is now in production, to watch a trailer, visit www.posingproductions.com.