New Acopan 5.12: Boltless on Lead

Posted on: March 21, 2010

The east face of Acopan Tepui, Gran Sabana, Venezuela, showing 10 Pounds of Tequila (5.12, 1,100'), which Brittany Griffith, Kate Rutherford, Mikey Schaefer and Jonathan Thesenga established in mid-February without lead bolts. [Photo] Mikey Schaefer /

Brittany Griffith, Kate Rutherford, Mikey Schaefer and Jonathan Thesenga recently returned from a jungle expedition to Acopan Tepui in Gran Sabana, Venezuela. From February 11-19, the Americans established 10 Pounds of Tequila (5.12, 1,100') all-free up the northern end of the tepui's east face.

Tepuis, the sandstone walls that rise from the canopy of northern South America, are notoriously difficult to protect; as a result, most hard routes sport numerous bolts. However, this team kept their bolt kit on reserve while leading.


"Finding our way through the steep lower pitches proved difficult," Thesenga wrote. "Vertical cracks were rare and when they did appear they were chossy. The clean climbing was found navigating to and from the horizontal crack systems, which were impossible to see how good they were or if they were even cracks until you committed to the section and reached the break (now we understood why other teams had placed so many bolts on their routes!)."

The team spent four days freeing and fixing to a ledge on a small pillar. A crux bulge three pitches above camp took a day of work. Above that, the team cleaned and climbed vertical but rotten jungle rock to the summit. They rappelled back to the ledge and descended the next day, placing five single rap bolts. In celebration back at base camp that night, February 20, the team finished off their tequila.

Thesenga's full trip report is available at Patagonia's blog, A detailed route topo is available on Mike Schaefer's website.

Kate Rutherford climbs compact sandstone low on the route. Placing only natural gear, the team relied on sparse horizontal features. [Photo] Mikey Schaefer /

A luxurious pool 10 minutes from the base of the route cooled off the team most evenings. [Photo] Mikey Schaefer /

Brittany Griffith leads a 5.12 pitch on 10 Pounds of Tequila. [Photo] Mikey Schaefer /

Here at Alpinist, our small editorial staff works hard to create in-depth stories that are thoughtfully edited, thoroughly fact-checked and beautifully designed. Please consider supporting our efforts by subscribing.


I find this perennial squabling on climber's forums nauseating, enough for me to quit climbing and take up tennis. Better is to clean up your fucking act: take your bolt with you. How dare you defile such a beautiful mountain with bolts? And then go on to argue about trivialties like redpointing, etc! Pathetic. Go fuck up your own crags back home with bolts and leave the tepuis pristine, yes? If you can't trad it, then leave it alone, bolt-bunnies. Some things should be left in its purest form, and climbing tepuis is one of them. Tepuis are the oldest mountains in the world, and arguably the most spectacular. Shame on anyone who bolts them.

2010-03-24 21:27:24

Couldn't really respond in full yesterday, too busy...I'm just quibbling with the reporting, not the ascent itself. We start off with the title of the article, in big bold letters "Boltless on Lead", then read that bolts were placed on rappel to facilitate the descent; the article then states "the Americans established 10 Pounds of Tequila (5.12, 1,100') all-free..." which isn't true either because even though an all-free route was "established", the route itself was not "established" all free. The author then blatantly contradicts himself with "The other pitches were lead free though we did have to hang on the rope occasionally...", which is of course nonsense.

The title of the article could just as easily say "New Acopan 5.12: Aided, Hangdogged and Pinkpointed" as "New Acopan 5.12: Boltless on Lead". So please, Alpinist...don't try to trumpet the fact that the only bolts on the route were placed on rappel, while downplaying every other compromise in ground-up style.

2010-03-23 04:01:05

mschaefer - don't worry about the Hedge comment, the article makes it clear.

There are some heavily bolted routes on Acopan but there are many with no or few lead bolts too. For example, Araguato King (no lead bolts), Big Wall Gardners (few lead bolts), the chimney systems to the left of Gardners (few/no lead bolts). Congrats for creating a natural line of that difficulty. That's a great addition to the wall.

2010-03-23 01:25:44

Looks like a great new route. Congratulations on your accomplishment. I can see where jdhedge is coming from, however. When the title is "New Acopan 5.12: Boltless on Lead" and the comment "now we understood why other teams had placed so many bolts on their routes" is included, you should probably be more clear about how the climb went exactly. Or don't let the climbing world know about it and open things up for discussion. But for sure nice climbing!

2010-03-22 21:48:51

Nice job!!!!!! That sounds like such a good venture onto a remote wall of rock and bushes!!! Maybe we'll see you up in Tuolumne for some more tame adventure. Peace y'all! Bob J.

2010-03-22 21:14:35

I'll bet jghedge is a sport climber who has never bee out of her/his county, much less country.

Way to go on your climb. I also feel like you do about not compromising, and having fun. I didn't know your team was in a competition.

Actually I'll bet jghedge is a gym rat...... Lame-O....... Juan

2010-03-22 17:44:00


Could you please be more specific in the compromises we made? As I don't really feel we had to make any.

Am I not aware of the current ground up bolt-less ONSIGHT standard? Cause if this is the standard I believe most FA teams are well below that standard.

So to clear this up, we DID NOT ONSIGHT the whole climb, as the article would of stated that if that was the case (which I assume most people will figure out with deductive reasoning). On the FA of the pitches we climb up to mid 5.11 onsight and then hung a few times on the harder pitches to figure things out. But again only a couple of points of aid were used to make upward progress on ONE pitch.

We then REDPOINTED (read: free climbed) each individual pitch.

There are more details provided @ thecleanestline blog (see link above)

Hey could you send over this "ethical agenda" that you speak of cause I didn't know our team had one, I'd love to read it..... As far as I could tell, all that was on OUR agenda was to go rockclimbing, exploring and have a good time, which we accomplished!

And in all honesty we didn't forgo the use of lead bolts due to any ethical reason, they are just really hard to place with a hand drill and we are lazy people.

2010-03-22 03:09:49

jghedge, I think you misinterpreted mikey's remarks to your earlier question. you forgot to recognize his comment that "all of the pitches were then redpointed", so YES, all pitches WERE lead free. With the exception of ground-up onsight first ascents - which don't happen on 5.12 routes very often - the style implemented by the team is standard practice for all new routing (trad) and does not in my opinion compromise the route in any way. well done Mikey, JT and team!

2010-03-22 02:12:00

"The other pitches were lead free though we did have to hang on the rope occasionally..."

Then they weren't lead free.

Which should be made clear in the article without readers having to grill the authors in the comment section.

Sorry but if you're going to trumpet one ethical agenda (boltlessness), you'd better be up-front about the compromises you made (if any) to get there.

2010-03-22 00:04:24

We only used a couple points of aid while establishing one of the pitches. The other pitches were lead free though we did have to hang on the rope occasionally for route finding and protection finding purposes. All of the pitches were then redpointed, with only a handfull of fixed pieces in place, almost all of which were pins.

2010-03-21 16:03:53

"The clean climbing was found navigating to and from the horizontal crack systems, which were impossible to see how good they were or if they were even cracks.."

Were the pitches aided first and then pinkpointed? Quite a bit easier to commit to boltless free climbing when you prep the pitches...just wondering...

2010-03-21 13:38:15

Nice job guys! Looks like a great adventure. Congratulations! You mention the howler monkeys (the Araguatos) on the Patagonia site. Yes, what an amazing sound. Unforgettable. They inspired us to name our route on Acopan "Araguato King."

2010-03-21 11:59:46
Post a Comment

Login with your username and password below.
New User? Here's what to do.

Forgot your username or password?