First Indigenous men to climb Mount Roraima plan to train others
Written by Bibi Khatoon and Isanella Patoir
For centuries, their ancestors told stories of Mount Roraima or what they called the Mother of all Waters. But recently, two indigenous men experienced its sheer beauty and magnificence first-hand.
Mount Roraima is the highest of the Pakaraima chain of flat-topped mountains in South America, reaching a height of about 9,222 feet. It borders Guyana, Brazil and Venezuela.
Fifty-six-year-old Edward Jameson and 38-year-old Troy Henry of Phillipai, Region Seven, a village located just 100 meters from the mountain, created history by becoming the first two indigenous men to climb the prow or the face of the majestic mountain from the Guyana side and reached its summit successfully.
They did so with a team of expert mountain climbers – not as mere guides, but as equals.
Speaking with the News Room during an interview, Edward said he attempted to climb the mountain in 2003 when he became a tour guide and again in 2006: however, he only got to 7,000ft.
“I wasn’t going, but one of the tour guys said they found a book with my name in some library and so I had to join…I wasn’t going because I feel I get old already but still I mek it and it was good,” the father of five said.
Guyanese Edward said he was encouraged this time since he was given the requisite gears to complete the feat.
“I did want climb, but they didn’t have no gears, but this time they walk with gears so I tek chance to go up there and I climb it,” he told the News Room.
On the other hand, his colleague Henry never attempted to climb the mountain.
In fact, Henry told the News Room that he was a porter who would help the travellers carry their bags, but he could not turn down the opportunity to go all the way.
“After I reach the Roraima foot, the first base camp, they been asking who interested to do the climbing so it’s right there, I made my mind for do the climbing with them because…it is really interesting for me, for young people to do some climbing and to get experience from other people,” he said.
It was Henry who explained that the trek took nine days since the team was forced to rest of the ledges of the mountain –the Tarantula ledge and the Invisible ledge – for several nights at a time. This was due mainly to the weather.
Henry said they survived on water, chocolates and crackers. One of the ledges on which they spent some time is called the invisible ledge since it cannot be seen from below or above, but is 3ft thick and 30ft wide.
Jameson and Henry were told at the press briefing to find young talented persons to train in mountain climbing. It was even recommended by Major General Retired, Joe Singh that they be given grants to train persons in the Guyana Defence Force.
The team reached the Peak of Mount Roraima on December 4 with no casualties and no illnesses.
Vice-President and Minister of Indigenous People’s Affairs, Sydney Allicock on Wednesday night congratulated the team of experts on this achievement at a press briefing at the Marriott Hotel in Georgetown on Wednesday.
“The knowledge of indigenous people is key to any venture of this kind, the forest is our backyard the eco system demands our respect and that is what we treat it with,” the Minister said.
Meanwhile, Minister Allicock noted while this expedition is the first of its kind, he is sure it will not be the last. He said this is especially important for the country’s growth in eco-tourism.
The collaboration between the locals in this expedition is also instructive of the crucial role partnership has to play in the continued development in this sector.
The Minister said that a module needs to be developed to sustain projects in this nature.
The historic climb began on November 9th when veteran mountain climber Leo Houlding from the United Kingdom; two professional climbers from the United States, Wilson Cuthbirth and Waldo Ethrington along with the indigenous men started the almost month-long journey through thick and slimy forest.
The lone female on the journey was 21-year-old Anna Taylor. This was her first mountain expedition.
Houlding is an acclaimed professional mountain climber who has spent his life climbing mountains across the world. Houlding even made it atop Mount Everest.
He explained that they spent a total of 42 days in the forest, preparing for the climb and doing the actual climb.
Houlding said the team of experts would never have made it to the mountain through the forest without Jameson and Henry, however he said that Jameson and Henry would also never made at the top of the mountain without their expertise and equipment.
He noted that the most special part of the experience was the cultural exchange and spending time with Jameson and Henry. Houlding said while they rushed to carry along food and water, they were amazed that Jameson and Henry did not require much of anything.
“…these guys they had nothing just some cassava bread. And one night we came to a fishing stream and they showed us how to fish with the poisoned roots and they must have caught over 100 fishes, then they showed us how to smoke them so we can carry them on the next day,” Houlding said in awe.
In the many years to come, Houlding said he will remember the climb, but most importantly he will remember how the two indigenous men taught them to survive in a very different world. He said they brought along extra equipment to allow the locals to be part of the experience.
Meanwhile, Houlding recalled being introduced to Mount Roraima via a film when he was a young boy.
“When I was a small boy there was a film on TV in the United Kingdom about the first climb of Mount Roraima, Major Singh was part of that expedition in 1973 and some famous British climbers and I remember thinking that one day I would love to climb this mountain,” Houlding said.
The first successful climb to the top of Mount Roraima was in 1973 and included Major General retired Joe Singh and four British climbers.
He highlighted that he came to Guyana a few years ago for a Discovery TV show and began organizing the climb and started getting the equipment needed.
When they began the journey on November 9, they first had to journey the 100 km on foot from Phillipai to the base of the mountain before they begin the actual climb with 1000 pounds of equipment.
Houlding highlighted that it was a challenge to climb the walls because of the constant rain however; he explained the uniqueness of Mount Roraima made it possible.
“…..the wall is so overhanging that the rock stays dry. Anywhere else in the world this expedition would have failed but because the wall is so steep it stayed dry and we were able to climb up the wall slowly.”
The team spent about one week climbing and camping on the ledges. Houlding said they even had picnics at times.
“….we all got to the top safely and very happy,” he said.
The expedition was in collaboration with Guyana Tourism Authority, Air Services Limited and Major General retired Joe Singh.