Cerro Autana in western Venezuela is one of the most remote mountains in the Amazon, revered by local Indians as sacred.
On a truly epic expedition, British adventurer Leo Houlding and his team of climbers spent eight days of boat rides and hacking through virgin jungle to get to its base, and a further six scaling the east face of the 1,400m peak.
As these images from the expedition show, it was a remarkable and challenging journey that makes Indiana Jones’ adventures look like a walk in the park. Photographs by Alastair Lee
Cerro Autana is a spectacular quartzite-sandstone tepuy (table-top mountain) in western Venezuela. The local Piaroa Indians revere it as the stump of the tree of life, from which all life grew. The starting point for the expedition was the frontier town of Puerto Ayacucho, reached from Caracas by car or plane. From there, the team made their way to the Piaroa community of Ceguera via an eight-hour boat ride up the Rio Orinoco and tributary Rio Autana
After seeking a blessing from the local shaman and participating in a memorable yopo ceremony (snorting a hallucinogenic powder), they began a four-day trek through virgin jungle to establish a trail and base camp below the rarely visited east face of Autana
The initial climb involved as much vegetation as rock face, but as the rock quality improved the team climbed above the jungle canopy and into the Cuevo Autana, the highest elevated cave system in the world where they camped