This Handbook contains everything you need to know about this epic Secret Compass expedition to Venezuela.
Read on to discover our ethos and team-centred approach and for the nitty gritty like flight and visa advice, insurance requirements and kit recommendations. Use the buttons below to ask questions or to apply for this team. Once approved, you can secure your spot on this expedition team with a Booking Form and a £1000 deposit.
Arrive: by 1700 on 18 Jan 2020 into Símon Bolívar International Airport.
Depart: anytime on the 1 Feb 2020.
Insurance: ensure you have comprehensive cover.
Docs: send your flight, insurance and passport copy in.
Balance due: 90 days before departure on 20 Oct 2019.
The aim of this epic expedition to Venezuela is to take a small team of adventurous travellers to become some of the few people to climb the tabletop mountain (tepui) of Auyán-tepui and to abseil down the world’s highest waterfall, Angel Falls.
The 979m waterfall takes two days to rappel down with over 750m and 13 pitches of abseiling. Watch this BBC Extreme Mountain Challenge Angel Falls episode for a closer look at these phenomenal falls.
To get to the summit of this epic tepui you will trek and scramble to the top following a route which was charted in 1937 when a rescue attempt to the summit was launched to rescue American aviator Jimmy Angel when he crash-landed on the summit.
Abseil off Auyán-tepui down the 979 metres of Angel Falls.
Retrace Jimmie Angel’s escape mission route to the summit.
Experience the region made famous in Conan Doyle’s The Lost World.
Explore the Canaima National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Discover endemic flora and fauna on the ancient tepuis.
Overnight camp halfway down the length of the falls!
Complete your return journey by dugout canoe.
You need to organise your own international flights. We have a unique partnership with Student Universe (a specialist division of the Flight Centre Travel Group and no, you don’t have to be a student to use them). The dedicated Secret Compass team understand us, our destinations and use global buying power to save you money and offer security along with a 24hour assistance helpline. Fill in a free, no-obligation Flight Quote Request form or call (UK) 0844 560 9799 for assistance in booking international flights.
It is advised that you book a flexible flight ticket that can be changed for fee or refunded if the expedition dates are changed or if it is cancelled for any reason. We’d also recommend accommodating for additional transit times within your flight itinerary to allow for any unforeseen delays during travel. See our online Terms and Conditions.
You need to arrive in Caracas International Airport by 1700 on 20 January 2020 and the expedition officially ends on arrival back in Caracas after the domestic flight on 1 February 2020.
Insurance that provides cover for emergency repatriation in case of a medical emergency is compulsory for all expeditions. You should be aware that many standard insurance policies may not cover you adequately for all aspects of a remote expedition and so we strongly recommend that you purchase a suitably designed insurance policy. Secret Compass cannot comment on the suitability of your cover so if you are in any doubt please contact your policy provider and ask them to confirm that you are covered to our minimum standard (below).
Emergency medical repatriation (to home country) including any associated expenses abroad: at least $500,000.
Activities: ensure that any activities carried out on the expedition are included, these could be trekking, horse riding, rafting, MTB etc.
Geographical region: check the region you are going to is insured (often the US, Canada, Afghanistan etc aren’t).
Foreign Ministry advice: check your insurance is not sensitive to any travel warnings issued by your respective foreign ministry. In the UK, many insurers will not insure you when the Foreign Office warns against travel to this area. Foreign Office advice will not necessarily mean we cancel an expedition or do not travel to a particular area. Please check @FCOtravel and Travel Aware website.
Dates: make sure the period of cover begins at the departure and ends at the return to your home country. Many flights take a day or two and time zones vary. Insurance companies may prejudice your claims due to this.
Pre-existing medical conditions: disclose any to your insurance company and to Secret Compass.
Prior to travel Secret Compass will require the name of your insurance policy provider, their 24hour emergency contact number and your policy number. For full information on travel insurance and links to suggested companies, please visit our Expedition Travel Insurance.
Visas are your responsibility. Most countries such as UK and EU citizens can obtain a 90 day travel card on entry. However, US citizens must obtain a visa before arrival or they will not be permitted to board the plane. This visa can take a few weeks to be granted so it is recommended for US citizens to contact their local embassy to start the visa process before the holiday season.
You should have a passport valid for the duration of the expedition and your travel dates. Venezuela recommends six months remaining before expiry. Please send a clear, colour copy of your passport to Secret Compass ahead of the expedition and carry photocopies with you on the expedition in a safe place.
Day 1: Jan 18 – Caracas
Arrive in Caracas airport by 1700 to meet your leader and transfer to the nearby team hotel for a welcome meal and expedition briefing. The expedition will officially begin at the airport.
Day 2: Jan 19 – Ciudad Bolivar
The morning will be spent relaxing in the hotel and prepping for the upcoming expedition, going through last minute kit arrangements and abseil advice with the SC leader and local team. Head back to the airport for a domestic fligtht to Puerto Ordaz in the afternoon. Overnight stay at the Puerto Ordaz hotel. A small bag with excess kit can be left here at your own risk.
Day 3: Jan 21 – Uruyen Camp
Depart after breakfast from Puerto Ordaz to Uruyen camp situated in the south-east skirts of the Auyán-tepui – aboard a Cessna 206 plane (1h30). During the flight you will get your first view of the falls and upcoming abseil. After a light lunch you will visit the amazing Yurwun Canyon before spending the night in Uruyen in indigenous churatas accommodation.
Day 4: Jan 22 – Camp Guayaraca
Once you’ve joined up with the porters, the ascent will begin to Guayaraca, the first stop on Auyán-tepui. The first leg will give you an incredible view of the Kamarata valley, crossing through flat grassland, rivers and steep open hillsides. The first 5km is along flat upon grassland which can feel very hot in the midday sun. Once across the river the ground starts to steepen with awkward steps that lead underneath a cliff, opening up to fantastic views from the ridge line. The last hour will cut through flat grass and scrub land to your first forest camp of the trek.
Day 5: Jan 23 – El Peñón
After breakfast the trail will continue over a smaller savanna on top of the first terrace. The vegetation will begin to change from a knee-high grass into a denser and exuberant cloud forest, eventually reaching camp by a great sandstone boulder known as El Peñón which will provide shelter for your camp tonight.
Day 6: Jan 24 – Piedra del Oso Camp
Leave El Peñón, walking among tepui blocks and vegetation, you will reach the “alley of the pigeons” at the base of the walls of the Auyán-tepui. The path will steepen yet again, with sections of fixed ropes to aid you on your scrambling ascent between great sandstone towers to reach Libertador, the summit of the tepui. After a brief rest, continue inland across the tepui until finally getting to Piedra del Oso Camp where you’ll stay overnight.
Day 7: Jan 25 – Dragon Camp
Departure from Piedra del Oso Camp to Dragon Camp in the morning. A slightly easier day today, the route descends on easy ground into the forest where there are rocks, roots, trees and rivers to scramble over. Lunch will be spent in a great spot by a river, perfect for a wash and a swim. Spend the afternoon resting and enjoying the Churun river with only a short walk from here to your camp for the night.
Day 8: Jan 26 – Neblina Camp
The path out from El Dragon ascends steeply onto the top of the ridge before continuing its way over the plateau and through the never ending Jurassic world of beautiful coloured rivers and strange vegetation. On the look out for cairns to aid in the navigation through the swampy land, it is inevitable that everyone will get wet (expect muddy boots and legs). Eventually reaching a river (perfect for washing off that mud) the swamp finally breaks and the path continues over ridges in the forest, eventually opening up into the rocky flat clearing that is Neblina camp.
Day 9: Jan 27 – Kerepakupai river
This is the last day of trekking on the summit, a long day in terms of distance and height gain and by far the longest and hardest day of the trek. With forests and ridges, involved scrambl-y footpaths and more wet swamp crossings, you will eventually reach the Kerepakupai river, the Top camp and you base for pre-abseil prep. This river cascades over the side of the mountain to become the waterfall known as Angel Falls.
Day 10: Jan 28 – Rest and training day
Spend a day resting around Angel Falls Top camp prepping for the abseil, training and visiting the top of the falls.
Day 11: Jan 29 – ‘The Wall’
First abseil day. After a very early start to the day, you’ll start your descent next to Angel Falls, over the Churun river valley. The whole day will be spent on the multi-pitch abseil. Teammates will be accompanied by professional Secret Compass and in-country guides. By sunset, camp will be set up on a sheltered overhang known as the “Cave Vivac”. (Do read the Preparation and Fitness tabs of this expedition to ensure you are aware of the abseil experience pre-requisites before booking onto this team.)
Day 12: Jan 30 – Churun river
Day two of the abseil. Complete the final descent of the Angel Falls waterfall. The final leg of the journey will be through thick vegetation and jungle, until you reach the base of Auyán-tepui. Trek through the jungle for a couple of hours (carrying all of your kit and the team abseil kit!!!) descending to the banks of Churun river and your camp of Isla Raton. After celebrating the successful descent, settle in for a night in hammocks in a lodge near the riverbank.
Day 13: Jan 31 – Canaima
Descend from Isla Raton on the Churum river on board a cuiara (motorized dugout canoe) until reaching the Carrao river and the indigenous and tourist community of Canaima. After lunch, you will navigate the Canaima lagoon and make the 20 minutes hike to the incredible “El Sapo” water fall. Tonight will be spent in basic lodge accommodation.
Day 14: Feb 1 – Caracas
After breakfast you will take the flight to Ciudad Bolivar (1 hr.) and then a private vehicle to the hotel in Puerto Ordaz. Celebratory team meal in the evening.
Day 15: Feb 2 – Onward Travel
There will be an early flight back (timing TBC) back to Caracas. The expedition officially finishes upon returning to Caracas airport, however if you have a late evening flight on this day and would like a hotel room for the day please let us know and this can be arranged. As the domestic return flight itinerary is not yet released, we recommend booking international flights departing in the PM to allow for any morning delays.
About Secret Compass itineraries
Please remember that this itinerary acts as a framework plan. It provides guidance as to our intentions but may not be followed religiously. This is an adventure and by definition the outcome is uncertain. The leadership team will adapt, flex and change the plan depending on numerous frictions that you will encounter along the way.
All our expeditions are achievable by people with an active and healthy lifestyle. However, this is an arduous expedition that will test you and at times you will be sore, tired, hungry and possibly wet! You must be prepared physically and mentally for the expedition and for living in basic conditions for the duration. Please ensure that you train for the expedition and arrive fit and ready to go. You must be prepared and fit enough for the following.
Expedition Grading: 360°.
Daily activity: trek up to eight hours a day on tricky terrain. Abseil for at least two long days on over 750m of abseiling.
Carry: up to 25 kg (all personal kit and a share of the team kit must be carried after the abseil).
Terrain: very varied. Deep jungles, marshy swamps and very steep paths. You’ll ascend with the aid of fixed ropes and using scrambling techniques.
Abseiling: off sheer vertical cliffs, and at times over overhangs with no wall at all on over 750m of abseiling on 12-13 rope lengths. See below for more on the abseil prerequisites for this team.
Climate: Temps around 26°C – 32°C with high humidity. Cooler at nights and at the summit with temperatures to as low as 10°C. This part of Venezuela can be very wet. They say during the “dry” season it rains every day. In the “wet” season it rains all day. That said in 2018 we experienced almost no rain at all and had blue and sunny skies.
This is one of the longest and most involved abseils in the world. Previous experience of abseiling is necessary for this expedition. You must be completely confident of tying and clipping into anchors and using your abseiling (rappelling) equipment.
If you have no prior experience this is not a problem as you may still have time to learn these techniques prior to the trip. Find a local climbing instructor that can run bespoke training sessions to teach you these required skills.
On arrival, you’ll need to be able to do the following.
Put on a climbing harness.
Tie yourself into the system.
Clip yourself into a hanging anchor system and make yourself safe.
Rig your belay device (ATC or similar, NOT Fig 8), for abseiling.
Tie and use a French prussic knot.
Abseil an overhanging pitch with no contact with the rock or wall.
Abseil with a 15kg bag attached via a daisy chain to your abseil device.
Vaccinations. Please seek advice from your health professional on recommended vaccinations. The NHS websites FitforTravel and TravelHealthPro are useful. There is a risk of malaria so please bring appropriate prophylaxis/other specific recommendations if appropriate.
Dental. It is strongly recommended that you have a dental check up prior to departure. Dental problems far from help are very unpleasant.
The Venezuelan Bolivar is the currency in the country, but is in a constant state of potential collapse. There will be NO possibility to exchange and withdraw money from ATMs. It is advised that you do not use or take credit cards. Money should be taken in USD cash with a mixture of small denomination notes. This expedition is all-inclusive so you won’t need much money – only for a beer when at the hotels and some souvenirs on the way or for (discretionary but always appreciated) tips. In 2019 beers cost between 3 to 5USD (although this may change with inflation). You can expect to tip between 100 and 150 USD.
The following is Secret Compass’s recommended kit list for the 2020 expedition to Venezuela. You will have porters to carry your main luggage, and so you will be carrying a daysack with essential gear such as waterproofs and water during the trekking phase. But you will need to carry all of your own equipment when on the abseil. Due to the technical nature of this expedition and the previous experience requirements, personal climbing equipment is also the responsibility of each team member.
Secret Compass has arranged team members discounts with Cotswold Outdoor, Nordic Life, Outdoor Hire and Expedition Kit Hire, details of these will be sent through on booking.
Personal Climbing Equipment
CLIMBING HARNESS: Well-padded with gear loops.
ABSEIL OR BELAY DEVICE: ATC (NB: Must NOT be a FIG 8). One that narrows on one side so as to allow for the rope speed to be controlled better, e.g. Petzl Verso or Black Diamond ATC Guide. This must be able to fit an 11mm static rope.
1x PERSONAL ANCHOR TETHER: 1x Daisy chain sling.
3x LARGE HMS SCREWGATRE CARABINERS: Such as DMM Boa HMS. At least one autolocking carabiner is recommended for clipping into your belay plate as screw gates have a tendency to unlock from the vibrations caused by long abseils.
3x STANDARD SCREWGATE CARABINERS.
1x PRUSSIK LOOP: Made from 1.3m of 5mm cord.
CLIMBING HELMET: NOT foam lightweight ones like the Petzl Sirocco and Meteor. One that has a method of attaching a head torch, e.g. Mammut El Cap Helmet.
GLOVES FOR ABSEILING: These can not be standard gloves and must be fingerless abseiling gloves.
Baggage and Sleeping
RUCKSACK: 60-70ltr, all your personal gear needs to fit easily into this pack which will be carried by porters (NOT a duffel). Before the abseil you will also be given 1.5kg of snacks, a couple of sections of the med kit and up to 6 litres of water to carry whilst on the abseil.
DAYSACK 30-40ltrs: A well-fitting rucksack that will carry essentials such as waterproofs and water. It is essential that straps to not impede or get caught up in the abseiling equipment or harness system. This will then go inside your main bag during the abseil.
WATERPROOF RUCKSACK LINER: Sealable “canoe” or “dry” bags made by Podsac or Ortlieb. You need a large one to line your rucksack.
SLEEPING BAG: A 1 season sleeping bag suitable to temperatures down to 10C. Synthetic is recommended as kit may get wet, also invest in a waterproof stuff sack.
SLEEPING MAT: Inflatable roll mat. Bring a repair kit.
2 x LONG SLEEVE SHIRT: Quick-drying long sleeve shirt or top (not cotton).
2 x LONG TREKKING TROUSERS: Thin trekking trousers that dry quickly and are comfortable.
1 x MID LAYER: Fleece or equivalent.
1 x WATERPROOF JACKET (hooded) AND TROUSERS: Gore-tex or equivalent. Not spray-proof. These must be fully waterproof, non-insulated jacket and trousers.
1 x WALKING BOOTS: Must provide ankle support and be worn in before the expedition. Please consult your nearest outdoor store for advice on choosing the correct boot. Consider lightweight scrambling boots with a well-protected toe box. These will be getting very very wet. There is a chance that they will be wet from day 1 of the trek and not fully dry until you get to Canaima, so Goretex boots are not needed. Yes at times you will be wading through swamps.
3 x HIKING SOCKS.
SANDALS: Lightweight to wear around camp. Not flip flops.
WIDE BRIMMED SUN HAT.
BUFF: To keep warm in evening and sun off during the day.
3 x UNDERWEAR: Sport or cycling-styled shorts chafe less.
Eating and Drinking
COLLAPSIBLE WATER BOTTLES: You will be required to carry an additional 3 litres of water on the abseil. Lightweight collapsible bottles are best for this. Bringing the total of water in your bag to 6 litres during the abseil .
1 x WATER BLADDER: You need to be able to carry in your day bag a minimum of 3 litres of water. Hydrapak make great water bladders.
UTENSILS: You do NOT need to take any eating utensils, mugs or bowls. These will be provided for you.
Health and hygiene
WASHBAG, TOOTHBRUSH AND TOOTHPASTE, RAZOR, DEODORANT.
SOAP: Anti-bacterial and BIODEGRADABLE. This will also be used to wash your clothes. You will need to do this on a regular basis.
ANTIBACTERIAL HAND GEL.
SANITARY PRODUCTS: Any used sanitary products will need to be carried out so bring enough zip locks to do so in a hygienic manner.
LIP SALVE WITH UV PROTECTION.
VASELINE: Keep readily available on to prevent chafing skin and heel friction blisters.
FACTOR 30+ SUN CREAM: P20 is recommended as it does not sweat off, but annoyingly may stain your clothing.
INSECT REPELLENT: ONe that contains at least 30% DEET but no more than 50%.
Small First Aid Kit
A team medical kit with a comprehensive primary care provision will be carried. Please notify your expedition leader before using any personal medication.
A WATERPROOF BAG OR TUPPERWARE BOX: Keep kit dry and safe.
PAINKILLERS: Ibuprofen and paracetamol.
ZING OXIDE TAPE AND SMALL SCISSORS.
COMPEED BLISTER PADS: Please note that Compeed produce several similar looking blister packs for corns, etc. Please ensure you purchase the standard/original item.
DIAHORREA TABLETS: Imodium.
REHYDRATION PACKS: e.g. Nuun. Do NOT buy rehydration sachets like Diorylyte, they are more expensive and do not make up enough in quantity. You should be looking at having enough to make up 4 – 6 litres.
ANTIFUGAL FOOT POWDER AND CREAM.
PIRITON TABLETS: For allergies.
EURAX CREAM: For bites.
ANY MEDICATION YOU NORMALLY USE: Find out the generic/chemical name for your medication in case you need to source more in-country. Please also check that your medication is legal in your destination. You must make Secret Compass aware of any medical conditions before you travel and to any changes in this post-booking.
HEAD TORCH AND SPARE BATTERIES: Petzl Tikka heard torch or equivalent.
SUNGLASSES: With UV-filter lenses.
MOSQUITO HEAD NET: To cover up whilst sleeping on the wall.
GAFFA TAPE: For emergency repairs to your kit, you can take some off the roll and wrap it around something else in your kit.
SPARE BOOT LACES.
SMALL SEWING KIT.
RE-SEALABLE PLASTIC BAGS: For dirty washing, wrappings etc.
There will be a chance to leave any unwanted belongings at the hotel in Caracas. Bring a small lockable bag for this purpose. A lockable rucksack cover works well for this purpose. It will keep your bag more secure during transit and then safe when left at the hotel.
Secret Compass organises expeditions, not sightseeing tours. Our expeditions are team-centred, flexible and dynamic. Teams are managed on the ground by Secret Compass staff: industry-leading professionals and guides of the highest calibre. They put the structure in place for your team to have an incredible experience while achieving your expedition’s aims. Our people are as passionate as you are about achieving the extraordinary in the world’s wildest places. Secret Compass teams often go to places that others don’t. This makes our expeditions truly different, taking you beneath the skin and beyond the headlines of the world’s most remote reaches. Inspired by history’s great explorers and challenges, you’ll be set ambitious goals and will overcome similar hardships to those experienced on the audacious journeys of the past.
Remember this is not an organised tour. It is an adventure. More often than not expeditions don’t run smoothly! The nature of the areas we operate in mean that we will encounter a number of challenges that we expect everyone to meet and relish. Friction and hurdles are all part and parcel of an arduous expedition and also to our success as a team. These make the journey more interesting and are often the best and most amusing parts when looking back. Each expedition is thoroughly reviewed on its return and team members will have the opportunity to provide feedback which helps to inform planning for future expeditions.
Local partners and bureaucracy
Our teammates can only achieve the extraordinary with the help of people in the communities we travel through. NGO and aid workers, guides, fixers and interpreters all work extremely hard and are generous in their hospitality to us and our teams: visitors in their land. They are crucial to our success. Please remember and respect that their perspectives and concepts of time, environmental responsibility and customer service might differ to yours. Occasionally there is no established protocol for outside visitors which means we encounter local power struggles or disagreements. Our leaders have years of experience in delicate negotiations like these and conversational chess – especially through an interpreter – and these interchanges are often memorable parts of any expedition.
Infrastructure and natural events
The areas we travel to often especially remote. Transport infrastructure can be ageing, inadequate or non-existent. Flooded roads, collapsed bridges, fallen trees and vehicle break-downs are all par for the course. Our teams thrive on overcoming challenges like these – be prepared to get stuck in and push occasionally! Natural phenomena like desert sand storms, early monsoons, landslides across key routes, winter coming early, gale force winds and driving snow can all make for a more interesting time on the expedition.
In some areas our teams explore, we rely on local food sources. This can often be outstanding (but can also be very average) and we always make the best out of the resources available. In other cases, we will supply filling and high-calorie dehydrated expedition foods (ration packs)
Part of a team
Secret Compass fosters a team mentality across all its expeditions and projects. Like all teams you will have a leader who will give direction to your progress. Crucial to your team’s success – especially when the going gets tough – is the attitude of the teammates working together to achieve the aim. You really are part of a team, not a cosseted guest on a tour. We ask teammates to muck in and help out any aspect of the expedition, from fetching water and helping to prepare and cook food, to carrying some group kit and equipment if required. The working language of all teams is English.
There really is no typical expedition member, though everyone needs to be fit, healthy and ready to take on the expedition’s aim by the time of departure. Participants range from 21 to 65+ in age and come from all over the world. Backgrounds include contract workers and engineers, IT specialists and students, teachers and literature lovers, journalists and keen photographers and so many more. What bonds our pioneering teams is their shared spirit of adventure and their sense of humour and positive outlook. A good teammate looks on the bright side when the 4×4 breaks down, the rain comes early and when a meal is distinctly pedestrian. Our teammates help each other, look out for each, encourage each other and help each other when needed. Our teams have done us proud in working together to achieve their common goal: the aim of the expedition. If this sounds like you, you’ve come to the right expedition company.
You need a robust, spirited and can-do attitude to cope with demanding days and rough camping in rugged and wild places. You’ll cover good daily distances (generally carrying your own kit and equipment), eating expedition foods or relying on local food sources. These elements combine to create the unique character of each expedition. On expedition, challenges, frictions and changes to plans are inevitable. Teammates should meet and relish these as an integral part of any arduous expedition and its ultimate success. Such things make the journey more interesting and are often most memorable parts when looking back.
Secret Compass is an expedition company not a tour company. Expeditions contain inherent risk. This is part of the appeal for teammates. We do not make expeditions safe as, by definition, that is impossible. We construct and implement a three-staged risk management approach to reduce risk to what we perceive as a tolerable level.
We conduct a thorough risk assessment of potential hazards and threats that may be encountered on the expedition and provide recommendations to reduce the likelihood of harm occurring/ severity if it does occur.
As part of our expedition plan, we detail actions to be taken to implement and resource the recommendations of the risk assessment. This includes a detailed medical and communications plan.
The expedition leader is responsible for dynamic risk management on the expedition itself.
Key risks encountered on this specific expedition include accidents or medical emergencies whilst in a remote environment and political instability in the country. If you would like to see the full Risk Assessment for this expedition, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Incident management and medical
As part of the safety plan, Secret Compass has a full incident and emergency plan for medical and other emergencies. This will be discussed in full at the arrival brief, so everyone is aware what action will be taken. In summary, incidences are usually managed on the ground by the expedition leader in the first instance with remote support from Secret Compass’s 24 hour Operations Room before evacuation to the nearest appropriate medical centre.
It is your responsibility to understand the risks associated with adventure travel in remote areas. You also must understand that medical evacuation will take an extended period of time (potentially up to 3 days) and will require wilderness extraction techniques and long carries by stretcher. In-country search and rescue and emergency services are very basic or non-existent and the expedition will rely on internal resources for medical evacuation. By joining this expedition, you accept the risks associated with the venture. If you require any more information on specific risk management for this expedition, or would like to speak to us about our medical planning prior to the trip, please get in touch.
Read team Testimonials or watch this short video featuring expedition teammates (filmed on location in Ethiopia) for an insight into life on expedition.
Venezuela is going through a financial crisis and hyperinflation is causing its economy to collapse. Food shortages and crime rates are increasing and the capital, Caracas. For this reason, the team will not be travelling into the city proper at any time during this expedition and will be staying in a hotel near the international airport. Secret Compass will monitor the security situation and update the team as nearer to the time of the trip. The expedition will be travelling to the Guiana Highlands, which will be a world away from the troubles facing the urban cities of the country.
The highlands form a large part of the country and include Canaima National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the sixth largest national park in the world. It is approximately the same size as Belgium. It is home to a number of indigenous tribes, including the Pemon Indians who have an intimate relationship with the tepuis, which are home to their ‘Mawari’ spirits. A lot of the local support staff will be Pemon, and you’ll get a chance to learn more about their beliefs and traditions. Some of the Pemon porters are very young which has previously been very hard for team members to accept. Although we always request that the porters are of a UK working age, this often does not happen and porters as young as 12 are common. The younger porters are very fit, strong and helpful and in the eyes of the Pemon they are considered men. Having spoken to the young porters throughout the 2018 expedition, they are happy to be there as they are using it as a way to get experience of being a tour guide.
This is a varied expedition with diverse terrain in a short space of time. You will walk through deep jungles, marshy swamps, grass covered plateau and up very steep paths, ascending using the aid of fixed ropes and using scrambling techniques.
This highlight of the expedition will be the abseiling, which will be off sheer vertical cliffs, and at times over overhangs with no wall to rest against, all while descending the world’s highest waterfall.
Temps around 26°C – 32°C with high humidity. Cooler at nights and at the summit with temperatures to as low as 10°C. This part of Venezuela can be very wet. They say during the “dry” season it rains every day. In the “wet” season it rains all day. That said in 2018 we experienced almost no rain at all and had blue and sunny skies.
Team members are responsible for their own international flights to Caracas but will be met at the airport by the Secret compass leader. Once the expedition has begun in Caracas and until it ends there after the expedition, all forms of transport will be covered. There will be several flights, including a small propeller private plane to reach the base of Auyantepui. Motorised dugout boats will also be used for transport whilst the rest of the expedition will be on foot.
A variety of hotels and lodges will be used at the start and end of the expedition, based on sharing twin rooms. You leave a bag at the start in Caracas at your own risk. Throughout the expedition you’ll camp in individual technical tents, and in jungle hammocks for one night on completion of the abseil.
You’ll eat in the hotels and lodges, where there will be a variety of delicious local meals. Whilst on the mountain, fresh food and hot meals will be prepared by the expedition’s local team. Though sufficient calories in terms of meals and snacks will be provided by Secret Compass, teammates are advised to bring a few favourite snacks or treats to keep spirits high.
Secret Compass staff will be carrying at least two methods of communication, usually a Satellite Phone and a DeLorme two-way communication device. These will be used for regular updates to head office and for emergencies.
Unfortunately, routine communication between team members and family/friends is not possible – please reassure them that no news is good news! If there is an emergency and someone needs to contact a team member, they can contact Secret Compass’s Operations Room on +44207 096 8428 who will endeavour to pass a message on within 24hours.
Cell Phone. Your mobile roaming will work in Caracas and perhaps some of the bigger villages. You are unlikely to get signal whilst the trek starts until completion.
Here are some frequently asked questions that are specific to this expedition. Read our general FAQ too for questions such as ‘how do I join an expedition’ and more. Can’t find your answer? Contact SCHQ.
Why is the price not confirmed?
Currently prices for visitors to Venezuela are rocketing and beers have gone from 1-5 USD between 2018 and 2019 and in the space of a few months accommodation prices have gone up to $70 from around $30 – the result of hyperinflation. With the current political climate it is almost impossible to predict how this will change over the next few months. We recommend teammates book to secure their space, with an option to withdraw upon the confirmation of the price as detailed in our terms and conditions.
Why are we using domestic flights for transfers and what are the risks?
Internal domestic flights used to avoid driving through the currently for security reasons. Luggage on flights is susceptible to loss or theft. This year we didn’t lose anything (less 1 team member bag ripped open and toiletries gone) but had bags obviously tampered with. LOCKS should be used on all bags or have them wrapped in plastic.
Is the trek supported?
The trek is porter supported until you reach the abseil stage of the expedition. During the abseil, and the half day return trek after you have completed the abseil will be unsupported. Do not underestimate the last day’s steep ‘walk off’ and jungle section to the river camp – it is hard and team members with all personal kit, safety equipment and technical abseil rigging means expedition level with bags weight at 20kg+. This was noted by all previous teams as the most vulnerable to injury they felt on the whole expedition. Very challenging – so pack light!
How fit do I need to be?
As above – please be prepared to trek with a pack of up to 20kg+, with most days your pack weight sitting at 12-15kg. This is a very involved trek and scramble to the summit and across the tepui and even without the abseil at the end, it probably one of our more challenging treks due to weather and terrain. Teammates must train to meet the fitness requirements.
I’m a vegetarian. Can I join?
Teammates with dietary requirements are welcome to apply for this expedition and should state their specific requirements when applying. The food situation is outlined in the Practicalities tab.
I have never abseiled or climbed before, how do I know if I will be suitable for this expedition?
Due to the extreme nature of this expedition and that it involves one of the longest abseils in the world, previous experience in abseiling is absolutely 100% vital for the success and smooth running of the expedition. As long as you fulfil the fitness requirements, abseiling requirements and have an adventurous spirit and willing to work as a team, you will have no problems.
If you have no prior experience, there are many indoor climbing centres which can do bespoke courses if you want to get build your confidence in using ropes and safety equipment.
Is it safe to travel to Venezuela?
Secret Compass have run this trip for several years now and we’ve found that the Venezuelans are some of the friendliest people in South America and welcome visitors. Venezuela is currently in the midst of an economic crisis and our trips generate much-needed income directly to the Venezuelan people we work with. We take a comprehensive approach to risk management, from pre-expedition planning to our highly qualified and experienced leaders on the ground – you can read more about our approach to risk here. As with all our destinations we continually monitor the situation in-country up until and after departure, for the latest information, please contact us.
On rare occasions if the situation deteriorates in the area, and we may make the decision to alter the planned itinerary. When this occurs we have robust contingency plans in place including alternative itineraries – for information on how this may effect you, please read our terms and conditions. Please get in touch if you require further details or have any specific concerns.
Can I arrive a day late?
As the plan outlines, there is a chain of transport to get teammates to the location where the expedition will commence, so start and end dates are not flexible.
Can I charge all my electricals?
Once the team start the trekking there will be no access to mains power. Please ensure that you are self-sufficient in terms of charging your appliances by bringing things like spare batteries, lightweight solar panels or power packs to avoid frustration.
Will there be telephone signal?
There will be mobile signal in Caracas however once the expedition starts you should plan on having no signal throughout the entire trip.
How can I find out more?
Apply for this expedition team using the button on this page to receive your Expedition Handbook with fuller details. The Application page explains the joining process. Secret Compass is then on hand to answer any questions or to firm up your place on the team.