Angel Falls on
Devil Mountain is 19 times higher than Niagara, was undiscovered until 1937 and
is still inaccessible except by one perilous route—40 miles and two or three
days from the diamond and resort town of Canaima. "We thought the climb
itself would require 18 days, but that was before we took 27 on El Cap,"
Harding said. The face of Angel Falls is sandstone, but is extremely hard so
that when the rock breaks, it fractures like glass, with brittle, sharp edges.
"People have said walking on the fallen rock at the base is like walking on
broken porcelain," said Harding. "It might shatter or be too hard to
drill in. Fortunately, it looks like there are enough cracks for
thought had been to climb a route dramatically near the falls, but that plan
was based on a photograph taken during dry season. "We discovered later
that the falls go from nothing to full torrent in an afternoon," Harding
Part of the lure
of Angel Falls is a question of its source. Some authorities say it comes from
a branch of the Caron� River, but Caldwell has heard its source is a huge
spring atop Devil Mountain. Revised plans are to scout the falls in person at
high water. Raindrops falling on your head are one thing; the world's highest
waterfall beating on it is another.
reconnaissance won't come until months after the Jirishanca venture, the Middle
Andes subsidiary of the Lower Sierra EDF Society will have ample opportunity to
indulge what Caldwell calls "a real penchant for falling into a party
A fine example of
the society's uninhibited approach came one morning not long ago when the group
impulsively decided to bake muffins at 4 a.m. The muffins all baked, someone
began thinking how delightful they would be to throw at each other. A Great
Muffin War ensued, an occasion of such hilarity that requests have often been
made for a reprise. (In the midst of the fun, however, Caldwell demonstrated
that he has a serious side. Thinking compassionately of a friend to whom he had
not written for two years and who was missing the Muffin War, he sat down with
needle and thread and sewed a stamp on a particularly rubbery muffin. He then
addressed and mailed the pastry to him, without bothering to include any
The society also
sacrificed several large cans of Reddi-Wip to an indoor whipped-cream war.
Beryl and Warren managed to get completely covered with Reddi-Wip, topped with
a generous quantity of dust. Deciding that they needed a shower, they danced
across Yosemite Meadows toward the communal lavatory under a large sheet. They
were stopped by a security guard, who wanted to know what they were doing.
Their explanation didn't help.
finds it difficult to take his impending climbs more seriously than his last
one. A friend was recalling recently how Caldwell had timed his last arrival at
Jirishanca to coincide with the disastrous Peruvian earthquake. The only thing
that prevented this potentially cataclysmic confrontation was an injury that
kept him from traveling.
time," Caldwell remarked, "we must be sure not to miss the annual
Someone threw a
meatball at him.