The Spaniards Eneko and Iker Pou sent the 450-meter Leve Leve (5.14a) on the tiny island of São Tomé and Príncipe at the end of July. The island lies off the west coast of Gabon, in Africa, along the equator. The brothers teamed with Manu Ponce and Jordi Canyi to complete the climb, which goes up the volcanic, needle-like spire of Pico Cão Grande (Big Dog), first climbed in 1975.
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The brothers climbed the route as part of their Four Elements project in collaboration with The North Face, which involves four climbs around the world representing different elements: water, air, fire and earth. To represent air, the duo climbed AUPA 40! (M7) in 2017 up the east face of Aguja Guillaumet in Patagonia. To represent water, they made the first ascent of Yakumama (5.12a) which rises to the left of the Gocta Falls in Peru. Leve Leve, with it’s volcanic origin, represents fire. The team battled through incessant rain, fog, wet rock and an encounter with a deadly black cobra. They made the ascent during one of the only two days of decent weather they experienced during their trip.
The brothers also made the first free ascent of the 15-pitch Nubivagant (5.13d), also on the Cão Grande spire. Sergio Almada Berreta and Gareth “Gaz” Leah made the FA in 2016 using a couple moves of A0, but this was its first free ascent.
The American climbers Sam Daulton and Remy Franklin snuck in for a quick second free ascent of Nubivagant after the Pous. Also on the team were climbers Jacob Kupferman, Tyler Rohr and Michael Swartz. “The original goal was to make the FFA,” Daulton told Rock and Ice. “The expedition was first scheduled for July 2017, but was postponed a year after I shattered my ankle and broke my foot when I fell off the notorious highball Saigon Direct (V9) in Bishop, CA, in March 2017. Four weeks before we embarked for São Tomé, we received word that the Pou brothers were headed there right before us. Given their skill, we knew it was likely they would make the FFA.” Daulton described the climbing as technical and blocky, with bouldery cruxes.
The Pous wrote on Facebook, “Two summits, two free climbs, one new route… not always the expeditions work like that!” -Owen Clarke
Trailer for film about Sam Daulton and Remy Franklin’s second free ascent of Nubivagant