South America

Mount Roraima

Mount Roraima

Mount Roraima is the highest of the Pakaraima chain of tepui plateaus in South America. First described by the English explorer Sir Walter Raleigh during his expedition in 1595, its 31 km2 summit area is bounded on all sides by cliffs rising 400 metres (1,300 ft). The mountain also serves as the triple border point of Venezuela (85% of its territory), Guyana (10%) and Brazil (5%).

The isolated nature of the plateau makes it home to many unique species of flora, such as pitcher plants, bellflower and Rapatea heather. Mount Roraima was the first major tepui in the world to be climbed in 1884, when Everard Thurn trekked up a forested trail. This trail is the only ‘easy’ way up, following a natural staircase like route on the Venezuelan side.

Other routes do exist, though are extremely difficult and require technical rock climbing experience. Everard Thurn later went on to become the Governor of Fiji.

It rains almost every day of the year. Almost the entire surface of the summit is bare sandstone, with only a few bushes (Bonnetia roraimœ) and algae present. Low scanty and bristling vegetation is also found in the small, sandy marshes that intersperse the rocky summit. Most of the nutrients that are present in the soil are washed away by torrents that cascade over the edge, forming some of the highest waterfalls in the world.