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In the summer of 2018, an American climbing team completed a free ascent of the Pico Cão Grande tower in São Tomé & Principe. The trip was documented through photos, video, and 360 degree footage filmed with GoPro Fusion cameras. To the best of our knowledge, there is very limited 360 degree footage of climbing expeditions, particularly of remote and unique ascents.
The Climbing Objective
The climbing objective was to make the first free ascent of Nubivagant (“Wandering in the Clouds”), a 15-pitch, 455m route graded 5.13d/A0 up Pico Cão Grande. Pico Cão Grande is a volcanic tower on the island nation of São Tomé & Principe. At the time of planning and organizing the trip, a free ascent of Nubivagant would have marked the first free ascent of the tower, Pico Cão Grande. However, just weeks before arriving on the island, a first free ascent of the route and the tower was established by Spanish climbers and brothers Iker and Eneko Pou.
Shortly after the Spanish ascents of Pico Cão Grande, the U.S. team of Sam Daulton, Remy Franklin, Tyler Rohr, and Mike Swartz arrived on São Tomé, also hoping to free Nubivagant. Daulton and Franklin each freed every pitch, including a one-day onsight push from pitch five to the summit. All team members reached the summit, achieving the first American ascent of the formation.
Significance, History, and Context of the Route
The route was established and bolted in June 2016 by Gareth Leah and Tiny Almada. Leah and Almada did not complete a free ascent; they summited the tower, Pico Cão Grande, but they fell on each of the three 5.13 crux pitches. The technical difficulty, length of the route, remote location, tropical climate, and jungle setting make this climb an unparalleled challenge. Prior to Leah and Almada summiting the tower in June 2016, there were two known ascents of the tower. The first was primarily aid-climbing using ladders and hooks in 1975. The second was in February 1991 when Naotoshi Agata, Kenichi Moriyama, and Yosuke Takahashi established an 18-pitch, 400m, 5.10a/A2 route up the southeast buttress.
Sam Daulton, Remy Franklin, Michael Swartz, Tyler Rohr
Filmed and Directed by: Jacob Kupferman
Produced by: Jack Daulton & Roz Ho
With Special Thanks:
The American Alpine Club
The North Face