From Brazil to Denali – 5 questions for Angel on her independent, 2 woman ascent

Angel Robledo, originally from Brazil, founded Rock Iguana Ltd., a climbing, guiding and adventure company in Cayman Brac in the Caribbean. With towering limestone cliffs straight out of the sea, you can climb in the morning, dive in the afternoon and sip cocktails on the beach at sunset.

 

Perhaps a bit surprisingly, I also discovered Angel had organized an independent climb with just herself and a friend on Denali. It did prompt a few questions…

 

 

angel robledo, west buttress denali
The yogic approach to Denali.

 

Why did you decide to do Denali – it’s a long way from home.

 

I went to Denali National Park for the first time in 2011 on a hiking trip while traveling around Alaska. Some locals told me if you really want to see the mountain you will have to spend some time in the Park as the mountain is always under the clouds.
On my first day I took the bus to the end of the road for a music festival and had the most incredible view of Denali and a double rainbow came up. I almost cried.
It was magical – I think the mountain talked to me on that day.
Why did you climb as an independent two woman team – by chance or by choice?
I had been climbing with Prerna in the Himalayas in 2013, she is strong and ambitious. The Himalayas are her home. We had planned the expedition with another 2 friends, but they couldn’t make it.
We were happy go with just 2 of us and we got way more attention at camp 14.2 Camp. Our 2-man tent was always busy with an average of 5 people, having the best coffee and the best chai in town (camp 14.2 is like a town), everyone just waiting there for good weather.
(For the first hand account here is the 8 minute video of the full Denali climb, it is all here – lite, fun and great summit ridge footage right at the end).
What was surprising about Denali, what didn’t you expect?
It was more like a survival experience than a climb itself. We were very ambitious, and wanted to climb the West Buttress to acclimatize and then the West Rib afterwards, so we had supplies for a month.
2014 was one of the worst seasons in a long time. We met some very experienced climbers, climbers with many ambitious plans, way better climbers than us, and all of those amazing climbers ended up only doing the West Buttress as well.  I did underestimate the West Buttress, it’s tough and it’s a really cool line. The summit ridge is like being in heaven.
We were so lucky with the weather on summit day, well… we had one summit attempt before the summit day, we turned around but some people pushed and got back after 24-hours with frostbite. Helicopter rescues at Camp 14.2 happened all the time, and I saw one rescue from High Camp. Denali is tough.
angel robledo, rock iguana, denali west buttress
Angel Robledo atop Denali.
Would you like to go back?
I’d love to go back and do the Cassin Ridge.
Any plans for the 7 Summits?
As like so many other non-real climbers, I had a dream to be the first Brazilian to climb the 7 summits.
A year before going to Alaska in 2011 I spent about 6 month in the Himalayas – Tibet, India and Nepal, trekking on the big mountains, often climbing solo. Then I climbed my first peak in Ladak,  Stok Krangi.  People in Ladakh were saying “this is a trekking peak”, oh well, I could say I was trekker expert by then.
So I got my gear and went there alone as well. I ended up teaming up with some others and summitted my first “trekking peak”. I didn’t have a very good idea what I was doing with my ice axe and crampons to be honest.  But I thought everything was pretty cool – it was the first time I saw a crevasse and traveled at night in my crampons.
After my Himalayan experience I thought maybe I should learn to ice climb properly, so after my trip to Alaska in 2011 I went to the Andes and did courses in ice climbing and rock climbing. Then I got totally hooked in it all, steep rock and ice – a  playground!
In 2012 I went back to the Himalayas for more courses and more climbing, this time with a much better idea of what I was doing.
In 2013 I had my best year in the Himalayas and climbed some really cool 6000 metre peaks, even doing a first ascent. Then I realized I didn’t want to climb the 7 summits anymore and that the whole idea for climbing the 7 summits was an excuse to climb Denali. I always wanted to climb that mountain.  And I would love to climb in Antarctica one day.
Cayman Brac, Rock Iguana, Angel Robledo
Angel on the cliffs in the Caribbean, Cayman Brac.
angel robledo, chris bonnington, american alpine club
Angel and Chris Bonnington at breakfast, American Alpine Club Annual meeting, New York City. Photo: R. Anderson

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