BRAZIL ON THE ROCKS 2018

After some very interesting months in Argentina, where the pace picked up right at our last leg, we now had another few months to enjoy sunshine and warmth in Brazil.

Sean had a return ticket for early June, and right after entering Brazil I bought myself a ticket to Scotland for late June, since we decided it be easier for me moving there. That meant we had limited time for travelling, and we had to keep a schedule (haven’t done that for holidays since I don’t know how long).

 

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SALTO VENTOSO, CAÇAPAVA AND COTIPORÃ

 

So our first stop was nearby Alex with whom we climbed in Chaltén. Alex lives on the southernmost state of Brazil, and in 2016 I spent some 10 days climbing there on excellent crags of conglomerate, basalt and sandstone. I felt it was a must to take Sean since I consider some of those crags the best in the country, and the overhung and athletic nature of the climb would be good practice for the last stop of our Brazil tour.
 

Arrentino in one of the many 7s of Salto Ventoso.

 
Unfortunately we had very rainy and humid weather while we were there, and probably the only time during the trip we actually weren’t lucky with weather. It was so hot most of the time that we felt as if we were in a sauna and no amount of chalk was enough to keep our hands dry. And because of constant rain most places were not dry for climbing. But those however were the only negatives about the period in the south. I have written an article about one of the places, Salto Ventoso, which I went to in 2016. 
 
Our first stop was a small crag Alex is developing with his friends. It was raining so we didn’t do much, but worth noting that this is Sean’s first encounter with a baby tarantula which was happily strolling around the wall.
 
 
Once in Salto Ventoso, Sean took a bit to adjust to the “bouldery” nature of it but once that was done with, he cruised 7s and his psyched started going through the roof. Me, just chilling as usual. Less ability than when I came there two years earlier but at least I was trying. A few spider carcasses here and there and Sean was getting more used to tropical fauna.
 
The other place worth noting was Marins waterfall, also known as Cotiporã. Like Salto Ventoso, it’s a U-shaped small basalt canyon with a waterfall in the middle of it. However, Cotiporã has longer routes (up to 35 m), and is less overhang and a wee more crimpy. The place is beautiful, full of tarantulas, and the routes are fantastic. I would love to have a place like this next door!
 
Crimps, corners, jugs on overhangs… I loved this spot, and wish we had more time to go and climb in the other sector. Overall I think there’s more than 50 routes on both sectors. There were quite a lot of black tarantulas, alive and dead as well, which was curious because I’ve never seen this many tarantulas together anywhere, and it happens right as aracnophobe Sean visits! He was quite freaked out every time he saw the tiniest one (or big hairy one), but I assured him that was not normal.
 

Sean trying not to break any more holds on a super delicate warm up route in Bagé.

 
Being in the south and with Alex we also ate lots of barbecue, caught up on sleep, chilled and got back to watching Netflix again. Before Easter we caught a flight to São Paulo to spend the holiday with my family and make the big introduction.

 

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PARATI AND RIO DE JANEIRO

 

After a few days of big city strolling, eating and chilling with my family, we headed towards Rio. Now, at that time Rio was in one of those phases it always has when police and armed forces were going up slums and the city was very violent, etc. My friends in Rio said everything was kinda fine and everyone else said don’t go. 
 

A pitch of gardening at the end of “Cavalo Louco+Secundo” on Sugar Loaf.

 
Our first stop towards there was the historic village of Parati on the Emerald Coast, which to me is the prettiest stretch of coast on Earth. We spent two nights and did a boat tour to wild beaches and islands, with lot of sea food and Sean drinking caipirinha tourist style at 11 am.
 
After Parati we headed to Rio, which should be a few hours ride but then… there were tires being burned in the highway. I got quite nervous because I know the south of the state has it’s slums and drug dealing gangs as well, and the two hours we were stuck there were quite tense. In the end police came and we passed through, making it to Rio very late at night.
 
On the four or so days we stayed there we climbed in the Urca region, and the highlight was climbing “Crazy Horse” route on Sugar Loaf. 
 
The climb itself was very nice as we had the wall to ourselves – there were two other rope teams on the classic Italianos – and at the summit as well it was just us and some people who came up the south trail. A very technical corner on the beginning and then some ultra delicate moves, very typical of Rio, around the middle of the route. The second half was quite known to me so we just cruised on the easy pitches.
 
 
The cable car was closed and some very nice locals pointed us to the way down, but not before asking for our plans for the next climbs. Eventually they came to tell us that this time Rio was indeed quite dangerous for climbing, since many are accessed by trails in the jungle that pass nearby communities dominated by drug gangs. The stories were quite horrible and I just figured I didn’t want to expose ourselves to anything bad.  
 
That means we didn’t climb much after that as all of our goals were in “no go” areas, but we did do the tourist thing on Corcovado and went to the beach as well, from where we could hear shooting at a nearby favela (slum). Sean was quite impressed. 
 
I used to say Urca was untouchable since it’s a military zone and there’s no favelas nearby but just two weeks after we left there was a big shooting between gangs and police there. So we headed back to São Paulo for more R&R and to pack for the last leg of the trip.
 

Life can be hard sometimes.

 

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SALVADOR AND CHAPADA DIAMANTINA

 

“Chapada” in Portuguese means a raised plateau bordered by cliffs that’s flat on top. There’s several “chapadas” in Brazil, the most famous one being Diamantina, in the Bahia state. Bahia is generally dry but the Chapada region being higher holds more humidity and an almost lush bush vegetation with tons of gorgeous waterfall and rock formations, which also favor climbing.
 
Chapada Diamantina is a must go in Brazil, and I always wanted to visit the state of Bahia and its capital Salvador, so this was the chance to do it. We flyed to Salvador and stayed in Pelourinho, a central neighborhood with a dark slavery history but that nowadays holds a refurbished group of historical buildings, churches and museums, as well as tons of cultural activities. Those days were spent doing the tourist thing and being harassed 99% of the time by the tourist hunting sellers and the likes.
 

Lots of conglomerate on the Muritiba park, near Lençóis.

 
After the second night we took a 7 hour bus to Lençóis, which is the main city within the Chapada Diamantina National Park, and probably the most lively. The whole region used to have a diamond mining economy that started a few centuries ago but died in the early 20th century, so most towns and villages have really nice historical buildings and are a delight to walk through. The whole region is a hippie hot spot so there’s an eve present “peace and love” and alternative vibe to it.
 
Lençóis has two major climbing areas, one developed a long time ago in a small canyon with tons of conglomerate called Muritiba park, and a newer one called Barro Branco. Now, From the beginning, even before getting there, we had a huge difficulty in finding information about the crags and any topos. I wrote people I knew, joined Facebook groups, wrote to people who owned pages on the internet and only really got two responses, one sending us an old topo for Muritiba and another offering to show us the new crag. Unfortunately the second one didn’t work out as our dates didn’t match but the topos did help us with climbing a bit on our first days.
 
We spent a few days exploring the climbing in the Muritiba area and putting up with harassment from guides wanting to charge us for a 15 minute walk on a well established trail… But anyways, the area isn’t huge and the routes tend to be short and athletic however the setting is amazing. Some sector are high, some are right next to waterfalls, all are engulfed by beautiful luscious vegetation, and overall everything is very quiet. Sometimes a bit sweaty, the conglomerate is quite solid and requires tons of technique. Our favorite sector ended being Corridor with its longer and more sustained routes and cleaner walls.
 
On Muritiba you can do a loop that takes you through all the sectors and from whichever point you start it takes about 20 minutes to get to the crags. The only negative here is protection: because the area has been developed quite some time ago and is very exposed to humidity, the bolts and spits are at times very old and rusty and look absolutely untrustworthy. There’s no maintenance done as well, so some routes are quite deteriorated which is a pity because some sectors are just magical, sometimes with routes hanging high next to waterfalls and a real pleasure to climb at.
 
Lençóis is nice in a sense that you can climb during the day, have a rest day in a  nearby waterfall and enjoy a very active night life in the town with cute restaurants and live music in the middle of the street while watching the local drunks parading and dancing around with foreigners (sometimes drunks themselves). 
 
 
While we were in Lençóis we were trying to get in touch with an acquaintance that lives in the very south of the park to go climbing, and while that didn’t happen we decided to rent a car (absolute must in the region since public transportation between towns is almost… none – though it’s worth noting Bahia is in the poorest region of Brazil and still very “third world” so not very easy to travel around as infra structure is surprisingly poor for such an important tourist region).
 
After picking up the car we visited The Blue Well, a swimming poll inside an almost underground cave, that gets a ray of light at specific times of day and makes it very blueish. After a cold dive there we headed for lunch at Mucugê, a very well-preserved historical town. Luckily we found a place open with a kilo buffet and stuffed ourselves for the next few hours driving.
 
We finally arrived at Ibicoara, the southernmost town of the National Park. Sitting at 1000 meters above sea level, the temps were cool and we could finally understand why our acquaintance and some others talked so much about trad climbing there: so many high cliffs with Catalunyan like extensions as I had never seen before in Brazil. Obviously the access was not easy but the potential was immense. We still hadn’t heard from our friend to we headed for a day tour of Buracão (Big Hole) Waterfall, which sits inside the lower part of a canyon and has to be accessed by swimming about 200 meters onto the lower part of it. Only 80 m of fall but definitely one of the prettiest ones I’ve ever seen – and I’ve been to many amazing waterfalls.
 
So without any contacts or infos on the region for climbing we decided to finally head to Igatu, the only place for which it was easy to find climbing info about. Igatu is a tiny hamlet on top of a mountain that used to be a thriving diamond mining town and as the mining died the town was emptied. Nowadays it is called the Brazilian Machu Picchu because of all the ruins, but to us it was a little gem because of it’s easy to access waterfalls and even easier to access amazing climbing crags.
 
Igatu held a climbing festival in 2014 and then the area which was well-known for bouldering had a few hundred sport and single pitch trad routes of excellent quality opened. Unfortunately we didn’t have the trad rack with us so we just climbed the sport routes but we had a blast. The next four days we exhausted ourselves climbing in the 2 nearby sectors plus another one near a waterfall, and aside from the mosquito clouds, the routes were always very fun and very good. Rock was quartzite which was very abrasive and hard on the fingers but we were so psyched with the place we really didn’t care. A very good topo can be downloaded here.
 

The southern part of Chapada Diamantina National Park has huge extensions of rock, several hundred meters high, with lots of potential for trad routes.


Muritiba area, climbing and waterfalls.

 
Our days were the  made of lots of climbing and home cooked dinner made by our host at the lovely Pousada das Orquídeas. Had we known Igatu was this good we would have probably spent the majority of our two weeks there and not Lençóis. Unfortunately we had to return the rental car in Lençóis so we headed back there for some more days of not-so-good climbing, since we gave up trying to get to Barro Branco as I had no replies from my desperate messages around the internet.
 
We did have lots of fun watching the drunkards at night dancing to the bands, it was for sure a highlight of Lençóis nights. On our last day we headed for Silence Waterfall, a gorgeous fall at the very end of a very high canyon and a nice little surprise to finish our trip in Chapada. We then headed back to Salvador to catch our flight to our final destination.
 
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SERRA DO CIPÓ

 

I guess by now Cipó doesn’t need much introduction. From the moment I first showed pictures of the place, Sean was sold and already making projects for the place.

The main group in Cipó from a view-point.

 

We planned for three weeks to be possibly extended and so it happened. We spent the entire month of May with the cliffs pretty much to ourselves, the lodging to ourselves, and the town to ourselves. It rained maybe two days but not enough to not climb, and the temps were cool and skies sunny. It was probably the best weather I ever caught there, and the quietest as well.

No need to get into details, but we managed to climb in all but 3 or 4 sectors and all groups, including the new Rock Master sector, and ticked over 80 routes, with very few repetitions. I was very pleased to see many new routes on several sectors, although we really didn’t get any info on them from the local climbing association, unfortunately, as the only printed guide hasn’t been updated in some years, and no information about the new routes is available online. Our favorite sectors were Papagaio and Zen Valley, followed by Perseguida.

It’s amazing how even though Cipó isn’t as big as Spanish crags, you can’t get tired of it. We both climbed almost all of the 6c’ s that exist and yet it just makes you want to come back and climb all the 7as, then all the 7a+s and so on. Cipó never disappoints!

One of the many quality 6c warm up routes in group 2.

 

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THE END!

 

Back to São Paulo for an urban break (not so much), after Sean flyed back to Scotland, I spent a couple of weeks selling used gear, getting rid of junk at my folks’ house, baby sitting and psychologically preparing to move to a country I’d never been to. And then came Scotland.

 

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Written by Cissa

Fanatic alpinist, rock climber, and wannabe surfer. Sports and travel content writer and graphic designer in the meantime. Self sponsored, based out of a haul bag.