Serra do Cipó is probably the most well known and mythical sport climbing area of Brazil, and considered by some the best sport climbing area in South America.
Also around the city of Belo Horizonte, Serra do Cipó is one of many limestone sport climbing areas of great quality and easy access, however, it has its special appeal due to the great quality and challenge of its routes. I am not a die hard sport climber, on the contrary, but having climbed all disciplines all over the planet, I know a world class area when I see one, and Cipó is one of those places.
The pictures are all mine and don´t do justice tot he beauty of the place and the routes, so click here for a quick look at what´s around the web and start drooling.
The grades are presented in YDS/French format (i.e. 0.00x/0x).
If you have any questions, don´t hesitate to send a message on the About Me section. Enjoy!
Serra do Cipó is actually a larger area that comprises a national park full of waterfalls, hiking, trekking and mountain biking trails, as well as several rock climbing areas. The area used to be underwater and therefore the crags are shaped as canyons with several marine deposits, which make for amazing scenery as well as routes.
Climbing in the area began around the mid 90s, and as time went by, many sport climbing fanatics moved to the region which helped with the development of even more high quality routes. Nowadays the area has over 350 routes from (a few) 5.6/5a to 5.14c/8c. However, you will enjoy it more if you are climbing solidly above 5.11/6c, as the bulk of the routes here is above (and way above) that. In other words, it is not the ideal place for beginners. Routes are distributed in over 20 sectors, divided in three major groups (G1, G2 and G3). G3 is probably the most well known with sectors nearby each other, but some of the hardest routes in Brazil are in sector G2. A better area to climb if you´re not at those grades yet is Lapa do Seu Antão.
This area is inside both private land and a national park, and therefore there´s rules to follow. There´s no fee to enter the climbing area but to access some of the groups you need to go through private land, so be respectful and quiet when doing so.
Bring a 60 m rope (70 m even better for there are quite a few long/2 pitch routes) and 15-20 quick draws, lots of water, food for the day, garbage bag and strong insect repellent. DO NOT leave any trash in the crag!
This is an intermediate/advance area for world class bolted sport routes, mostly with big jugs and demanding good endurance. It has some sport trad routes (G2) but the classics are by far the Catalunyan-style hard routes of G3 and some on G2. Routes tend to be 20 m+ and some can be as long as 60 m, having more than a pitch. Rock is mostly limestone but there is marble at G1, which used to be a rock quarry.
GRADE RANGE AND CLASSICS
As said above, there´s probably less than a dozen routes bellow 6b+. The bulk is of 5.11+/7s to 5.12s/8s. Here´s some classics:
Up to 6b+
Ninhos 6b/5.10d (Sector Ninhos/G3)
Johnny Quest 5.11a/6b+ (Sector Anfiteatro/G3)
Melzinho na Chupeta 5.10a/5c+ (Sector Melzinho/G3)
Pó Pô Pó 5.10d/6b (Sector Thundercats/G3)
Diversão Garantida 5.10d/6b (Sector Thundercats/G3)
Injustiça Social 5.10c/6a+ (Sector Sala de Justiça/G3)
Esqueceram de Mim 5.11b/6c (Sector Esqueceram de Mim/G3)
Rei do Torresmo 5.11b/6c (Sector Ninhos/G3)
O Cravo e a Rosa 5.11c/6c+ (Sector Cangaceiro/G3)
Mestre Splinter 5.11a/6b+ (Sector Calada da Noite/G3)
Chorrera Musical 5.11b/6c (Sector Perseguidas/G3)
Lamúrias de um Viciado 5.11c/6c+ (Sector Lamúrias/G3)
Entre Ilhas 5.11c/6c+ (Sector Papagaio/G1)
Advanced and elite-level
Entre as pernas da Perseguida 5.12a/7a+ (Sector Vale da Perseguida/G3)
Sinos de Aldebaran 5.12c/7b+ (Sector Sala de Justiça/G3)
Ética Decomposta 5.13a/7c+ (Sector Sala de Justiça/G3)
Heróis da Resistência 5.13b/8a (Sector Sala de Justiça/G3)
Linha da Vida 5.13c/8a+ (Sector Sala de Justiça/G3)
Amor e Sexo 5.12b/7b (Sector Calada da Noite/G3)
Escamoso 5.12c/7b+ (Sector Thundercats/G3)
Maracatu Atômico 5.13c/8a+ (Sector Cangaceiro/G3)
Sombras Flutuantes 5.13a/7c+ (Sector Sombras/G3)
Premonição 5.14c/8c+ (Sector Sombras/G3)
As in most climbing areas in Brazil, winter, that is, June through September, when temperatures are lower and there´s not much rain. Especially during the summer months (December through February) it rains a lot. However, if the forecast is good and you´re willing to endure the heat, it is worth a visit, as during the high season, especially weekends, the most popular routes can have quite a bit of lines.
Another is notorious for sightings of rattlesnakes so keep your eyes open and try to walk in between sectors in closed shoes. Bring a strong mosquito repellent as well, in any season, and try to walk in the trails because the area is infested with ticks.
The climbing area is actually in the town of Santana do Riacho, about 100 km from Belo Horizonte. You can easily reach it by car from any airport, or by bus (Saritur and Serro cover the route) from the bus terminal, but then it can take up to 3 hours because the bus makes several stops along the way.
I highly recommend renting a car as things in town are a bit far apart, and that includes shopping and lodging.
WHERE TO STAY
I´ve stayed in quite a few places but my favorite by far is Marcelo Braga´s house, which works as a hostel with several options of rooms, swimming pool, climbing wall, BBQ grill, massage chair, tons of rock climbing movies, communal kitchens and a great place to meet other climbers. Marcelo is one of the pioneers of sport climbing in Rio de Janeiro (and therefore Brazil), and moved to the area quite some time ago, and can help with betas and even go climbing with you – he´s got a great vibe and makes you feel at home at all times. You can write him via Facebook for bookings. It is a short driving distance from the crag and shopping, and 20 min walking from the supermarkets or about 40 min from the crag.
There´s other options for climber´s refuges (Abrigo G3, Abrigo Cipó and Espaço Mandalla) and campings, but at the place above you get all for the same price plus the 5-star amenities. I highly recommend it.
IN THE TOWN
There´s quite a few well equipped supermarkets, drugstores and commercial centers, as well as local restaurants and bakeries, and they have decent opening hours. It´s a very touristy town on weekends, so there should be no fuss about shopping and eating out. No equipment stores though! Bring all your gear.
An excellent guidebook was published recently, with over 200 pages, color photos, and bilingual (portuguese/english). It is definitely worth the investment. It can be bought at some of the climber refuges or by online here or here.
Here´s some cool links with extra info and pictures a lot better than mine:
- Local Climber´s Association
- Naoki Arima´s page (really good pics and downloadable small PDF map of the area)
And a few videos: