Work on our climbing school, Centro de Escalada Urbana, in the favela of Rocinha continues and some of our students are becoming quite the climbers! We are still trying to get funding to build an indoor wall in the community sports complex so that we can expand the program to attend much more youth. You can see more in the short video below and follow or progress on our facebook page: www.facebook.com/Escola.CEU
How did this happen? Has it really been over a year since I posted something on this blog? I probably should just give up, but instead I will try to just quickly bring us up to speed with as few words as possible.
2013 was a great year for us, with lots full of lots of climbing (and of course very few blog updates)! We climbed with more than 250 of climbers from all over the world and had a great time doing it. We also got some time to sneak in some fun for ourselves and have managed put up half a dozen new routes in Rio (and one very short one in Florianopolis!). More great progress also came with our climbing school in Rocinha, Centro de Escalada Urbana, that ran weekly classes for pretty much the entire year, as well as completed two basic rock climbing certification courses with our more advanced students (you can see more about that on the facebook page: www.facebook.com/Escola.CEU ).
Probably the biggest news though is that we recently merged with one Rio’s oldest and most successful guiding services, Climb in Rio (www.climbinrio.com). This service was founded in 1995 by well-known local climber Marco Vidon and was originally a branch of his even older climbing school “Cabeça Verde” that he started in the late 80’s. We all became close friends years ago when Ducha, Mingo and I started guiding for Vidon as a compliment to our other activities and in mid-2013, when we ceased to offer sailing charters on the Ancorauê and focused in on our climbing tours, it just made more sense to join forces rather than run two separate guiding services.
Marco Vidon and Climb in Rio are both well known and respected in the climbing community here in Rio and around the world and we are extremely proud to have officially merged our services into one. Soon we will be remodeling our websites to reflect the new structure. (Only as you can see by my frequency to post blog updates, this might take a bit longer than it should… thanks for the patience).
2014 has arrived and is well under way though and it has already proven to be an excellent year. Mingo and Ducha held it down during the hot and busy carnaval season while I ran off to Meixco for a week of climbing in Potrero Chico. Things have calmed down for the moment but we expect another boom in June and July when the world cup madness begins. We are ready and excited for it though and look forward to getting lots more excellent climbing in before the year is out.
As I say every year, I will try do better with the blog posts this year, but I’m not going to promise anything. For now here are a few shots of climbing in Mexico:
So it’s a new year and that means its time for a new blog post!! I am tired of making excuses for myself and we all know already that none of us here at Ancorauê is any good at keeping our blog updated. That being said, one of my new years resolutions this year is to write at least ONE more blog post in 2013 than I did in 2012. Which should be pretty easy considering I only posted a total of three times last year…
2012 was great though and I am not even really sure where to start. We have come a long way over the past year and now looking back its hard to believe how much progression there has been. We have new friends, new family members, new projects and new partners. So much has evolved that I am not even going to go into the details. Instead I thought I would just quickly mention the 3 most important happenings of the last six months and put some pictures up to help tell the story.
Thank you all for the support and we look forward to a great 2013!
- LUCA IS BORN!!! – The Ancorauê family grew by one member on September 6th 2012. Cata and Ducha had their second child and have proven once again that they make beautiful babies! Congragulations guys!
- The C.E.U. project takes off!! – The project we started in Rio to teach climbing to kids from the favelas has really made great strives this year. Asa Firestone, who co-founded C.E.U. with us, also founded the company Beyond Gear which organized our first real fundraising campaign. Our old friend Stuart Green is also helping us incorporate a non-profit in the UK, which should really help to extend our support network. We also launched our website and facebook page, which are slowly working on when find the time. Check us out:
posted by: Andrew – 22/01/2013
Dedo de Deus, or Finger of God, is probably one of the most iconic mountains in all of Brazil, with Sugarloaf and Corcovado being the only other rock formations to be better known on such an international scale. Located within the limits of the Serra dos Órgãos National Park, its summit sits at an altitude of 1692 meters above sea level and its unique shape is easily identifiable from the city of Rio de Janeiro, over 90 kilometers away.
The summit was first reached in 1912, by José Teixeira Guimarães and the three Américo de Oliveira brothers, a historic moment in the history of Brazilian mountaineering. The summit was claimed to be unreachable by the elite mountaineers of European at the time, making the accomplishment of the local blacksmith and non-climber even more respectable. Their original route, known as Teixeira, is still climbed today and although it isn’t technically very difficult is still physically and psychologically demanding even by today’s standards.
Between all of us at Ancorauê we have climbed Dedo de Deus a number of times, on a variety of different routes, but it had always been our goal to successfully share this adventure with some our clients and friends. For some reason or another this never really worked out. We even got as far as bringing one guy all the way up to the base of the climb before he decided he was too tired to continue and turned back.
This all changed last week though, when we successfully reached the summit two separate times, with two different parties in a span of less then 5 days. First up was Andrew who guided our good friend Stu Green and his climbing buddy Matt Ray up the east face via the Maria Cebola route. And then just a few days later Ducha ran up Blackout, also on the east face, with Gustavo Carnevalli and Christoph Durban.
All the climbers had climbed with us previously and were in great shape, so we were sure of their abilities to get up the mountain. This is important, since as mentioned before, Dedo de Deus is a logistically and physically complicated climb. The weather is also known to turn very quickly and its lightening-rod shaped needle is not a place you want to get caught in a thunderstorm. We actually got quite lucky weather wise considering both parties were able to climb during a brief window between two large cold fronts that dumped an record breaking amount of rain on the entire state.
When we say Dedo de Deus is a complicated climb, we don’t mean to say it is difficult. People that are in good shape and have decent chimney skills should find the climb relatively easy. In reality the climbing part of the excursion is actually only the last 200 meters of the ascent. It’s really the whole package that wears you out though.
Both parties left Rio early in the morning and drove the 1.5 hours out of town to get to the base of the mountain. Along the way you sign into the National Park before parking the car at a local farmers market and starting the hike up. What I consider to be the actual crux of the day is hiking the 1km along the windy highway with giant flatbed trucks racing by you before you get to the entrance of the trail.
We then hiked about 1 hour up a steep dirt path before getting to the base of the cables, which is also a great place to stop to rest and rack up. The approach continues for about another 45 minutes or so up steep rock slabs and wet slippery roots that can be pulled through on steel cables and fixes ropes. Both of our groups decided to climb the east face of the mountain rather the Teixeira route, since it offers more technical climbing than the original line and in our opinions tends to be more interesting.
The actual climb is only 4 – 5 pitches long but is pretty exhausting, especially after the steep approach. The first pitch (or two depending on the length of your rope) mixes easy face climbing with some 4th class scrambling all the way up to an impressive cave that houses a big tree perfect for building a solid belay station. From there the climbers can either head into a thin squeeze chimney that is so tight you can’t see the light of day (hence the name Blackout), or climb out right for some technical smearing up a run out slab with awesome aerial exposure, before entering a more comfortable and perfectly spaced chimney pitch (Maria Cebola). After that both climbs link up in the same place again before reaching the famous steel ladder that offers access to the summit.
The summit of Dedo de Deus is a well-deserved treat and is a great place to relax and have a snack. From there you see the entire Baía de Guanabara, Teresopolis with the most impressive peaks of the Serra do Órgãos as well the miniature Sugarloaf and Corcovado mountains off in the distance. It good not to spend too much time at summit though since afternoon storms are common and for some, the descent down a handful of overhanging rappels can be just as emotionally taxing as the ascent.
Once you descend though and start driving back to Rio you start to get the sense of just actually how big the day was. It is common see people to fall asleep in the car and leave the driver alone to drive back by themselves… I won’t name names, but at least these guys can be sure they aren’t the only ones to have done this. That being said it is always well worth the work and both our groups came back exhilarated that they had finally made it up the famous Finger of God.
It was also a great experience for our team to see what sort of work goes into running this sort of excursion and what kind of preparation and skills other climbers need to have in order to participate. While an ascent of Dedo de Deus is not to be underestimated it is also nothing to be afraid of, and it is definitely an adventure that we hope to share with many more climbers in the future.
After all, as Ducha so eloquently points out… “It is only natural that we move in this direction, as our team has always been open to new experiences and adventures. I think we should all feel comfortable to stand up and say with confidence and pride, that we are truly excited to embark on a long and exhilarating relationship between Ancorauê and the Dedo…”
As we have said a million times before on this site the climbing in Rio fantastic. It is also quite unique when you compare it to many other places around the world. There is a great diversity of routes and styles here, but almost always climbers are going to face some sort of technical face climbing up positively inclined slabs protected by rusty Brazilian “grampos” that can be anywhere between 4 and 8 meters apart.
There aren’t a lot of big jugs on vertical rock, there aren’t a lot of splitter cracks for perfect hand and finger jams and the bolts protecting our routes are exposed to the harsh sea air that accelerates their corrosion. It is the way cariocas learn to climb and what we have become used to. We learn to trust the friction of our abrasive granite and to smear our way up the tiny holds, knowing that the single bolt that protects us was probably placed 25 years ago, but is still strong enough to hold a leader fall and perfect to rappel off if necessary. It is climbing in Rio.
Because of the peculiarities of climbing here, it is common to see visitor climbers shut down on grades they normally would race up. Like anywhere there is a learning curve to leading many of our routes and often times climbers from North America or Europe find themselves leading a number grade lower than they are used (2 or 3 numbers grades lower if they are indoor climbers).
I have come to expect this and there is a part of me that quietly enjoys seeing it happen. It’s not a malicious attitude, just an innocent payoff for all the hard work we have put into getting comfortable on this terrain. I have climbed in other places where I also felt out of place and have seen the same sense of satisfaction in the local climbers, proud to see their home climbs hold up against other peoples abilities. It’s a nice ego boast and much better than having some foreign climber run up all the hard climbs you have taken so long to master and then proceed to tell you they aren’t as hard you originally thought they were.
But then again… it is also good to be put in your place every once in a while as well. And recently we were visited by a young American climber named Matt Othmer, who managed to humble all of us here at Ancorauê.
Matt is a strong climber that has been at it for 15+ years (since he was 12 I think he said), has an impressive international climbing curriculum and was recently accepted to Yosemite’s Search and Rescue Team in Tuolumne. He was introduced to me by our mutual friend Asa Firestone and ended up crashing at my place while he spent his vacation in Rio. Right from the beginning, he seemed pretty confident in his abilities and was eager to get out on some hard routes. I have seen this attitude before and was more than happy to show him he wouldn’t be as strong as he thought when climbing here on our slabby granite. Sure he climbs a lot of granite in the western United States but that’s crack climbing, I wanted to see him run up our “micro agarras”.
Normally a solid 5.10 climb is good enough to quite even strong 5.12 climbers coming out of the US. If you don’t have great footwork here, you are in for a rude awakening. Its not just a matter of pulling harder, you just won’t make it up the climb. I took Matt out on a classic 5.10 technical climb on Sugarloaf call As de Espada… and he on sighted it faster than I could second it, and he did so with a smile on his face…. Not even the slightest complaint about how different or unsecure the climbing was.
So then I thought it might take a 5.11 climb to put him in is place. A few days later we went up Waldo, a 330 meter classic climb up the north face of Sugarloaf. This climb is incredible and one of my favorite climbs on Sugarloaf. It has a few very delicate sections of 5.11 face climbing, a good distance between bolts and not always the most solid rock. Matt not only breezed through the 5.11a section but he then proceeded to free on sight the overhanging 5.11c section that everyone I know normally aids…
Really? No complaining? No… he felt right at home and was just wanting more. Next stop… Via do Totem, a 6-7 pitch overhanging 5.11+/5.12 route on the southwest side of Sugarloaf. This route is a local test piece and many Carioca climbers have been climbing it for years without managing to send the entire route (myself included). Matt on sighted the entire route and almost took the hard 5.12d arête finish, but was convinced otherwise by myself and the hot afternoon sun.
That’s when I realized there wasn’t much I could do to stop this guy and that it was better to stay quite and try to learn as much as I could from him. With a rope gun like this I could probably get up all those hard routes on Corcovado I have been wanting to climb for so long. Soon we started making plans to repeat some serious aid routes as well, something I have very little experience with. In the end though we ran out of time, the weather turned and my shoulder starting acting up too much to do all those things.
But Captain America (as he came to call him) did stay for almost 6 weeks in Rio and climbed hard the whole time. The only days he didn’t climb were when it was raining or couldn’t find a partner (and even then sometimes he would just go solo stuff). He wouldn’t even go out at night, he would just go to sleep at 9pm and then wake up at 6 in the morning to go climbing. Who does that? Who comes to Rio and doesn’t go out at night to party and meet beautiful people? In the end I was jealous of his climbing abilities but I am not sure if I could make the same personal sacrifices… I think I just enjoy beer too much.
It was a pleasure getting to know Matt “Wolfgang” Othmer though. Despite the fact the he downgraded all of our 5.11 crack climbs here to 5.10, he is still quite an enjoyable person and he became good friends with us all by the end of his trip here. I look forward to climbing with him more on his next trip down, or possibly sooner if I can make it up to Yosemite this year. Big props to you Matt… until next time!
A list of climbs that I can remember that Matt sent (mostly on sights) while in town:
- Urubu A Vista – Pão de Açucar – BR 7+ / 5.11
- As de Espada – Pão de Açucar – BR 6+/ US 5.10+
- Waldo – Pão de Açucar – BR 7 / US 5.11
- – Via do Totem – Pão de Açucar – BR 7+ / US 5.11+
- – Limar da Loucura – Pão de Açucar – BR 8 / US 5.12
- – Chamine Stop (solo in tennis shoes) – Pão de Açucar – BR 4 / US 5.8
- – Cavalo Louco – Pão de Açucar – BR 6 / US 5.10
- – Italianos (at night w/out a headlamp) – Pão de Açucar – BR 5 / US 5.9
- – Pedrita – Campo Escala 2000 – BR 8 / US 5.12
- – Epitáfios de Ilusões – Campo Escala 2000 – BR 7+ / US 5.11+
- – Migalhas Indecentes – Campo Escala 2000 – BR 9a / US 5.12+
- – File Com Certeza – Barrinha – BR 9a / US 5.12+
- – Largatao – Pão de Açucar – BR 7 / US 5.11
- – Urbanoide – Cantagalo – BR 5+ / US 5.9+
- – Adrenalina 1000 – Cantagalo – BR 6+ / US 5.10+
- – Jacques Costeau – Pão de Açucar – BR 5 / US 5.9
- – Sol Celeste – Três Picos – BR 5+ / US 5.9+
- – Solidas Ilusoes – Três Picos – BR 5 / US 5.9
Ok, so it’s already February and this is this first blog post we are doing this year. Maybe we have fallen behind a little, but it is mostly due to how busy we have been. December and January were busy times for us and it has been hard to find the time and motivation to sit down in front of the computer and work on our site. I can’t complain though since it has meant we’ve gotten to spend a lot of time sailing and climbing with a host of great new friends.
We ended last year with a lot of heat, rain and climbing. It was tricky tying to find days that were dry enough to climb on, as Paola and Alex that were visiting from Italy found when we climbed the appropriately named Italian route on Sugarloaf. It seemed every time I led a pitch it would start to rain, and then every time they would start to follow the same pitch the rain would stop and the rock would dry just enough for them to come up to the next belay. We made it though and it was a great time for everyone. I am quite excited to have met them and plan to visit their new house in the Dolomites sometime soon. Good luck with the construction guys!
On one of the better weather days I got a chance to go up Costão with Sean from Houston and his buddy Drew. Sean and I have a bunch of friends in common and I was glad to finally meet him. He ran up the east side of Sugarloaf (probably with some help from his magic bandana) and proved he would have easily climbed a harder technical route. We made plans though that next time I am in Houston I am going to take him climbing at Enchanted Rock, and he is going to take me sky diving.
The new years came and the bad weather lasted through the first few days of January making the sailing trip Mingo and I made down to Ilha Grande with Martin and Mike an interesting ride. We got some storms on the way down but luckily the weather turned for the best and we spent the next 4 days sailing in the sun, hanging out on beautiful beaches and being schooled about how Manchester United is the best football club in history. These two guys were quite entertaining and made the trip a real pleasure… except for maybe Mike’s strange taste in music. I never quite figured out how a grown man could like Britney Spears so much! Haha!
Getting back into town I got the great pleasure of climbing and hiking with Yasmin and Jesse from NYC. Yasmin held her own on the multi-pitch climb we did up the south face of Sugarloaf, and then again two days later when we hiked up Pedra da Gávea. I hadn’t been up Gávea in years and I had forgotten how beautiful it was. The hike is strenuous and has a small section of some more technical scrambling that both of them breezed through to make it to the top of one of the most beautiful peaks in the city.
While up there we also got the extra treat of getting to watch the Canadian base jumper Rob Heron jump from the north face in his wing suit and fly all the way around to São Conrado beach on the south side. Apparently it is incredibly technical wing suit jump and you have to have forward impulse within 3 seconds or its all over. We watched him jump but then after that we couldn’t see most of the rest of his flight. We ran into him again hiking up to make the jump one more time though and he was able to fly for almost 1 minute before he had to open his chute. Really impressive stuff… a little scary, but impressive.
And finally our pilot friend Stu Green came in town and climbed with us again for the second time. He flys for British Airways and one of his routes brings him into Rio every once and a while. We had already climbed Italianos when he was here last time and this time we went up K2 on Corcovado and then had an afternoon cragging in the Tijuca Forest. On K2, Stu and I chose to take the trad variant up the second pitch, a beautiful 5.10+ (US) / 6+ (FRA) crack that has some great layback moves with good hands and slippery feet. Then the next day in the forest Stu, Mingo and Ducha worked on a few classic sport routes and Stu almost sent Pedrita a 5.12 (US) / 7a (FRA) after just a few goes. For sure next time he will check this one off. It was exciting to watch and helped in motivating me to get back to training. Hopefully Carnaval coming up next week won’t stray me too much off course….
In this busy season I did find a little free time to climb for myself though and repeated a new/old route up the east face of Corcovado with Tomas. This really cool finger crack runs parallel to K2 just a little bit higher on the mountain. Apparently it was an old route that had been deactivated until a dedicated local climber named Flavio Leoni went there recently to chop some metal stakes that had been placed to build concrete reinforcements for some lose rock underneath the Christ statue. The route is short but tons of fun and has a thin 5.10 finger crack on its first pitch and some strange friction moves on the second pitch before linking back up with K2. Its well worth a visit and we are very grateful to Leoni for having put in the work to get this climb back up and running.
So far its been great start to 2012. I have high hopes that this is going to continue to be a great year throughout. I will try to be better about posting more updates along the way, but I think I have already proven I’ve got a lot of work to do in that area…
p.s. Thanks for everyone that I stole pictures from off their facebook page!
Best wishes in 2012 from us here at Ancorauê!!!
posted by: Andrew – 04/02/2012
Often times when climbing or sailing with people that don’t live here I am asked why I decided to make a permanent move from the US to Rio. The answer is always pretty obvious; Rio is just so beautiful it is hard to want to live anywhere else. The beaches, the forest, the mountains… all right in the heart of the city. I can’t think of anywhere else that has all this natural beauty so close and accessible to a major metropolitan area.
Sometimes though, when sitting in traffic or when reading the daily news I also have my doubts. Maybe Rio is too big. Maybe it is too hectic. Maybe I would be better off living somewhere else. But then its seems something crazy always seems to happen to remind me what an unique place this is and why I like it so much. Just like what happened the other day with Ducha and I.
We meet up in the morning and went to go climb an easy route up Morro dos Cabritos, an impressive rock feature that sits on the shore of the Lagoa, right in between Copacabane, Ipanema and Botafogo. The route we were going to climb is called Última Opção and its 270 meters of easy slab climbing up the west face of the mountain is only interrupted by one 5.10 move to overcome a well protected roof that runs horizontally across the rock. The view is breathtaking, as the higher you climb the more you see of the Lagoa and the beaches of Ipanema and Leblon, not to mention the dramatic backdrop of Pedra da Gavea and Dois Irmãos. You would think that would be enough to forget the hustle and bustle of the city, and it usually is, but this day we had a special treat waiting for us as we started to climb.
Ducha was roped up and just about to start leading the first pitch when he stopped in his tracks and slowly called me over to investigate something he saw in a small hole not 2 meters away from where we were standing. My eyesight isn’t the best and in the shadow of the forest canopy I found it difficult to make it out at first, but sticking out of the hole was the head of a full grown adult boa constrictor!!
My first reaction at seeing a snake head the size of my hand was to want to get out of there as quickly as possible. But once we realized was type of snake it was and it was clear to us that it was not aggressive we decided to keep going. Ducha began climbing up the route while the snake simultaneously started slowly slithering down the rock into the forest. I had to sit there and belay Ducha while keeping one eye on the snake to see what direction is was going to take.
In the end it was all good and the run in with ths snake that was nearly 2 meters long and fat from just recently having eaten was a positive one. It was exhilarating to see that scene so close up and right in the middle of the city. The climb was relaxed and fun, which made the whole day that much better. I of course want to start a movement to rename to climb to something better suited like “Rio’s Snake Dike”, but I don’t expect many people will be as excited about the idea as I am.
Either way it was one of those days that remind you just why this city is so special and why I will probably be here for a good time to come.
posted by: Andrew – 24/10/2011
Mingo and I ticked off a few more classic routes here the other day. Two routes I have wanted to do for years. The first was Aquarius (6º VIsup, 280 meters), which is an incredible 6-pitch route up the east face of Pedra da Gavea. This route has several things going for it. You begin climbing at about 500 meters above sea level and quickly traverse over to a part of the wall that is just a shear uninterrupted drop down to the forest below, so the sense of exposure is unique. It also has several tricky pitches that mix trad with bolts including probably the most beautiful dihedral pitch in the entire city. It extends 50 meters of moderate lay-back climbing all protected with friends and nuts. The dihedral is so big you can clearly see it from the São Conrado beach 600 meters down below. This pitch alone makes the long approach and the hand full of tick bites we both suffered well worth it.
The other route when did is across the bay in Niterói. Its on the southwest face of Alto Mourão in the state park of Serra da Tiririca in Itacoatiara and is appropriately named Face Sudoeste do Alto Mourão (4º V, 550 meters). Itacoatiara is a special place and even though it takes longer to get from downtown Rio than Teresopolis it is well worth a visit. It is basically the Urca of Niterói with an incredible beach surrounded by huge domes and tropical forest. Alto Mourão is the tallest of the domes and is also known as the Head of the Elephant. It has a hand full of routes on its southwest face the most classic of which is probably Face SW. This bolted route is long and easy and mixes some face climbing with a lot of friction. Mingo and I simul-climbed it and cruised through the entire 550 meters in about 2 hours even we had never down it before. We got a little lost in the middle but now knowing the route it could easily be done in probably closer to an hour. Some people have spoken poorly of this route since it’s a little dirty and not technically difficult but we both really enjoyed the style and esthetic beauty of the wall, which is full of bromeliads and cactus. The best part is that after the climb and the charming summit, from which you can see all the way to Cabo Frio on a clear day, its just a quick hike down to get back the beach for a refreshing swim.
posted by: Andrew – 16/10/2011
So its been a while since I last made a blog update and a few things have happened since then. One interesting update is that Ducha, Mingo and I have all been officially certified by AGUIPERJ – Associação de Guias, Instrutores e Profissionais de Escalada do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (Association of Guides, Instructors and Climbing Professionals in the State of Rio de Janeiro).
AGUIPERJ is an organization that was founded in 2001 with the intent of setting a recognized standard for safety and professionalism for individuals workings with and offering their services as climbing guides and instructors. To be certified you have to present a minimum climbing curriculum that proves you have sufficient climbing experience, pass a series of written and practical tests and have also completed the required number of hours of first aid and self-rescue training. Certified guides must also participate in additional trainings and organizational meetings offered by AGUIPERJ throughout the year.
We are excited to have this certification as not only as welcome addition to our credentials but also as a tool to better connect us with the climbing community that been growing so quickly here in Rio de Janeiro.
So a few weeks ago Ducha, Mingo and I decided to brush up on our safety procedures. We participated in an 8-hour first aid course offered by the fire department that covered CPR and basic first response techniques for a variety of different situations. We also took part in a self-rescue training program offered by Aguiperj, Rio’s local association for climbing guides. This was great to get to practice some of the procedures we hope we never have to use, such as getting someone off the side of a mountain in case of a serious accident. As Ducha likes to say: One of the most important things you learn in a self-rescue training is that its really so much work to perform a mountain rescue that its just better to be extra careful and not have an accident. Both the courses were helpful to clear up some doubts and keep our reaction as automatic as possible. It would be great to see more of these sorts of courses for both professionals working in high risk situations and also just for the general public.
posted by: Andrew – 27/06/2011