Tips for non-Brazilian-Climbers in Brazil

Strong Brazilian Climber Ana Lígia, climbing on some solid Sandstone at Itaqueri - SP

Strong Brazilian Climber Ana Lígia, climbing on some solid Sandstone at Itaqueri – SP

I’m going to make this post in English because I think there aren’t much sources of information anywhere on the internet about climbing in Brazil. I Found some texts about some crags, inviting strong climbers to come and try our projects, but nothing more detailed. So, shall we begin?

– First of all, Gringo, you should know that you are very welcome here. Anywhere in this country you go, you can make a lot of friends and do the “Dirtbag” purest style sleeping on couches or even real beds without spending a dime and even trying the Brazilian typical food of someone’s mother (the one you’d never have the opportunity to try in a restaurant). We (climbers) like to be good hosts and it is also good for us to practice our english. Because of that, don’t you even think about hiring a guide (unless you are going to Rio). If you insist, drop me a line 😉

– Brazilians DON’T Speak Spanish. Unless those who spent a season climbing in Rodellar or in Chaltén. We speak Portuguese, but we can’t understand what people from portugal say because they speak too fast. It is not difficult to find people here that don’t speak english; actually, that’s the majority. Among climbers, however, you may find higher rates of english speakers.

– Learn portuguese. If not fluent, at least key words, like Bom dia, obrigado, com licença, até logo e por favor. (Good morning, thank you, excuseme, see you soon, please). Learn some more so that you can have and active talk (I, he, she, it, we, they for a start). You’ll remember my words when you meet someone interesting and find out you suddenly can speak another language you didn’t know 😉 . Besides that, learning a foreign language makes you smarter.

Beto crushing some great Limestone in Serra do Cipó, Minas Gerais. So solid, so Strong dude!

Beto crushing some great Limestone in Serra do Cipó, Minas Gerais. So solid, so Strong dude!

– Climbing gear in Brazil is very expensive. Bring your own and some spare in case you are going to stay here too long (i.e. an extra pair of climbing shoes).

– We don’t have good enough public transportation. Or trains. The only trains we have are those on touristic attractions like 1h rides just to know how it feels, it’s not to go from A to B. What we have are a lot of trucks at roads and highways, and they are fucking crazy, if you rent a car (or drive someone’s) stay away of their way. At cities we don’t have enough buses but for some touristic and rest days it will be enough. To go from town to town maybe you’ll have to take two of them. As I said, the best is to have a host. And that’s very easy to get. We think car rentals are even more expensive than climbing gear, so we never hire them, but if because of your currency you can afford one, it’s a good solution, but dirtbag to dirtbag talking, give up on that idea. In most crags you’ll stay you don’t need a car.

– We don’t have those furgo-style vans in which you can sleep in. We don’t have the “concept” of bivouac. It’s either camping or staying on a “abrigo para escaladores” (something like a shelter or refuge, hostel-like for climbers only). If you read that in a crag it is forbidden to camp, it means bivouac as well, for land owners, it’s the same.

– Every milimeter of land in Brazil has an owner. Amazonia forest is someone’s, for sure. If it’s not private, than it is a park, and then we’re screwed. Because our parks are completely abandoned. For governants, the whole model of a park is “Foz do Iguaçu” National Park, in which you go in escalators and ascenders up and down and you don’t even touch the ground (which is with concrete most of your way inside the park). The easy solution for all the other parks that aren’t a profitable source of money is the same: Closure. There are some parks that have the intense participation of climbers in it’s management, and in those cases, climbing is permitted. But in most of them, climbing is forbidden just because the park manager thinks climbers are crazy fat drug addicted people who throw ropes down and go abseileing some vertical wall, putting *His* ass in danger. That is because if you break a leg walking on a trail on a national park or someone’s land, you can sue the owner or the park, and you’ll win. But think about it: someone actually sued a Landowner or park for having gotten injured inside a natural trail. How absurd is that? Please don’t sue no landowner while you’re here.

Brazilian Tipical Churrasco

Brazilian Tipical Churrasco

– It is possible that you go back to your country fatter than when you left. We have excelent food. From the Feijoada, frango caipira, arroz com feijão to the churrascos (Barbecue). And by Barbecue I mean with real meat, not burgers. Contra filé, Alcatra, cupim and the king of the Churrascos: PICANHA. (Write that down not to forget). But don’t let yourself be fooled: A good State of the art Churrasco  strictu sensus has meat and beer (and some cachaça, why not) only; perhaps some “french bread”. Rice, salad and other stuff is for pussies. You’ll be amazed how we can make barbecue grills from almost anything that won’t get on fire. The food from Minas Gerais is by far the most liked from us, although each state has its own typical food and you are going to love them all. (for more amazing brazilian food you MUST try out, check this link)

The three on the left are the ones I recommend.

The three beers on the left are the ones I recommend.

– We have excellent cachaças and are not those exported ones you can find all around the world. Those 50 euros cachaças here are not worthy more than 2 dollars. You have to try the boazinha, seleta, sagatiba and the nameless Cachaças Mineiras (From Minas Gerais). I’m sure my brazilian fellows will enumerate even better ones, but I’m not such an avid cachaça drinker, so, well, those are the famous (but they will agree with the mineiras ones). We also have good beer. I Suggest Bohêmia, serramalte and Original. If you want a cheap and easy-to-find beer, the best is Brahma. Avoid Kaiser and Bavaria at all costs, unless you want to make a colon cleansing to be extremely light for that redpoint you are aiming the next day. Buy a gatorade along with it to drink after the effects.

– Yes, we have a lot of vegetarian climbers and vegetarian restaurants, you don’t worry about that. Perhaps on that small town with 400 habitants will be tough to find one, but at most cities you will find one.

Awesome climbing on conglomerate in Bahia!

Awesome climbing on conglomerate in Bahia!

– We have many kinds of rock types and formations. Brazil is so big, which is good, but also, because of that, the main crags are really apart form each other. There are Class A climbs in every state of Brazil but the north region. Minas gerais is the mecca for our limestone sportclimbs with the Serra do Cipó. Rio de Janeiro is the Mecca for slab multipitch climbs on granite with urban climbs all over the city with the Pão de Açucar and many other (dozens or more) of mountains in the middle of town. Paraná has our “Indian Creek” for trad climbing with São Luís do Purunã sector 3 close to curitiba and others growing bigger with clean trad lines. São Paulo has awesome solid sandstone with the morro do Cuscuzeiro (printed guide soon!) and its surrounding crags – and it’s where I live. Santa Catarina has a strong crag called corupá, which is conglomerate, and Rio Grande do Sul has the “Gruta da 3° légua” wich for many years had the hardest climbs in Brazil, with routes around the 5.14/8b+ range. Espirito Santo has loads of virgin granite peaks and a growing sport climbing comunity. In Bahia you’ll find a slower pace of life than in south and southeast. Don’t miss the chapada diamantina climbs and waterfall showers between one climb and another. The conglomerate and quartzite rule there, so the fun is guaranteed. Cities like Igatu, lençois and Itatim are the hotspots.

Anaí Climbs one of Rio de Janeiro Classics: "The passage of the eyes" at the Pedra da Gávea, Rio de Janeiro

Anaí Climbs one of Rio de Janeiro Classics: “The passage of the eyes” at the Pedra da Gávea

– In many crags you’ll find the “tupiniquim” solution for our lack of bolt hangers in the 70’s and 80’s that lasts until nowadays: The “Grampo P”. Which is something like the chemical glued in hangers, but without the chemical glued in. It’s a great solution and it’s very safe. It’s just not recommended to be used on roofs, so, you’ll not find many on them, although the ones that have been put on roofs are there after many years of abusive falling. It is a 13mm hole with a 14mm diameter steel bar hammered inside. Everyone climbs on them, falls on them, it’s not you, the redneck gringo that will be the lucky one to take them off doing a 5.8/V+ as a A0. But don’t worry, our crags are also full of petzl SS and fixe bolt hangers. In some cases, the “Grampo (or Pino) P” are only on the anchors because of its rounded section, for rapelling.  And they are only on Granite and hard limestone. For Sandstone we glue in the 12cm (5″) parabolts inside with sikka.

This is the "Grampo P" at at one crag at Rio. The one on the right has been replaced by the left one by the locals.

This is the “Grampo P” at Rio. The one on the right has been replaced by the left one by the locals.

– There are idiots and morons everywhere in the world, so if you find one, don’t worry, he’s one of a kind, not the rule. Here in Brazil I think statistically there are less idiots/stupid/morons per climber than in other countries I have been. No offense (there deep inside you’ll know what I mean! 😉 )

– Brazil is becoming a very safe place to live, but don’t do the “gringo distracted style”. As we say here: One eye on the cat, the other on the fish. Keep your things with you and don’t trust people you don’t know. Especially on big towns. The smallest the town, the better. A friend of a friend however can gain a vote of trust. Being a Climber here is synonim for trustworthy, but hey, remember the last paragraph, and don’t forget: “One eye on the cat, the other on the fish”.  Don’t act as if you’re lost (or as we’d say here, as lost a a dog that felt from the moving truck – or as a blindman in the middle of gunshooting). Don’t stop to take pictures in the midle of nowhere in the city, the metro exit, or places like that. Be smart!

– It is not true that we don’t like Argentineans. What we don’t like are those who think Buenos Aires is the capital of Brazil. It is NOT. The capital of Brazil is Brasília. The Argentineans we like the most are the ones that climb. Those are our Brothers from the other side of the frontier, always welcome as we are on their country.

– We don’t dance Samba but even the worst Brazilian samba dancer is better than you. Get over it. Most climbers don’t like soccer as well. Despite that, the worst beer-drinking-barbecue-eating soccer player is better than you. Get over it as well. We learned to kick a ball before we could walk.

– Brazilian people are traditionnaly homophobic, but among climbers that is not an issue. We are bad-belayer-phobic, because that actually affects us somehow.

– Despite all you saw about naked girls in carnaval, we don’t go to the beach naked neither girls do topless (actually that is forbidden, can you believe it?). So you won’t see anyone doing that. Not on the beach, not on a waterfall between climbs or a river close to the climbing crag on hot days. Ever. I’ve seen more boobs in one afternoon in a ordinary shore in Valence, Spain, than I have seen my whole life in Brazil. I wish that moment could last forever.

– We have deadbite snakes. Ok, that’s true. The worst ones you’ll hardly cross if you stick to the popular sport crags, like the Jararaca. but the most popular one is the “Cascavel” (rattle snake). The good thing is that they make noise before biting (therefore, rattlesnake), so you have one chance to escape. If bitten, you won’t die instantly. Just ask for help and get to a hospital ASAP. You have like 3 hours before irreversible effects.

Yes, we have rattlesnakes. Don't kill them, just walk away!

Yes, we have rattlesnakes. Don’t kill them, just walk away!

– We don’t have deadbite Spiders. There are only 3 kinds you should be aware of: The Brown Spider (Aranha Marrom – Loxosceles spp). This one is small and likes to walk around bricks and not very common to be seen or bit, unless they are inside your shoes or clothes while you put them on. But if they bite, you probably won’t even feel. Its poison however will digest (necrosis) your skin and muscles and cause kidney failure, so, the quickest you go to the hospital, the less implications you’ll get (12hours to start to leave sequels). The Armadeira spider (Phoneutria) that looks like a small tarantula, have red “quelicerae” (teeth) and she stands on her 4 behind legs and can jump into you like 1,5m depending on the species, and is very agressive. She will never jump on someone walking the trail from behind a rock. Like the rattlesnake, if it feels threatened it warns you by waving the forelegs in the air. In that case, run. Its poison is neurotoxic and extremely strong. One of the collateral effects of its bite is that you’ll get a 24hour painful boner (yeah a boner!). The other spider you should be aware of are the red tarantulas. They are slow. They don’t jump. They don’t bite. They have as much poison as a small bee. But if it happens for you to be on the 10% of population alergic to its hairs, you can die before getting to the hospital if you breath it. You’ll probably see one inside big holes (which are holds) on the top of some routes in Minas Gerais. If you touch or harm them, they will start to rub the legs on the butt dispersing hair on the air, and then is when you jump for your lives. I once crossed one, was scared to death, but it kept there, looking at me as if I were not there, while I made my way to the anchors of the route. When I was lowered down, she was still there, as if nothing happened.

The Armadeira Spider, also know as Brazilian Wandering Spider

The Armadeira Spider, also know as Brazilian Wandering Spider

– Despite being very receptive, we are very strict with our ethics, so long developed and discussed. We are a very social community, and although such a big country, it is common every climber has at least one climber friend on each state, so if you tell me about a climber, I’ll probably have heard of him, despite where he’s from. Because of that Bond we have, the ethics are almost the same on the whole country, with some minor variations from crag to crag. Here is the most important thing you must know when you come to Brazil:

You can climb any route, but you cannot change them. Do not add bolts. Do not remove them. You can leave a maillon or a binner at an anchor if it doesn’t have one (or two). Remember gear is expensive here.

Before bolting a new route, talk to the locals. We are on a exponential grouth of the sport climbing phase, and the old school climbers that don’t climb anymore want to impose rules to the local climbers that actually climb and make the climb happen in Brazil. So, figure that, even between us there are polemics and discussions about where, how many and how to bolt new routes, imagine what could happen if you bolted a route somewhere we all concensed it’s not supposed to have anymore routes! Don’t you think you’d be doing us a favor by bolting a new route or chopping the bolts of an existing one. We are grown-up enough to take care of the climbing of our country, thanks for asking. Bolt a new route because you like the line, got psyched, it came naturally, but only after you are absolutely sure why wasn’t there a route there before.

If you want to do us a favor, please bring or buy apicultor clothes and remove the bees of some crags. What helds Brazilian climbs development besides a few other things are bees on the crags and routes. I can tell you many undeveloped crags because there are bees and not brave-enough people to remove them (me included). It is ok to remove them, because when I say bees I mean the european and african ones, that compete unequally with the native ones. The european (and afrikan) bees are not welcome here, we have our own to make their job.

We don’t bolt cracks. It’s not that we never did it. But it’s been more than 15 years that we don’t do it. If you see it, don’t worry, it’s not going to be replaced in the future, just let it be and enjoy the view. I’ve climbed 30m cracks in Italy and Spain full of bolts. So, if you think there is a bolt that shouldn’t be there, please, go back to you country and do what you gotta do in your homecrag.

Do not bolt anything before climbing. We like to do things well done, so we want the routes to be perfectly bolted. Climb on top rope, ask a shorter person to do the same and see if he/she reaches all the places you intend to put the bolts. A good route is the one you can climb putting the draws or with them already in place with slightly no difference. DO NOT Retro-Bolt (bolting on rappeling before climbing the route). That’s not a matter of style, that’s local ethics.

As you’d do anywhere (your home crag for example), if you see something potentially dangerous, just ask the locals to know if they are aware of that. If they answer that it has been like that since ever, well, you know, those hemp-roped-tied-in-the-hips old school guys in the mid 50’s really had the guts you actually don’t. I don’t either.

It’s not because you can solo 5.10d/6b+ chimneys that a 5.10d/6b+ climber have to do it. Style is not only about how spaced bolts are, but about the safety as well, we don’t like those “Now i’m safe, now I can die. Now I’m safe, now I can die” kinds of routes.

At some crags you can’t smoke. And you can’t bring dogs. Please respect that. Feel free to put your cellphone songs at anytime, but if someone arrives turn it off or ask them if they would like some music.

A Crowded crag is not the best place to rehearse your project. Give it a go, but unless it is a 45m route with many good rests and you’re sending it, “don’t push it”. (Especially if it’s the only 5.10d/6b+ on the crag for people to warm up). Most of our crags don’t have 600 routes like those in spain.

Be kind, you’re responsible for the image of your country.

Do your thing. If you climb strong, climb strong, we want to see and learn from you. If you don’t, let’s share the passion and evolv together, that’s how the thing work here. We don’t suck at it at all so, maybe you could learn something from us too. It’s totally a social sport here. The more focused, silent and strong you are, the bigger the chances people think you’re snobbish. Of course you don’t have to be the Madre tereza on the crag, but look at Dave Graham’s example: The simpathy in person. “come on”, “Venga” and “Ale” are magic words that makes us climb one grade higher and makes us feel our redpointing of all life project of a 5.10c actually matters to you. Actually it does, doesn’t it?

Don’t go around spraying beta. Ask if beta is wanted. We like the onsight climbing as well. (but you may find it difficult to find someone who won’t want it).

Fact: You don’t climb in the sun. Not even in winter. You’d melt. Arrive early, leave late, that’s our way. It is ok to climb on the sun one day or two for multipitch, but don’t get used to it. Actually, you won’t (get used), don’t worry. When it’s cold or clouded, it probably rains.

Bring headlamp! You’ll use as much as your climbing shoes.

The quickdraws on a route are not there for you to take. Although they are expensive, yes we leave routes equipped with them for a couple of days or two while we are working on it. You can climb on them, but leave them there, you know, as if you haven’t been there.

It is good courtesy to brush chalk off key holds while lowering a route you just did.

ERASE TICK MARKS if you are not going to climb a route again.

Talking about climbing shoes, as I said before, bring your own. If you need resoling, we have great resolers, BUT, it may take more than one month to get the job done.

If you are climbing on soft stone, don’t get lowered down. Abseil instead. Avoid this on the picture:

Avoid this! Abseil from routes on soft stone where the rope touches de rock

Avoid this! Abseil from routes on soft stone where the rope touches de rock

So That’s it! I hope I was clear. Please forgive my “internal jokes”, I didn’t mean to offend anyone, I just wanted to help you all with our manners and make you feel embraced and involved by our culture. We are always laughing on our own problems, and we are always positive despite the politicians we have. And of course it’s better if you know some aspects of our climbing before you are coming, like our ethics for example. Actually I think if you are in doubt, those rules apply to almost everywhere in the world 😉 . So, if you ever thought about coming to Brazil, come! (But avoid the world Cup season, it’s gonna be CHAOS and we are not prepared to receive so much people). And, of course, if you have any doubts, just drop me some words and who knows I can help you!

See you and be safe!

Rodrigo Genja

Quero Escalar team

8 pensamentos sobre “Tips for non-Brazilian-Climbers in Brazil

  1. Pingback: Brasilien 3 | Ari's Odyssee

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  3. Muito obrigada rodrigo! super useful info. I was wondering if you can tell me where to find more info about serra do cipo, i’m in rio at the mo but wanted to head there next, cheers!

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