|Famous Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio|
Getting information for climbing in Brazil proved to be extremely difficult. I spent literally tens of hours trawling through the internet trying to piece together details on the sport climbing in Rio De Janerio. I guess I’ve got to bear in mind that I was being rather picky in looking specifically for single pitch non-slab sport climbing, and that with my somewhat limited knowledge of Portuguese had to rely on semi-legible Google webpage translations.
|Sugar Loaf, Rio De Janerio|
In the heart of the city of Rio De Janerio there is a large amount of slabby multi-pitch granite trad and sport routes, but I really struggled to find stuff that suited my style. Usually my strategy is to go to an indoor bouldering wall and chat with some of the locals and get my info that way. What was super surprising is that there are no indoor walls in Rio! Well, I did find one in the suburb of Botofogo, but as indoor walls go it was pretty dismal. Perhaps there are some out there, but I spent ages surfing the net and was not successful in finding them.
|Keeping in shape while in Rio - monkey bars on Copacobana beach|
However, I did speak with a few of the climbers at the Botofogo wall and with their limited English and my limited Portuguese managed to determine that there is some awesome hard sport climbing in the Tijuca National Park, but unfortunately I could not find anywhere that sold the guides books for this area. One climber did let me take some photos from her personal guide book, but even by combining these with the beta I could find on the internet I was still lacking that one vital bit of information key to any successful day out … HOW to get the crag! Every online post or guidebook paragraph always assumed I either had a car or was familiar with the park, and the access info would only start from some point totally foreign and totally unreachable to me.
Unfortunately in the end I just couldn’t get enough information to join all the dots and we decided to abandon climbing in Rio and focus instead on Serra Do Cipo.
Serra Do Cipo is in the Minas Gerais province, roughly a 9 hour drive north of Rio. The closest big town is Belo Horizonte, and one can certainly live a fulfilled and fruitful life without ever having been to this city. We got a bus from Rio to Belo, and due to the uncoordinated bus times had to stay over in Belo for a night. 8:30am the next day we were back at the bus terminus and on our way to Cipo.
Try putting ‘Serra Do Cipo’ in Google Maps and it won’t find it, instead the town is marked down as being called ‘Cardeal Mota’. This was the first source of our confusion. The next came from Google Maps giving the impression that you’re way out in the middle of nowhere, so naturally ones concern is if there are any shops, restaurants, or places for accommodation out in this seemingly-remotest of locations. But as we discovered when we stepped off the bus, it is actually a quaint little town with a decent supermarket, a sprinkle of restaurants, and loads of pousadas (inns) to choose from.
|Putting in the first clip on 'Herois da resistencia' (7c)|
The town is at kilometre 97 on highway MG 010, however the climbing is all closer to the KM100 point, so if you don’t have a car then you’ll probably want to find accommodation further up the road (see below for a list of places to stay). Since we didn’t know all this beforehand we had booked 3 nights at Pousada Licuri in town. It is definitely possible to hitch the 3km up the road, or walk if you feeling super energetic, but we decided to use the 3 days to catch up on some much needed R&R (we had just spent 8 days exploring Rio top to toe, inside and out, including of course 5:30am starts for sunrise on Copacobana beach and midnight ends after multiple Caipirinha cocktails, also on Copacobana beach :). The Serra Do Cipo National Park is close to the town and offers some lovely hikes, rivers, waterfalls and canyons.
|Super breakfast at Pousada Licuri|
Before I go any further I need to deviate for a moment from climbing and mention the Brazilian breakfasts … they are scrumptious! Through our travels in South America we’ve encountered a range of breakfasts – Chile’s standard is scrambled eggs, white bread and maybe a bowl of cornflakes. Argentina’s was a bowel-clogging plain croissants and white bread. But Brazil made up for everything that Chile and Argentina lacked with fresh fruit, freshly baked bread, cheesy balls, and cake, granola and fresh fruit juice. Pousada Licuri laid a spread that even the most hardy diet-conscious couldn’t resist, but much to my surprise our next accommodation further up the road, Pousada Grande Pedreira, put up a damn good fight for the winners position.
|Getting ready for the days climbing :)|
I could find no reference or link to a printed guide book for Serra Do Cipo, so unfortunately we were once again restricted to what we could find online. However this website has some fairly comprehensive info on the Group 3 climbing area, and although we were limited to climbing in this area there was still plenty of routes to keep me entertained for the 5 days that we had there.
The area definitely caters more for the 7a and upwards grade range, with only a very few routes in the 6a-6c+ range. That said however, I don’t think the online guide we had covered everything in the area, so it’s possible there are a few more out there that we weren’t aware of. Group 3 does not have hundreds of routes, but where it lacks in numbers it makes up for in quality. Every route that I climbed I would give top star rating, they were all stunning lines that flowed beautifully. There are other areas too which we never got to explore, and if they have as many quality lines as at Group 3 then this is definitely an area that could keep you climbing happy for a month.
HOW TO GET THERE
Belo Horizonte has an airport, so if you’ve got the money you could look into flying there. Otherwise the way for us mere money-mortals is either to hire a car in Rio and drive up, or get a bus from Rio to Belo (Busca Omnibus, companies Util and Cometa). From Belo you then need to take another bus to Serra Do Cipo. There are 2 bus companies that operate this route - Saritur and Serro – and the journey is roughly 2-3 hours. The bus destination is actually after Serra Do Cipo, so you just ask the bus driver to drop you off at the ACM (YMCA) at KM100.
WHERE TO STAY
There are loads of pousadas in the town, however if you’re climbing and especially if you don’t have a car then you’ll want to stay up near the ACM at KM100.
|Pousada Grande Pedreira's garden|
We stayed at Pousada Grande Pedreira and loved it. Note however that they were crap at responding to any email queries we sent them, we only managed to book the place once we were physically there. So if they aren’t replying to your emails then try phoning them. They have lovely private double & twin rooms with private bathrooms, as well as dorm and camping options. The setting for this place is stunning, with a beautiful huge garden with flowers, orange trees, swimming pool and luscious green grass.
|Pousada Grande Pedreira|
The only downside is that there is no WIFI, but then this is the case with most of the places out here anyway, and they are happy for you to use their computer in the office. We paid BRL100 (£28) a night for a double room with private bathroom, use of the kitchen facilities, and breakfast included (low season).
Espaco Mandalla Refugio has dorm rooms and one single double room, and WIFI.
2 others that we passed and looked good were Pousada Sitio Xodo and Pousada Quintal Da Serra.
If you’ve got the cash then Pousada Carumbé might be the place for you – a very fancy resort with indoor and outdoor swimming pool, restaurant, massage room and all that kind of extravagant stuff. It was clearly WAY out of our budget so we didn’t even ask the price.
If you’re looking for accommodation in town then I would definitely recommend Pousada Licuri, it is more on the pricey side but the quality of the accommodation and service it is clear why - we paid BRL200 (£56) a night for a private cottage with breakfast included (no kitchen facilities though).
This website has sufficient information to get you climbing at the Group 3 area – this is what we used and managed to find our way around. I couldn’t find any reference or link to a printed guide book covering all the climbing areas, but hopefully there will be one soon!
The town has a small supermarket that has a fair selection of fruit, vegetables and staples. You might not have the range of choice that you’re accustomed to at your local Tescos, but it is definitely enough to get by on. There is nowhere to buy food out by KM100, so either stock up before you head out or you’ll have to make the 3km walk or hitch into town to get food. There are a couple of restaurants within walking distance though.
WHEN TO GO
May to October is the dry season for this area, and according to various online sources this is the perfect time to go. We were there in June and conditions were perfect.