By Mary Bolling Blackiston, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – One of the most distinguishing features of the Cidade Maravilhosa, earning its natural landscapes the UNESCO World Heritage title in 2012, are the towering mountains that line the coast. For rock climbers, either living in Rio or just visiting, these towers of rock provide endless temptation and challenges.
Jacob Proctor, an American who has been in Rio for three years, claims that, “climbing can be adrenaline charging, physically demanding, relaxing and safe (if done correctly), all at the same time.”
Proctor, along with all other rock climbing fans in Rio, is blessed with thousands of diverse rock climbing routes at one’s fingertips. As such, Rio is considered one of the best places in the world for urban climbing.
Furthermore, while the winter (May through September) is the best time to climb, since there is less rain, Rio’s tropical climate privileges its visitors and residents to year-round rock climbing.
Carioca, Marcel Samaruga, especially loves, “the facility of climbing in the morning (early), leaving work during the day and at night going to a good restaurant or bar. Everything is inside the city…”. Proctor agrees, finding that there is great “…accessibility to diverse climbing spots.”
For those who are new to the sport or crave a bit more certainty, there are numerous routes for sport climbing (where one relies on fixed anchors, that have been pre-installed in the rocks, while climbing). For more experienced and daring climbers, there are countless places for traditional climbing, as well (where routes have not been planned out and no permanent anchors are attached to the rocks).
The neighborhood of Urca is one of the best and most popular places to climb, with “…dozens of routes for all levels of difficulty,” as Samaruga raves. Pão de Açucar (Sugarloaf Mountain) boasts over fifty routes for climbers to choose from; better yet, the four faces of the mountain are each unique in formation.
The west face of Sugarloaf has Via dos Italianos (Italian’s route), which is the most commonly taken route in Rio, found on the side of the mountain beneath the cable car. The climb is especially friendly to beginners, as it is filled with bolts, while the north face of Sugarloaf has the hardest routes.
On the other side of the city there are also a myriad of places to rock climb in the Tijuca National Park, one of the world’s largest urban forests. Tijuca Peak is the highest mountain in the park, and with solid, variable climbing rock, combined with excellent views of the surrounding rain forest, this is one of the best places to climb in the city.
The Corcovado Mountain is preferred by many experienced climbers, with considerably difficult routes on the south face. For those looking for a free, line-free way to see Christ the Redeemer, Corcovado’s K2 route starts at 550 meters above the city and finishes at the statue.
Pedra da Gávea (Gávea Rock) offers a route for experienced climbers, called Passagem dos Olhos (Passage of the eyes). Unlike all the others, this is a horizontal climb, that cuts across the top of Gávea rock (referred to as “Emperor’s Head”).
For even more places to climb in Rio, refer to rockclimbing.com. For anyone just starting out, note that a guide is recommended, fortunately, there are loads of instructors and rock climbing schools in Rio to choose from, including Companhia da Escalada, Rocks in Rio, Climb in Rio, Kmon Adventure, Ancoraue Tours and Rio Climbing Guides.