By Dermot O’Sullivan
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A hike up Pedra do Sino mountain in Serra dos Orgãos National Park just outside of Teresópolis is typically done in two days: on day one hikers ascend to the peak, stay in the shelter or campsite, and then descend the following day.
This is a great way to visit the mountain, but for some people, the time, expense, and bureaucracy (demand can often exceed supply at the shelter/campsite) can be off-putting.
And many people assume that, because people usually camp, it is impossible or extremely difficult to do this hike in one day.
This is not the case. The Pedra do Sino hike can be comfortably done in a day by most people with a reasonable amount of hiking experience, and even by many without.
It is a tough climb, but choosing to do it in one day makes the ascent easier as there is no need to bring camping and sleeping gear. I’ll now explain how you can do this.
The first thing you need to do if you want to climb Pedra do Sino is to book your ticket: http://parnaso.tur.br/comprar-ingresso/.
If you have a CPF [Brazilian tax ID] you can receive a discounted rate. Make sure you bring your ID and CPF cards on the hike to show at the ticket office.
It is possible to buy tickets directly at the park from 8 AM, but prebooking allows you to enter at 6 AM and ensures that you will not be disappointed if the 100-person ticket limit happens to be reached on the day you choose to go.
It is recommended to start the hike no later than 8 AM as it gets dark at 5:30 PM during the hiking season (May to September).
If you do not have a car, the first bus from the bus terminal in Rio de Janeiro leaves at 6 AM most days and will get you there at or just before 8 AM.
Ask the driver to let you off on Avenida Rotariana, at the entrance to the National Park, just before the city. After getting your tickets, there is a three-kilometer drive or walk along the road to Barragem where the trail begins.
From there all you need to do is keep following the track upwards. It`s a steady climb, but not too steep.
At first, you will be in sheltered forest, but then the trees will open up, exposing you to the sun and/or wind, which can make things considerably hotter or colder.
Most people are used to the heat of Rio, but I cannot overemphasize how cold it can get up there! Especially if the wind is up and the clouds roll in. Most people take woolly hats and gloves. I did not and sorely regretted it.
This is doubly true at the very top, especially as you will want to relax and enjoy the view. A windbreaker jacket is essential.
After a four(ish)-hour climb, you will come to Abrigo 4 shelter, and from there it is another twenty minutes to the top. Here the path can become lost among the rocks, but head towards the peak on the right – not the boulders on the left – and you will quickly find it again.
And then enjoy: the view from the top is truly stunning, looking out towards the city and back into the interior of the state, with views of Minas Gerais highlands.
The spectacle of the clouds rolling across the peaks is ample compensation on days with less visibility.
There are also many interesting plants on the peak, very different from the tropical vegetation of the lowlands. Look out for orchids and lichens.
Leave at least 3 hours for the descent and have a torch ready in case of any delays. The rough path is almost impossible to navigate in the darkness.
Once down, if you are traveling by bus, you will have to walk ten minutes to the edge of town where you can catch a local bus or taxi to the bus station.
Time: 7-9 hours, depending on fitness level.
Bring: Water, lunch, sun and rain protection, ID and CPF, a torch, warm clothes.
Advice: Take normal hiking precautions. It’s always better, within reason, to have too much water/food/clothes than too little.