Tuesday, September 06, 2011

First Time Out in Brasil

Sunset from Anhangava
(photo by Isa Vellozo)

The weather never cooperated in the South American autumn. It was cold and rainy from Easter to the end of May, getting cooler by the week. And I was busy, too, of course, engaging in a Brazilian romance and wondering where it was going to take me. To the mountains during that six-week voyage it did not, so I flew home to the US and flailed at Rumney, vacationed in Acadia, ripped my fingers to shreds on Cannon, and beat the heat at Rumney and Farley Ledge. Then my visa arrived at the Brazilian consulate and I boarded a plane to see just how far that romance was going to take me. Naturally, as the weather had been improving in forever rainy city of Curitiba, I was hoping to mix in a little bit of climbing, too. This past Sunday, I got my wish.

Flying High
Most of my partners here are beginners. None had yet to even learn how to lead belay when I touched down in late August, and only one currently owns a harness (which is new, too). So we all climbed at the gym one evening before going outside and I realized that a lot work was going to be needed before I took them out alone. Ordinarily, I don't have a problem taking complete beginners out because I know I can choose routes that are both easy for me and them, but I don't know the areas here, let alone the routes and the Portuguese terminology, so I decided that it would be better to wait for a more experienced person to tag along. So, instead of climbing that first weekend, one of my friends (we'll call her "Rookie") and I went on a scouting mission. We went to a place called Anhangava.

Lots of fun
(photo by Nivea Bona)
It does get cold in southern Brazil in the winter, but on that particular day the sun was out and the temps hit the mid-70s. Tourists were hiking the iron-rung ladders leading to the top of the mountain and a paraglider took his first flight from the summit. "Rookie" showed me around and played around with her new camera, capturing as much of the blue sky above us and the green forest below us as time allowed. We bouldered a little bit and, as the sun faded over the coastal forest that extends to the west, we hurried down before the night-time light completely engulfed us under the low-lying vegetation on the valley floor.

I wanted to return the next weekend and climb, so "Rookie" called a friend of hers who is a very experienced climber. We'll call him "Lost" since the reason he donates his time as a wilderness and mountain rescuer is due to the fact that he once got lost for five days in the woods here. "Lost" knew everywhere to go and the grades of all the routes, so we followed him from easy climb to moderate climb until we were finished. Actually, I was finished because I didn't bring enough water (it was hot). Still, we managed about six climbs for the day, all of them single-pitch sport climbs (two could have been two-pitches had we continued). All were fun and interesting, and this wasn't just because the rock itself was interesting, but the routes themselves had plenty of good moves for each grade.

A fun traverse
We started out on a short arete that offered great exposed photo opportunities before turning around and hitting up a nice traversing route with just enough grip to feel as if you're standing on nothing but a vertical slab. To give "Rookie" a chance to climb things a bit more at her level, we then headed through the vegetation to one of the hidden crags off to the side where "Rookie" learned how to lead belay (with assistance, of course). "Lost" and I then each almost fell on a one-move wonder of a 5.9 slab climb nearby before we moved on to more serious stuff.

To say the next two climbs were more serious is a bit of a laugh; the grades weren't any harder than we'd already done, but they were more vertical and required more than just your standard slab moves. It's funny because we went from climbing a crack in an arete to a traverse, from a juggy slab to a slab with diagonal dikes / shallow grooves, and from water-worn, flat chicken heads (think of flat bowling balls) with a roof above to crimps all within a couple of hundred yards from each other. And in between we passed chimneys, off-widths, vertical cracks, horizontal cracks, more slabs, more aretes, and steep, overhanging technical routes that I'll never even dream of getting on. All of it sticky granite, solid as a, um, rock.

We headed out earlier than "Lost" wanted to, mostly because I was bonking due to a lack of water. I didn't bring my water bottles with me to South America, so I had to use what was readily available in the house. I ran out pretty quickly as the sun beat down on us all day. With all the vegetation around us, there wasn't much shade. Still, there was a chance that we'd come back the next weekend, which is a huge holiday weekend for Curitiba, the main city near Anhangava, and the city where I'm currently living. On the way home, I bought an extra water bottle for the next trip so that we could last longer in the day. We then headed back and had "cafe," which is similar to the British concept of "tea." I was in bed by eleven and dreaming of discovering new places, learning new ways to communicate, and making new friends, all surrounded by a new love for rock.


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