Where to meet us / Getting around Town
Rio is a big city that has many options for local transportation. Depending on where you are staying in the city, Urca can easily be reached by bus, subway, cab, bicycle or even foot. There are buses from downtown (bus 107) and from the south side of the city for those coming from Copacabana or Ipanema (bus 511 and 512). You should keep an eye out and get off either right before or right after the bus takes a hard left and enters into the residential part of the Urca neighborhood. Taxis are another option that make it quite easy and usually aren’t too expensive if coming from close by. Any taxi driver in the city will know where to go if you say Sugarloaf or Pão de Açucar. People coming from Botafogo or Copacabana might want to check out a local map and may even decide to walk, which can take 15 – 30 minutes depending where you are coming from.
When climbing in Urca we always meet our clients in the same place, which is right next to the small soldier statue that is directly in front of the Sugarloaf cable car entrance. This is a central location and it is easy to find us sitting next to the statue with our climbing gear.
Weather and Cancelations Policies
As mentioned above, the weather in Rio can be unpredictable and sometimes call for cancelations or rescheduling of climbs. When its raining here the rock gets quite slick and for safety reasons we prefer not to operate under these conditions. We always check in with our clients a day or so before the scheduled climb to confirm the weather forecast. Due to all the mountains in the area its not uncommon for the forecast to be wrong though and sometimes days that look like they are going to be rained out turn into the best climbing conditions you could ask for. For this reason we ask for patience and flexibility from our clients. On unstable weather days its not uncommon for us to ask to check in with you 30 minutes or so before a climb.
We don’t charge a deposit or a cancelation fee. After years of running our business we came to the conclusion that this was the easiest and most fare way to operate. It gives us less work in case we have to cancel due to weather and it gives the client more flexibility in case of an unexpected change of plans. For the most part this system works well for everyone and only every once in a while do we get stuck out with a “no show”. We do ask for respect from our clients though and please let us know at least 24 hours before canceling a climb. Remember that we run a personalized guiding service and most of the time your guide will be there to climb with you alone, meaning if you don’t show up you have essentially personally screwed over that guide. Don’t do that… it’s really not nice. Also remember that it’s usually not a good idea to go out drinking hard the day before you wake up early to climb. Although we also have been known to enjoy an occasional beer and have nothing against it, we can’t tell how many times people’s climbing aspirations have been ruined or canceled due to vicious capirinha hangovers. Careful, they are sweet but dangerous!
Style and Technique
The rock in Rio is mostly gneiss or granite and the style almost all slab and face climbing. A lot of the holds here are small and you can expect to do a lot of smearing and edging. The importance of good footwork and balance can’t be overstated while climbing here. Often even on easy grades it doesn’t matter how strong you are on a fingerboard, if you can’t smear your feet you won’t get through the move. With the recent explosion of indoor climbing, it is common for us to see gym climbers frustrated by the style and grades. If you aren’t used to this style of climbing we suggest starting out on grades lower than what you usually climb and taking some time to get used to the rock.
A lot of good moderate climbs in Rio are long multi-pitch routes that require the use of certain safety procedures. It is helpful if people know how to belay lead climbers, clean gear while following as a second, are comfortable with hanging belays and know how to rappel. While this knowledge isn’t mandatory to climb with us, it does make for a smoother outing when you come with a bit of prior knowledge. If you aren’t experienced with these procedures just let us know beforehand, all of our guides are certified instructors that can show you the ropes and Rio is a great place to gain experience.
We can provide all the necessary gear for anyone that doesn’t have their own, but there are a few things that you might want to bring from home if you can. Keeping in mind that some of the best routes you will find in Rio are multi-pitch, coming prepared with a pair of comfortable climbing shoes can really make a difference after 2 or 3 pitches. Other than shoes, a basic kit that you will use while climbing with us would be: harness, helmet, a belay device with locking carabineer, chalk, a personal anchor or sling, a cordelette for backing up rappels. These other items are easier for us to supply, but obviously the more you use of your own gear the more comfortable you will be.
Other than climbing gear its also always good to come in comfortable clothes, with good tennis shoes for the approach, plenty of water, a small pack to climb with, a photo ID and mosquito repellent if you are sensitive to bites. We always suggest that camera or cell phones be backed up and clipped into something while taking pictures on the mountain. Besides the risk of losing an expensive piece of equipment, this is also to protect anyone that might be below you in case you were to drop something.
If you are looking to bring your own equipment and climb on your own then you can count on most routes being bolted and climbable with a 60-meter rope. A set of 12-15 draws should be enough to climb almost anything here with the exception of a few routes that mix natural pro (these routes are all protectable with a single rack and some nuts). You can buy good guidebooks at the small newspaper stand that is close to the entrance to the Sugarloaf cable car station. Most routes are bolted in an adventurous style and in many “new school” climbing areas would be considered run out. Classic routes are well maintained though and almost always have double bolted belay stations. Less frequented routes might not be in as good shape though and climbers should use their own discretion evaluating the quality of the Brazilian P-bolts that are on most routes. Its not unheard of to run into subpar anchors while climbing in Rio.
Some of the more popular approaches are also used as popular trails by weekend hikers. This has taken a heavy toll on the quality of some of the trails here. Please help us try and diminish this impact by staying on the trails and picking up any trash you might come across along the way. Our walls are covered by lots of vegetation and it is not uncommon to come across bird nests while climbing, so try to leave the plants and animals where they are and pay attention to the signs of temporary route closers. Never place or remove any fixed protection from other people's routes without authorization. And please be gentle to the holds too. Most important, have fun!
Obs. Part of our responsibility as guides is to evaluate the climbing ability of our guests and find the most suitable climb for them. Urca is this best place to conduct this evaluation, which occurs upon first meeting each other and having a conversation about the climber’s experience. Urca has the most variety of climbing and gives us the easiest options for any level of climber. Excursions to other climbing sectors are generally only scheduled after an initial climb together somewhere in Urca.
Routes and Sectors
Tips and Suggestions
Where to Climb in the City - Urca is one of the oldest and most well developed climbing areas in the country, boasting hundreds of interesting routes varying in style and difficulty. Located in the heart of the city, between the neighborhoods of Copacabana and Botafogo, Urca is also probably one of the most easily accessible climbing areas in the world, with public transportation options dropping you at the foot of the mountain, short approaches (between 5 and 30 minutes max) and descents often involving free use of the cable car. No matter what your level of experience there is always something nice to climb on or around the famous Sugarloaf Mountain and we highly suggest this as the area to start off your climbing adventures in Rio.
If you have already explored Urca or want to get another perspective of the city then you should check out the climbing in the Tijuca Forest National Park. It’s a bit more complicated to reach, often requiring the use of private transportation, but here you find some of the best rock quality in the city and the climbing with the forest as your backdrop is also always an added plus. This is a highly recommended spot for strong single pitch sport climbers, who should pay a visit to the " Campo Escola 2000" and to " Barrinha". Both crags are hidden inside the Tijuca Forest and filled with high quality, well-bolted routes, between 15 to 30 meters long, mostly harder then 5.11d (7a French).
When to Climb - It is possible to climb all year long, but temperatures can be extremely high (up to 40 C) during summertime and climbing in direct sun this time of year can be dangerous to your health. If you are visiting between the months of December and March, which many people do for New Years and Carnaval, then please take our advice seriously and depending on the face we are climbing, be ready to start very early in the morning or finish the climb after sunset. These sort of precautions can help keep both you and your guide happy and healthy throughout the climb.
Rain is another obstacle to take into consideration during the summertime. Afternoon thunderstorms are common and can move in very quickly. We often have to reschedule last minute when this happens and always suggest you book your climbs early in your trip and are flexible, so that you can have a second chance in case we get rained out. Climbs in the mountains can be extra complicated during this time of year as well, both because many of the classic routes stay wet several days after a strong rain and because the region is prone to lightening strikes. Climbing Dedo de Deus in December usually means a predawn start to avoid the chance of getting caught in a storm high up on the mountain.
The best months to climb in the city are between May and September, when you usually have less rain and more mild temperatures. If you have the choice of when to visit Rio and are looking to maximie your climbing experience, then shoot for our wintertime. This obviously is extra important for anyone looking to do a multi day climbing trip to the mountains outside of the city. In general the weather is more stable and we are even able to climb in the sun on cooler days, making for much more flexible scheduling and more enjoyable days on the rock.
Even in the wintertime though we like to aim for early starts. Climbing has grown a lot in Rio during the last years and it’s becoming a more popular activity amongst the locals. There is an increased chance of finding other parties climbing on the classic routes, especially during weekends and holidays. This can sometimes translate into serious delays and lots of time on hanging belays, so it’s always advisable to start early and try to be the first to hit the trail that morning.
Below is a compilation of a few interesting and helping links:
- Windguru – This is a fairly reliable weather site the tends to predict winds slightly lower than reality.
- Climatempo – A pretty straight forward weather site. Usually relatively reliable.
Climbing Shops in Rio
- Equinox – A traditional climbing shop located in downtown Rio. They also produce their own clothes and backpacks which are pretty good quality.
- Le Chen – A nice and helpful climbing shop located in Galeria River in Arpoador, next to all the surf shops.
- A5 – Another good option, with more friendly prices, located at Barra da Tijuca
Places to stay
- CASALEGRE – An extraordinarily charming local guest house located in Santa Teresa close to Largo do Guimarães. They are good people and have been helpful partners of ours.
- Casa Beleza – Another great guest house (practically a castle) here in Santa Teresa. This one is close to our favorite local bar, Gomes, and is run by our good friend Bindu.
- Casa Cool Beans – This small, luxurious, relaxed guesthouse opened in Santa Teresa in December of 2010 and is already #1 on Trip Adviser! The owners Lance and David are incredibly welcoming and helpful.
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