Maybe you aren’t a callused rock climber. Or maybe you are but you are feeling out of shape, out of practice or just a little sluggish from last night’s caipirinhas. Either way if you are interested an alternative route up Sugarloaf, the classic Costão hike could be the perfect option for you. The steep scramble up the east face of Pão de Açucar was the first route to the summit ever opened and continues until today to be the most frequented due its moderate difficulty level. It offers fantastic views of the city and the Guanabara Bay as well as an excellent calorie burning adventure up one of Rio’s most visited touristic point.
The hike starts at the foot of Sugarloaf along the margins of the Atlantic Ocean. Quickly it swings around the backside of the mountain and begins a steep yet technically simple ascent up a well-traveled trail that offers both great panoramic views as the well as the exciting feeling of exposure that comes with rock climbing. These first couple hundred meters involve some sections of unroped scrambling that can be challenging for people with a serious fear of heights, but that are safe and your guide you help talk you through. About half way up the mountain there is a short 15 meter pitch of more technical climbing, that although is not considered difficult does require the use of a rope and safety harness. This is a great chance for those interested in learning more about rock climbing to get a feel for the sport without having to commit to anything too extreme. It also tends to be the most exciting part of the hike for most.
We will then pack up our equipment and continue our push up to the next stopping point, the famous “Philosopher’s Rock” where one gets there first glimpses of Copacabana beach and Pedra da Gavea. From there it is a short distance to the top where we will summit at the final cable car station along side of all the other tourists that took the “easy” way up. The top of Sugarloaf offers stunning views of the city and is a great place to relax and enjoy a well-deserved beer or juice. The decent is easy and has the added perk of taking the cable car down from Sugarloaf to the Morro da Urca station. From there its and light 15 minute trail down to our initial starting point on Praia Vermelha.
Costão is a great adventure and a local classic. You don’t need any rock climbing experience, just a pair strong legs, an open mind and a good attitude. The hike up usually takes between 1 ½ and 2 hours and can be done in either a morning or afternoon.