Urban Climbing in Rio de Janeiro
by Kristian1124 on June 23, 2011
There are tons of opportunities for enjoying nature and outdoor sports in Rio de Janeiro that are literally right inside the city. If you're into climbing (i.e., sport, trad, or really even just hiking) but don't want to have to camp out in the middle of nowhere to get to it, Rio is the place.
Rio has a pretty tight climbing community, and they aren't too hard to find. I originally got into climbing in Rio by stopping by the climbing gym, Limite Vertical, in Botafogo, a neighborhood in Rio. The gym is small compared to most other gyms I've been to, but it's got a ton of character and is the meeting place for climbers in the area. If you're looking for a guide, you can probably find one here or at least find a referral. Although not everyone at Limite Vertical speaks English, including many of the employees, there is usually someone there who does and will be willing to help. The gym is open on weekdays from 5pm until they close. Closing time varies but is usually around 11pm. Upon your arrival, you will be met by two large, friendly dogs, which the owner has tattooed on his arm. You'll have to ring the doorbell to get in, and the place is not well-marked from the outside. If you don't speak Portuguese, you can probably just say something like "climb" into the intercom, and they'll know what you mean.
To get to Limite Vertical, get off at the Botafogo metro station and take Rua São Clemente in the direction away from the ocean. There are several exits here so be careful. From all but one of the exits, this will be a left turn. The next main street is Rua Bambina. Take a right here. There's a big Rodizio, an all-you-can-eat pizza place, and food by the kilo restaurant called Kilo São Clemente with a big K log, where you'll turn. Just follow Rua Bambina until #141 Fundos. Limite Vertical is next to #141. Alternatively, you can just take a taxi, which should cost about R$12 from Copacabana.
If you want to give it a go by yourself, there are lots of easily accessible places to go right in the city. The most impressive climb is the famous Pão de Açúcar, which has several multi-pitch fixed protection routes going up. One of the more popular and easier routes to the top is called Via dos Italianos.
Your best bet to find it without a guide is to pick up the topo, which, luckily, is available at the exact point where you'd get off in a cab if you were going to climb here. Go to the Praia Vermelha in Urca (cab drivers will all know "Praia Vermelha"). When you arrive at Praia Vermelha, you'll find the entrance to the cable car that goes up to Pão de Açúcar and a military training area with a big statue in the middle. Just outside of the big square at Praia Vermelha, there is a newspaper stand that sells the topo. It's usually visible in the window from outside the stand, so you can just point to it. If not "livro de escalada" should do the trick, and it should cost R$40. This book shows tons of routes up Pão, and at nearby Babylonia.
To enter the Babylonia climbing area, you have to pass through the cable car station. They'll ask you to sign the guest book and leave some form of ID with them, so bring a driver's license. Back in Babylonia, which is opposite Pão, across the Praia Vermelha, there are lots of easier, slabby fixed protection routes.
On the Morro da Urca, right along the trail there are several boulders. This trail is nice in its own right, and you can get a pretty view of Botafogo and see all sorts of birds and monkeys while on it. You'll pass by several boulders if you just stay on the paved trail. Some of them are pretty chalky. Venturing off of this trail gets you to many of the routes listed in the topo. Getting to this trail is pretty obvious. If you're facing the beach, go left and through an open gate in the fence. Sometimes they close this fence around 6pm, but you can jump over it.
For some real sport climbing, try Platô de Lagoa. This is really hard to find on your own, so I'd suggest stopping by Limite Vertical and seeing if anyone else wants to go. If you want to give it a shot, take a cab to Rua Tabatinguera. This road is teeny tiny, so just get off anywhere. There will be a trail going off of this road straight up the hill. About five minutes later, you arrive at an area with vertical to slightly overhanging sport routes rated from 5.9 to 5.13. I don't remember the letter because that is out of my league anyway. Most are pretty well-protected.
This hasn't even scratched the surface of all the climbing that is available in Rio. Luckily, the climbing community there is very open and willing to help, so getting more information shouldn't be hard at all. Enjoy!