This is a rock climber at the Brazilian park Serra do Cipó last weekend:
The climber, whose nickname is Magrão (which means “skinny), was singing as he hung from those rocks on July 25. Earphones were plugged into his head, and he’d hum and sing as he ascended this route known as Sinos de Aldebaran (“Bells of Aldebaran”), which is rated with a difficulty of 5.12c (8c in the Brazilian system).
It was incredible to watch. Serra do Cipó is two hours outside the city of Belo Horizonte, where I’ve lived the past few months, and so I’ve been able to hitch rides here with local climbers, a crew that generally is friendly and especially so in Brazil (even toward novices like myself).
Also not far outside Belo Horizonte are several excellent bouldering areas, including a rock field known as Pedra Rachada (pictured below).
Pedra Rachada, I discovered, also has a lot of tarantulas (see video at left). One person from my group, Mariana, was about to put her hands on the rock, when another person spotted this big hairy spider lurking exactly where she was about to climb.
A few gentle nudges with a stick had the tarantula crawling away, but then it was lurking somewhere else on the boulder. So we walked downhill to a new rock, in the dark, through waste-high brush, no doubt many more tarantulas at our feet and all around.
But in all of the state of Minas Gerais, the cliffs of Serra do Cipó are the most awe-inspiring, and they draw climbers from around Brazil. This past weekend as I was walking on a dirt path, I passed a group assembled at the face of a cliff, staring up at somebody on the route. One of them looked familiar, and he also eyed me strangely, before we both recognized each other (me with longer hair, he with shorter hair).
“Aloisio!” I said. He and I had climbed in Rio several weeks earlier. “I flew in for the weekend,” he said. I asked if he would be doing the same route as Magrão. He shook his head. “No,” he said, “this is a different level of climbing.”