Finger of God

16 07 2010

The Dedo de Deus formation

Andrew Lenz, my partner in the Rio Climbing Collaborative, and I climbed Dedo de Deus (Finger of God) in the Serra dos Orgaos National Park outside the city of Rio de Janeiro.  One of the more beautiful places I have explored in some time.  A fantastic climb and a fantastic summit.  We climbed about 5 or 6 pitches of mostly moderate chimneys to the summit.  Below is a video and some pictures from the climb.

Asa climbing thru a chimney high on the route

On the summit


Favela World

8 07 2010

As I jump onto the back of Andrew’s motorcycle, the Rio traffic morphs from a mechanism of stress and tried patience, into an exhilarating game of life and death.  I am immediately intrigued and terrified by Andrew’s courage as he weaves in and out of the anti-lanes that compose Rio’s hectic transit.  We arrive at our destination, Rocinha, a favela of roughly 200,000 residents, the largest single favela (slum) in Brazil and possibly anywhere.

A section of the Rocinha Favela with the towering wall of Dois Irmaos Maior above

Rogerio greets us at the Samba School building in the peripheral of the community.  As we enter the favela, I think to myself, this place is no different than the rest of Brazil, then a boy who could not be much older than 16 walks by with a smile from ear to ear and a machine gun around his neck.  The favela world is controlled by drug lords.  The Brazilian police have begun a major program to take control of some of the smaller favelas, but it will be a long time before they have enough power to be able to combat the gang that controls Rocinha.  Meanwhile, Rocinha seems to function, void of police yes, but small businesses are present, electricity, plumbing & other infrastructure is the norm.  There is even a Bob’s fast food chain and a bank within the community.  There is a code of law here.

Rogerio takes us to a motorcycle taxi stand.  We each jump on the back of some random guy’s motorcycle, no helmuts provided, and begin racing up a wildly busy street.  Our drivers begin racing eachother, realizing we are all going to the same place.  My guy wins by cutting between a bus, a van, and a wall of rubble with a couple inches to spare.  I was impressed.

We arrive near the top of the community.  Rogerio shows us his first recommendation of where we could build our climbing school.  It is on a steep, muddy slope and filled with trash.  This location could be excellent, but would need a strong investment for not only the wall but a major shelter to house it, and a major clean up effort.

We decide to walk through the entire favela to get a better feel of it and check out some other locations.  We walk by a location with a small soccer field on the edge of the forest.  This area could be excellent for a wall, as it would affiliate climbing with soccer, a good strategy in Brazil.  We walk further down the hill towards the entrance of the favela and come across a private parking lot.  We discussed the possibility of permanently renting some spots in the back and building the climbing wall in this location.  Several other locations for our wall and school were discussed.

I cannot help but turn my attention towards the massive granite walls rising directly above the poorest part of the community.  How many little kids are staring up at those walls at this same moment, fantasizing about climbing them.  Rocinha’s own Everest.  In Brazil, climbing is seen as an upper class sport.  Rocinha is the perfect location to break these stigmas.

Gradually increasing steepness and difficulty, the walls begin small and gently sloped near the new government funded sports center across the highway from Rocinha.  These easier walls would be the perfect location for a beginner’s crag.  Locals could learn the principals of climbing on these easier walls, and practice and train at our indoor climbing wall and school.  As they increased their skills, they could try themselves at the steep and intimidating routes on the left side.  Old routes from the 60’s and 70’s exist on this wall, but see little to no action in recent times.  The below picture shows some of the potential of the easier cragging options of the area.

The varying difficulty and steepness of the walls above Rocinha. The thought is that these walls will provide diversity in climbing, from easy to super difficult all within the community.

At the end of our visit, I realized its real success was in the connection between Andrew and Rogerio that was so apparent.  I felt more excited than ever leaving Rocinha, even though we had not solidified a place to build our wall as of yet.  Andrew has become my partner in this project.  He is an American climber and well respected in his work teaching photography and video to students in favelas.  Rogerio runs the Rocinha Crossfit program, which provides fitness training without the use of expensive equipment.  He also works for the Dois Irmaos Institute which works with education in Rocinha.  Most importantly, he is a respected member of the community.  It is in these strong connections and partnerships that I believe the Rio Climbing Collaborative will find its strength and success.

If our partnerships are strong, our hearts in the right place, our courage alive, I have no doubt that we will find the ways to make this project a reality.  And there is no doubt that it would be embraced by the community and do wonders for many a young Rocinha youth.

Asa on the bridge going into Rocinha

Asa on Pedra da Gavea Highline Video

29 06 2010

Asa Firestone attempts to walk the Pedra da Gavea highline in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Highline in the Sky

29 06 2010

Alex Lowe, Nilton Maia, and I trekked up to the summit of the iconic Pedra da Gavea just south of Rio de Janeiro.  We slept on top which, even in the middle of “winter” and 800 meters above the city, barely required a sleeping bag.  The next day we put up a “highline” which is a slackline spanning a gap.

Slacklining was founded by Yosemite climbers as a way to practice balance and have some fun on rest days in Camp 4.  It is similar to tight rope walking but it is used with a piece of webbing that is pulled super tight.  This gives a large amount of flexibility to the line and allows for much more creativity and flow than a static tight rope would.

Alex Lowe, in deep concentration

Thanks to Alex’s prior reconnaissance, we put up a highline on the summit spanning a 100 foot gap with about 800 meters of air down to the sea and city of Barra da Tijuca.  The setup was a bit tricky but we got it to work out.

Neither Alex nor I have ever tried to walk such a long and high line before.  Practicing between palm trees on the beach, a line of this length would be difficult but not a problem for either of us to walk.  It is amazing what your mind has to overcome to walk a line with as much exposure as this.

We both did our best to walk the line, taking a few falls in the process, but no one was able to make it all the way across.  We may come back this weekend after some further practicing above the soft sand of Ipanema Beach and see if we can adjust the setup and get the line tighter to increase our chances of walking it.

A Visit to the Rocinha Favela

27 06 2010

The Rocinha Favela with a wall of the Dois Irmaos Formation Above

On Wednesday I visited my friend Rogerio Rodrigues of the Instituto Dois Irmaos in the Rocinha Favela, the largest favela in Brazil.  A major down poor welcomed my arrival.  I was drenched from head to toe and the rains flooded the Institue’s floors.  Rogerio and I spent our first hour of our meeting drying the floors and fixing the leak in the roof.

We discussed the Rio Climbing Collaborative project and we are scheduled to meet again soon in Rocinha to visit the site that Rogerio has suggested as a potential location for the climbing wall.  Rogerio was very enthusiastic about the project and is interested in working with us for education and community support.  I am absolutely looking forward to my next visit to Rocinha.

Rocinha and Rio at night from the summit of Pedra da Gavea

I also went climbing with a very strong local climber, Hillo Santana.  We decided to climb Passeros de Fogo (5.11) on Pao de Acucar.  The weather was a bit nasty, but we sucked it up and made it to the summit.  Check out the video for a more detailed description of the experience.

A Goal for Brazil!!!

22 06 2010

Brazil scores a goal in the world cup.  I was on Copacobana Beach to enjoy the moment, along with maybe a million Brazilians.  I think Brazil deserves their reputation for being slightly soccer crazed…

Climbing Pao de Acucar: Video

21 06 2010