Sunday, April 14, 2013

A Visit From Afar

A socked-in day at Anhangava
Photo by Nivea Bona
I've now been in Brasil for a little less than two years, and during that time, no one had come to visit until "KITT" decided to drop south of the border for his first trip to South America. This was after an extensive interrogation conversation to convince him to do so when we met earlier in Spain. While in Spain, he was interested, but wasn't sure he could swing the hefty airline price. A swift smack in the shins with a baseball bat few weeks later, after having reviewed prices for what seemed like every day, he bought his tickets for a ten-day trip around Easter weekend, and while we didn't have a lot of time to climb, it was on the agenda. Our plan was to hit Anhangava (a reasonable mountain outside of Curitiba with high-quality cliffs at the top)and then Mariscal (a fantastic climbing location for the views alone). I was really looking forward to both days, and secretly hoped we could sneak in a few more if the world suddenly changed direction.

However, he arrived on Saturday and he, "Lady", and I hit the hill on Sunday under tenuous conditions. The clouds were thick around the peak and one couldn't see more than 100m most of the time. We had hoped that things would burn off as the day wore on, and at times we got some visibility up to a few miles with a bit of that strong sun poking through to make it even more humid than wet air had already been making it, but the poor conditions persisted and we left after only two climbs. We probably could have snared two or three more climbs, but we felt we had made a good decision because it was pouring about an hour after we arrived home. Better to be dry on that day.

A normal day at Anhangava
photo by Nivea Bona
Both climbs were climbs I had done already (lead), except the harder one was one I still hadn't gotten clean. I lead the first one, a warm-up normally with a nice photo opportunity that was clouded with a white-canvas background at best on this day. The crux stumped me for a good 10 minutes. I knew the moves and had done them several times before - it wasn't a difficult climb at all, but my head was screwy from the start. It clearly wouldn't have been a good day for a long, committing route, but I chalked it up to it simply being my first day since Spain a few months back. Eventually I pulled through, but it wasn't an inspiring performance.

Past the doozy start, but before the
smearing mantle
Photo by Nivea Bona
The next climb was my friend's lead, and it's a beautiful climb with an audacious start. It's well-protected, but the first bolt was incredibly loose and was pulled about an inch out of the hole. We tried to set it back in tighter, but it wouldn't stay. Making the first moves would have to be more focused than normal.

That first move is a doozy, too. One needs to reach out way to the left with one's left hand to the point that when one grabs the rail one's momentum is already swinging from the starting perch. There are no feet, and the route starts about 12 feet above the ground. So it's a reach to a rail and let your feet swing out into the open air beneath you. Once on the rail, one needs to smear and mantle up to the crimps above. If one blow's this start then one needs to be lowered and scramble back up to the perch to try again. My friend is taller and could reach the rail without committing too much, but not I. Once my hand is there, I can't push back. In fact, I almost have to fly just to secure it.

Normally this start takes me a few minutes to feel comfortable, but my friend nailed it on the second try. From there he worked his way up the beautiful assortment of crimps, jugs, and pinches that wove him back and forth like a snake up the molten granite slab. Unaware at first of how sharp and sticky the granite was, his fingers were peeling by the time he hit the crux, which is a slick high-step pull over a bulge to reasonable crimps once one's weight is up, which is no easy task, especially since the bolts are spaced nicely about eight feet apart at this point. After one-hanging it, he cruised the remaining 25 feet (one bolt) to the anchors.

Most people usually belay the second on this route from the top. So I tied in upon him pulling the rope and

"KITT" working up the fun slab
Photo by Nivea Bona
swung out into the air after about four attempts (the first three with me being too afraid to commit). I then wavered my way up to the crux, never wanting to come off and never losing my death grip on whatever it was that I holding. Three points were on at all times and rarely did I make a move that had any dynamic motion to it. I was simply afraid.

I hung at the crux maybe four or five times, and at each rest I also clipped myself direct into the bolt. I was literally afraid the rope would suddenly break, or the anchor would fail (solid bolts), or that God would find a way to cut my rope in a moment of complete vulnerability. I was having fun, but my god, I needed something shorter, easier, over-hanging, and with less of a knife's edge on the holds where the rope was rubbing against the rock.

I finally made it, but not without confessing my fear at the top. While I was very happy that we had gotten out, this was one of those days that I was happier to be alive than I was 80 feet off the deck.

A heavy mist had wet our packs and clothes and heads. The clouds were swirling closer, and in spite of the fact that the rock was still dry, we felt it was time to pack up and leave. The journey home was comfortable with Samba and MPB (musica popular brasileira) wafting through the car's cabin. Caipirinha's awaited us at home and, as I mentioned above, so was a downpour. We watched movies and slept the rest of the day until it was time to take my friend to the airport for a short side trip to Foz de Iguacu.

Mariscal on a previous day
Photo by Nivea Bona
The following weekend we had plans to climb above the sea in a beach town called Mariscal. It's a place that "Lady" and I had hit up once before and even though there's only a limited amount of climbing there, it's worth it just for the views alone. Mariscal is located on an isthmus peninsula with white sandy beaches on both sides. On the tip of the peninsula is a mountain that one can drive up to the top of. A little walking up and then bushwhacking down the other side (approach = less than 10 minutes), one can find a slew of sticky granite slabs, cracks, and offwidths. This side trip was a part of a larger "hit the beach" trip to Florianopolis farther south, so we only had the one day. All three of us were excited, and thanks to an early start and a lack of difficult traffic over the busy Easter weekend, we arrived at the pay station at about 9am.

Me about a foot below the nest
Photo by Nivea Bona
We walked up the desk to pay our entrance fee only to discover that climbing had been banned due to the unknown quality of the existing bolts (salt air and all that). We were bummed. It was obvious to me that the salt air could be a factor here, but we had climbed here once before with locals and felt that all was fine. Still, without our locals to argue with the man behind the desk, we paid our entrance fee just to walk to the top to get the 360-degree view that mountain offered. For less than $2.50, this was worth it anyway.

I have to say, though, that I wanted to head down to see for myself if the bolts were in fact bad. So we decided on a bit of a covert spy mission side trip down to the climbs just so we could show "KITT" what we were missing at the very least. It was obvious that the area hadn't been used in a while as there was a lot of growth on the path, but when we got there we found the bolt situation to be a mixed bag. There are some dangerous bolts there, yes, but there also so nice stainless steel bolts, too. Those stainless steel ones, however, don't offer much in the way of climbing, as those routes are no more than three bolts tall (standard distancing). It wouldn't have been worth it to drag the gear down to these climbs if that's all that was available.

However, there was a crack climb that I had attempted once before and was shut down by a bees nest about 2/3 of the way up. If that was free, then it would have been worth it for sure. "Lady" stayed behind while "KITT" and I bushwhacked our way down to the crack that I wanted to get him on. It took a few false "just around this corner" statements before we finally got there, and when we did we were both a little disappointed and satisfied to see it at the same time. It's a beautiful crack that goes at about 10a, but it was incredibly dirty and it appeared that the nest was not only still there but had grown in size. It was difficult to tell from the ground, but at the same time it wasn't worth going up to check it out as there is only one way back to the ground. Still, I wasn't deterred. "KITT" had come several time zones and many latitudes south to both hit the beach and get some climbing in. Since our first climb was in the state of Paranรก and we were now in Santa Catarina, I decided he needed to be able to tell everyone that he had climbed in two states. He bouldered the start with grace and imagination, and I forever caught his glory on film. We had had our day of climbing, and now it was time to go swimming.

"KITT"'s first venture into the South Atlantic
Photo by Nivea Bona
The great thing about Mariscal is that the beach is never far away. This was "KITT"'s first time dipping his
A pic I wish didn't exist
Photo by Nivea Bona
toes into the South Atlantic, so we stayed in the surf long enough to get a good sunburn before we hit a beach-front restaurant for lunch. After that, it was snorkeling time, which thoroughly wore the three of us out beyond comprehension. Seriously, 2.5 hours of jumping off the top of the boat and swimming around the deep shallows off Bombinhas is a heck of a lot of more tiring than one would imagine, but it was all worth it in the end. Just as we had retired with caipirinhas in our rented house in Spain, we did the same in Brasil, too, except this time it was with cachaca made in Brasil and served in restaurants on the water with seafood caught just hours before - not climbing isn't such a bad thing at times. In fact, sometimes it's just what one needs. Has Brasil softened me? I don't know, but I won't complain. We swam, ate fresh fish, and drank caipirinhas all weekend. Maybe I'm more Brasilian now than I used to be, because I'm just going to chalk this one up to "maybe next time."

Friends again

No comments: