Climbing K2 (Corcovado, Christ the Redeemer)

6am start yesterday and the four of us headed out once again to the Corcovado mountain, home to the Christ the Redeemer statue that overlooks the huge city of Rio.  The previous day Tom and Reynolds climbed the 150m Brasilian IVsup (approx F5/F5+) route to the summit but unfortunately there was not enough time for Fab and I to climb it as well.

Fab is a novice climber (more novice than me) so we were not in a position to swing leads for the four pitches to the top.  This means that I led to whole climb myself which, while very cool, was extremely hard work.  We could also have done with more water as I was really dehydrated for a large part of the climb and for a long time afterwards.

One section of the climb, the beginning of the third pitch, it is recommended to use a stopper or two.  As we hunted around Rio to buy these, as well as the nut removal tool, we went ahead and placed this protection, but the short IV section it protected turned out to be relatively easy... the rest of that pitch was a grade II which I steamed right up and even managed to get one clip in on the next pitch (grade IV) before realising I'd climbed past the anchor.

Considering Fab had a) never climbed outdoors before; and b) not climbed in many years he did an amazing job on all the pitches, struggling most with the first pitch which was in direct sunlight and also the hardest grade.

The climb didn't go totally according to plan... the middle quickdraw of a 12m-odd traverse came out before Fab had climbed across.  This would mean that had Fab fallen he'd have swung out a really long way, through a nasty-looking cactus and potentially over an overhang which would have made things very tough.  With Fab anchored in I rapelled down from my anchor and walked along to the middle bolt, reclipped the quickdraw, and headed back up to the anchor.  It's a good job I had some traverse practise from the previous climb or things could have gone differently...

The K2 route is totally different from Italianos on the Sugar Loaf... generally less slabby, plenty of crack climbing, some easier sections, more interesting moves and quite a few mantels (at least for me).  Overall an easier climb that "felt" a lot better protected although in reality the bolts were spaced further apart.  The ledges by anchors were a big relief for the feet, unlike Sugar Loaf which just ate feet for breakfast while belaying a second.

We stayed for the sunset which was truly spectacular over a mountain full of radio transmitters... hopefully some nice silhouette photos from that.  The Christ statue himself is awe inspiring... Rio is truly a whole city under God.

Our return to the hostel was very dodgy... we were expecting to grab a taxi back but with it being so late there were none to be had.  We waited around for what must have been 45m before we eventually arranged a lift in some dodgy car for all the money we had on us (R$37)... scary stuff as you do hear stories of people taking third-party taxis and getting driven straight into a favela for robbery.  In the end we had no choice as walking down would have been feasible but would have meant passing incredibly close to the Santa Marta favela that is built on the Corcovado mountain.
Lewis Comments
Preparing to climb Corcovado K2 (Christ the Redeemer, Rio)
Today's plan to climb the Finger of God fell through due to bad weather later this week. Today was spent trekking around Rio attempting to find a fourth harness and shoes for Fabian to climb
Corcovado tomorrow -- no luck. So tomorrow we're up at 6am and heading to the start of the K2 route (Brasilian IVsup (approx F5/F5+)). Tom and Reynolds will be climbing the 150m route first and Fab and I will meet them at the summit. Time pending we'll then head down and start the climb again.

As Fab is a less experienced climber this does mean that we will not be swinging leads so I'll be leading all of the pitches on the route with Fab seconding on top-rope belay.

Fingers crossed that we can get both climbs in tomorrow as the weather on Sunday is *hot* which is less than ideal for doing the climb...

Climbing the Sugar Loaf
Yesterday we set off at around 6am to the Sugar Loaf in Rio, grabbed some food to eat and stocked up with 2l of water each.  By about 8am we were at the bottom of the crag after a 30 minute walk along a path through the woods.  There were four of us, with two ropes & three harnesses.  Reynolds and I made a start on the first pitch (50m Brazilian V (roughly F5+/F6a) while Tom & Fab headed back to try and arrange a fourth harness.  Almost two hours later we hadn't made much progress when the pair returned to the crag... I started the first pitch but got stuck, Reynolds had a go but an out of quickdraws until finally Tom led up to the first rest point.

At this stage Reynolds was second and I was waiting by the base of the crag... some time later after doing some leading, Reynolds decided not to continue.  The second rope was dropped and I climbed up to Tom (over some of the most cruxey moves on the whole climb) and then led a very short pitch (at most 3 bolts) to the next rest stop.

By now the wind was really picking up & we had on and off rain -- never good for long climb.  But we persevered and managed to climb up about 125m (two and a half full pitches) up to a cave.  The very final pitch, a Brazilian III (F4+?), which I led, was great fun but getting the nerve to start climbing was something else entirely.  Tom and I stayed at the anchor for a good 30 minutes before I was able to continue in the wind... climbing a good 4-5m above the last bolt -- had I fallen I'd have fallen double that distance plus some extra for stretch in the rope... maybe as much as 11m!  What's worse was by this point we were already 100m up the face with two bolts to protect us!

Once we reached the cave it was already about 4.30pm and we were worried that it would get dark and we'd be caught on the face and potentially even have to camp out until it got light.  By the cave were some steel cables for via ferrata which we decided to climb to the summit.  A shame really as the last pitch had been much easier than the earlier parts of the climb so there was no doubt in either of our minds that, given enough time, we could have climbed all the way to the top.

At the summit we climbed over a metal railing to applause from 20 or 30 people who had taken the cable car up.  Celebrities for 20 minutes with people coming up and asking us about the climb, wanting to have photos taken, etc.  A couple of people even had videos and photos from the cable car of us on the face.

This is when things got weird... as we were waiting to catch the (free for us!) cable car down some old German guy approached us and told us that the wind was up and the cable car wasn't running.  As we were climbers we could just rappel down, so why didn't we?  We explained we had no headtorches or proper shoes he produced two headtorches from his bag and offered to show us the way... about 30-40 minutes to reach the bottom and we may even beat the cable car.  We figured that if this old guy regularly came up and down by this route (up to three times a week) we'd have no trouble, so we followed.

The next hour and a half was a slip slide down wet, mossy slabs of granite on our backsides, trying to keep up with our leader who was a 60+ year old immigrant from Germany.  He took up climbing on his 60th birthday when somebody bought him a climbing harness!  There were two short rappels down the mountain (about 35m and 20m) which Tom and I did with belay devices and climbing harnesses... Hans just grabbed the rope with both hands and rappelled down without any form of protection!  At points he was advising us to jump on the wet rock into bushes when there were drops of about 5m below us.  This guy was totally mental.

There's no doubt the cable car beat us to the bottom, but what a crazy experience.  Never having rappelled before learning in the dark with a headtorch was interesting too.

Next up is the Finger of God climb, which is supposed to be easier.  This is going to be tomorrow and one of the hostel staff has offered to go with us, so we'll be climbing in two pairs, which is much easier than attempting a party of three.
Iguazu Falls, Brazil
As planned the three of us wandered up the road to the Brazilian side of the Iguazu Falls. A totally different view from the Argentinian side afforded us a much better idea of the sheer scale of the falls.

On the Argentine side you can get up-close and personal with individual drops but at the other side of the river, in Brazil, a truly epic panorama is visible from almost all angles.

In the afternoon we headed to the local golf course for an (expensive) half round of golf. Won't be playing such a stupid game like that again soon.

Iguazu Falls, Argentina
As planned we caught a bus over the Brazil-Argentine border this morning to visit the Iguazu Falls from the Argentinian side, which makes up the majority of the falls. The trip was absolutely
incredible and there's no way that the photos I took will ever do it justice.

Iguazu Falls makes the Niagara Falls look like a leaky tap with three-times the water flow. There are 275 individual falls including the Devil's Throat which was the most impressive of the lot.

In the afternoon we took a speedboat down to the base of the falls and got totally soaked.

The plan for tomorrow is to view things from the Brazilian side and maybe try our hand at a round of golf in the afternoon ;)