Imagination and the inside of things


We had heard so much of Rio. The city and its riches. The sugarloaf and the endless beaches, favelas and mojito. The Olympic broadcasting had not yet gained momentum but the abundance of Rio related reports was growing. So at least in our heads we thought to know what would expect us. It is, however, always a crucial moment in one’s travels when eventually you confront your imagination with reality. And most of the times, it is a lot different.


First alteration to imagination: it can be pretty hot and humid, even in Rio’s winter making climbing hardly enjoyable. Our initial goal to climb Gullich’s „Southern Comfort“, a remainder of his strength and vision back in the 80s, was further thwarted by a rough sea. It felt as if the ocean, just at spitting distance of the route was taking advantage and put its salty saliva all over the place.


We knew that the bad conditions would wear off some time but what would remain was the slippery salt on the rock. But that was just less than half of the problem. We had been warned that the bolts, once replaced since the original bolting, were showing some serious signs of age and more shockingly, corrosion.


Now, how do you tell if an iron bolt, obviously rusty is still strong enough to take a fall or two? We had no idea. We tried to follow the truism that the inside values count but as so often were damned to judge superficially. In the end we tried the route top rope and left disenchanted, not willing to risk our backbones.


Our host, Thiago Antonelli a respected climber of the Rio scene tried to help us out. He made phone calls and offered all his help. Unfortunately, Thiago was suffering from the ramifications of a terrible climbing accident which left him with broken ribs and backbones. Thiago, an interior designer was still able to work on his designs and yet hardly able to hold a drill. Another problem was the difficulty of getting titanium bolts, which would offer the only durable solution in these salty conditions. We ourselves had no bolts nor a drill and respected the wish of the local climbers to exclusively bolt and rebolt in the Urca region where Southern Comfort is located.


After almost three weeks of travelling, bouldering in the resort-like area of Ubatuba where the Brazilian strongman Felipe Camargo has put up an 8c boulder of utopian beauty and sport climbing in Passa Vinte and Sierra do Cipo we returned to Rio. And again our host, this time in Sierra do Cipo, Marcello Braga had tried to pull the strings in our favor. We paid for a new glue plus glue gun and a couple of titanium bolts which the guys organized and when we returned to Urca on our last day in Rio the route had been rebolted, just in time. This time however, the sea was tame and the weather dry, quickly rewarding our attempts.


We also met the guys who rebolted the route, surely not just for us but also for future climbers. The old rusty iron bolts were intact in the inside. They would have easily held the impact, maybe for years. But we had imagined them to break and tried to stay on the safe side. Well, if it was just easier to judge the inside of things.