Equator Gringos

August 24, 2008

Climbing Sugarloaf Peak in Rio de Janeiro

Sugarloaf peak showing the "via dos italianos" (bolted 5.10)

Sugarloaf peak showing the Via dos Italianos

I lugged climbing shoes and a harness all six weeks of our summer vacation — so that for just one day I could climb the famous Sugarloaf in the heart of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in early July.

Sugarloaf sits on the tip of the Urca peninsula, which has 270 rock climbs – just this one puny little neighborhood and park in one corner of Rio! Rio is considered the center of Brazilian rock climbing because greater Rio has at least double that many climbs.

I had it all worked out with a guide ahead of time, a friend of Edgar Aulestia, the owner of the Monodedo rockclimbing shop in Quito, Ecuador, where I live. Flavio Daflon was my guide and wrote the book (literally) on Urca climbs.

The Italian Route, or A Via dos Italianos in Portuguese, is the most famous route in all of Brazil. The Italians who created the route knew a beautiful line when they saw one — Flavio called it “The Nose of Sugarloaf,” a reference to the most famous rock climb in the world, the Nose of El Capitan. Italianos goes free at 5.10 for two pitches, then gets a little to a lot easier.

The actual Via dos Italianos is really just the two-pitch straight part of the climb up the arete – about 180 feet or so. Then you have to traverse over to the left to a different route (Secundo) to finish. Anyway, the weather was gorgeous, the climbing technical and absorbing, the views unbelievable, and my guide was relaxed and very professional. My only complaint was that I hadn’t done thin face climbing in a long time. I spent the entire day practically on my tiptoes. By the second or third hanging belay, my toes screamed like they’d been sledged, my Achilles tendons moaned like they were stretched on The Rack, and my calves felt like arson victims. I couldn’t walk normally for over 24 hours after topping out. Still, for me, it was the highlight of our trip!



  1. Luke,
    Great slide show – you have been a busy guy putting all these pics up – thanks for keeping us “up to date”.

    Comment by Bettye Kelso — August 24, 2008 @ 7:58 pm

  2. Ha ha ha, you said nice gneiss, that´s funny

    Comment by Tim — August 29, 2008 @ 2:02 pm

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