As we took those final steps, I quicken my pace. We were about to reach the top of Pedra de Gávea, Rio’s toughest mountain to climb. The only thing was, the moment wasn’t as joyous as I’d imagined because we still had to actually get down this thing.
Pedra de Gávea
This mountain climb isn’t for the faint hearted. It is a climb that requires sheer determination, preparation and a guide who actually knows what they are doing. From around 30 minutes into the climb the tough conditions start. You will find yourself scrambling over huge boulders, climbing muddy steps that are higher that you and clinging hold of tree roots for dear life. When I say this is a climb, I really mean you will climb. You will be using not only your feet but your hands as well, to get you to the top of this mountain. Be prepared to fall on your bum, graze your knees and muddy your clothes, it will all happen on this tough but oh so rewarding trip.
And I want to reiterate for anyone skim reading this, I would not advise this climb without a local guide who has previously climbed the mountain.
Climbing Pedra de Gávea was my last adventure in Rio before I returned home after three months and I couldn’t have imagined a better send off. From the minute our alarm went off at 5am on that Sunday morning I was filled with anticipation for the day ahead.
The previous day had been wet and thus when we started the trail much of the ground was slippery. We knew this was going to make the climb ten times harder but we were not turning back. We reached the half way point in record time (according to our friend and guide for the day Leo). There had been a few challenging points but nothing like I’d imagined. I began wondering why this was really such a challenging hike. I was having so much fun despite already being covered in mud.
Then we reached Carrasqueira
As I’m sure you can imagine the fun did not last, as the climbs got steeper and more slippery I began to see why it was classed as a hard climb. We met a few climbers descending who had spent the night up there but came down after the cloud had ruined sunrise. We were well aware of the cloud status but I didn’t let this dampen my spirits. And as we approached Carrasqueira the steep climbing section, I was actually grateful of the cloud.
From Carrasqueira, the challenging vertical climb you have picturesque views out to Barra and down to the ground. But thankfully because of the cloud we could see none of these views. We are blissfully unaware of the drop below us. The only hint was a sign that warned of death if climbed unsafely and without experience. We were also very lucky because we were the only ones on the trail at the early hour of the morning. This allowed us to take it slow, pick our route as we went and stay as safe as possible. With the slippery surface of the rocks we were grateful of this.
Once over the Carrasqueira the rest of the climb seemed relatively easy. Except, there was that dreaded feeling that we actually have to get down again.
We jokingly said the only way off of this mountain would be a helicopter, thankfully our guide had more confidence in us. Or at least pretended to.
Atop Pedra de Gávea
We reached the top with a skip in our step and came out to find ourselves on top of the world. Quite literally, we were above the clouds with no one else in sight. Thick clouds that meant the only view we had was the tops of a few surrounding mountains. But, we didn’t care. We took off our shoes, had a snack and then relaxed as the sun warmed our faces and we waited for the cloud. Our guide, who is also a keen windsurfer, had already checked the weather and told us to hang tight. A wind was coming in and the cloud would clear in an hour or two.
He wasn’t wrong. We explored all the nooks and crannies atop the mountain while waiting and then as the cloud did clear there must have been 50 other people waiting to enjoy the view too. Not surprising, they were the most amazing views over Rio, ever. From atop Pedra de Gávea I forgot about life and wondered by I don’t spend more time outdoors.
After taking in all of the view we reluctantly decided it was time to descend.
We were nervous. The trail was now saturated with people and any part of the trail that had began to dry out had now been churned up. As we descended we found it to be very slippery. I landed on my bottom multiple times and slid in the mud. Things were not looking positive for the Carrasqueira. We arrived to find the climb the busiest Leo had ever seen it, and he has climbed here over 50 times! I really wasn’t looking forward to getting down amongst all these people.
Thankfully there was an alternative. Some locals had set up ropes and brought harnesses to enable the climbs to abseil down this sketchy patch of rock. After some quick exchanges in Portuguese we handed over 40 reals and were given two harnesses. Abseiling down was so much fun and lets be honest, hell of a lot safer. I probably would have paid double or more for that option, as it was we paid a fiver each!
Aside from a few more slides on my bum the rest of the descent went without a hitch and after a little refresh in the stream at the bottom we walked out of the entrance gates we had bypassed that morning. Victory of climbing up and down safely, was oh so sweet.
What you need to know
We used the trail that began in Joá, this is the most popular route and accessible from Estrada Sorima. The gates here do not open until 8am, however, there is a hole in the fence you can sneak in through. And that was exactly what we did.
You can park your car at the entrance or grab a taxi/Uber to the entrance. Alternatively there is a bus to Joá. However, this adds an extra half an hour or so on to your hike.
Footwear: Hiking shoes would be your best option but if not then a decent pair of trainers will suffice, cheap ones will not.
Water: There is only one fresh water spot on the mountain and that is less then half way up. I would recommend taking at least 2 litres of water.
Food: Anything that is going to replenish the energy you lose on the hike up will be good. We took bananas, cookies, nuts, cereal bars, fruit and chocolate.
Clothing: Sport shorts with light material and that are easy to move in, any t.shirt but not white! Gloves would also be useful.
Timing: It takes around 2.5 hours to climb and longer to descend so make sure you leave 7 or so hours for this adventure.
And a local guide to keep you safe!
Here is a video my boyfriend made a video about our experience.
Have you climbed Pedra de Gávea? How did you find the climb?