Urban climbing

Rio rocks

Photo: Marcelo Maragni 

Forays into favelas are traditionally the preserve of the brave, but today the granite outcrops of Rio de Janeiro’s slums are a climber’s paradise

Urban Climbing

Since 2008, the authorities in Rio have been working to reduce the social gap between the city’s haves and have-nots: the residents of the middle-class asfalto dwellings and the favelas that surround them. The police have clamped down on organised crime and as a result, some of the cliffs that provide a backbone for favela towns such as Rocinha can now be climbed in relative safety. 

urban climbing

Local attraction

The sport of climbing is attracting more residents from the slums the hills overlook. “It’s a very physical and psychologically challenging sport,” says Andrew Lenz, who founded a climbing school at the Favela da Rocinha. “It’s enjoyable and useful – it makes those who do it better prepared for other areas of their lives.” 

Rio has become one of the biggest urban rock climbing centres in the world, with easy-access pathways making it an attractive location for beginners and experts alike. In the south of the city, there are plenty of places that allow for a ‘quickie’, a short finger climb, and a stunning view of the 2016 Olympic Games site. “Climbing here is a totally different experience,” says American climber Colette MacInerney. “I’ve fallen in love with Brazil and Rio.” 

“The city is perfect for all sorts of climbing,” says Lucas Marques, a local climber, who introduced MacInerney to the Dois Irmãos hill. “Climbers from all over the world come here due to the beauty and the ease with which you can access the hills. In Rio, you can go to work and climb all in the same day.”

During a recent climbing trip, Marques and MacInerney managed to negotiate the rocky cliff route known as ‘Patrick White’ twice in four hours. The session was a memorable one for MacInerney: “Having the city, the ocean and the hills so close is refreshing and unlike every other place I’ve climbed.”



And another thing 

what to do off the rocks

The best waves in Rio break at Prainha, about 30km from the city. As well as excellent surfing, the area is a picturesque natural park worth exploring for a few hours.


Take a seat at the guardrail that separates Bar Urca’s boardwalk from the waves at the Guanabara Bay shore. The ice-cold beer and the bar’s famous empanada, a baked stuffed pastry, are a must.



For those not satisfied getting to grips with the rocks, a hang-gliding flight is another way to see Rio from above.



Read more
04 2014 the red bulletin

Next story