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Trad First Ascents - Brasil

My trip to Brasil in 2000 with Seb Grieve, Mike Robertson and Rick Smee was the first of a series to explore destinations which had relatively little climbing development at the time. We set out to Rio with the intention of having an adventure, regardless of whether or not we found any decent cliffs, but sure enough, on arrival we encountered an array of granite domes, which were ideal for easy sport climbing. However, the biggest challenge was not getting too distracted by the nightlife in the party capital of the world. In the end it was thanks to the gentle persuasion from our host and loca trad aficionado, Ralf Cortes, that we ended up tearing ourselves away from Rio and exploring the trad potential of some of the outlying areas. 

 
 Crag Zero in Itachaia National Park, with the line of Boiling Point E8 6b in centre-frame.  Photo: Mike Robertson

Crag Zero in Itachaia National Park, with the line of Boiling Point E8 6b in centre-frame.

Photo: Mike Robertson


Itachaia National Park

Our first stop was a beautiful unspoilt region, which lies just outside Rio. Itachaia National Park is littered with granite outcrops and escarpments, very few of which had been climbed on at the time of our trip. We pitched camp and set about exploring some of the best looking crags on foot. One which stood out was dubbed 'Crag Zero' by our team. This appeared to have potential for some bold, intricate slab climbing, with faint runnels, grooves and scoops running down it's smooth, slabby face. Seb Grieve set to work on the left hand of the two big lines on the main part of the face and I abseiled down the faint scoop-line on the right. We were immediately seduced by the quality of the climbing, and the only snag would be the blatant lack of protection. After a sleepless night, we both arrived at the crag the next morning, jabbering with nerves and decided to go for the lead. Seb named his route Fuzzy Logic E7 6b, (as a tribute to the bizarre reverse-psychology that is used to justify bold climbing) and my route was christened Boiling Point E8 6b. 

 

 Boiling Point E8 6b, Itachaia. First ascent in 2000.  Photo: Mike Robertson

Boiling Point E8 6b, Itachaia. First ascent in 2000.

Photo: Mike Robertson

Boiling Point E8 6b  'Crag Zero', Itachaia National Park, Brasil, 2000

Boiling Point climbs a faint scoop-line up the 45m-high slabby main face of Crag Zero. The route is virtually unprotected and it saves the crux moves until the very end. It had a similar feel to Indian Face, although the climbing was a fraction easier. This was the first time I had tried to lead a route of this nature outside the UK and the remote location certainly added to the sense of commitment. 

 

 Kryptonite E7 6b, Itaquatiara. First ascent in 2000.  Photo: Mike Robertson

Kryptonite E7 6b, Itaquatiara. First ascent in 2000.

Photo: Mike Robertson

Kryptonite E7 6b  Itaquatiara, Rio, Brasil, 2000

Halfway through the trip, our host, Ralf Cortes took us across the bay from Rio to Itaquatiara to visit one of his favourite crags. He pointed out a route that he’d put up on the seaward side of the main canyon, which followed a crack to a tenuous crux on the blank upper slab. Ralf had placed a bolt to protect the crux, but he was keen for me to chop it and attempt the route without it. With some trepidation, I managed to oblige and the result was a pure trad version of Ralf’s original line.

 

Trad First Ascents - Mongolia

With temperatures ranging from -40 C in winter to +40 C in summer, mosquitos that can kill cattle, the threat of bubonic plague and a diet of gristly mutton and rancid milk, Mongolia doesn't jump out as the most obvious place for a relaxing climbing trip. But a rumour that there might be climbable gritstone out there was enough to sew the seeds and in April 2001, Seb Grieve, Mike Robertson, Tim Emmett, Grant Farquhar and I flew out to Ulaan Baatar. We hired a rusty old ex-army caravan and headed East to Ghorki-Terelj National Park, where we struck lucky on the first day. A cluster of perfectly formed conglommerate granite domes provided some excellent low and mid-grade trad routes. However, the rest of the entire trip was spent roaming endless plains and we only managed to find one other minor granite crag near to the small settlement of Tsetseleg. We learned to ride camels and horses and catch fish with the local nomadic herdsmen, but we certainly didn't further out grit climbing prowess. Yet on the last day, a geology collection revealed a tantalising gritsone sample, so it would seem that the truth is still out there.

 
 Sapphire Crack E5 6b, Ghorki Park. First ascent in 2001  Photo: Mike Robertson

Sapphire Crack E5 6b, Ghorki Park. First ascent in 2001

Photo: Mike Robertson

GHORKI-TERELJ NATIONAL PARK

 

To find this area from Ulaan Baatar, take the A0501 trunk road to the East for approx. 37 km. After the road crosses the Tuul River, the National park territory begins. A few kilometres after entering the park, to the south of the road a cluster of prominent outcrops is visible.

 

Sapphire Crack E5 6b Ghorki Park, Mongolia 04.01

This route lies on the nearest and most obvious outcrop, with a large round boulder perched on top and three wide cracks splitting the South West face. Sapphire Crack is the clean finger crack in the highest part of the left-hand pebble-dashed face. It is named after the Sapphire nightclub in UB, which treated us to an eclectic mix of thrash metal and Euro trash pop with fire-breathers and traditional dancers. 

 Ulan Battered E5 6b, Ghorki Park. First ascent in 2001.  Photo: Mike Robertson

Ulan Battered E5 6b, Ghorki Park. First ascent in 2001.

Photo: Mike Robertson

Ulan Battered E5 6b  Ghorki Park, Mongolia 04.01

 

This route lies on one of the three major outcrops that are visible just South of the main road a few kilometres after entering the park. The crag is a small escarpment rather than a dome and there was a small village below it at the time of our visit. The right-hand crack in the bulging headwall is ‘off-size’ in places and succumbs only to brute force and determination. Rope drag can be reduced by climbing a short, easy first pitch and belaying below the roof. Tim Emmett nipped in straight afterwards with the second ascent. 

 Dose of the Runnels E2 5b, Ghorki Park. First ascent in 2001  Photo: Mike Robertson

Dose of the Runnels E2 5b, Ghorki Park. First ascent in 2001

Photo: Mike Robertson

Dose of the Runnels E2 5b, Ghorki Park, Mongolia 04.01 (photo: Mike Robertson)

This route is found on the far side of one of the three outcrops. Climb the obvious runnel steadily, but with poor protection.

 

 

Ghengis Power V8, Tesetseleg, 04.01 (photo: Mike Robertson)

I’ve always struggled with bouldering but I couldn’t resist spending a day working this excellent little problem, which lies below the small crags at Tsetseleg.