• Living With A Very Serious Climber
  • What I've Learned: Sonnie Trotter
  • The Tower: A Chronicle of Climbing and Controversy on Cerro Torre
  • What I've Learned: Mark Udall
  • John Long's Favorite 5.10
  • The Rock Rambo: A "Tough Mudder" For Climbers
  • The Pirate: Adventures with Ammon McNeely
  • Dean Potter: What I've Learned
  • Call of the Wild: America's Hardest Crag - Wolf Point - Is Just a Vision
  • Berni's Tips for the Climbing Road Trip
  • What I've Learned: Heinz Mariacher
  • The Hardest Bouldering in America ... and Maybe the World
  • The Sasha DiGiulian Profile
  • What I've Learned: Chris Sharma
  • Notes from A Generation X Climber
  • Durango Unchained
  • Tipping Point on Everest
  • Tales of Sickness: Pro Climbing is Neither
  • Climbing Deal Breakers
  • Alex Honnold's First Ascent in Memory of Todd Skinner
  • The Seeker: Said Belhaj
  • The Art of Losing
  • Tommy Caldwell: What I've Learned
  • Dave Graham: Looking Backward
  • Reinhold Messner: What I've Learned
  • To the Death: Inside Catalunya and Ridiculously Hard Sport Climbing
  • The Definitive Charlie Porter Profile & Interview
  • Sonnie Trotter's Favorite 5.10: Exasperator (5.10c)
  • Unbroken: The Alex Johnson Profile
  • Steep Learning Curve: Honnold On His Early Free-Soloing Days
  • What I've Learned: John Bachar's Last Interview
  • Listening for the Echo: The Klem Loskot Profile
  • Bishop Bound: The Boulders and Beyond
  • The Eiger the Hard Way: Britain's Boldest Take on the North Face
  • Royal Robbins on the First Ascent of the North American Wall
  • Adam Ondra's Hardest Routes in Flatanger
  • Perfect Play: What It Took to Climb La Dura Dura (5.15c)--The World's Hardest Route
  • Sasha DiGiulian Explains Why We Don't Climb Hard Enough
  • TNB: The Only Blasphemy
  • Everest Deserves Respect: Why It's Hard, From Someone Who's Been There
  • TNB: Chasing the Devil's Snort
  • Life on Hold: The Ian Powell Story
  • Return to Yosemite
  • Rope Jumping with Dan Osman
  • Origin of Species: Fontainebleau
  • El Cap's Hardest: Wings of Steel
  • Cragging in the Bay Area
  • TNB: What's the Problem?
  • To the Rescue
  • The Midwest Mindset
  • Point Break: Fight Over Fixed Draws
  • Island of Opportunity: Exploring the Potential of Puerto Rico
  • Storming Castles: New Routing in the High Sierras
  • Soul Rising: In Pursuit of the South's Most Excellent 5.9s
  • Pure Magic: Spellbound By the Boulders of Switzerland
  • Arctic Gold
  • Where Worlds Collide
  • TNB: The Jungle
  • Tahoe Moderates
  • Comic Relief
  • Shoot Like Simon Carter
  • Kurt Albert: Free Wheel
  • Place of Happiness
  • High Exposure: A Fresh Perspective on the Gunks
  • California's Big House
  • TNB: The Hurt Locker
  • TNB: Eating People and the Real Seventh Summit
  • Wild Wild West Virginia
  • Wild Chihuahua
  • Who's Next?
  • Whole Everything
  • What's Supp?
  • Vintage Vantage
  • TURKISH DELIGHT
  • Tuff Love
  • True Believers
  • Tower of the Damned, Climbing the Crystal Tower
  • Top Digs
  • Todd Skinner: The Renegade
  • THE YEAR THAT WENT SOUTH
  • The Upstart
  • Tom Patey: The Tiger of Yesterday
  • The Stone Garden
  • The Secret of Nanda Devi
  • The Hidden
  • The Hard Way
  • THE GOLDEN AGE
  • The First Attempt on Latok I North Ridge by Michael Kennedy
  • The Eyes Have It
  • The Bond
  • The Black is Beautiful
  • Patxi Usobiaga: The Bionic Man
  • The Better Half
  • The Beast of the East
  • Talk is Cheap
  • Souvenirs
  • Southern Idaho Secrets
  • Simon Yates' New Route on Mount Vancouver
  • Routes Less Traveled
  • Rock Climbing in India
  • Ray's Roof Solo
  • Perfect Chaos
  • Open Water Treading in Paradise
  • New Mexico
  • Never Mind The Dinosaurs
  • Mountain of Clark
  • Michael Reardon
  • Melt Down
  • Max Turgeon and Louis-Philippe Ménard: Alpinists and Ice Climbers
  • Making The Grade
  • Local Color
  • Limestone Harmony
  • Landscaping
  • Kurt Albert: The Climber Who Invented Redpointing
  • King Air
  • JUNIOR MINTS
  • Josh Wharton: The Alpinist
  • John Rosholt: Climber and Gambler Disappears in Las Vegas
  • John Long: The Real Deal
  • John Long: Slaying Giants
  • John Long: High Times
  • The Stonemasters Climb at Pirates Cove
  • John Bachar's Last Interview
  • John Bachar Remembers Michael Reardon
  • John Bachar by Henry Barber
  • John Bachar Remembered by Duane Raleigh
  • John Bachar by Doug Robinson
  • John Bachar and the Bachar-Yerian First Ascent
  • Jimmie Dunn
  • Is Mixed Climbing Legitimite?
  • In the Land of Myths
  • Ice Climbing in Norway with WIll Gadd
  • Green Party
  • Getting High and Feeling Good
  • Generational Shift
  • Game On 2
  • G.I. YO!
  • Freaky Folklore
  • For Climbing
  • Empire Blocks
  • Divine Wind
  • Devil's Advocate
  • Deep Water Soloing in Mallorca
  • Dave MacLeod versus Dave Birkett
  • Conquistdors of the Useful
  • Colin Kirkus: Climbing's Greatest Unknown
  • Climbing Photography How To
  • Climbing Jobs, Benefits and Salaries
  • Climbing Jobs
  • Clever Levers
  • Classic Acts
  • TNB: Chris Sharma and The Art of Jeep Maintenance
  • Cheap Tricks
  • Charlie Fowler American Alpinist
  • Bouldering in Hampi India
  • Bastard Child
  • Backwoods Bouldering
  • Avoiding Arthritis
  • Attack of the Daks
  • Armenia Rock Climbing
  • Arco Climbing Comp, the Face of 2010
  • Alex and Thomas Huber Climb in Queen Maud Land
  • Ain't it Grand
  • Age of Reason
  • A Short Walk With Whillans
  • John Long: A Man for All Seasons
  • America's Best Climbing Area: Red River Gorge
  • Galen Rowell: The Vertical World
  • The Prophet
  • The Guy Whose Nuts Revolutionized Climbing: R.P.
  • Brotherhood on Orizaba
  • TNB: American Dirtbag
  • A Desperate Move
  • The Last Moonset
  • Murder At Cho Oyu
  • Climbing Dark Star, a Sierra Classic
  • Rock Climbing and Bouldering in Mongolia
  • Defying the Red Rock Bolt Ban
  • Crossroads
  • John Long: The Royal Scam
  • John Long: The Only Rule That Counts
  • John Long: On the Road
  • John Long: Nothing but Rubble
  • John Long: Mountains of Trouble
  • John Long: Legends of the Mind
  • John Long: Legend of Lord Gym
  • John Long: Guilty Pleasures
  • John Long: Channel Surfing
  • John Long: A Confederacy of Dunces
  • Dreamweaver Mixed Climb: Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Tom Frost and Yosemite's Lost Climbing Photos
  • Refugee
  • Creatures of Feature
  • THE KARMA CONNECTION
  • The Dark Art
  • Altered State
  • THE WATERFALL
  • The Montana Girls
  • PYTHON
  • Moving Over Stone
  • An Encounter with Fred
  • Life Without Limits
  • Self Service
  • The Crossing
  • Disco Dance Party on the Blob
  • Rescue 5.11
  • VSC Reprise
  • Crashing the Heights
  • Cold Justice Paul Cormier
  • Whiteout
  • The Bucket List
  • Finding Nirvana
  • How to Prevent Bonking
  • Wabi Sabi
  • The Plastic Prince
  • John Bachar and the Cosmic Surfboard
  • Confessions of an Almost Serious Climber
  • Three F's for Jany
  • What's at the root of the name of the route?
  • For the Birds
  • Topropers Unite!
  • The Recreational Life
  • The Cruxiest Move
  •  
    Video Spotlight
    Climb Like Sharma. Part 2, Limits and Fears
    Climb Like Sharma. Part 2, Limits and Fears

    Place of Happiness

    15-Dec-2012
    By Stefan Glowacz

    An acrid cloud of smoke from the fireworks wafted across Sao Jose do Divino, a small village in the remote northeastern corner of Brazil. Throbbing drum-beats and angry roars from an excited crowd filled the tropical air, and it wouldn’t have taken much to imagine this as the scene of an ancient ritual. In fact, our crew—an international climbing team comprised of Edemilson Padiha of Brazil; Horacio Gratton of Argentina; and Holger Heuber, myself, and a photographer, Klaus Fengler, all from Germany—were witness to the village’s most important rite of the year: It was the final soccer game and the southern part of Sao Jose do Divino was to square off against the northerners.

    For months the locals had been feverishly awaiting the event and people arrived from all directions in rusted jalopies, cram-packed buses and by horseback. One villager even rode a cow. But despite the run up to the match, ultimately and ironically it didn’t matter who won. As soon as the ref’s final whistle blew, loudspeakers began pumping out South American rhythms, the village girls’ hips began swaying and the party started.

    Our group stepped up to join in the celebration while keeping a bleary eye on the prize, the Piedra Riscada, a 2,600-foot rock that rises from the lush tropical forest just outside the village. The Piedra Riscda is the largest rock monolith in South America. It’s the “Ayers Rock of Brazil,” and would be a remarkable geological wonder anywhere on earth.

    The jewel of Piedra Riscada had been revealed to me five years before by Pere Vilarasua, a climber from Spain living in Argentina. I’d met Vilarasua while climbing around Bariloche, Argentina. He had made the first ascent of Planeta do Macaco on the formation of Filhoce, also near Sao Jose do Divino, and showed me photos of the area. The Piedra Riscda already had several routes to its summit, but the most striking line up its prominent nose was unclimbed One look and I knew what had to be done.

    Arriving, we had been welcomed by the man behind the scenes of Sao Jose do Divino is Edemilson Duarte, son of the previous mayor, rock musician, farmer, passionate hobby politician and the leading village visionary. Duarte boldly dreamed of crowds of tourists and climbers making pilgrimages to the Piedra Riscarda, and to accommodate them built a modern guesthouse that would seem better suited to Mars than among the tile-roofed dwellings of this lovely area. Duarte kindly offered us the guesthouse, and after many glasses of Cachaca, a rum-like beverage made from sugar cane that can blur vision and render even seasoned drinkers into blithering jellyfish, he put his arms around us, winked, and said, “Guys, no matter what you do, I´ll take care of you.”

    We were in paradise. The temperature was pleasant, the humidity low and the scenery spectacular. From our quarters we could easily see the Piedra Riscarda and numerous other imposing walls, none less than 1,000 feet high, along the horizon. We felt as if we had discovered Yosemite. That the walls were barren of cracks appeared but a minor setback relative to the issue of the plant life that sprang from them. A botanist would have been amazed by the sight, but it filled us with dread. Only the right edge corner of the Piedra Riscada, looming like the keel of the sinking Titanic and split at least in part with a clean crack system at mid-height, gave us any hope.

    Our “climbers’ code of ethics” dictated that the first lead went to our South American friends, although anyone examining the first 600 feet of wall might have thought our intentions malicious. A sweeping slab of delicate friction plates protected by the occasional bolt steadily kicked out to the upper, gently overhanging headwall spackled with knobs. In the midday equatorial sun, padding up the low-angle rock in tight rock shoes was almost as masochistic as drinking as that Cachaca, but Edemilson and Horacio persevered. Soon we had the initial section behind us, and we retired to Duarte’s comfortable abode, a routine that we’d repeat for much of the lengthy climb.

    Our situation became more dramatic. The increasingly steep route became more difficult, but back in town our growing late-night social responsibilities began to exact their toll. The stress of the partying peaked with a mandatory rock concert with Duarte in center ring, in a village 25 miles away. The red orb of the morning sun peeked over the ragged skyline before we made it back to Sao Jose de Divino, where we quickly changed clothes and plodded off toward our climb. After that episode, we split into two teams. One would climb while the other stayed behind to entertain the stream of visitors, whose numbers continued to swell like a rain-fed jungle stream.

    The climbing went from foot-cramping friction slab to knobs, and real ledges remained non-existent with hanging belays. We cleared some pitches of dried-grass tufts, but overall the line was remarkably clean and vegetation-free. At half height, we entered the obvious dihedral and a thin, tricky bit of 5.12d crack climbing and stemming protected with Friends and nuts. After those three pitches, we ventured onto a sea of knobs and long but not dangerous runouts between bolts.

    Sleepless nights back in the village were followed by nerve-wracking days as one of us would have to go up on lead, set a hook, and hang from it to drill. Each time we headed up we rolled the dice, never knowing if the climbing ahead would be 5.10 or 5.13, if a hook placement would appear and if it would hold. Doubt nagged at us like a chieftan’s fat wife, and always in the backs of our minds loomed the prospect of getting stranded out there among the knobs, unable to continue, unable to reverse. Amazingly, hookable knobs always appeared just when we needed them, and after equipping each pitch, we pulled the rope and redpointed it. Midway up, we set up a portaledge and lived off it for several days until our Bosch batteries died. From the portaledge we could watch monkeys on the lower ledge climbing about with the greatest of ease—thank God they didn’t climb our route!

    In the mornings, the valleys remained shaded and covered with a silky layer of fog. After expeditions in dangerous wand far-reaching corners of the earth, we experienced unexpected feelings of harmony and security. No rockfall or Patagonian winds threatened to sweep us away, and even memories of hard-partying Sao Jose de Divino faded. Realizing our personal limits and peaceful moments such as we had then are life’s true riches, providing happiness and moments we never forget. We do not travel halfway around the world just to climb walls with hooks. This was “The Place of Happiness,” and we could not find a better name for our route.
    We spent the last days all together on the wall, redpointing and pushing the line higher. After 10 days of sustained effort, we finally reached the end of the technical difficulties. We climbed hard and celebrated even harder, leaving with adventures we will longingly look back on while freezing our tails in Patagonian ice caves or igloos on Baffin Island. For those of you who are considering a trip to Sao Jose de Divino and getting on some pristine granite yourself, I recommend training up your fingers, steeling your nerves, but mostly arriving with the capacity to drink tub-loads of alcohol, wiggle your hips and utter a few charming Portuguese phrases.

    Stefan Glowacz has won the Arco Rock Master and free climbed at the highest grades in remote regions all over the world. He is the founder of the manufacturer Red Chili and father of three.

    Reader's Commentary:

    Don't want to use Facebook, but still want to comment? We have you covered:

    Add Your Comments to this article:
    Hello