K2 - Corcovado Climb to Big JesusThe climb K2 is very straight forward. That is of course once you've arrived at the base of the Pitch 1. Getting to and finding this climb was by far the most time consuming and unknown part of the entire adventure, so lets back up and start at the beginning in Botofogo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Actually, lets imagine you're starting from 'home', wherever that is for you.
What you'll need for the climb:
-Chalk- it's not only hard to find but way overpriced. I paid almost $25 for a normally $4 bag of chalk.
-Quickdraws- 6-8 normal length draws will do
-Runners- I'd bring a couple 2ft and a couple 4ft runners, the climb traverses and wanders,also useful for slinging a tree at the top of Pitch 3
-Rope- Our 60m was fine for the job.
-Jackets- We were sweating bullets on the approach but froze as the clouds and winds encircled us on the cliff.
-Headlamps- Chances are a slower party will be in front of you and the darkness might hit you like it did us. I climbed Pitch 4 with a headlamp on.
-Climbing shoes good for slab smearing and almost vert 5.9 sections, nothing is overhanging.
-Helmets are always a good bet too.
Getting to the tourist infested base of Corcovado is pretty easy. Any cab will take you to the drop off point where tourist guides are more than willing to take your money and cram you in a van. This is how we got to the final approach you do on foot. This is not the cheapest or fastest option as we later learned. If you pay for a roundtrip in a van plan for almost an hour plus before you start the final approach. The van goes to photo op points before heading up the mountain. Cabs can drive you all the way to the final drop point but will probably tell you they can't. They can, we saw plenty of cabs up there. A cab is probably the middle ground of fast and cheap. Cheapest way up is to simply walk/hitch hike up but potentially not the fastest. We met a party of 3 who had hitched a ride so it is possible. At a certain point up Corcovado they stop all traffic and only allow designated buses to take you to the top, Do NOT get on these buses!! This is where you continue on foot. The workers will probably tell you the top is soooo far away (it's barely 2mi to the top but you're not walking all the way.)
This is where it can get tricky. You will eventually take a climbers trail that will be off to your left as you walk up the road. It will be slightly past a guard rail on the left side and when you get on the trail the mountain will be to your right. If you pass the trail you will eventually come upon a roadside climbing wall with bolts or at least that's what our friend told us, we found the trail no problem. Follow this trail through the thick jungle and you will likely spot bolts here and there. Continue until the trail basically ends and you'll be at the base of Pitch 1. Hopefully my attached photos will help with these directions.
The climb has a 5.9 rating and is what I would consider similar to what I would grade an indoor 5.9 (I route set for an indoor climbing gym) It's not the scary old school Yosemite 5.9+ grade that really should be 5.10C. It's 5.9 at a few moves and stays under for most of the climb.
Pitch 1: low angle slab in the corner system will lead you to a reachy, balancy move out left. There are lots of options and you can make this section harder then 5.9 if you have trouble trusting your feet on granite slab. Towards the top you make a few true layback moves in the corner crack that will lead you to the first belay station. I want to say that one of the last bolts of Pitch 1 you should put a long sling on but I don't remember exactly.
Pitch 2: I swapped leads with Phil, who is well versed with Yosemite 5.9 trad routes and made a solid partner for the climb. Pitch 2 begins with a balancy traverse out left before heading up. Again, being comfortable on slabby granite is what keeps this climb easy. If you're used to bearing down on positive crimps at a 45 angle then you might struggle with the friction climbing of K2. Pitch 2 is rather short in a vertical sense and ends at a huge party ledge. There are a few rebar post implanted up there you can sling for anchors if you like. The ledge is so large that being unroped is totally safe if you're so inclined as Phil was.
Pitch 3: A few bouldery opening moves leads to more easy climbing that eventually traverses left. You can split this pitch if you want by doing the vertical section first then the traverse after but I don't see the advantage gained by doing this. Only if your second has a high possibility of falling then they risk a pretty good pendulum into the jungle that clings to cracks in the mountain sides. I eventually walked on an even bigger belay ledge to a tree which I tied off as my belay anchor and the last 2 bolts serve well as directionals.
Pitch 4: This pitch is the most technical. Almost vertical the holds are hard to find and oddly spaced. The feet aren't the best either. Phil managed a clean lead with some effort and I followed just fine with a headlamp lighting my way. This pitch ends in the deep growth of the jungle. Once to the belay station unrope and scamper up! You'll be greeted by the small retaining wall of the monument and the confused looks of the tourists and guides.
As we climbed over the wall we were hassled a bit by the workers until we explained we had just climbed the cliff side to reach big Jesus. They were all thoroughly impressed. We timed it right by finishing at dark. We actually only had about 15min on top before they closed the monument and thus avoided the hordes of people. There were maybe 40 other people milling about and we were the last ones when they made the final sweep to get us out.
Getting off the mountain. If you paid for a bus ride up then you'll have a sticker that's good for a return ride all the way down. We had stickers but the party of 3 climbers in front of us had hitched up and therefore lacked stickers. But the drivers never checked and we smuggled them in the van just fine. Otherwise a long walk in the dark awaited them which could be potentially sketchy in Rio.
K2 is definitely worth climbing if you're in Rio. While not the hardest climb in town the amazing views and sense of exposure as you exit the jungle are world class. If and when I'm back in Rio I will be sure to run a lap on K2.