I used to think Brazil was bad...not anymore!

I used to think Brazil was bad...not anymore!

Page Type Page Type: Article
Activities Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering, Trad Climbing, Sport Climbing, Toprope, Bouldering, Ice Climbing, Big Wall, Mixed, Scrambling
Another small article about recent thoughts. A fast reading.

People must think i am a bum that thinks about mountain all the time. Well, almost. Still on my desperate search for a job, everywhere, running into small jobs or selling my stuff, after all i need to do something so i don’t go crazy. But my research on South American mountains is something practically endless. Researching information about some of them i discovered, there is one place in South America that mountaineering is more “damaged” than the prohibitions of Brazil! Many mountains in Brazil are forbidden to climb for many reasons, but this things i learned at the last couple days are worse!

Second photo by Tácio Philip. "Forbidden to climb"

It’s quite true, i spend my time looking at photos, working on my photos, building mountains pages here at summitpost to show brazilian mountains to the world, and in recent days, even kept a little time to compile data for two mountains and upload to our brazilian website, RUMOS.NET. You gotta keep dreaming! The intention was to build these mountains pages to the brazilian website, searching for them online, but the task became more complicated after the responses i got when i asked for information about them.

Amazing, when you read what i read...At first i thought it was a lie, but seconds later i remembered that in Brazil we have similar cases. I've been gathering information on some of the Colombian mountains, big mountains as the first and second highest in the country, Nevado Simon Bolivar of 5.775 meters of altitude, and Nevado Cristobal Colon, of 5.775 meters too. Even today it is not certain which one is the highest since the last measurement iwas done over twenty years ago. Twenty years!

Both are part of the same massif in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, this is NOT part of the Andes, it is a mountain range apart. Given a more impressive detail, both are classified as 5th mountain in the world in prominence, incredible 5.584 meters of topographic prominence. Almost the entire mountain.

Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Cristobal Colon and Simon Bolivar.

The reason for the ban is the local life in the region that prevents the climbing of the mountain with religious beliefs. The Indian tribe Arhuacos closes access to the highest mountains in the country because they consider them holy mountains, the most sacred there. As an Historian i can understand that. I consulted a colombian climber / guide by email and received an answer full of sadness, saying "never been to Santa Marta Sierra and is a shame because the highest peaks of my country are there, only two of my friends were there and they got this information for you, this mountain hasn't been climbed for over 20 years".

It doesn’t ends here. After a week, thinking and rethinking about this mountain that nobody climbed in more than twenty years (according to the guide words), i thought of another big mountain in Colombia we do not hear from here in Brazil as well, just as the other two, and that would be the Nevado de Huila (this one belongs to the Andes), which has 5.365 meters of altitude, the highest volcano in the country and the third highest mountain in the country. It is a very active volcano, also is in full eruption is almost two years, erupting almost continuously since November 21st, 2008, but no network television gives us news at the moment about it.

The impressive Huila in full active eruption since nov 2008!, photos from a few days ago!
Photos by: INGEOMINAS (Colombian Institute of Geology)


The response was even more impressive on my query about this mountain, and this time i consulted an Colombian blogger/ climber, someone else, he said to me: "Paulo, thanks for your contact. The Nevado de Huila is an extremely unstable and dangerous mountain, it is an active volcano for almost two years non-stop, and unstable ground. Also, drug dealers and militia man cultivate opium at the foot of the volcano and they don’t let anyone go through their crops. It takes very good contacts for walk in this zone. Besides all this danger, it is necessary to speak with the Indians for permission to walk by their sacred mountains. Hugs...". Even to find photos of that mountains is difficult, since there are only photos from long distance or from an airplane, and at internet they’re the same 2 or 3 photos, that's all.

REALLY? Not just the first, not just the second mountain, the third highest peak also is strictly prohibited, with the risk not of been arrested (like the risks we have to deal with in Brazil) but to be shot to death! Now i think you guys understood the title of the article, right?

Here in Brazil our problems are pretty minor compared to these, and we have a great deal of problems with prohibitions. Eventually, despite these prohibitions, some expedition reaches the summit of Pico da Neblina and 31 de Março (1st and 2nd highest summits of my country), the latest news we heard of were Barbara Pereira and Beatriz Azevedo (both friends of my), and with Beatriz the hike was possible only because she had an printed approval, when she arrived it was closed again and the paper saved her expedition. Simple, the prohibitions here in Brazil are temporary and the Indians welcome any negotiations. They’re not any more Indians in the pure sense of the word (when you hear indian you think about bow and arrow, forget about that), they’re "institutionalized", "modern". For those who do not know, a great number of Indians here in Brazil walk wearing feathers on the head, face paints, but drives a big ass PAJERO and makes money from precious stones mining. That's a loooooong talk and it's not my goal in this short article.

We fear headlines such as this:
Amendments in Congress will inhibit the free practice of Mountaineering and Climbing

And this:
"Director of Sumidouro Park promises to legalize rock climbing at Lapinha sector"

And this:
"Climbing: banned sport?"

And this:
"Federations manifest about the conditions of visitation of Itatiaia National Park"

We fear news like this and like so many others...did you get the picture? Will the colombians risk their lives against opium drug dealers and indians to climb those mountains? Simple, in Colombia, they not even try. Here in Brazil sometimes we hear about kidnappings of hikers in Pico da Neblina, but not beyond that. After a few weeks they free the hikers. Recently, Sarah Shourd (climber) was released in Iran after spending more than 400 days arrested accused of espionage, SPYING? The woman was climbing a mountain for fxxx sake!

Well, you guys do the math. I thought that Brazil was bad but when you think you are in a bad situation, a worse one shows up. Until recently I did not knew that about the colombian highest peaks, now i understand why there is no page for these mountains here at summitpost (at least i couldn’t find! Correct me if i’m wrong), probably no Sper climbed them.

Too bad...too bad.

External Links

A brazilian website to get mountains info, including gps files to download:http://www.rumos.net.br/rumos/

My youtube channel: www.youtube.com/parofes
- Now with 250+ videos online!

The biggest brazilian website about climbing and mountaineering, for which I'm a columnist:

Global volcanism program (page about Huila volcano): http://www.volcano.si.edu/world/volcano.cfm?vnum=1501-05=

Photo gallery for the Huila volcano INGEOMINAS(4 years of records): http://intranet.ingeominas.gov.co/popayan/Fotograf%C3%ADas

News about the eruption of Huila: http://intranet.ingeominas.gov.co/popayan/Reporte_de_actividad_volc%C3%A1n_Nevado_del_Huila%2C_09_nov_2010%2C_6:00_p.m.


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EricChu - Nov 11, 2010 6:07 pm - Voted 10/10

Good and informative article!

Sounds pretty drastic...especially the fact that in Columbia you run the risk of being shot without warning (!)...although I've always found that in Europe and in the USA, we're very privileged...everybody can hike, climb and "kraxeln" wherever he or she wants...when you think that in India, Pakistan, Nepal, China (especially in China!) and all the other nations containing the mountains of the Pamir, Karakoram, Himalaya, Transhimalaya, Tien Shan, Hindukush etc. you first have to climb one if not several mountains of bureaucracy reaching nearly Everest or Gasherbrum height before you even get to start the trek to the base camp of the mountain of your dreams...in Nepal and possibly in Pakistan as well still (though I think it's Afzal we should ask about this!) the mountains are still considered sacred, and the fear of infuriating the Gods by trodding on what is still considered their thrones is still there. When you think that Mount Kailash is still an absolute taboo, and probably never will ever be climbed...although if I'm really to be perfectly honest, something in me, at least concerning Kailash, agrees with this. I do believe very strongly that "the whole is more than simply the sum of it's elements"...why are we so fascinated and awestricken by the sight of a mighty ice-covered peak? When you analyze rationally, it's actually a pile of rock and frozen water we're looking at, isn't it? But our heart and our soul says a clear NO to this! Mountains are more...always have been, since the dawn of mankind and already way before that. What we all feel is...THE creation. Thus, the idea that the high mountains are the thrones of the Gods has something to it, I find, and if three (!) world (!) religions have seen Kailash already for thousands of years as being the navel of the world, the most sacred spot on Earth, then I am convinced that this is for a reason and should be honored and respected.
Of course the religious issue is surely not the only reason for so many restrictions and bureaucracy...after all, they charge also fees...!!!!
As to Brazil and Columbia, I don't know what to say, really...you know far more than I do, here...there must be reasons, be it either "restricted area" regulations or National Park regulations, I don't know. I didn't even know that there was such a problem about forbidden mountains in Brazil.
One example in the Alps though, as you probably know, is the Swiss National Park (which, oddly enough, does not cover the Bernese 4000ers or the Monte Rosa - Matterhorn area, but a mountainwise very insignificant area in the south-east of the country). The only peak one is allowed to go up is the highest one in that area, the Piz Quattervals (a mere 3164 meters high). Everything else is strictly forbidden! Those are the laws of the Swiss National park, the most rigorous of any part of the Alps.
As I say, a good article you wrote, with a lot of valuable information - thanks for bringing it to my attention in your reply!
Cheers and all the best to you, Paulo,


PAROFES - Nov 12, 2010 4:24 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Good and informative article!

ahaha! Your comment is almost as big as the article itself heheheh
Well my friend, i can give you an simple and short answer to all the stuff you wrote: At the article, i wrote this: "as an historian, i can understand that".
I really do!
But what pisses me off is that drug dealers BS about damn drug crops...
And the problems we have here about all the prohibiton is just like the ones you told me about. Park adm rules, too much rules.
And there's another reasons...like idiots that don't take out their own garbage, and that makes the property owner (where some rock climbing area is in) angry, and after that they close their farm/ house to all rock climbers because of some stupid dirty bastard.
But mostly, the damn park adm. As i said before in the mountain pages, 80% of the summits from Itatiaia are forbidden! But i do them anyway, and doing so, i'm taking the risk of been arrested on worst case cenario, or in the best option, i'll probably have to pay a huge ticket!
And guess what? At dinner time last night, i saw at tv news some brazilian so called "indians" (if ou see what i'm talking about you'll get it. they not even look like indians!) go into a gunfight with the police! They closed a highway asking for money, of course. They shot a policeman 5 times and cut off the pinky finger of the poor policeman, trying to do his job! That was crazy!!! Well afterwords some other cops return fire and 3 indians got shot, but nobody died, including the "fingerless cop".
Well, that kind of problem started 510 years ago...
Anyway, thank you for reading and for the comment Eric!
Cheers my friend


PAROFES - Nov 12, 2010 10:47 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Good and informative article!

After all Eric,

We always feel like appease the god of the mountains, CROM! hehehehehe


PAROFES - Nov 16, 2010 12:23 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Ouch dude!

Hey Taco!
Sometimes that can be a big problem, but we always do it anyway so yep, we risk too much sometimes too, as i sad to Eric.
But it's not SO difficult like Colombia!


CSUMarmot - Nov 14, 2010 3:39 pm - Voted 10/10

The tradeoffs...

between aspiring to climb mountains while balancing cultural obligations can seem insignificant at first, how does climbing a mountain take away from the native's ability to revere it as sacred? Isn't climbing sacred to some people? But it is important to offer respect to natives as the world slowly closes in on them, or they will disappear by means of assimilation, as you stated it seems like this is already happening. In America we have treated our natives with such disrespect we are shamed in their presence. So as brutal as it is to look upon a mountain you cannot climb, culture is equally important. Learn from our mistakes.
Anyhow two delightful articles in the last few weeks, thank you for giving us a look into Brazil through your eyes


PAROFES - Nov 16, 2010 12:29 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: The tradeoffs...

You're absolutly right my friend. Again, as a historian, i know what you're talking about.
But, here in Brazil the concept of "indian" in its true sense died dozens of years ago along with thousands of true indians.
Today, they're most like me and you or anybody else, and they make use of the place they were born as an excuse for wrong actions, of course looking for easy money.
Culture is probably the most precious thing there is, but the so called "indians" here in Brazil disrespect it as soon as one chance presents itself.
Thank you for the fantastic comment and reading!
Best wishes


PAROFES - Nov 16, 2010 12:39 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: In the American Southwest....

Great words Fort, as usual of course.
Maybe what happens in Colombia is similar to what happens in Brazil. Everybody knows where the drugs and drug dealers are, but nobody does anything to stop it. Why? Because all of them make money with that. The damn drugs...
Maybe it's the same process in Colombia. i really don't know.
The thing is, here in Brazil there's a lot of APA (Área de Proteção Ambiental), parks with hundreds of rules such as Itatiaia. BUT, some politicians own properties inside the park!!!
They make rules to keep away people and the excuse is to "protect the environment".
I wonder when that same politician that own a big house inside the park flushes the toilet, where does the shit goes...
Well, eventually i'll visit Bogotá, i promiss to tell you if its really nice! :)


Ze - Mar 2, 2011 4:18 pm - Voted 10/10

Santa Marta

obrigado pelo artigo Paulo. estou indo para Colombia nesta semana e estava pensando em subir uma dessas montanhas. Parece muito dificil. Voce conhece o "Cidade Perdida"? Acho que fica perto dos primeiros picos. Tem um caminhada de 5 dias para la.

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