Google Earth image of the mountains for this report.
Talking to my friend Tacio Philip about his project of climbing the 35 highest mountains in Brazil, i decided to go with him to two brazilian peaks that, frankly, my compatriots forgot about long ago. We talked for about 3 weeks before it happens and planed carefully so nothing went wrong. To reach these mountains require a long 5 hours drive, 1 long day of approach to establish a base camp so, we would spent a large energy just to see them. That’s not very common in Brazil so a mistake was not an option.
The peaks were Cabeça de Touro Peak: (Click to access the mountain page): and Tartarugão Peak: (Click to access the mountain page).
We left São Paulo in sept 3rd, went to a small familiar farm called Serra Fina Farm at the altitude of 1.540 meters high, and there I limited myself to a bivy and him and his girlfriend Paula slept inside his car. That way we wouldn’t have to set up camp and undo it at morning before start to walk.
Woke up at 6am, fast breakfast and gear up. A large group stoped at the farm, kept their curious eyes above us and left around 6:20am. We left kinda late, 7am. Soon after about 35 minutes we were crossing a large river, a quick refresh and then continuing our hike. That was gonna be a long and hard day of approach to reach the summit of Pedra da Mina, 4th highest peak of Brazil with the altitude of 2.798 meters above sea level.
Well, that was expected, we passed the large group about 20 minutes after the river. The sun was really strong and I remember I forgot my sunblock at home. Stupid mistake I have to tell ya. Serra Fina is one part of the Serra da Mantiqueira range, which envolves Serra Fina, Serra do Itatiaia, Serra da Bocaina and Marins Itaguare as one big mountain wall. It is one of the coldest places to be at june or july hiking in Brazil. The lowest temperature ever recorded there was of -14°C some years ago, not much. I myself got back in 2008 -8°C there camping at 2.200 meters! That was a cold night since in Brazil, the humidity makes it harder to take, different than the Andes, where its dry, just dry.
Okay, we were walking up and I knew it was gonna be harder to me then the others, after all, my last climb was Mont Blanc, 65 days before. I was out of shape of course, and with a heavy load of about 15kg (for now). The rest of the group was in a pretty good shape, doing hikes every weekend, but me, just looking for a new job to restart my life after my project “Work less, live more” that required me to drop my job, click to access the album for the project summits: Work Less, live more, the Project
After a while, 2 hours I guess, we got to the last water point before Pedra da Mina, at 2.000 meters high. That means that we had to carry up all the water we need to spend the night, cook, and the beginning of the second day. So, my weight went up a little, from 15kg to 20kg. I knew that sometime the muscle cramps would be back, it was just a question of time. And they did.
At around 2.400 meters, close to an unnamed mountain of 4 small summits, they came. Muscle cramps can be a very painful way to live in the mountains. They came and didn’t stoped for at least a couple hours. There was nothing I could do except keep walking to get to Pedra da Mina as fast as I could to get some serious rest. Either way, I had to slow down a little bit, so that was my sad afternoon at Serra Fina, walking really slowly and taking every photographic chance as an excuse to stop for a little bit and give the muscles a brake. By this "take ant photographic chance, i did this nice one on wild life and flora:
Parofito at the summit of Pedra da Mina, 2.798m.
So I did that and after 6 complete hours and 8,3km, way behind Tácio and Edson (half an hour) I got to the summit. My second time there at this huge gorgeous brazilian mountain, Pedra da Mina, and it would be our home for two nights as we completed our objectives up there. The first time I was there, for the same route it took me 9,5 hours! Even hurt, I got my timing better in 3,5 hours!
Me at the summit of Cabeça de Touro Peak. 2.649m.
Set up camp and after almost three hours the large group arrived. Noisy people have to say, smoking drugs, with an radio and loud music, they didn’t respect everyone else right for a quite night. Anyway…
As the night was gorgeous, looooooads of stars, I decided to try a nocturnal shot with my limited, but pretty good camera, sony DSC-H20. So I got the tent a “star touch” with my headlamp, got my tripod ready, and did 3 shots. Surprisely the first was the better one.
Got myself a good dinner then crashed.
I woke up at 6am, good as new, and begin to get my small backpack ready to the objective of the day, Cupim do Boi Peak, and after it, a mountain that proved itself to me as the hardest peak at the southeast region of Brazil, Cabeça de Touro Peak. Ther others woke up as around 7am the four of us were ready to start the long day.
A fast descent to Pedra da Mina north face took us to the Ruah valley, known as the coldest place to camp in Serra Fina, at 2.530 meters high, surrounded by 3 unnamed peaks between 2.550m and 2.700m. It is a surreal view of high woods (at least 2m, 6ft tall) in which a lot of people get lost. A regular walk to cross the valley and after 1,5 hours we were at a small summit looking straight to our goal, Cabeça de Touro Peak. Still it was far, far away…
The Serra Fina traverse is one of the toughest routes in Brazil, it has 30km that people usually do in 3 days. In the same time, 3 days, to NOT do the traverse, just the summits we wanted, we walked and climbed 36km. More than the route itself.
Anyway, we started a smooth descent that got us at around 2.400 m high, looking at the ridge to the Cupim do Boi Peak, and kept going until we got there, after 3 hours, at 2.532 m. Nice little summit, great view to 3 Estados Peak (10th brazilian highest peak) and Cabeça de Touro Peak, now, close and scary to look at!
Now the hard task was at hand, we searched for a way down from the summit of Cupim do Boi and it was not easy at all! We end up climbing down a rocky wall, without any harness or ropes, not very safe but it was our job to get down. We did. Struggling with the huge and closed woods we manage to reach the end of the wall and a couloir separating the three mountains. There, one more tough task visible, more high woods known as “capim elefante” or “capim anta” that rises up from the soil at least 7 or 8 feet tall! We couldn’t see each other.
So we memorized a straight line and jumped inside that madness. The sun was burning me up as scrambled eggs, I was wearing gloves but even so, the woods cut thru them and inside, my hands. I was bleeding all over the place, sweating in the wounds. Wow, that did not felt good.
After an epic traverse of the woods we finally got to the base of the peak. Four and a half hours after start walking. Okay, lefts go up! The ascent itself is easy, pleasant and fast. After 40 minutes more we won the 200 meters of vertical difference and after all, got to the summit of Cabeça de Touro Peak, 2.649 meters high.
At the summit we found a book for summiters register. The first signature was in 1992, only five more groups signed at it, the last one in 2008! So you can understand how that is a far, far away and forgotten brazilian summit. We did our summit shots, summit videos and got the hell out of there, thinking about the timing to get to our camp, at the summit of Pedra da Mina, 6,6km away, as you can see at the photo below, Pedra da Mina in at the center, highest peak of the range. Far away ah?!
Bla bla bla….we did all over again, the damn woods, the sun burning me like a steak, everyone now were tired, not just me, we were running out of water and it was getting late. Slowly, like a group of turtles, at 17:30pm we got to the end of Ruah valley, exhausted, with a huge thirst for water, fighting to stay up. The temperature of 30°C droped to 7°C in just 10 minutes. Now the four of us were extremely tired and with cold, besides the sun burnings. Not a very good day an?
We got ourselves water for dinner and the beginning of the next day, and with headlamps on, we crossed the Ruah valley back to the base of Pedra da Mina, there, we hiked up again to its summit, really slowly and tired. We got to our tents at 19:30pm, 12,5 hours after we left in the morning, we walked and climbed 13,2kms (around 8 miles). I got into my tent and I was so tired that I just laid down and kept like that for 15 minutes, before even think about cook some food. What a great day…
Tartarugão Peak from Pedra da Mina's base.
Next morning we woke up later, around 7am. Gear up and started walking around 8:20am. The objective for the day was way more easy, Tartarugão Peak, just 2km southwest of Pedra da Mina. It has that name because it looks like a huge Turtle (tartaruga in Português) so, Big turtle = Tartarugão.
Beauty I saw on the way back to the farm.
We had to descent again Pedra da Mina to another valley, and there try to find a way to cross a river and again the tall woods. It was not easy but not even possible to compare with the previous day, an epic fight with the woods.
After a couple hours we found ourselves at the base of the peak and got to the summit at 11:30am, to enjoy an fantastic view of the other side of the Sierra and its first summit for the traverse, Pico Alto do Capim Amarelo (2.492m.). At the summit, we measured the altitude of 2.631 meters above sea level. Inside the summit cairn (as common in Brazil as summit cross in Argentina) we found a small plastic tupperware with just one paper inside. It was so old that we couldn’t read it. Probably 20 years old.
Summit shots and videos, we got back to our camp as fast as we could and after a total of 6,8km of trail, and 5 hours total, we stoped at the summit of Pedra da Mina.
Happy about our conquests, we decided to get down to the car that same day, it was going to be hard but, we could enjoy a nice sleep at Serra Fina Farm and escape the traffic to get back to that shithole São Paulo. :/
[img:805320:alignleft:small:Beauty I saw on the way back to the farm.]So, here we go…gear up again, heavy backpacks again, down the mountain we go. That was a long, long and endless walk down. We were still tired from the day before, we spent some energy to summit Tartarugão Peak, and even so, decided to got back as soon as possible. It could not be easy.
6 hours and again, 8,3km later we got to the farm, absolutely crashed, like survivors of some accident, after walk under sun more 15,1kms. The total of altitude difference for the 3 days was over 3.700m. The total of kms walked was over 36km. I got myself 1st degree sunburns, right now I’m taking care of my wounds...
Video at the summit of Pedra da Mina.
Searching for a route down behind Cupim do Boi summit.