Once again with the full crew, we left Rio in the early afternoon for the 3-ish hour drive to the Salinas region and the Tres Picos State Park. The plan was to sleep in an alpine refuge near the base of the Tres Picos. The drive ended with a 45 minute section of a steep and very rough dirt road. From there, we hoofed it – drinking water and all in tow – another 1 or 2 kilometers to the hut. The sight of the three principal formations, and especially the 700 meter east face of Pico Maior, was inspiring indeed.
Another large dinner and another huge breakfast and we were finally out the door at about 5:30am the next morning. A pretty easy, sub-hour hike brought us to the start of the Face Leste route on Pico Maior. We were climbing the opening slab pitches probably by 6:45 or so. The climbing was moderate – slabs with good friction – averaging 2 or 3 bolts per pitch. About 5 pitches up the terrain steepened and climbing became more of a thin edging affair with similar difficulty and protection opportunities. Terrain continued to steepen and mixed in some chimney pitches. A short bolt ladder on pitch 13 was followed by a few more spectacular face climbing pitches. We finally topped out on the spacious summit sometime before 2pm after 16 pitches of climbing and about an hour behind our friends. We spent some time walking around the summit, signing the summit register, and taking in the views: amazing tropical alpine vistas at mid-2000 meters above sea level. Pico Maior has no non-technical routes to the top and so a pretty complex descent involving double rope rappels is the only way off. Shirley and I went down first followed by the guys. We joined forces for the last few raps down a bushy gully and were back on hiking ground some half hour before darkness.
While the five of us were busy having fun, Duda had cooked up a nice dinner back at the hut and so we had a warm, home-cooked meal as soon as we got back. Pretty posh, especially if you include some beers that Adilio brought along for the long, night-time drive home. Yes, open alcohol containers in moving vehicles are perfectly legal in Brazil.