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Dispatches : Climbing

What to Do in Rio Besides the World Cup

Bars become stuffier and fútbol fans drunker as the World Cup roars on. Get your head above the soccer slosh and take advantage of the city’s easy access to natural areas with these eight adventures.

Explore Tijuca National Park

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The best way to tour the world’s largest urban rainforest is on a bike, although you should go early to avoid traffic on the park’s winding roads. The 12.4 square-mile, hand-planted forest is perhaps most famous for iconic Christ the Redeemer, the 125-foot statue of Jesus at the top of Corcovado mountain (who, by the way, is specially lit in green and yellow for the World Cup). Ride among the fruit trees, hibiscus, and colorful bromeliad flowers to waterfalls and overlooks. Keep an eye out for macaque monkeys, which seem to fill a squirrel-type niche in the ecosystem.

Not a cyclist? If you have access to a trad rack, climb a 5.11—served with a rack of nuts and cams—up to Christ the Redeemer. Go late in the day to finish with the sun setting behind the statue.

Climb Pão de Açúcar

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The beauty of this rock face is in its vast range of difficulty and length. With grades from 5.4 to 5.13a and lengths ranging from two to 12 pitches, Sugar Loaf, as it’s called in English, leaves all levels of climbers satisfied. For the best view, however, opt for the Classic Line on the wall’s west face, which runs at 5.8 with a 5.10c crux.

Reached by a mix of hikeable and climbable terrain (class 1 to 5), the summit of Pão de Açúcar has views of the Atlantic Ocean, Rio’s city center, and the adjacent port city of Niterói on the Guanabara Bay.

Hang Glide Down to Pepino Beach

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The glide starts atop Pedra Bonita, the highest peak in Tijuca park at 2,280 feet. Cruise above Rio and down to Pepino, one of they city's nearly 30 beautiful white beaches. Outfitters, such as Rio Hang Gliding, drive you to the top of the mountain, set you up with all the necessary equipment, strap you to a guide, and then send you off a ramp. Flying superman-style above the World Cup will be much less claustrophobic celebrating with the masses down below.

Hike to the Top of Pico de Tijuca

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Looking for a workout before your team plays? Summit Pico de Tijuca, a mellow half-day hike that gains 2,290 feet over 3.2 miles. At the top, you’ll see rocky peaks descend sharply into hilly rainforest and eventually to white beaches. You’ll also be able to see the 14 other peaks in Tijuca (all 15 peaks in the park can be summited by trails starting in Praça Afonso Ribeira).

Bring your own water and food, as you’ll have few opportunities to stay hydrated along the way.

Trek from Terésopolis to Petrópolis

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This 22-mile hike crosses through Serra dos Orgaos National Park, dipping into the Antas Valley and ascending over 7,400-foot Pedra do Sino. The trek starts at Terésopolis and finishes in the imperial city of Petrópolis. Once a vacation spot for Brazilian Emperors, Petrópolis boasts many beautiful palaces, one of which is now the impressive Imperial Museum.

Roda de Bola on Copacabana

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Get in the fútbol mood by playing Roda de bola a.k.a foot volley. The pick-up beach sport is similar to volleyball except no hands are allowed. Each feet-only volley includes a spin, twist or jump, and your skills will have to be up to snuff if you want to play the locals, who take this sport seriously and often pester foreigners if their game is sub par.

If you’re thirsty, rehydrate with coconut water straight from the fruit, available at vendors along the beach.

Kite Surf Off Barra de Tijuca

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The heart of Rio has little to offer as far as water sports go, as there is boat traffic in the bay. But for those looking to get kite lift, Barra de Tijuca is the best—and least crowded—option. More than 10 miles of beach and endless open ocean makes roaming the shore on a kite board easy, not to mention, the beach’s location on the southern side of the city make it less exposed to nasty winds, which makes for a smoother surf.

Surf Grumari Beach

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West of Rio, Grumari is a wild and rustic beach that has no high rises or beachside restaurants, just cacti, banana plants, palms, and some kiosks. But although it lacks the crowds of Copacabana, the parking is still and issue on the weekends, so arrive early (you’ll need a rental car to get there).

The waves are easy left and rights that are around 5 feet at this time of year.

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The New Era of Low-Cost, High-Risk Expeditions

British mountaineer Ed Farrelly, 22, has a better climbing pedigree than most. (It was his great uncle Sir Christopher Summerhayes who gave Edmund Hillary the British flag he plonked atop Everest). But the young adventurer has found out the hard way that landing easy money to pay for adventure is a thing of the past.

“What’s making sponsorship more difficult is the sheer quantity of people chasing money,” says Farrelly, who sets out on a solo trek up Khan Tengri in Kyrgyzstan in July. “Everything gets lumped in together so that ‘adventuring’ becomes dumbed-down. I get through to someone on the phone and say I’ll be the youngest Briton to solo climb 7,000 metres, and the reply I get is, ‘Sorry, we’ve just sponsored someone to run the London marathon.’”

To survive in this competitive world, he’s working to perfect the art of low-cost, high-risk climbs. The goal: to give his hard-won sponsors an unbeatable return on investment, including dedicated “Ed-time” where companies can do everything from use him in product shoots to book him on a public speaking tour. He has a policy of never saying no to his investors. 

We sat down with Farrelly to chat about what it takes to secure sponsorship for extreme expeditions, and how he’s refined these low-cost, high-risk climbing trips.  

OUTSIDE: Is sponsorship the only way you fund your trips?
FARRELLY: Yes. I'm still a student, and I was determined to find a way to do some cool climbs without going into debt. I spend whole days tracking people down on LinkedIn and then calling people up, and most of the calls go nowhere.

I’m getting better at it because I do interesting, challenging climbs and I keep the costs really low, whereas a lot of climbers go through what’s basically a tour operator and that makes it more expensive. They need to find a lump sum, hand it over to a middle man, and then he sends that cash out in various directions so you can achieve what you set out to do.

While I’m not saying that’s bad, it does mean that people are trying to take too big a slice of the sponsorship pie. I can do a trip for half what some people are looking for.

How much will your Kyrgyzstan trip cost?
FARRELLY: By organising everything myself, I can do it for about $6,000. That’s a month and a half over there, all the flights, everything. The only back-up I’ll have is my dad at base camp, and he’s paying his own way.

What are the biggest costs associated with a big expedition?
FARRELLY: Transport. The Antarctic is the big one—it can cost upwards of $50,000 and most of that will go toward logistics. Insurance is a massive hidden cost when doing solo trips and can be as much as the flights, which on my next trip means about $1,000. Sat phones are another huge cost. Including upfront charges, sat phone services cost an additional $1.50 to $2 per minute. It’s easy to be stuck there sending photos back and finding yourself almost weeping as the seconds tick by.

Why send the photos back to your sponsors?
FARRELLY: It’s all part of the sponsorship deal. You have to get the information back to the very people that your sponsors want to find out about it.

Is your success rate with sponsorship money getting better or worse?
FARRELLY: It’s getting better, I think, but only because I’m getting better at it. I no longer try and persuade people who aren’t interested. I move on as quickly as I can. It’s a numbers game. If someone’s interested, I cut to the chase and tell them what I need, which is usually $1,500 to $2,500. They seem to appreciate the honesty.

Do the sponsors think they're getting a good ROI?
FARRELLY: They seem to. The value of the deals is going up, and they’re being renewed when they run out, too. I appreciate how hard it is to put a tangible value on what I can give them in return, but I take the responsibility seriously and I do my best.

What do sponsors want from their money?
FARRELLY: I would say they either want a quality story which is going to get them exposure, or content—photos, video, blog posts—which somehow represent their brand. The latter requires more work to utilize on their part but is probably better from a branding point of view. Too many companies are interested in just the first.

As far as what the stories are about, I guess the classic angles are youngest, oldest, fastest, and so on, but these are perhaps losing some of their allure as they have been done quite a bit, particularly on the classic challenges like Everest. Maybe now it's about being a little more inventive in terms of finding new challenges which haven't been overdone yet. But explaining why you're different to the press is easier said than done.

Are climbers always talking about money and how to fund their expeditions?
FARRELLY: Yes. If they’ve found it for their current expedition then they’re already talking about how they’re going to find it for the next one, and if they haven’t found it yet then they’re talking about it constantly.

It’s the one thing that stands between you and doing what you want—same as with most things, really. Some would-be adventurers never really make it, because it can be hard to get a toe in the door. There’s a ‘positive feedback’ aspect to it, so the more you do and the bigger your name, the less work you need to do to find the money. I’m nowhere near the big league, but sponsorship deals with Adidas, Rab, and Scarpa all help, and they’re obviously the names I mention when looking for new deals.

What’s your advice to budding adventurers seeking sponsorship?
FARRELLY: Don’t turn up on the wrong day! Actually, that isn’t necessarily a disaster, as it happened to me when I went to see Osprey looking for funding a few years ago and I turned up a day early. I drove two and a half hours to the meeting and I was sitting in the waiting room when the woman I was supposed to be seeing the next day walked past and seemed to recognize my face. She was good enough to do the interview there and then, although we had to change meeting rooms four times because obviously nothing had been booked.

How did your initial sponsorship meeting with Osprey go?
FARRELLY: I must have done a good job because they sponsor me now. I guess if what you’re selling is something people are interested in, you can overcome a few hurdles—though screwing up the date is obviously not an approach I would recommend.

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