The summit was first reached in 1912, by José Teixeira Guimarães and the three Américo de Oliveira brothers, a historic moment in the history of Brazilian mountaineering. The summit was claimed to be unreachable by the elite mountaineers of European at the time, making the accomplishment of the local blacksmith and non-climber even more respectable. Their original route, known as Teixeira, is still climbed today and although it isn’t technically very difficult is still physically and psychologically demanding even by today’s standards.
Between all of us at Ancorauê we have climbed Dedo de Deus a number of times, on a variety of different routes, but it had always been our goal to successfully share this adventure with some our clients and friends. For some reason or another this never really worked out. We even got as far as bringing one guy all the way up to the base of the climb before he decided he was too tired to continue and turned back.
This all changed last week though, when we successfully reached the summit two separate times, with two different parties in a span of less then 5 days. First up was Andrew who guided our good friend Stu Green and his climbing buddy Matt Ray up the east face via the Maria Cebola route. And then just a few days later Ducha ran up Blackout, also on the east face, with Gustavo Carnevalli and Christoph Durban.
All the climbers had climbed with us previously and were in great shape, so we were sure of their abilities to get up the mountain. This is important, since as mentioned before, Dedo de Deus is a logistically and physically complicated climb. The weather is also known to turn very quickly and its lightening-rod shaped needle is not a place you want to get caught in a thunderstorm. We actually got quite lucky weather wise considering both parties were able to climb during a brief window between two large cold fronts that dumped an record breaking amount of rain on the entire state.
When we say Dedo de Deus is a complicated climb, we don’t mean to say it is difficult. People that are in good shape and have decent chimney skills should find the climb relatively easy. In reality the climbing part of the excursion is actually only the last 200 meters of the ascent. It’s really the whole package that wears you out though.
Both parties left Rio early in the morning and drove the 1.5 hours out of town to get to the base of the mountain. Along the way you sign into the National Park before parking the car at a local farmers markets and starting the hike up. What I consider to be the actual crux of the day is hiking the 1km along the windy highway with giant flatbed trucks racing by you before you get to the entrance of the trail.
We then hiked about 1 hour up a steep dirt path before getting to the base of the cables, which is also a great place to stop to rest and rack up. The approach continues for about another 45 minutes or so up steep rock slabs and wet slippery roots that can be pulled through on steel cables and fixes ropes. Both of our groups decided to climb the east face of the mountain rather the Teixeira route, since it offers more technical climbing than the original line and in our opinions tends to be more interesting.
The actual climb is only 4 – 5 pitches long but is pretty exhausting, especially after the steep approach. The first pitch (or two depending on the length of your rope) mixes easy face climbing with some 4th class scrambling all the way up to an impressive cave that houses a big tree perfect for building a solid belay station. From there the climbers can either head into a thin squeeze chimney that is so tight you can’t see the light of day (hence the name Blackout), or climb out right for some technical smearing up a run out slab with awesome aerial exposure, before entering a more comfortable and perfectly spaced chimney pitch (Maria Cebola). After that both climbs link up in the same place again before reaching the famous steel ladder that offers access to the summit.
The summit of Dedo de Deus is a well-deserved treat and is a great place to relax and have a snack. From there you see the entire Bahia de Guanabara, Teresopolis with the most impressive peaks of the Serra do Órgãos as well the miniature Sugarloaf and Corcovado mountains off in the distance. It good not to spend too much time at summit though since afternoon storms are common and for some, the descent down a handful of overhanging rappels can be just as emotionally taxing as the ascent.
Once you descend though and start driving back to Rio you start to get the sense of just actually how big the day was. It is common see people to fall asleep in the car and leave the driver alone to drive back by themselves… I won’t name names, but at least these guys can be sure they aren’t the only ones to have done this. That being said it is always well worth the work and both our groups came back exhilarated that they had finally made it up the famous Finger of God.
It was also a great experience for our team to see what sort of work goes into running this sort of excursion and what kind of preparation and skills other climbers need to have in order to participate. While an ascent of Dedo de Deus is not to be underestimated it is also nothing to be afraid of, and it is definitely an adventure that we hope to share with many more climbers in the future.
After all, as Ducha so eloquently points out… “It is only natural that we move in this direction, as our team has always been open to new experiences and adventures. I think we should all feel comfortable to stand and say with confidence and pride, that we are truly excited to embark on a long and exhilarating relationship between Ancorauê and the Dedo…”