Time for a Hike
Brazil is well-known for Carnival, football, and the Amazon, but many people are not aware of the hiking and climbing here. The Brazilian Mountain Hiking and Climbing Confederation (CBME) was created to negotiate better access conditions for climbers and hikers as well as promoting mountain conservation in the state and national parks in Brazil.
The mountain climbing history of Brazil is marked by two significant events: the ascent of the Marumbi Mountain Range in Paraná in 1879, and the iconic climb of Dedo de Deus in Rio state in 1912. These ascents stimulated the creation of mountain climbing clubs – the Centro Excursionista Brasileiro becoming the first in 1919.
The Brazilian government designated its first national park in 1937 – Itatiaia National Park in Rio and Minas Gerais. It was no coincidence that Itatiaia was almost equidistant from three large urban centers – São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, and Rio. The government counted on recreation in the mountains by urbanites as essential to raising support for the park.
Today, Brazil has 79 million hectares of protected areas (not including lands protected for native indigenous tribes) with different degrees of land conservation and access. Brazilian federal law states that national parks are created for conservation, research, recreation, ecotourism, and environmental education and must be open to the public.
Unfortunately, many of Brazil’s parks lack infrastructure. Several parks have only one full-time employee because the environmental agencies that supervise the parks struggle with financial support.
The Neblina National Park, a 2 million hectare park in the Amazon, is home to Brazil’s highest peak, Pico da Neblina (2995 meters). Sadly, the peak has been closed to visitors for over 15 years. The federal environmental agency is worried about the dangers that visitors might present to the Yanomami natives, although the government hasn’t been effective in protecting the Yanomami lands from illegal gold miners and loggers.
Brazil faces many challenges in public land access, and CBME has been actively working to improve the park system and access for climbers and hikers. In the early 2000s, many climbing and mountain hiking federations were created throughout Brazil, which eventually led to the creation of the (CBME) in 2004.
In the 1940s, hikers and climbers fundraised to purchase a huge piece of land that was later donated to the Serra dos Órgãos National Park. Again in the 1980s, the advocacy actions of climbers stopped the complete destruction of Morro da Pedreira, the most popular sport climbing area in the country and declared it a protected area.
CBME is now negotiating with different organizations toward the creation of the “Parks for All” alliance, putting together different stakeholders (tourism organizations, birdwatchers, WWF, CI, and others) to fight for better policies towards visitation.
In 2015, CBME joined WWF (World Wildlife Fund) to create a 3000 km trail, the Transcarioca Trail, across the coastal mountain range (Serra do Mar), from Rio Grande do Sul to Rio state. One of the major benefits of long distance trails is the participation of non-hikers, who have the opportunity to enjoy not only the outdoors, but also to become stewards of the park and the natural areas they visit. The Transcarioca Trail has about 1,000 active volunteers today.
[This article appeared on the website of the UIAA – International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation and has been edited.]