I knew I might not be able to find a climbing partner in Rio during my five day stay, so I contacted a mountain guide named Gustavo, and we arranged to meet at the cable car entrance at 7am on my second to last day there. That is an alpine start by Rio standards, most of the city seems to sleep until noon, and many stores don't open until 4pm. Like the whole city has a wicked hangover, every day. I contact Gustavo a day after I arrive in Rio, and a day later I read his response. My heart drops into my stomach, which twists into a knot and climbs up into my throat to block my airway. Rained out. NO! We are tentatively rescheduling for the next day, my last day in Rio. Fear of not climbing wells up in me like one of the massive tumbling waves on Ipanema beach, and drags me around town in a relentless turmoil - might as well have as much fun as possible while I'm here, right? We get back in touch when a good weather forecast comes through for Wednesday. Gustavo texts me just before I fall asleep to delay our trip by one hour, so the rock can dry out.
Due to unfathomable stokedness, I show up nearly 1 hour early. I spend half of it getting a crochette de carne and a coffee at a little place around the corner, and the other half applying sunblock and pacing back and forth. Gustavo rolls up on a bike - I know it's him because his pack is big enough for rope and quickdraws. We head for the approach, a beautiful set of steps and short scrambles in jungle forest, and in almost no time at all we are at the base of Dos Italianos, the most classic route in Rio for sure, and probably all of Brazil.
We wind up standing behind two other climbers, one already on the wall, but Gustavo isn't concerned. After a brief conversation with them in Portuguese, he informs me that we have been cleared to pass. We get ready, and he ties in. He then starts climbing, suggesting that I put him on belay at my earliest convenience. I do so quickly, but he doesn't bother clipping any pro until he is about 50 feet up, after informing me that he is at the first crux. Then he's out of sight. I follow as quickly as I can, but I am a little surprised by the difficulty of some of these moves. I'll chalk it up to too many empanadas. When we reach the fourth set of anchors, at the end of Dos Italianos, I hand him my camera. I had taken about two photos so far, in 4 days, and Gustavo snaps about 30 shots right there. He clearly enjoys photography. Sorry my camera is an old iphone.
Interesting side note - it was such a long slab (involves a lot of balancing on toes) that I lost feeling in the bottoms of my big toes after a while, and it still hasn't come back. Oops, nerve damage!