Tudo bem: two Brazilian-Portuguese words for all eventualities. The phrase is a way of life, a philosophy.
Tudo bem is precisely the attitude you need to get the most out of an intensive bouldering trip to the country that hosts the World Soccer Championships.
Tudo Bem means something like “What’s up?” If you are in Brazil, then there is only one cool answer to this question: thumbs up and: “Tudo bem!” That is because tudo bem also means: “Everything is OK!” So it goes like this: Tudo bem? Tudo bem! Everything is OK, brother. Couldn't be better.
4 January, 2010: the up-and-coming Brazilian climbing star Felipe Camargo had just sent his 3rd repeat of what was probably Brazil’s toughest boulder at that time: O dia santo (8b+) in the São Bento bouldering zone. The send was uploaded to the Internet, and caught the attention of his followers thanks to the video and news updates. The key message was: “O dia santo is the best boulder I have ever climbed! The 16 widely-spaced moves on good holds require a lot of stamina, which is totally my style. We need lots of climbers from other countries to come to Brazil and help us on all these projects! Consider yourselves invited.”
The invitation was accepted by Kevin Jorgeson and Ben Rueck, two American climbers. Kevin is definitely one of the most versatile climbers today, who feels at home on massive highball boulders as well as Yosemite big walls. Ben is also a multi-talented climber when it comes to vertical adventures. He is one of those climbing globetrotters who has already put his chalked-up hands all over the place. His first impression of Brazil: “If a country's culture is reflected in their attitude towards climbing, then we are in for an interesting trip.”
In São Bento, they found impressive granite boulders everywhere. Some of them were recognisable from the videos. In honour of the guests, whose tastes for tall boulders is well-known, a highball was served up on their arrival. The block was far too high to comfortably jump down to the ground, although that is often given as a defining feature of bouldering. What can you do in this kind of situation? Gradually get started? Take a break because you have just arrived? Start warming up?
Tudo bem! All is well and everything will be OK … at least until you climb to the shaky top-out point ten metres off the ground. The crew met Felipe Camargo and his brother Bruno and experienced true Brazilian hospitality – welcoming, sociable, relaxed and chilled.
The next day, the climbers picked up where they left off in São Bento, a place that Ben described as “the most beautiful place I have ever been climbing”. “You could spend weeks here,” says Ben, but they hurried on to the next boulder zone.
Best bouldering in Brazil
Ubatuba is a small city on Brazil’s south coast, famous for its ten adjacent islands, 72 beaches and awesome bouldering. The Praia da Fortaleza peninsula stretches into the ocean. Despite the surf, the tides and the coastline, right on this brazen finger of land there are blocks of rock strewn around that are rated as among the best in Brazil. Well over 100 boulder problems are here for the solving. No surprise, then, that a major bouldering festival is held here every year. Nor is it surprising that a bouldering community has developed here either.
They wanted to get started as soon as possible the next day and set their alarm clocks for 4:30 am. Although all the alarm clocks went off at that time, the crew did not get up until four hours later. No need to hurry things. The Brazilian way of life seemed to be taking effect. Climbing was fun, the scenery impressive.
Welcome to Itatiaia
The next morning they drove to Itatiaia, an area so spectacular that it was declared Brazil’s first national park and is an oasis for those thirsty for climbing. Massive granite blocks with some bizarre shapes and interesting lines. The French climber, Enzo Oddo, had been here and established a hard but rewarding route rated 8c/+.
Kevin has the eye. He noticed something: another line, short and direct, on a perfect block with one tiny drawback: the route ended in three final moves with 20 metres of air beneath your feet. Making an error here would result in serious if not fatal consequences. What should they do? Tudo bem! Like an excited child he put on his shoes and chalked up. Then he grabbed the boulder: “Time stood still. The boulder wasn’t really difficult. I climbed slowly and carefully, well aware that I couldn’t afford to make a mistake at the top. One last pull and I was on top. I enjoyed the overwhelming view and the boulder kind of reminded me of a first ascent I did in South Africa and called ‘Welcome to Rocklands’. That is why I wanted to call this climb ‘Welcome to Itatiaia’.” After dropping out on his first attempt, Ben claws his way to the top and then shouts out: “How the heck did you get back down again?” Kevin: “You have to jump across to the next boulder.” Ben: “You mean the one from which you would surely die if you screw up?” Kevin: “That’s the one! But don’t forget the most important rule!” Ben: “Which rule?” Kevin: “Don’t die!” Ben jumped. Tudo bem.
The hunger for adrenalin, the appetite for exhilaration, seemed satisfied. It was good that Gustavo Fontes and Caio Salomão AFeto were part of the crew. It was them who had provided Lukas Irmler with excellent support during his slackline mission.
Rope climbing was the agenda for the next day - the ascent of Enzo Oddo’s line was waiting for them. They climbed a route that was fitted with bolts only as far as the first half. On the second half you had to fit protection yourself. Kevin wanted to lead it. Ben reckoned that even without wedges they had enough pro to make it reasonable. However, assuming is not knowing. This important concept didn’t sink in for Ben until he was above the last bolt and had to acknowledge that they were not going to get through on his protection. Retreat? No. Go on? OK, tudo bem after all. Ben managed to gain headway though he was “mentally fried”, but did they have enough tudo bems left for the Oddo route? Dusk was knocking gently on the door and Kevin was almost there. He had the redpoint, the send, in the palm of his hands, but the sun was setting behind the horizon in a haze of red clouds. Shame. It was over. Tudo bem.
In keeping with tradition, the final evening back in Rio was spent on the beach. Sand, bikinis, surfers and a crowd that happily cheered the setting sun. That is what you do here. Every evening. A shout of jubilation from the Brazilian soul, a celebration of the country‘s beauty, a celebration of the Brazilian way of life, a feeling that lives through the stark contrasts and is still authentic and life-affirming. Ben and Kevin will definitely come back. That is certain. Tudo bem.