King of Brazil

Dear Sir,

With further regard to events mentioned in my news report (ibid), concerning the activities of Yannick Seigneur et all in Brazil, after the failure on Garrafão (later described by him as a “reconnaissance”) and the “brilliant” Piranha and Comex climbs, Seigneur flew back home. Not content with his achievements at this side of the Atlantic however, he decided to try again the Garrafão climb and film it. In the subsequent search of sponsorship for the event, much dust was raised. A Swiss paper, for example, after interviewing him, proclaimed Seigneur “King of Brazil” and “Conqueror of Garrafão”; in the same opportunity, he informed the readers that his intended Garrafão climb “will be very important for the development of the sport in a country where there aren’t any true climbers at all up to this moment”!


Of course he became quite angry with the Swiss (who, after all, left the line of his original attempt untouched), but decided to come back to Brazil anyways to do another major “première” and respective film elsewhere, as simply completing his previous route wasn’t enough to satisfy his ego.

In the meanwhile, Sérgio Tartari and Alexandre Portela, not aware about the plans of His Majesty, did an actual reconnaissance on a respectable line on Pedra do Sino, highest peak in the Serra dos Órgãos National Park and next to Garrafão and, a few weeks later, set off to try it. They climbed on their chosen objectives for two days, reached a large ledge and then returned to their bivouac site at the foot of the wall for a night’s rest, leaving fixed ropes behind and all the pitches dully cleaned. During the second day they heard the approach of a large party up the Soberbo River (Seigneur, Koenig and six more people), but didn’t know by then for sure whom they really were.

To their astonishment, however, after waking up for the next day’s attempt they spotted Yannick and Serge – who had woken up earlier – climbing on their route from the highest point they had reached the day before, and after having ascended by their fixed lines!

After realizing that they had just been scandalously pre-empted, Tartari and Portela climbed back to the ledge, and then a bizarre discussion ensued, with each side understanding nearly nothing of the other’s arguments. But one point became quite clear to the Brazilians: Seigneur and Koenig, based upon their numeric superiority (4 to 1), wouldn’t renounce to their prey!

Unfortunately Tartari and Portela, in vacillating mood which was to be later regretted, agreed in abandoning their route and take another one to the right, for what they have even received some gear from the French. After this absurd give-and-take they climbed two short pitches on it and came back to Rio, leaving some gear stocked at the base of the wall.

But a week later, upon returning to Pedra do Sino, a bitter surprise awaited them: having climbed a little bit more up their line, the French decided to abandon it by a long rightward traverse to take the other one, the same they had just agreed that would be left to Alexandre and Sérgio during their previous meeting! More: Yannick and Serge were making use of some items of gear that the Brazilians had left in their cache for the next attempt!

Absolutely shaken by these sights, the locals chose however the worst possible option to deal with the situation, i. e., to pay the French in their own coin: in a childish attitude of revenge they reached once more the same ledge, where Yannick had stocked gear, gathered enough to fill a pack and rushed down the face with it, cutting off a fixed rope on their passage. But, after getting back at their bivouac site, they were intercepted by members of the filming party, who forced them to return the gear and – as nothing had been left for them to do there – return to Rio. A few days later it was heard that the French had finished “their” route on Pedra do Sino – details still unknown – and the film of their double theft.

This was so the final act of a disastrous play performed by the French party here, and which epilogue is more appropriate to other sorts of debates than to a climbing report. Anyhow it became quite clear that, in his blind quest for fame and glory, Yannick Seigneur has displayed the same lack of respect for local sentiments which led him to be banned from Nepal some years ago. With his loyal Koenig he showed also how 100,000 francs – as told us by his local contact – can wipe out completely that sense of dignity, respect and even politeness to other climbers we believe should always be present and determine a climber’s behaviour.

Dozens of visits of foreign climbers – especially French and American – now occur each year in Brazil, and all have ended in a good and sincere friendship between them and the local climbers; but most people here feel that visits of people like the “King of Brazil” and his vassals are definitely unwanted.

André Ilha.
Carta publicada na revista Mountain (Inglaterra) nº 106
(novembro/dezembro de 1985).