Last September, the French photographer Jan Novak journeyed to Minas Gerais, a vast state in southeast Brazil that by itself is larger than all of his native France, to see whether the whispers of a land brimming with crags and boulderfields still in their infancy were true. For four weeks, Novak roamed, often under the tutelage of Luca Portilho, area protagonist and proprietor of the climber’s hostel Milho Ventura, in the tiny hamlet of Milho Verde just minutes from much of the main climbing action.
Novak found the rumors substantiated, with over 50 climbing areas in Minas Gerais.
Development began around Milho Verde in 2017. In just five years, Milho Verde has exploded into one of Brazil’s most important climbing areas, now with over 2,000 lines, including boulders up to V14, sport routes up to 5.14, and a spackling of spicy multi-pitches. And that’s just the beginning. The potential is staggering—90 percent of the rock in the region remains untouched.
And that stone, says Novak, is “The most hallucinogenic that I’ve ever seen or touched. Every route is unique—you can find in the middle of the climb the smooth texture like in Fontainebleau, while the rest of the route is on quartzite crystals. Every line is a king line.”
As Novak’s images on these pages attest, the topography around Milho Verde smacks of Rocklands, with grotesque, surreal, sculpted quartzite boulders cast among the flora of the Cerrado, one of Brazil’s vast savanna ecoregions—and second only to the Amazon rainforest as a major habitat type, with a high level of endemism and 10,000 plant species. This mountainous, subtropical area lies between 3,000 and 7,000 feet; the climate is temperate, and the region is rich with waterfalls in addition to the untouched stone. It’s hard to picture a more perfect destination for climbers—and it’s all just 15 miles from the historic town of Serro, where you can provision with anything you might need.
Of course, you can never have too much climbing, and Tres Barras, only five miles from Milho Verde, delivers endurance until your forearms are as tight as grilled Johnsonville Brats. But then, as Novak’s images will attest, Serra do Cipó isn’t to be missed. This, Brazil’s premier sport-climbing area and a national park, dazzles with over 700 routes on mint limestone.
Sounds good right? And now is the time to go. Brazil remains in the grip of an ongoing recession, and the dollar might never stretch so far again, with lodging found for as little as $10 a night and all-you-can-eat delicious local cuisine going for as little as $3 a meal. So go, gorge yourself—on rock, of course.