Pico da Neblina – Brazil’s High Point

 

The Andes and Aconcagua, in particular, dominate the conversation about South America’s mountains. And rightly so, as the chain is the world’s longest, while the continental high point is the second-tallest of the seven large tracts of land.

Yet, a continent as enormous as South America undoubtedly contains other mountainous glories. One such majestic crag serves as the ceiling of Brazil: Pico da Neblina.

Pico de Neblina - photo from SummitPost

Pico de Neblina translates from Portuguese to English as “Mist Peak” or “Fog Peak.”

The mountain juts 9,827 feet above sea level (2,995 meters). Though this figure is approximately 13,000 lower than Aconcagua, nearly all of that height transfers to the mountain’s prominence: 9,472 feet. Pico de Neblina rises starkly above the surrounding plains.

The mountain sits in the Guiana Highlands, a region that is itself part of the Guiana Shield, an ancient geological structure. The crag is a portion of a massif that straddles the Brazil-Venezuela border, called Serra da Neblina in Brazil and Sierra de la Neblina in Venezuela. A massif is a large chunk of crust marked by fractures and flexures. When these large chunks of rock are moved by tectonic forces, they tend to retain their internal geometries. Brazil’s highest spot did not rise like most mountains, through orogenies that uplifted regions or subductions that create massive chains. Serra da Neblina is a gigantic piece of sandstone that became tilted, forming a jagged mountain. The peak itself is an example of what we sometimes call a “stone pyramid” or a “tooth.”

The highest point of the massif lies in a remote region of the Brazilian state of Amazonas:

The location of Pico de Neblina in Brazil - graphic from Encyclopedia Britannica

As suggested by the state’s name, the massif is deep within the Amazon watershed system, so the word remote truly fits. The nearest city lies 87 miles away. To climb the crag, one must trek through the jungle for three days.

This detachment led to an extraordinarily late date of discovery for a mountain pushing 10,000 feet.

Not until the 1950s did humans know the mountain existed. In addition to being in a location where few people traveled, the name of the mountain fits its local weather patterns. The apex itself and most of the entire range usually find themselves cloaked in mists, fogs, or clouds. A likely apocryphal tale credits the discovery of the mountain to a pilot flying over the region during a rare cloudless day.

This zone is so far from civilization that geographers were not even sure if the peak lay in Venezuela or Brazil until 1962 when humans first summited. The Brazilian army expedition learned the highest spot is about half a mile from the border of Venezuela, though the massif spans both nations.

Pico da Neblina's tooth - photo by Força Aérea do Brasil

The mountain is the highest point on the continent east of the Andes. To get there, one must visit Pico da Neblina National Park. By law, one needs to acquire a permit and use a local guide to climb the misty mountain.

Though the trek to the mountain would be arduous and the ascent would be difficult, the beauty of the region would provide one with nearly unparalleled variety. In few spots on our planet could a human trek through pristine rainforest jungle and emerge in view of sawtooth rock. Along the way, one could intersect with the Yanomami, who live in the Amazon near the massif.

Though the peak might be mired in mist, the expedition likely enlightens the lives of those who undertake it.

On the way to the massif - photo by Lésius Lenhadus
The outline of Neblina Peak at sunset - photo from BBC Travel
Yanomami guides taking climbers to the distant mountain - photo by Lésius Lenhadus

Further Reading and Exploration


Neblina Peak – SummitPost

Pico da Neblina – Peakbagger

Pico da Neblina: A sacred peak off-limits for decades – BBC Travel

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