Pico da Neblina
Overview
 
Pico da Neblina (ˈpiku dɐ neˈblĩnɐ, Fog Peak) is the highest mountain
Mountain
Image:Himalaya_annotated.jpg|thumb|right|The Himalayan mountain range with Mount Everestrect 58 14 160 49 Chomo Lonzorect 200 28 335 52 Makalurect 378 24 566 45 Mount Everestrect 188 581 920 656 Tibetan Plateaurect 250 406 340 427 Rong River...

 in Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

, 2994 metres (9,823 ft) above sea level, in the Serra do Imeri, a section of the Guiana Highlands on the Brazil–Venezuela
Venezuela
Venezuela , officially called the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela , is a tropical country on the northern coast of South America. It borders Colombia to the west, Guyana to the east, and Brazil to the south...

 border. As determined by a border survey expedition in 1962, its summit lies just within Brazilian territory, at a horizontal distance of only 687 m (2,254 ft) from the Venezuelan border at Pico 31 de Março
Pico 31 de Março
Pico 31 de Março is a mountain on the Brazil-Venezuela border. At above sea level, it is Brazil's second highest mountain. It is part of the Pico da Neblina massif, and the latter peak, Brazil's highest summit, is only away. Pico 31 de Março can be considered a secondary summit of Pico da...

. The latter peak is only 21 m (69 ft) lower and Brazil's second highest mountain.

As the peak's name suggests, it is shrouded in dense clouds most of the time.
Encyclopedia
Pico da Neblina (ˈpiku dɐ neˈblĩnɐ, Fog Peak) is the highest mountain
Mountain
Image:Himalaya_annotated.jpg|thumb|right|The Himalayan mountain range with Mount Everestrect 58 14 160 49 Chomo Lonzorect 200 28 335 52 Makalurect 378 24 566 45 Mount Everestrect 188 581 920 656 Tibetan Plateaurect 250 406 340 427 Rong River...

 in Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

, 2994 metres (9,823 ft) above sea level, in the Serra do Imeri, a section of the Guiana Highlands on the Brazil–Venezuela
Venezuela
Venezuela , officially called the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela , is a tropical country on the northern coast of South America. It borders Colombia to the west, Guyana to the east, and Brazil to the south...

 border. As determined by a border survey expedition in 1962, its summit lies just within Brazilian territory, at a horizontal distance of only 687 m (2,254 ft) from the Venezuelan border at Pico 31 de Março
Pico 31 de Março
Pico 31 de Março is a mountain on the Brazil-Venezuela border. At above sea level, it is Brazil's second highest mountain. It is part of the Pico da Neblina massif, and the latter peak, Brazil's highest summit, is only away. Pico 31 de Março can be considered a secondary summit of Pico da...

. The latter peak is only 21 m (69 ft) lower and Brazil's second highest mountain.

As the peak's name suggests, it is shrouded in dense clouds most of the time. It was first ascended in 1965 by members of a Brazilian Army
Brazilian Army
The Brazilian Army is the land arm of the Brazilian Military. The Brazilian Army has fought in several international conflicts, mostly in South America and during the 19th century, such as the Brazilian War of Independence , Argentina-Brazil War , War of the Farrapos , Platine War , Uruguayan War ...

 expedition.

Location

Officially, Pico da Neblina is located in the municipality
Municipality
A municipality is essentially an urban administrative division having corporate status and usually powers of self-government. It can also be used to mean the governing body of a municipality. A municipality is a general-purpose administrative subdivision, as opposed to a special-purpose district...

 of Santa Isabel do Rio Negro
Santa Isabel do Rio Negro
Santa Isabel do Rio Negro is a municipality located in the Brazilian state of Amazonas. Its population was 7,617 and its area is . The Municipality was formerly called Tapuruquara....

, state of Amazonas. However, this is of next to no practical significance, since the mountain is inaccessible from the urban seat of the municipality, about 180 km (112 mi) away, and federal authority over the national park, the Yanomami reservation and the border security area supersedes municipal authority in all practical respects. The nearest city is actually São Gabriel da Cachoeira
São Gabriel da Cachoeira
São Gabriel da Cachoeira is a city and a Municipality located on the Northern shores of the Rio Negro River, in the region of Cabeça do Cachorro, Amazonas state, Brazil. Between 1952 and 1966, it was officially called Uaupés, after the nearby Vaupés River. Most of its inhabitants are indigenous...

, about 140 km (87 mi) in a straight line, from where virtually all climbing expeditions depart.

The mountain is contained in the Brazilian Pico da Neblina National Park
Pico da Neblina National Park
Pico da Neblina National Park is a national park in the north of Brazil, bordering on Venezuela. The latter country also has an adjoining national park, called Neblina as well. The Brazilian national park was created in 1979, and it is one of the country's largest national parks, with...

; its northern slopes are also protected in Venezuela's Serranía de la Neblina National Park. The twin parks, together with the neighbouring Parima Tapirapecó National Park
Parima Tapirapecó National Park
Parima Tapirapecó National Park is a Venezuelan national park in the southern state of Amazonas. Established in June 1991, it has an area of 38,290 km² , and is the largest national park in Venezuela. In it are protected the headwaters of the Orinoco, likewise the natural space and culture of...

 (Venezuela), form a protected area complex of about 80,000 km², possibly the largest national park system in tropical rainforests in the world. Pico da Neblina is also located within the territory of the Yanomami people's reservation.

Common misconceptions

Pico da Neblina is often mentioned as being on the exact border between Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

 and Venezuela
Venezuela
Venezuela , officially called the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela , is a tropical country on the northern coast of South America. It borders Colombia to the west, Guyana to the east, and Brazil to the south...

. This is true for its massif
Massif
In geology, a massif is a section of a planet's crust that is demarcated by faults or flexures. In the movement of the crust, a massif tends to retain its internal structure while being displaced as a whole...

 as a whole, but the main summit is wholly in Brazil. It is also sometimes mentioned as being the highest point in South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

 outside of the Andes
Andes
The Andes is the world's longest continental mountain range. It is a continual range of highlands along the western coast of South America. This range is about long, about to wide , and of an average height of about .Along its length, the Andes is split into several ranges, which are separated...

, but this is not correct either: the title belongs to Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta
Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta
The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is an isolated mountain range apart from the Andes chain that runs through Colombia. Reaching an altitude of 5,700 metres above sea level just 42 km from the Caribbean coast, the Sierra Nevada is the world's highest coastal range...

 in Colombia
Colombia
Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia , is a unitary constitutional republic comprising thirty-two departments. The country is located in northwestern South America, bordered to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; to the north by the Caribbean Sea; to the...

, which is almost twice the height of Pico da Neblina and completely detached from the Andes. However, Pico da Neblina is indeed the highest point east of the Andes range, and therefore of a large portion of the continent. Neighbouring Pico 31 de Março, which is on the precise international border, is also the highest point in Venezuela
Venezuela
Venezuela , officially called the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela , is a tropical country on the northern coast of South America. It borders Colombia to the west, Guyana to the east, and Brazil to the south...

 outside of the Andes.

Elevation measurements

For 39 years, based on an uncontested measurement performed in 1965 by topographer José Ambrósio de Miranda Pombo, using a theodolite
Theodolite
A theodolite is a precision instrument for measuring angles in the horizontal and vertical planes. Theodolites are mainly used for surveying applications, and have been adapted for specialized purposes in fields like metrology and rocket launch technology...

, the elevation of Pico da Neblina was thought to be 3014 metres (9,888 ft), but a much more accurate measurement performed in 2004 with state-of-the-art GPS equipment by cartographer
Cartography
Cartography is the study and practice of making maps. Combining science, aesthetics, and technique, cartography builds on the premise that reality can be modeled in ways that communicate spatial information effectively.The fundamental problems of traditional cartography are to:*Set the map's...

 Marco Aurélio de Almeida Lima, a member of a Brazilian army expedition, puts it at 2994 m (9,823 ft). This is now recognised by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), the federal government's official geographic survey and census agency, which jointly organised the expedition.

Geology and topography

The Neblina massif
Neblina massif
The Neblina massif is a sandstone mountain located in the Northern Amazon Basin. The massif is a tilted, heavily eroded plateau, with a deep canyon in its central portion , drained by the Baria River...

 is a glaciated tor composed of a tilted block of sandstone overlying Precambrian metamorphic rock
Metamorphic rock
Metamorphic rock is the transformation of an existing rock type, the protolith, in a process called metamorphism, which means "change in form". The protolith is subjected to heat and pressure causing profound physical and/or chemical change...

s. The peak is an impressive sharp rock pyramid or tooth, towering high (when the peak is visible) over the nearby lowlands on the Brazilian side, as the Imeri range quickly rises from only about 100 metres above sea level to about 2,000 metres at the base of the peak in just a few kilometres; from there the peak rises sharply. The Venezuelan side of the massif is hillier and the altitude gradient to the northern plains is less abrupt, although deep chasms and high walls still exist. Neighbouring Pico 31 de Março
Pico 31 de Março
Pico 31 de Março is a mountain on the Brazil-Venezuela border. At above sea level, it is Brazil's second highest mountain. It is part of the Pico da Neblina massif, and the latter peak, Brazil's highest summit, is only away. Pico 31 de Março can be considered a secondary summit of Pico da...

 can be considered a secondary summit of Pico da Neblina; it has a smoother, rounder shape and is sometimes difficult to be clearly distinguished from Pico da Neblina on photographs, depending on angle and distance. Due to Pico da Neblina's equatorial latitude, while it can be cold on top, sub-freezing temperatures and frost appear to be rare (no permanent measurements are undertaken), and there is no snow.

Discovery

There is little documentation available today on the peak's discovery, and virtually none of it is authoritative, even though Brazilians only discovered the mountain fairly recently, in the mid-20th century. This late discovery can be understood if one remembers how extremely remote, inaccessible and uninhabited that part of the Amazon region is even today, and that it could hardly be expected that such a high mountain (for Brazilian standards) could be found standing next to the vast, low-lying Amazon Basin
Amazon Basin
The Amazon Basin is the part of South America drained by the Amazon River and its tributaries that drains an area of about , or roughly 40 percent of South America. The basin is located in the countries of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, and Venezuela...

, even though it was known that there were mountains in that area. Moreover, as its own name states, Pico da Neblina is clouded and hidden from view most of the time.

All this led to it only being discovered in the 1950s. The exact date and circumstances are obscure and not documented, but a popular story often heard in Brazil says that it was supposedly seen and reported by an airline pilot who overflew it at a luckily cloudless moment. However, the massif was known well before that on the Venezuelan side, where it was called Cerro Jimé. In 1954, at about the same time as Brazilians "discovered" it, the area was visited from the north by a Venezuelan expedition led by eminent ornithologist
Ornithology
Ornithology is a branch of zoology that concerns the study of birds. Several aspects of ornithology differ from related disciplines, due partly to the high visibility and the aesthetic appeal of birds...

 William H. Phelps, Jr., though the peak was not climbed; as a tribute to him, Pico da Neblina is sometimes named Cerro Phelps in Venezuela.

In the 1950s, it was not yet clear whether the summit of Pico da Neblina was in Brazilian or Venezuelan territory, and its precise elevation was not yet known. Therefore, it was still widely held for many years after the peak's discovery that Brazil's highest mountain was Pico da Bandeira
Pico da Bandeira
Pico da Bandeira is the third highest mountain in Brazil, situated near the border of Espírito Santo and Minas Gerais. It is the highest point in both states as well. It was historically considered the highest mountain in Brazil until the 1950s, when the Pico da Neblina was explored and measured...

 (2,892 m or 9,488 ft), between the southeastern states of Minas Gerais
Minas Gerais
Minas Gerais is one of the 26 states of Brazil, of which it is the second most populous, the third richest, and the fourth largest in area. Minas Gerais is the Brazilian state with the largest number of Presidents of Brazil, the current one, Dilma Rousseff, being one of them. The capital is the...

 and Espírito Santo
Espírito Santo
Espírito Santo is one of the states of southeastern Brazil, often referred to by the abbreviation "ES". Its capital is Vitória and the largest city is Vila Velha. The name of the state means literally "holy spirit" after the Holy Ghost of Christianity...

, in a much more populated, developed and easily accessible region. Only in 1965 it was found and became widely known that Pico da Neblina was the country's highest mountain. Pico da Bandeira remains the highest Brazilian mountain outside of the Amazon region, and the third highest overall, after Pico da Neblina and 31 de Março.

Access

Due to its location in a national park in a border area that is also part of Yanomami territory, access to the area is restricted and depends on a special permit by the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA). The permit can be obtained at IBAMA's office in São Gabriel da Cachoeira
São Gabriel da Cachoeira
São Gabriel da Cachoeira is a city and a Municipality located on the Northern shores of the Rio Negro River, in the region of Cabeça do Cachorro, Amazonas state, Brazil. Between 1952 and 1966, it was officially called Uaupés, after the nearby Vaupés River. Most of its inhabitants are indigenous...

, but all climbers must take an accredited local guide. A four-day trek each way should be expected, three of which consisting of a jungle trek in the rainforest that can be as hard and challenging as the climb itself. Rescue is close to impossible in the area.

Onchocerciasis
Onchocerciasis
Onchocerciasis , also known as river blindness and Robles' disease, is a parasitic disease caused by infection by Onchocerca volvulus, a nematode . Onchocerciasis is the world's second-leading infectious cause of blindness. It is not the nematode, but its endosymbiont, Wolbachia pipientis, that...

 or "river blindness," a parasitic
Parasitism
Parasitism is a type of symbiotic relationship between organisms of different species where one organism, the parasite, benefits at the expense of the other, the host. Traditionally parasite referred to organisms with lifestages that needed more than one host . These are now called macroparasites...

 disease that can cause permanent blindness
Blindness
Blindness is the condition of lacking visual perception due to physiological or neurological factors.Various scales have been developed to describe the extent of vision loss and define blindness...

 and is transmitted by a black fly
Black fly
A black fly is any member of the family Simuliidae of the Culicomorpha infraorder. They are related to the Ceratopogonidae, Chironomidae, and Thaumaleidae. There are over 1,800 known species of black flies . Most species belong to the immense genus Simulium...

, is endemic
Endemic (epidemiology)
In epidemiology, an infection is said to be endemic in a population when that infection is maintained in the population without the need for external inputs. For example, chickenpox is endemic in the UK, but malaria is not...

 in the area, albeit with a low incidence; malaria
Malaria
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by eukaryotic protists of the genus Plasmodium. The disease results from the multiplication of Plasmodium parasites within red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases...

 and yellow fever
Yellow fever
Yellow fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic disease. The virus is a 40 to 50 nm enveloped RNA virus with positive sense of the Flaviviridae family....

 transmission are also possible. Therefore, climbers are advised not only to take the utmost precaution in avoiding insect bite
Insect bite
Insect bites and stings occur when an insect is agitated and seeks to defend itself through its natural defense mechanisms, or when an insect seeks to feed off the bitten person. Some insects inject formic acid, which can cause an immediate skin reaction often resulting in redness and swelling in...

s, but also to discuss preventive and/or therapeutic strategies with qualified physicians who are familiar with tropical disease
Tropical disease
Tropical diseases are diseases that are prevalent in or unique to tropical and subtropical regions. The diseases are less prevalent in temperate climates, due in part to the occurrence of a cold season, which controls the insect population by forcing hibernation. Insects such as mosquitoes and...

s.

Robson Czaban, a Brazilian photographer who climbed Pico da Neblina in 1998, reports on his adventure account (in Portuguese) that there are always some gold panners
Placer mining
Placer mining is the mining of alluvial deposits for minerals. This may be done by open-pit or by various surface excavating equipment or tunneling equipment....

on a small plateau just below the peak, at about 2,000 m (6,100 ft), called Garimpo do Tucano, which serves as the base camp for the last and steepest part of the climb. While the panners' presence there is technically illegal, they are widely tolerated by Brazilian authorities, and Czaban speculates that this would be because in such a remote area, they are believed to watch the border and nature better than IBAMA's rangers and the army would have the means to do. Czaban reports them to be very friendly and helpful.

External links

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