Felipe Camargo installs a hold onto a wall in a school outside of São Palo, Brazil.

Inspiration on the wall.

October 5, 2021

In a rec center four hours from São Paulo, Brazil, a 10-year-old Felipe Camargo inadvertently discovered climbing for the first time. A few months later, a climbing gym opened near him and he found is second home. By 14, he won the Youth South American Championships in Guatemala, and at 16, he won the Brazilian Championships—which he then won four more consecutive years before he stopped competition climbing. Now 30, Felipe is a professional climber, working to enhance youth access to climbing in his community; with the help of The North Face, Associação Felipe Camargo was able to build a climbing wall at a local school.

Felipe Camargo, wearing a mask, points to the next hold while a child climbs.
Felipe coaches a student to the next hold.

The North Face: Can you tell us more about what went into Associação Felipe Camargo and the execution of it?


Felipe Camargo: First, I got in touch with the school and asked if they would like to have a climbing wall there. I asked if the teachers would like to use it for sports class and they loved the idea. Then I talked with The North Face to get the funds to build it. I have a climbing gym in São Paulo called Fabrica and my partners and I built the climbing walls ourselves. So we also built the wall at the school ourselves, from putting the t-nuts on the panels to painting to setting! It’s a very cool and gratifying process.


TNF: Can you tell us how you came up with the idea for this project?


Felipe: I’ve had the idea for Associação Felipe Camargo for some time now. Climbing is getting bigger and reaching the mainstream public more than ever. I feel that as professional athletes, we have the responsibility make climbing more accessible for everyone. Climbing is an amazing sport in a lot of ways: it’s a great way to connect with nature, for coordination and body awareness, and for kids and today with climbing’s growing popularity, it is a chance to change someone’s life with a career. With all of that in mind, I wanted to try to implement climbing in public schools, so students have a chance to discover a new sport other than just football, basketball and volleyball.



TNF: Why is this Associação Felipe Camargo so important to you?


Felipe: Because climbing gave me everything I have today, and I think it can do the same for a lot of other kids out there.


TNF: What was your favorite moment after the wall went up?


Felipe: It was great to see the kids’ happiness trying something totally new and unexpected—and to see how many standout students took to climbing from day one. With the right opportunities, I think they could go far.

A child with a bow in her hair climbs on the wall Felipe Camargo built.
Up, up and away.
Felipe Camargo fist-bumps a child after completing his route.
There’s always time for a celebration after you send it.

TNF: Tell us about the favela and the lifestyle the kids have there.


Felipe: It’s an extremely tough reality that we don’t want to imagine still exists in 2021. Until you go there, you don’t really understand how the families live, with so little of everything and such tough conditions. Some go to school not just to learn but because they don’t have enough to eat at home, so they must eat at school. They find joy in playing soccer in the streets, because all they need is a ball. It’s crazy to think that this reality sits right next to super rich neighborhoods in São Paulo.



TNF: With climbing now on “the world stage,” how has that impacted the kids in Brazil?


Felipe: It hasn’t impacted Brazil yet, but it has a huge possibility to do so. That’s why climbing walls and projects like this one are so important. With climbing getting more attention and global competitions, we just need to make it more accessible so it can reach—and impact—kids’ lives the way surfing, skateboarding, gymnastics and many other sports have.


TNF: How would you like to see Associação Felipe Camargo develop over the next few years?


Felipe: I would love to be able to build more climbing walls in other public schools. I’d also love to train some of the kids, give them gear so they can climbing properly, and maybe even make a team from the favelas. Then we can give them a salary or scholarships so they can help at home. Lastly, I’d love to take them climbing outside and to competitions.


TNF: What is the best way for someone to get involved in creating a similar project?


Felipe: There’s so much to do out there, we just need to step out of our comfort zone and take some steps, and I’m sure we will find ways to help.

Group shot of the students at Felipe Camargo’s in-school climbing wall.
The whole group at Associação Felipe Camargo.