Mottavation: Fernando Motta

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On Sunday, April 28th the world lost a remarkable individual. Fernando Motta, 35, passed away at Notch Peak in Utah. On Friday, May 3rd, a number of friends and family gathered at Indian Rock to remember Motta. They shared stories and recalled their friend.

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The Brazilian native lived and climbed in the United States, working for Touchstone Climbing, Planet Granite and Bridges as a route setter for nearly a decade.  

Sean Stitt, who worked with Fernando at Touchstone, said, “He was always there until we finished the job regardless of how much work needed to be done.  He was able to transfer his passion for climbing into the routes he set making for sometimes brilliant work.  He began working for us when he could barely speak English and it was fun to watch him blossom into a very sociable and well liked guy as his command of the language grew.”

James Treggiari also set at Touchstone with Fernando. “The one thing that always sticks out to me when I think about Fernando is how incredibly driven he was. He used to tell us the story of seeing a picture of El Cap when he was living in Brazil and how he decided that he must climb it. Of course he did climb it and many other things. That’s what made him so unique. Unlike so many people (including myself), if Fernando said he was going to do something, it was as good as done. I will always admire him for living life to the fullest and following what inspired him, despite how hard i think it was for him to be away from his family in Brazil. On days when I’m on route and feeling anxious or nervous, I will always think of Fernando and just go for it.”

Fernando spent an exhaustive amount of time climbing on El Capitan and base jumping across the world.

Best known for his unbelievable amount of energy and enthusiasm, Fernando bubbled with “Motta-vation.”


“He loved pushing whatever car he was driving to the limits. If we got stuck he would build up the road and keep going without worrying about getting back. We crossed a river once and I was pretty nervous but he had total confidence…. ,” said his ex-wife Rachel Fowler. “Once we crossed he was so psyched he had me jump out and take a photo as he went back to cross again.”

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Walker Emerson recalled an ascent of El Capitan with Fernando and Shea Phillips. “We had been on the Nose for 29 hours it was mine and Shea’s first time on anything more then a few pitches. Fernando led the charge. When we left the ground the evening before, it was in the 80s and I didn’t think to bring anthing more then my light puffy. With the pace slowing down and the early dawn approaching, I began to shiver below the Changing Corners at Camp Six. With Shea and Fernando pushing into the night, I remained at camp six waiting on the comfort of the ledge. I called up to Fernando to see how the pitch was going and if I should begin jugging to the belay to join Shea. He shouted down that the belay was not comfortable and I should remain at camp six till he finished the next pitch.

“But I’m getting cold!,” I yelled back up. “I wanna jug up.”

“Do some pushups mang!” He yelled back down. I laughed at the idea. There I was, 2500 feet in the air doing pushups on a ledge as if El Cap wasn’t challenging enough.

Fernando’s exploits in Yosemite were well known. From an early free ascent of the Freerider (VI 5.12D) to linking Half Dome and El Capitan, Fernando spent an enormous amount of time climbing on the huge formations of Yosemite.

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Fernando had an exceptional amount of natural climbing ability. At 16, Fernando watched his friend climb a 5.11d route. When Fernando tied in, he tried to repeat his friend’s movement and flashed the difficult route as his first climb ever. 

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 This formation is located a mere 15km from his childhood home. Fernando climbed many of these Half Dome sized granite walls growing up.

Born in Petropolis, a town near the Serra dos Órgãos, in the country side of Rio De Janiero Fernando lived with two brothers, his sister.  His family remains in Brazil and he spent time there often.

Our blogger James Lucas remembered him. “Eight years ago at Jailhouse Rock in Sonora, Fernando stood bare chested with a tattoo around one bicep and a bracelet above his elbow on the opposite arm. He pantomimed a sequence for me and described a wicked “pee-inch.” Over the years, Fernando exclaimed about free climbing the Salathe Headwall, about jumping in Utah and about traveling home to Rio. “Dhuuud, is gunna be helluv shek!” He would say.

He was always supportive and excited to hear about the exploits of others. “Right On Mang!,” he would shout. Jeremey Ho, a setter who worked with Fernando added, “He brought the psych with him everywhere and his presence made you try harder.”

A few years ago, Greg Kerzhner and Fernando rappelled into the Salathe Headwall on El Capitan to attempt to free climb the highly exposed pitch. “He was definitely not scared and really psyched. I was a total noob then and he told me that while I clearly had no rope or gear skills or any logistics savy at all, I did have climbing skills, and this was the only thing that really mattered, the other stuff could be learned,” said Kerzhner. “Pretty typical Nando: he was brutally honest but also endlessly encouraging.”

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Sean Stitt added, “Fernando was a true athlete. Motivated, dedicated and tireless. He was always really fun to be around because his positivity was contagious. He was definitely one of my favorite climbing partners and he will be missed.”

Nicola Martinez, a base jumping friend and fellow Brazilian, remembered him well. The pair climbed the Nose in a day together, climbed in Lake Tahoe, Tuolumne, Red Rocks and in Brazil. “He would call me at any time of the day or the night for some jumping, climbing or causing trouble out there.” The pair met in El Cap Meadow in 2004 and traveled extensively together. “He was like a brother to me. We’ve been there on the happiest and hardesd moments of our lives. Living away from home we both pursued our dreams has hard as we could. Part of me is grieving right now but the other part is happy too see a person living a life the way he did.”

“We went to Yosemite where he taught me how to use an ascender with one leg, he rode me around on his bike in the pitch black night with a head lamp where we sat in the meadow and looked up at the stars. I also did many a “ground crew” for him when he jumped off of the Auburn bridge. I’d drop him off at the top, and drive down, walk along the path and pick him up. My heart in my mouth every time, breathless, watching him jump, hoping he’d be okay… but ultimately had total confidence in him. He seemed indestructible!” said Nancy Kickham, who dated Fernando for a number of years. “And though everyone says it, it’s true: his passion was explosive, contagious. Life needed to be lived bigger just by being around him.”

Fernando will be missed.